Shirah Vollmer MD

The Musings of Dr. Vollmer

The Angry Friend: Continued

Posted by Dr. Vollmer on August 14, 2012

See….https://shirahvollmermd.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/the-angry-friend-2/

 

Shai and Claire, girlfriends for forty years, now in their sixties, just “broke up” Shai tells me with sorrow. “Claire is just angry all the time. It is not my fault that her life did not turn out the way she wanted it to, but she seems to take that out on me and I can’t take it any more. ” I think about unconscious anger, the anger that comes out with the smallest frustration. The anger that seems so disproportionate to the situation. This is the anger that Shai describes in Claire. “Has it gotten worse over the years?” I ask Shai. “Well, it seems to. It actually got worse when I stopped being so accomodating. I used to dance around her anger and try to do things that made her happy so she would not get angry, but it turns out that I always felt like I was disappointing her no matter how hard I tried. ” Shai describes the frustration of what felt like to her to be a one-sided relationship which now she seems to have reached her limit. “It sounds like you feel like you made the right decision about ending the relationship.” I say, detecting Shai’s resolution that she had lost her patience with Claire. “Oh, absolutely, I feel like I made a good decision, but I am still sad about it,” Shai says. “It is like a break up of a romantic relationship. You may have decided to end it, but that does not mean that you are not suffering terribly.” I say, highlighting that friendships can be more intense than long term sexual relationships. “Yea, I feel like I am suffering quite a bit. I am angry with myself for not ending it sooner. I put up with her anger for years.” Shai says, reflecting back on her tolerance for hostility, which she believes decreased the quality of her life. “Why do you think you put up with it?” I ask, wondering about her perception that this was a masochistic relationship for her. “I think that I felt close to her for so many years that I did not want to lose the relationship, so I tried to tell myself that her anger was not so bad, but it was. She sucked me dry. Every time I was with her, I just felt her anger so strongly that it made me really unhappy to be with her. At the same time, we are fond of one another, so it was hard to balance out these conflicting factors. Nevertheless, I feel like life is too short to feel that anger, so I want to move on.” Shai says, with torture in her voice, since she sounds less certain that she is making the right decision. “Why don’t you see how it feels to not talk to her for a while, and then decide if you want to get back together or not?” I say, trying to help her see that time may or may not change her opinion, but she should stay open to that. “I don’t know. At this moment I know that her anger just grates at me, so I can’t take it.” Shai repeats, with the gravity of knowing that long-term friendships cannot be replaced.

2 Responses to “The Angry Friend: Continued”

  1. Shelly said

    Long-lasting friendships are rare indeed, however it seems that Claire used Shai to take out all her ill feelings of the world. If they had been friends so long, didn’t Shai know Claire when Claire wasn’t so jaded? Had she ever been happy with life and herself? What had she been like then? What happened? I certainly give credit to Shai for sticking it out so long, however, why didn’t Shai ever tell Claire that she felt used and tired of always giving of herself to Claire? It takes great strength to put up with such a masochistic relationship for so long! Perhaps Claire never knew Shai felt that way?

    • Claire has always been jaded. The issue, not spelled out in this post, was that Shai used to be jaded too, but she moved away from that feeling, whereas Claire remained stuck. Shai did tell Claire how she felt, but Claire said “that is who I am. I can’t change that.” Again, this was not included in the post. I am not sure if it was strength or pathology that kept Shai hanging in for so long. It seems that as Shai healed some of her wounds, she no longer wanted to participate in relationships which she felt to be destructive. Essentially, Shai grew away from Claire and Claire could not grow with her. This is one reason why long-term friendships are so difficult. Thanks, as always.

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