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Setting boundaries

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  • #102703
    christy
    Participant

    I’m having a difficult time setting boundaries with a work colleague/friend. We often have to converse because of work related issues. Which isn’t a problem, but we’re also friends outside of work. Actually friends with him and his wife. It’s usually when we’re through discussing the work topic- he lingers in my office- wanting to vent about personal struggles. Dropping little hints under his voice about personal topics, waiting for me to take the bait. Occasionally I do because I have the time to engage. Other times, I have things to get done and he doesn’t pick up on the social cues. Furiously typing on my computer. Listening to voicemail. The other day I actually said to him I don’t have time to chat… and he sat down at my vacant co-worker’s computer and worked from there. As if to wait until I did have time. I eventually had to walk out of my own office for refuge. My compassion is running thin and I’m afraid I’ll snap– He’s even said to me on a few occasions, you’re the only other person I can talk to besides my best friend, not even my wife… makes me feel worse, guilty. He’s a sad person. Really depressed about life in general. I’ve encouraged him to seek out therapy. His frustrations would be best tackled with a professional. Yet, I know one doesn’t seek out help until they’re ready. In the meantime, our friendship is taxed.

    Avoiding him won’t solve the issue because we have to interface because of work. I’d appreciate your suggestions/feedback.

    #102714
    rik801
    Participant

    I would tell his wife, or the HR department. I know it seems a bit forward, but if he’s coming to you for help he might be looking for ways to talk about his struggles. I was in a similar boat and my friend reported me to guidance, and my parents. I got in trouble, but I was never angry with the friend who reported me. It might tax your friendship, but it’s one option. Or suggest that you both tell his wife together? I know it’s ideal and helpful to have a third person POV so that the person being confessed to doesn’t overreact, at the same time its a personal issue, so boundaries are also important. I’m sorry if I wasn’t much help.

    #102723
    anita
    Participant

    Dear christy:

    My advice is that you assert yourself with him. Tell him: “(Name), I need you to no longer stop by my office. I understand that you need to talk and I do hope you can talk to me when we (you, your wife, etc) all get together socially. And what you can’t talk to us all together, I already suggested you talk to a good therapist.But not at work. I don’t want you to stop at my office or stop and come in. I want no visits to my office.” Something like that, and make sure he understood specifically what you don’t want him to do.

    anita

    #102767
    Matt
    Participant

    christy,

    I’m sorry for your difficulties, and understand how difficult it can be to set healthy boundaries with friends. Especially when those friends are clearly in need. In my opinion, you’re having two separate but related issues. One, you mistake enabling for kindness. Two, you lack the trust in yourself that brings about your courage.

    The first issue, mistaking enabling and kindness is a normal thing to go through, and one most compassionate people have to learn. To sit there and listen to him lament his suffering (whine and moan and wail and beat his chest and dump) is not actually being a good friend. It’s like watching a horse flail his legs in a mudddy bog, and walking up to the horse and stroking its face, brushing its hair. What the horse really needs though, what the kindest thing to do for the horse, is taking a whip and smacking it on the ass. That is what makes the horse jump free from the mud. See?

    Said differently, we all need connection, but as you’ve been intuitively feeling, he needs someone to kick his ass. A therapist, a teacher, a mentor… someone that will listen to his stories and then give him the truth, give him whatever it is that he needs to take the hard look at himself and make a change. This can be you, but it’s not your job… “not mine” said the Buddha.

    For the second issue, lacking courage and trust in yourself… consider how you’ve been instinctually flowing with the energy you need, but keeping your lips zipped, holding it back, and now it’s rotted into anger. Said differently, you’ve felt the agitation, the invasiveness into your space, and inside, the force has been there to shut him up and shuffle him out. At first, perhaps it was there with kindness, but you were scared to express it. Now, its like a roaring bear “stop dumping on me!!!!” Had you expressed it in the beginning, now it wouldn’t be so violent.

    At this point, consider spending time forgiving. Forgive yourself for being afraid to set boundaries for so long. Forgive him for suffering and using you as a “dumping friend”. Accept neither of you meant for the friendship to become chaotic and dysfunctional, and it’s normal for it to happen. Then, stand up, and warmly but firmly speak your mind and heart to him. Don’t punch furiously into your keyboard, hoping he gets the hint. Don’t hint at all. Honor yourself and him by being courageous enough to say what you have to say, being direct and clear. It’s OK to express your frustration, sister, if that’s what is there. Sometimes, its exactly what is needed for both of you.

    May your inner voice be heard, sis, and all the magic to follow.

    With warmth,
    Matt
    http://www.compassreadings.net

    #103463
    christy
    Participant

    Hi All-

    Thank you for your feedback/suggestions. I’ve taken it to heart and have reflected on it in how I manage other relationships in my life.

    I wanted to give you all an update…

    It was his birthday a couple weeks ago and I attended the gathering with some other friends and his wife. It wasn’t a celebration. He was mostly grumpy and bummed out. Long story short, I received several apologetic texts from him afterward about his negative outlook, bad behavior (openly arguing with his wife at the restaurant), etc. In the end he said he needs to seek help (therapist), knows that he is depressed and needs to work on himself. I was able to tell him I want to remain friends and work colleagues– and our topics of conversation need to be focused on work while at work. He was receptive and understood. Even stated he knew he was over sharing with me. I’m relieved we were able to hash things out and the last few days our interactions have been pleasant.

    Thanks again!

    #103468
    anita
    Participant

    Dear christy:

    You are welcome and I am glad there has been a healthy development. Habits though are often difficult to break and he may need a reminder. If he forgets and on a day he feels more distressed and stops by your office for the same, it is important that you remind him right there and then of your interaction that you described above and so you re-assert yourself and help him break this habit.

    Post anytime with updates, or any other topic.

    anita

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