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Heidi LPC
Heidi LPC, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 278
Experience:  Licensed Professional Counselor
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I have this friend that I have only known for about a year.

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I have this friend that I have only known for about a year. I met him on a course and he asked to stay friends afterwards. It is only friendship as I am gay and he was engaged to a woman at the time. Lately he has become very overbearing and it is causing me a lot of anxiety. I recently had to find a new place to live as I had major health problems in the house I was renting and he offered to help as he knows a lot of people and speaks the local language. Through him, I made a contact that I convinced to rent their house to me through the government housing scheme. However, since then, he acts like I owe him something because of the introduction and he thinks it is ok to drop in whenever he feels like it. I did thank him for his help - I bought him lunches and I sold him my TV and DVD player for a fraction of what it was worth when I was moving and told him that I was giving him a discount as a thank you. But he still goes on and on about him helping me and that I would not be living in a nice house if it were not for him. I have also found out that when seminars or courses come up, he checks with the organizers to see if I am attending and if I am, then he will also show up. We met on a course to help people start their own business so it is like he imitates what I am doing. He is always trying to get me to write his business plan or do all of the work for his proposed business for him. His fiance recently dumped him because he lied to her extensively over a period of months about going to a counsellor. He initially tried to make me feel guilty about her breaking up with him by telling me that his fiance was upset because he was spending time with me while I was looking for a house, but this simply is not true. He came with me to look at 2 houses only and one of them is the one I now live in. I spend a lot of my own time looking at places myself as I was in a desperate situation and needed to move. When I confronted him about lying about it, and told him that I would contact his ex, he finally that she ended it because of him lying about the counsellor but that he cannot tell his family or friends that. I am worried that he is now telling people that it is because he was helping me. Yesterday, he asked me if I had told my GP, who is also his GP, that he had helped me find a new home. I told him I had not as it was not relevant or important. He got angry and said that he would tell her and went on and on about not been appreciated. I have tried to distance myself from him and I now worry that because his relationship is over, he will focus all of his attention on me. It's like he thinks I owe him and he wants to collect. We are both on the same committee for the town I live in so I will have to encounter him, but I just cannot seem to get him to back off. Even last night, when he sent a text about calling to the house, I told him I was ill, which I was, and he still turned up. When I confronted him about calling when I said I was ill, he said that he was being a caring friend and then started his usual rant about how lucky I was to be living in such a beautiful home and how lucky I was that he helped me find it. I don't know how best to handle the situation. I live in a small town, with a lot of small minded people and I worry about what he will start telling people if I simply tell him to get lost. What should I do?
Thanks for your question. My name is ***** ***** I'd like to help you out.
I'm sorry to hear about what you've been going through with your friend. Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be an easy answer to this situation considering the potential repercussions, however it does seem important to draw some boundaries here. At this point it seems like he will most likely continue to be overbearing, and will continue to make excuses for it when confronted on it, just like he has been. I certainly understand your concern about him putting more of his focus on you now that his relationship is going through problems, and that may make it even more important to set some boundaries now, before things have the potential to get even more out of hand.
While I do understand your concerns over the small town mentality that you face, it seems like the alternative is to allow this behavior to continue, which doesn't seem acceptable either. From what you've described, it seems like it is only increasing in frequency and intensity, and if he isn't being rational now, there may be no end in sight. Although there are certainly risks attached to ending the relationship, it may save you more trouble in the long run to start distancing yourself more now.
I'm sure this is a frustrating situation and I definitely wish you the best with all of this. If there's anything else that I can do to help just let me know.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Relist: Incomplete answer. I don't feel that the answer I got really helped me or gave me any clear solution to the problem. I appreciate the Expert trying to help but maybe this is not his area of expertise. I need a more direct, clear and concise answer that gives me some tools and guidelines to deal with this situation which is causing me to have panic attacks and increases my anxiety levels. Thanks.

Hi there! Let me see if my thoughts are helpful to you; ask yourself a few questions:

#1: Do you want to remain connected to him? If you truly enjoy any part of the relationship, it may be worth a serious conversation with him about what you are willing to do/not to do to be able to maintain your friendship.

#2: Is the fear of what others may think of you more intense than your own happiness and comfort? Meaning, if you truly cannot be around him anymore and he goes on a hate campaign with people you know, trashing your reputation, are these people's opinions really important to you? Or would it really not matter, as you know that those who are your true friends would never buy his story?

#3. Have you asked him what he would need to wipe the slate of debt clean? He is somehow really holding onto the fact that he did you a favor, and you need to somehow get your power back in this case. I say, let him know that friends do favors for one another, sometimes without expecting anything in return, and that you want to be sure he knows that you appreciated his help but that the constant reminders are making you uncomfortable.

I am sure you have probably thought of all of the above, but if not, hopefully it sparks some thought. I would agree with the saying, "we teach people how to treat us", and in this case, as was mentioned prior, boundaries have to now be established so that both parties know what actions are considered out of line... in order to potentially keep the friendship either intact, or at least amicable. I wish you the best as you maneuver your way through a somewhat complicated situation... and if you have any further questions or comments, let me know and I will reply as soon as I am able! Thank you for using the site, and hang in there!

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Heidi,

Thank you for your reply.

I have spoken directly with him about his constant reminders about the house, and I have asked him what he actually expects in return. I have told him point blank that I feel he is continually looking for something in return and that most friends do things without looking for something back, but he denies that he is looking for anything and simply says that all he looks for his appreciation. I have asked him what his definition of appreciate is but I just get the same thing, that all he wants is appreciation. It is very frustrating.

I have tried speaking to him directly about everything but it seems to fall on deaf ears. It is like he only hears what he wants to hear. Sometimes he will agree and I think I have gotten through to him, but next thing he is back to his old ways again.

I know both you and the other expert refer to establishing boundaries, but how exactly do you do that? And without causing myself further stress. It is not a question of worrying what people will say or think, but I don't want to create even more grief for myself if I can help it. I have been through an awful lot this year and have battled with calling it a day and worked hard on not getting to that point, so the last thing I need is more hassle where I live. I don't have many friends as some of those I had walked away when they found out I was gay.

The committee I am part of is very important to me and I don't want to lose my place on it because of animosity with this guy if I can help it. I would prefer to deal with things as amicably as possible. It is not that I cannot stand him as I do try to see the best in everyone, it is just that he seems totally focussed on me at the moment and thinks that because he introduced me to the people who rented me the house that I now owe him indefinitely, even though he refuses to admit that, but it is how he acts.

He could make waves for me with the people who are renting me the house and they could terminate the contract. I am not sure if he would go that far because I only know him for a year, and I don't really know what he is capable of.

I just need to know how do you establish boundaries in the easiest and most amicable way. I want to protect myself in all of this. I should matter.

Thank you for the information... it helps to see where you are in the process, what you've tried and how it stands at the moment.

Boundaries are simply a matter of behaviors that you engage in, verbal and non-verbal, that send a message to someone that tells them that you are disengaging from them and to step back. One of my favorite sayings is "what we give attention to is inevitably what we see more of"... so if he is looking for your attention and is able to get a rise out of you, manipulate you in a way, it will reinforce that type of behavior. So, you have to start trying to ignore the manipulation tactics... just ignore him and turn your attention elsewhere. Then, when he says something that is kind, load up on paying attention, smiling and responding to him. It is a matter of simply establishing and rewarding the types of communications that are positive, and ignoring the negatives in an effort to extinguish them. He will, at first, try even harder to get you irritated... but you cannot take the bait. Just cut him off and move to another conversation or activity. Or just listen and smile and don't respond. Say things like, "I'm sorry you feel that way"... "That must be tough"... etc... replies that acknowledge him but don't feed into the manipulation tactics.

You will find that after a month or so of disengaging when he irritates you, that he will either begin to change his approach, or you will naturally just begin to grow apart. People like this have to want to alter their behavior if they want to maintain relationships; he may or may not choose to do this. But by simply disengaging, you aren't being mean or nasty... you are simply laying the groundwork for some new rules.

Does this make sense, or sound feasible to you to try?

Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Hi Heidi,

Thank you so much for the detailed response and explanation. It does make sense and I will definitely give it a try. I want to create the distance but in a nice way, if that makes sense, almost without him realising that this is what I am doing. That way I will feel protected and he is less likely to react in a way that affects my life in a negative fashion.

I really appreciate your help with this Heidi and it has been causing me so much anxiety and stress but now I feel that I have a way forward.

I will try out what you have suggested and hopefully I can create the space I need.

Many thanks.

I am happy to be of service! If you ever want to reconnect here to discuss this issue further, or any other, just put my name at the start of your question "Attention Heidi", and the moderator will direct it to me specifically. I'd love to hear how it is going! Be strong, be confident, and most of all... be yourself!! All my very best to you!!
Heidi LPC, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 278
Experience: Licensed Professional Counselor
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