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Carolyn Hax: Time away from best friend seems beneficial for both parties


Dear Carolyn:

Please help me sort my feelings about my best friend. She has been through a rough few months. She had an emotionally abusive relationship come to a head and (mercifully) end, but it wasn’t without hours and hours of best-friend duty: taking hysterical phone calls, visiting her, etc. She was in crisis mode for a long while and always wanted talk about “her immense pain.” I’ve seen her through more relationship drama in our 10-year friendship than I care to think about. She’s also had some health problems that, fortunately, also seem to be over. And she turned 30 recently, another source of anxiety.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

Meanwhile, I’m going through a lot, too — mostly positive, but a lot. I’m getting married in the fall; I just moved in with my fiance; my contract job is ending in weeks; and I’m trying to line up new work. I’ve tried to be understanding about my best friend’s needs and to realize she can’t reciprocate as much right now. I have other good friends I can rely on. She apologizes for not being a good maid of honor or for dominating a conversation with her worries, and so far, I really haven’t minded. The wedding is, after all, seven months away.

However, she just said she’s accepting a six-month position in a foreign country. Even though she said she’ll be here for the wedding, she won’t be here for anything else. I’m not wanting the royal treatment or anything — I just want my best friend to talk to as I go through this transition.

I’m getting tired of this. Does it sound like she’s being selfish, or do we both have so much going on, we’re both being a little selfish and that’s okay?

Best Friend Blues

It’s fair to expect your best friend to let you get a word in edgeways and to delegate some of her crisis-management elsewhere (if not just — egad — handle some of it internally).

It’s not fair — okay, bat-poop nuts — to expect her to decline the overseas gig just because you want her around to talk wedding.

So, I’ll tweak your observation and say you’re both being a little dramatic.

It does appear there’s been a drama surfeit from her, which you’ve handled patiently — to your credit and possibly to the detriment of you both. As her tender audience, you’ve sent subtle but powerful messages: Chaos gets attention; drama is normal; her problems are everyone’s.

That she ended up with an abuser — and that her biggest booster is “tired of this” — says she’s past the point where her immaturity is an endearing quirk, or even an unfortunate part of a functioning whole. Party’s over, and she’s in poor emotional health.

She’s also taking dramatic action to change her circumstances — and perhaps develop independence. Whether it’s the right move, I can’t say, but it arguably comes at the right time for you both. She’s too unwell, inside, to be the kind of friend you were hoping she’d be. And you’re too frustrated with her to keep doing the patient-friend dance — and too preoccupied with your own stuff to do the even harder work of choreographing a new one.

A six-month breather sounds just right. Hug her hard, wish her well and see what time has to say.

Write to Carolyn Hax , Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Subscribe at carolynhax.

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