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Working With The Friend Who Dumped You

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.

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 about a friend who has walked out on the relationship 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.

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

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.

 

 

Ghosts Are Afraid of Mirrors: The Moment I Gave Up My Ghost For Good

Our October theme for HerStories Voices is fear. So many young woman today look to Hollywood and fashion runways for role models and develop unrealistic expectations of what it means to be beautiful. In the age of photo shop and flattering photo filters, I fear my daughter will measure herself against unrealistic portrayals, which can lead to dire consequences. This week’s essay, written by Gina Paulhus, paints a harrowing portrait of an eating disorder that shook me to my core. I’m so grateful that our author has recovered – and that she’s bravely shared her story for others.

—Allie

HerStories Voices

Ghosts Are Afraid of Mirrors: The Moment I Gave Up My Ghost For Good

It had been a lonely summer. I hadn’t seen any friends in a long time. In fact, I hadn’t made a friend in years. I was twenty-one, on break from university and suffering from chronic depression. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t even know if I wanted to be alive. I found myself engaging in bizarre behaviors that made little sense and were dangerous. And yet, I couldn’t stop these bizarre behaviors. I wasn’t sure that I even wanted to stop.

I was a gymnast, which was the one thing that tethered me to any sort of reality that summer. As much as I loved gymnastics, it was just one more place in my life that I was afraid I wouldn’t measure up. That I wouldn’t be accepted. That I wasn’t good enough. This fear drove me to create rules for myself that I would never imagine inflicting upon another person. This fear clouded my thinking and dictated my every waking move.

My coach closed our gymnastics club for three weeks each summer. This left me with an empty slate of time that was begging to be filled. For a depressed girl with too much time on her hands, it was destructive. I had an unreasonable goal to weigh less than 100 pounds, for no reason other than to see if it was possible. And maybe, just maybe, people would finally notice that something was wrong. I was terrified and excited about the prospect.

I decided to spend those precious weeks off by not eating any food for the entire twenty-one days. Seemed simple enough, except that I was bulimic. I’d left my days of the tidier eating disorder of anorexia behind. This was my sad reality and I was determined to make it work.

I rolled out of my bed on a steamy July morning. The sheets were tangled and sticky from the tossing and turning and nightmares that had transpired throughout the night. The breathtaking view of the river outside my window did little to alter my sullen mood. I was unsure as to what the day would entail, but like always, it would start with judgment time.

I kicked off my pajamas and went to the bathroom to pee to reduce any extraneous weight. Must. Reduce. Weight. I gingerly tapped my toe to the scale to trigger it on. The familiar grey letters jolted to life as I lightly stepped onto the heartless device that would dictate how I’d spend my entire day. I rationalized that the more carefully I stepped on the scale, the lesser the number it would register.

  • 105.1.

This was no good. No good at all. I peered out the window to ensure I was alone. Mom’s car wasn’t there. Perfect. My weight always dropped after bingeing and purging, probably due to dehydration, but no matter. I was all about results. I proceeded to ransack the kitchen and binge on anything and everything I could find. The supplies were low on this particular day, which had a lot to do with my sinister habit. So I bolted to my car, with fistfuls of chewed up blueberry muffin in hand to keep me busy on the ride. I hit up a bunch of drive-thrus and binged for a couple more hours. I ate until my jaw throbbed and my stomach was stretched further than I’d ever stretched it before. I ate until I forgot everything else that hurt.

Now it was time to pay the price. I locked myself into the bathroom, even though I was home alone—you can never be too careful—and purged until I was sure I got everything out. This exhausting task was unpleasant to say the least, but the calm buzz and sense of completion I experienced afterward made it all worthwhile.

  • 103.2.

This was simply not working for me. I was so sick of staying still. Nothing is worse than staying still. I was due back to gymnastics practice in less than a week. My goal was to be under 100 pounds, and I simply wasn’t going to accept this disappointing turn of events. Double digits or nothing. I was done playing games.

I threw on my sweatpants and a jacket, even though the temperature was 95 degrees. The hotter I could get, the lighter I’d be when I finished. I began jogging, with no particular destination in mind. Several hours later, my legs finally began to seize in protest and I hobbled back home.

  • 101.0.

Ok, this had potential. I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror. From the front, I thought my stomach looked grotesque, in spite of the ribs poking through and the vacant space where my breasts used to be. I grabbed my handheld mirror to use it to check my appearance from the rear. When I saw myself from behind, however, I was shocked.

I observed bones protruding through areas that used to be smooth—more than I ever had before. I felt like I was looking at myself through an evil funhouse mirror at the carnival. Everything looked distorted and wrong. The most disturbing sight, however, was the back of my knee. My knee was now wider than my calf, and wider than my thigh.

My knee was the widest part of my leg.

At that moment, on that July day, I realized that I could not make my knee smaller, no matter what I did or didn’t eat. My bones were not going to get smaller. Something about the refusal of my body to transfer itself into what I wanted it to be served as a reality check. This reality check somehow managed to accomplish what so many loved ones and self-help books couldn’t. I realized I was striving to achieve an ideal appearance that wasn’t possible due to the God-given structure of my actual bones. If my bones were going to be steadfast, my options were limited.

The rear view vantage point provided me with another perspective that I was unable to see before. What I thought was my goal turned out to be a farce. I was chasing a house of cards—and for the first time I knew it. From that point on, I vowed to attempt to eat—to keep it down—and to exercise within reason and not with excess abandon. I vowed to become my best self—a self that might not be suited for the cover of a magazine, but a self that was my only option to fully live the life I had been given. I vowed to own my space in the world. For the first time, I accepted that some things in life just cannot be changed. This realization was both disappointing and freeing all at the same time.

My fear of gaining weight was briefly replaced with a fear of the unknown. How do I eat like a normal person? I ignored the worry and walked over to the toaster. I slid a slice of bread into it and pressed the lever. The second hand on the clock ticked incessantly. I had never felt this uncomfortable, this unnatural. I pulled the toast out and grabbed a knife and a stick of butter. I spread the butter on the toast, hands shaking, with steely resolve.

I sat down at the kitchen table and ate a piece of toast. I was twenty-one and hadn’t eaten toast since I was twelve. I savored the toast, and felt a sense of calm and peace wash over me. At the same time, I mourned the ending of a battle that existed only in my mind, with a prize that was nothing more than an illusion. I had been chasing something that was meaningless for so long, and I was tired. So very tired.

 

ginaGina Paulhus, CPT struggled with eating disorders for many years and has since recovered. She owns her own in home personal training company called ‘Home Bodies’ that services clients throughout New England. Gina holds a Bachelor’s degree from UMass Lowell in Psychology and Business. She volunteers with MentorConnect—When relationships replace eating disorders. She also writes for Recovery Warriors. She is passionate about helping people from all walks of life learn how to efficiently and holistically manage their health, both mental and physical. In her spare time she enjoys yoga and practicing and competing as an adult gymnast.

Find her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

 

**Allie is accepting submissions for our November Voices column– the theme is gratitude. See submission guidelines here, and email Allie at herstoriesvoices @ gmail.com.

**There are still a few more days to enter our book giveaway in honor of our two-year HerTake column anniversary! Read Nina’s post and enter here.

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**Check out this amazing deal on blog course bundles! Limited time only– just through Tuesday!– so don’t miss out!

The Social Media Cold Shoulder

In this month’s HerTake question, Nina discusses what to do if you think a friend is purposely ignoring your posts on Facebook. Have you been on the receiving end of a digital dissing? Have you ever purposely withheld likes and comments from a friend? Let us know what advice you have for this month’s letter writer.

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’m confused by one of my friends who is great in person, but ignores me on Facebook. Yes, a modern “problem,” but one that does affect our relationship or at least how I view our relationship.

First, some background: I met “Jana” in a support group as we were both going through infertility. We hit it off and have been friends now for eight years. (By the way, we both have babies so it all ended well.)

When we’re together, just the two of us, whether in person or on the phone, we have a wonderful time connecting, and I feel like she’s one of my closest friends. But then she completely ignores me on social media. We are friends on Facebook and Instagram, and I see that she likes and comments on (seemingly) everybody else’s feeds but mine. I also write a personal blog that I know she reads diligently because she mentions things she’s read there, but she has only commented on my site twice in the last eight years.

You gave some great advice a few months back that if you look for something on Facebook, you’ll find it. So I don’t go looking because it makes me feel really bad, but we do have about 10 – 15 common friends/ acquaintances, and I see her generous comments often, just never on anything I’ve shared.

The strangest thing is that she recently said to me that an acquaintance was doing this to her. I was so shocked I said nothing, but now I’m wondering if I should ask her about this, or just ignore it and pretend I don’t see all the other activity going on?

I have thought that maybe she doesn’t want to be associated with the infertility and wants to move on, but she’s very open about it, as am I, and many of the other friends were in the same situation.

Do you have any insights? What do you think is going on?

Signed,

Tired of the Facebook Freeze

Dear Tired of the Facebook Freeze,

I think others will relate to your dilemma whether or not they’ve felt the cold shoulder from a friend online. It hits on themes about one person feeling she’s making more of an effort; speculation about another’s motives creating (or on the precipice of creating) a schism that may not be based on truth; and a problem in a friendship seeming like one person’s inability to deliver when the real problem could be an unreasonable expectation in the first place.

I have so many thoughts that I’m going to organize my answer into subheadings. And to make sure I was thorough, I consulted four of my trusted blogging friends and two non-blogging friends. Are you ready? Let’s go!

Option #1: Blame the Facebook Algorithm and Let it Go

Blaming the Facebook algorithm allows you to accept the possibility that Jana is not purposely ignoring your posts. Even with the (scary) amount of time I spend on Facebook, I miss tons of what my friends share. I think it’s likely that as more time went by without Jana liking or commenting on a post, Facebook stopped showing your posts in her feed. For those not aware of how Facebook’s algorithm works, it shows you what it thinks you want to see based on what you’ve ‘liked’ in the past. That said, the algorithm is ever-changing and secretive so nobody knows for sure.

I like the idea of giving Jana the benefit of the doubt considering that your friendship is solid face-to-face. One of my blogging buddies added: “There’s a friend of mine from college who writes genuinely interesting posts, but lately I haven’t seen him at all in my feed. I had to consciously seek him out, and still, he is not regularly in my feed, even though we have numerous mutual friends.” In other words, you cannot assume Jana is purposely ignoring the posts.

Related to the algorithm: You can also make a point of visiting Jana’s page more often. One of my non-blogging friends said, “I think the writer of the question should shower Jana with positive comments and likes without expectations of the same. If nothing changes, then she should stop going to the hardware store for raisins.” Meanwhile, I’m now adopting that fantastic expression!

Option #2: Be Direct

From another one of my blogging friends:

“If Tired of the Facebook Feed deems Jana as a good friend and is concerned about her lack of comments on her FB/blog, why not cut to the chase and ask her directly about her silence? I realize that may cast TotFF in a needy light, but I sense she is probably spending oodles of time speculating on this. If this friend is ‘close,’ perhaps it might unearth an underlying conflict that requires a discussion.”

I think that’s good advice if option #1 is too hard. However, if you’re going to ask Jana directly why she doesn’t interact with your posts online (whether on the blog or on Facebook), you need to soften that accusation with a hefty amount of self-deprecation about how her friendship in person should be enough, but you can’t help noticing her comments on mutual friends’ posts and worry it’s personal that she doesn’t comment on yours. There’s no way to say something like that without sounding overly needy of her attention. That doesn’t mean you can’t bring up the issue, but be aware of how you word the question. Also note that you may get her to start liking your posts, but you could find yourself wondering if she’s doing so with a level of obligation that will eventually lead to resentment on her part, which brings me to my next point.

How Much Interaction is Reasonable to Expect on Facebook?

I don’t have a precise answer to this area of etiquette. (Who does?) But I bet that whatever any of us expect from friends on Facebook it is too much. We’ve already covered that many posts on Facebook get missed despite best intentions. But let’s say we do see all of a particular friend’s posts? Are we expected to like every single one? Comment on every third one? Share one post a month from a friend’s business page? There are no rules and assuming our friends even see our posts is a recipe for disappointment. I can think of a few times I have asked friends to share a post, but I specifically asked them to do so. There was no beating around the bush. Those who were comfortable shared, those who weren’t into the topic or even the idea of sharing posts likely did not. No problem on my end.

Now let’s factor in the point that Jana is a “real life” friend. Here’s what my non-blogging friend had to say about the situation.

“Facebook is a forum to connect with people I wouldn’t normally connect with in person. If I have someone’s number, I’m sending texts or emails, not writing comments on Facebook. I never expect a friend to comment on Facebook about something unless I’m promoting my business there and they have committed to helping in some way. It doesn’t bother me if my local friends don’t help by sharing a post because I often let at least five days go by before I check Facebook. I don’t expect anyone else to be checking frequently.”

My same non-blogging friend added something extra important: “If Jana seems to ignore invitations to communicate outside of Facebook—doesn’t want plans, cancels, doesn’t return phone calls, doesn’t ever ask how you are and never initiates contact—then that is either someone who doesn’t want to be friends or is not a good friend.”

TotFF, I think that is a KEY point. And the flip side is true, too. If Jana is behaving like a good friend in all those ways, I think option #1 is the way to go. What happens offline wins every time!

Regarding the Blog Comments

My blogging crew and I agreed that you cannot expect non-bloggers to comment on the actual website. Since Jana mentions reading posts, we would all consider that above and beyond any written comment.

The Danger of Writers Looking for Friends’ Approval

Two of my blogging friends asked a version of the following point: “Why is TotFF so focused on this particular friend commenting? I do think it’s a thought saddled with some quest for approval and perhaps TotFF will never receive it from this particular friend.”

And now, TotFF, I’m going to tell you the hard truth. You have to force yourself to forget about winning Jana’s thumbs up online. I say this as someone who was, once upon a time, overly fixated on hoping a particular person (or two) would show enthusiasm, or at least positive thoughts, about my career path. You have to ask yourself why Jana’s lack of digital support is bothering you so much. Does her lack of acknowledgement mirror any doubts you have about what you’re posting? Do you feel any competition with some of the other people who write posts that she publicly likes?

Oy vey, people. Social media is complicated, isn’t it? TotFF, I know that many others have been where you are. I bet some have also been on the other side purposely withholding likes and comments from others so we know it’s possible Jana is doing the same to you. I vote for option one, but I’d love to hear other points of view, and I’m sure TotFF would, too.

Good luck and I’m sorry you’re feeling bad about this relationship 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? Release day was August 31st, and it was the #1 new release in motherhood books!

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