May I ask for some advice? I have this friendship that is falling apart. We use to be close. He was there for me when I was ill and had no one else. But then my marriage change our friendship. Ever since things have been different. However, lately he’s been depressed and speaking of suicide. I want to help him and be there for him. But his cynical + sarcastic attitude hurts me. All we do is argue now. I just want to fix our friendship and I want to help him. I don’t know what to do anymore. :,(
First please allow me to point to Unka Glen’s podcast Say That, Episode 30, which discusses a little bit about how to deal with this sort of dilemma in friendship, particularly when it comes to marriage. These dudes say it way better than I could.
I know this part sucks: when a friendship changes because of a transitioning season. Most people don’t know how to move along smoothly, and even if you’re totally prepared, it’s still painful.
You’re married now, which means everything changes, including how you relate to others. It will mostly make a distance between the opposite sex (a good thing), and close friends who say “I thought you had my back” need to realize it’s not tenth grade anymore where you can just drop things and rush over. That whole season is behind you.
Your first priority for the rest of your life now, after God, is your spouse. Especially when you have kids, your single friends need to know you’re not as accessible because you have kids, as in you are raising other human lifeforms that need your full attention lest they die. Anyone who tries to step in on this needs to know it is NOT okay.
All that to say, as much as you want to help your hurting friend, you still need to set reasonable boundaries or even pass off your friend to someone who can be a better help, like a counselor or small group or bigger church community. There is zero-guilt in doing so. Of course you love your friend: but that’s exactly why you’re doing this, because you love him enough to realize you can no longer be a 24-hour revolving door.
Everyone needs to recognize this. All your friends need to know: if they so much as glance wrong at your marriage or attempt to invade it by “upping” their ranking in your life, they are going to be dropped like yesterday. You don’t need extra drama. You’re grown now.
This is not the same as giving up on your friend. After all, was he really going to depend on you the rest of his life? And I get the sense that if he is being cynical and sarcastic and snappy, it’s possible you’re being used as a punching bag anyway. This is only enabling his attitude because he thinks I can get away with it. A friendship can get to the point where the arguing becomes the “friendship,” which means someone is using the other for emotional drama (yes, people do this all the time). Cut that right at the root.
So again, boundaries. Don’t let him get past those lines with excuses or more arguing. Set the hammer down: there is no indirect way to do that. I know you’ll want to be super-polite, but that only delays the truth. A gentle firm way could be, You got to know I love you, which is why I’m going to say: I can’t be your lifesaver. I am married now so please respect that this is a huge change that requires ALL of me to grow into, and if you’re my friend, I know you want me to be happy. My spouse is my first priority, and there’s no way around that, ever. But even if I wasn’t married now, I know you can’t possibly want me to be guilty or hurt, and that’s how you’re making me feel. You really need help that I wish I could give you, but obviously we are not helping each other at all. I’m here for you as long as you understand all this, so respect me like a grown-up and please get the full help you need.
I know this sounds harsh (it’s actually not), and I’m sorry that he’s depressed, but this does NOT mean he gets to steal you away from yourself. It does not mean he gets to treat you like toilet paper. If he’s suicidal, there is a time to help for that, but this also means he needs help that could be a little over our heads. It’s really okay to recommend him to or bring him elsewhere.
As hard as it sounds, if he doesn’t respect you, drop him like it’s hot. He needs to know you’re serious, that you’re not playing around, that you are willing to shut the door forever. Be encouraging, be there for him when you can, but also be willing to say it how it really is and point him to other sources of help that he really, really needs. If he’s going to be mature about it, he will listen.