HerTake

  • Working With The Friend Who Dumped You

    Have you ever been dumped by a friend? In this month’s HerTake question, Nina answers a letter from a woman who was dropped by a very close friend who also happens to be the letter-writer’s boss.

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

    hertake

    Dear Nina,

    I considered “Liz” one of my closest friends. Last year, we spent almost every weekend together. We even took a vacation together the year before that. I know her family well and have been to her house various times. Recently, however, she has been avoiding me.

    Initially, she started distancing herself by saying, “I’m busy.” Then the meetings reduced to once a month and eventually once every few months. Now, we hardly get together at all.

    I still put in the same effort to ask if she is free and can meet. I see her enjoying and partying with other friends—some common to both of us. But even on those occasions, I haven’t been invited. I tried speaking to her as well via text messages asking if all is okay. She always answers with some form of “I’ve just been busy lately.”

    One important point to note is that we are colleagues and she’s now my boss at work. We have always kept work relations separate and never let it come in between us so I can’t figure out what changed for her regarding our friendship. I’ve tried getting common friends to talk, but that’s weird as she is usually a closed up person emotionally. Was I just another friend to her until she could pick up another on the way?

    It hurts to think about the way we are practically strangers now. Although I ask about her weekend plans and she replies with what she’s doing, she never asks mine. Despite saying that we should catch up and it’s been long, the reply is usually “yes, soon.” But the “soon” never comes.

    How do you let go of someone who is so close to your heart and who you cannot avoid? Help.

    Signed,
    Working With The Friend Who Dumped Me

     

    Dear Working With The Friend Who Dumped Me,

    There are two things I know for sure from this letter.

    #1. Liz does not want to be close. (I know you already figured this out from the details you provided.)
    #2. You need to stop trying to return the relationship to the way things were before.

    You May Never Know Why You’ve Been Dumped by a Friend

    The one thing I do not know is WHY Liz decided to change the status of this friendship. But it doesn’t matter anyway as your quest to discover the answer will likely never yield the truth. I’m guessing if you were to confront Liz, she would give you a version of “it’s not you, it’s me.” If nothing obvious in your own behavior pattern comes to mind like flirting with her significant other or revealing private information she shared with you, then I would urge you to chalk up her change of interest to the chemistry between you two no longer working.

    Listen, I’m not saying the mystery of it all is an easy pill to swallow. Every person who writes into this column who has been dumped by a friend wants to know what went wrong. It’s perfectly natural to want answers. But just because one person decided to end a friendship it does not mean the other person did something wrong or is an unworthy friend. Liz’s decision, while hurtful, probably makes sense to her for reasons you will never know or understand even if you did know.

    Reframe the Relationship

    The fact that you and Liz work together and that she’s your boss complicates matters. I suggest for both practical and emotional reasons you force yourself to reframe the relationship in your mind from “close friend” or even “friend” to “friendly colleague.” You cannot, as a colleague, sulk around the office and act hurt. You can, however, act in a friendly and dignified manner like you would with a colleague who has never been to your house or shared vacation time with you. This may require some acting on your part at first, but I believe eventually your bruised heart will heal in the process. I mean this sincerely. I know it hurts when someone unilaterally decides to end a friendship.

    I’d like to give you one last piece of advice on what I mean by “dignified.” At this point, stop asking Liz to get together; stop texting to check in; and definitely stop asking about her weekend plans. I personally do not like when people ask me what I’m doing over the weekend. It’s seems like an invasion of privacy to ask for my precise plans. Asking Liz week after week what’s on her social calendar then feeling upset that her plans do not include you and that she doesn’t ask the same question back sounds to me like you’re inviting hurt feelings.

    The fact that Liz does not ask you back leads me to believe she would rather you not pose the question in the first place. At the end of a work week, you can simply say, “Have a great weekend.” I’m willing to bet she will wish the same to you, which will make the conversation more equal.

    Speaking of equality, Liz may be your boss, but in the friendship department, we are going for equal footing here in the “friendly colleagues” goal. I know it’s not what you wanted initially from this relationship, but it seems all that Liz is willing to give. And forcing yourself to stop pursuing Liz as a close friend will free you to put time and effort into others in your life (or people you’ve yet to meet) who are open to everything you have to offer.

    Best of luck and I’m sorry you’re going through this painful loss.

    Nina

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

    We’re always looking for new reader questions for Nina! If you have a difficult friendship situation that you’d like advice on, fill out our anonymous contact form.

     

     

  • Platonic Friendships and Jealous Spouses

    In this month’s HerTake question, Nina answers a letter about a longstanding friendship between a man and a woman that the man’s wife objects to now (years later). How much influence does one spouse get to have on the other’s platonic friendships? And can a friendship successfully scale back from a higher level of closeness to something more casual?

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

    platonic friendships

    Dear Nina,

    I am uncertain about how to proceed in a longtime friendship that has seemingly created some tension in my friend’s marriage. By way of background, I am female and he is male, we met a long time ago in college, and our relationship has ALWAYS been platonic. I mean not even the “too much beer at a frat party” kind of kiss has ever even happened. Each of us has also been married for a long time; I am quite happily married and, for the most part, he has seemed happy in his too, minus a rough patch they had a few years ago (the details of which I do not know).

    Although we attended college together, we have not lived geographically close since that time, so our communication has always been online. Before the advent of Facebook and texting, we kept in touch via intermittent email about life events (marriages, babies, jobs, etc.). Then when Facebook became de rigueur, we connected that way instead (though not much interaction happens there), and we text every once in a while (say, maybe once every month or two at most, usually about an article one of us read that the other might be interested in, asking about jobs, etc.). Once in a great while, like when he was going through something in his personal life that he needed another take on, a longer email might be exchanged, but that is very rare.

    Like I do with virtually everyone in my life, I occasionally sign my texts/emails with a (what I thought to be) nonchalant “xo” to signify that I was “signing off” so to speak. Flash forward to now and it seems as though there is some kind of distress being felt by his spouse about several of his female texting friends who do this kind of thing, though it is unclear whether she considers me one of them too. Their marriage does appear to be on the brink and this all seems to have been the proverbial straw after she went through his phone recently. In not so many words, he alerted me about this, that his spouse reads his texts and will do more so now, and more or less told me to keep it “professional” going forward.

    This has left me feeling very uncertain about how (or whether) to proceed in our friendship. I want him, above all else, to work out his marriage problems because he is my friend. And though I can certainly eliminate the “xo” from our communications (and will!), I feel like I cannot be myself anymore and that I am being monitored by his wife despite a completely platonic   relationship. If anyone is sensitive to this kind of thing, it is me having witnessed a close family member deal with an extramarital affair. Is this friendship salvageable, and how? How does one go from being fairly close for almost two decades to feeling like it must be limited to small talk?

    Signed,

    Not The Other Woman

     

    Dear Not The Other Woman,

    I see two questions in your letter. First, how much influence should one spouse have on the other spouse’s friendships? Second, can a friendship successfully scale back from a higher level of closeness to something more casual?

    Some readers may wonder about the underlying question of the viability of platonic relationships when one or both participants of that friendship are married or committed to other people. In April 2015, I received a letter from a married woman who missed having male friends in her life. Since this woman works from home, she finds that the only men she interacts with on a regular basis are her friends’ husbands, and she doesn’t find conversation with any of them particularly stimulating. She wanted to know if a friendship with a man was worth pursuing for its own sake.

    In that situation, it was clear (to me) that purposely fostering a new relationship with an opposite sex friend was risky territory for a married person. (Several commenters respectfully disagreed.) My thought was that while the friendship could certainly stay platonic, it was also reasonable to acknowledge that many romantic relationships start with a friendship.

    Your situation with a friendship that preceded your marriage feels entirely different. And the fact that you and this man had no sexual tension in your history makes me believe the friendship has been worth holding on to all this time. As the woman in the April letter pointed out, it’s no easy task to make opposite-sex friends the older we get. Especially if you work from home! All that said, two decades of friendship doesn’t necessarily mean this particular connection is worth keeping with the current issue at hand.

    Should a spouse’s opinion matter?

    We can make the argument that men and women can be friends with no romantic implications, but if one member of a couple doesn’t like it, then that opinion matters more than all the commenters who will insist that spouses shouldn’t be jealous in these cases. “Should” and reality are not the same. When two people have built an entire life together, I do believe the spouse’s raised eyebrow counts for a lot, especially if her discomfort seems based on his (assumed) crossing the line with another female friend.

    Of course we don’t know if your friend crossed the line physically, emotionally, or at all. Perhaps it’s the sheer number of female friends giving her pause and not any particular “thing” that happened. We simply do not know what is happening in their marriage, and frankly, that’s not your problem anyway. For what it’s worth, I find it hard to believe that your occasional “xo” is bothering her. Though I get why you feel a bit funny about it in hindsight. I’d eliminate them no matter what you decide about how much effort to put into this friendship.

    So, how much say should a spouse have on his/her partner’s friendships? It’s a case by case basis. In general, I think every adult gets to make independent decisions regarding friendships. However, if a friendship is making one part of the couple feel awful, it’s time to discuss what’s going on and address the pain or confusion. It doesn’t have to mean the end of a friendship, but it wouldn’t be inappropriate or unexpected to put the marriage before the friendship.

    The more pressing question we need to solve here is the second one.

    Can platonic friendships successfully scale back from a higher level of closeness to something more casual?

    In other words, is this friendship worth keeping if he’s going to become one more Facebook buddy among many other college acquaintances and connections from all walks of life?

    It sounds to me like the friendship is headed in the casual direction. It is probably more effort and drama than it’s worth to maintain the same comfort of communication you had with him before his wife got upset. I think you have to accept a more casual “small talk” connection with him, or completely let him fade out of your life.

    To answer the general question bolded above, I believe it is possible to change the terms of a friendship, but it usually works best (as in, without hurt feelings) when it happens naturally such as times of transition like moving out of the same city or leaving the same workplace. In most other cases, the change in closeness is probably instigated by one friend and reluctantly accepted by the other. But a new normal is always possible and often preferable to a full break up. I tend to caution against drawing permanent lines whenever possible.

    There is so much going on in this question and my answer. I hope I’ve given you something to help the situation, and if I haven’t, hopefully the smart readers at HerStories will!

    Thanks for writing to me and best of luck,

     

    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.

     

     

     

     

  • How To Deal With Gossip a Friend Said About You

    In this month’s HerTake question, Nina discusses hearing third-hand what a friend said about you. Let us know what advice you have for this month’s letter writer and her struggle with how to deal with gossip.

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

    Dear Nina,

    I have a friend, “Lisa,” who I was very close to, but about a year ago we drifted due to her traveling and some comments she made regarding special needs kids (knowing I have one).

    Last week I was having lunch with a mutual acquaintance from our book club, Megan, who told me that Lisa approached her while watching their daughters’ basketball practice. Lisa started asking Megan about another friend’s political affiliation and religious beliefs, and during the conversation Lisa referred to my husband as a traitor of Jews since he is a Republican. I am very hurt and dismayed by this and he is, too.

    My daughter and Lisa’s daughter are friends, but they are too young to be friends without us arranging playdates. Others have told me not to confront Lisa. What is your advice for how to deal with gossip?

    Signed,

    I Heard It Through The Grapevine

     

    Dear I Heard It Through The Grapevine,

    You asked whether you should confront Lisa. My short answer: no.

    While it seems the “culprit” in your question is Lisa, I find more fault with Megan who had no business repeating Lisa’s words. What was Megan thinking?

    Was Megan hoping to make you more upset with Lisa than you already were? Does she have a stake in you feeling closer to her than to Lisa? Does she not like that your husband is a Republican and this was her way of letting you know? I’m actually getting increasingly aggravated at Megan as I write this.

    Don’t Repeat Gossip

    I’m asking these questions not because I think you know the answer. Rather, I think it’s important to acknowledge that we rarely act with no intention whatsoever so it’s safe to assume that Megan had some purpose in mind when she repeated the conversation to you. Now to be fair, Megan’s intention was likely the most benign type. I bet she was simply trying to be a good friend. But I would hope most adults know that repeating what one person said about another is not being a good friend. It just isn’t.

    Hey friends of mine who are reading this—listen up! I don’t want to know anything bad somebody said about me, especially if I don’t know the context and if it’s only going to make me feel awful about myself or about my friend.

    I can hear some of your voices, dear readers. “But Nina, how can someone who said anything about you truly be your friend?”

    Ladies, come on now. We all know darn well that we say things we regret when we are upset, jealous, trying to gain favor, or just having an overtired, overworked moment. We hopefully, with age and experience, get more dignified with our tempers, jealousy, and whatnot. But we have all been in Lisa’s shoes, have we not?

    I Heard It Through The Grapevine: if you have never uttered a questionable statement about another person, then you can perhaps demand an explanation from Lisa. But if you have been in Lisa’s shoes, then I would let this one go. It sounds like you have already drifted from her so a confrontation at this point seems wholly unnecessary and more personal drama than it’s worth.

    Sure, the idea that Lisa was asking, seemingly for the purpose of gossip, about another friend’s political and religious beliefs is egregious. And I will hardly address Lisa’s alleged point about Jewish Republicans being “traitors” except to comment that it was a chutzpadik thing to say if she indeed said it. Nobody—not even a group “insider”—gets to speak for that entire group. The end.

    Confront the Gossiper?

    Let’s get back to Megan. If you’re going to confront anyone, I’d go with Megan. It’s one thing to vent about a friend. Fine, most of us have been guilty of that. But to wedge yourself between two friends by repeating what one said about another is a worse crime in my opinion.

    You can let Megan know that in the future you’d rather not know what anyone says about you. Despite the human nature in all of us that makes us think we want to know everything, I promise that this type of information never leads to any good. With that in mind, I’m not sure it was necessary to repeat the comment to your husband, but I get that you were upset about the situation and looking for support. Your husband was the obvious choice and it was better to vent to him than to further make both Lisa and Megan look bad in the eyes of your mutual friends. (Thereby doing more damage with gossip.)

    Advice From Nina’s Mom About How To Deal With Gossip

    For what it’s worth, I sent your question to my mom (who is the most skilled anti-gossip person I know), and I reviewed her answer before I wrote my own answer. It mirrors my sentiments, but it has the extra Kathy flair. I want to share it with you.

    “Grapevine must ask herself why this Megan repeated the hurtful comment in the first place. What was her motive? Was she trying to stir up trouble? In other words if Grapevine didn’t actually hear Lisa’s comment, then she doesn’t know what was actually said, or if it was said at all. I have found that the person who repeats hurtful comments is worse than the person who allegedly made the statement. Since Grapevine was not part of the original conversation, then a confrontation is pointless.”

     Readers, since my mom and I are on the same page, I’d love to hear from anyone who has different advice for Grapevine about how to deal with gossip. And if you want further (and more heated) conversation about friendship and politics please read my editor Jessica Smock’s piece written before the election.

    Thanks for sharing your dilemma, Grapevine. I think it’s one many readers can relate to from your experience, Lisa’s, and Megan’s.

    Good luck!

    Nina

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

    We’re always looking for new reader questions for Nina! If you have a difficult friendship situation that you’d like advice on, fill out our anonymous contact form.

     

     

     

    **Read our powerful November Voices column, “The Healing Notes of Song” here.

    **Have you grabbed your copy of So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood yet? It’s now available on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle copy! (Makes a wonderful holiday gift for moms!)

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

    In this month’s HerTake question, Nina helps another reader with her friendship problems. She discusses what to do if a friendship seems like an excessive amount of work. Let us know what advice you have for this month’s letter writer.

    It’s been two years since we launched our HerTake column and have been reading Nina’s practical, savvy advice on handling modern friendship problems. We are so grateful for everything she has shared with our HerStories Project Community!

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

    hertake

    Dear Nina,

    I have a very close friend, Betsy, who I love and trust dearly, but lately I’m wondering if I should go on with this relationship.

    Two years ago, while I was dating my now husband, he told me that Betsy made a pass at him. I asked her about it and she was very offended and insisted she would never do that. She was insulted that I believed him and called me paranoid. I decided since both parties insisted they were right, to let it slide. Betsy and I agreed that nothing would change about our friendship, but she said I should never expect her to be civil to my boyfriend, involve him in our conversations, or bring him along when she invites me to anything.

    “The pass” later turned out to be a misunderstanding, and my boyfriend apologized to me and to her as well. She didn’t take this apology well and carries a grudge to this day.

    Anyway, that boyfriend and I are married now, and Betsy makes it very clear that he disgusts her. On three occasions she’s given me misleading advice that has caused trouble in my marriage.

    I’m at a point where I feel whatever I do that bothers Betsy brings us back to “the pass” incident and she thinks all my actions towards her are out of mistrust because of that incident, even though there’s never a connection. For example, I was angry with Betsy recently about something she did so I didn’t invite her to a party at my parents’ house. Betsy found out about this from my sister and angrily asked how I could leave her out. I told her I was angry about a recent situation, and she insisted that wasn’t the reason and said she thinks it is more than I’m telling her, but wasn’t willing to discuss what she thought it was. I think she was referring to “the pass.”

    Ordinarily, Betsy and I talk about our friendship problems, but I’m hesitant to once again bring up the “let’s get past this” talk. I get negative vibes around her these days, and she’s always opposed to any good thing I say about my husband. I am sure the conversation won’t go well so I’m wondering whether to just walk away from this friendship because I am not comfortable with her attitude towards my husband. I have reason to believe talking to her about my feelings won’t end well at all.

     

    What would you advise?

    Thanks,

    Sad to Lose a Friend

     

    Dear Sad to Lose a Friend,

    This question is both easy and hard to answer. Let’s start with the easy part: Friendship shouldn’t be this hard.

    Don’t misunderstand me, because I believe friendship takes work. Both parties must make efforts for the sake of the relationship such as arranging plans, showing up emotionally and physically, initiating communication in any form (calls, texts, emails), giving the benefit of the doubt, and other positive actions I’ve discussed here in two years of friendship advice on handling friendship problems.

    So yes, friendship requires real work on both sides. I’d go as far as to claim that many friendships require tweaking here and there or even occasional periods of distance. That said, friendship shouldn’t be as hard as what you’ve described in your letter. I’m calling this news the “easy” part because I can at least confirm that the amount of tension you’re experiencing with Betsy is downright excessive.

    It sounds like Betsy has been part of your life for a long time, and the idea of letting the friendship go is both heartbreaking and scary. The hard part of my answer is that I think it’s time for this friendship to change dramatically in status. If Betsy had written this letter to me with similar details, I would give her the same advice about you.

    This friendship sounds like too much work on both sides. As much as I like to encourage giving the benefit of doubt and letting go of grudges, I can see why the strain in this friendship may be too much to overcome.

    Betsy doesn’t want to be around your husband, and I can hardly blame her. I’d have a difficult time getting over a false accusation as heinous as someone claiming I hit on her significant other.

    It sounds like Betsy forgave you, but I get why she has no need or desire to forgive him. While people can certainly be friends without involving the spouses, I see why this particular situation doesn’t work. You want to be able to at least mention your husband to a close friend as he’s a huge part of your life. Since Betsy cannot even stand to hear about him, that’s an issue that seems impossible to fix. And this business about you being mad at her and not inviting her to a party as well as Betsy always making everything about the incident two years ago—this is not how a healthy friendship works.

    I think you have two options: #1. Change the status of the friendship. #2. Walk away. I would try the first option before jumping to the second one.

    But how can you change the status? The first step starts with your expectations. I would stop looking to Betsy to fulfill the role of closest confidant. Make less effort to get together. Call less. Text less.

    The idea is not to cut her out of your life, but to stop forcing this relationship into a status where it no longer belongs. I have a feeling Betsy will respond in kind rather than chase you. I don’t see how this friendship as it stands now can be satisfying for her either. If I’m wrong and she demands to know why you’re pulling away, you may have to engage in a more direct conversation. There’s no need for “you did this or that.” You can simply stick to the theme we’re talking about here, which is that friendship shouldn’t be such hard work. I imagine she would agree.

    I know it’s so hard to lose a friend, which is why I like the idea of making this friendship a more casual one rather than ending it completely.

    Good luck and I’m sorry you’re going through this right now.

    Nina

     

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

    We’re always looking for new reader questions for Nina! If you have a difficult friendship situation that you’d like advice on, fill out our anonymous contact form.

     

     

     

    **Have you grabbed your copy of So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood yet? It’s now available on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle copy!

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  • 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!)

     

     

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