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Reality check ... am I a jerk?

Delia wrote:

I've read a lot of your responses about who is a fake friend and who is the one being selfish, that friends are there to support. I've done something and I don't know if I did the right thing or not or am I just a jerk for a friend.

I have this friend that looks up to me like a big sister. Her family is 12 hours away and it isn't that great of a relationship. I'm 30 and she is 29 years old. Four years ago my friend and I became freinds due to getting out of long-term emotional/verbal abuse type relationships, and we relied on each other for support to pick up the pieces. The problem is that she keeps getting herself into these relationships that she gets zero back and her heart breaks, but the guy keeps his foot in the door for many months milking it while she still tries her hardest to get the guy's attention because she loves him and thinks he loves her. I've always supported her in the past or helped her try strategies and have held her hand through when the guy finally dumps her and she never saw it coming.

Her current sort-of relationship is long distance. The first four to six months were great and even I thought it was meant to be for them, but for the last 7 months the guy has given her the message I think as clear as can be that he likes seeing her when it's convenient for him but he's got his own life and she's not included in it. Her version is she LOVES him so much and what can she do to make it work. She tries to be as perfect as she can be for him and does everything she possibly can, but nothing works and she always cries on my shoulder about it. It makes me so angry that she allows her self-esteem to get beaten and doesn't know how to end it before her life goes down the drain again. She is such a beautiful girl and is smart, and I'm even a little jealous of all the guys that instantly gravitate to her when she walks by, but I feel for her because when she looks in the mirror, that obviously is not what she sees.

In the meantime I've quit hanging out with her due to every time we do go out, she gets completely wasted and it's babysitting a drunk who won't give up the car keys. It turns into an argument just to get her to sleep over or she insists she's fine and can drive and will call when she gets home, but she doesn't. I'll hear from her the next day after she wakes up from her hangover and she'll laugh off how what a great time she had the night before, doesn't remember parts, but what a blast, oh, by the way, I got home all right. We (did) talk on the phone still about twice a week, but it's not the same. It's been at least four or five months since we've hung out the way we used to because of this problem. I've said things to her politely but she doesn't hear me. These days we run out of stuff to say quickly besides how she got wasted the night before and what fun that was and how her boyfriend is still putting her last place and how that really hurts. We talk about t!
hings she needs to start doing for herself to feel better about herself and forget the guy. If I talk about the good stuff going on in my life, I can hear her tone seem to get depressed or bored, and we run out of stuff to say after that. We just don't relate.

Well, she came to me recently with the statement I wish I knew why I did this to myself (referring to why does she not dump her so-called boyfriend when he so obviously doesn't appreciate her).
I told her I could spell it out for her but that it's going to hurt and she may not talk to me for awhile. I said it's more of a headbashing, but someone did it for me once and I thought it was the meanest person ever, but two months later I wrote her a thank you note for being honest with me instead of tiptoeing around my feelings. She agreed and was anxious for some answers and said she probably needed a headbashing.

Well, I gave it to her. I spelled it all out every step of the way how her boyfriend has brought her pain...things that she seems to forget about. I spelled out why we don't hang out...the drunk baby-sitting, the drunk-driving, the two drinking-related car accidents she had since spring after we quit hanging out, the struggle I have to not get her to drive a car, the way she looks and acts and when she is wasted, the way she has been walking all over her friends with this stuff and cannot be counted on anymore and she doesn't appreciate what we do for her, and it's getting old really fast. I was very sarcastic and harsh in my note but I also told her I can't let her pull me down with her but she can take my hand if she wants help up. I can't stay if she won't help herself get up because I can't do it for her.

I went into her money issues. I admit this is a selfish venture on my part I had co-signed a credit card for her to gain a credit history six months earlier that she was supposed to keep clean and only use for normal things she can afford to pay for. In six months we would try to get her approved to take it over herself and she could own her very first credit card. She was doing great until the last month and racked up a bunch of charges, late fees, over credit limit fees all because she was spending money on things that would get this guy to do things with her or hefty bar bills when she drinks off the disappointment. Well, I didn't want her to blow her chance at having credit on a weak moment she was having, and we had a long talk months ago about how important it was that she never do that again to my credit history or hers or it just won't happen for her, and I paid it off and she was to pay me when she had the money. She did great until the last $100. !
I've tried for three months to cash her remaining $100 check. There's no money in her account. The credit card again has been racked up to the credit limit and stays at a continual balance of $1400 mostly spent on bar bills or car-related tragedies, and she lives paycheck to paycheck but still finds money to go to the bar a couple times a week. The credit card is currently in the process of being transferred to her name only and it's not going to be my problem anymore in the next few weeks.

Anyway, I spelled that all out to her about if she doesn't start putting effort into her life, she's going to end up in a trailer walking to the corner bar every night and drinking away her problems, spending 5000 - $8000 a year on alcohol and cigarettes but has no money to take care of herself while she still hopes prince charming will rush in and save her from all her problems.

I went into her past four relationships and named off examples where the relationship turns from good to bad because she starts to cling 24/7 waiting on the guy hand and foot no matter what he did wrong or was inconsiderate about and she doesn't live her own life first and she stays there way longer than she should after the guy gave her messages that he needs his space and then she plays victim role that she did nothing wrong, never saw it coming, the world is against her, and she always turns to drinking to solve her problems. I just never realized it was a serious problem/pattern until this last guy.

Anyways, bottom line is I was very sarcastic in my note and it was a put up or shut up attitude I wrote with, that it's her life and she either looks at her issues and starts to find a way to love herself right now and gain control of her life and deal with reality, or she can live in her fantasy world and let her life go down the toilet but that I personally am at a loss on how to help her and I feel like we have nothing in common anymore and that I miss her and the things we used to do together. I did express how much I care about her and she doesn't deserve the crap she is dealt, but it will never go away until she learns to stand up for herself and the next steps are in her hands or else nothing good will ever happen to her. I focused on how she needs to love herself and that it's not just words, she really needs to try.

Well, it's been two weeks. She is not speaking to me. She thinks I think she is a loser and wants nothing to do with me. She said she thought I was her friend and she is too hurt to even discuss it. I've tried nearly every day some effort to write her notes or phone messages of all the wonderful things she is capable of and I only want the best for her, but no response.

Did I do the right thing? Would a friend have continued to tiptoe around her feelings and let her figure out her own life at some point, or would a friend have gave her a headbashing reality check to get control of her life again? I feel awful for hurting her but I was only trying to help and I don't know if I should leave her alone because she wants nothing to do with me now and maybe I'm not such a good friend for her to begin with because of my criticism, or if I should keep trying to show I'm here through the bad times too if only she'll talk to me about them and try to work through it.

What's your honest opinion? Is it me who is in denial or my friend?

Dear Delia

To a large extent, I suspect you have acted with good intentions, and you knew the risks.

The mistake - if there is one - is your expectation that she would be like you. And you know she's not like you!

She probably needs professional help - when she's ready to seek it - and does not have the objectivity that you (are lucky to) have.

And I have a tiny nagging doubt that you enjoyed staright talking a little too much. (Did you?)

Anyway, we are, as they say, where we are.

I have two thoughts you may like to consider:

  1. You've neglected to remember that while she needed you, you also needed her. And this has added to to the guilt you are feeling.
  2. You are not giving her time to think about your words, because you are so desperate for her to 'forgive you'.


Leave her alone. Tell her you care about her, and promise her that you are there for her whenever she decides to move forward. But repeat that for her sake, something had to give.

Then leave her alone. It's her life; only she can live it. Only she will know when she's ready to move up.

Don't forget, you knew that being straight with her was a risk; you were right. Don't forget why you took that risk. Let's hope she comes through.

Deanna adds:

For me Delia, to be a true friend is to believe that you're able to do something and something powerful and empowering to the person you're taking as a friend.
You don't need to give yourself proofs of being able to help.
You don't need evidence for being sure of your beneficient effect on whatever friend you have.
This is something very important : To have confidence in your self first.

Then, IT IS NOT NECESSARY that your friendship be conditioned to the well being and well behaving of your friend.
You can always give love and support as long as this doesn't over shadow on the responsibilites your friend has to be taking for herself.
There is a big difference between loving someone and making up the life of someone at his place.
I would say that you can give her a 'chance ' to be on her own for a while and try to hold up her own responsibility and discover her own potentials.
It's not that she necessarily needs professional help, but rather, space limits I would say.
She needs to recognize her OWN space,make friend with it first, and discover she's able to do it all alone.
This is the love she needs from you now.
You were right telling her in a harsh way all her harsh reality.
The only risk you were taking was to have her angry with you..but this is something she's used to with all her other relations and doesn't seem to cause much effect on her.
I think she is angry because she knows that she still has some space in your heart in which she can indulge whenever she wants.
Please..let her take the risk her self this time.
And don't worry.

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