Two Years of HerTake: No, Friendship Shouldn’t Be This Hard

Two Years of HerTake: No, Friendship Shouldn’t Be This Hard

In this month’s HerTake question, Nina helps another reader with her friendship problems. She 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.

It’s been two years since we launched our HerTake column and have been reading Nina’s practical, savvy advice on handling modern friendship problems. We are so grateful for everything she has shared with our HerStories Project Community!

Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.

hertake

Dear Nina,

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 our friendship problems, 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?

Thanks,

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 on handling friendship problems.

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.

Nina

 

FULL RES - Badzin-03 copy-1You can follow Nina on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

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!

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23 comments

  1. Michele says:

    Congrats, Nina, on your two-year advice anniversary! I love reading these columns each month; I can always find myself somewhere in either the question or the answer. But if I had to pick, I think my favorite was your column on writer envy. It hit close to home! Keep the wisdom and honesty coming. 🙂

  2. Mandy says:

    Congrats on your anniversary! I look forward to this column every month. I love how you empathize with the writer & Betsy. Great advice.

  3. Melissa says:

    Mazel tov on 2 years! I definitely agree with your two-step advice to this reader. Her friend sounds very manipulative.
    I’d love to see a post about getting past the acquaintance phase of a friendship. I get along with a lot of people in my community, but most people still feel like acquaintances.

  4. Leslie says:

    You always give great advice! We use these topics for great discussions in my family. (Thank you)
    Happy adviceaversry!!

  5. Caryn says:

    Congratulations Nina! I have so enjoyed these columns and as another commenter said, I can always find something to relate to in the questions and your responses.
    As for this question, I agree with your advice 100%. Though most of the letter was about the “pass incident,” I think the part that really stood out to me was in regards to the party the letter-writer hosted but didn’t invite her close friend to because she was mad at her. I was exhausted just reading about it! It all sounds very high school, and I don’t mean that as an insult to either of the women involved, but just that it’s a reflection of how the friendship has evolved. It’s hard to lose a close friend, and I wish her the best of luck!
    Caryn recently posted…Back to Napa + Guest PostMy Profile

  6. Dana says:

    It’s been two years already? Wow. I always appreciate your approach to answering these questions – a combination of logic and emotion, and acknowledging the complexities of relationships while providing implementable suggestions.

    I can’t remember my favorite, but I do like the ones involving social media – for adults in their 30s and 40s that is a fairly new area for us to navigate!

  7. Jennifer says:

    I just picked up the newest HerStories book that I look forward to reading. I haven’t read the first two yet. I’d love to read about how to manage friendships with jealousy. For example, a friend having more than one child when you’re only able to have one.

  8. Great point, Nina. Friendship doesn’t have to be this hard. For the most part, it should be a joy to be in the company of a good friend. At some point you have to ask yourself, why does this feel like I’m constantly swimming against the current?

    Congrats on two years of terrific advice! Time flies! 🙂

  9. Beth says:

    As a millennial I love reading your answers to these questions that remind us that when its all boiled down, friendships are hard

  10. Kristina says:

    This was a tough question but I liked the advice you gave her. It’s never easy to end a friendship and your suggestion of changing the status of the friendship sounds like a good compromise. I would love to hear friendship advice on what to do when you’ve decided you need to end a friendship with someone. Should you confront them? Let it phase out? That would be an interesting topic to explore.

  11. Indeed, friendship should not be this hard. I always relate to certain aspects in these columns, even if the particular scenario is very different to mine. It’s like all friendships intersect at a certain point.

    Currently, I’m relating to the part about deciding whether to walk away completely or just back away a little so that the person is still in your life, but not so much that it continues to hurt as it does now. I have also very much been thinking about one of your pieces from quite far back in which you related the story of a college friend (I think) from whom you took a break because the friendship was suffering, and after some years you two reconnected and the friendship worked again (I cannot recall the title). I kept asking myself if this friendship I’m struggling with right now needs a break. I even posed that option to the friend — she didn’t seem to think so. But I think she just wasn’t looking at the situation realistically. She thought we could just brush over all of it with a quick coffee. Alas, it is not so.

    So here I am, still wondering how to step back or take a break without ending it all…
    Ruqaiyah Davids recently posted…Goodbye.My Profile

  12. Fabulous reply! Spot on. I’ve had to, in your words, change the status within a few friendships in the past because of they way those friendships pulled me down for various reasons. I’m not one for confrontation, so the change in status was mostly in my head, sort of a silent, invisible letting go of the amount of weight I gave the friendship. And what freeing release it has been!

  13. Congratulations, Nina! I love this series and always take some pearl of wisdom from each situation you analyze. Friendship does require work in the form of nurturing and growing the relationship. Friendship shouldn’t be so hard because it should feel like a labor of love. I like your suggestion to try changing the status of the friendship rather than trashing it all together especially since there seems to be some entanglement between the writer’s sister and Betsy.
    Mo at Mocadeaux recently posted…Napa Wineries At Harvest TimeMy Profile

  14. keeping courage says:

    Love your advice! I respectfully disagree about one thing: If the “pass” Betsy made at her friend’s boyfriend/husband was a misunderstanding, if he apologized AND if it happened two years ago, I feel Betsy should be able to have at least a neutral relationship to him. If she still doesn’t want to see him or even hear about him at all, and if she still needs to tell the world she finds him disgusting – that seems manipulative, as someone wrote above, and if I were Betsy’s friend, I’d wonder about her feelings towards my husband even more. So I agree with everyone else: this friendship isn’t worth all the trouble.

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