I have been friends with 35-year-old “Marie” for more than 20 years. Marie never was never a particularly interesting person, and the years haven’t improved her situation. On top of it all, the Covid-19 pandemic has just exacerbated her negative mindset.
When I last called to ask her how she was doing, all Marie did was complain in a monotone voice. She claims she is bored at home. She went out for a day of shopping not too long ago and reported that she “didn’t enjoy it one bit!” All she does is talk about the horrors of the pandemic.
I clearly hear enough about the Pandemic just by listening to the daily news. Last night I called Marie to find out how she was doing and she went on for a full hour about nothing but complaints. I really thought the dismal phone call would never end!
I know, if Marie is so boring and depressing, why don’t I stop calling her? That would be easy enough.
If I don’t call her, however, I doubt if she would bother to call me. But I don’t feel quite right doing that. She has been victimized by a lot of trauma through some cruel circumstances that were no fault of her own. She receives therapy from time to time but it does not seem to help her much. She believes that I’m her best friend, and she is going to go on thinking that, no matter what.
In other words, if I don’t stay in touch with Marie, I feel guilty.
Just sign me,
Too Loyal For Comfort
Dear Too Loyal For Comfort:
Balance and a sense of mutuality are vital in friendships. Intimate relationships are rewarding because you feel seen and heard while you see and hear the other person. An active friendship dynamic is like a seesaw…each party endures and witnesses ups and downs, but no one hops off.
You don’t really have an intimate friendship with “Marie” because there is no mutuality. Marie is just a person you have known for a very long time.
Here is a radical suggestion: Stick with Marie out of sheer compassion, knowing that you will receive little in return.
If you mentally reframe how you see this relationship, these phone calls can go from being a chore to a good deed. Give Marie the most valuable thing you have, an hour or so of your time. Instead of passively listening to her and praying for the call to end, see what it is like if you engage more energetically. If you have suffered from Covid-overload through the media, turn off the media for one week and let Marie be your Covid-ometer.
Now I wouldn’t suggest this if your contact with Marie seriously depleted you, but it doesn’t seem to. Maybe you can tolerate an hour of boredom in order to be there for someone else. It’s well worth a try. Plus if you try now, you definitely won’t feel guilty later.
I hope this helps.
Some people are financially hurting during this pandemic and have been soliciting donations at platforms like GoFundMe. If one in is the position to donate, do you favor giving more money to fewer people or less to more people?
The argument in favor of the former is that their stated goals may be reached if one donates more; however, an argument can be made for spreading one’s charitable endeavours.
What do you think?
Generous To A Fault
Dear Generous To A Fault,
I appreciate both your generosity and question.
One characteristic of GoFundMe or other online giving platforms is that after donating, you can spread the word among your own “network” of in-person and virtual friends, thus using the power of social media to increase awareness and multiply donations. Thus, spreading out your donations to the largest possible group might be the wisest course of action. I urge you to do everything possible to verify any online request for funds, if it comes from a stranger. Sadly, tough times can often inspire con artists to take advantage of the kindness of good-willed folks.
I hope this helps.
“Jaw Dropped in Pensacola” wrote to you about his wife’s terrible office persona, which he has routinely witnessed while both have been working from home.
Your advice about filming the wife’s rude behaviour was perfect. Being able to see and hear oneself from another’s viewpoint is highly instructive. However, the suggestion of her using a mirror to see herself was totally useless.
In a mirror, we only see what we want to see, and cannot hear ourselves.
One accurate saying is: “The monster never sees a monster in the mirror.”
From The Man In the Mirror
Dear Man In The Mirror:
Your aphorism comes as a relief but when I look in the mirror, I can see it all!