Updates: “Trying to Move On” Responds

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.

To clarify: Kate, my friend, did vent to me about my ex, and I wondered if it might have been malicious or deliberate, because in the months after the breakup Kate would mention my ex casually (like: “he was at the house,” which was fine), but then she’d start to talk a little more and then stop herself and say, “Oh wait, you don’t want to hear about him.” By the time she unloaded on me, I had just gotten tired of her saying that, so I gave in, saying, “If there’s something you need to tell me, or something I should know, go ahead.” Nothing of what she told me was ANYTHING I needed to know. And it felt extremely painful, cutting into a stab that had started to heal pretty well. Obviously, there were some things that were still really raw.The truth is, Sobriquet and TaraMonster hit the nail on the head – I had to admit that the friendship had run its course and this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

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 [email protected] with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.

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  1. It’s perfectly ok to outgrow people, even when they’ve been in your life a long time. Friends shouldn’t stress you out.

  2. lets_be_honest says:

    I would only say that for anyone reading who is in a similar boat – seems a fadeout would be a hell of a lot easier than this. Otherwise, wMs.
    Is it really a thing that your friend’s husbands do this?!

    1. I couldn’t agree more. This just sounds like so much unnecessary drama…

      1. ChimingIn says:

        I completely agree. I had friendship drama and after analyzing a 15 year friendship, I decided to just instill the fade out. At the same time, I had also contemplated confronting things, but in the end felt like the fade out was the best route. Regardless Trying, you should make the decision that is best for you. You learned about yourself and also you about Kate. You should be proud of yourself. Now you don’t have to deal with the drama! Good job!

    2. I hope not, re: husbands’ involvement. Mine doesn’t step in when I’m having issues with others, thank goodness.

      It could very well be another way for Kate to manipulate the situation – “see, *I* didn’t text you so I didn’t cross any boundaries.” Still unacceptable.

    3. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

      GGuy doesn’t step in like that. Maybe if we’re say out and some one is rude to my face he’d say cut it out, or something. But he would NEVER take it upon himself to contact a friend. And I wouldn’t to him. That’s a big overstep IMO.

      1. If Dave did something like that, I’d assume he had a stroke that completely changed his personality or something. That is beyond crazy to me that he would step in like that!

      2. Avatar photo GatorGirl says:

        I agree. I’d be so confused. I was even confused when he conspired with a friend about a shower gift, and that was a nice thing!

    4. Avatar photo possumgirl says:

      I would generally agree with you, but from LW’s limited description of Kate, she smacks strongly of having narcissistic personality issues. With those folks, normal ways of doing things don’t apply. The fadeout can’t happen because as soon as you back away, the reach out for you stronger and harder than ever. The more you step back, the harder they cling. You have to cut them off and cut them out. There isn’t another way of doing it that’s more graceful, or more socially acceptable and it’s really hard.

      1. Yeah, I had a friend that refused to let the fadeout happen. She had done some manipulative crap, and finally I just got sick of it and drifted off, only to have her come back with some pearl clutching about how she was abandoned by me, etc. etc. I get the feeling that Kate might have been like this friend and would have initiated this drama.

  3. I had a friendship with SERIOUS boundary/co-dependency issues, like the LW. It was like 15 years of dysfunction. We had a blast together. I’ve never had as much fun with anyone as I had with her, but it was also seriously fucked up. We ended up having a big blow our similar to the LWs. Last year I reached out to her to apologize and take some responsibility for everything that happened, and we’ve somehow managed to have a normal, functional relationship. She lives in a different city, so it’s mostly FB and texting. We’ve hung out once (After the DW NYC meetup last year), and it was great, and I know if I run into her in our hometown it’ll be fine. But we just can’t be close friends like we were. We both outgrew that relationship, and that’s ok. Not all friendships should last a lifetime and if they do last a lifetime a lot of those relationships need to change a lot over the years to stay in tact.

  4. Painted_lady says:

    Just looking at how Kate handled the request for space (as in, didn’t allow it to happen except on her terms), I don’t know that there was going to be another way to do this. I mean, maybe, except fading out probably would have resulted in a big confrontation, ghosting would have resulted in a big confrontation, and telling her you couldn’t be friends would have resulted in a big confrontation. Sure, the way you handled it hasn’t left much room for a reconciliation, but I’m not sure anything would have, given how insistent she was on forcing herself on your boundaries.

  5. bittergaymark says:

    Honestly? I somehow STILL don’t get exactly WHAT the friend in question did that was so fucking bad? Seriously. I remain baffled. And YES — I just now reread the original letter… The LW simply comes across as a fucking basket case. Sorry, I don’t get this one at all. And frankly — anybody who does only does so as they are part of the ME! ME! ME! generation. Grow the fuck up, LW. Commenting on your previous letter, I said you sounded all of 12 years old. I stand corrected, you sound like a twelve year old who has read NOTHING but cheesy self help books.

    But gee… thanks for the laugh about how many “I’s” and “Me’s” your friend uses in her letters to you. Now, um…. go read YOURS… 😉

    1. Avatar photo possumgirl says:

      To be fair, LW is writing to an advice columnist about her own personal issue, and unless she wants to refer to herself in the third person (which, while not without comedic value, would sound awkward), there is going to be a whole of of “I’s” and “me’s”. For example, I am writing this letter about somebody else, and using the word “her” and “she” frequently. Same sort of principal.

      And yes, she does have a little basket-case going on.. BUT.. when have you ever known someone where you say “let’s spend some time apart” and their response is to redouble their efforts to be with you? If somebody said to me “I don’t wanna be friends anymore”, I doubt that I’m going to be spending a whole lot of time after that trying to be a part of their life anymore. So why did Kate do that? Why can’t she let the relationship die? It’s like a psycho ex-gf who keeps sending you cookie hearts on your birthday. No, while LW’s got some issues, Kate clearly has even bigger ones.

      1. You used eight “I’s” in your reply. Not cool. Can you keep it to three?
        Totally kidding. I don’t have the attention span to count today.

    2. This may be a first, but I actually agree with BGM. I reread the first letter as well, and at that point, I was siding with the LW as it was disrespectful of Kate to bring up the BF, regardless of the fact that he’s her BIL, if the LW had asked her not to. However, in this response, I really don’t get what Kate did wrong. It sounds to me like she was worried about you, so she tried reaching out, and then wanted to send a bday gift as one last final attempt at reviving the friendship, and you completely over-reacted about it.

      There is NOTHING wrong with outgrowing a friendship and deciding you want to move on from it; however, it’s also understandable that Kate made a couple of more attempts at reaching out to one of her best friends of 10ish years. Kate’s feelings probably were really hurt, especially if she didn’t feel as though she’d outgrown the friendship as well.

    3. tbrucemom says:

      Agree, I don’t see what Kate did that was so bad. The LW’s ex is her BIL so it’s not unnatural for her to talk about him. Kate was her friend before the BIL was her BF and the LW is the godmother of Kate’s daughter. I think the LW is still struggling with the breakup and just being around Kate is upsetting to her, which isn’t fair to Kate. Kate sends a bday gift and that’s interpreted as being manipulative? I think the LW has issues and needs therapy and someday will regret losing her friend.

    4. Lily in NYC says:

      Yeah, I was baffled at the first letter and am still baffled. This seems like so much unnecessary drama. I have a hunch that LW just wasn’t feeling Kate as a friend anymore and subconsciously felt like she needed a real reason to “friendship divorce” her and decided boundary issues would be a good one. This is why I do the slow fade when I want to break off a friendship. Sure it’s cowardly, but it avoids this kind of crap, which I have no patience for.

  6. Bittergaymark says:

    Um, I counted — at least 68 “I’s” alone… I have no patience to tally up all the “Me’s.”

    1. Avatar photo LlamaPajamas says:

      You and the LW both use the same percentage of “I”s and “me”s, at least if I just count this post that I’m replying to and not your above post as well. 11% of both of your total word counts are “me” or “I”.

      1. Avatar photo LlamaPajamas says:

        PS – she only had 47 “me”s.

      2. Bittergaymark says:

        Yes. But Bittergaymark is also NOT the one dumping a friend because said friend uses the words I or Me too much, is he?

      3. Touché

      4. Actually that’s a really good question. Did you happen to have a friend named Kate by any chance?

      5. I also appreciate that you referred to yourself in the third person.

  7. captainswife says:

    In a lot of counseling, they suggest that people use “I” and “me” a lot rather than pointing the finger of blame…as in, “I feel sad when you…” vs. “You are an asshole.” So Kate’s using “too many” I’s and me’s may have been an attempt to be non-blaming… “I was worried about you” rather than, “have you gone effing ape?”

    I’m with BGM, in that it sounds as though LW is really creating drama where none needs to exist. And short of a violent type of breakup, I think that it’s mighty tacky not to write a thank-you for the present. Who knows? Maybe after all this, Kate actually still thinks about LW fondly. Not sure why, frankly, but presumably they had good times at some point.

    LW, whatever floats your boat. You don’t want to be friends with her any more? Fine! No one is forcing you. From where I stand, though, you’re being unnecessarily hurtful and shit-stirring. That said, we only have the information you have provided to go on.

    p.s. I do understand that it can be tough being friends with someone who necessarily sees your ex all the time. I do not remember the circs of your breakup at all, though. If it was just incompatibility, maybe at some point you could get over it to the point that you can hear about him and shrug? Otherwise, he still wields a ridiculous amount of power in your life. I wouldn’t want an ex to have that much power, but to each his own.

    1. I went back to the old letter and LW said the ex cheated and lied, was a jerk. But the power thing is interesting to consider, since LW takes about that in the update too. Clearly she is having issues of giving away power or needing to take back power, or feeling powerless, yadda yadda.

  8. genevathene says:

    Your friend honestly sounds like a textbook narcissist. I *might* be projecting (since I recently realized my mom and grandmother both are), but definitely read up on it. You might care about her, but she literally can’t see you as anything more than an extension of herself. Distancing yourself is probably the best move, but expect more drama if you don’t completely cut off contact.

  9. What a surprise: a woman with boundary issues is married to a man with boundary issues. So much appetite for drama.

  10. I’m torn on this one – I see that there is a crazy amount of drama, but I almost feel like the LW’s drama is reactionary to Kate’s drama (and her husband, wtf, right?)
    I have dramatic sisters (love them all!) and I dated a guy who, after the breakup flat out told me he tried to manipulate me (thankfully, at least towards the end, i could see and stop it). And I get what the LW is dealing with, that sneaky manipulation of trying anyway to get their way. Still, I think LW should have just left it all alone. I think just ignoring it from the moment she said ” I need space” and not acknowledging ANYTHING Kate did might have just been better overall, even if Kate kept trying to get to her – I mean, she lives far away, right? So there’s no need to do anything but ignore, ignore, ignore. But then maybe thats the whole point, dramatic people make us react dramatically? I just feel exhasuted thinking about it lol.

  11. Regardless of who was right or wrong and who said what or did what, whenever you feel such a way about a friend it’s usually time to move on from the friendship. Thinking about someone with bitterness or negativity doesn’t make for a good friendship foundation. But Wendy’s point was pretty accurate– you’re not leaving a lot of room for reconciliation or closeness in the future, so hopefully you thought this through and are okay with the friendship never resuming.

    And now I can gloat, because I definitely didn’t use any ‘I’s in my resp– dang it!

  12. monkey's mommy says:

    LW, I usually just lurk because all of the other regs cover anything I would want to say, but your letter irritated me so much I wanted to chime in. The problem isn’t Kate, its YOU. You are taking your feelings out about the breakup on Kate. That isn’t fair. You need to grow the eff up.
    And as for your roommate egging you on about the gift being “manipulative”? Yeah, that’s just stirring the drama pot. How about not being a bitch, and sending a simple thank you card? You don’t have to be her best friend to appreciate the gesture.
    Wow. Now ” I ” feel much better.

    1. bittergaymark says:

      BINGO. Well said.

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