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Best Friend Going Through Crisis. How to Handle this?


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Been having a really difficult time with my closest friend. I babysit her two little girls every day, and have lived with her since moving to Europe over a year ago after she divorced her abusive ex husband. I cannot express enough how incredible I think she has been and she's handled some impossible situations beautifully. She has also given me a job and a roof over my head over the year while I navigated my life in Europe (background: she and I went to college together and she moved to Europe right after whereas I stayed in the States and got a masters). It's been a good balance because she has only had to pay me about half what she would pay a normal sitter to watch the girls each week every day, and I haven't had to pay rent (and I've had a little cash flow from her). I know her girls well and love them like an Aunt, and overall it's been a good situation for all of us.


A few months ago, bestie started having some serious problems at work, and then her ex - who used to live in town here and would come to visit the girls every other week and take them on specified weekends each month - up and moved to Singapore without a second glance, leaving her with two very confused girls and a lot on her plate to deal with on her own. She is working out the custody arrangements. She and I were starting a business that was going really well, and then our main developer dropped out of our company and we've struggled to find a replacement (currently that is on the back burner). Her relationship with a new man is fine, but they are very independent and he is traveling and overall not a full support to her. She had a Burnout and took a leave of absence from her full time job, but they've forced her to return and she's extremely stressed, strung out and unhappy. (She cannot afford to quit, and they refuse to let her go on anymore leave).


I've been trying to do whatever I can to help her feel sane during this time - taking the girls more often, doing some house cleaning, just overall trying to be there for her - but I feel like I cannot do enough to help, and I'm noticing that at the same time our friendship is suffering. When our business was put on "pause", I was randomly given an opportunity to sing a principal position at a reputable opera company here in the netherlands and I took the job. I have had reservations about whether I want opera to be my main career path as I've posted here before, but I've been eager to work, need the money and also love to sing and always have.


As soon as I got the job, I noticed she never wanted to hear about it, made constant remarks about being "jealous", even when she would ask me about it, and at one time flat out told me that it makes her feel like crap to see me "doing well." This isn't just in regards to my singing, but it surprised me the most. The only reason I even let her know about it was that we were solidifying our upcoming schedules for babysitting, etc, and I was trying to arrange it all. Whenever something good happens to me lately, she responds jokingly that she 'hates me' and will shortly after begin talking about how much her life sucks and she's letting everyone down, etc. So immediately of course I will stop talking about what's going on in my life.


It;s gotten to the point where I actually don't ever feel comfortable telling her any details about my life, good or bad. If I tell her something that is stressing me (financially, career-wise, really anything), she will make a comment about how she hates her life and is in a scary place. If I offer help or support, she usually says thanks but doesn't really go for it and then says she feels worse/ embarrassed that people want to help her.


She's someone I have ALWAYS talked openly with in life and vice versa but lately I honestly feel like my presence alone is making her feel horrible and I am not sure how to navigate this the right way. I feel like every day the only conversations we can have are about her stress and unhappiness, which is fine for me as long as it helps... but I don't feel equipped to help rather than hurt her current process. I'm also aware that her unhappiness is not about ME, but I want to be able to stick by her and not make her life harder.


So, any advice out there?

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First of all, congratulations on your new job! Opera doesn't have to be the only career you ever have, but enjoy being able to bring in an income doing something you love. You've already invested time and money. This job is your dividend.


You're also going to make new friends through this job. You will have other people to talk to about your life, besides your stressed out friend/employer.


I worked in the Arts for many years as a dancer and choreographer. Yes, the Arts are highly competitive, but unlike other jobs, people don't think twice about being themselves. There is so much acceptance for who you are. I haven't found this in other industries.


Your new job is really going to be your ticket at establishing yourself in the Netherlands. You'll be able to get your own place, however humble. You'll make new friends who won't be jealous of you because it won't be the same dynamic as your college friend.


Your friend has become your frenemy. Unfortunately, she is now toxic to you. You don't have to dump her. Just go out there and start living your life. Get your own place. Make new friends and move on. You will most likely have to stop nannying the children, but that's a good thing. It means that you will remain a positive influence in their eyes.


Right now, they're seeing their mother treat you poorly. They are learning a negative lesson from her.


If you go out and live your life, doing your own thing, you will be teaching them a positive lesson that they will carry in their hearts forever.


I know this because I was raised by an insecure woman and it affected me deeply. To this day, I am bolstered by the positive lessons I learned from "can do" people throughout my childhood.


You won't make your friend's life any harder by getting on with your own life because you are not that big of a factor to her. It will be inconvenient to her to have to get a new nanny, but it won't be the end of the world.


Keeping you down and miserable is her goal right now. Don't let her win. I've had people in my life like this and I was always better once they were gone. These were college friends too, so I understand your feelings of loyalty. However, the party is over. Welcome to your life!

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Thank you for your awesome, comforting reply. I love that you make clear this doesn't have to include some kind of dramatic fallout, but can simply be a time for me to continue building my life here. I by no means want to abandon her or make her question my friendship, but you're right - the way things have been lately has definitely made me feel crappy about my own life and I frequently do feel like she needs a lot of space to handle this stuff on her own. Soon I will have to stop nannying as often anyway because my Visa is changing and I have other obligations (opera), but I want it all to be on the best terms possible. And, of course, I want to see things working out for her better. But your points are very good and help me refocus this energy.


Big hugs, I really appreciate your wisdom here.

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First of all, congratulations on your job with the Opera. That is awesome and sounds like perfect timing for you to have an income and ability to move out if need be, where you are not depending on your friend anymore.


As for your friend, what on earth is she so unhappy about? Objectively, she has a great job that affords her not only her living costs, but ability to pay you for all the babysitting as well. She has an amazing friend to take care of her children while she works so she doesn't have to worry about that. She is also dating someone and presumably has other friends and family and so on. I mean the only thing that really changed is abusive ex removed himself from their lives for good it seems. That's hardly a bad thing......but perhaps she was never over him so that's where the current rage is coming from? I mean you see this often that women who were in abusive relationships have a really impossibly difficult time letting the abuser go. Any way you or better yet someone else she respects could suggest she seek some counseling?


Given the situation, you really do need to distance yourself a bit slowly. Don't talk about your success and don't be overly chipper around her. She feels very low and it's ye olde misery loves company situation.....and you aren't miserable with her....sooo.....give her and yourself some space. More like let her cry on your shoulder as much as you can tolerate and then go back to living your own life. Hopefully, she will right herself with time.

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