Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: Busy body

A busy, new friend keeps cancelling their arrangements. Is she trying to tell this reader something? Or is our reader just feeling insecure?

Share

Dear Virginia,

Six months ago I made what I thought was a new friend. Since then we've met up a few times, but each time she's either late or she cancels at the last minute or wants to rearrange things. When we meet it's clear she enjoys our meetings just as much as I do, but I'm starting to wonder why she behaves like this. I keep thinking I must have done something wrong, or that she doesn't really want to see me. I don't want to make a fuss because I know she's busy, but should I have it out with her? I feel so second-best.

Yours sincerely,

Pam

Which of us has not felt like you at some point in our lives? I have a kind of Greek chorus in my brain that sings, after every imagined slight: “What have I done?” “Is it my fault?” “What can I do to make it better?” “I didn’t mean it.”

The Greek chorus is wrong. Firstly, it assumes that everything centres around you, that you are, somehow, the centre of the universe. Even if an earthquake were to occur, there’d be a bit of you that would be wondering if it wasn’t in some way your fault.

Having spent, as I say most of my life listening to these unpleasant voices, it’s only recently dawned on me that actually it isn’t me. It’s everyone. Your friend behaves like this – to everyone. It’s not “just you”. Nearly every impression you have of someone, however brief – that they’re remote, sly, warm, aloof and so on, – is 95 per cent certain to be shared by everyone in their circle, at work and at home.

Secondly, perhaps she really is busy. Can’t you just accept that? Don’t demean yourself by putting yourself into a hierarchy by calling yourself “second-best”. Once you give yourself status in people’s lives, you’re bound to be disappointed. She’s very busy and she tries to fit you in because she likes you and sometimes it doesn’t work out.

But if you can’t help feeling you’re second-best, again so what? Perhaps you are second-best. Perhaps there is a whole raft of friends who feel they’re third- and fourth-best. Second best is just where you fit into her hierarchy  of friends.

When someone complained to me that I was busy and didn’t have time for her, I answered honestly. “Yes, I am busy and I don’t have time for so many of my friends that I’d love to see more of,” I said. “It’s a pity.”

And what do you do when work comes up that interrupts a plan you have with friends? Do you put them first? Most of us can’t afford the luxury, particularly if we’re self-employed and it could well be that she is. And if it annoys you her being late, why don’t you try being late now and again and see how she reacts?

In truth, I doubt very much if your friend pays a great deal of attention to what you feel or do. She’s a busy person who enjoys seeing you now and again. She behaves like this to everyone. No more nor less than that.

Readers say...

Try saying no

Your new friend is unreliable, controlling and rude. She may appear to be kind and friendly but needs your company on her terms. Ask yourself if you need this kind of dominance that ends in disappointment and a feeling of unworthiness. It is fashionable today for people to be self-centred, always on the lookout for what they think is something better than what is on offer. They use people. Try saying no when she changes a plan.

Lesley Hogg, by email

Why does it hurt so?

You do sound as though you are second-best. Or third-best or even lower if you are being stood up a lot. You could complain that she is often late, but she won’t change her priorities because you don’t like them.

The question for you is not: why am I not important to her? but, why is she so important to me? Are you very lonely? Are you romantically drawn to her? What does she mean to you that you should care so much? Are you living for the times when you see her and bitterly disappointed when you don’t? And if so, why?

Look into your own heart to find what you want and use your mind to plan how to get there.

Sally Eva, by email

Next week’s  dilemma

Dear Virginia,

I promised my father that when he died I would destroy all correspondence between him and my late mother. He’d kept all the old love letters and it used to comfort him to read them through. But now he’s died and before getting rid of the letters, I read them. I realise I have a wonderful set of documents. They are touching, funny, charming… and I feel sure I could get them published. No one else knows of the promise I made. I could really do with a bit of money, but wonder if I should keep my promise or try to get them made into a book?

Yours sincerely,

Ellie

What would you advise Ellie to do?

Email your dilemmas and comments to dilemmas@independent.co.uk. Anyone whose advice is quoted or whose dilemmas is published  will receive a £25 voucher from the wine website Fine Wine Sellers

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Syrian refugee 'Nora' with her two month-old daughter. She was one of the first Syrians to come to the UK when the Government agreed to resettle 100 people from the country  

Open letter to David Cameron on Syrian refugees: 'Several hundred people' isn't good enough

Independent Voices
Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project