We've all had foul-weather friend moments. If you've been trying for years to get pregnant, then it's understandable that you might feel less-than-ecstatic when your best friend announces that she's going to have a second child. If you and your husband are having marital problems, then a single friend's complaints about the miserable dating scene might come as a small relief. "That's part of the human cocktail. We all have it to a degree," says Sills.
But the foul-weather friend is the person who only wants you around when you can complain about your husband or fret over your daughter's problems at school. "She's the one who will say 'How is your husband? He's not flirting with other women they way he did at that party last Christimas, is he?' She really doesn't even need to wait for you to be down. She can bring the rain with her," says Sills.
Douglas Katz, PhD, a New York City psychologist, says that insecurity is what drives the foul-weather friend to wish the worst for you. Sometimes this low self-worth stems from childhood. For example, children with parents who are physically or emotionally incapacitated sometimes learn to associate receiving love with tending to a weaker party.
"As long as the child is present and attentive to the needs of the parent, she receives love and protection. However, each developmental step the child makes is perceived as a threat to the parent's connection with the child," says Katz, who says that such parents may unwittingly sabotage the child's progress by withdrawing affection. "The child grows up with an unconscious belief that love is forthcoming only when one subjugates one's needs to those of a weak, suffering other."
It can make for a toxic combination. In order to maintain her self-worth, she tries to keep herself in the power position and make you the weak one. At the same time, this behavior is often completely unconscious. "She has an image of herself as a good friend. She says she wants to offer you help, but it has the tinge of a put-down," says Sills.