Have a friend who's nice but I find her boring and she calls too much

Hi everyone. Seven years ago I went to a ten-week therapy group on my university campus. That's where I met X, and since then we've stayed friends.

Over these seven years, the pattern of our keeping in touch would be that there would be a month or two where we'd talk on the phone once or twice a week... then we'd have several (6 to 10?) months of not talking at all... then we'd have another month or two of talking and catching up... then several months of not talking. There were no bad vibes that kept us from talking during those months, it was just that we'd each be doing our own thing. We hardly ever saw each other in person (once a year or so) because she has agoraphobia, we're both poor (financially), and we live far apart.

About six months (or longer?) ago, X started calling me again. She'd call me about two or three times a week and would want to have these long (45 minutes to an hour) conversations. After a couple months of this, I thought it would stop, but it hasn't. For the last couple months I've been avoiding her calls, and only calling her back once every three weeks or so, and to be honest I don't even want to call her that often. She now calls me somewhat less than she did before (once maybe twice a week), but I still avoid her calls.

X is a perfectly nice person. She's a caring friend. But I find her boring. I'm not saying she's objectively a boring person, because what one person finds boring another finds interesting and fun. But to me she is. I don't enjoy talking to her. It feels like a chore, like talking to a relative who you only talk to out of obligation. When we were in the pattern of talking for a month or two and then having long gaps, there was more to talk about since we were catching up. Not the case anymore.

I feel sorry for her because she is an isolated person without many friends, and she suffers from depression and agoraphobia. It's part of the reason why I've kept in touch with her all these years.

If I had more free time in my life I wouldn't mind dealing with the boredom of talking with her a couple times a week. But I'm quite busy with various things. I do have free time, but not much, and I don't want to spend my free time having boring conversations. I rather spend it having conversations with people I actually enjoy talking to, or watching TV, or reading a good book.

How would you deal with this situation?

I know what you mean.

See, I don't tend to give that much of my time to any of my friends anyway. My boyfriend is of course the exception, but there's no way I could give each of even just my closest friends 3 hours a week each of my time. I have friends, like yours, who are more - for lack of a better word - needy than others. Usually because they have few friends and feel terribly lonely. It is not, however, your job to keep them company whenever they want it.

I've dealt with this by making it very clear to all who know me that I am usually very busy and that if I am not available to socialise no one should take it personally. Luckily for me, though, people I know tend to communicate online rather than on the telephone, and it is much easier to avoid people on the internet. I wouldn't feel bad about avoiding her calls BUT I suggest you be honest with her (about some things at least) or else she's going to just feel like you're snubbing her.

I recommend against saying something like 'I'd rather talk to someone who ISN'T boring', of course, but apologise that you're unable to take her calls much any more, explain that you tend to be very busy and point out that although you're happy to talk to her from time to time she's been calling you a LOT recently. Instead of making this sound accusational, perhaps let this point lead into asking her why that is? Is she okay? You probably already know why - because she's lonely - but showing some concern for her may reassure her that you're not just trying to tell her to shove off.

2 options in my mind.

Option 1: Suck it up.
Answer one of her calls a week and spend 45 minutes being nice to a lonely friend. Then enjoy the warm fuzzy feelings that come with it. Bonus fuzzy feelings for calling her before she get's the chance to call you.
If you've already spoken to her that week, don't answer any more of her calls. She still gets to speak to you and there are boundaries.

Option 2: Set a date.
Tell her you don't have much free time, and that you want to be able to give your chats proper attention, so you think you should set a repeat time and day a week for you to talk. She is aware of the boundaries then and you will have no reason to feel guilty about turning her away (within reason of course).

Stopping speaking to her, or making it a rare occurrence wouldn't be an option in my book. She's your friend, and she's in need. What kind of friend could you call yourself if you turned her away?

Boring or negative? Are the conversations you have constructive in some manner? Or not so positive?
Just thought I'd ask, I know what it's like to be around folks who vent.

You are not responsible for anyone else's emotional well-being. People are islands. You can make bridges between them, but it only works if each island puts in equal resources. Nothing wrong with being a good friend, but there are limits.

Next time you talk to her just end the conversation with "I'm really overwhelmed with work right now. I'm probably going to drop off the face of the earth for a couple of months." Hopefully she will get the hint and you won't have to feel guilty about deliberately ignoring her calls while secretly resenting her. Maybe after that break things will go back to how they used to be.

good to hear the various perspectives and advice. thanks everyone. :)

lisadagz - don't worry, i'd never tell her i find her boring!

tomfoolery - she's not a negative person. she does vent some but it's not excessive. and i actually am one of those people who doesn't mind in the least other people venting about their problems and pain, as long as the person isn't talking negatively about other people who don't deserve it.

Personally, I would just set a schedule of sorts where you say to her that she can call you on those days or whatever when you're not so busy.

 

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