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You Asked: I Feel Smothered and Guilty

DearSugar --

I'm older, I have raised children, and I recently returned to school. My best friend and I have grown apart. We work together, and I'm busy with school and grandchildren, etc. I just don't have time for her like I once did, and she's making things uncomfortable at work. Even her husband called, telling our boss that his wife/my friend is upset because I don't sit and talk to her like I used to.

I told her last year that my studies would require more attention. I feel smothered, and I feel guilty returning to school. She makes me feel awful. I love my friend, but it is my time, and when I started school I told her over and over how busy things felt with school and my family.

I work about 35 hours a week and take 3 classes. Sometimes I think she might be jealous because I'm a little more outspoken and can make friend more easily. She even told me once she gets jealous when I talk to other people at work. I think I may have to leave this friend behind.

What do I do? ~ Guilted Abigail

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Dear Guilted Abigail --

You seem to have a pretty good handle on what's happening within this friendship. I can't tell if you've talked with her about the situation at work, which sounds very unprofessional and potentially harmful to you both. I hope you'll make it clear to her that such behavior is unacceptable, and that your personal lives should be discussed outside of work. I also can't quite tell by your note if you wish to preserve the friendship, or if it's become too difficult and uncomfortable for you.

I can tell you that our closest friendships ought to be based on love, support, encouragement and mutual understanding. Your friend sounds unable to temporarily put her own need aside and help you manage these new challenges in your own life. She also sounds as if she struggles with jealousy and may in fact see your education and growth as a personal threat. If your friend can not express her needs and feelings in healthy ways, or if she's unaware of them herself, she will probably continue to express them in ways that create more conflict, guilt, and chaos for you.

While it's sad and regrettable, some relationships won't make it through all the upheavals and changes life throws at us. You deserve friends who admire and encourage your personal development, and who understand that small sacrifices and patience are also acts of friendship. I wish you luck at school, and I especially hope your work environment isn't compromised any further by your friend's resentment.



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