Guest Post

  • Sharing Common Friends With an Ex-Friend

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

     

    Today’s question for Nina is about dealing with a friendship breakup when the two parties have many friends in common. What is your advice for a reader about how to share friends with an ex?

    Nina is always accepting anonymous questions so keep them coming!

    Dear Nina,

    Jocelyn and I recently split for good. We were part of a much larger online and real-life friendship group, but the two of us were particularly close. The specifics of our breakup are not pertinent. I also wanted to mention that I’d be willing to try again with our friendship, but she’s not.

    Here’s the reason I’m writing: I now feel awkward with the rest of our mutual friends. Jocelyn and I have not been together in the group since we split up, and I’m afraid that no one knows we’re no longer friends. (I haven’t told anyone.) However, I’m also afraid that if they do know it’s because Jocelyn told them, and I don’t know what she said about me.

    How do I get beyond this and just feel comfortable with all my other friends whether or not she’s there, or if I fear she’s talking beyond my back? Should I be up front with our other friends that our friendship is over, or should I just never mention it?

    Signed,
    Worried About Post-Breakup Fallout

    Dear Worried About the Post-Breakup Fallout,

    The first and most helpful piece of advice I can give you for this particular situation of how to share friends with an ex is one that will come to play often in your life, and it’s probably harder to implement than anything else I will say here today: You must accept that you cannot control every person’s opinion of you.

    That fact goes beyond controlling other people’s behavior, which is also true. No, you cannot dictate what Jocelyn says about you, or to whom (her behavior). You can only work on how much you worry about others’ perception of you based on what she says or based on their simple knowledge that the two of you are no longer friends.

    There are two ways to let go of that worry:

    Do not say anything unkind about your ex-friend.

    Keep treating your friends well, and if the subject of Jocelyn comes up, I think it’s fine to say, “We haven’t spoken in a while.” If someone asks you directly whether the two of you are no longer friends, I’d say, “Unfortunately we’re not, but I hope you understand that I don’t want to get into the details.” This way you’re being honest, but you’re also showing that you’re not going to bring the group into the issue between the two of you. This is the part you can control. You get to dictate how you act and not getting people to take sides is the classy route to take.

    Self-Talk

    The other way not to worry what others think about you (once you know your behavior is in check) is to engage in some self talk. I will often tell myself that exact message: “I cannot control what anyone thinks.” Say it to yourself before you go out with these friends. Remind yourself a few times while you’re together. It often takes an actual effort to force your mind to think in a more positive way. This new way of thinking will not happen magically; you have to teach yourself to alter your thoughts.

    Now let’s talk about the reality of what happens when two friends have a falling out, but they still share common friends. If we’re dealing with adults here, I’d like to think that most of the friends in the wider circle would feel bad for both of you that things did not work out. Any decent person (and they’re your friends so I’m assuming they’re decent) would not revel in the pain you and Jocelyn are feeling. Perhaps they’re even hoping that the two of you will work things out one day.

    Is the Friendship Really Over?

    There’s one final issue to address: I wonder if things with Jocelyn are truly finished, or if there’s a chance to turn this breakup around. Could you write her a letter (not an email, a letter) reiterating your willingness to take responsibility for your part of the falling out and to forgive her as well? I would tell her that you have no expectations in the near future, but that if she were ever open to it, you would be interested in a friendship in the future.

    Once you’ve put your feelings in writing (a powerful act), you can feel confident that you’ve done your part to rectify your mistakes and forgive Jocelyn for her mistakes. I say this because right after college my best friend and I “broke up” and about a year later I wrote her a long letter. It took her a few years to respond, but we became even closer than we were in college, and now she’s been an important person in my life for the past 10 years. To tell you the truth, the breakup made us even closer than we might have been. My point? I wouldn’t write Jocelyn off forever.

    Good luck to you! And I’m sorry you’re dealing with the pain of ending a friendship and the dilemma of how to share friends with an ex-friend. I know it isn’t easy.

    Nina

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  • Turning An Acquaintance Into a Friend

    Today’s question for Nina comes from a blogger struggling to take an online friendship offline. Here’s what she’s really asking: What’s the secret to turning an acquaintance into a friend?

     

    Nina is always accepting anonymous questions so keep them coming!

    Dear Nina,

    Another blogger (let’s call her Anna) and I follow each other on Twitter and Instagram and on each other’s blogs. Although I comment far more on Anna’s blog than she does on mine, I get the sense through our writing that we have a lot in common. I especially get this sense when Anna periodically initiates a quick comment to me on Twitter or Instagram. In those cases she’s obviously proactively gone out of her way to reach out, even if slightly. I was doing this a lot myself in her direction initially, but I got the feeling that I was being overbearing, so I dialed back.

    Anna and I happen to live less than 25 minutes apart, and I’d like to get together. I see her publicly comment to other folks on social media (who live much farther away) that she’d love to meet up some day, and in some cases she has done so with bloggers in our geographic vicinity. She’s never suggested anything like meeting up with me though. I’m afraid that if I suggest a quick coffee or something, I might rock the apple cart or seem like I’m stalking her and the pleasant acquaintanceship we have now will vanish, which I don’t want either. I’m so terrible at reading signals in real life, so via the internet is even harder! Advice?

    Thanks!

    Trying to Take the Next Step

     

    Dear Trying to Take the Next Step,

    This is an excellent question and it really has nothing to do with the internet or blogging though the online relationship adds an extra layer of easy, quick intimacy and therefore confusion. More than the online issue, however, I want to focus on the idea of turning an acquaintance into a friend.

    I suspect that many of us have experienced what you’re describing. I have certainly felt that pang of rejection that comes from watching someone who seems like good friend potential connecting with others, but showing no interest whatsoever in me. It’s the kind of situation that can leave one wondering, What’s wrong with me? Why not me?

    Why do some acquaintanceships deepen and some stay on the surface forever? There’s no exact answer to that question because any of the following or a combination is possible: chemistry, timing, or simply one’s friend plate being too full at the moment.

    You’re correct that some of this takes an awareness of signals. I think you’re better at reading them than you realize. The fact that you dialed back from commenting so frequently on Anna’s social media happenings when you noticed a major imbalance tells me you’re paying attention to cues. I would never endorse a tit-for-tat approach to online or offline relationships. However, when your gut tells you that you’re consistently putting in far more effort, it makes sense to spend some of your reading and commenting time elsewhere. That goes for offline relationships, too!

    IF YOU WANT TO HANG OUT WITH ANNA, YOU HAVE TO ASK.

     There is truly only one way to know if Anna is open to getting together: You have to ask. It’s entirely possible that these other bloggers who have been out with Anna are the ones doing the asking. Maybe Anna is particularly magnetic and people tend to seek her out. It doesn’t mean she won’t have room for you, but it is more likely that you will have to take the initiative.

    And when I say, ask, I mean specifically state what you’re hoping for and provide some options. I say that because when an acquaintance says, “We should really get together!” I hear, “blah blah blah.” On the contrary, when I hear, “Send me a Tuesday or Thursday that you’re free for coffee,” I hear, “I want to be your friend.”

    A REAL LIFE EXAMPLE OF TURNING AN ACQUAINTANCE INTO A FRIEND

    Beth became my good friend after she blatantly pointed out (in an email) that we have tons of friends in common and she couldn’t see any reason why the two of us did not have a friendship of our own. She added that she always enjoys talking to me when we run into each other and that she would love to see me on purpose. Then she offered some lunch dates. I found Beth’s honesty and directness utterly refreshing. I responded with, “You’re right. Let’s do this.” We met for lunch several times without any of our common friends in tow. We exercised together every so often the next year, and had play dates with our kids at some point after that. Now I can’t remember a time when Beth was not a trusted friend, but it probably would not have moved out of the acquaintance phase had she not reached out and had I not reached right back.

    IF ANNA DOES NOT REACH BACK

    The reaching back is where things can get murky, and I know this is what you’re fearing.   After you ask Anna if she’s free for coffee or lunch and offer specific dates, you might get something back like, “Would love to! Things are so crazy right now. Let’s touch base after spring break.”

    Before you allow yourself to fall down any kind of shame pit, let’s give Anna the benefit of the doubt. She may truly be too busy to commit to a date right now and prefer not to schedule out too far knowing that she could have to cancel. I would try one more time after spring break in a case like this, but if at that point you can’t get her to commit, it’s time to move on with no hard feelings.

    Here’s where you will have to keep reminding yourself that any lack of interest on Anna’s part is likely not personal and truly just about the factors we already discussed, namely, timing and the friend plate being too full. I brought up chemistry before, but I think it’s worth mentioning that even good chemistry is not always enough to overcome the anxiety over spreading oneself too thin.

    If Anna does not reach back, you should not feel bad about yourself (she hardly knows you), nor should you worry that the pleasant online relationship you have will change. That piece is in your hands. As long as you don’t act wounded over the situation or entitled to her time, I don’t see any reason why the good rapport you two shared would change.

    BOTTOM LINE

    A good acquaintance, either online or offline, is not as special as a good friend, nevertheless, she can still be a value-add to your life. As far as I’m concerned, this can be a win-win situation.

    Good luck!

    Nina

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  • The More the Merrier Versus Quality Time

    Happy New Year to our HerStories Project community! We are pleased to announce that as of this month, Nina is now with us twice a month so keep those anonymous questions coming! I think many people will be able to relate to the particularly uncomfortable social dynamic she discusses in this week’s HerTake column:

    HerTakenoavatar

     Hi Nina,

    My daughter-in-law posed this question and I could use your help with an answer.

    My son and daughter-in-law, Josh and Mia, had a dinner group of sorts with two other couples. The six of them would almost always get together at Josh and Mia’s house because they didn’t have a babysitter for their two-year-old twins and the other couples had readily available child care.

    Everyone got busy and about six months has passed since the last get together.

    Couple A said to Josh and Mia, “Hey, we miss getting together for dinner. Let’s make plans to go out to some family friendly place with the kids.” No mention of Couple B.

    So Mia’s question is this: Since dinner together had always been a thing with all three couples, should she ask Couple B to join them?

    My response was no because:

    1) This is a different scenario. Dinner out with the whole family rather than dinner at home with just couples.
    2) Couple A initiated the plan so it would be up to them to reach out to Couple B if they wanted.
    3) Trying to find a restaurant for three couples plus six kids would be tough!

    I guess the question really comes down to something I’ve struggled with, too. How do you tactfully and gracefully make plans with friends who are part of a larger group without including everyone every time?

    Sincerely,

    Mia’s Mother-in-Law

    Dear Mia’s Mother-in-Law,

     What a nice mother-in-law you are! I like that you discussed this with Mia and brought the issue for me to consider. Part of why I love this column is the timelessness of many of the questions. For example, Mia’s situation has little to do with the fact that she has twins or that the other couples have young kids, too. As you said, you deal with the same problem when making plans with friends. And believe me, I have spent more time than I care to admit fretting over leaving people out and being left out myself. I had to work hard (and continue working hard) to get over the latter to even begin addressing the former with a sense of logic and maturity.

    There’s so much going on here! Let’s break it apart.

    First, to address Mia and Josh’s specific scenario, I think your answer was good. You’re right that the dinner out is a different situation than the home group that had formed. Also, going out with six adults and six kids (toddlers) is rather pointless in my opinion. Sometimes in the interest of never hurting anyone’s feelings, many of us end up diluting our social outings to the point where we don’t have conversations beyond the surface. Sure, nobody gets left out that way, but does anyone have that great of a time?

    I’m on the fence about your point that couple A as the initiators of this outing have the responsibility to reach out to couple B. If Josh and Mia are good enough friends with couple A, then it would not be strange for one of them to suggest adding couple B. But the bigger point is that it is absolutely acceptable for the four of them to make plans without couple B.

    The reason I say I’m on the fence about Mia initiating the extra invite is that my husband and I used to be friends with a couple that could not seem to function without making sure that a certain other couple was included every time. It got really annoying and I stopped reaching out for plans. While I understand that my friend was sensitive about leaving out her other friend, I firmly believe it has to be okay for adults to strike a balance between “the more the merrier” and quality time.

    Hold on Mia’s mother-in-law! I think what I just said there is the crux of what you’re asking in your well-stated question at the end. “How do you tactfully and gracefully make plans with friends who are part of a larger group without including everyone every time?”

     MAKING THE CHOICE TO CONTROL CERTAIN FEELINGS

    The key is this: You do it by being gracious and strong when your friends get together without you. You do it by admitting that there are situations when “the more the merrier” is not true at all. Sometimes more is just more bodies, more voices, and less true conversation, and that means realizing we can’t be a part of every plan just like we can’t include everyone else all the time.

    Maybe this all sounds silly to someone who has never felt left out in her life, but I think a solid majority of us have felt that pang, even as adults, when we know that our friends are hanging out without us.

    I’m going to speak for myself now because controlling my feelings is the exact tactic I employed a few years ago when I realized that I could not on one hand crave quality time with my friends yet expect others to include me no matter the situation. I know that when I have a few families over for dinner, it does not signify any lack of loyalty and genuine friendship with my other friends. When my husband and I go out with a few other couples, it does not mean we like our other friends any less. I have to grant the same benefit of the doubt to my friends when they make plans without me.

    The reason this is emotional “work” is because I make the choice in these situations not to feel hurt if I am not included. Maybe I will feel that twinge of surprise and momentary self-consciousness when I realize a gathering has happened or is about to happen without me. But in the next breath I remember how when I’m in the planning mode, I am not intentionally leaving anybody out. I am actively making plans with friend A or friend B. Those plans have nothing to do with friend C, and if friend C found a way to make every social outing about her, well, I wouldn’t want to be friends with her anymore. Nobody wants to deal with friend C’s constant hurt feelings. Do not be friend C!

    THE MORE THE MERRIER vs QUALITY TIME

    It requires a maturity to recognize that some situations call for leaning towards “the more the merrier” and some call for quality time. Long term friendships depend on this maturity on both sides of the equation (as the inviters and the invitees) and the ability to not feel hurt all the time. There is certainly a time for including everyone. There are no rules here, just common sense.

    As for how to make plans with some friends and not others with tact and grace, I have two words: NO SECRETS. I think it’s taken some years, but my friends and I are now good about doing things without including everyone. There was never a formal conversation about it, but I’ve seen the dynamics evolve over the years and it’s been refreshing for all of us (I assume). I’d say the best change I’ve noticed is that nobody is secretive. It’s not like you need to tell everyone what you’re doing all the time, but it feels crappy when a friend says with purposeful vagueness, “We’re going out with some friends,” and makes you feel like you’re too fragile to hear that it’s with people you both know. I’d say be matter-of-fact if the question of what’s happening this weekend comes up and continue to respond gracefully during the times you are on the receiving end of that news.

    I do hope that helps rather than making things more complicated. Nobody ever accused me of under thinking these matters.

    Readers, what has your experience been?

     

    FULL RES - Badzin-03 copy-1Nina will be answering another question later this month! She is also discussing questions from the column on live radio! If you’d like to hear her response to your question, fill out the anonymous question form here.

     

     

    Our recent call for submissions has just closed; if you submitted an essay for Mothering Through the Darkness, our upcoming anthology on postpartum depression, expect to hear from us around March. We will keep you updated, and thanks for supporting this project!

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  • HerTake: When Friends Let Us Down

    Welcome back to HerTake: Practical Tips for Modern Connections, our advice column with Nina Badzin! Today Nina answers two more questions from readers about challenging friendship situations. We’d love to have you add your own thoughts or suggestions in the comments!

    HerTakenoavatar

    Dear Nina,

    I have known “Jane” for over 30 years. We became good friends in elementary school and remained close at separate colleges and when we lived in different cities for years after. She was one of my bridesmaids, and I was one of hers.

    When she moved back to our home city after I’d been living there for a few years, we spent a lot of time together. After a while, though, she seemed to “fade back” from the relationship, to use your terminology from last month’s responses [http://www.herstoriesproject.com/hertake-ninas-first-column/%5D. She called less, all the while I heard that she was making plans with mutual friends. We did go out to talk about it, and she genuinely appeared to be in the relationship and sensitive to how I was feeling. However, following that conversation, she seemed to “fade out” and stopped returning calls and even stopped coming over to say hello when we would see each other out. Eventually, I needed to move on. Even though it was a very important and special relationship, there was no reason to keep that type of negative emotion in my life.  Then just as I started to move on, she reached out for plans. We had a nice time (as couples) at dinner and she has begun initiating more communication.

    Now I’m not sure how to proceed with the relationship. Do I confront her about the two years that we missed? It’s hard to include her now as if nothing changed. I would also love to know if there was something I did to make her fade out in the first place.

    Looking forward to your two cents,

    Wanting an Explanation

     

    Dear Wanting an Explanation,

    I understand the deep desire to know if there was something you did to cause the fade back and eventual fade out. It’s only natural to feel hurt, frustrated, and simply curious. Considering that “Jane” did not seem to close herself off to everybody, then it is certainly possible that yes, she felt you did something specific that made her want to create distance. Or perhaps something about the childhood friendship you and Jane shared was making it hard for Jane to establish her place back in town.

    However, I would like to offer another possibility, which I’m not just saying to release you from the worry and wonder. Although what I’m about to say does not make the outcome less hurtful, perhaps the change in the relationship had nothing to do with you at all. You didn’t say whether Jane has kids, or works, or what her life circumstances are, but I think it’s safe to assume she has some–circumstances–and the details of those likely factored into her inability or lack of desire to keep the relationship active during those two years.

    That was all a long way of saying that you will never know for sure why she created that distance for two years. And no, I wouldn’t ask her directly. I can’t imagine anything good will come from that conversation, and I suspect she would not tell you the full answer anyway. As far as I’m concerned, a friend who has faded back and even out gets one more chance. (Two strikes you’re out, not three.) It’s worth giving Jane, a friend for over 30 years, the benefit of the doubt to assume that she had a good reason and wasn’t simply being cruel on a whim.

    Ultimately you have to ask yourself a question: Do you want to be the kind of person who puts yourself out there? If you do, you will get hurt sometimes, but there are rewards, too.

    I’ve had cases in my life of friendships that are stronger now after a break. Nobody is perfect, and it seems Jane feels she made a mistake, or at the very least misses the friendship. Sounds like you’ve missed her as well.

    As a final note, I admit that my gut reaction is a little self-centered in this case. I don’t live in the city where I was raised so as I read your question, my first thought was what a gift to rekindle a friendship with so much history. Jane knew you before you were married, she knows your family, and truly every part of you. Take the long view and err on the side of forgiveness. It may not work, but I believe it’s worth a try.

    Good luck!

    Nina

     

    Dear Nina,

    My husband recently had major surgery. It’s not the first time our family has dealt with a health crisis, unfortunately. That said, each time I am both deeply touched and disappointed by the responses of close relatives and friends in our social circle. Some of these same friends are very content to call on me when they need information or a favor. My question is this: Can you tell an adult friend they hurt you and expect the relationship to survive? I don’t believe my expectations are unrealistic–a phone call, a text, regular checking in during crisis time, and certainly no less than we would do.

    I work full time, have three kids, a busy household, etc. But these are time-sensitive matters and people need support. Saying, “Let me know if you need anything,” is not helpful.

    What to do?

    Analyzing Friendship During a Crisis

     

    Dear Analyzing Friendship During a Crisis,

    Let me answer your direct question first. Yes, you can tell an adult friend she hurt you and expect the relationship to survive. This doesn’t mean you will get the response you want. In your case specifically, as long as your expectations are truly realistic, then I think a conversation is possible. If there are a few very close friends and relatives you have in mind, I think it’s fine to say something along the lines of, “I’m feeling lonely and isolated as my husband recovers. I know everyone is busy, but it would mean so much to hear from you more a little more often.”

    The other part of your question I want to deal with is your disappointment in these friends and family members because I’m not entirely sure that your expectations are as fair or as realistic as you stated. I say this to help “release you” from the disappointment, not to shame you at all. I totally get what you’re saying about noticing how some friends step up so seamlessly as compared to others. It’s hard not to notice.

    However, your friends that are saying, “Let me know if I you need anything,” have probably never been in your situation. They quite honestly do not know what would help. Maybe you have to answer the question case by case. “I just love to know that you’re thinking about us,” is a perfectly fair thing to say.

    I would be careful, however, not to create what I call “friendship tests” based solely on how you would treat someone in a crisis.

    Maybe you are especially good at regularly checking in or generally knowing what to do at the right time (like bring a meal). Also consider that what you want in a crisis is not what everyone wants. I have a friend who does want constant checking in when something is going wrong. Part of the reason I know this is that when I’m dealing with “stuff” on my end, she calls and texts more than anyone else to ask how I’m doing. The truth is, I find all the extra texts and calls overwhelming and over the top. But, that’s me.

    Another situation that comes to mind is how differently I offer to help a friend who had a baby now compared to the way I offered ten years ago before I had four kids. Ten years ago I likely would have said, “I want to see the baby” along with “Let me know if you need anything.” Now, I ask a friend to pick a date for me to drop off dinner. If my friend is having a second or third child and her older kids know me well, I ask her to pick a Sunday where I can have the older kids for the day. I make those specific offers because I found them incredibly helpful and supportive when I had babies. Anyone who would have expected me to make those offers ten years ago was probably expecting too much.

    My conclusion: I would not be disappointed with any particular friend until you have specifically communicated what would be (reasonably) helpful and she has still failed to step up. More importantly, try to feel an extra dose of appreciation for the friends who have really been there for you, all while giving the other ones a bit of a break. Hopefully the members of the latter group are good friends in other ways.

    Hoping for healthier months ahead for your husband and your entire family!

    Nina

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  • HerTake: Nina’s First Column!

    We are thrilled to present our first advice column with Nina Badzin today! HerTake: Practical Tips for Modern Connections is a monthly column in which readers can ask Nina questions they have about navigating relationships in an era of social media, blogging, and online connections. The topic for our first column is relationships in crisis or transition. Nina answers two reader questions today—we’d love to hear your thoughts and any other advice you might add in the comments!

    HerTakenoavatar

    Dear Nina,

    How do you know when a friend really wants to stay in touch? We were friends for three years before I moved out of state. Once I moved we spoke several times a year, but she never initiated. We are friends on Facebook, but I consider that a passive friendship. Receiving a ‘like’ is not the same as a phone call.

    I sent her an invite to my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah; she never responded. I knew she probably wouldn’t come, but she has relatives in my state, and I wanted to extend the offer. She, in turn, invited me to her son’s Bar Mitzvah. We didn’t go, but I did RSVP.

    I called a mutual friend who lives in her state (that I have a similar type of relationship with) and then suddenly that day the original friend sent me a message on FB. I responded with joy and asked to make a plan to speak on the phone. She never responded, but she did ‘like’ the pictures of my kids I posted over the weekend.

    So: to call, again, or not? To send a holiday card, or not? Why reach out and say she was thinking of me, when she had no interest in actually speaking to me?

    Please help,

    Sick of This Long Distance Limbo

     

    Dear Long Distance Limbo,

    As my husband once told me, friendship is a game of tennis, not bowling. When you bowl, the ball easily comes back to you. In tennis, you need someone to hit the ball back or you would look like a lunatic trying to race to the other side again and again. Like with friendship, there’s no game without a partner. Not that friendship is a game.

    No offense to my husband, but writer Maria Popova of the popular site Brain Pickings found a better way to reflect on this situation of an unengaged or one-sided friendship in her review of Andrew Sullivan’s book Love Undetectable: Notes on Friendship, Sex, and Survival. I recommend the entire article, but I will share a portion of one of Sullivan’s quotes that Popova highlighted in her review.

    Sullivan writes,

    “Unlike a variety of other relationships, friendship requires an acknowledgement by both parties that they are involved or it fails to exist… Friendship uniquely requires mutual self-knowledge and will. It takes two competent, willing people to be friends. You cannot impose a friendship on someone, although you can impose a crush, a lawsuit, or an obsession. If friendship is not reciprocated, it simply ceases to exist or, rather, it never existed in the first place.”

    In this case of your long distance limbo, I would say your friendship did indeed exist while you lived in the same town, but it’s clear to me that your former friend no longer wishes to stay in touch now. I’m willing to bet this is not even personal; rather, it’s a function of the fact that you were friends for three, not thirteen years before you moved. I imagine you both have childhood or college friendships that also require the work long distance entails. Perhaps the connection that the two of you had of three years was not enough to keep her engaged for the long haul now that you live apart.

    You asked how to know when a friend really wants to keep in touch. To me it’s simple: you know because she calls, emails, and sends texts, and so do you. I have friends from high school and college that I do not speak to often, but if too much time passes, you better believe that I pick up the phone or send an email with genuine interest on what’s new in their lives. I’m not sure I could make the same effort for a friend that I’ve only known for a few years when my long distance slots are already taken. I would probably stay in touch via Facebook likes at that point, not because I didn’t enjoy and appreciate the friendship while it existed, but because reality dictates that time is too limited to stay in touch with everyone.

    You also wanted to know why this former friend would reach out in that Facebook message if she doesn’t truly want to be in touch. My guess is that she felt guilty when she heard you spoke to the mutual friend. For a moment she decided it would be nice to reach out, but she couldn’t stick with that plan long enough to respond when you wrote back. I would not see her Facebook message as a desire to keep in touch, but more a desire to let you down easy.

    We do not know why this friend decided to let the connection with you fade out, but I want you to ask yourself why you would want a friendship of any kind with someone who did not RSVP to your daughter’s Bat Mitzvah? You seem like someone who is willing to do your part in a friendship. That lack of a simple, “We are so sorry we cannot attend, but thank you for including us,” is beyond comprehension. Nobody says she had to come, but to forgo the most basic etiquette and not at least check the “no” on the RSVP card is rude and mean-spirited. At that point the question was no longer whether she wanted to keep in touch with you, but whether you wanted to keep in touch with her. And that answer should have been no. I don’t know you, but I know you deserve better treatment than an ignored invitation to such an important family event.

    As for what to do at this point, I would let the friendship stay in Facebook “like” pleasantness if you don’t mind seeing her updates. If seeing her news bothers you at all, then hide/unfollow her (do not unfriend her as that is too aggressive in this case) and make this new Jewish year about finding a great new connection in town.

    Perhaps the HerStories community has another take or additional points to make?

    Hope the conversation is helpful! Nina

     

    Dear Nina,

    I have a friend who was there for me during a very difficult time in my life, one where I needed to vent regularly. Since that situation has thankfully resolved, I’ve found that every time I talk to this friend, she’ll include a little dig about me, like about my housekeeping abilities, or the terms of endearment I use for my children. It makes me feel very uncomfortable, and it makes me not want to keep in touch with her (she lives in a different city).

    I’m so grateful for all the listening she did for me when I needed it, and I don’t want to just walk away from our relationship, but I don’t appreciate being put down every time we talk. I think it’s more about her personality than a deliberate attempt to be mean. I’ve always avoided confrontation like the plague, but I’m not sure that’s the best idea in this situation. What should I do?

    Thanks for some thoughts,

    Tired of the Digs

     

    Dear Tired of the Digs,

    I think it’s safe to say that being there in bad times is a basic tenet of friendship. That said, some friends are especially good at sticking with you throughout a low period. Perhaps a friend is particularly attentive because she has suffered in her life, which makes her more understanding of the next person’s need to analyze a situation for months or even years. It could be that in this case your friend was an excellent listener because she was also in pain and felt palpable relief from her reality by focusing on yours.

    Nevertheless, no matter how much this friend helped and listened or why, you do not owe her a free pass to criticize you. She is continuing to give you advice even though you are no longer asking, which is her way of letting you know the areas in your life where she disapproves. I don’t blame you for feeling fed up with the unwanted commentary, especially over such minutia. What is to her what you call your children or how well your house is organized? They are not her children, nor does it sound like she lives close enough to spend much time in your home. I can only imagine the judgments she’s passing on more compelling matters.

    I understand why you’ve lost the desire to keep in touch. A long distance friendship takes so much time and effort if you’re going to do it right. (By doing it right, I do not include merely “hearting” each other’s pictures on Instagram.) Conversation on the phone is key, and if that conversation is laced with digs, I think you have to decide how much confrontation you can handle to make it stop.

    I believe you have three choices.

    1. Continue with the relationship as is, which allows you to avoid any confrontation. (I don’t recommend this one, but I have to acknowledge the option exists.)
    2. Allow the relationship to fade back from so much prominence in your life. A slow fade would probably include taking longer before returning phone calls and texts and keeping conversation light when you speak. Fading back is different from fading out, which would include ignoring all of her attempts to stay in touch like the former friend mentioned in the question above did to “Sick of the Long Distance Limbo.” I think a total fade out would be unnecessarily cruel before trying to make a fade back reframe the relationship.
    3. Call her out on her actions the next time she makes a dig. She might randomly say, “I know someone who can give you a recommendation for a house keeper.” I want you to respond with a tone of surprise, “Whoa, that’s not a very nice thing to say considering I didn’t ask.” I don’t think you need to go through and point out every offensive thing she has said in the past, rather, you would name her behavior on the spot for what it is with words such as “hurtful” and “insulting.”

    How will you decide which choice is right? I think that depends on whether you believe she is capable of changing. If you think she is, then it’s worth trying #3 the next time she says something rude. If not, then I would go with #2, starting with the fade back and moving to a fade out if things don’t improve.

    I hope that helps! Maybe others in the HerStories community will chime in as well.

    Good luck! Nina

    _______________________________________________

    Have a question you would like to see featured in October?

    To celebrate the release of the HerStories Project’s book My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends I am continuing with the theme “friendships in crisis.” Just know that here at HerTake I am always open to questions focusing on relationships online and in “real life” with all the modern issues that come up these days, even ones particular to writers and bloggers. What do you if you’re always commenting on a friend’s blog, but she never returns the favor? What if you meet a blogging friend in real life and all the good chemistry you have online disappears in person? What if your spouse’s family hates your blog? You get the idea. Submit questions on the anonymous contact form, and feel free to include your email address if you’d like a response from me even if we don’t have space for your question.

  • Why Men and Women Handle Friendship Conflicts Differently

    Have you ever thought about how differently men and women approach their friendships, and more notably, how differently they handle friendship conflicts? My Other Ex contributor Shannan Younger asks the question, “What would a male version of My Other Ex look like?”

    Men and women often have disparate approaches in many areas of life, so it is unsurprising that they approach friendships and the conflicts that come with them differently, too.

    My husband and I are perfect examples of some of the ways the genders diverge when it comes to friends. He says that I need to see my girlfriends in a way that he does not need to see his buddies, and he’s right.

    In addition, I come home from an outing with friends with information about their marriages, issues with co-workers, and the scoop on recent life changes. I get the scoop. When it comes to his friends, he gets pretty much nothing.

    When I ask him for the latest gossip from his friends, he looks at me blankly. Turns out, he’s not unique.

    “I’ve played poker with the same guys every Thursday night for 18 years. We rarely talk about our lives. We talk about cards, betting, bluffing,” wrote the late Jeffrey Zaslow, author of The Girls from Ames, a book about female friendship, in the Wall Street Journal.  He asked his poker buddies if they knew his children’s names. They did not.

    The varied approaches my husband and I have to friends recently became very apparent when I received an invitation from a new friend. I angsted aloud about the etiquette surrounding the event, whether my friend felt obligated to include me, and the importance of giving her an out if that was the case, but also needing to do so in a way that made it clear I truly appreciated being included. I made a big, hairy deal out of something simple.

    My husband let me go on for a while and then quietly said, almost to himself, “I don’t get how hanging out with your friend is hard. Guys don’t do this.”

    While my own issues contributed to the drama, it illustrates how men and women experience friendship from differing perspectives and with separate goals. It also shows that sometimes women generate internal conflict that men do not.

    The fact that I mentioned none of my concerns to my friend also illustrates my tendency to keep concerns to myself. In talking about friendship break-ups with other friends, the inability or failure to speak up and air worries, and particularly grievances, is a common thread.

    Admittedly, in that instance I was making friendship hard work when it didn’t need to be. (Side note: I shelved the drama, accepted the invitation, and had a lovely time.) And there are times when I would argue that my husband isn’t working hard enough on his friendships.

    I certainly wouldn’t be the first female to think that men aren’t as good at friendship as women.

    It turns out that there is research to back up that hunch. Men reported interpersonal competition and lower friendship satisfaction in a 2007 study at the College of the Holy Cross. The interpersonal competition indicates a one-upsmanship

    That interpersonal competition may be more prominent in male friendships because men favor side-by-side friendships that allow them to participate in activities together, often athletic activities that are literally competitions. Women, on the other hand, often prefer friendships that are face-to-face so that they can share, exchange and bond with each other, while, according to Dr. Irene Levine, a psychologist, friendship expert and author of the book Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend.

    It is also possible that men are more tolerant of their friends, leading to less overall conflict. One study of female college students requested a change in roommates far more often than males, which researchers attributed to men being more accepting of their friends’ failings. That, in turn, leads to less conflict.  They also noted that one possible explanation “could be that women value the friendships more, and so are harsher judges when they perceive a betrayal.”

    There are, however, similarities between male and female friendships.  Men and women both invest in their friends and value time spent with them, as Wood noted in her book, although they spend that time in very different ways.

    Experts agree that both genders derive support from their friends.  Studies have shown that friendship is beneficial to the health of both genders, including this one out of Brigham Young University in 2010 that found that the quality and quantity of individuals’ social relationships has been linked not only to mental health but also to both morbidity and mortality.

    Neither gender has a lock on conflict-free friendship. Issues invariably do arise in male and female friendships. Along those lines, the end of friendships is not specific to women.

    Both genders feel pain at the loss of a friendship. Daniel Duane detailed the pain and frustration he felt when his best friend drifted away after moving to another state in his piece “Do Men Suck at Friendship?” in Men’s Journal.  He even told his friend, “I’m hurt!” While I may not have approached the conflict in the same way, I absolutely related to his experience and found his account was moving.

    Thinking of Duane’s story of his friendship breakup, and how men and women differ in their approaches to friendship and conflict with friends, makes me wonder what a male version of My Other Ex would be like.

     

    ShannanYoungerHeadshotShannan Ball Younger is a freelance writer and blogger living outside Chicago with her husband and daughter. She’s originally from Ohio and received her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Notre Dame. She blogs at Mom Factually and at Chicago Parent. You can also find her writing in the book The Her Stories Project: Women Explore the Joy, Pain and Power of Female Friendship and several regional publications.

    She has written about the adventures of raising an adolescent at Tween Us on ChicagoNow for more than two years, so it’s probably not a coincidence, then, that her essay in this collection is about a friend with whom she was close in middle school.