Working With The Friend Who Dumped You

Working With The Friend Who Dumped You

Have you ever been dumped by a friend? In this month’s HerTake question, Nina answers a letter from a woman who was dropped by a very close friend who also happens to be the letter-writer’s boss.

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

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Dear Nina,

I considered “Liz” one of my closest friends. Last year, we spent almost every weekend together. We even took a vacation together the year before that. I know her family well and have been to her house various times. Recently, however, she has been avoiding me.

Initially, she started distancing herself by saying, “I’m busy.” Then the meetings reduced to once a month and eventually once every few months. Now, we hardly get together at all.

I still put in the same effort to ask if she is free and can meet. I see her enjoying and partying with other friends—some common to both of us. But even on those occasions, I haven’t been invited. I tried speaking to her as well via text messages asking if all is okay. She always answers with some form of “I’ve just been busy lately.”

One important point to note is that we are colleagues and she’s now my boss at work. We have always kept work relations separate and never let it come in between us so I can’t figure out what changed for her regarding our friendship. I’ve tried getting common friends to talk, but that’s weird as she is usually a closed up person emotionally. Was I just another friend to her until she could pick up another on the way?

It hurts to think about the way we are practically strangers now. Although I ask about her weekend plans and she replies with what she’s doing, she never asks mine. Despite saying that we should catch up and it’s been long, the reply is usually “yes, soon.” But the “soon” never comes.

How do you let go of someone who is so close to your heart and who you cannot avoid? Help.

Signed,
Working With The Friend Who Dumped Me

 

Dear Working With The Friend Who Dumped Me,

There are two things I know for sure from this letter.

#1. Liz does not want to be close. (I know you already figured this out from the details you provided.)
#2. You need to stop trying to return the relationship to the way things were before.

You May Never Know Why You’ve Been Dumped by a Friend

The one thing I do not know is WHY Liz decided to change the status of this friendship. But it doesn’t matter anyway as your quest to discover the answer will likely never yield the truth. I’m guessing if you were to confront Liz, she would give you a version of “it’s not you, it’s me.” If nothing obvious in your own behavior pattern comes to mind like flirting with her significant other or revealing private information she shared with you, then I would urge you to chalk up her change of interest to the chemistry between you two no longer working.

Listen, I’m not saying the mystery of it all is an easy pill to swallow. Every person who writes into this column who has been dumped by a friend wants to know what went wrong. It’s perfectly natural to want answers. But just because one person decided to end a friendship it does not mean the other person did something wrong or is an unworthy friend. Liz’s decision, while hurtful, probably makes sense to her for reasons you will never know or understand even if you did know.

Reframe the Relationship

The fact that you and Liz work together and that she’s your boss complicates matters. I suggest for both practical and emotional reasons you force yourself to reframe the relationship in your mind from “close friend” or even “friend” to “friendly colleague.” You cannot, as a colleague, sulk around the office and act hurt. You can, however, act in a friendly and dignified manner like you would with a colleague who has never been to your house or shared vacation time with you. This may require some acting on your part at first, but I believe eventually your bruised heart will heal in the process. I mean this sincerely. I know it hurts when someone unilaterally decides to end a friendship.

I’d like to give you one last piece of advice on what I mean by “dignified.” At this point, stop asking Liz to get together; stop texting to check in; and definitely stop asking about her weekend plans. I personally do not like when people ask me what I’m doing over the weekend. It’s seems like an invasion of privacy to ask for my precise plans. Asking Liz week after week what’s on her social calendar then feeling upset that her plans do not include you and that she doesn’t ask the same question back sounds to me like you’re inviting hurt feelings.

The fact that Liz does not ask you back leads me to believe she would rather you not pose the question in the first place. At the end of a work week, you can simply say, “Have a great weekend.” I’m willing to bet she will wish the same to you, which will make the conversation more equal.

Speaking of equality, Liz may be your boss, but in the friendship department, we are going for equal footing here in the “friendly colleagues” goal. I know it’s not what you wanted initially from this relationship, but it seems all that Liz is willing to give. And forcing yourself to stop pursuing Liz as a close friend will free you to put time and effort into others in your life (or people you’ve yet to meet) who are open to everything you have to offer.

Best of luck and I’m sorry you’re going through this painful loss.

Nina

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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.

 

 

13 comments

  1. Caryn says:

    Great advice Nina! I agree completely and sympathize with the letter writer. And while I know we are not to be concerned with the “why,” I can’t help but wonder if the friendship changed once Liz became her boss (since she says Liz is “now” her boss). Perhaps Liz felt uncomfortable or unprofessional having the same type of friendship now that she is the letter writer’s boss — and presumably the boss of other people who she does not have a close friendship with and worries about perception or whatever. I have seen this happen many times and, right or wrong, it can complicate a friendship. Again, the reason doesn’t really matter and I agree it’s time to move on and focus on other friendships. Best of luck!
    Caryn recently posted…Remembering To Be ThankfulMy Profile

  2. This advice is spot-on, Nina. It is an awkward situation and pursuing the relationship when it isn’t reciprocated will make it much worse. I know we all wonder “why” a relationship ends and sometimes there is no real explanation – in this case, it could very well be because the work roles changed.

    Looking forward to more of your insight in 2017.
    Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri recently posted…A Few Friday FavesMy Profile

  3. Sarah says:

    I agree with you on everything here, Nina. It might be difficult to hear but I believe you’ve given some great advice on this one. The fact that this woman is now her boss makes this even more awkward and painful, I would imagine, but I think this is the right way to approach this situation. I am sorry, too, for the sender. Hope things get easier.
    Sarah recently posted…Why Quitting Writing Is the Best Thing I’ve Ever DoneMy Profile

  4. Tamara says:

    Great advice! It’s hard to see only one side and to only wonder what the other is thinking/feeling. I love that you get to the heart and root of it, rather than wonder like the poor reader. And me! I wonder too!

  5. This post makes my heart so sore for the writer.

    I wondered, as did other commenters, if it’s not the fact that Liz is now the boss which is changing the friendship dynamic.

    Still, to actually ask her if this is the case will be very awkward and still, Liz might not be honest.

    I like your advice, Nina, that she should retreat and be friendly office colleagues and leave it at that.

    To the writer – there are many awesome women out there for you to befriend. Best of luck!

  6. Pam says:

    Ugh I have nothing to say that hasn’t already been said. My hearts goes out to the writer of the letter. By the same token, I’ve been the person who ended the friendship without an explanation (because I felt the friend in question wouldn’t understand my reasons and it would be a painful conversation that would ultimately have no purpose). It would be bad enough if the friend had just bailed but now that she’s the letter writer’s boss… double ugh. I can’t imagine better advice that what you offered.
    Pam recently posted…Coffee Date January 2017My Profile

  7. The letter writer’s situation is painful, but your advice — as always — is spot on.
    She needs to stop IMMEDIATELY with the requests, inquiries, probing, hoping – not matter how hard this might be at first.

    And I agree that while she may have to “act” this way, her feelings may eventually follow. I’m a big believe in “fake it ’til you make it” and BEHAVING in the way you wish you FELT is a good first step.

    Keep up the great advice – looking forward to your insights in 2017!

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