At What Point Does Friendship Become Harmful?
by Hanging By A Thread
(Somewhere In the Midwest)
A dear friend of mine is going through one of the worst things I've ever known anyone to go through. Her husband molested her children and was incredibly emotionally abusive. Since the day she came to terms with that reality, there have been agonizing weeks of uncovering the details of all she had denied thus far, cps meetings, therapy, etc. As her closest friend, I was helping in any way I could. Sometimes I helped with emotional stuff, sometimes with practical things, sometimes as a supportive adult for the children, sometimes as someone who would drag her out to go to something fun.
Months have gone by, grueling and nightmarish. Sometimes, I noticed that my friend would lash out at me. I was very tolerant of this in the beginning, understanding the immense burden she was carrying of horror and pain. She is very self-motivated and has been an exemplary mother in this whole process. She seems to mostly make excellent decisions. But her grief at the loss of her children's innocence, and the loss of her marriage and hopes and dreams, and the magnitude of her life as it is now, and the long road to recovery understandably leaks out every so often in minorly destructive ways. Mostly, and fortunately (the kids wouldnt fare as well if it was directed at them for instance), they seem to be directed at me.
I'm fairly understanding, and because of the devastation she was facing, I often felt compelled to overlook small instances of disrespect towards me, or frustration that I felt were just her ways of lashing out. But over time, I have noticed that my friend has become more and more comfortable with lashing out at me, and I am beginning to wonder if she has lost respect for me. Instead of getting better, the pattern of lashing out has become more entrenched, and instead of being a once-a week event, it is almost a daily event.
I have been very assertive about my feelings, and have explained the things that arent comfortable for me, but these conversations have gotten turned around to be about my intolerance and my unreasonable expectations instead of her disrespect. At first, I could see her point of view. But when she accused me of being emotionally abusive, I began to get depressed myself. I sought treatment for my abusive behavior and was told that I was absolutely not being abusive, and I began to see that I was caught in a drama in which she was perceiving me as her abuser. I talked to her about it, but her situation has her on such mental and emotional overload, that I seem to only make things worse, as she seems incapable of taking responsibility and stopping the behavior that is damaging the friendship.
Due to commitments I have made regarding helping with the kids, I can't just leave the situation. But since being honest about how I feel is not working, and I am becoming resentful and hurt, I am wondering if I am doing something wrong by continuing to try. I feel awful sometimes that I am not strong enough to just grit my teeth and not take things personally. Just the other night, in fact, after yelling at me, she said, "I should have a safe place to vent without it coming back on me. Are you going to be all sad about this tomorrow?" Those are things she never would have said to me a year ago. They care rather commonplace now, and I feel as if she has very little respect for me at all. I feel used and a little abused. But on the other hand, I feel frustrated that I am letting this get to me, and wish I could remain steadfast and see her through all this.
When does being a friend cause harm? How tolerant should someone be in a situation so awful? She is a wonderful person, and it is so devastating what has happened. But every time I try to tell her how I feel, she tells me I'm not being fair. Is there any way out of this with the friendship in tact? Or have I become an enabler?