I have a school friend, “Susan.” We met last year when I started the program. Around the time this school year started, I started therapy to address Issues, and I came to the decision that Susan should become a Small Doses Friend.
I find Susan kind of draining to interact with, and I feel like she has a hard time respecting my boundaries. She often brings up subjects I’m uncomfortable with, and I feel like when I ask/ remind her that I’m not comfortable talking about X, it becomes a big production. I’ve also tried to explain to her that because of Issues, I don’t like to say “I love you” to friends because it feels smothering to me, but she often seems to “forget.” It also seems like lately when we hang out there’s a lot of complaining, nosy questions, and little honest enjoyment of each other’s company.
So, all of this considered, I thought it best to just enjoy her company when I can and detach when I can’t. We’ll both be graduating soon, I might be moving really far away, and I imagined we’d kind of naturally drift apart, as people do sometimes.
Just about the time I figured this out, though, she got engaged. She’d been talking for a while about how she wanted to get engaged and married Very Soon, so when she told me I was of course very happy for her and imagined that the wedding would be this spring or maybe summer at the latest. She asked me to be her Man of Honor, and I was really touched. I said yes.
A few weeks later, I asked her if she had an idea of when the wedding might be (thinking which month). She said they haven’t yet settled on a year, and the earliest possible date is a year from this summer. When I think about having to keep this up for at least another year I want to run away screaming.
I think I need to tell Susan I can’t be in her wedding, but I don’t know how to do that. I keep meaning to ask my therapist for help sorting this out, but then when I consider that I only have an hour each week to work on Issues with a professional, there always seem to be more important things to deal with than how to get out of a wedding. I’m wondering: is it wrong of me to want to ramp down this friendship? And how can I get out of the wedding commitment, since that seems to be what needs to happen?
Thanks so much,
27 Issues (he/ him)
Dear 27 Issues,
You’re allowed to talk about whatever you want in therapy, even if it seems “unimportant.” You’re also allowed to change your mind about friendships. Some people would rather not be your friend at all than be a “Small Doses” friend and as long as you make room for that possibility, you’re allowed to take a break from hanging out so much and see if you miss her and to quash “I love yous” and nosy questions. In my experience, therapy is a time when a lot of “I used to quietly put up with that annoying behavior for the sake of keeping the peace” turns into “UGH, KNOCK IT OFF!”and that can be an important but messy period in reassessing relationships and figuring out which ones no longer work for you in their current form.
Truth: Susan will not like it when you tell her you don’t want to be in her wedding and it will probably have a chilling effect on your friendship…
…The friendship that you find draining and are looking forward to petering out when school ends.
She’s not in full-on wedding planning mode right now, if they haven’t set a date, so “very soon” is a good time to pull the ripcord.
“Susan, I am really happy for you, and I was honored when you asked me to stand up in your wedding, but I need to resign as Man of Honor. I’m so sorry, I wanted to tell you right away so you could make other plans.”
She’ll ask you “Why?,” and it’s not a silly question, and there is literally no good answer. “I don’t…really…like you that much?” is just cruel on top of everything even though it is the truth. You still have to see her all the time at school, yes? So this is not the time to launch into a catalog of her faults/the reasons you’re no longer that into her friendship. Any reason or excuse you give is just gonna pour salt in the wound. Try: “I don’t really have a good reason, I’m so sorry. I am happy for you and I hope that when the time comes I can celebrate with you & Intended Spouse as a guest.”
The “I don’t want to be in your wedding, sorry” conversation might force the “I like you a lot, but I think you think of us as closer friends than I do and that imbalance makes me uncomfortable sometimes, this being one example – I was so excited for you but I agreed too quickly to something that I’m not prepared to actually follow through on, I’m really sorry” conversation. Don’t start there, and maybe run this all by your therapist before you open discussions so you can practice scripts and get your feelings out in a private space before you have to do it for real.
So that your suffering might set an example unto others, let’s review some things.
- When someone asks if you are a god, say yes!
2. When someone asks you if you want to stand up in their wedding, and you’re not 100% sure that you do want to, it’s okay to say:
- “Wow, what an honor! I’m really happy for you! Can I think about it?“
- “Wow, what an honor! I am really happy for you! Can we talk about some specifics before I commit?” (Including explicitly discussing stuff like budget, event planning & attendance, travel, etc. If their expectations are Vail & Vegas* and your budget & schedule are not, that stuff is good to hash out even if you are emotionally down for the job.).
- “Wow, what an honor! I am really happy for you! I’d love to celebrate with you, but being in the wedding party isn’t possible for me.”
I mean, look at it this way – If saying one of the above phrases causes a big argument and hurt feelings and totally tanks your friendship with the recently engaged person, you might as well tank stuff before you’ve agreed to be in their wedding and all that entails.
*BTW everyone made a lot of fun of this “Bridezilla” at Jezebel but I kind of love her for telling people exactly what her expectations are and giving friends the chance to opt out. Her ways are soooooooooo not my ways, but she is clear and direct about what her ways actually are. I hope it was a rocking wedding and that she’s happy and that she long ago ditched the “friend” who would sell out her private email correspondence for public mocking.