Dear Amy: My new friend, "Shelley," has offered way too much information about some abusive relationships in her life. I've tried to be supportive, but every time I see her, I get an onslaught of truly disturbing drama about her exes or other relationships. Everything in Shelley's life is really intense.
These conversations are incredibly triggering for me; I have an anxiety disorder that I'm trying to manage. Shelley texts day or night to talk about some new drama or problem. There never seems to be an opportunity to redirect her or talk about anything else.
My ability to be supportive is wearing thin. She is exhausting. There is nothing about this dynamic that suggests that she cares about me as a person or that she is trying to find her way out of her tornado of drama.
I feel like I've been recruited into some kind of weird dynamic that I never agreed to. Shelley is taking up so much more space than I want. Is there any graceful way to back off without incurring even more drama?
Amy says: You might have been drafted into this drama, but by continuing to participate in the relationship, you seem to have signed yourself up for an extended tour of duty.
Shelley's behavior toward you isn't necessarily personal. She would befriend a begonia if it would take her calls.
The graceful way to handle this is to undertake a slow fade. If she calls, let her leave a message and return the call when you're ready. Don't answer her texts immediately. And don't react in specific terms to her drama or offer advice.
She might respond to this fade by flaring: "You aren't there when I need you!" You could explain truthfully that you simply don't have the bandwidth to handle all that's going on with her.
In the meantime, get busy, continue to form other friendships and take care of your own health, which should always be your priority.
Taking the blame
Dear Amy: My daughter is having an affair and cheating on her husband. She doesn't come home after work until one or two in the morning. Her husband works the third shift, so he doesn't know what time she comes in. She has adult kids and an 8-year-old girl.
I'm staying at her house for the next two months and don't want to get in the middle of all of this. She is going to see a lawyer in three weeks to see about a divorce, and I know I'm going to be blamed for everything.
I don't know what to do. Please help me.
Amy says: Even though your daughter's behavior is not in your control, she has placed you in the middle of this (or at least adjacent to it), because presumably she is using your presence in the household to step out on her husband.
Third shift usually starts at 11 p.m., so I'm wondering what their parental overlap normally is, but I am assuming that you are watching the household and your 8-year-old grandchild at night when she is gone.
If your daughter is blowing up her marriage, she will be blamed for everything. Her husband will likely accuse you of being a co-conspirator. If so, the best response to this and other nonsense generated by your daughter's unethical behavior is no response.
If you feel uncomfortable aiding, abetting or even passively witnessing this behavior, you might want to cut your visit short.
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