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Boundaries Gone Wrong

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  • #392909
    Mary
    Participant

    I made a friend – let’s call her Amanda – about a year ago through an online fitness community. We participated in the same fitness challenge with each other so we had a group chat going to check in and hold each other accountable every day. During this challenge, I neglected a lot of my hobbies and friends in real life because I wanted to do this challenge for myself to get healthier. I achieved the results I wanted, but kept engaging with Amanda daily. It got to a point where I wouldn’t be paying attention to the people around me because I was constantly on my phone. When Amanda and I text, it’s usually in-depth conversations – not small talk. My boyfriend and friends started to feel neglected because every time we tried to do something, I would be busy on my phone with Amanda and so I tried to balance my time with all of them. That just led me to become burnt out because I had no time to myself to recharge or do my own thing. I was using all my energy to give everyone equal amounts of time. My therapist at the time suggested I start carving out time for myself like I would for any other appointment. Put my phone on “do not disturb”. And take time to do my thing before I get to that burnt out stage. If people text me, just get back to them the next day or the day after depending how long I need time for myself. I thought this was a great idea and it actually worked for me! But I feel bad and guilty for creating these boundaries now because Amanda gets upset if I don’t text her every day. We’ve already had two fights because she feels I’m not living up to the expectations she set in her mind for me… even though she never communicated to me what they were. She feels like she can’t text me period if I don’t text her back for a day. I make her feel like shit and cause her to be upset. It makes me feel awful because I love and care about her! But at the same time, the boundaries I set for myself have been so beneficial to my mental health (until she starts making me feel bad for it anyway). I really don’t know what to do or what else I can say to her so she doesn’t get upset every time I don’t text her daily. I love living my life more when I’m not on social media or texting all the time. I get she and I live far away from each other so the phone is really the best form of connecting for us. I still talk to her every week! I just need a day or two to myself sometimes. She doesn’t seem to understand and appreciate that. Is this becoming a toxic friendship? What are some ways I can address this to her again to better help her understand without making her feel like shit? It’s never my intention, but I know I can’t control the way she reacts to anything I do or say. I just don’t like feeling this way and feeling like I make her feel like shit either.

    #392918
    nycartist
    Participant

    Hi Mary,

    In situations like these I often wonder, what was that person doing before they met you? How is it that Amanda has all the time in the world to text and talk to you and not feel like she is neglecting whatever was in her life before you recently met? To me it is a red flag, as there are some people who just become emotional vacuums and suck others dry. She sounds like she has a void to fill, whereas you don’t really. You have a full life with friends and a boyfriend, and making good choices for your health. This relationship sounds intense, yet it is still new. There is still time to set the dynamic in place. It may feel difficult, but you don’t owe her more than you can give. Keep your boundaries firm, and if she is meant to be a true friend, she will adjust to them.

    #392922
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Mary:

    You shared that you made a long-distance friend, Amanda, a year ago. It got to a point where you were having in-depth conversations with her daily, being constantly on your phone, texting, neglecting your boyfriend and friends. You tried to “give everyone equal amounts of time” and got burnt out. Your therapist suggested that you take time for yourself, put your phone on “do not disturb” and get back to people who text you the next day or the day after, depending on how much time you need for yourself. You did that and it worked for you: “the boundaries I set for myself have been so beneficial to my mental health… I love living my life more when I’m not on social media or texting all the time“,

    But “I feel bad and guilty for creating these boundaries now because Amanda gets upset if I don’t text her every day. We’ve already had two fights… She feels like…  I make her feel like shit and cause her to be upset. It makes me feel awful because I love and care about her!

    A bit more than 2 years ago, Dec 2019, you shared about another friend who made you feel guilty, you referred to her as G: “She recently made a comment noting that she feels left out…  lashing out at me for ‘not being good enough’… (she) likes to point the finger… I hate feeling guilty…  G only comes to yell and lash out at me… I just wish I could make everyone happy“.

    In regard to G, you wrote: “I know I can’t change her or how she feels, but if I can just word this whole thing in a way that will make her understand it’s not deliberate neglecting or purposely being left out, then I feel like this situation will get better with time“.

    Two years later, you asked regarding Amanda: “What are some ways I can address this to her again to better help her understand without making her feel like shit? It’s never my intention, but I know I can’t control the way she reacts to anything I do or say. I just don’t like feeling this way and feeling like I make her feel like shit either“.

    The parallels between the two situations are striking: (1) You liked or loved both G and Amanda and wanted them both to be happy, having no  intention at all to make them feel badly, (2) They both pointed the finger of blame at you, accusing you of making them feel badly (G blamed you for making her feel “left out” and “not being good enough“, and Amanda blamed you for making her feel “like sh** and cause her to be upset“),

    (3) You accepted their accusation to an extent, feeling guilty, (4) You wanted to know what to say to both so to make them understand that “it’s not deliberate neglecting or purposely being left out” (G), and that “It’s never my intention… (to) make her feel like shit“(Amanda), so to resolve your guilt.

    Before I continue, I would like to give you the opportunity to share your thoughts about this comparison.

    anita

    #392931
    Mary
    Participant

    Hi nycartist, thank you for responding! I think Amanda expects a lot from me because she is able to make herself available to me every day at any time even though she has a husband and kids – I do not have as much responsibility as her as far as the kids part goes. I’m not sure how she was before I came into the picture, but I do know she doesn’t have a lot of friends so she puts our friendship on a pedestal – she admits that she does that and gets selfish with me because she values me a lot, but it comes off as needy at times. She’s the only friend I have that gets upset if I don’t text back for one day. She’ll turn to social media and post things and then treat me differently. I try to make myself available to her and she tries to take advantage of that I think. I think you’re right about the friendship still being new, but it’s hard for me to keep repeating myself and my reasons for needing to have a day or two without texting her without her getting upset and making me feel bad.

    #392946
    Mary
    Participant

    Hi Anita, thank you for responding! I actually forgot about that post. I do see very similar parallels though.

    Regarding the situation of G and L, G and I spoke more about solutions that would benefit everyone. It turned out her problem wasn’t with me as much as it was with L, but she struggled to confront her on it. G thinks I am easier to talk to because I don’t blame anyone or make anyone feel bad for feeling certain ways so she felt more comfortable talking to me about it. Our group friendship did not last, but I still keep in touch with G and L actually went MIA on both of us – has not spoken to either of us since the pandemic started.

    I do feel my situation with Amanda is slightly different. I don’t think she feels left out, but I sense a lot of anger when I take a day or two to text back and she shows some signs of gaslighting, such as: vague accusations that I am not living up to her expectations (even though she never told me these expectations), making me feel responsible for her feelings and thoughts, put me down publicly every time I don’t text back right away (posting things on social media then removing them after I text her back)… I don’t necessarily want the friendship to end because she is a very good person. I know she has a good heart. I just don’t like this cycle we’re in. The more I think about it, the more I feel we’re toxic for each other and I don’t know if that’s something that can be fixed or not.

    #392954
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Mary:

    You are welcome. Regarding G, you wrote: “G thinks I am easier to talk to because I don’t blame anyone or make anyone feel bad” – I hope that she no longer blames you and makes you feel bad (“(she) likes to point the finger… G only comes to yell and lash out at me“, Dec 2019), so that it is not only easier for her to talk to you, but so that it is easier for you to talk to her.

    Regarding Amanda, you wrote that she accuses you of “not living up to her expectations“- but (1) she is not your employer, paying you a salary and benefits and therefore having valid employer- employee expectations of you, such as that you follow her professional guidance, (2) she your mother, feeding you, clothing you, taking care of you and therefore having valid mother-daughter expectations of you, such as that you do your homework and some chores around the house.

    I don’t understand the supposed or alleged expectations issue, on her part.

    I think Amanda expects a lot from me because she is able to make herself available to me every day at any time even though she has a husband and kids” – reads to me that she dislikes spending time with/thinking about her husband and kids, and you are a way for her to be otherwise engaged, a preferrable distraction from being a wife and a mother.

    it’s hard for me… to have a day or two without texting her without her getting upset and making me feel bad…. She shows some signs of gaslighting, such as: vague accusations… making me feel responsible for her feelings…  she is a very good person“- I suggest that you redefine good person.

    Is this becoming a toxic friendship?… The more I think about it, the more I feel we’re toxic for each other” – I can see how she’s being toxic to you (accusing you, gaslighting you, etc.), but I don’t see how you are being toxic to her (setting healthy boundaries with people is not toxic).

    Is it that all it takes for you to feel guilty and toxic is for a person to accuse you of … anything at all, regardless of whether it is true or false?

    anita

    #392957
    Mary
    Participant

    Hi Anita, I don’t like to hear that my actions upset others that I care deeply about. Those are never my intentions so it hurts me to hear when I’ve done that to someone. So it makes me question if I’m doing the right thing or not so that’s when I start to feel guilty or toxic. I’m conflicted mainly in this scenario because none of my other friends have an issue with this – in fact, all my friends take social media and texting breaks more often than I do. I think the difference might be that even when we don’t text often, we can call and ask each other to come over or go out and do something together. I don’t have that option with Amanda since she is a 7-8 hour drive away. When I mentioned we are being toxic to each other, I am taking it that my boundaries are coming off toxic based on her definition of what I’m doing. Other than this issue, she is a good person and makes me feel supported and good about myself. Only when I input these boundaries does this bring out another side to her which makes me wonder if I’m going about my boundaries all wrong.

    #392958
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Mary:

    I care deeply about (Amanda)… she is a good person and makes me feel supported and good about myself” – I am curious: what about her words make you feel especially supported and good about yourself, so much so that you care deeply about her, a woman you never met in person?

    You don’t have to answer, of course. I am asking because I feel that there is a significant part of the story that I don’t yet see.

    anita

     

    #392961
    Mary
    Participant

    Hi Anita, I should add: we met in person twice. Once in July when her daughter had a dance competition at a casino that is an hour and 10 minutes away from me. The second time I invited her up around Halloween – I live near Boston so Salem is an attractive place to visit during this time and Amanda LOVES Halloween. So we have actually met at this point, but the rest of our friendship is mostly virtual because she lives several states away.

    We connect on a spiritual level – we are both learning so much about ourselves and the universe and to find a path to peace and clarity. We share a lot of the same outlooks and emotions on many topics of conversation. She also is very attentive to what I have to say and always helps me through my anxiety. I feel I have a deep connection with her and that is what makes it challenging to just cut the chord on this friendship. But then I have moments where I can’t see this friendship lasting, especially since I have to explain myself to her every time I don’t respond timely to her messages. I feel I have to explain myself because she gets defensive and almost offended by my actions and the tension starts to rise. I feel I owe her an explanation to resolve any potential fight that’s about to happen, but it never helps. The fact we had a conversation about it more than once tells me she doesn’t truly understand and I don’t know how else to explain that to her.

    #392966
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Mary:

    After reading your most recent post, I am thinking that it may be as simple as it being Amanda’s intense pet peeve/ her personal source of intense frustration to not receive an answer to her text within a certain amount of time, let’s say within a few hours. In which case, you can agree with her on a particular X number of hours, as a limit to how much time you do not answer a text from her.

    Your therapist gave you good advice, to “If people text me, just get back to them the next day or the day after depending how long I need time for myself“. A good advice when it comes to most people, but in regard to Amanda, she needs a response in less than a day, 4 hours, maybe?

    anita

    #392968
    Mary
    Participant

    Hi Anita, that also makes sense and was not something I considered previously. I truly appreciate your perspective!

    I do have a different texting relationship with her compared to every other friend. Because I don’t see her in person except for those two occasions, I have more in-depth and novel-like conversations with her. Because I have the ability to see my boyfriend and other friends any time I please, we reserve any in-depth conversations for when we get together. I will be honest with you Anita, some days I just don’t have the energy or emotional capacity to engage in a meaningful conversation like that. I could give a 4 hour window with her, but wouldn’t this defeat the purpose of my boundary to begin with? I feel like this may still have me feeling burnt out and frustrated. resentful even because I’m not truly given any space to recharge. I can still try giving a shorter window of time compared to a day or two and see if that satisfies her without me removing my boundaries entirely.

    #392970
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Mary:

    You are welcome. No doubt the texting with her has to be limited to your satisfaction and to hers, so that the friendship is a Win-Win, a Win for you and a Win for her. She has to stop all guilt-tripping and gaslighting and whatever else she does that is hurting you. From the totality of what you shared, seems to me that the friendship used to be great, but it is no longer. It changed. Maybe it is better to end it than to watch it deteriorate further.

    anita

    #392994
    Mary
    Participant

    Good Morning Anita,

    I wanted to sleep on this and I think you’re right – the friendship is no longer what is used to be. I appreciate the advice and insight you offered me while I tried to sort through this issue and gain more clarity. Thank you!

    #392996
    anita
    Participant

    Good afternoon, Mary. You are welcome and thank you for your appreciation. Whenever you want to post again, about anything, you are welcome to do so, and I will be glad to reply to you.

    anita

    #393958
    Mary
    Participant

    Good Morning, Anita. I wanted to reach out to you again for some guidance and advice. Amanda and I had a couple discussions since I last posted here. The first conversation involved me explaining why I enforced my boundaries in the first place and how upset I get when she makes me feel guilty and mean for putting myself first more often. I let her know that I pick up on her energy and demeanor changing completely whenever I do this or take more than an hour to respond to her. She said she understood and to that I reminded her she could text me anytime she wanted and I would respond back the moment I could and if I have the capacity to. That response sparked another discussion the following day. Amanda proceeded to tell me that I make her feel annoying, overwhelming… I don’t make her feel loved, supported, or encouraged. I make her feel like garbage because I can’t make her a high priority like she makes me. I told her I appreciate her honesty and that I’m sorry my boundaries created these feelings within her. I reminded her that I expressed similar emotions whenever I engage in acts of self-care and that her energy changes. I told her that I feel because I make her feel a similar way to how she makes me feel makes me conclude that we have become toxic for each other and that she has had a toxic impact on me. I apologized that I created this problem because I made myself too available and accessible from the start of our friendship so I take some of the blame for why she’s been feeling this way once I started creating space. Her response to that was “Ok, I’m toxic now. Cool. Cool. I wish you the best.” I didn’t respond to that, but a few hours later she sent another text stating she forgives me even though I blamed her for all of this and made her think she was to blame for the distance between us. I honestly felt a little gaslighted by that response. I also did not respond to this. Because I never placed all the blame on her.

    With all that said, the point of me reaching out to you again Anita is because her comments upset me. I feel guilty and feel like I was in the wrong. Was I actually toxic and perhaps gaslighting her too? Her comments bother me because she claims (in the last message she sent) that she respected me and my boundaries and allowed me to be my true self. I guess I struggle with distinguishing the difference between healthy boundaries and toxic ones. I know I need to take better care of myself and my soul. I just need some guidance if I went about this all wrong and sabotaged this friendship. I don’t want to make this mistake with other friends, especially the friends I haven’t crossed paths with yet. I want to be better and to do better, but Amanda really made me feel like I wasn’t being my best self. I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

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