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I went through rough phase in my life two decades ago. By God's grace I was able to come out of it. I have had a few friends who were with me in that stage. They were not encouraging or giving me confidence but at least they didn't back out or discourage me. I respect them for that and our friendship has been good all these years. In fact, we were too young then to even talk or discuss about it.

A decade ago, one of those friends, Alice, went through a rough phase. We were all together and later things settled. Again, we spoke about it only once, when the incident actually occurred and I didn't bring up the topic again, since it would be digging up the dried tears.

A few incidents related to the problem

For the last two years, whenever we have a conversation, Alice brings up the rough phase I went through and tells me how well I handled it.

I understand that she is trying to praise me for that, but I really do not want to talk about it for various reasons.

  1. I know that there are many others who endure more pain but did not succumb to it. I feel that I am just one of them and I deserve no praise for it, not in every conversation that we have. Also, she has started giving me unsolicited advice about something which she should be least concerned about. I guess she thinks that she is at a stage where she can advise others but she really doesn't know if others really want her advice.
  2. Its been two decades that the incident has occurred and it doesn't make any sense to talk about it.
  3. Whenever my group of friends meet, my name and my endurance phase always comes up. Talking once is okay, but every time makes no sense to me.
  4. Whenever these conversations happen, I do not talk about it. Because, from my end, it doesn't make any sense. But, later I realized that, all of them are, subconsciously doing it only to make me talk about it. So, the moment I talk about it, tell them how much pain I went through etc, they would actually get to listen first hand about everything and this would make them stop having conversation about me, forever.
  5. I do not ever want to discuss about it with anyone, let alone Alice. So, if someone else is trying to talk about it, I divert the topic or move away from that place, gracefully.

The actual problem

Alice is a good friend of mine and I want to tell her that I am not interested in talking about it, ever. I would like to tell her that everyone goes through such phases and want to insist that she went through one too. If I chose to respect her endurance, she has to choose to respect mine too.

But, in case I even mention about her rough phase, I am pretty sure she wouldn't want to talk about her's because she would break down then and sob for hours. In fact, for days.

Now, me telling her directly would be rude but I do not see how I can be polite about it. Is there anyway I can state to her that I am not interested to talk about my past nor is her unsolicited advice welcome, without burning bridges?

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    Do you think its possible that unlike you, Alice wants to talk about her own rough phase? If this is true, then you "respecting her endurance" is the opposite of what she is seeking. It seems possible she is bringing up your experiences as a way to talk about her own. Do you have any additional insight here? – Jesse Aug 13 '18 at 2:57
  • @Jesse I am not sure about it. She never gave me any hints about it and even if she had, I could have missed it. How to guess if she wants me to talk about it at all? – Sara Aug 13 '18 at 10:04
  • Have you Just asked if she wishes to talk about hers after mentioning you don’t feel comfortable talking about yours? – mutt Aug 14 '18 at 5:04
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The solution here is to set a very clear boundary but to also let Alice know that you are still there for her. Don't make any hints about what you want. If she brings this up again, tell her very clearly that, while you appreciate her praise, the only way that you can move forward is to not speak of the rough patch that you went through, and that the best way that she can support you as a friend is to never bring it up again. Then make it clear that if she prefers to process the rough patch she went through with conversation, you are available to chat.

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    Hey, thanks for the answer! Can you please explain exactly why you think that this is a good idea? Why do you say to take this course of action? What’s the thought process behind this answer? As this currently stands, this is essentially a “Try this!” answer. We require that answers provide some sort of explanation for why they are suggesting this solution, and unfortunately, at the moment this answer doesn't appear to do that. – Kaspar Scherrer Aug 14 '18 at 9:02
3

I suggest the sandwich method because it has worked well for me. It is 1 positive, 1 negative, 1 positive. It is clear that you have every intention of investing in this friendship for the long term. I feel that the sandwich method is a good starting point with generally softer souls, which it sounds like Alice is. Something along the lines of:

"Alice, you have always been there for me through thick and thin. I'm grateful for you friendship. I honor you as my friend so I feel like I should share from my heart that that part of my history is not a part I feel like talking about with anyone. You know, I kind of moved on... I mean, I know it's there and all, but I find that I appreciate what I have today and what the future holds even more, so I'd rather not talk about it. I hope this makes sense. You're a strong and caring person so I hope you understand."

In your own words, of course. Did I sugar coat that? Yes, but I find with sensitive souls it only takes a nudge like this and they got it. If it doesn't stick, then you can reword the conversation more directly and try again.

If she's distracted, she may forget from time to time, and at that point, after having this conversation, it may be best to try to non-chalantly change the subject. At that point, you have tried once or twice, and she is forgetting; she's not trying to be malicious (based on your comments). It's then on you if you want to repeat the conversations or just accept that she is distracted and forgetful of your request.

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One solution is that when you both are not talking about your rough patches, bring it up and say that you want to be there for her, but would like to move on from the rough patch, and not bring it up again. Use "I/Me" statements instead of "you" statements to divert blame, say that this is what you've considered and want to do. Additionally, make a point that you do not mind talking about her rough patch, if she needs help processing and thinking about it, but would like to avoid yours, because you have moved on and want to leave it be.

This is a good solution because:

  1. You are talking about what you would like to achieve in the friendship, and are not putting pressure on your friend.
  2. You are kindly saying "This is something I am doing. I'd rather not talk about this, please." rather than interrupting the conversation and blaming her for not letting you move on.
  3. Emphasizing you are still there to help her with whatever she needs will help her remember that she will be alright and that she can still consider you as a good friend.

Diverting the conversation to being about what you're doing to move on, and clarifying boundaries is a great friendship-builder, and will help both of you move on healthily from your rough patches.

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