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Codependent friend?

Rose White

MyPTSD Pro
Need feedback to discern the behavior of someone who I thought was a good friend. Things got weird and I feel uncomfortable. I know that's reason enough. But it's sort of lingering and I feel I need to talk through it.

Background: Met this friend at the park last year. Our dogs were puppies around the same age and played together, and she lived in the neighborhood. She was kind and seemed independent, living on her own like me. Around my age. She asked for my number so we could meet up for the dogs' sake. And I was fine with that and we did.

She invited me to come over to her house so the dogs could run free in the back yard. That was fine. We tended to have deep conversations about relationships, which is an old pattern of mine, but can be rewarding in the moment, feels intimate. She would say that she felt like she could talk forever and it felt nice to have that connection.

She was in a relationship with a controlling guy and ended up moving in with him last Fall. So we didn't talk too much but hung out occasionally and kept in touch.

After moving in with him she slowly realized what an asshat he was and eventually moved out and broke up with him. She had been renting out her house and moved back into it. She was clearly distressed from the breakup. Would go back and forth with him. Talk about how much she despised him then get back together with him. I understood that it's hard to leave someone, so I just rolled with it. She always had a very worried personality and would sometimes be very upset when I went over, so I would try to be therapeutic with her. I began to realize that was a mistake. Because something shifted in her.

More back story. She had shared a ton about her family of origin and her parents sounded awful. Her dad was manipulative and verbally abusive and her mom was an enabler. We bonded over how bad our parents were. Difference being that she was having weekly phone calls with her parents and visiting them monthly. I wondered why if her parents were so hurtful to her that she kept them so close to her. But I know that everyone's different. She had gone to therapy years ago and she really liked to talk about therapy stuff. About boundaries and owning your shit. But it didn't seem like she actually practiced that stuff when it came down to it. I let that go because everyone is on their own path.

I saw how she let people walk all over her. How she would try to please people then complain about them using her. I think I made the mistake of bringing that to her attention. Or the therapeutic thing. Me trying to therapize her.

Anyway, I'm getting to the shift. She moved back into her house at the beginning of Summer. I have summers off so we started hanging out regularly again. Sometimes several times a week. It became a routine to eat dinner then check if she was available to let the dogs play. Side note: she had gotten another dog and now had three dogs and the new dog was like playfully aggressive and it would amp up my dog and her other dog so no longer were our puppies just having their time together. This other dog was barking and snapping (playfully but in a very forward way) at them and she did her best to control that wild dog but it would inevitably stress all of us out. So that stress made me sometimes not want to subject myself and my dog to the doggie play. She and I didn't connect much outside of the dogs. We did go out once or twice, but that never took off.

The shift happened when I went back to work. I obviously got busy and couldn't come over as much. She noticed and she said (this is seared in my mind), "Let me know when you can come over."

I don't know how I could have responded differently than to say ok. But in hind sight, I should have said something like, "I'll be getting pretty busy so if you want to hang out, reach out to me." But I didn't. And so then it was all on me to let her know when I wasn't busy. In her mind, she was just going to wait for me to reach out to her and make no effort on her part to connect. Which put me in a position of total responsibility for the relationship.

At one point she reached out and said, "Thinking of you." This is where the codependency really started to rear its head. She didn't ask me any direct question or ask me to come over and I am not about to mind read or try to pull it out of her. That's not my style anymore. So I responded with a heart emoji. A few days later I asked her if she wanted to get together and she ignored me. For days. Which she never had done before. I sensed she was punishing me but didn't want to jump to any conclusions so I asked again. She did respond that time and when I went over I knew I had made a huge mistake.

She was so sulky and cold when I arrived. I should have turned around and left. My stomach was in a knot but I decided to put on my professional hat and make small talk, and not make it weird. That last thing I wanted to do was get into a conversation of "What's wrong?" Old me would have dove right in. New me says no way, I don't relate that way anymore. Eventually she turned off the sulking, interacted normally, and then I left. She never once brought up her feelings about whatever was bothering her.

After that I decided that I didn't want to initiate contact with her again because I didn't want to go through all that again or be pulled into the sulking, pouting game.

Last week she reached out and said, "Thinking of you, hope you are well!" Again, no direct questions about me or asking me to come over. I'm not going to pull anything out of her. I responded warmly, "Thank you, hope you are well and warm!" Soon after she responds with something like, "I don't know what I've done to offend you. I don't understand why you've pulled away from me. Thank you."

Yeeps. So the first text was a bait to see if I would respond. I thought about it a lot. I researched codependent friends. I discovered that what she was doing was projecting onto me. She felt offended and pulled away from me, and she wanted to pin that on me and make me defend myself. I read that the last thing to do in such a situation is to take the bait--that any kind of discussion or rebuttal or explanation is what they want, to entangle you in the codependency. I decided that I did not want to get pulled in and I would not take the bait. But I didn't want to ignore her because then she would use that to prove to herself that I was pulling away. So I wrote back, "You did not offend me."

I did not offer to make a playdate with her because it's uncomfortable for me. I don't want to spend time with her anymore, because I don't like how I feel when I'm around her. I don't want to guess at why she's upset for a conversation.

Today she wrote me again... something like, "Despite whatever may have happened I hope you are well. I have a dear co-worker who is just wonderful and I get this feeling you guys would be quick friends. If you're ever interested in pursuing it, let me know. I don't have to be involved and can just give you each others info. Happy holidays to you."

Ummm... I don't know what to say! It really feels weird! These are the weird parts: her insistence that something happened on my end. her wanting to set me up with her coworker and not be involved? That part sounds really confusing to me.

It feels like she's trying to get me to ask her for a get together. Which I don't want to because of her weird icy behavior last time I did. She hasn't once asked me to get together! I keep thinking of her words, "Just let me know when you're available." It's like after that I became the mom or something and she's re-enacting being abandoned. Ugh!

Overall, it sort of feels like we got too close or we were too fast of friends. I need to be careful about hanging out with people multiple times a week? I definitely need to be careful if it feels like I'm wanting to behave therapeutically toward someone who is supposed to be a friend to NOT DO THAT! And that if someone keeps telling me that they feel more comfortable with me than with their boyfriend or their family then I need to put some serious boundaries between us.

I'm just sort of rolling around in this space of not knowing how to respond. I think I need to break it off with her because I don't think I want to hang out with her anymore. But I need to be careful because she lives in my neighborhood so I definitely could run into her at the park where we met.

If you are familiar with codependent friendships and especially if you have been working on getting out of them, would appreciated feedback. I am mostly curious about whether or not this does seem like a problematic relationship from what I've said. And also I am curious about the process of breaking off a friendship. I used to be very codependent with my friends, so I think that this relationship is partly about me learning to discern when codependency is present but also learning how to kindly walk away. I used to do very strange things with my friends and some would just ghost me--never respond to my text. That was painful, but looking back I can usually understand why they did.

Anyway, super long rambly post because I'm not very adept at dealing with this stuff yet--am learning! Any thoughts about responding to the most recent text? I'm trying to think of a very short response. Maybe just "Happy holidays?" But it's starting to feel like anything I respond could just keep her sending out these little hooks. So I think I'm at the place where it's time for me to send a breakup text. I've done that with dates before. What might I say? I might say, "Hi, thank you for reaching out to me. I'm not feeling much of a connection anymore. Wishing you all the best." Is that appropriate? Yikes, I'm feeling kind of scared, I don't think I've ever done anything like that with a friend before. I would like feedback and support and encouragement (in any direction) if possible.
 
Thank you @Weemie.

Forgot to mention, and it probably doesn't matter, that she told me that I was her only and best friend except for her dog sitter. And her dog sitter used to guilt her into taking her dog to doggy daycare. Which makes me realize more deeply what you said, Weemie, about the guilt-tripping. Guilt is a huge part of how she is motivated to engage. Her mom and dad guilted her. Her sisters did. Her dog-sitting friend did. And random people she interacted with too, and then she would complain about it. She always wanted to be the nice one.

A lot of that is aligning with my family of origin stories. Guilt played a huge part in my mom's relationship with her mom and sister. And in my dad's relationship with his sister and cousins and mom. And both my parents would pretend to be the nice one but then complain about everyone. Guilt played a big part in my ex-husband's relationship with his mom and grandma too. I think I'm cracking through something.

And guilt is what's driving me to think I need to respond to her. To be a nice and good person. Why? (I ask myself.) So I can continue to complain about her? I think I'm ready to take a look at my motivation or desire to feel guilty and whether or not I want to engage in that dynamic anymore.
 
This sounds to me like a very one - sided relationship. She also sounds like she’s massively over shared really fast and that would make me uncomfortable as well. She’d be hitting a lot of my reg flags as someone who at this stage on her life, isn’t the right person to be in my life.

My advice : same as Weemie, ghost her. You don’t have to make yourself uncomfortable for anyone, it’s totally okay for you to say to yourself, hold up, I’m not getting anything from this relationship & she’s repeatedly playing games, I don’t like it and I don’t want to engage anymore.
 
I’d block her and her drama. I’d probably say something before I did it so she’d know she wasn’t texting me but oblivion. Maybe something like this relationship isn’t working for me, I don’t like the guilt you seem to be sending me when things don’t go the way you like so I’m disengaging from the conversation.
 
It really does depend on the whole entire person. It definitely is a red flag, but I do think sometimes it can happen in a way that's not detrimental. I'm an over-sharer---ish. I talk about mental health stuff pretty openly. But I'm also very good at moderating my own emotions and taking care of my own problems. And I try to ask before sharing, to see if people are in the right mindset to hear the things I've got to say. I'm just not neurotypical and I gave up on pretending to be, so all I can do is help people to take care of themselves while being myself. If people can't deal with hearing about a little mental illness, we're probably never going to be good friends anyway.

I don't need anyone to be my therapist, I just like sharing information and try to relate with people that way. And because I think it's good to normalize mental health conversations in general. But the guilt shit? That stuff is unacceptable to me and I will run away faster than a fast thing the second someone tries to put pressure on me or expects me to produce emotion for them on demand. And I try so, so hard not to do that with other people that I straight up do not respond to their attempts to engage this way. Because I don't even get the clue that they're like, giving me the silent treatment or whatever. I'm like oh, they don't want to talk right now! OK! And I just leave them alone.

I have a couple friends I go years between talking, and we still share memes and shit, then every once in a while they come around and we're super close for a while before they drift off again. I think this really is what people mean when they talk about oversharing and codependency, because there's a certain dynamic where the person starts to rely on you as a therapist and the second you don't engage on demand with them, they begin having very unhealthy responses because they're actually using you to regulate their emotions. And one of the red flags that this is happening, is immediate over-sharing up front. You are an adult! You are actually allowed to stop being friends with people for any reason.

You don't have to like everyone, and you can just choose to stop being friends because you don't like a person - and you don't have to like them for rational reasons, either! You can even say, I don't think there's anything wrong with this person at all but I just am not interested/don't like their vibe/they always talk about their dog too much/whatever, and decide "meh, I won't be super close friends with them." And that doesn't actually make you bad. That's the beauty of having voluntary social interactions, no one is owed your friendship by default.
 
Appreciating all the feedback.

massively over shared really fast

immediate over-sharing up front.
I did want to say that this stuff did not happen quickly or right up front. It was slow and gradual, which is partly why it was hard for me to make out what’s happening now. I’ve become attuned to what a detrimental thing immediate intense oversharing is. So I can generally notice when it happens right away and I don’t think it did in this relationship.

But…
the guilt shit?
This is what I’m really working on I think. I like how you said it’s unacceptable. It is! And I’m really glad you can *see* it. I am getting accustomed to seeing it (and leaving it).
 
Over-sharing for me is as much about sharing a lot of personal information without really considering the impact (or considering the impact & using it to manipulate someone into staying around because of guilt rather than the friendship value) it might have on someone else as it is about skipping building a relationship and dumping it all in right away.

detrimental. I'm an over-sharer---ish. I talk about mental health stuff pretty openly. But I'm also very good at moderating my own emotions and taking care of my own problems. And I try to ask before sharing, to see if people are in the right mindset to hear the things I've got to say. I'm just not neurotypical and I gave up on pretending to be, so all I can do is help people to take care of themselves while being myself. If people can't deal with hearing about a little mental illness, we're probably never going to be good friends anyway.
I wouldn’t consider this to be oversharing particularly. It sounds like you are highly considerate and share in a reciprocal manner to build authentic relationships.
 
Seeing friends should be easy. If you're feeling uncomfortable and weird, it's because your feelings are telling you this isn't working for you. And that's ok. You don't owe her anything. Relationships and friendships come and go and change. No big deal. No drama. No guilt. No nothing. Just is.
 
My advice? Ghost her. She's playing mind games and pulling the guilt tripping card. That's not someone who can be an equal friend. I wouldn't even bother with a break-up text.
I see no boundaries with herself. And that can result in no boundaries with other people. I am a retired nurse- was rn, I can easily fall into trying to diagnose or help people too. A big red flag I see is her " offer" to set you up with a co- worker. I got this input when I was domestic violence treatment. If you find yourself in a situation that has become dysfunctional get out. I tried to volunteer in the small town my husband and I lived in. The people were curt disrespectal self righteous. I have stopped. Block her number.
 
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