Thank God for the Internet. Otherwise, how would we all know what classifiable psychiatric syndromes we can use to justify our obnoxious behavior? Well, here's my cheap psychological diagnosis of your buddy, Jen. The woman is an acute sufferer of Inconsiderate Entitled Hothead Disorder. Those afflicted by the disorder believe that nonfamily members should raise their children free of charge; co-workers need not be thanked for their contributions; and friends who say things with which they disagree should be subjected to public excoriations. Luckily, there's a cure. The first step is to purchase a gag. Preferably, it should be applied by a medical professional. But in extreme cases, friends may insert the device into the sufferer's mouth themselves. Smart phones should also be confiscated so as to prevent said sufferer from sending gratuitously antagonistic texts, IMs, and emails—while thank-you cards should be placed on top of the sufferer's desk, or some other place where he or she can't miss them. If this doesn't work, feel free to be inconsiderate yourself—and blow off said sufferer.
But seriously, Jen sounds like a hopeless case. I'd blow her off now, before you waste any more of your life getting bawled out for expecting a bare minimum of politeness and decency. Where I'm from, we say please and thank you—and pay for our baby-sitting.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
I've been friends with "Wendy" for 15 years. She was always really negative and cynical, and I suppose that appealed to me at one time, but no more. For the past few months, I feel like I've been seeing her based on the strength of our association rather than any real desire to spend time together. Her negativity is overwhelming. She complains constantly and never does a single thing to address any of these complaints. She has some real problems, sure—health, money, etc.—but we all do. Not only do I have health and relationship problems, but I've been unemployed and homeless much of the past two years (until recently). I've worked hard to overcome adversity, however, and it's frustrating to hear someone talk about her inability to cope when there are simple things she could do.
Whenever I have a complaint, Wendy has a worse problem. If I have good news, I'm met with a litany of her newest problems. She's been on antidepressants the whole time I've known her and won't see a therapist. She blames her problems on her parents, still. (We're 30.) Another issue that's been bothering me is that I finally found a place of my own, 45 minutes outside of town, and she won't come to visit me there. I've driven to see her again and again, sometimes every week, although I can barely afford the gas. And my old car is nearly falling apart (in contrast to her new car). She always makes excuses—her dog (he's welcome!); the distance (I'm willing to do it); she's scared to drive. I find it harder and harder to keep my frustration to myself. So, even though it pains me to do so, I've decided to remove myself somewhat from the friendship.
Have I made the right choice? I want to be supportive, but there doesn't seem to be anything I can do. And Wendy won't do anything for herself.
Can't Take the Whining Anymore
First of all, congratulations on propelling yourself out of poverty and homelessness in this tough economic climate. If only we all had that kind of endurance and fortitude. Unfortunately, for a lot of folks with financial problems, demoralization and depression are the norm. It's also a sad fact that not everyone wants to be self-reliant. And it sounds as if Wendy falls into the latter category. Every time she tries to one-up you on the misery quotient, I suspect that she's really asking you to take care of her. Which is obviously not something you're in a position to do. Nor should you feel compelled to do so.
As her old friend, however, you owe her a motivational speech—and an ultimatum—before you clip the cord. Begin by telling her that it's very frustrating to watch someone you care about wallow in her problems. And if she doesn't think that change is possible, tell her to look at what you've accomplished in the past year. If she has health insurance, urge her—even if it's for the umpteenth time—to find out what, if any, mental health benefits come with her plan. Finally, tell Wendy that, in order to continue the friendship, you need a sign from her that she's trying to make positive changes in her life. Give it another six months. If the whining continues unabated, you have my permission to cut loose.
Friend or Foe