It’s been two years since we launched our HerTake column and have been reading Nina’s practical, savvy advice on handling modern friendship challenges. We are so grateful for everything she has shared with our HerStories Project Community! We’re celebrating with a giveaway— more details at the end of the post! In this month’s HerTake question, Nina discusses what to do if a friendship seems like an excessive amount of work. Let us know what advice you have for this month’s letter writer.
I have a very close friend, Betsy, who I love and trust dearly, but lately I’m wondering if I should go on with this relationship.
Two years ago, while I was dating my now husband, he told me that Betsy made a pass at him. I asked her about it and she was very offended and insisted she would never do that. She was insulted that I believed him and called me paranoid. I decided since both parties insisted they were right, to let it slide. Betsy and I agreed that nothing would change about our friendship, but she said I should never expect her to be civil to my boyfriend, involve him in our conversations, or bring him along when she invites me to anything.
“The pass” later turned out to be a misunderstanding, and my boyfriend apologized to me and to her as well. She didn’t take this apology well and carries a grudge to this day.
Anyway, that boyfriend and I are married now, and Betsy makes it very clear that he disgusts her. On three occasions she’s given me misleading advice that has caused trouble in my marriage. I’m at a point where I feel whatever I do that bothers Betsy brings us back to “the pass” incident and she thinks all my actions towards her are out of mistrust because of that incident, even though there’s never a connection. For example, I was angry with Betsy recently about something she did so I didn’t invite her to a party at my parents’ house. Betsy found out about this from my sister and angrily asked how I could leave her out. I told her I was angry about a recent situation, and she insisted that wasn’t the reason and said she thinks it is more than I’m telling her, but wasn’t willing to discuss what she thought it was. I think she was referring to “the pass.”
Ordinarily, Betsy and I talk about issues that arise in our friendship, but I’m hesitant to once again bring up the “let’s get past this” talk. I get negative vibes around her these days, and she’s always opposed to any good thing I say about my husband. I am sure the conversation won’t go well so I’m wondering whether to just walk away from this friendship because I am not comfortable with her attitude towards my husband. I have reason to believe talking to her about my feelings won’t end well at all.
What would you advise?
Sad to Lose a Friend
Dear Sad to Lose a Friend,
This question is both easy and hard to answer. Let’s start with the easy part: Friendship shouldn’t be this hard.
Don’t misunderstand me, because I believe friendship takes work. Both parties must make efforts for the sake of the relationship such as arranging plans, showing up emotionally and physically, initiating communication in any form (calls, texts, emails), giving the benefit of the doubt, and other positive actions I’ve discussed here in two years of friendship advice.
So yes, friendship requires real work on both sides. I’d go as far as to claim that many friendships require tweaking here and there or even occasional periods of distance. That said, friendship shouldn’t be as hard as what you’ve described in your letter. I’m calling this news the “easy” part because I can at least confirm that the amount of tension you’re experiencing with Betsy is downright excessive.
It sounds like Betsy has been part of your life for a long time, and the idea of letting the friendship go is both heartbreaking and scary. The hard part of my answer is that I think it’s time for this friendship to change dramatically in status. If Betsy had written this letter to me with similar details, I would give her the same advice about you.
This friendship sounds like too much work on both sides. As much as I like to encourage giving the benefit of doubt and letting go of grudges, I can see why the strain in this friendship may be too much to overcome. Betsy doesn’t want to be around your husband, and I can hardly blame her. I’d have a difficult time getting over a false accusation as heinous as someone claiming I hit on her significant other. It sounds like Betsy forgave you, but I get why she has no need or desire to forgive him. While people can certainly be friends without involving the spouses, I see why this particular situation doesn’t work. You want to be able to at least mention your husband to a close friend as he’s a huge part of your life. Since Betsy cannot even stand to hear about him, that’s an issue that seems impossible to fix. And this business about you being mad at her and not inviting her to a party as well as Betsy always making everything about the incident two years ago—this is not how a healthy friendship works.
I think you have two options: #1. Change the status of the friendship. #2. Walk away. I would try the first option before jumping to the second one. But how can you change the status? The first step starts with your expectations. I would stop looking to Betsy to fulfill the role of closest confidant. Make less effort to get together. Call less. Text less. The idea is not to cut her out of your life, but to stop forcing this relationship into a status where it no longer belongs. I have a feeling Betsy will respond in kind rather than chase you. I don’t see how this friendship as it stands now can be satisfying for her either. If I’m wrong and she demands to know why you’re pulling away, you may have to engage in a more direct conversation. There’s no need for “you did this or that.” You can simply stick to the theme we’re talking about here, which is that friendship shouldn’t be such hard work. I imagine she would agree.
I know it’s so hard to lose a friend, which is why I like the idea of making this friendship a more casual one rather than ending it completely.
Good luck and I’m sorry you’re going through this right now.
**To celebrate two years of HerTake with Nina, we’re giving away our first two friendship books—The HerStories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain, and Power of Women’s Friendship and My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends, as well as our newest book, So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood. You can enter by leaving a comment below (ideas: we’d love to hear a friendship topic you’d be interested in reading advice about OR your favorite HerTake column with Nina!).
We’re always looking for new reader questions for Nina! If you have a difficult friendship situation that you’d like advice on, fill out our anonymous contact form.
**Have you grabbed your copy of So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood yet? It’s now available on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle copy!