I've got a friend who guilt trips me a lot. I've thought about bringing it up, but I'm afraid she's just going to use that conversation to guilt trip me some more. What should I do?
- 16 year old female
A healthy friendship is generally one of mutual respect and support. Someone who emotionally manipulates you—which constant guilt tripping is—isn’t being a very good friend to you. That’s not to say that the relationship is doomed, or not worth saving, though! It’s possible they are going through something at home or school, and their insecurity is spilling over into your friendship. It’s also possible they don’t even know they’re doing it.
Unfortunately, it’s also possible that they know exactly what they are doing, in which case you’ll need to really think about whether this friendship truly holds value to you.
In any case, it sounds like you and your friend are overdue for a serious talk.
And you’re right, there is a chance they will try to manipulate or guilt you during the conversation. Even under the best circumstances, the conversation will probably be uncomfortable at first. After all, there’s no fun way to tell someone that you’re unhappy with their behavior. Just know that if they do try to guilt trip you, you can keep things on track. For instance, if they say something like “you don’t even care about me/my feelings,” you can respond with “I care about you and this friendship a lot, which is why we need to talk.” And if they continue to try to manipulate you or derail the conversation, you can always stop and tell them you will pick this up when they’ve calmed down. Don’t reward their negative behavior with more of your time and attention.
If they do admit that they are struggling with something serious— difficulties at home, mental health concerns etc.—please remember it is not your responsibility to fix it or to let yourself continue to be manipulated. Help them reach out to a trusted adult, put them in touch with resources like a school social worker, suicide hotline, or teen youth center. Let them know you can be part of their support system, but you cannot be their only support system.
Above all, remember that you are responsible for your own happiness and well-being. No one has a right to your time or energy. If this friendship is causing you more harm than good, it may be time to move on.
About The Author: Jennifer Dugan is a writer, geek and romantic, who writes the kind of stories she wishes she had growing up. In addition to being a young-adult novelist, she is also the writer/creator of two indie comics. She lives with her family, dogs, bearded dragon, and an evil cat that is no doubt planing to take over the world. Hot Dog Girl is her first novel.
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A final note: We are strong believers in the power of therapy. We know that this isn't a realistic option for every teenager, since some of you might not have the parental support or extra income necessary to make this happen. But, if possible, please consider therapy. Many of the adults you respect most have benefited from therapy, and it's likely that you will too. There's no shame in getting support. You deserve it.