Guest Post

  • A Friend Who Only Communicates Via Text

    How do you handle friends who only text?

    This month’s column may resonate with many, whether you have been offended by a texting-only friend, or you prefer texting to calling or connecting in person.  Readers, we would love to hear your perspective in the comments below!

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

     

    Dear Nina,

    My friend, Sloane, just texts—no calls, no visits. Only texts. And even though we have ongoing texts every 2-3 days, she’s not up for talking on the phone. I’m starting to feel what a numbing situation that is. To me it’s very impersonal to communicate solely through a screen. I’ve asked to call on the phone, but I can tell she’s not crazy about the idea, and when we do talk, I end up leading the conversation because otherwise there’d be silence.

    Here’s a bit more about our situation. Sloane and I live two hours apart. I’m in chronic pain, and I’m dealing with very intense things, but Sloane sometimes uses the excuse she’s “busy” as if her life has so much more going on. I mean, we ALL have our stuff right? I have been up to see her 2-3 times in the past four years we’ve known each other. (I’ve been quite ill as well.) But she’s never made any effort to come see me, and she even got offended when I asked her a couple years ago if she would consider a visit.

    So I have a friend who makes no effort to visit, no effort to call, and wants a virtual screen-to-screen relationship, yet wants to call it a friendship? To me acquaintances text, but friends text/call/visit. I’ve thought about reframing the friendship as perhaps (oddly enough and heaven forbid) it’s too much to expect/want a call every now and then or once a week, just to have actual voice-to-voice connection. Oh and when I have said, “Do you fancy a quick call?” she mysteriously never sees the text and quite frankly I don’t believe her because she’s always active on messenger and she’s one of those people that updates her Facebook page with every thought, picture, and bowel movement.

    When I have expressed my frustration at limiting our friendship to texts, she did say she’s not comfortable on the phone. She also threw out very trivial things at me, which was her basically clutching at straws in order to defend herself. But I did say to her maybe I need to see the friendship differently (as in reframe it and/or see what I’m expecting) and now she’s had a hissy fit and says she doesn’t need this and her other friends are fine with just texting. But hey guess what, I’m not (anymore). So maybe my expectations have changed?

    Can you help?

    Kind Regards,

    Texting Isn’t Enough

    Dear Texting Isn’t Enough,

    You have the right to change your expectations in any relationship and Sloane, in this case, has the right not to meet those expectations. This means the ball is now in your court to decide if going back to the previous expectations sits well with you. From your letter it’s clear to me that you’re not happy with those terms of “texting only” and no visits.

    I have to say that from where I sit, this friendship is not a solid one. I can’t imagine that Sloane sees it as a crucial one in her life. A real friend shows up when her friend is sick, if not with a visit, then at least with a call. In fairness to Sloane, she has been completely honest with you that she is not up for that type of friendship. She has not tried to convince you otherwise. The fact that you continue to demand something of her that she cannot or will not give is on you at this point.

    To say it more directly: Sloane is not really your friend.

    My advice is to fade out of the relationship, which means no big confrontation is necessary. You can stop putting any energy into texting Sloane and she will quickly get the idea and maybe even feel a bit relieved. Then you can put your energy into people who are looking for the same kind of off-screen friendship that you understandably want and deserve. It’s not easy to get out of any cycle, even dysfunctional ones, but it’s time.

    Not surprisingly my mom, Kathy, has similar advice but here she is in her own words: “This may be a generational thing, but I don’t text unless it is about making an arrangement, changing a previously agreed upon time for getting together, or saying I am stuck in traffic. Having said that, what is more disturbing to me is that Sloane has made no attempt to visit her sick friend, since she is “uncomfortable” on the phone. It sounds to me like Sloane is not interested in the friendship. I would suggest that the letter writer put her energy into someone who is more interested in a reciprocal relationship. It is clear that if Sloane is having problems of her own, she is not interested in sharing her issues. If it were me, I would let this relationship go.”

    I’m so sorry you’re going through a tough time with your health. You definitely need understanding and giving friends right now.

    Best of luck,

    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.

  • HerTake: Friends Who Cancel Too Often

    UPDATE (2019): FIND NINA AND HER COLUMN AT HER NEW FRIENDSHIP ADVICE SITE

    In this month’s HerTake question, Nina answers a letter from a woman who says her inconsiderate 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 inconsiderate 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 inconsiderate friends 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 canceling because something better came along is as rude as it gets.

    How Much Canceling Can You Tolerate?

    Each person has to decide how much canceling 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.

    Balance Between Flexibility and Reliability

    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 canceling 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 canceling 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.

     

     

     

  • HerStories Voices: The Miscarriage

    This week’s essay was written by one of our So Glad They Told Me anthology contributors, Hannah Harlow. It’s about how one of her friendships was affected by a miscarriage. – Allie

    HerStories Voices

    THE MISCARRIAGE

    “Tell me about your miscarriage,” Pia said.

    “What about it?” We walked the bricked Cambridge sidewalks pushing my sleeping baby in a stroller. She already knew how shattered I had been after I miscarried my first pregnancy at 14 weeks—what sort of details did she want?

    “Like, what happened exactly?”

    Pia had always been my husband’s friend, really. They were best friends in college. Shortly after I met my husband, I needed a place to live and Pia had a room open for six months in her Brooklyn apartment. I was new to town, a little lonely, often lost, and Pia took me in. She took me to parties and watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer with me on the weekends as we ate cereal straight out of the box. Pia asked lots of questions, seemed genuinely interested in whatever I had to say. She introduced me to her parents. She made me laugh. Then the six months were up, I moved into a new place, and Pia gradually went back to being my husband’s friend. I didn’t know how to change that.

    But occasionally it would just be us again and it could almost feel like old times. Pia and her husband had just started trying for a baby. Nothing had happened yet, but Pia was convinced something would.

    “I want to be prepared,” she said.

    So, I cautiously explained what had happened during the D&C. As Pia leaned in her curly dark head in that familiar way, I went on less reluctantly, because Pia could draw out the joy of sharing things you rarely talk about. She made you feel special for your experiences just by wanting to know about them. She’s one of the best listeners I’ve ever met. So I told her how the doctor inserted seaweed in my vagina, how bad the cramps were. I explained how my husband missed all of it, because he was stuck in Ethiopia on business with no flights home for days and how sick we felt over it. How the doctor had given me the drug Versed, how he said it would make me forget, but I remembered everything. I remembered gripping my mother’s hand while I stared at the whites of the ceiling, and I remembered the pain. What I didn’t tell Pia was how I held it all in until the doctor walked out of the room and then I burst into tears in my mother’s arms. She held me tight and whispered, “You’re so strong.” I thought, what other way is there to be? Because isn’t every woman who has ever gone through this strong?

    “But now I have my son,” I told Pia. “So will you. Someday.” But I regretted it as soon as I said it. How could I know? What if it never happened for her?

    Pia miscarried. Then she failed to get pregnant again, through three years of trying, through years and multiple rounds of IVF, and probably more that I don’t know about. Because we stopped seeing each other. We stopped talking.

    During this same time I conceived and gave birth to our second beautiful, healthy son. We were grateful for everything we had, but that didn’t stop Pia from not wanting to come around anymore.

    I even helped facilitate our distance—I didn’t call or text or reach out in any way. I felt guilty for our good luck and guilty for abandoning her, but I thought it was for the best. I missed her. But I understood how she felt. If I were her, I wouldn’t want to hang out with me either.

    The day the doctor told me he couldn’t find a heartbeat, he handed me a prescription and I took it to CVS. The line at the pharmacy wound down the aisle of diapers and wipes and bottles and pacifiers. I thought, you can’t be serious. I stared at the baby things and tried not to weep. I wanted nothing to do with babies or their paraphernalia.

    This was the cosmic response to lost pregnancies, it seemed. Suddenly there were babies everywhere: when I showed up to receive a haircut from a new and very pregnant stylist; when friends announced their pregnancies; every time I took a swig of wine and thought about what that meant, or didn’t mean.

    As Pia struggled to conceive and I kept my distance, my husband continued to text and email and occasionally visit her. “I’m going to Pia’s, do you mind?” he’d say. “I think it’s hard for her to visit us.”

    What he didn’t say to me was, “You’re not invited.”

    I would say that I knew, that I understood, because I did. I knew Pia had shown strength in ways I couldn’t even imagine. I knew friendships don’t always travel in a straight line. But what I didn’t know or understand until then, as I cared for and loved our two utterly perfect children, was how much it can hurt to be so happy.

     

     

    hannah-harlowHannah Harlow has an MFA in fiction from Bennington College. She recently had an essay appear in the HerStories Anthology, So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood. Her writing has appeared in SmokeLong Quarterly, Day One, Synaesthesia Magazine, failbetter, and elsewhere. She promotes books for a living and lives outside of Boston with her husband and two sons. Find her online at http://www.hannahharlow.com or on Twitter: @hhharlow.

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • 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?

    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.

    To see the rest of this question and Nina’s answer, please visit Nina’s post.

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

  • Exceptions and Sisters-in-Law

    UPDATE (2019): FIND NINA AND HER COLUMN AT HER NEW FRIENDSHIP ADVICE SITE

    In this month’s HerTake question, Nina answers a question from a woman trying to forge a friendship with a sister-in-law who seems to only have an interest in a civil relationship at best. We love that our community helps each other in the comments section. Don’t be afraid to add your two cents.

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

    HerTakenoavatar

    Dear Nina,

    What is the expectation level of friendship within family? And how do we deal with disappointment when it’s clear that no friendship is likely to emerge from a family relationship?

    My brother-in-law got remarried about a year ago, and I was really hoping that I would be friends with his new wife. I made a lot of effort at the outset, calling and texting and giving presents, but my overtures were met with a cold politeness (at best), and, at worst, hostility. If it were just a potential friend or acquaintance, I would move on and stop trying, but since it’s family, and we live in the same town, I don’t feel that I can just brush her off (even though she is brushing me off).

    What’s worse is that I see her being friendly to other people, I hear about how nice she is from others, and it’s really hard for me to not be hurt by the feeling that she is choosing to connect with other people but not me. She never calls, never texts, it’s all very one-sided and very unsatisfying. Also, we seem to look at the world very differently, so even on the rare occasion when we talk, it’s very strained and awkward.

    How do I balance the difficulty of “doing the right thing,” which is to keep being friendly and not burn this bridge, but managing my feelings of aggravation and disappointment.

    Thanks,

    Wanting a Friendly Family

     

    Dear Wanting a Friendly Family,

    Your question will touch on a sore spot for many readers since we can replace sister-in-law with mother-in-law, daughter-in-law, and any other familial relationship. How many of us hold onto expectations for our family members and inevitably feel frustrated and disappointed with the wide disparity between our expectations and reality? Too many of us, I’m sure.

    My gut reaction is that recalibrating your expectations to something more reasonable is the first step here. “Wanting a friendly family” is a workable and commendable goal. Wanting to be friends with your family, even with the new members married into the crew, is probably reaching too high. I wonder if it would help you to expect less from your sister-in-law if friendly rather than “friends” is the goal.

    Your question made me think about my three sisters-in-law. I feel a close and special friendship with all three of them, but those relationships developed over many years and there were some lows for us, too. It took maturity, empathy, and changes in behavior for all parties involved to rise above the fray. And the four of us live in four different cities!

    Back to your sister-in-law. There may be all sorts of reasons she is not responding to your attempts at forging a friendship. She may not like your husband. She may have grown up in a family where one does not have good relationships with in-laws or with siblings. She may not “get” how a close family works. She may feel overwhelmed by the new family or by marriage.

    I admit that it would feel less like rejection if you were hearing bad things about her. It’s human nature to feel better about ourselves if we have confirmation that the lack of chemistry is truly about the other person. But I want you let yourself off the hook even though you’re hearing she’s sweet towards others. You’ve done what you can so there’s no reason to worry if there’s something about you she doesn’t like. You’re not going to change for her so there’s no reason to over-analyze. Remember: your new goal is friendly not friends.

    As a special bonus answer, I reached out to a wise friend of mine who has had a tumultuous relationship with her sister-in-law for many years. She read your question and here’s what she wrote back to me.

    “Oy, Nina, you would think I wrote this myself, right? I believe actions are more important than reactions. So if it’s in the letter writer’s character to always show up pleasant and happy, then that is how she should show up. After many years of trying to create a better relationship with my sister-in-law who clearly had no interest in the same kind of connection, I woke up and said, ‘I have a village. I have people who are my friends. I have people who are my family. Sometimes it’s both. My energy is better spent investing in the relationships where it’s reciprocal and stop forcing it where it’s not.’ I decided that as long as the dynamic with my sister-in-law is polite enough for my husband’s family to eat dinner together, then I’m being a good partner in this. 

     The one holding the cards, in this scenario the sister-in-law, isn’t the only one who dictates the boundaries. When I made the commitment to just show up with a smile on my face but gave up hopes of anything whatsoever from my sister-in-law, that is when my sister-in-law started being nicer to me. She appeared at more family events like my kids’ recitals or birthday parties. She made more conversation with me at family get togethers. The commitment I made to myself was this: I am not going to play the victim. I’m responsible for what I bring and don’t bring to this relationship. My feelings were definitely hurt at times. That’s just life. Ya, know? You get through it. You stop being petty. You move on. It’s literally flipping the switch from reaction to action, which is a good lesson to learn in all relationships.”

    Isn’t my friend smart?

    Bottom line: You don’t have to be friends with your family. It’s noble you tried, but at this point it seems it’s best to be friendly and keep the door open as you never know what the future may bring. I’ve seen family crisis bring family members closer, and while I hope it doesn’t take something like that for you, it’s good to have the idea in mind that relationships can change in time. You keep being YOU, but keep your expectations of others reasonable.

    Good luck and report back if you can.

    Nina (and Nina’s good friend!)

     

     

    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.

  • Guest Post by Galit Breen: For the love of writing, technology, and children

    I am so thrilled to share this guest post by our talented friend, Galit Breen, about teaching children about technology! I had the pleasure of hosting a workshop with Galit earlier this summer, and she is THE resource for helping our kids to use technology safely, kindly, and effectively.  I’m going to give her the floor now– listen and learn! ~Stephanie

    For the love of writing, technology, and children

    By Galit Breen

    It’s not a secret that there is so much to consider when it comes to our children’s learning. We want so much for them to:

    • Succeed
    • Be happy
    • Love school
    • Become a learner
    • Upkeep their skills
    • And so much more

    I think at the top of many of our worry lists is that last one. The thought of our children’s skills “sliding” or diminishing makes even the least helicoptering of us cringe just a bit.

    And when we’re faced with the thought of helping our children with this, many of us turn to the knee-jerk reaction of saying, “Do something educational!”

    I know that I have absolutely said this to my children whether it was during summer break, sometime between sandy toes at the beach and bonfires after dark; or winter breaks, after sledding and before movie night; or even just on weekends, when my children have asked for more screen time (again).

    I also know in my heart-of-hearts that none of us really know what that phrase really means or how to gauge if what they’re doing is really and truly flexing their brain muscles!

    I want to share with you a system that we now use at our house that has helped us with all of the above tremendously. It’s our answer to my children’s, “What should I do now-s?” and my own, “How are their skills holding up here-s?” all in one and it is one of my favorite parenting “hacks” ever.

    The basic idea is we pre-create a checklist of agreed upon activities that our children may do.

    The list looks like this:

    Something smart

    Something creative

    Something helpful

    Something kind

    Something healthy

    Something outside

    Something relaxing

    And the key to making this system work for us is this:

    We fill this list with really specific ideas of what our children can do with their time within each category. That “Something Smart” section is where we get to add in ideas of what our children can do to upkeep their skills.

    It’s also where we can incorporate smart ways to use technology as a tool rather than as entertainment. So a part of Something Smart may include typing a story, practicing math facts on an app, or even researching a topic of interest.

    I created a checklist for this system for you to use with your own children—it’s the same one that our family uses! You can get that checklist right HERE.

    This system has worked so well for us! It ensures that my children know exactly what to do when they’re bored, their time is filled with activities that we both agree have value to them, and they still maintain choices and freedom, within guidelines.

    There are so many great ways to help our children access the amazing (smart!) things available to them at their (literal!) fingertips.

    The Internet is where our artists can create, our writers can wordsmith, and our photographers can capture. The Internet is also the great equalizer between our extroverts and our introverts—everyone has a voice online, and that’s really powerful.

    Our Goal When Teaching Children About Technology

    So our goal isn’t to keep our children away from the Internet, it is to teach them how the Internet is meant to be used. And for those of us who are smitten with writing, our goal is to also help our children write! I have found this system to be the solution to all of the above for our family and I hope that it is helpful for you, too!

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    Galit Breen is the author of Kindness Wins, a simple no-nonsense guide to teaching our kids how to be kind online and the TEDx Talk, “Raising a Digital Kid Without Ever Having Been One.” Her tech and writing friendly “What should I do now?” hack can be found right HERE.