HerTake

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HerTake: Friends Who Cancel Too Often

In this month’s HerTake question, Nina answers a letter from a woman who says her friends often cancel plans or change the plans last minute. Is this an expected part of being an understanding friend or does this letter writer have especially rude friends in her life? 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’ve come across a problem recently in my social life that I’m stumped as how to solve. There have been a number of times when friends have either canceled plans that we’ve made or declared that they could actually only hang out for much shorter than originally planned because other plans came up. The problem I have is that I don’t know how to nicely explain to them that this is rude and makes me feel bad. Every time I have tried to go about this, I feel like I am coming off as the rude one for being upset, even though they’re the ones skipping out on our plans.

What is your advice?

Thanks!

Tired of the Cancellations

Dear Tired of the Cancellations,

I don’t blame you for being irritated! Now, whether you should take it personally is another issue, and what to do about it is a separate answer, too. I will get to it all.

Are these friends unreliable in other areas of their lives? Do they frequently cancel on others? Are they chronically late? (I mean more than a few minutes.) I’m asking because if they are unreliable in general, then it’s not something you should take personally. Not taking it personally, however, doesn’t mean you want to count on them as your closest friends. Because, yes, their unreliability sounds excessive and cancelling because something better came along is as rude as it gets.

Each person has to decide how much cancelling of plans she can tolerate in a friendship, and there’s no right answer. I can tolerate more than average because I have to cancel sometimes. I have four kids, and if I make a lunch date or any kind of meeting with a person during the school day, I will have to cancel if one of my kids has to stay home from school. In the past two weeks, for example, my kids took turns passing around a five-day virus. I had to cancel on the same friend twice. Each time I rescheduled on the spot to signal how much I want to see her. She knew not to take it personally, and I was grateful for her flexibility. Similarly, I have a handful of friends with whom I make dinner plans so far in advance that we have a mutual understanding making it easy and unemotional if one of us has to cancel because family came in town or a birthday or bar mitzvah invitation arrived that would be strange to skip for a dinner out with friends we can see another time. But if we cancelled on each other for “better” plans? No, that wouldn’t be cool.

Even with all that in mind about times I may have to cancel or my close friends have to cancel, we all try very hard to keep our plans because as you’ve experienced, too much cancelling sends the message that you don’t want to spend time with the person on the other end of that conversation. There’s a balance friends have to strike between flexibility (understanding that life serves up unexpected illnesses and other problems) and reliability (knowing you can count on your friends the majority of the time). I think a solid friendship exists in that sweet spot in the middle.

It sounds like your friends are asking for too much flexibility. That doesn’t mean a big confrontation is required or that the friendships need to end completely, but if you’re unable to communicate your legitimate frustration without them turning it around on you, then it may be time for a demotion for these ladies. Don’t make plans with them for a while and focus more on current acquaintances who could become better friends after spending more time together. Yes, you can talk to your chronically cancelling friends about how their behavior makes you feel, but you cannot force them to change.

Last point: a friend of mine who said this keeps happening to her teenage daughter encouraged her daughter to use the experience to shape the type of friend she wants to be to others. That’s great advice! I hope that helps, and perhaps other readers will have different ideas.

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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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.

 

 

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

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.

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 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?

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.

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

**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!).

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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