The Friend Who Cried Wolf
We all have one. You know, the friend that calls weekly (if not daily), hysterical over every dramatic event that happens to her. Her meltdowns are like clockwork, having at least one “life-altering” crisis a week. The first week it’s about the guy that she met at the bar the other weekend – you know, the one with the convertible? Well, he hasn’t returned her text in over two days, and even though she can’t even remember what his last name is, this could be her ‘Prince Charming’ and she is in full-on panic mode. The week before last, her call was about your mutual friend Becky. She can’t possibly believe that Becky has yet to return her favorite purple sweater that she borrowed, and she just knows you’re as frustrated at Becky as she is. The nerve! This week it is about her “completely unfair” professor whose test she failed, ignoring the fact that she frequently skips his class.
You start to regret answering her phone calls. You cautiously even block a few of them. It is hard enough to balance your own full plate while keeping your sanity, let alone help manage hers. Then your guilt kicks in. She has been your friend since middle school, and has been there through everything. Regardless, the relationship is exhausting, and her behavior is pushing a wedge between you and what used to be your closest friend.
What you can do: Stop enabling her behavior. If her text message reads: “Calling you in 5. Just saw my ex and some girl at the movies … HOLDING HANDS!”, don’t answer her call. Send a return text letting her know that you can’t answer the phone right now, but you can catch up this weekend over coffee and she can fill you in on the details later. This can help shift your position from being on-call crisis counselor to supportive friend. Another note: a true friend is helpful, supportive, and honest. It will not do your friend any good if you help her embellish the details of her most recent dramatic crisis. What may seem like empathy is only creating a perpetuating problem. Instead, help calm your friend. You can be empathetic about what she is feeling, while also pointing out something positive. Yes, that guy with the convertible didn’t text her back, but you can remind her of the new promotion she got offered at work, which will probably be taking up most of her free-time for a bit.
Don’t problem solve. It is great to offer reassurance, but it is important to leave the problem for your friend to resolve. Developing problem-solving skills and learning how to appropriately manage anxiety are important parts of personal development. Fixing your friend’s problems for them cheats them out of this important experience. Communicate. If the problem continues, it is important to articulate to your friend how you’re feeling. Remember to be respectful and use “I-statements” (“I feel exhausted when …”). Let her know that you value your friendship, and the distance that has developed between you is what concerns you the most. You find more pleasure in being her friend that her therapist. Encourage her to seek out additional support. Finding a therapist can help your friend learn how to manage some of her anxiety or insecurities, and develop coping skills that she can use in the future. It will not only benefit your friend, but your relationship together as well.
Vanessa Lemminger M.A., LMFT 53937
Marital and Family Therapist
© Vanessa Lemminger, M.A. Marriage and Family Therapist 53937, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Vanessa Lemminger, Marriage and Family Therapist 53937 with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.