Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

The Obsessive Friend

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on March 28, 2012

“I am sitting there at lunch, thinking to myself, why am I friends with her?” Laney, age fifty-five,  tells me her angst about her friend Mallory, age sixty. “She goes on and on and it is not that I am bored, since she tells  me interesting stories, it is just that she does not give me any room for me to think about my own life. When she does ask me questions about my kids or my work, she asks it in an obsessive way where she is more concerned about details than the big picture. I mean she will ask me where my son has lunch when I am trying to talk about my son’s wife. She often misses the main idea of what I am trying to say and that really bothers me. Of course, sometimes she does not do that, so I am confused. One thing for sure, though, is that I have never known anyone to tell stories with so much detail. I just feel so crowded out by our conversations.” Laney explains to me with sadness that her ten-year friendship with Mallory is now so unsatisfying. “What drew you together?” I ask, as with any dyad there is attraction, sometimes followed by repulsion. “Well, I was lonely and I hated my life, so when she did all the talking it was a relief, but now that I am feeling better there are things I want to talk about. So, unlike before, now her obsessive story-telling is annoying and not a relief.” Laney explains to me. “So, your relationship may not be durable in the sense that it worked when you were feeling bad, but it does not work well when you feel better. ” I say, echoing Laney’s lament. “Do you think you can talk to her about that?” I ask. “Well, I have tried, but Mallory seems to need me to listen and I used to do that, and my guess is that the relationship does not work well for her if I can’t be patient and listen to her obsessive storytelling,” Laney elaborates. “So, you think you have come to the end of the road?” I ask, expressing the sadness in that idea. “I don’t know. I just don’t know.” Laney says, expressing inner turmoil.

Once again, I am left to wonder how relationships endure change. The state of mind that brings two people together is bound to change and how some relationships can adapt to those changes, whereas other relationships crumble, intrigues me. My suspicion is that relationships which are formed when two people are in a good state of mind have a better prognosis, since a safety net is developed where they can move through varying moods and traumatic experiences, but fall back to the good times when they forged a relationship. By contrast, relationships that are formed when one or both people are emotionally needy are more vulnerable, since if the emotionally needy person becomes more stable, he/she is  likely to no longer find that the relationship meets his/her needs. Laney and Mallory are a sad example.

5 Responses to “The Obsessive Friend”

  1. Jon said

    I might recast your last paragraph as “Friendship as a study of two Ns – Need or Nature.” Do people become drawn together by some need? This seems to be the case of Laney and Mallory. Or, are people drawn together by something more than a simple need – something that is part of their nature? I agree that a friendship of nature will be a much stronger relationship than a friendship of need. Needs can change much more easily than natures. While friendships are some of the most important things of life, natural friendships are those that will endure throughout a lifetime.

  2. Hi Jon,
    Thank you for your comments. I am not sure why some friendships last for a lifetime and some run into serious road blocks. As you can tell from my blog, this is an issue that I ponder. I think all friendships start with need and nature, but there seems to be some combination which makes relationship more durable. I only speculate as to what that formula might be. Thanks Again.

  3. Shelly said

    What has surprised me the most in life has been friendships that I thought were those that would stand the test of time, yet when I hit a “rough patch” suddenly am abandoned by everyone except by one marvelous friend. I thank G-d for her everyday, but I still wonder about those people who abandoned me. It never would cross my mind to drop them…why would they drop me just because their lives are going so well and mine isn’t so we no longer have things on common?

    • Yes, these ins and outs of friendship grab me in that the bonds of family or marriage are not there to propel them forward, and yet some of them last in a loving way, whereas others dwindle away with time and life changes. I wish that I could understand that better. Thanks.

  4. f1 forum said

    f1 forum…

    […]The Obsessive Friend « Shirah Vollmer MD[…]…

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