New Buddy = New Burden

Here’s the situation:

I don’t really have any friends in the area. I’m kind of a recluse, so it generally doesn’t bother me too much, but when I had my baby a few months ago, I was really missing having someone to talk about all this new stuff with. So I was very lucky to find an awesome new-moms group nearby, and met some nice people.

One woman in particular seemed really cool, although a little overwhelmed, and she talked a bit about dealing with depression in the past, feeling really down over the first couple of weeks, and being worried about PPD. I had just gone through the exact same thing, and so I talked with her about it and sent her some resources I had used. It turned out that she also didn’t really have any friends nearby, and we ended up getting together now and then.

At first, I felt like we hit it off and had a lot in common. Unfortunately, over time, I’ve found that I don’t enjoy spending time with her that much. Part of the problem is that she seems to have a very negative personality. Initially, I thought it might just be depression (and indeed, it might), but more and more, it seems like that’s just the way she is. I want a friend I can laugh with, at least some of the time, while she seems to only ever want to commiserate. And if that’s not really her, if it is “just” depression, then she should be addressing it, with therapy/meds/something - and she’s not.

If it were simply that I didn’t particularly care for her, I’d just let the relationship fade away naturally. And in fact, that’s what I was beginning to do, until she sent me an email, apologizing for being out of touch, saying she’s been having a tough time and basically didn’t want to scare me away by dumping all the crazy on me, and suggesting we get together again soon.

Now, I’m feeling kind of stuck. I want to be supportive, because I feel like I’ve been where she is, and know how invaluable friends can be. But on the other hand, I’m not really her friend, per se. We have no history, and from what I can tell, I don’t even like her that much. If we had been friends for a long time, I would stand by her through this rough patch, without question. But all we really seem to have in common is a history of depression, and while I strive to keep mine in my history, she seems to be wallowing in it in the present. But even if she were fighting the good fight, I still wouldn’t feel any motivation to be around her other than to support her. Which would make me more of an unpaid therapist than a friend (Hi, Brynda!).

So I’m thinking of writing her back and saying something like, “Listen, you’ve got a new baby and a husband and a job and a million other things to worry about right now, and it’s stressing you out, and I totally get that. The last thing you need is to be trying to maintain a fledgling friendship on top of that. And I’m pretty stretched right now myself. So, why don’t we put this on hiatus for a while, and get back in touch in a few months?”

Alternatively, I could just do the drift: “Oh, sorry - we’ll be really busy the next few weeks…” etc. But I feel like that will be harder, and meaner, to do now that she’s being so direct and upfront about her need for me to be her friend.

Or, I could stick it out and be as supportive as I can, not because I owe it to our lifelong friendship, but because she’s a human being who needs help and it’s the right thing to do.


TL;DR version: New friend becoming a hassle because of stress in her life. Stay and support? Confront? Let it fade? Other? Vote now, phone lines are open!

I’d vote for telling her the truth: That you feel ill-equipped to help her and that she might think about seeking out professional help.

It won’t be easy to do, but nobody needs fake friends. If you don’t really care about her enough to deal with her negativity, then let it go altogether so she can move on and find someone else who might have more patience and concern for her.

She may be so overwhelmed (first baby for her?) that she doesn’t realize she’s being Debbie Downer all the time.

Lay it to her straight: “Yeah, you are a little stressed and overwhelmed. Lets do lunch, and see if we can find some girly stuff to do - pregnancy and “feelings” talk is taboo for this outing!”

If she can manage to get through the visit without being negative, then great on her - she probably needed an outside person to let her know she was wallowing. If that’s the case, then maybe she can grow into a friend, and you might gain someone that you like to hang out with sometimes. Just make sure to let her know you don’t want to get into the depressing crap - you want to be a distraction. If that’s not what she needs/wants, she’ll find someone else to hang out with, and you’re off the hook.

If she CAN’T make it through one visit without being a sourpuss, let her know at the end that you were troubled by depression also, and as much as you’d like to be her friend, you can’t manage the level of support she seems to need if she won’t take any action to fight her depression.

It doesn’t make you a bad person that you aren’t able to be a perfect friend for someone you just met.

Thing is, I’ve done that already. That’s how I know she’s not seeking professional help; she says she wants to work it out on her own. I’m not sure why; she’s been in therapy before and taken meds before, as have I, and we’ve talked about both quite a bit. Possibly she feels like she’s “fixed” now, and if she seeks help, she’ll have to admit she’s “broken” again. Possibly it’s the inertia of depression. Or possibly, she’s not depressed and this is just how she deals with life, all the time. I am considering giving another shot at talking about this. But the problem is, she’s not really asking me to help her; she just wants to hang out. So it’s not like I can say “I can’t give you what you need.” Of course I can go get a coffee with her, and listen to her complain, and offer suggestions that she’ll ignore. I just don’t really want to.

Man, I sound like an asshole. Believe me, I truly do feel terrible for her, and want for her to be happy.

Again, I sound assholic, but no - I don’t honestly care enough to deal with her negativity. It’s only natural; we still barely know each other. But… I don’t know if there is anyone else who would have more patience and concern for her than I do. I mean, I really do have quite a bit. Just not enough to make this a worthwhile friendship for me. But I feel pretty rotten and selfish saying that, and I don’t want to abandon her if she truly has no one else.

Yeah… I tried that too. Every time the conversation got really heavy, I’d end my comments with, “…but I don’t want to be a bummer, so let’s talk about happy fun stuff!” Her response was, “No, you should always feel free to talk about whatever you want with me.” So it’s really hard for me to turn around and say, “But you, on the other hand, should not.”

And yes, it’s the first baby for both of us. So I really do know exactly what she’s going through, and makes me feel even more guilty that I’m just not digging her.

When I was actively working on recovering from anxiety, a therapist I saw a couple times had a good suggestion - she suggested that I don’t constantly unload all my worries and fears and negativity on my husband, and make our relationship only about that. Maybe you need to do something like that with this lady - tell her you can be her friend and do stuff together, but you can’t be her wailing wall. Maybe you can explain to her that it’s better for her in the long run if she spends at least a little time not focussing on her depression, too - be her time off from worrying and stressing and feeling sorry for herself.

You have a ready-made excuse not to hang out with a young baby in your house. If you think the truth would hurt her feelings too much, I don’t think you should feel guilty about fobbing her off with excuses.

Not to me you don’t.

No matter what you choose to do or not do about this person, please do not feel guilty for not doing enough. You are not an asshole.

I’d keep it light. It’s not working out, you don’t know her that well, she doesn’t call that much anyway. Just say you’re busy when she calls, she’ll probably drift off easily.

Be honest and tell her you’ve had depression issues, and you realize everyone deals with their stuff differently. Then simply point out that you can’t handle how she deals with hers, and you don’t want her to change herself for you, that’s not fair. You just don’t mesh, how she deals with her depression, unfortunately resurfaces yours, no one’s fault, just not a good match. Y’know, it’s not you, it’s me!

Of course I’d use this after your own suggestion, if it proved to subtle.

I would totally fob her off with excuses. Because, seriously, if it’s not fun, why are you doing it? It’s not like you’ve got any kind of history with her. A friendship takes 2 to work.

I didn’t find this on a vanity search (but now I will totally do one :slight_smile: ).

You know, one possibility is that having you for a friend allows her to avoid therapy–you are just enough to keep her from needing to go. Enabling, if you will. Plus, I second all the above about friendship needing to be good for both of you to work.

Bottom line: Find a way out.