Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

Long-Term Friends: The Dilemma

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on November 17, 2011

Mary,https://shirahvollmermd.wordpress.com/category/friendship/,  the fifty-five year old woman who seems to be preoccupied that her long-term friends have disappointed her. Her current concern is about her thirty-year friend, Haley. Haley and Mary also raised their children together, complained about their husbands together, and helped each other through the deaths of their respective parents. Mary, with utter dismay, says “Haley now wants us to hang out with Chloe, almost like she is avoiding the intimacy of the two of us getting spending time together.

” “Have you told Haley that you prefer if your time together is just the two of you?” I ask, wondering if Haley understands Mary’s dilemma. “At first, I was too scared to tell Haley, since I did not want to rock the boat, but then I mustered up my courage and I told her. To my shock, Mary still insisted that the three of us have dinner together-totally disregarding my feelings,” Mary says with teariness and pain. “I have known Haley for so long, I just hate to see our friendship deteriorate, but at the same time, I don’t know how to deal with the fact that she is marginalizing me.” “I see your dilemma,” I respond, feeling Mary’s pain and helplessness.

“Long-term relationships go through many chapters, and I can see that this current chapter is causing you to feel bad about yourself.” I say, highlighting the difficulty that results from Haley ignoring Mary’s feelings. “I can see that the message you take from Haley’s behavior is that you are not that important to her. You are important, but at the same time, she is keeping you at arm’s distance.” I say, explaining how I see the dynamics and their resulting ego bruising. “Maybe Haley will want to be closer to you over time, and maybe she won’t. It is hard to say, but at this point it seems like you want to be closer to Haley, than she wants to be to you.” I say, highlighting the pain of asymmetrical relationships.

“Yea, I am once again looking for love in the wrong place,” Mary says, with a heaviness that hurts. “Yea, I can see that. It is good that you can be honest with yourself and recognize when your needs are not getting met.” I say, saluting her for trying to cope with the pain of this semi-rejection from Haley. Mary leaves, seemingly a little calmer than when she came. “I just want reciprocity and that is very hard to find,” Mary says in an exasperated tone. “Yep, it is hard to find, but lovely when it finally happens.” I say, implying that searching for mutuality, although difficult, is well worth the journey. “Maybe,” Mary says with her characteristic skepticism. “Maybe” I repeat, joining her in her reluctance to completely agree with my notion of a happy ending. Mary still appears to need to settle herself. “I hope you can find some inner peace,” I say acknowledging that Mary was really hit hard by Haley wanting to include Chloe in their time together. “Thanks,” she says, appreciating my wanting to connect with her, but still in distress.

2 Responses to “Long-Term Friends: The Dilemma”

  1. Shelly said

    What do you make of Haley’s need for intimacy with Mary? Of her apparent loneliness? Could Haley widen her circle of friends to include Chloe or would it feel like she lost her intimate friendship with Haley? What kinds of advice do give to Haley to overcome her loneliness?

  2. Interesting question. I think three-way relationships are challenging, in the oedipal way. In other words, there is rivalry to be loved. In the oedipal situation, both the male child and the husband compete for the mother’s\wife’s attention. Eventually, the child gives up (under healthier circumstances) and begins to identify with the father and separate from the mother. In the case of Mary “needing” Haley, in the presence of Chloe, both Mary and Chloe are competing for Haley’s attention. So, it is not so much that Mary cannot widen her friendship circle, it is that a three-way friendship is very hard to maintain, in that someone is bound to feel left out and less loved. Mary has to try to negotiate with Haley a new relationship, and as with all long-term relationships, there can be a disparity in expectations as time and life circumstances marches along. What makes a good friendship while one raises one’s children, does not necessarily make a good relationship as one moves into the next chapter of the empty nest. This is one reason why long-term friendships are hard to maintain. Haley’s loneliness is existential and as such, she has to turn both inwards and outwards to explore her sense of belonging to the world. Thanks, as always.

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