my best friend has picked up a habit of venting to me without permission and i always respond the best i can and offer support, but it's getting to the point where i feel drained every time. i do not want to upset them by saying i'm feeling overwhelmed by it, but it's getting more difficult to respond each time without it having a negative effect on my own mental health and mindset. i feel like i may be in the wrong for not being able to provide comfort but i'm also just getting so tired.
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I feel this. Take it from me; you cannot pour from an empty cup. I should know; I have tried many times before. I feel the same guilt that you do when I can’t help someone (but I’m getting better)!
It’s great to know that people find you reliable and helpful, but it is imperative to take good care of yourself, too! While it’s okay for people to lean on others once in a while, it sounds like your buddy is too dependent on you. You have your own life to live and your own challenges to handle, too.
I think it would help to start dissecting your friend’s rants and vents. Does your friend complain about the same things repeatedly? Do they complain about the same people? Is your friend always the victim in their stories? Do they have a tendency to circle the drain, so to speak? Do they actually listen to you or do anything about their problems?
I ask because if your friend is not actually doing anything about their problems, then they are honestly just draining you of your precious energy, and that’s not healthy. Do they spend most of their time kvetching, or do they talk about fun or neutral topics, too? Do they want to go do fun things when they hang out with you? If they really are just stewing in negativity constantly, then that’s not good for them or for you.
It is totally fine to feel uncomfortable like this because it is draining spending time around toxic or negative people- even if your friend doesn’t intend on it. You are allowed to say something about it. You do a great job of listening, so now it’s your friend’s turn to listen. This is a great opportunity to learn about boundaries and setting them up because boundaries build the foundation for healthy relationships. They are there to protect you from others’ negativity and to make it clear that there are behaviors you do not tolerate. They’re not about changing other people.
I have some resources on how to learn about establishing better boundaries:
Do you feel guilty over not being able to help people in general or not being able to help your best friend specifically? Do you have a constant need to be useful to other people? Do you feel like your best friend doesn’t have anyone else to talk to or other ways to deal with their problems?
If so, then you might be in what’s called a codependent friendship. This is what happens when people come to depend too much on each other in some way, usually in an unbalanced giver-and-taker arrangement. The problem with codependency is that the friendship or relationship just feels too draining.
This article explains codependency very well:
Codependency doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you; it honestly means that you have such a big, open, kind heart that it’s hard to say no to people in need. It’s okay to want to help people and to care about them; it’s not okay for other people to take advantage- even if they don’t intend to.
It’s definitely time to pull back, and you can do it slowly. This will get your friend to learn that they have to actually do something about their problems and that they cannot act entitled to your time and energy. I would think that if this person is your best friend, you like spending time with them and want to have fun, not just listen to a laundry list of complaints. You can start telling your friend this; tell them that you want to help them, but you’re feeling like you’re on a merry-go-round, and it’s not fun. As much as you want to listen and help, you need to know that they are going to heed your advice. They should also be asking you if you have a moment to talk and then they can yell phrases. This should serve as a major wakeup call for your friend and should give them the perfect opportunity to make some serious changes. If they want to stay friends with you, then they have to learn how to respect your boundaries.
If they offer serious pushback, then that is your cue to pull back and tell them that you can’t keep listening to them vent and complain if nothing is going to change. There is nothing cruel about protecting yourself from excessive negativity.