My friend is a debbie downer and I’m tired of playing therapist

I’ve been friends with this girl for six years, after we graduated she moved across the country and we stayed in touch, but…

It feels like she only calls me when she wants to vent. She’ll text me at ridiculous hours (10 am on a random workday) asking if I’m available to talk to her or texting, “Are you available to talk later today? I need to sort some stuff out.” This happens maybe once a month or every other month.

On the one hand, she’s had a difficult move back home because she’s pretty lonely and doesn’t have many friends there. On the other, she never calls me just to have a regular friendly call and has even mentioned it herself. “I feel terrible. I only call you when I’m having a crisis!” When she says this I jokingly suggest she should call me more often. When I call her, she’s usually busy so I’ve stopped.

When she lived here we hung out regularly, and she did complain about things but it wasn’t such a central feature of our friendship. I’ve given her advice, but some new ‘thing’ always comes up. I really do value the friendship we had so I don’t want to dump it, but I feel it’s very one-sided now. Has anyone ever had a similar experience, and how should I go about addressing this?

5 thoughts on “My friend is a debbie downer and I’m tired of playing therapist

  1. Kelly says:

    [” I really do value the friendship we had so I don’t want to dump it”

    I’m not necessarily advocating dumping your friend but I think you should recognize that you wouldn’t be dumping the valuable friendship you had but the one you have now.

    If you feel that it’s worth the effort to get your old friendship back then I think it’s best to simply be honest with her and tell her that the current relationship, where the only contact you have with her is when she needs your counsel, isn’t going to work for you anymore. If it continues to be the same one way street then maybe you should stop having time for her too.

  2. MitziM. says:

    [I have been in this position before and it’s tough. You don’t want her to think you don’t care about her, but no one likes to constantly listen to other peoples problems.

    With my friend, it was always guy troubles. So, I started making it blatantly obvious that I didn’t want to only talk about her crap boyfriends. She’d tell me a story and I’d say something like “I’ll tell you what I told you with the last three guys, if you’re not happy, move on. Anyway, how’s everything else?” Then I would hit her with a barrage of questions about her job, her family (When we lived in the same city I was close with her mom and brother), her pets, etc…

    Slowly but surely she started calling just to talk. I will say I tried flat out telling her to call me when she was happy sometimes, but it didn’t work. I think people get into a rut when it comes to friendships. Ie: I have my drinking buddies, my shopping girls, my family friends, and the people I go to shows with. It never occurs to me to take my drinking buddies shopping because that’s not what their there for.

    Anyway, long rant aside, what I’m getting at is that she may be subconsciously conditioned to think of you first when she needs someone to vent to. It’s not a bad thing, but you might have to “train” (as awful as that word sounds) her to want to talk about other stuff, too.

  3. Matt Sanchelli says:

    [Your friend definitely sounds like (what the others have already pointed out) someone who is either looking for validation and support for whatever troubles are going on. Sure it can be nice knowing someone thinks that highly of you to ask for your advice with every problem…but most of us don’t want that responsibility ALL THE TIME.

    I know I’ve been guilty of calling a friend for advice, and calling a specific friend because I knew they’d give me the answer I want to hear.

    We all have people/friends in our lives that we can depend on to play a particular role but you have to make sure there’s a balance and that you don’t take advantage of that person (and who they are to you and what you are to them).

    Your friend needs to be told that you’d like to start hearing about things other than their problems. That’s not really a friendship…that’s therapy…and you’re not even getting paid.

  4. Missy says:

    [If you want to keep the friendship, you’ve got to confront her on her behavior. Her saying, “I feel terrible. I only call you when I’m having a crisis” and you laughing it off enables her to continue using you as a sounding board. She probably doesn’t even realize that it’s upsetting to you. I know it’s hard, and it’s probably easier to just continue the uncomfortably comfortable pattern that’s been set, but nothing will change unless you address your feelings with her.

  5. Happy Pants says:

    [These are the kinds of friends that only want to talk to you to seek validation about their own lives—they want to tell you about the great things they’re doing and ask you for advice about a situation they already know how they’re going to handle, but just want someone to tell them it’s okay to do what they were already going to do in the first place.

    I know because I’m one of those friends. There are certain people in our lives we go to when we want to tell someone, anyone about something awesome that happened, or when we need to make sure what we’re doing is right, because we’re not confident enough in our decision-making skills to just do anything on our own. We come to you because we’re lonely, starved for attention, and insecure, and we will keep coming to you unless you tell us we’re being assholes or, like Mitzi said, you train us to have real conversations, and eventually, real friendships.

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