Friends Don't Let Friends Suffer

I've got a long history of intrusive behavior when it comes to my friendships. I'll admit that upfront. I'd like to change this, since it reflects a lack of trust in my friends' abilities to manage their own lives, which isn't how I feel at all. I simply don't feel that people were meant to face certain challenges alone, that the support of having good friends by your side is valuable to the point of needing a sense of certainty--however capable a person is on their own, having other people standing shoulder-to-shoulder saying "You're right" must be some kind of consolation, right? 

Maybe I'm overdoing it. I don't know. 

I have/had/have? I'm not even sure at this point, a friend, for the last four years. She's everything I've ever longed for in another human being, and naturally I fell head over heels, but I do my best to rein that in. I think I've done a fairly good job, at least in part because of what an awesome friend she is. We share a mountain of interests and personal tastes, and we've had a lot of fun together. If she wanted nothing to do with me, I'd be heartbroken, I think--but as it stands, it's hard to feel jilted by "we aren't having sex" when everything else--all the things that are important in life--is there. She's easily the best friend I've ever had, and we've seen each other through a lot. 

Well, heartbreak... I guess it's never really far away. Lately, by which I mean over the last year or so, she's started to change. She's spent a lot of time avoiding me. I don't think my behavior changed any ahead of this--and she keeps telling me it isn't me. Every so often, that'll stop, and she'll start spending time with me again, like nothing ever changed--I'm talking hours and hours every day, which is nothing I ever expected or demanded from her, but I mean it when I say we're both having fun. 

Then, she's gone. 

She stops talking to me, blocks me online, and starts going to the places where she met me--and has met other people in the past--looking for new friends. From what I gather, people have a hard time measuring up to her standards--or they aren't inclined to try, which I could understand. Her standards are pretty high, to the point of almost literal insanity. 

She once apologized to me for having a temper. Literally, like "I'm trying to quit smoking, and I don't have the medication I've gotten used to, so I may be a little snipish from time to time." I told her it was okay--that I knew I didn't always take an angry comment very well in the heat of the moment, but that I got over them quickly, and understood where she was coming from. She responded by throwing a wild tantrum at my suggesting that she has a temper, and accusing me of thinking she was an awful person. I mean a screaming fit. There were tears, and there was railing, and I was caught totally off-guard. We'd been fine for weeks up until that point, and then suddenly... bam. I'm on the shit list again. 

She just started talking to me again after that. She's hesitant, but she came back, and she's very visibly enjoying my company. 

She keeps so much close to the chest. I know she's had relatives die recently, she's trying to break her habits, she's having trouble at work... but I think there's something more going on. Something personally worse, something going back to when all of this suddenly bi-polar behavior (not evidenced during the first 2.5-3 years of our friendship) first reared its head. 

I just wish she'd talk to me. She insists that I wouldn't understand her life, that I can't help her... and maybe that's true, but I've seen her reach out, looking for someone she felt she could trust, and then quickly pull away when I went to take her hand (figuratively speaking) and it's obvious that she's hurting, bad, over something that happened a while before she met me. I have my guesses as to what, but like I said... she plays it close, and there could be plenty that I'd have no way of knowing. She keeps saying to trust her, "trust me... I know what I'm doing," and I don't doubt it... 

...but she's still my friend, and she's still hurting, and I've got an emotional "shoulder" I'm not using. 

I wish she trusted me as much as I do her.

User Comments
Anon-1

It sounds like your friend has some serious issues going on. I can't offer much by way of specific advice, but I sympathize. She sounds like she has problems with control and anger management. I might try to quietly and calmly encourage her to get help, if you can figure out a way to do so without setting her off.

Anon-2

Your friend sounds like a difficult person to deal with... as do you, which I mean in the kindest and most respectful way possible. Seriously. My father is like that; he needs to take care of everybody around him and fix all their problems. If you confront him with something he doesn't know how to deal with, he gets angry. Not even frustrated - a straight leap to angry. Growing up, I thought that was how men were supposed to be; now I'm slowly learning better. I hope your friend figures out some of her issues, because she seems like a great person otherwise. Best of luck to you :)

Anon-3

Best of luck to both of you. I don't really think that your friend deserves you as a friend, to be honest, but I might be biased in that respect; I just think that she needs to find herself first, before she merits this level of attachment. Then again, maybe you're helping? Just try not to try too hard, if that makes sense.

Anon-4

Everyone deserves to have friends who understand and appreciate them. If this friend gets you on a level that most people don't, that could be why she seems so important to you. Either way, I hope things smooth out for you in time to come; be well, and may the two of you enjoy each other's company in the future. 

Anon-5

It's hard to avoid being an intrusive friend, sometimes. It feels as though you're poised to help a friend out in a way that they so desperately need, but the sad fact is that you can't be there for them all of the time -- and in particular not without leaving them feeling like they need you for things they ought to be able to do for themselves. It's hard, but the best option really is to step back and let a person figure out how to deal with their own problems, only coming in to assist when asked.

Trust me when I tell you that it took me forever to figure this out. I'm still learning it in some ways.

Anon-6

I think you need to take a step back and let your friend figure herself out. You also have some things to work through, along the lines of not trying to 'fix' things for the people around you. It's a positive urge, but it can be hurtful to a relationship, if the other person feels like you don't respect them enough to handle their own issues. 

In any case, best wishes to you both; I think you both sound like you might be very good people, just having trouble figuring out some parts of life that we all struggle with at times.