HerTake

  • 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.

  • A Botched Weekend Away With Friends

    A woman who feels her boyfriend’s close friends ruined her birthday getaway plans wants to know how to avoid a similar situation in the future. Readers, what advice can you add to what Nina suggests below?

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

    Dear Nina,

    I am about to turn 30 so I wanted to use my birthday as an excuse to go away for a long weekend with my boyfriend and some friends. I had originally planned on inviting two of my closest friends and their boyfriends, but that weekend had some important life events for both of my friends and they could not come. I decided that it would be nice to invite my boyfriend’s closest couple friends, “Brad” and “Jill,” to come along since I knew that they like the location and we all are friends and get along great.

    However, a week or so after Brad and Jill said yes, they informed us that they were heading out of town 2-3 days ahead of us and that they would book their own Airbnb separate from the one they knew I’d booked for us all. Their anniversary is a few days prior so I tried to be understanding, but I still felt like my birthday trip had been hijacked and made into their anniversary trip.

    I gently explained that we could not afford to stay at the large Airbnb we booked without sharing the cost as we had originally planned. After a discussion, Jill offered for us to stay at whatever place they ended up booking for the nights we’d be there. This really irked me as this was a trip that I planned for my birthday and invited them along and now we would basically be showing up at their accommodations and crashing “their” trip. Not to mention, we would get a pull-out couch or whatever extra room there was rather than getting the nicer accommodations for my birthday.

    I found a way to mention to Jill that cancelling my reservation to stay with them instead would mean my boyfriend and I paying cancellations fees. Jill finally agreed that they would stay with us once we arrived and that they would simply book another place for the earlier two nights. Now every time I see her, she’s showing me the place they’re staying and telling me their plans (some of it is stuff that I had planned for the group to do together, which she knew about). The lack of regard for others is a pattern with them and it always makes me feel terrible. If these were my friends, I would distance myself from them, but they are my boyfriend’s long-time close friends and I have no options at this point. He gets defensive when I talk to him about it, even though he completely agrees with me about their behavior. We have other circumstances in place that make Brad and Jill a part of our lives so there’s only so much distancing that could even potentially be done. I can’t escape the toxic relationship and I can’t help but feel extremely hurt that my birthday trip has been completely hijacked.

    How do I approach this with them or with my boyfriend in a way that would be productive and/or how can I find a way to not feel hurt and pushed aside when they do things like this? I don’t want to come off as jealous or irrational when their pattern of behavior is so hurtful to me.

    Thank you,

    Tired of being hurt

     

    Dear Tired of Being Hurt,

    I usually avoid blaming the letter-writer in my answers, but a major element of your letter puts you at the center of the problem here. The good news is that it’s an easy problem to avoid in the future!

    At the beginning of your letter you said, “I decided that it would be nice to invite my boyfriend’s closest friends, “Brad” and “Jill,” a couple, to come along since I knew that they like the location and we all are friends and get along great.” But then at the end you said, “The lack of regard for others is a pattern with them and it always makes me feel terrible.”

    I am (understandably) confused about your decision to invite Brad and Jill in the first place. Did you book the big Airbnb before checking with your friends and then needed another couple to fill it? I guess the answer to that doesn’t matter as much as the answer to why you invited people who make you feel terrible. As I pointed out, you said at first that you get along well with them, but then later you were not surprised at their inconsiderate behavior. In this case it feels like you voluntarily invited disaster into your plans.

    Backing up for a moment, I am still curious if you had already booked the big Airbnb and needed another couple to cover expenses. If that was the case, then the obvious way to avoid the same problem in the future is to only book space for you and your boyfriend and hope to upgrade later if more people can join you. It’s usually easier to upgrade than downgrade. You also could have planned the trip around your own friends’ schedules if a group trip was an important part of the celebration. I know it’s nice to celebrate your birthday on the actual day or close to it, but I think it’s better to celebrate with people who make you feel good even if that means you’re a few weeks or months beyond the date. To that point, my husband recently threw me a surprise party for my 40th birthday five months after the day I turned 40 because of unusual circumstances in our schedule this year. I didn’t enjoy the party any less! In fact, it felt like I got an extra birthday since I’m not accustomed to that kind of attention in the spring. I say we get the whole year to celebrate turning a new special number.

    But let’s get back to your birthday. Even after the invitation had already been issued to Brad and Jill, you had other options once the plans went awry. I realize nobody wants to pay cancellation fees, but perhaps the fee would have been better and emotionally less “expensive” than the headache of dealing with Brad and Jill. My best friend, Taryn, agreed and because I always want Taryn’s advice, I’m passing on what she had to say about your situation. “She asked people who are never all that nice to her to join in on a birthday trip? She should have cancelled the bigger space and paid the cancellation fees once any trouble starting brewing and considered it a lesson learned not to have invited them in the first place.”

    Hard to disagree with that.

    My other go-to is my mom, Kathy, who also addresses your questions at the end of your letter about the relationship beyond the trip issue. “In my opinion this falls under the category of needing to learn to pick your battles. In the grand scheme of things, this one weekend is simply not that important. The bigger issue is whether she wants to continue the friendship. I suspect this may not be the first incident that irritated her. In any relationship—friendship or marriage—there is some stuff we all put up with. No one is perfect. I don’t think anything would be gained by discussing this issue with Jill. The letter-writer might just back away and let the guys be friends if this is a pattern and she makes the decision not to continue the relationship.”

    I agree with my mom on that. I know you feel it’s impossible to end this friendship and I get that. But you can certainly encourage your boyfriend to hang out with them on occasions when you are busy or “busy” as the case may be. You can also make it a point to only be there for the plans when it’s an even larger group so that it’s easier to keep things light without having to engage in too much one-on-one time. Since Jill is not your close friend, I agree with my mom that nothing is gained by confronting her about this weekend or even about the relationship in general. And as Taryn said, you’ve now learned your lesson on inviting them on a trip or anyone who doesn’t treat you well.

    In other words, you do have options!

    Good luck and happy late birthday,

    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.

  • Trying (Too Hard) To Reach BFF Status

    This month our friendship advice columnist advises a letter writer who is hoping to transform a friend into a BFF. What would you say to a friend who wants to be best friends with someone who is not putting in equal time and effort?

    Dear Nina,

    I have this friend, ‘Kate,” who I met through a mutual friend, “Jane.” Kate and I hit it off, became close friends, and there was a point when we liked each other more than we liked Jane.

    Everything seemed perfect in our friendship until Kate got a new group of friends. At first, she had time for me, for Jane, and for her new group. But recently Kate and Jane and I have had some problems. Kate avoids us for a few days, and then comes back when one of us (not her) has apologized.

    Now, I’m the kind of person who wants to belong to any group or relationship I’m in. And with Kate, that isn’t happening. I always have to initiate the conversation, keep it going, and be the one to say goodbye. Isn’t friendship supposed to be two people putting in equal effort? And I’m not included in the pictures she titles “My BFFs.”

    Yet, no matter how much pain Kate puts me through, I always end up sucking up to her again. I know that this is wrong, but I really want to be her best friend. Should I try to make her my best friend? If so, how? Or should I accept things the way they are and be just friends?

    Thank you for your time,

    Trying to Reach BFF Status

     

    Dear Trying to Reach BFF Status,

    While reading your letter, I noticed a big friendship red flag that deserves some discussion before I answer your questions.

    The reg flag: the foundation of a friendship matters.

    I question the strength of your initial friendship with Kate since it began through mutual feelings about Jane. I assume the only reason you know Kate liked you more than she liked Jane is because Jane became a subject discussed between you and Kate. I say this with no judgement as it’s tempting for women to bond this way. I’ve been in this position, too. Who hasn’t? The bond feels real at first, but a relationship that builds as a reaction to a common irritation with a third person stands on shaky ground.

    Now onto your more specific questions. First, you asked:

    Isn’t a friendship supposed to be two people putting in equal effort? 

    Yes, for the most part, but things don’t always work out that neatly. There are times when one friend has to carry the weight and do so gracefully without taking it personally if that friendship is going to survive. That’s true when one member of a friendship is dealing with an illness, a divorce, a new job, a financial crisis, or really any good reason. There are plenty of decent explantations for one person in the friendship to initiate more of the communication for a while. It’s nice when your extra efforts to carry the weight are acknowledged, but if a friend is in crisis mode, then expecting that friend to shower you with accolades for being the friendship leader is probably expecting way too much.

    And by “you” I don’t mean YOU, letter writer, because your situation with Kate has nothing to do with the crisis scenario above. It sounds like Kate is not as interested in the friendship as you are and that is why she doesn’t initiate contact. I think you are reading the situation correctly that her lack of effort is meant to send a message. While the “my BFFs” tagging on Instagram, Snapchat, or any social media channel is not something of my generation, I know enough about human nature to see this as a deliberate (and cruel) message from Kate as well.

    I often advise letter writers to this column not to read every gesture or lack thereof as a point to be taken personally, but in the case of you and Kate, I would start hearing her silent message loud and clear. Kate does not want to be close friends. Friendly, perhaps. Best friends, no.

     And now I’d like to address the last three questions in your letter, which I suspect you already know the answer to on your own.

    Should I try to make her my BFF?

    Absolutely not. A “best friendship” happens naturally. It’s a label that comes later, in hindsight, and I truly believe it cannot be sought after at any point along the way. Any relationship that it is manufactured and/or makes you feel “less than” about yourself is by definition not “best” or even “good.”

    Or should I accept things the way they are and be just friends?

    Yes! You gave yourself the best advice already.

    Now I have a series of questions for you: Why is Kate’s attention so important? What would her approval change about your life? Could you achieve these sought after changes another way? The desire to improve certain aspects of your life is normal, but attaching that end result to the opinions and unpredictable behavior of another person (friend or love interest) is a bad idea. You cannot control anyone else’s opinion. I don’t know enough about your life or the gap you’re hoping to fill with Kate’s BFF status, but I challenge you think hard about a better way to address what’s missing. At the very least putting less effort into your relationship with Kate will give you time to nurture friendships with people who are interested in reciprocating.

    Best of luck, Trying to Reach BFF Status! I’m cheering you on from afar.

    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.

  • Can The Adults’ Friendship Survive After The Children’s Friendship Ends?

    Two questions came in recently dealing with children’s friendship dilemmas when the parents are good friends. Should the parents get involved? Can the adults’ friendship remain intact even if the kids’ friendship does not? Since the questions are short, Nina included both.

    children's friendship

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

    Dear Nina,

    My “tweenaged” daughter has a friend who has repeatedly been less than kind. My daughter has told the girl how she feels on at least two occasions. I have encouraged my daughter to try to help her friend understand how she feels if she wants the friendship to last.

    Here’s the complicated part. I consider the girl’s mom a friend. Do I talk to my friend with the hope that she can help her daughter think more about my daughter’s feelings? Do I advise my daughter to put space between her and someone who continues to treat her poorly? Do I just treat my friendship with the mom separately? I tend to not avoid things, but this feels tricky because it is not just my relationship, it is also my daughter’s.

    Signed,

    Should My Friend and I Help Our Daughters?

    Dear Nina,

    How do you maintain a friendship with someone when the children’s friendship has ended? I have dealt with this a lot over the years, but have a particularly tough one right now as the mom is one of my closest friends and her daughter is being awful to my daughter now. (They are in high school and were best friends until recently.)

    Signed,

    I Don’t Want to Lose My Friend

     

    Dear fellow moms,

    My initial instinct in response to the general question of whether a friendship can survive the children’s friendship issues is YES. My more nuanced answer is that it depends on the strength of that adult relationship and the maturity of the two women involved.

    If the feelings towards an adult friend are going to imitate the ups and downs of the adolescents involved, then that does not bode well for the adult friendship. We survived the volatile social norms of the tween and teenage years once already so why would we want to go through it all again? If we can’t be friends with someone when the kids aren’t getting long, perhaps that suggests boundary issues between us and our own children, as in we are too wrapped up in our kids’ experiences rather than allowing them to have their own, yes, bad feelings. I believe in helping kids learn to handle their social situations with guidance, but not with a full takeover where parents mirror the kids’ reactions.

    Try Hard Not To Be a “Wave Rider”

    I know it’s tempting to ride the waves with our kids because we hate to see them feeling left out or mistreated. But if we are also riding the waves, then who is standing steady on the shore ready to give sound advice?

    As for what kind of advice to give your daughter when her friend’s mom is your good friend, I say it shouldn’t differ at all from the advice you’d give her if the other parents were strangers. Listen carefully, don’t assign blame, and help your daughter learn how to stand up for herself while treating the next person with dignity. This can take an entire lifetime!

    I’m 40, and I still ask my mom’s advice on relationships from time to time. Why do I still go to my mom? Because she was not a wave-rider when I was a teenager. I knew her take on a situation would be balanced and helpful and not simply an echo of what I might get from my own friends.

    I love how the first letter worded the advice she was considering for her daughter: “Do I advise my daughter to put space between her and someone who continues to treat her poorly?” That expression “put space” is so perfect because it is so much less dramatic and traumatic than ending a friendship and it allows time for issues to work themselves out.

    We certainly don’t want our kids getting treated badly just because we like the other kid’s parents. At the same time, I think it’s safe to assume that the other mom is getting a different story from her own daughter and it’s a good idea to acknowledge (especially to ourselves) that there are two sides to most stories. I prefer the idea of the adult friends not getting involved directly with the children’s friendship drama because it’s not the parents’ right or business to divulge each other’s daughter’s stories.

    However, not getting involved in the drama does not mean ignoring the fact that it’s happening. I think the two moms can even acknowledge that their girls are going through a rough time and that the kids’ friendship may not survive. If the adults can name the possibility of such an outcome and detach themselves before it happens, then I don’t see why the adult friendship needs to change. It may take one or two active conversations between the adults where a decision is made that they will remain friends no matter what happens with the kids.

    My kids have had friendship issues here and there, including with the kids of my friends, but none have ever escalated to the point of the children’s friendships completely ending. I consulted some friends of mine who have been closer to the situations described in the two letters.

    The Most Important Friendships Will Endure

    I knew that my friend Julie Burton, author of The Self-Care Solution: A Modern Mother’s Must-Have Guide to Health and Well-Being, had dealt with a situation like this before.

    She said, “It can be really difficult, and sometimes impossible to maintain the friendship at least while kids are struggling. It’s one thing if the kids just drift apart but remain cordial (this has happened with a handful of my close friends and our children), but if your friend’s child is being hurtful to your child (or maybe your child is the culprit), your alliance almost always will be with your child, and therefore things can get tricky between moms. The most important thing I have learned over the past 22 years of managing these types of situations and relationships is that the friendships that mean the most to you—the ones that are supportive, respectful, and fulfilling—will stand the test of time and some bumps along the road, including kid-related conflicts.”

    Kathleen, another woman I know and respect with older kids also had good advice. “I have had friendships survive and flourish even if our children are no longer friends, but we acknowledged that our children were going in different directions. We each were able to feel awful, to try not to judge, to still love each other’s kids, and to reframe the friendship. You have to really want it, but it can be worth it. And one of the unanticipated outcomes is that sometimes, the kids become young adults and become friends again. But that is not the goal. The goal is to keep someone you enjoy and connect with in your life, as a person with the same values and who makes you laugh and the friendship is defined by you, not your kids.”

    The last person I consulted is my own childhood best friend, Taryn, who always has the best advice. Taryn and I share the lucky experience of having moms who gave us good advice as kids. I remember her mom giving me advice, too! We both still quote our mothers often. Taryn read the two questions above and had this to say:

    What Does Friendship Look Like?

    “Kids are learning constantly how to treat people and be a friend. You could argue by the success of this column that we are all still learning these lessons into adulthood. If I was in this situation as a parent, then I’d see it’s my job to teach my daughter what friendship looks like. I’d teach her to gravitate towards people who fill her up, but also to have compassion from afar. Clearly something is going on with the other girl. To me the most important message is for the daughter to not feel any pressure either way to stay friends because of the relationship between the mothers. If the other mom reaches out and asks about the shift in the friendship between the kids, then you can just say they weren’t getting along and when they are ready they will figure it out. A moment like this is an opportunity for us to teach that friendships can have shifts, but that burning a bridge doesn’t have to be the solution. In a month it may totally change. That’s how girls are.”

    Readers, I know you have opinions and we’d love to hear them. Please comment below!

    Thank you,

    Nina

    You can follow our friendship advice columnist Nina Badzin on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

  • 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.

     

     

     

  • 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

     

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