What Do You Call This Behavior?

So I have this friend. I haven’t known her but 6 months, but we’ve gotten very close (not like that, you perv), and I have feelings of friendlove for her. She is an awesome person, and although our personalities are quite different, we seem to complement each other well.

Now for the problem part- she has 4 children, ranging in age from 11 to 17. She’s a single mom, who makes about 24,000 a year from full-time work and child support. Her life is very hectic and disorganized. She makes plans and cancels a lot. It makes her look flighty and not-so-bright but if you know her, you know she’s not really like that, she’ actually very bright and wonderful. I’m also a struggling single mom making about the same income and working full time but I don’t have the bills that she does.

She talks to me a lot about the troubles of her life and how hard it is. She can be somewhat emotionally fragile, but that’s okay with me because if I had her life I’d probably be a basket case 24/7. Most of the time I just listen and let her get it all out, and that’s okay and what friends are for sometimes. But sometimes I try to impress upon her that her problems are really her * choice. * I try to remind her that everyone has a variety of options on how to live. For example, one option for her is to make the older kids work and help out with the bills, or at least pay for their own clothes, entertainment, etc. She could give the younger kids more responsibility around the house- I was making dinner for my dad and two brothers every night from the age of 12, and today am I pretty good cook because of it. The fact that she doesn’t consider or implement changes that will better her life convinces me that this is how she likes it, regardless of her laments.

I have another friend that has a back injury and refuses to take availability of the marvelous technological and medical advances in 2007, and just smokes a lot of weed and doesn’t work. Bitches about the pain, bitches about the poverty, yet refuses to believe that anything out there could help him. I find his arguments disingenuous, but maybe working in the medical field has biased me towards medicine.

Both of these people I know have options open to them, and yet choose to remain stagnant and be unhappy. Is there a psychological term for this? Could it be that they get off on being a martyr, and noone else has ever called them on it? Do you know people like this?

I think I’ve seen this called a “toxic friend,” although that’s more about how they deal with other people than their inner thinking.

Denial, self pity? It’s nice that you empathize w/ friends, but be careful of becoming involved in enabling them by offering too much sympathy. It’s often tough to be candid w/ someone you care about, but it’s much worse to become part of the problem.

I have a wonderful friend, known her about 23 or so years, and she just wants to get married. Thats her whole thought pattern these days, she’s turning 39 in a few days, and her clock is ticking. Loudly.

But… she doesnt like to go out, she spent the summer living with her parents, she is afraid to try on line dating, her hobbies are things like knitting and gardening. She is the quietest person I know, and I have twice introduced her to men in her age/income/ interest/bracket. She hardly spoke three words to these men all night. (And it wasnt a set up or a double date, it was me and my friends are going X place, want to come along? )

Its getting tiresome, since she keeps thinking she is going to magically meet someone. But how and where? She works for her father, currently staying with them for six months… (in the country, on a farm) she does not meet people through work, or where she lives, or interest groups, or even grocery shopping, since her mother does this.

I cant help her. She wont help herself. It drives me nuts, but hey, its not my problem to solve…so yes, different story, same theme **Alice **

Inertia. Neophobia. Confusing a groove with a rut. Prefering the devil you know to one you don’t. Any of those.

I’ve learned that people will “say” they want this or that (whatever…to lose weight, get rich, get married, etc) but that if they really wanted to do it, they would actually put some effort into it.

If someone keeps saying they want something but put no effort into it, I generally don’t give their words much weight and just change the subject.

I guess they are either frozen in inactivity for some reason, or are just paying lip service to what they think others want to hear from them, but either way, I can pretty much guarantee they don’t want advice about how to get what they “say” they want.

So, just change the subject.

It’s the “Some People Ain’t Happy Unless They Are Complainin’” syndrome. For real, there are people out there who are miserable if they are not unhappy. Can’t do anything for 'em but let 'em be unhappy and talk about 'em with your other friends.

Actually, this is martyrdom. Some people seriously love the pity they get by being “victims” and having all these issues/problems in their lives. It is part of the whole co-dependency spectrum.

I do have to say, though, that not out of a martyrdom need, but I would not force my children to work to help pay bills. It is not their job. It is my job to provide for them, and I could not fathom telling my child, “well, I gave birth to you and 3 more brats just like you, so it’s your responsibility to get a job and help me pay the bills.” I never could understand that type of parenting. To make them buy their own stuff? Sure – luxury items. Clothes, hygiene supplies, food, shelter and basic necessities? No way. Perhaps it comes from having had to do that for myself since the age of 11, perhaps it is my desire to allow my kids to remain kids as long as they can before the real world comes in to destroy innocence. Whatever, I couldn’t do that. But then again, I wouldn’t complain because I chose to have a buttload of kids that I can’t afford to bring up. Choices, people – don’t choose martyrdom.

Good old ordinary situational depression could account for it, couldn’t it? Feeling overwhelmed is one aspect of depression, and it is hard to take charge and make changes when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

That’s me trying to be emphathetic, though. I kind of lean toward the “toxic friend” theory proposed by** Scarlett67,**

Alice The Goon, you sound very sensible. Would you like to come learn all about my life and give me such good advice? I promise to take it.

I agree with that. I’m a firm believer that we all pursue that which we value most. Sometimes, people value familiarity above all else. Maybe she prefers the devil she knows to the devil she doesn’t.

If your power and gas were getting cut off on a regular basis, would that change your mind about your kids working and helping out? In my grandfather’s generation, it was fairly normal to have to quit school after puberty hit in order to go out and work and help support the family. I think a 17-year-old can get a part-time job at Burger King.
And CairoCarol, I’d love to come to Hawaii and give you advice. Any time!

Yes: “What Most People Do.” It’s really normal. That’s not to say that it’s not a problem, but rather that it’s not so pathological as to require a label. Labeling it, I’d contend, gives it a life of its own. A better question might be, “How strong is this person’s motivation for change, and how does she see her options as either open or unavailable?”

What makes it seem pathological to me is that both of the people I described in the OP don’t recognize that there are other options and reject them, they truly seem to believe that the way things are is the ONLY option they have. Like, I hate the apartment complex I live in. I bitch about it constantly, I am miserable, I fucking hate it here. But, I realize that I could move out and I don’t. I don’t because my rent is very, very low as my youngest son has some disability issues and this complex has a contract with an agency that assists him. I don’t sit here and bemoan my lack of options, I could change it if I wanted to. Every single thing about my life is a choice that I’ve made, and if I wanted it different bad enough, there are steps I could take to make it happen. My two friends don’t seem to understand that.

ETA: And not only that, but somehow they seem to expect to be lauded for their noble sacrifices and the way they carry on despite the unbearable conditions of their circumstances. Because they have no choice, you see. I call bullshit especially on that part.

Hmmm. Passive?
A follower rather than a leader?
Not self-motivated or self-responsible?

There’s gotta be some sort of psychological terminology and/or scale for the degree to which a person belives that their life is under their own control, they have choices, and what they do determines what happens to them, versus just seeing things as inevitable.

It’s broke but I don’t wanna fix it.

I believe people like this:
a) love the drama they can create about their life - it makes it seem much more interesting, plus it’s a great distraction
b) need attention
c) have nothing else to talk about
d) believe misery loves company
e) all of the above

I don’t know what the term is for people like this (except maybe for “poor me-s”), but I do know what I do with them - I stop listening to them after a while. Sure, people need to vent, but after a few rounds of the same ol’ song, with them doing nothing to fix it, I stop being their wailing wall. I don’t mean to criticize you, Alice, but I think people continuing to pat them on the back and go, “there, there” is part of the enabling that goes on that allows them to continue to wallow.


Usually caused by fear of failure so bad that they’d rather never try than take the risk of trying and becoming a proven failure.

If my power and gas were getting cut off on a regular basis, it is still my responsibility – not my childrens’. Sorry, this is one thing I do not understand. Did I say it was “wrong” for others to do it? Was I offensive about it? No. I just don’t get it and don’t see that as a logical answer to the problem of having more kids than you can care for. As for in your grandfather’s generation – it was also perfectly ok to beat your kids, but I don’t do that, either. Meh, YMMV.

The thing with these people, though is not that they can’t or don’t see their options, it’s that it would reflect back on them if they admitted they have options. I know a lot of people like this, and I agree that they are toxic. It may be funny to watch them self-destruct at first, but after a while, it just gets old.

The psycho cow-orker I have posted about is like this. She got herself in a major financial bind during the beginning of her divorce. So much so that the company we work for gave her an interest-free loan to keep her house out of foreclosure and her car from being repoed. She spent that money on beer and dope and partying with her live-in boyfriend instead. She is now again whining to anyone who will listen about how hard it is to be a single mother. Oh, poor her. She brings in around $3K/month between work & child support, and her house note and car note total less than $1K, but to hear her “if it weren’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all” moaning…she refuses to accept that it is not a matter of luck or fate, it is bad choices. The truth is that she loves the attention she gets from people when they see her crying “oh, you poor poor baby.” Meh. It’s toxic, and honestly, not worht the headache that comes of being around people like that.

Hence the “martyrdom” label already proposed. But the thing is,
if you have no choice - you have no merit!

When was the last time you lauded someone for, dunnow… breathing? Even things as basic as wearing your underwear inside your outerwear are a matter of choice for most people over this tall, barring mental disability!