HerTake

Category: HerTake

HerTake: Friend Connectors vs. Friend Hoarders

In this month’s HerTake question, Nina answers a letter from a woman who is tired of sharing her friends with a close friend who hoards her own friends and acquaintances. Are you a friend connector or a friend hoarder? Help our letter writer decide what to do!

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

Dear Nina,

I often introduce my friends or acquaintances to each other because it me makes me happy to do so. I like helping my friends, and adding the joy of new friends or good work connections to their lives is easy to do so why wouldn’t I? People often say I’m a great connector and generous with my relationships, and I take both comments as big compliments.

I’m sure you know there’s a “however” coming next. I have a close friend, “Joanna,” who I’ve introduced to numerous friends over the past two decades, whether casually at a bigger event or more purposely such as inviting her family over for dinner at the same time as another family if I think they will all get along. Joanna, however, never introduces me to her friends and acquaintances. I know some by now after two decades of friendship, but that’s because of the big events of Joanna’s we’ve all attended (birthdays, etc.) as opposed to her doing anything to bring us together on purpose.

I can literally be at a fundraiser or some other event with Joanna and a person will come up to us that is new to me and Joanna will start talking to the person without taking the minute to even do a basic, “Oh, this is so and so who I know from my old job. And so and so, this is Connie an old friend of mine.” You get the idea. I’m not suggesting Joanna should arrange an intimate dinner every time she makes a new friend so that I can meet her, but she could include me every so often, or at the very least introduce me when I’m standing around while she and her friend/colleague/acquaintance are talking in my presence.

It would be impossible to count the social connections Joanna has made through me. What makes me feel worse (mostly I feel bad about my feelings about it all) is that Joanna is generally a good friend to me. I can trust her and she goes out of her way for me like offering to pick me up at the airport (and actually doing it) or lending me a dress for a vacation—stuff like that. I appreciate all that and more, but the friend hoarding really bothers me. I don’t know why she has to keep everyone so separate.

I’m not saying I want to end the friendship at all. I’m just wondering if I should stop inviting Joanna to do things with other friends of mine as I make new ones in the future. Why should I open my social world to her every time I meet someone new and yet she never feels compelled to do the same for me? I see my own words here and at almost 50 years old, I know I sound so petty. But I’m feeling stuck. I can’t stop dwelling on it, and I’m not sure what to do.

Thanks for any advice,

Connie (not my real name)

Dear Connie,

I relate to this question more than any other in the past two years. I’m not a perfect friend. I make mistakes as everyone does. But one aspect of friendship I excel at is making connections. Like you, I do not hoard my friends and it brings me pleasure to see people from otherwise random parts of my life forge a friendship of some kind.

I also related to the situation you described of standing around awkwardly in a conversation while I wait for a friend to introduce me. What is wrong with people? I often end up introducing myself. I am probably an extreme over-introducer because of how much I hate that moment of standing there twiddling my thumbs. I’ve introduced people who unbeknownst to me have been friendly for years or are even related. I simply don’t like the idea of two people standing near each other who have not been introduced. And that is true on a deeper level, too. If I know two people (even just online) who could hit it off socially or help each other in their professions, then I am uneasy until I’ve connected them whether it’s through a dinner at my house, a meal out, a simple email, or even a Tweet to both of them together in the case of my writer buddies.

But now I have to take a step back from my self-congratulation and ask you to do the same. The fact that you and I take the “connector” label as a compliment means we value the idea of connecting people to each other and we also value being connected to others. The thing is that not everyone prioritizes values the same way when it comes to relationships. Beyond the basics of kindness, decency, and trust, there really is not a right and wrong for how to be a good friend.

Let’s take the airport example. I’m not sure I have ever offered anyone a ride to or from the airport, and frankly if someone asked me for one I might even be a little annoyed. Why? I would never expect a ride at this point in our lives. Everyone is so busy and nobody else’s travel plans are my problem nor should my plans be my friends’ concern. I can barely get myself to and from the places I need to go let alone take on someone else’s transportation needs.

I have to give Joanna kudos. I consider myself a really good friend to a large handful of women in town, and yet it would honestly never occur to me to make that offer and even after reading about Joanna’s generosity of time I still wouldn’t. This may seem like a small gesture to examine, but it demonstrates a larger point about relationships. We all show our love for our friends in different ways, and ideally we all give each other the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps Joanna has been disappointed that when she mentions a trip coming up you don’t offer a ride. Wouldn’t it be nice if Joanna said to herself, “Connie has gone out of her way to introduce me to so many people and obviously loves me. I’m not going to hold the lack of airport pickups against her.” Hey, maybe she has said that to herself!

As for why Joanna keeps all of her friends separate, that is impossible to know. I’ve seen that pattern in some friends of mine, too. Perhaps Joanna has been burned before by bringing friends together who have better chemistry with each other than either has with her and then she gets left out. It happens! It has certainly happened to me, and I imagine it has to you as well if you’ve been a connector for your entire adult life. That fact hasn’t stopped me (or you), but I will say it takes significant internal confidence to rise above our natural tendencies to hoard relationships. Go us!

So now what? Should you keep sharing your friends? I say yes. I don’t believe in using someone else’s limits to dictate your own behavior. You do YOU. If making those connections is how you demonstrate your appreciation of your friends, then I wouldn’t stop for Joanna or anyone. I assume Joanna keeps offering you rides and her clothes even if neither gesture is something you would do for her. And I also assume that after two decades of friendship she has shown you other generous sides of herself. Focus on those good things and force yourself not expect to meet her other friends. That’s simply not something Joanna is good at or wants to share, but it doesn’t seem like it’s directed at you personally.

As a side note, Connie, your confidence about making new friends as an adult is so refreshing. You probably don’t realize how rare it is (at least in my inbox filled with anonymous questions) to have such a calm assuredness that you will continue to make new friends as life goes on. Good for you! And thanks for the question. You made me realize I have to let go of expecting the same amount of connection-making from others as well.

Nina

 

You 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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

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