Dear Miss SmartyPants,
How does one continue to be friends with someone who takes everything as a personal slight? Example: if she's not in a random picture taken one night when we all went out, it's because we were purposely excluding her. If we don't immediately respond to her emails, it's because we're mad at her. If we even attempt to make conversation with her boyfriend, we're hitting on him.
It's gotten to the point where I do things just so I don't make her mad, and go out of my way to be nice just so I don't get a nasty email the next day. I don't have the energy for it anymore. When is it ok to say something? And what can I say?
Dear Fed Up,
One thing you can try before you say something is just acting naturally and letting her get angry, if that's what she's going to do. We throw around the word "controlling" all the time in this column, and you've done the great service of spelling out exactly what that means: Your friend, through her insecure, defensive and punishing behavior, has grabbed the strings and made you her own little friend-puppet.
Controlling people are people who like to be in control, and who in particular like to control other people. These people have codependency issues meaning that they rely on their ability to control you in order to feel safe, confident and secure, but in doing so they unfortunately end up often making you feel like you have lost your autonomy. Knowing that controlling behavior comes from their own insecurities is little comfort when they are in the process of controlling you and making your life difficult.
So, get the strings back and act like yourself again. If she complains about something absurd like exclusion from a picture, your response is, "Oh brother." Next topic.
If it's something more reasonable but still an untrue accusation, point out that she's incorrect and explain what happened - once - and if she persists, don't bite; just say sorry, there's no "there" there, and say there's nothing more to discuss. And if she gets angry at your email response time, ignore it and keep responding at your own speed.
See? Because what's she going to do, drop you, the friend in whose pictures she MUST appear, and whose emails she MUST receive? No. She's going to adjust to your speed, and she's not going to drop you (or she will and you'll have a cake and balloons).