Doom and Gloom: Dealing With A Chronic Complainer

Dear Dr. Darcy:

I have a close friend who complains about her life constantly.  She’s in a bad relationship (or none at all), she’s underutilized at work, she’s fat, ugly, still in love with an ex – you name it, she’s annoyed by it. Some of it’s true (not her being ugly) but she doesn’t do anything to change those things. It’s to the point where when I see her name pop up on my phone, I ask myself if I’m feeling strong enough to withstand her negativity without it sucking the life out of me. I feel guilty because she’s never done anything to hurt me, but when faced with having to see her, I find myself wishing I’d get the stomach flu to have an excuse to cancel. Am I an asshole?

ANSWER

I honestly don’t know if you are an asshole, but I can certify that your feelings regarding this situation do not make you an asshole. Your friend is a self-absorbed douchebag who has no ability to read her audience, so she drones on in her pessimism, devoid of the capacity to see show she’s ‘sucking the life out of [you]’.  Let this be a wakeup call to the negative Nelson’s of the world: Your conversations cannot contain more than 20% bitching before tipping the scales from pleasantly neurotic to repugnantly gloomy. But I digress.

You would do your friend a favor by pulling up stakes as that would involve a direct conversation in which she’d receive some much-needed information, but if you can’t muster the strength to tolerate the discomfort that would cause, you’ve got to find a way to let her know about the dark cloud that she brings to conversations with you.

Next time she calls, let it roll to voicemail, then text her and let her know that you yourself have had a long day, and that you’re running low of fuel – so if she can share some uplifting or positive news about her life, you’d be happy to chat for 10-15 minutes (you’ll have to keep it short because she won’t be able to keep it together for longer than that). The moment she starts heading down her black hole, interject playfully and say, “Hey, hey, hey! What happened to my uplifting conversation?” 

At the end of the day, you’re going to have to be prepared to interject and redirect conversations with Doom and Gloom on a regular basis in order to make this work. It’s going to be high-maintenance and you’re going to have to start setting very clear boundaries. Only you know if it’s worth it.

Orientation and Gender: Bisexual, Female. 

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