Dear 100 Hour Board,
I'm going to do my best to phrase this question correctly, but if you don't end up publishing it I understand.
My best friend is a law student, we've been best friends since high school, but since I returned from my mission, they started law school, and it feels like something changed in our relationship. They seem more prone to lash out in anger and frustration, more controlling of my time, where I go, and who I spend time with, and overall just more emotionally unpredictable.
I don't like it.
Is this a normal occurrence among law students? If so, how do I approach this rough patch in our relationship? Resources on the internet about "loved ones of law students" unfortunately do not give me the information I need.
Please and thank you,
When people are stressed, they can act out in ways contrary to their normal, pleasant personality. This isn't characteristic of law students per se, just stressed out people in general. Sometimes, people going through hard times with relationships, family problems, trials of faith, feeling insufficient, mental health troubles, emotional breakdowns... you name it, also can act unpredictably. Law students very well may be some of the most stressed-out people on this earth... Law school is competitive, time-consuming, and stressful. So it isn't surprising to hear your friend is acting differently than normal.
Each person handles stress in their own ways, and it seems to me your friend may be seeking to control your actions because they may feel like other aspects of their life are out of their control... and it's nice to at least have a grasp on something. It's probably not on purpose, it is likely just a response to their current situation. But it is a really REALLY toxic behavior, and you don't deserve to be treated like that.
If you are genuinely interested in maintaining this relationship, it's imperative that you have a serious conversation with them about their behaviors. Communication is super important, and sometimes when a person is under this kind of pressure, they may not realize fully how drastically their behavior has changed as a result. Have a talk with them and express your concerns. Their irrational behavior doesn't make them a bad person, and perhaps more than ever, your friend needs you to support them. If you want to continue to be there for them, you should express that clearly when talking to them. Something along the lines of "Hey, I really care about you and I want to be here for you. I've noticed you've been acting stressed out lately, and it's showing in some ways that are hurting me. I feel like you have been a little too controlling of my time and actions, and have been a little angrier than you used to be. I want to keep supporting you and being your friend, so is there anything I can do to help you cope with your stress?" (a super cheesy example that would probably never be used verbatim in real life, but you get the point.)
Ultimately, it's up to your discretion how you want to deal with this rough patch, but you can never go wrong with open and honest communication. Your friend may choose to continue acting like they are, and may not care about how their actions are hurting other people. In that case, I recommend distancing yourself a bit and waiting for them to cool off before approaching them again about the subject.
I hope you can get this sorted out and back to just being buddies!
Ditto to what Guesthouse and Anne said. I would only add that you might want to consider encouraging your friend to go to therapy, particularly if they feel helpless to change their irritable moods or inappropriate behaviors. It sounds like they may not know how to cope with high levels of stress effectively.
Sorry you are on the receiving end of so much garbage. You definitely don't deserve it, no matter the emotional state of your friend.
Dear More Weight,
As a former law student, I'll affirm that it's stressful. I will reject the premise, though, that this gives your friend an excuse to act in inappropriate ways in your relationship. It's particularly concerning that your friend is trying to control other relationships. I'm pretty far from being a mental health professional, but I'm pretty confident that's not a healthy way of coping.
I also don't think that this reaction is "normal" for law students. I attended BYU's law school (idk if your friend is there or not) and it's pretty likely that BYU law students are atypical as a selection of the law student population, but one of the things I really enjoyed about law school is that my classmates were, by and large, pretty awesome people. They were chill people who were stressed out, if that makes sense. (That being said, my impression is also that my particular graduating class was unusually gregarious, so again, my sample might be skewed.)
I guess my sum is: being stressed is normal, and everyone probably reacts inappropriately to stress sometimes. When you're low on sleep and behind on studying and approaching finals that'll determine your whole grade in a class (which will then contribute to your ranking, which will then contribute to your ability to get certain jobs, etc.) it's going to be easier to snap at people or get frustrated if their social schedule doesn't match with your limited free time. However, this does not permit law students (or anyone else stressed out) to treat others poorly.
I'm not super great at knowing what to do in a friendship where a friend is behaving like this, but I'll second Guesthouse that a conversation with your friend is probably appropriate, because they can't treat you like that and still expect to be your best friend.