10/24/2022 | By Amy Dickinson

A college re-connection quickly becomes challenging, highlighting the issues of difficult friendships, depression, loneliness, and the need to set boundaries. See what advice columnist Amy Dickinson has to say to a drained reconnected alum in this edition of “Ask Amy.”

Dear Amy:

 After nearly 40 years, I recently caught up with an old college friend. It’s been nice to reconnect but I’m finding the friendship exhausting.

My friend, who lives three hours away, texts me many times a day and phones several times a week for an hour or more at a time.

He tells me he struggles with loneliness and is glad he has me to talk to. (He also has a professional therapist with whom he meets regularly.)

I feel bad for him but find my interactions with him draining.

I am currently under medical care for my own serious depression. I don’t think I have the emotional strength or expertise to continue to be the outlet for his loneliness.

What is the kindest way for me to put some boundaries around this friendship?

Not a Therapist

Dear Not a Therapist:

For you, the important issue of self-care requires that you learn how to set and maintain boundaries regarding people or situations that can affect your mental health. If you see a therapist regularly to treat your depression (I hope you do), your therapist could coach you through this process.

Related: 10 Ways to Help Ease Loneliness as a Senior

Because of my own workload and other time commitments, I’ve had success with scheduled calls with friends and family members. This process is just like making an appointment: If you want to talk to someone, you can text or email them and say, “Are you free to catch-up this Friday at around three?”

difficult friendships, feeling exhausted

You can set the stage for some reasonable boundaries by not responding to texts over the  course of the day and then answering – when you’re ready – I am needing more quiet time to concentrate on my own health these days so I won’t always be able to respond in the moment. But maybe we can set up a time to have a call? That would be easier on me. Having a scheduled call gives you both something to prepare for and possibly even look forward to.

You’ll see how your friend responds to you kindly stating your own needs.

Just as he is trying to have his needs met – you should do the same. Part of your boundary setting will involve you understanding that you will not always be there for him in the moment, and that’s going to have to be OK – with both of you.

In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers – ranging from difficult friendships to grandparenting to DNA surprises. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. 

© 2022 by Amy Dickinson

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