It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing now. Today we hear from “Trying to Move On” who was considering breaking up with her friend of ten years, Kate, after she continued to discuss the LW’s ex-boyfriend as well as cross other boundaries the LW wasn’t comfortable with. Keep reading to see if they patched things up or if their friendship ship has sailed.
As I thought about it, I realized that she and I had major boundary issues when it came to stuff like this – and I was just as guilty of it over the course of our friendship. I also realized how I always gave into her — her demands, her expectations, her influences. I realized that she was a weakness for me, or at least made me a weaker person, often because she demanded to be the center of attention. It was fine for most of our relationship, but, as I started evolving into a stronger person, I didn’t want to compete with that or acquiesce to her bigger personality. Plus, I honestly didn’t miss her, which sounds shitty and made me feel guilty at first, but I was simply outgrowing her. It started as a need for space because of my ex, but it really became about her and me.
Things not being so simple, though, it all came to a head. In March, I got a card from her with a message and note implying that I was in a bad place and she hoped I’d get well soon. (I admit I might have over-reacted to it, but it made it sound as if I was suicidal, ugh). Since I had asked for space from her back in December, I didn’t acknowledge receipt of it. As she still was following me on Twitter, she (must have) seen me venting about looking for a new place to live. At Easter I got a text from a mutual friend saying Kate had asked her for my new address. I asked mutual friend not to share it and, the more I thought about it, the angrier it got me. I didn’t want to pull other people into this issue. So I wrote her a short email asking her not to do that, and that there was no need to worry about me, that I was well, and I just still needed space. I can admit that it was a curt response and probably sounded, if not harsh, at least cold.
Well, I immediately received a text from her husband telling me, “If you are going to cut someone out of your life who loves you unconditionally, then you’re an IDIOT.” I ignored and shrugged it off, but then I got an email from her which ultimately led me to realize that: a) the issue really was about me and her and b) I was glad I had asked for space. Her email was filled with “I’s” and “Me’s” as in “I just wanted to send you a birthday present and I didn’t want a stranger to get it and, if you don’t want it, don’t return it unless you really want to hurt me” and “[Daughter] and I miss you and you don’t know how hard this has been on me.” She mentioned a couple times that I must be trying to hurt her when all she did was love me.
After taking a breath, I responded as kindly as possible. I told her that this time apart wasn’t a reflection of how I felt about her or her daughter but the necessity to re-evaluate myself and our friendship; that we both had problems with boundary issues and that our last conversation was a glaring example of that, and that it was important for me to continue becoming a stronger person because, as I reevaluated my relationships across the board, I didn’t want to continue being weak. I told her that I still needed space and I couldn’t put a timeline on when that would end. I didn’t say this to her, but I don’t know if there is room for her in my life anymore. It’s not a slight to her–I do love her, but I think she is just a part of my past now.
I didn’t hear from her, but a week later I received a huge package of items for my birthday. It was thoughtful and I felt guilty, and, as I discussed with my roommate reaching out to at least acknowledge receipt of the box, my roommate pointed out something–that Kate was manipulating me to reach out to her again. And seeing as we had known each other over 10 years, Kate knows me well enough to know how sentimental I am, and I also know her well enough to have seen how manipulative she can be. I realized that any kind of communication was going to negate the one thing I had asked for once again–space. So I didn’t do anything.
All in all, I feel good about my overall decision to keep her out of my life. I don’t know if in the future there will be room for her, but I know right now there’s not. I’ve stopped feeling guilty for putting myself first.
Thanks, Wendy and DW readers, for not being too hard on me (and hopefully not being too hard on me again). The first time around definitely gave me a lot of food for thought, and it helped me reach a greater understanding of myself and this situation.
Well, I’m glad you are happy with your decision and where things are now. I do think that, if you did decide for some reason that you wanted Kate back in your life, you should expect that the reception to that idea may not be as warm as you’d like. You’ve set some clear boundaries, which you say you needed, and, in doing that, you haven’t left much room for a reconciliation in the future (which you seem to understand). Best of luck to you.
If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.