Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Archive for July 5th, 2011

The Lazy Friend

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on July 5, 2011


  Ellen,   comes in the next day concerned about her relationship with another long-term friend, Dana. Dana and Ellen, like Ellen and Sherre, started as colleagues, but over the past fifteen years, became closer and closer friends. Dana is married, with some significant relationship problems. They have one adult child who seems to be trouble-free. Ellen and Dana had a weekly ritual of walking their dogs together, even though they were not neighbors. Every Sunday morning, Ellen would drive to Dana’s house, about five miles, and then the “four of them” would go for a three-hour walk. Although Ellen loved this ritual, after about seven years, she grew tired of it, and she eventually told Dana that her dog was getting too old for the walks, even though that was a conscious excuse to end the ritual. Deep down Ellen knew that without that weekly walk, it is possible that the friendship would collapse, but she was not sure.

    Ellen kept in touch with Dana, although, as Ellen feared, Dana seemed less and less interested in getting together. Ellen would call Dana and report to me that Dana said “well, I am just not sure if I can make a dinner date. Or, she would say, we could go to a museum, but I am not sure when.” Ellen reported to me that this vagueness in her response felt like a “brush off.” Ellen continued to say “I think Dana cares about me, but I don’t think she wants to put the energy into the friendship. When we had a Sunday routine, it was fixed. There was no thinking or planning involved. Now, that we have to come up with a plan to get together, Dana acts like that is too much work, so I think that Dana is a lazy friend.” Ellen says, with sadness and resignation.

     I am thinking of Ellen in terms of Sherre; in terms of her pain about being confronted that she “complains” too much about her friends. I am also thinking of Ellen in terms of Dana, and how let down she feels that Dana does not seem more passionate about spending time together. Is Ellen creating relationships with ultimately make Ellen feel that she is either a drag or just not worth the energy to make time together. I am thinking that these two relationships shed a window into Ellen’s low sense of herself. “Maybe your friends don’t make you feel special” I say, trying to tie the threads together between these two adjacent relationships stories. Ellen readily agrees. “I know this is not about Dana and yesterday was not about Sherre. This is all about my difficulty in cultivating relationships which bring me joy and not pain.” Ellen says, with sadness and insight at the same time. “I wonder what it would be like for you to have friendships which make you smile, and not smirk, when you think about them.” I say, highlighting the seemingly foreign idea, that relationships can warm the heart, rather than torture the sould. “I wonder too, ” Ellen says with disbelief that will ever happen. I have a strong sense that Ellen will think about this session in particular, with a large valence of pessimism, but with a morsel of hope that maybe she can find relationships which feel supportive and passionate. Maybe, that is just my wish, but we will see how it goes next week.

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