A little background: Ryan and Rachel have been friends for many years, but they talk about once a month and mainly about her. When we got engaged, she cried for days. I get this could be a happy thing, but her husband and I found this very strange. She also was very controlling over our engagement party, changing everything and even wanting to do a speech. Speeches can be lovely, but we both wanted a very informal thing and didn’t want speeches. Because Ryan did not want to upset her, he said he wasn’t too keen, but he didn’t say no. Rachel had also written a speech for Ryan which was very impersonal and didn’t really include things about our relationship. On the night of the party, she kept asking when she could do the speech, and I eventually snapped and said, “No, I don’t want that!” very loudly, and she went to the bathroom crying. I felt really bad and apologized the next morning. Rachel then did not speak to me for months and every time all our friends got together she would blank me; it was very awkward. Most of our mutual friends and her husband defended me, saying it was our party and not hers, but, annoyingly, my partner did not say much to her.
When it came to wedding planning, she would text Ryan saying all our ideas were terrible, and she kept making suggestions to change things. Rachel even told us not to “rush into anything” after we announced our wedding date (two years into the future), which really upset me as we had been together for over five years at that point, and since she got married to her husband after two years, I don’t see how we could be rushing.
I have also felt that when we all meet up, all of Rachel’s attention is on Ryan and she will make jokey snide comments about me a lot, which I always take on the chin, but they do upset me. If I am honest, I feel like she fancies him although I don’t think she knows it. Ryan now believes she may, but he is just allowing things to happen. When Rachel told Ryan of what she had planned for his birthday, she said she was going to do another thing, but I was already doing it, which upset me a bit because she then spoiled my surprise! I feel like she is taking over his birthday after I’ve spent weeks of planning, and it means every day the attention is on her. Also, it is worth mentioning that Rachel’s gifts aren’t all small gifts; some are quite large and we are only on day 6 of the 30 at the moment. We worked out that she has spent £60-70 ($80-$95), which is quite a lot where we come from.
Am I overreacting? Do we accept the gifts? Do I say something? I am really bothered by this, but I don’t know whether to just get over it or to say something. — Three’s A Crowd
Not only are you not overreacting, but also you are underreacting. This should have been nipped in the bud ages ago. Rachel is so beyond inappropriate and disrespectful to you, to Ryan, and to your relationship, and that her behavior has been tolerated for as long as it has been is very troubling. Enough is enough. Tell Ryan in no uncertain terms that you feel so incredibly uncomfortable with Rachel’s continued behavior, with her obvious sabotaging of your relationship, and with Ryan’s continued silence on the matter that unless he puts an end to it, you won’t marry him. And you need to be firm about this. This cannot be an ultimatum you back out of. It is past the point of his maintaining a healthy friendship with her with boundaries. The friendship needs to end and the two of you need to have the space you have thus far been denied to tend to your relationship and the cracks that likely exist or have begun to show as a result of Ryan’s reluctance to prioritize it and your feelings. Period. There’s no middle ground here. Rachel is stalker-level obsessed, and there’s no gray area where including her in your/Ryan’s life can exist. You know this. You either convince Ryan of this and have him immediately show he understands (by cutting Rachel out of his life), or you move on. There can be no marriage for you two with a third, unwanted-by-you spouse, and that is exactly what Rachel is trying to orchestrate.
I feel like I don’t want a one-sided friendship at my age, and yet we did share some fun times together. Do I say something again? Let the friendship go? Or accept she’s a fair-weather friend? — One-Sided Friendship
It sounds like your neighbor friend would benefit from reading my essay about how showing up is the most important thing you can do in a friendship. But she’s not writing to me – you are. And so to you I will say this: If what you want is a friend in the truest sense, this person is not going to fill that role for you. Sure, you could tell her you need her to show up more, but is the friendship really worth it if you need to spell out for the person how to actually be a friend? Probably not. What might be worth it to you is the casual companionship of someone with whom you can “share some fun times together.” You can enjoy that level of friendship as long you keep the expectations of anything more at zero. Can you do that? Can you stop showing up in the way an intimate friendship requires as maintenance since such showing up will not be returned to you? If so, proceed then with caution. If you feel like that’s too difficult and that the reward – some potential fun times together – is not worth it to you, then cut this friend loose with a clear conscience.
P.S. Linking to that “showing up” essay and seeing the photo I used in it always makes me catch my breath. Those are dear friends of mine, one of whom is now dead. What I wouldn’t do to be able to show up for him again and for all of us to enjoy one more fun time together…
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