HerTake: Nina’s First Column!

HerTake: Nina’s First Column!

We are thrilled to present our first advice column with Nina Badzin today! HerTake: Practical Tips for Modern Connections is a monthly column in which readers can ask Nina questions they have about navigating relationships in an era of social media, blogging, and online connections. The topic for our first column is relationships in crisis or transition. Nina answers two reader questions today—we’d love to hear your thoughts and any other advice you might add in the comments!

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Dear Nina,

How do you know when a friend really wants to stay in touch? We were friends for three years before I moved out of state. Once I moved we spoke several times a year, but she never initiated. We are friends on Facebook, but I consider that a passive friendship. Receiving a ‘like’ is not the same as a phone call.

I sent her an invite to my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah; she never responded. I knew she probably wouldn’t come, but she has relatives in my state, and I wanted to extend the offer. She, in turn, invited me to her son’s Bar Mitzvah. We didn’t go, but I did RSVP.

I called a mutual friend who lives in her state (that I have a similar type of relationship with) and then suddenly that day the original friend sent me a message on FB. I responded with joy and asked to make a plan to speak on the phone. She never responded, but she did ‘like’ the pictures of my kids I posted over the weekend.

So: to call, again, or not? To send a holiday card, or not? Why reach out and say she was thinking of me, when she had no interest in actually speaking to me?

Please help,

Sick of This Long Distance Limbo

 

Dear Long Distance Limbo,

As my husband once told me, friendship is a game of tennis, not bowling. When you bowl, the ball easily comes back to you. In tennis, you need someone to hit the ball back or you would look like a lunatic trying to race to the other side again and again. Like with friendship, there’s no game without a partner. Not that friendship is a game.

No offense to my husband, but writer Maria Popova of the popular site Brain Pickings found a better way to reflect on this situation of an unengaged or one-sided friendship in her review of Andrew Sullivan’s book Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex, and Survival. I recommend the entire article, but I will share a portion of one of Sullivan’s quotes that Popova highlighted in her review.

Sullivan writes,

“Unlike a variety of other relationships, friendship requires an acknowledgement by both parties that they are involved or it fails to exist… Friendship uniquely requires mutual self-knowledge and will. It takes two competent, willing people to be friends. You cannot impose a friendship on someone, although you can impose a crush, a lawsuit, or an obsession. If friendship is not reciprocated, it simply ceases to exist or, rather, it never existed in the first place.”

In this case of your long distance limbo, I would say your friendship did indeed exist while you lived in the same town, but it’s clear to me that your former friend no longer wishes to stay in touch now. I’m willing to bet this is not even personal; rather, it’s a function of the fact that you were friends for three, not thirteen years before you moved. I imagine you both have childhood or college friendships that also require the work long distance entails. Perhaps the connection that the two of you had of three years was not enough to keep her engaged for the long haul now that you live apart.

You asked how to know when a friend really wants to keep in touch. To me it’s simple: you know because she calls, emails, and sends texts, and so do you. I have friends from high school and college that I do not speak to often, but if too much time passes, you better believe that I pick up the phone or send an email with genuine interest on what’s new in their lives. I’m not sure I could make the same effort for a friend that I’ve only known for a few years when my long distance slots are already taken. I would probably stay in touch via Facebook likes at that point, not because I didn’t enjoy and appreciate the friendship while it existed, but because reality dictates that time is too limited to stay in touch with everyone.

You also wanted to know why this former friend would reach out in that Facebook message if she doesn’t truly want to be in touch. My guess is that she felt guilty when she heard you spoke to the mutual friend. For a moment she decided it would be nice to reach out, but she couldn’t stick with that plan long enough to respond when you wrote back. I would not see her Facebook message as a desire to keep in touch, but more a desire to let you down easy.

We do not know why this friend decided to let the connection with you fade out, but I want you to ask yourself why you would want a friendship of any kind with someone who did not RSVP to your daughter’s Bat Mitzvah? You seem like someone who is willing to do your part in a friendship. That lack of a simple, “We are so sorry we cannot attend, but thank you for including us,” is beyond comprehension. Nobody says she had to come, but to forgo the most basic etiquette and not at least check the “no” on the RSVP card is rude and mean-spirited. At that point the question was no longer whether she wanted to keep in touch with you, but whether you wanted to keep in touch with her. And that answer should have been no. I don’t know you, but I know you deserve better treatment than an ignored invitation to such an important family event.

As for what to do at this point, I would let the friendship stay in Facebook “like” pleasantness if you don’t mind seeing her updates. If seeing her news bothers you at all, then hide/unfollow her (do not unfriend her as that is too aggressive in this case) and make this new Jewish year about finding a great new connection in town.

Perhaps the HerStories community has another take or additional points to make?

Hope the conversation is helpful! Nina

 

Dear Nina,

I have a friend who was there for me during a very difficult time in my life, one where I needed to vent regularly. Since that situation has thankfully resolved, I’ve found that every time I talk to this friend, she’ll include a little dig about me, like about my housekeeping abilities, or the terms of endearment I use for my children. It makes me feel very uncomfortable, and it makes me not want to keep in touch with her (she lives in a different city).

I’m so grateful for all the listening she did for me when I needed it, and I don’t want to just walk away from our relationship, but I don’t appreciate being put down every time we talk. I think it’s more about her personality than a deliberate attempt to be mean. I’ve always avoided confrontation like the plague, but I’m not sure that’s the best idea in this situation. What should I do?

Thanks for some thoughts,

Tired of the Digs

 

Dear Tired of the Digs,

I think it’s safe to say that being there in bad times is a basic tenet of friendship. That said, some friends are especially good at sticking with you throughout a low period. Perhaps a friend is particularly attentive because she has suffered in her life, which makes her more understanding of the next person’s need to analyze a situation for months or even years. It could be that in this case your friend was an excellent listener because she was also in pain and felt palpable relief from her reality by focusing on yours.

Nevertheless, no matter how much this friend helped and listened or why, you do not owe her a free pass to criticize you. She is continuing to give you advice even though you are no longer asking, which is her way of letting you know the areas in your life where she disapproves. I don’t blame you for feeling fed up with the unwanted commentary, especially over such minutia. What is to her what you call your children or how well your house is organized? They are not her children, nor does it sound like she lives close enough to spend much time in your home. I can only imagine the judgments she’s passing on more compelling matters.

I understand why you’ve lost the desire to keep in touch. A long distance friendship takes so much time and effort if you’re going to do it right. (By doing it right, I do not include merely “hearting” each other’s pictures on Instagram.) Conversation on the phone is key, and if that conversation is laced with digs, I think you have to decide how much confrontation you can handle to make it stop.

I believe you have three choices.

  1. Continue with the relationship as is, which allows you to avoid any confrontation. (I don’t recommend this one, but I have to acknowledge the option exists.)
  2. Allow the relationship to fade back from so much prominence in your life. A slow fade would probably include taking longer before returning phone calls and texts and keeping conversation light when you speak. Fading back is different from fading out, which would include ignoring all of her attempts to stay in touch like the former friend mentioned in the question above did to “Sick of the Long Distance Limbo.” I think a total fade out would be unnecessarily cruel before trying to make a fade back reframe the relationship.
  3. Call her out on her actions the next time she makes a dig. She might randomly say, “I know someone who can give you a recommendation for a house keeper.” I want you to respond with a tone of surprise, “Whoa, that’s not a very nice thing to say considering I didn’t ask.” I don’t think you need to go through and point out every offensive thing she has said in the past, rather, you would name her behavior on the spot for what it is with words such as “hurtful” and “insulting.”

How will you decide which choice is right? I think that depends on whether you believe she is capable of changing. If you think she is, then it’s worth trying #3 the next time she says something rude. If not, then I would go with #2, starting with the fade back and moving to a fade out if things don’t improve.

I hope that helps! Maybe others in the HerStories community will chime in as well.

Good luck! Nina

_______________________________________________

Have a question you would like to see featured in October?

To celebrate the release of the HerStories Project’s book My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends I am continuing with the theme “friendships in crisis.” Just know that here at HerTake I am always open to questions focusing on relationships online and in “real life” with all the modern issues that come up these days, even ones particular to writers and bloggers. What do you if you’re always commenting on a friend’s blog, but she never returns the favor? What if you meet a blogging friend in real life and all the good chemistry you have online disappears in person? What if your spouse’s family hates your blog? You get the idea. Submit questions on the anonymous contact form, and feel free to include your email address if you’d like a response from me even if we don’t have space for your question.

70 comments

  1. Sue stillman says:

    You always have such insight into people’s questions.
    I always learn something from you.
    Happy New Year to the Badzin’s.
    Sue-Sue with much fondness.

  2. Libby says:

    As always, spot-on advice! Great, well thought out responses to some tricky questions. Looking forward to the next installment!

  3. I especially loved this piece of advice: “We do not know why this friend decided to let the connection with you fade out, but I want you to ask yourself why you would want a friendship of any kind with someone who did not RSVP to your daughter’s Bat Mitzvah?” I’ve had those situations before — where regardless of why the friendship faded, I’ve let things go longer than I should before I’ve asked myself that “why I want the friendship” question. Great column, Nina!
    julia munroe martin recently posted…On Starting Again, AgainMy Profile

  4. Julie Burton says:

    Nina,
    Such thoughtful and insightful advice, Nina! You are the perfect person for this column as you are one to put a tremendous amount of thought and care into all of your friendships, and have a wonderful way of dispensing advice on these tricky issues. Best of luck with this new venture!
    Julie Burton recently posted…THE RISE AND FALL OF MY SKIP STEPMy Profile

  5. Hey Nina,

    Yep. Excellent advice. I love how you also include the nature of social media and how it impacts friendships as part of how we define our relationships.

    This is a topic of conversation with my daughter right now. She’s 10. It’s very difficult to know what friendship means to us, particularly when people can keep in touch with “likes.”
    Leigh Shulman recently posted…How we allow the stories we tell to define usMy Profile

  6. Katie says:

    Responding to the ‘Digs’ comments. I feel like conversations I used to have with a couple of friends, (one was a therapist by trade and the other a teacher) moved from friendly teasing to actual gaslighting. Every time I would say things like, “Hey, that’s not very nice considering I didn’t ask for your opinion,” they would bring out the positive side to what they had said within the insulting statement and join together to agree that I was too sensitive. Examples: Random digs like, “You know how you say weird things sometimes that nobody understands and we just move on and don’t ask you about it? I thought for the longest time that when you sent me a card wishing my daughter, ‘The life of Riley’ that it was just one of those times. It took me years to figure out that this is actually a thing people say.” Is that a compliment or a dig? Both? Her daughter’s name is Riley. I was trying to be clever and kind. Or…”I was very worried that people wouldn’t understand or accept my boyfriend and that’s why I kept it secret that we were dating for so long.” My response was a stunned and sad, “Me? You thought I would feel that way?” “Well, no…but I don’t worry about your opinion in the same way that I think I worry about other people’s. You remind me more of him. He may not fit in but he has qualities of his own that I appreciate.” Compliment? (Her boyfriend–now husband and I were both less educated and much less financially well off than the rest of our friends but she pointed out that we both loved learning.) I finally let these friendships go when I asked if we could leave our high school behaviors in the past now that we are in our mid-life years and did not receive a ‘yes’ response. By letting those friendships go, I saw others fade as well.

  7. I love your advice, Nina, and think it is spot on with both situations.

    My only concern now is that I’m getting the sense from your responses that a “real” friendship requires phone conversations and that has me worried.

    I have a sincere aversion (phobia, almost) of talking on the phone and find cell phone conversations to be annoying – hard to hear, shouting to be sure I’M heard, pacing around and uncomfortable.

    I would actually prefer driving an hour for coffee to talk to a friend in person – which I do. But in lieu of that, I have relied on really heartfelt email, texts, and Facebook messages to keep in touch with people I consider to be friends.

    Am I kidding myself?
    (Maybe I should have asked this in an anonymous question… 🙂

    Either way, GREAT first column.
    I heart you. And I’m not even on Instagram.
    XO

    • Nina says:

      That’s a great point, Julie. And NO a “real” friendship has really no actual definition as long as the two people in the friendship AGREE on the definition for them. Did that make sense? It did in my head. If you have had successful friendships and these women know you are there for them and like to have them in their life (except for the phone chatter) then that is absolutely great. It’s all about expectations and mutual understanding. I bet your friends know exactly how you feel about them with or without any phone calls. Don’t you think? I think this falls into the category of “if it ain’t broke.”
      Nina recently posted…My First Advice Column is HereMy Profile

      • Phew. That’s how I felt…And, probably not surprising, many of my friends also do not like to talk on the phone.

        I’m grateful for the perspective that if texts and messages are agreed upon forms of regular communication, it’s not an indication that my friendships are broken.

        I am pretty sure my dear friends know I’d drop anything for them anytime if they needed me.

        Thanks, Nina!
        julie gardner recently posted…The Heavy BagMy Profile

    • Rebecca Klempner says:

      I like in-person best, too! Phone is so-so, but I hate texts. It’s a drag once people are working full-time/parenting/volunteering that the kind of hanging out we do as teens and twenty-somethings just goes onto the back burner. If you’re willing to take people out for coffee even if it means an hour drive, you sound like an awesome friend!

  8. Jennifer karol says:

    Great advice. In this world of technology it is so easy to have many “surface” friendships but it is really the real ones that keep us nourished.
    Keep it coming!

  9. alexandra says:

    I love this. Congratulations, Nina. I love reading the letters here because there are many like this that have been in my own life. As for the second letter, that scenario is one I have experience with. I had a neighbor like that, maybe she considered herself a friend. But for me, she would come over and tell me all that I needed to do around my house: renovations, bring down cabinets, pull carpeting, repaint… I would tell her we didn’t have the money and that it also wasn’t a priority for us. She continued. I told her she had crossed the boundary, and that was it. I have never been so desperate for friendship that I would accept being treated badly.

  10. Miriam gaenicke says:

    Interesting comments. There is NO WAY I would tolerate someone putting me down! That is def NOT A FRIEND. I disagree Nina. Fb friends can be confusing. There are a few who I would love to meet! My patience level is not high for drama, nor should it be. Thk G-d for fate bc they come and go…the fab ones stay. Some days we simply havevto go with the flow and trust our instincts…thx.

  11. Congrats on a successful first column, Nina! I can already tell this is a good fit for you, especially since you take friendship so seriously. I look forward to reading your future pieces, too!
    Annie Neugebauer recently posted…Full CircleMy Profile

  12. Great advice and a great column, Nina! I’m so glad you’re doing this. I’ve had so many unpleasant endings of friendships over the years that I relate to a lot of these issues. I like your advice for the “slow fade” whenever possible. I’ve discovered the confrontations almost never work. If somebody gets off on “digs” the more you ask them not to, the more they’ll do it. Because the real motive is to keep you in a “one-down” position. The “advisor” may feel she’s losing control over you, so needs to keep you feeling off-balance and in need of “help.”
    Anne R. Allen recently posted…The Secret to Publishing Success in the Era of Social Media: Teaming with Your Fellow AuthorsMy Profile

  13. Dana says:

    Such thoughtful advice, Nina – this column is perfect for you! I have a question or two stewing in my brain; I’ll have to think about submitting one.
    Dana recently posted…My Other ExMy Profile

  14. Monica says:

    Well done, Nina! A great first column chock-full of sound advice. It’s so wonderful to see your path unfolding and landing you here–lucky us, your readers!
    Monica recently posted…The H wordMy Profile

  15. Tamara says:

    Nice work!
    You’re a much better advice columnist than I am because for both I would have said, “Unfriend, unfriend, unfriend! And then eat a cookie.”
    This is why you’re the one giving out advice!
    Although I do worry about the friendship in the first question. That seems.. flighty.
    In the second, it’s a danger but it seems like the kind of thing that has potential to be saved, as long as she can figure out exactly WHY her friend is behaving rudely.
    Tamara recently posted…Clash of the Couples!My Profile

  16. Wow, Nina — look at all the conversation your advice has generated. The sign of an insightful post, indeed. When I read things like this, I just don’t understand why or how ‘friends’ can be so very mean and hurtful to one another. And I agree with the sentiment of “why would you want to be friends” when you’re treated that badly? As a sidebar: I generally am the initiator in all the correspondence between my high school and college relationships, but I think that’s mostly because I’m the organized one and I’ve always BEEN the planner. Kind of a drag sometimes, but … waddaya gonna do?
    Melissa Crytzer Fry recently posted…Lucking OutMy Profile

    • Nina says:

      I totally get that, Melissa, about being the initiator. I often feel that way . . . I have sort of just accepted the role as the planner/doer/caller. Once I realized that (in most cases), it’s a strength of mine to multi-task and others have a harder time with that, I didn’t take it so personally. When it’s CLEAR the other person is not making the effort out of a lack of interest, that’s a different story.
      Nina recently posted…My First Advice Column is HereMy Profile

  17. Amy says:

    I loved your first column, Nina, and am really impressed with your thoughtful advice on two tough questions!

    I especially liked your point in the first column about “long-distance slots” being filled; sometimes it’s nothing personal, we can only maintain so many friendships at one time. But I think your point that a simple RSVP was the least she could do was spot-on.

    That said, I’m also glad you didn’t suggest she confront her friend about that. Like you said, sometimes friendships do come and go for practical reasons – it doesn’t mean you don’t care about the person. But calling someone out who obviously feels a little guilty about the whole situation already would likely drive them away even further. Maintaining a pleasant but casual relationship while seeking out something more fulfilling was great advice!
    Amy recently posted…I Ran a Half Marathon: Confessions of a Reluctant RunnerMy Profile

    • Nina says:

      Such good points, Amy. Confrontation is not always the answer. (Trust me, I have learned that the hard way being on both sides of the equation.) If the relationship has hope and the person can and wants to change, then it’s worth it. But if it’s clear one person does not have time for the friendship or wants to move on (which I believed to be the issue in this case), there’s no reason to go through the ache of having a big talk about it.
      Nina recently posted…My First Advice Column is HereMy Profile

  18. Cym says:

    Nina,
    I love the well thought out responses to these questions. I look forward to more in your advice column. Good luck!
    xox

  19. marta says:

    Nina,
    I think your advice was PERFECT. I’ve definitely done the long distance limbo when a friendship seems to be firmly in facebook land, and sometimes unfortunately that’s all there is to it. Some people are just better at long distance friendships than others and I agree it doesn’t seem like she really wants to put the effort in beyond facebook!

    Love your new advice column!!!
    marta recently posted…To My Daughter on Her Fourth Birthday.My Profile

  20. Amy Mak says:

    Female friendships are so tricky! I will say that I have so many “good intentions” but am so busy it’s just hard for me to maintain more than a couple of good friendships in real life, let alone on-line! I feel my interactions are very superficial just b/c of the time of my life and being so busy with my own family/work/volunteer, etc. Many of my FB friendships are perfect: short snippets and a couple pictures for me to like…it’s all I can do! So while I do think an RSVP is good manners, I get the “forgetting” or “not getting to it.” Really good discussion and gives me pause for self-reflection.

  21. Wonderful advice. That last letter kind of hit home because I had an issue with a long time friend recently who has made numerous little digs about my children and I for years. I don’t like confrontation, so I have simply ignored it. I probably should have spoken up sooner rather than letting it bother me, but I didn’t. I just let it slide because I have known her for so long. When a more recent event made me really question the friendship, all those little comments came into play and I just decided the friendship was no longer worth it. I never responded to her last attempt to contact me, because my feelings were too raw after what she did, and her message was as if nothing had happened. I plan to be cordial and friendly when I see her, and leave it at that.
    Michelle @ A Dish of Daily Life recently posted…ADHD or Pediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnea?My Profile

    • Nina says:

      Michelle,

      I’m sorry you’ve had this experience. I’m willing to bet that the digs have more to do with her insecurity (that is almost always the case) than anything having to do with YOU. That said, it doesn’t mean you have to tolerate or be close to her. I’m sure she is suffering a bit wondering why you haven’t returned her message. That’s a hard call that you will have to make. (Though it sounds like you decided.) If you truly do not think she can change, it is probably not worth discussing. But what if she can? Yikes– I’m sorry you’re in this position!
      Nina recently posted…Friday Finds: Early OctoberMy Profile

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