Knowing when to care for yourself?

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    Life Seeker

    Hello there. Recently, I’ve run through an issue that has come up many times leaving me quite confused.

    When should you take care of yourself?

    For example, I have this particular friend that I have promised to always be there for. True enough, I try to be there whenever this person needs to talk to someone or whenever this person needs something, but I find that as days went by, the rate at which this person needed me got more and more frequent. Now, I do not blame this person for this because problems do arise many times in a person’s life, but there is a conflict. This person calls late at night, usually at around 10-12 pm and the talks usually end at around 3 am. I’ve done this for a year or so, and I’ve grown very tired of the practice because I cannot stay awake for that long. One day, I decide to just tell this person that I have to go to bed at around 10:30 pm, and that I cannot talk past that time. This person tells me okay the first few times, but gets very angry and bitter as time goes by, saying that I leave when it gets too much and that I cannot give myself over fully or that I just leave this person hanging and not even caring and things like that. I tell this person that I have to take care of myself as well, that like others, I have my own life to give, but this person gets even more bitter and angry as I say that.

    This person also had a problem with “giving only what you can.”

    I know somehow that this person is creating these problems from within, and that I shouldn’t kill myself over it, but I just can’t help but feel bad by how this person is so bitter and angry. Was it right that I took this stance in taking care of myself? Or do I have to try and help just a bit more?

    I hope that you guys will be able to help me in achieving clarity over this.


    You’re definitely doing the right thing! The best way to be there for others is to be there for yourself as well, anyone who wants you to sacrifice your own well-being to accommodate them is being selfish.

    A couple years ago one of my friends was going through a very traumatic time in her life and she depended on me a lot as someone to talk to and vent her frustrations. I wanted to be there for her but it was also hard for me because her depression was contagious, and after some time I found myself being dragged down by her sadness. I had to let her know that I couldn’t be available to her all the time and she definitely respected that.

    It’s nice to be the friend who can lend an ear, but sometimes you just have to remind people that you’ve got needs too.

    Buddhist Wife

    It seems to me that whoever this person is, they have extremely unreasonable demands and expectations. If this is how they relate to the world and the people around them I’m not surprised that they have so many problems.

    You are not responsible for this person or their problems. You don’t owe them anything. They don’t own you or your time. They don’t get to define what being a good friend is.

    Let’s look at it like this. Let’s say this person rings you in the middle of the night and says , Life Seeker I need £50,000 right now. You wouldn’t give them it I imagine? Even if they begged. You would probably feel frustrated and hurt too. So lets imagine you say no and explain that you don’t even have £50,000 and even if you did you couldn’t give it all to them because you need your money to take care of yourself. So you say to this person that you can give them £10,000. You can’t really afford this amount, but you feel guilty so you do it anyway. This person gets angry and bitter with you, calls you a bad friend and berates you for giving ‘only what you can’.

    Ridiculous isn’t it? Yet this is exactly what this person is doing.

    Your time and your life are precious, more so then money, and you are the only one who can decide how you spend them.

    I feel that you need to continue down the very sensible track you have begun on. You have drawn some boundaries with this person and it seems to me that you should redefine them and reinforce them.

    I would speak to them next time this issue comes up between you. I would say to them that you care for them a lot and want them to be happy, but that you cannot continue these marathon telephone sessions. Say to them that you want to hear from them but that you can only speak to them at certain times and then set times that are acceptable to you. So for example between 8pm and 10pm on Wednesdays.

    If they come up with excuses, criticisms or other ways to try and have a dig at you and make you feel guilty, don’t accept it. Stick to your position. Create a script beforehand if you need to. If they keep pressing just say ‘I’m sorry that you feel that way, but this is what I need to do.’

    Don’t make excuses or justify yourself. You need no justification other then this is your life, your time and you are deciding what to do with it. Don’t get drawn into making excuses about what you are doing with the rest of your time. Don’t justify it by saying ‘I need to be at a meeting’ or ‘I need to be studying’. You are perfectly entitled to be sitting around staring at your navel the rest of your evening.

    Also don’t get drawn into ‘but you did this in the past’. That was then, this is now and relationships evolve. Good friends understand that our lives change us and that this in turn changes what we can give to others.

    If you want to try and make something positive out of this for your friend, suggest that you try and do some more fun things together. I think it would be best to avoid going for meals or drinks as this could just evolve into more marathon ear bashing sessions. If your friend is willing try focusing on an activity that has a time limit such as playing a sport or seeing a film. If you are not geographically close maybe try online gaming or something like that. Make sure that it has a clear start and end time and make sure your friend is clear on this.

    I would also suggest that you encourage your friend to seek professional help to resolve these difficult issues.

    I also feel that for your own good you need to work on your self esteem and the issues that you appear to have around not being assertive enough and how easily this person has been able to make you feel guilty. Why does this person have such a hold on you and why is it they have been able to make you feel that you owe them your complete obedience and service even at the expense of your mental and physical health?

    I also feel that if your friend continues to behave in this negative way you need to ask yourself if you really want to continue this relationship? From the little you have told us your friend seems to have very little respect for you, your time or your welfare and seems to be much more focused on their own.
    If things don’t change you may need to look at ending this relationship.

    I really hope this has helped you to achieve some of that clarity you were looking for!

    Life Seeker


    I know where you’re coming from, as my friend has depression too. Only, when I told my friend I needed myself as well and that I had needs too, my friend did not take it too well and got angry with me. Nowadays, I usually stay silent and keep a strong stance when my friend tells me off and goes on with the sarcasm and the anger, keeping in mind that perhaps this is because of the depression and the numerous traumas experienced in the past. It wasn’t always like this though, as I used to weep profusely whenever this happened because I took it very personally. I’ve grown harder since that time, and I’m not sure if that is good or bad because I’ve either grown stronger or more numb. Like you, I found the depression contagious as well, that is why I am trying to set-up my boundaries and reinforcing them.


    Thank you for your very detailed reply! I cannot tell you how relieved I am just by reading it.

    Yes, you are exactly right. I feel that my friend has extremely unreasonable demands and expectations, even though I think my friend feels like it’s a very small request.

    I have told my friend exactly what you have said many times before, that I do care and that I want this person to be happy, but I have my limits and I cannot go on and on for so long anymore and that I needed myself as well. Needless to say, this person became very bitter and angry towards me, often saying that I am making this person a placeholder, a chore in the time between dinner and sleep, and that I only accommodate this person only when it’s “convenient” for me, like an office meeting or so and when the time is up, that’s it, I leave this person hanging and feeling abandoned. I have always tried to stick with I position, but in the end it makes me feel very sad and guilty whenever my friend says these things.

    The reason why this person has such a hold on my is because this person was my first ever friend in college. This person has taught me a lot of meaningful things, and is very fun to be with when not in…this state. This person means a lot to me, and I do try my best to be there when I can. I know this person cares for me very much as well, but like you said, the expectations and demands are extremely unreasonable, it’s become very overwhelming.

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