The Friendship Doctor

Send in your friendship questions and quandaries and get expert answers and solutions

Handling a friend who needs to have the upper hand

Unless you talk with your friend, you will build up resentment

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I'm 18 years old and my best friend and I have been friends for seven years. We went to middle school and high school together and even though we aren't at the same college, we are still very close. In the past year or so my best friend has developed a few obnoxious habits that have made me want to avoid her.

The worst one is that she corrects me all the time, about everything and anything. She recently admitted that she sometimes even corrects me when I'm right just for the sake of argument. She also makes tons of plans assuming I'm going to go along with them. When I tell her I don't feel like it, she whines and complains until I'm guilted into it.

She also compares the death of her uncle (he died when she was 5, in a car accident) to the death of my brother who died two years ago in an accident at the hands of my other brother. She says they are both the same thing and this makes me very angry because they aren't even close: You lose a distant relative at 5 and I lose my brother at 16? Come on!

I love her dearly and don't want to start a huge fight. So I was hoping you could give me some advice on how to handle these situations without hurting either of our feelings.

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Sincerely,
Michelle


ANSWER

Dear Michelle,

It sounds like your friend is somewhat controlling and competitive. When she makes plans unilaterally and constantly corrects you, she's attempting to maintain the upper hand in the relationship, probably unconsciously.

You've identified three areas of contention. If you want this relationship to work for you, you need to communicate with your friend and establish some explicit ground rules. You can do this gracefully by telling her how much you cherish your friendship. 1) You need to tell her directly that in the future she needs to check with you before she plans your calendar; you need to remember to say NO when you are only doing something because you feel guilty. 2) Explain that her correcting you all the time only makes you feel uncomfortable and reluctant to talk. 3) At 18, she may not understand the impact of the death of a brother but you have every right to ask her to stop comparing it to the death of her uncle.

Unless you talk about these things with your friend, you will begin to build up resentment.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

 

Prior posts on The Friendship Blog about controlling friends:

Friends don't judge or do they?

Unable to let go

What to do about a judgmental friend

 

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Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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