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Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“How Can I Be Less Annoying to My Friends?”

As a 30-something childless woman, I really want to have close, intimate relationships with friends and my boyfriend, who are like my chosen family. But I think I’m standing in my own way by being annoying! I’ve been aware of the issue for about five years, I have seen two therapists (who insist I’m not annoying and that everyone in my life is just focused on other things!), and I’m still struggling.

My boyfriend loves me, and I am close with my sister/best friend, but due to their own families/ different needs, I am the the emotionally needy one in all three relationships (but I help with my sister’s kids a lot)! I am a “double texter,” and my boyfriend’s recurring critique is I talk without checking in to whether he is paying attention and I am engaging him. So I work on just keeping things to myself, which usually works for a while, and then word vomit after a bad day or because I feel so lonely and disconnected! And then I feel annoying, and the cycle repeats. What’s hard is that I don’t find this trait annoying in others – I LOVE listening when someone is sharing, and even a monologue about topics I am not interested in doesn’t bother me (from loved ones, not a random guy at work!).

I figure I should stay in therapy, but any other tips so I can be less annoying and hopefully develop closer relationships? Based on my therapist’s suggestion, I have been trying to focus on relationships with childless people who are (at least at this stage of life) more likely to have time/energy, and this helps in a way to “spread out” my emotional neediness, but I haven’t really developed any intimate relationships. — Feeling Annoying

The issue here isn’t that you are “annoying,” it’s that you “feel so lonely and disconnected.” Fix the latter and the former won’t be a problem. How do you go about feeling less lonely and disconnected? There are lots of ways. It sounds like you don’t have many friends, so obviously making new friends would help a lot. And I think your therapist’s suggestion of looking for childfree people to form friendships with is a good one, but I think a better suggestion is looking for people you share some common interests with, and the convenient thing here is that you can meet them while engaging in the activity you share a common interest in. So, what do you like to do or what would you like to learn to do? Join a club or a class or an organization that focuses on that thing.

Another way to feel more “connected” – you don’t specify what you want to feel connected to, but I am assuming it is anything and anyone outside yourself that brings you some sense of belonging in the world – is to think about what you can offer to others to make the world a little bit better. Volunteering is a great way to do that. There are animal shelters, political organizations, food pantries – all kinds of organizations, really – that could use your extra hands and care and support. A nursing home, where you can talk to your heart’s content and listen to stories from older folks who also might feel so lonely and disconnected, could be a great use of your loquaciousness and eagerness to listen to others.

Finally, if you don’t feel like you have a close, intimate relationship with your boyfriend and your friends, maybe the problem isn’t really YOU, but instead that they aren’t a good match for you. Is that possible? I’d be concerned if I’d been with a boyfriend for years and not only didn’t feel intimately close to him but also thought he found me annoying and emotionally needy and then didn’t say or do anything to assuage that fear but instead fostered it by repeatedly telling me I don’t do enough to engage him. I mean, have your therapists suggested this as a possibility when they tell you that you aren’t annoying and that everyone in your life is focused on other things? Have they told you that it might be better to ditch a boyfriend who isn’t focused on you instead of worrying that you’re too annoying to be interested in? Let me be the one to say it then: A boyfriend who treats you like you’re annoying and like he can’t be bothered to give you attention because you just aren’t trying hard enough to engage him might not be a good match for you. Just something to think about. Good luck!

From the forums:

My boyfriend and I have been together for a while now; we’re 20 and 23. We had been planning on moving in together and it was all based around this one job he had all but promised to take. He was happy and it was his choice, no pressure from me as I made sure of that. I am in a pretty toxic household at the moment, so I was relieved and so excited to start a life with him. Two months before move-in, he sprang on me that he had decided to take another job, one which pays less and will separate us for a year at the least, all because a high school friend was working on the same project. I have never even met her and have only heard her mentioned once. I’m not jealous of her, but I am very hurt by him. I feel like I can’t see through the fog enough right now to understand whether or not I have the right to be upset. He just told me, I congratulated him, and I excused myself to bed as we are visiting family. This will cut our time short as well as his last project recently paused. I don’t want to break up, but I cannot have an absent partner for a year. I love him and would do anything for him; I just need an outside POV. — Change in Plans

 
You might feel like you’d do anything for him, but the feeling isn’t mutual. He couldn’t even be bothered to have a discussion with you about accepting this job that would take him away from you for at least a year and completely change your plans about moving in together. This is not a partner who really cares about you, let alone someone you want to start building a future with. It’s also concerning that your moving in together was “based around this one job he had all but promised to take,” as well as your wanting to leave a toxic household. Those aren’t good reasons for moving in with a partner. Because, while the start of a live-in relationship can be really fun and exciting, the end of a live-in relationship is anything but that. If you aren’t really committed to each other, the likelihood of a break-up is pretty high (especially at your ages) and it’s SO much more complicated to end a live-in relationship than move on from someone with whom you don’t share an address. Anyway, it sounds like he’s saved you from all that drama, so consider this a bullet dodged. Bid him “adieu” and find a roommate to move in with.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.

7 comments… add one
  • Phoebe November 23, 2021, 11:32 am

    LW1: I don’t know you well, but it honestly doesn’t sound as if you’re annoying. It just sounds as if you’re insecure and your boyfriend makes you feel bad about yourself.

    You may not want to move on from that boyfriend because you already feel lonely, but I probably don’t have to tell you that it’s possible to feel lonely surrounded by people. Find someone who loves you for you.

    And what Wendy said about getting out and finding people with similar interests.

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    • Allornone November 23, 2021, 11:45 am

      I agree. I am what I call a “babbler” and can go off on my own monologues pretty easily. I’ve learned not to do it around my family so much, as it actually can be annoying to them. And I never do it around people that don’t know me well. But my boyfriend? That boy must have been born a saint because he actually says he enjoys it! And seems sincere! He knows he always has the option to change the subject or end the conversation if I’m going off on something too inconsequential, but he rarely does and he NEVER makes me feel bad about it. And he actually listens. I think because he’s a rather reserved person, he appreciates my unabashed openness (for better or worse). The point is you need to be with someone who gets you for you, and doesn’t make you feel annoying. We all have our quirks; you just need to find people that accept and embrace yours. Often much harder said then done, I know, but trust me, it can be done.

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  • Kate November 23, 2021, 11:43 am

    LW1, it sounds to me also that the problem is really about you needing to broaden your social network and also maybe realizing that your boyfriend is not your ideal long-term match. It’s not that you’re annoying, it’s that your friends are too busy / going in a different direction, and your boyfriend doesn’t connect with you the way you need.

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  • Fyodor November 23, 2021, 11:50 am

    “I’d be concerned if I’d been with a boyfriend for years and not only didn’t feel intimately close to him, but thought he found me annoying and emotionally needy and didn’t say or do anything to assuage that fear but instead fostered it by repeatedly telling me I don’t do enough to engage him”

    I don’t see really see this in the text of the letter.

    All I see is that the boyfriend complains that she sends him long stream of consciousness text messages. I don’t necessarily read any of this as her family/friends/boyfriend actually finding her annoying and needy. I think that *she* worries that she is being annoying and has self esteem issues around it.

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  • Bittergaymark November 23, 2021, 11:58 am

    LW1) Frankly? Yeah sound like A L0T to deal with. Your self awareness to this fact about yourself can be a great asset. Keep up the therapy. Work. On. It.

    But yeah… When nearly everyone finds you too needy and too exhausting… yeah, the problem is you. Again, And I stress this point… Keep up the therapy. Also try to be more casual about new friendships abd relationships. Being incredibly needy is a huge turn off. Honestly? It’s the biggest one I know.

    LW2) Eh, at twenty three (or 20!) a person should ONLY be doing things THEY really want to do. Accepting jobs they WANT to pursue. They 100% should NOT be saddling themselves with gigs they really clearly don’t want so they can selflessly support and rescue their 20 (or 23!) year old partners who can’t yet support themselves financially.

    That’s my Hot Take.
    And I’m sticking to it.

    Team “selfish” boyfriend here. He’s wise to cut this one loose. Very wise.

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  • Copa November 23, 2021, 12:35 pm

    LW1 – So, I’m also a childless 30-something in a live-in relationship. In the past few years, I’ve found I’ve had to start putting effort into making new friends again because many of my friends are having kids and less available. Quite a few have moved to the suburbs. I have to go with the flow of their schedule now. All of this is okay, but the dynamics have changed.

    I agree with your therapist that it’s helpful to find people who are in a similar stage of life. A couple years ago I did so by committing to volunteering more often ( through my school’s local alumni association club and with animal rescues) and joining a new book club. COVID threw a wrench in these plans for a bit, obviously, but I’m finding it easier to put myself out there in these ways again lately. I will also add as someone who has moved around a little bit that I think a lot of adults are lonely/open to new friendships — it’s a-okay to take the initiative to ask a potential new friend to coffee, a drink, whatever. (It can feel really foreign to do this if you’re not used to it!)

    I don’t know if I agree that there are issues in your relationship. I mean, maybe, I can’t really tell. But I also think it’s possible that your loneliness has caused you to try to have all or too many of your needs fulfilled by your boyfriend.

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  • Anonymous November 24, 2021, 5:24 pm

    LW1: you seem to me a bit dependent, if you do monologues like this. I don’t know what you mean by your quest of an intimate relationship but it doesn’t equate a soliloque. It does appear somehow immature. Try to find other ways of venting your emotions in a constructive manner : a sport, music, something that makes you passionate. Once you have this emotional autonomy, then assess your relationship with your boyfriend. Does is pay attention when you really have to tell him something, in presence (not by text)?

    LW2: you too sound dependent on your boyfriend. You expect too much: he should pay fully for your housing? What? You can’t request that. By the way, I think that it is too soon, when you are 20, to move in with a boyfriend, especially if he is paying everything. You should learn to be independent and live on your own or with roommates, find a job or a scholarship if you are a student.
    That being said, he should have spoken with you about a one year absence before making his decision. And I think you should be a bit curious about this friend. Anyway, the chances you end up with this boyfriend are very low, given your age, so I would let him go, as he doesn’t seem so invested in you, and work on your autonomy.

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