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An Out-of-Sync Friendship

Caregiving, divorce and other "stuff" can get in the way of friendships

QUESTION

Dear Dr. L,

I was recently dropped by a very old and once dear friend pursuing an exciting life after her divorce. In contrast, I have caregiving responsibilities for aging parents and a learning disabled child. I’ve also been through recent losses of one parent and a sister due to cancer.

I try to be cheerful and always have been supportive and interested in her life. But I think she just finds what has gone on in my life too depressing and boring, and she wants to put me at a distance.

She is doing interesting things that I cannot afford to do (with my other responsibilities). No one wants to hear that you’ve spent the weekend again at the nursing home when they’ve been at a yoga weekend in the country.

Could you please address this issue of discrepancies of life experiences and the damage it does to old friendships? Thank you.

Signed, Maggie

ANSWER

Hi Maggie,

I’m sorry for your recent losses, and that your life is so difficult right now. Like many women, you are part of the sandwich generation simultaneously juggling caregiving responsibilities for children and older parents. (I’ve been there, too.) Experiencing two family deaths on top of that has to make it even more overwhelming.

As you suggest, commonalities do strengthen a friendship. Conversely, when friends’ lives fall out-of-sync, it can pose challenges to the closest of friendships.

In this situation, your friend is newly divorced; seems to have fewer responsibilities and fewer time demands than you; and has more discretionary income.

Do these factors necessarily mark a death knell? No, but they can strain a friendship, even a long-standing one.

It’s unfortunate that your friend doesn’t seem to have the compassion to provide the support you need. Given that her divorce is so recent, she may be in a self-preservation mode, of sorts, too.

Consider whether you want to give up on the friendship entirely. It may be that the timing is off and she isn’t the right friend for you (or you for her) right now. Over time, her circumstances or yours may change. Perhaps, you could maintain a peripheral relationship as a placeholder for a closer one in the future.

None of these suggestions address the disappointment you must feel but I hope it helps explain why it happened.

Best, Irene

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