Giving space when you live together

Discussion in 'Relationships' started by alphabet, Dec 9, 2016.

  1. alphabet

    alphabet Well-Known Member

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    So months ago I had received some good advice about not dating my best friend who is also my roommate. Needless to say we both agreed that friendship was the best way forward and got a dog together in the beginning of Oct. Things were good until about one month ago we got drunk and ended up hooking up. I know it was a mistake and I have apologized for the part I played. We talked about it and both know we don't want that to happen again. I feel responsible though because I am older and maybe should have been able to stop it from happening.

    I pissed her off this week because I made some comments about some of her recent life choices and I meant them with love but they came out more judgmental. I just want what is best for her and I have been worried about her since her behavior had changed (staying in more, drinking in her room, just watching tv for hours, not seeing her or our mutual friends). This all started happened post-election which I realize has been very traumatic for a lot of people. I know people deal with things differently though. When I expressed my concern though she got very defensive and now wants space.

    We still communicate about our dog and stuff and I want to respect her need to heal on her own, but like how?

    I've made myself really busy going out to dinner or having things to do outside the house almost every night. I guess beyond me spending time with other folks or being busy with work etc what else can I do? It's really killing me right now to see her hurting and not be able to support her.
     
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  2. Bluenote

    Bluenote Well-Known Member

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    Two things here.

    1) You can't be the person to support her.
    2) The only person you can really take care of / change, etc... is you.
    3) the hook up

    http://forums.afterellen.com/threads/when-its-your-gay-best-friend.9483/#post-64849

    I reread your old thread as a point of reference.

    Which takes me to item #1. You can't be the person to support her. Part of the deal with you two is that you haven't had good boundaries. Things were miserable when you had bad ones - living together / quasi-dating without really dating / being besties. When you established better boundaries 'we are roommates and friends, but not dating' things got better.

    OK, so you both made a mistake and slept together, it happens. But don't compound the mistake by trying to be her therapist, her big sister, her support network. MAYBE it could work out to be her support network if you really were just friends. But since you are friends with so much sexual tension and emotional history - you can't be her support system. It is not healthy for you and it is not healthy for her. It creates too much 'emeshment' between you two - instead of her having a whole support network, you become 'everything' to each other.

    Plus, all these unresolved feelings keep either of you from being neutral or detached about support given or received. Can you step back from her the way you could step back from any other friend / acquaintance who was drinking too much and isolating themselves? When you give her advice, does she assume that you are attacking her because you are bitter that she doesn't want a relationship? I could go on and on, but you see how you alls' history keeps you from having a good 'support' type relationship.

    2) The only person you can take care of and change is you. So firstly, just because she wants something, doesn't mean that it is right or healthy. OK, you overstepped by trying to give her advice. But that doesn't mean you need to over react and pull a disappearing act in your own home. Apologize to her, tell her you are taking a step back from advice giving and move on. But you don't need to hide out from your own home or avoid her. If she can't deal with you post apology - then that is her problem, not yours.

    Chances are that if you act normal roomatey towards her for a few weeks, she will chill out and start acting normal roommatey back. Talk to her about the dog, bills, if you want to netflix a movies together. Don't talk to her about her drinking, the election, whatever else. If you normally go out with friends a few days a week, do that. But don't avoid the apartment. Going too far in 'giving her space' is actually a form of #1 - trying to be part of a support system for her.

    You aren't responsible for taking care of her emotions. Wether that means policing her drinking, or helping her deal with living with you. She is a big girl. If she needs support, it is up to her to reach out to friends / a therapist / etc... If she needs space from you - it is up to her to determine how much space and up to her to make that space.

    In other words, if she needs space, she should be the one spending time with friends, going for long walks, joining a gym, etc...

    By vacating the apartment, you are actually making it 'unnaturally' easy for her to further isolate herself. You are removing a 'stressor' that may actually motivate her to be a little more healthy. Do roommates get a little stir crazy being stuck around each other - yes? And that can motivate the introverted / depressed / lazy to GTF out of the house? Hells yes (So says the introvert).

    3) You are no more responsible for hooking up with her than she is. You both are adults, it is a 50/50 thing. Feeling more responsible is part of this larger pattern where you try to protect her and take on everything for her. She chose to live with someone with whom she has chemistry. She chose to get drunk around you. She chose to hook up

    You can both make different choices - not hooking up, not getting drunk around each other, moving out after the lease is up. She doesn't seem to be making better choices (drinking a lot at home). But it is not up to you to take responsibility for those choices. It seems like you have decided to try and prevent further hookups by spending more time with other people and taking a step back from her.

    In the end, that is all that you can do. Be responsible for yourself and take care of yourself.

    It can be really hard to watch friends make stupid and self destructive decisions. It can be hard to watch them go down a bad path. But you can't 'make' people do anything, no matter how much you love them.

    Honestly, if this woman is this troubled, she doesn't actually sound like good gf material for you. She sounds somewhat self destructive. You don't seem like you have that kind of darkness about you.

    Good luck and post as much as you need.
     
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  3. alphabet

    alphabet Well-Known Member

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    Thank you @Bluenote for your response. It really made me feel better because I have been blaming myself for how things are and I think that's partly because she blames me for everything even the choices she makes. My impression is mostly that she is angry at herself for having a moment of weakness and asking me to kiss her (she initiated that!) because I don't fit the ideal of who she thinks she needs to be with (safe, predictable etc). She told me that I am "dangerous for her" meaning that I make her feel out of control and crazy. Whatever that means.

    I def don't wanna be with her now even though I still care for her a great deal I see that she has some growing up to do before we could be in a relationship (if ever). I think you are making some really valid points that by running away I'm not actually giving her what she wants I am making it easier on her.

    I will still do what I want i.e. see friends etc, but I will stop doing things like leaving the house and staying over at friends so that she doesn't have to see me. It's so hard to watch her do things that are hurting her, but like you said that has to be a choice she makes to stop that.

    I mean even though she is mad, I have noticed in the past when I remain calm and respectful she cools down pretty quickly. I recently had a bit of trouble with work for example and she still was the first person I called and she still was supportive. I want to believe we can learn how to communicate better, but that's hard because that requires her to grow up too.
     
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  4. Bluenote

    Bluenote Well-Known Member

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    I am not sure what she means by 'you are too dangerous' for her. Though it may be that because she has feelings for you that it is scary for her to connect with you. Getting in touch with those kind of feelings may feel to vulnerable and risky for her. It is usually easier to phrase stuff about other people 'you are too dangerous for me' sounds a lot better than 'I am emotionally repressed and too scared to have real intimacy with you.'

    That kind of being overwhelmed by feelings also lines up with drinking too much, swinging back and forth between pushing you away and hooking up with you, plus other quotes from her in your first thread.

    In the end, all you can do is take care of yourself and make healthy choices for you. Right now the healthy choice sounds like getting some distance from her and focusing on what you want right now - time with friends, celebrating the holiday season, teaching the dog how to ride a sled, all that good stuff...

    Ps, what kind of dog is it? My wife loves dogs, but right now we just have 2 cats.
     
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  5. alphabet

    alphabet Well-Known Member

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    Yeah she is a very easily overwhelmed by feelings person just in general. She struggles with anxiety issues. I really care about her and I try to be understanding of her mood swings. I definitely think I am making progress towards having more distance though it makes me sad. I miss spending time with her.

    I realize that my comments on her actions/motivation came off more judgey and made her even more mad. I just want what's is best for her and I can see how she is hurting herself at the moment. Going further away emotionally from her seems counter intuitive even though I know it's the right thing to do?
     
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    Last edited: Dec 11, 2016
  6. alphabet

    alphabet Well-Known Member

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    Sorry, he is what people call a "red" pitbull. Probably a mix - he is a rescue. Mostly, naps a lot but occasionally gets very hype and then is super annoying because he is made out of muscle.
     
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  7. lorienczhiu

    lorienczhiu Well-Known Member

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    Hey, so I am going to ignore the past questionable romantic/sexual choices and address you like a person who has a friend who is going through some sh*t and is struggling to help. This is obviously complicated by your amorphous feelings, but let's set that aside and just look at what to do when you have a friend who is hurting, hurting herself, and you just want to help.

    So do I! Anxiety makes the world feel overwhelming and scary as f*ck. It makes me want to avoid social situations and stay in bed with a book instead of engage. And you know what? That is actually okay. I am allowed to choose my own company and have that be a good choice, and when people who do not shrivel up inside at the sight of large crowds tell me that I'm just "isolating myself" it actually comes off as pretty condescending, because isolation is a choice that I make sometimes, on purpose, with full knowledge of the consequences.

    What your friend is doing is, honestly, a lot of avoidance behaviors. Alcohol, television, and isolation are ways to distract yourself from triggers and potential anxiety (and being unwilling to commit to/risk a relationship, as in your previous thread, lines up pretty well here too). I don't think that all of your friend's choices are good for her in the long run, but recognize her behavior right now as a coping strategy and a choice. She's making it because the other choices in front of her seem too hard/unhelpful right now. And like all potentially poor choices, the things she's doing right now to get through are temporary; there will hopefully be a time in her life, probably pretty soon, when she can start to consider other choices and ways of being, and that will be a lot harder if she has dug in her heels about her right to stay home and drink in bed all day.

    And if/when she is able to consider alternatives, it will probably be pretty slow going. She might work to cut down the drinking and replace it with tea, still want to watch TV but try to do with people instead of alone. It will not look like the best case scenario for her, and your job is not to push her farther but to acknowledge and make space for what she is able to do.

    What's best for her is that she wants what's best for her, figures out what that is, and finds ways to get there. That might look like asking a friend for support or honest feedback, finding a therapist, or leaving motivational post-its all over her space. If she asks, and it is appropriate and reasonable and doable for you, there might be help you can give - but you cannot decide what it is she needs from you or take steps without her invitation to do it.

    When you do this emotional work for her, you are actually hurting her - in that you are reducing her capacity to stand up on her own. People who are anxious, depressed, hurting (and I count myself in all three of those categories!) have to be very careful to not give up their agency and autonomy over to "helpers," and to maintain and respect boundaries around help. It is tempting and easy to let someone take over the work of emotional regulation, because they just want to feel better - but I always say it's like letting a bone set crooked, just to avoid the pain of putting it right. In the end, you'll have had a less painful recovery, but it won't support your weight, and you'll keep needing the help.

    It's kind of you, that you want to spare her the pain she's in right now (because she's definitely in pain). Anxiety and/or depression sucks, and it is plain awful to experience them or watch someone you care about experiencing them. But the only way out for her is on her own power - with her consent and commitment, through her work, with the help she asks for. Giving her space to feel her feelings and make those choices is really crucial, and it is actually the kind thing to do.
     
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  8. alphabet

    alphabet Well-Known Member

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    Thanks so much for this. I really needed to hear this. I love her a lot but when I think about it I see how I am enabling her in a lot of ways. She has said to me before that everyone just takes care of her and she doesn't know how to do a lot of things for herself (like even cooking more than 3 dishes).

    We are communicating a bit and I am trying my best to communicate in a way that is not perpetuating any more harm.
     
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  9. alphabet

    alphabet Well-Known Member

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    Short update. Things are actually completely better between us now. She went home for a family emergancy and when she came back she told me she realized that we had something worth saving and she didn't wanna fight anymore. We have been hanging out and being friends again so that feels good. She also admitted to me that she is depressed and was considering going to therapy so that felt positive.

    She said though that she wants me to be on board with this girl she has decided to date, and I said I would because we are family and sometimes you do things that make you uncomfortable for the people you care about. I think I feel frustrated though because she also told me that she would chose this girl over me any given night and I would need to deal with that and family also means sometimes being selfish. I feel like that is kinda bullshit though. Also, it's not like every night I'm demanding that we spend time together vs the other girl.

    It's hard I guess to have space on that because the girl is very loud so when she is over it's noticeable. They stay up really late talking or watching tv and it wakes me up or keeps me up every single time. I know she is allowed to have guests over, but it's impacting my sleep and I don't know really how to address this? I don't wanna rock the boat too much either since our friendship has improved and we are more at ease with each other.
     
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  10. greylin

    greylin Well-Known Member

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    I feel that you need to respect yourself enough to ask youe friend to be cordial and polite and keep their voices down. I would only stay in that situation if rooming with someone else is worse or it is not possible to live alone. Otherwise she needs to treat you as courteously as any roomate should.
     
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  11. alphabet

    alphabet Well-Known Member

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    I did tell her that I can here them (hint hint) though neither of them has made much effort into being quieter. My frustration also comes from the fact that it all seems very selfish and enabling. The girl now literally lives at our house on the weekend, even though she has her own apartment within walking distance (also she lives alone and has no roommate).

    I mean i know it's her relationship and she can live it how she choses, but it's hard when she told me just like a week ago she was bored with the girl or that she wants something different. I don't need to understand I know, but I see her doing nothing but hanging out in her room with this girl. She quit going to weekly activities (trivia, writing group) and doesn't hang out with our mutual friends anymore (unless the girl is there).

    I know it's super common especially amongst lesbians, but I feel pretty hurt since she was my best friend. I am glad we live together because at least i get to see her even if we aren't hanging out and we still have a dog together. Am I just selfish? I know the situation isn't the norm since we use to have a thing, but we are also friends too. I feel like I've done everything a person should. I spend more time outside of the house, and hang out with other friends. I am super busy with work, I am dating? Like what am I am missing here because I still feel pretty sad about this situation.
     
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  12. lorienczhiu

    lorienczhiu Well-Known Member

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    So: your friend is not being super considerate.

    But she gets to decide how she spends her time (and is deciding in ways that sound pretty classic in a new relationship!). She gets to prioritize her new fling (which she is, and hard). She gets to take you for granted and not invest time and energy into maintaining your thing-cooled-to-friendship. She gets to take advantage of the idea of "family" by interpreting it as "family are people who put up with my inconsiderate behavior."

    You don't have to accept this. You've told her what you would appreciate, sure, and she has chosen not respect your request - so see her choice for what it is, and make yours accordingly. Find some distance from her, and invest in other friendships who maybe want to invest back, and be honest with yourself about how much support and love this friend is able to offer you. Frankly, I am not seeing much "best" about this friendship right now. Which is not uncommon when someone begins a new relationship, but is a moment to be honest and take care of yourself. Probably she is not going to modify her behavior, so what are you going to do to keep yourself whole, happy, and loved with this new status quo?
     
    #12
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