My lifelong friend is extremely ornery. It’s embarrassing to go to restaurants, motels or stores with her as she will cause a big stink. She is hypercritical and fills out comment cards at businesses negatively over the slightest infraction.
She is a big world traveler, single, almost 70 years old, childless by choice and lives where she works. She has no retirement plan and just plans to always work and has no home base. She expects us – her friends and family – to host her at our homes several times a year. Travel and work is her life.
This friend is very angry and unaccepting of aging. We used to have a lot of fun together and she used to be easygoing. She’s not this way anymore. I can’t afford travel and have no passport and it’s not my value anyway. And so, my friend puts me down.
I, on the other hand, am all about my modest home, which I have worked diligently to pay off before retiring. I am also all about my children and grandchildren.
My husband died and I remarried a loving man; that really angered my friend as she’s very negative towards marriage. She’s very rude to my husband.
Yet, this friend visits three times a year; her May visit is coming up. Lately, she refers to my guest room as “her room” and indicates she may move in as a retirement plan. My husband and I joke that we expect a negative 1-Star comment card left for us about her stay (as if house guests leave comment cards).
Last time she stayed with us, she wanted to visit a friend out of town. I went with her and ended up footing the bill for the motel and dining. My friend belittled the staff everywhere we went and made huge angry scenes. (Did I mention that I usually pay for our dining out?)
Part of me wants to tell her not to come anymore and part of me thinks I should just put up with it because we’ve been lifelong friends. Help!
Longtime friends are important to our well-being because they carry a part of our story with them. There are familiarity and comfort in these relationships that are hard to find in newer relationships.
I know it’s easy for others to tell you to get rid of the friendship because she’s now become a difficult person. But, I recognize that it’s not that simple. Even though it’s not going to be easy, I think it’s important and it’s possible to do something different with your friendship.
You have some things in common but the longer you both live, you are discovering that there is more you don’t have in common. Relationships don’t require us to be clones of one another’s preferences and styles. However, basic respect and consideration is something that is essential for a friendship to survive. Your friendship is missing these critical ingredients.
Your friend is selfish. She’s not interested in honoring or celebrating the direction your life is taking. She is critical of the things you hold most dear, including your loving husband. This is a big problem.
Your husband is a patient man and clearly wants to support you, but your friend is no friend of your marriage. Your home is not her home. Your money is not her money. You don’t need to apologize for how you’re living your life.
It sounds like you’re done having her negative and entitled presence in your home and in your life. You can make excuses and buy yourself some time with this upcoming visit, but ultimately you’re going to have to restructure the way you do things with her.
Your job isn’t to change her, but to communicate clearly what you need. She’s not shy about her expectations. Now, it’s your turn to speak up.
All you can do is decide where you have to stop. If you don’t want to go out with her in public, then that can be your choice. If you want to limit her stay at your home to one night, then you can choose that.
What would be most supportive to you and your marriage? If having a break from her right now is the best thing, then you can choose that as well. She doesn’t get to choose how this works for you.
If she’s an understanding and supportive friend, she will care about what you need. If she becomes upset and dismissive of your limits, then it’s a good thing you’re setting limits. The sad reality is that she may not choose to behave like a friend anymore.
This is hard to do and you will need your husband’s support. There are lots of expectations built into this relationship because you haven’t set any limits with her. If you can set limits with her and she responds well, then you can preserve the friendship. If you set limits and she can’t respect your needs, then there isn’t more you can do.
It takes two people to form a supportive and loving friendship.
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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