I met my friend when we were 14 and we instantly bonded. She was funny and fun and exuded the type of confidence that made me enjoy being around her. Through the years we spent great times together, went through many boyfriend changes, and built great memories.
In the last 10 years some of her traits turned to what I consider faults, but I always told myself, hey, we've all got faults so just let them slide. More and more however these traits started getting under my skin—the underhanded comments to make others feel inadequate, the unprovoked competitiveness, the one-upmanship
I would even go as far as saying meanness.
She will soon be a mother of three and her single friends are not allowed to feel tired or busy. She will go as far as implying that working full-time and raising a family is far more demanding and important than any deadline or circumstance in the lives of single friends, other married people, or married people with only one child.
Her husband is rude and offensive and strikes the meanest comment in public at whoever is his target for the day. To prevent scenes, or worse, making ourselves look bad by striking back, our friends and I just let it slide. We leave with a feeling of complete frustration.
Eventually I decided to spend less time with her, which proved to make things a lot better. Even though I don't talk to her daily anymore, and only see her once or twice a month for the last year, that bad vibe is present every time I talk to her, even when the conversation is short and pleasant.
It leaves me with a feeling of bitterness which I cannot shake. Somehow, cutting her out of my life seems like too easy an option. I would much rather deal with the issue than simply eliminate the person or our friendship.
What's most difficult is that her comments are so subtle and underhanded. If I do bring up the issue, her response is she was joking or I'm too sensitive. Therefore there is no way to deal with the issue.
I guess my question is, how do I remain friends with her without succumbing to the bad energy she leaves me with whenever I encounter her, however briefly?
Charlotte, you are your own worst enemy. We don't know if you are trying to be the best "good person" on the planet, or if you are abusing yourself because you think you need to be abused, but you have almost solved the problem. However, something internal prevents you from seeing it.
Severely reducing contact with this woman has helped you feel far better. Still, you want to hang in there as the friend who can make her different. Not only do you lack the ability to change her (you have tried and failed), you don't have the right to make her someone she isn't. In the same vein, she has no right to a friend she mistreats.
She can't be approached about her behavior and her husband is as bad or worse than she is. There is no point in rewarding them with a friendship which is not repaid.
The psychologist Sheldon Litt said, "Many conflicts can never be solved, but they can be abandoned, and therein lies the solution." You want a better life? Leave this nasty couple alone. It's wasted time, wasted energy, and a waste of your life. You are not improving her life. She is pulling your life down.
Turn the problem upside down. Ask yourself, what am I avoiding by wasting my time and energy on this woman? If you back off from this two-person calamity, you can be an inspiration to the rest of your friends. That's the best way to help yourself and to help them.
One key to a good life is to keep only things and people which enhance it, while eradicating everything else.
Wayne & Tamara
Email Wayne & Tamara: DirectAnswers@WayneAndTamara.com