Social Contract or Something I Can Blow Off

My coworker came in today eager to talk about her frustration with how expensive life is. She had to run her exemptions up again in order to get more back in her paycheck. I tried that last year. Note; don’t forget that you ran your exemptions up. The IRS always gets its money whether you can afford it or not.  Anyway, she’s bitching about ten thousand in credit card debt. I almost laughed in her face. Talk to me when it is twenty plus. My question is this; is listening to a friend bitch about her problems part of some social friendship contract? Am I allowed to tell her to go away and stop bothering me with things I can’t do anything about? She sometimes listens to me bitch so I guess there’s a reciprocal component to our friendship. I’m not as vocal (with the exception of this medium).  I don’t share a lot about my life with coworkers, even if I do consider them to be friends.  I do spend the majority of my waking life at work, though, so maybe I should be more open and forthcoming?!  Nah!  I’m just not comfortable with that.

So, does the friendship contract entitle the respective parties to use each other as a sounding board on which to vent the frustrations of daily life? That sort of negativity can have nasty repercussions on the listener. However, when I attempt to disengage from the gossip and the venting, I get comments like “you’re so quiet today, are you alright?” and “you seem like you’re upset about something?” or, my favorite, “what’s wrong?”.  It seems that I am expected, as a friend, to listen to all the negativity that my friends wish to send my way.



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