HerTake

  • HerTake: Changing the Intensity of a Friendship

    Nina will back on the Jordana Green on WCCO CBS radio tomorrow night (Wednesday, Dec 10th) at 10PM Central talking about some of the questions she answered this week as well as how to deal with difficult relationships over the holidays. Twin Cities listeners can tune in live on channel 830, but Nina will post the podcast later this week for the rest of us. Soon the live streaming on WCCO will be working again and we can all tune in live.

    Jordana takes calls and texts and Nina would love to hear from you LIVE. Call 651-989-9226 or text 81807.

     In January Nina will be back on HerStories twice a month to answer questions so keep those anonymous questions coming.

     HerTakenoavatar

    Dear Nina,

    A few months ago I had an argument that did not end well with my dearest friend’s husband. My husband and I are very close to this couple. We socialize with them frequently, have holidays together and casual dinners on Sunday nights and even vacation with them.

    My friend’s husband is a very smart, very narcissistic, successful professional who can be funny and entertaining or, when his mood changes, nasty and insulting. He recently lost his job, his mood worsened and his nastiness increased. He made many negative, insulting, demeaning comments to me–to the point where I had had enough. (He does not think that my profession is as worthy as his.)

    One Saturday night when the four of us were out, he lashed out at me again. (Note that I speak my mind as opposed to my friend and my husband who are more willing to let his insulting comments roll off their backs). After he made a very hurtful remark to me, I responded in kind. I Immediately apologized. He did not and continued his invective towards me.

    A few days later he called me with a lame apology (“to the extent I may have offended you, I am sorry…”) I would like to preserve my friendship with his wife but stop socializing with them as a foursome. My friend has put up with her husband’s abusive ways (towards her, too) for so long that I’m afraid she no longer sees how he behaves and why he has so few friends.

    How do I stay close to my friend given how I feel about her husband?

    Signed,

    Scared to Permanently Damage My Friendship

     

    Dear Scared to Permanently Damage My Friendship,

    I’ve named the couple Dan and Susan so that we’re not throwing around tons of pronouns. I feel for your situation because you’ve invested so much in your individual friendship and the couple friendship. Good couple friends are hard to make and changing the intensity of a friendship without ending it is even harder. I think you can preserve your friendship with Susan, but it will take some finessing.

    My first and most important piece of advice is that you have to resist any temptation whatsoever to let Susan know your true feelings about Dan. This is a lie by omission, but you will permanently damage your friendship with her if you share even one subtle criticism about Dan such as the way he treats her or anyone else.

    I’m suggesting all three of the tactics below be employed simultaneously. I told you this would take some work!

    1. Accelerate your one-on-one friendship with Susan so that no matter how much distance you create in the foursome situation, you will be spending time with Susan. This means that if you spoke once a week, try calling an extra time. If you met for lunch once a month, get together more often. Go for walks, start a new book club, movie group, or cooking group with her. Sign up for a class together. I’m just giving you some ideas for new ways to spend time with her that will not involve Dan. I like the “acceleration tactic” because it’s a positive maneuver rather than what I’m suggesting out of necessity next.

    2. Fade back, but do not fade out of the couple friendship. I often use the terms “fade back” and “fade out” because I think people make all-or-nothing and therefore permanent decisions out of anger and hurt. In most cases it would be better in the long run to decrease the intensity of a friendship rather than abruptly cut someone off. You also need to employ the fade back in this case if you want to stay friends with Susan. She will notice if you never spend time as couples and given what I still consider the most important thing to remember here (not telling her your true opinion of her husband), you will probably have to make plans with them sometimes. You’re going to have to “be busy” more often than not. “Ugh, I’m so sorry our calendar has been so ridiculous. But let’s have lunch next week just the two of us. Weekends have been crazy.” You get the idea. You’re not cutting them off as a couple; you’re slowly changing the intensity of the foursome dynamics. I wonder (and hope) if less time around Dan will make him less bothersome to you on the occasions you are together.

    3. Bring in support. On those evenings when you’re going out with Susan and Dan, why not invite a third couple? The dynamic of six individuals is vastly different from that of four. Maybe this isn’t “proper,” but seat all the women on one end of the table and the men on the other. You’ll hardly see Dan or even hear his voice.

    I’m sorry you’re in this situation by the way. It’s so uncomfortable when you don’t like a close friend’s spouse. I wish you the best of luck in changing the foursome while preserving your friendship with Susan.

    Readers, any other ideas to share?

     

    Dear Nina,

    I have a friend who is very sporadic, really only reaching out to me when she is bored or needs something. I don’t mind being a now and then friend, but she often appeals for support or action on social media. Whenever I respond to her pleas for help, she never acknowledges my efforts. It wouldn’t be a problem except that she then rants about how no one ever supports her. I don’t know how to be the friend that feeds her needs. Am I being too sensitive?

    Thanks,

    Tired of Being Used

     

    Dear Tired of Being Used,

    Before we dive into the issue at hand, I want to comment on a peripheral point that could also help other people. You said, “I don’t mind being a now and then friend.” I find that attitude so refreshing. There are certain people in my life with whom I would probably have a more intense friendship if we each had more time or we ran into each other regularly. The reality is that there is only so much energy any of us can dedicate to friendships that are harder to develop because of where we are in our lives (issues of proximity, busy job, little kids, sick parents, and so on). I’m so grateful for the “now and then friends” in my life who I meet for lunch twice a year or even the long distance conversations that happen a few times a year. There’s something comforting about knowing there are wonderful and interesting people out in the world who wish you well and vice versa even if those friends are not the ones you call in an emergency.

    My point is that it sounds like you have reasonable expectations about the kind of friendship that permits someone to come in and out of your life. Nevertheless, even a casual “now and then friend” needs to abide by certain social norms to stay at that level of friendship, and it sounds like you need to create some new boundaries with this particular woman. I tend to err on the side of giving someone the benefit of the doubt, but the situation you described would annoy me to the point of needing to take some subtle action.

    One word came to mind when you described your friend and that is entitlement. She feels entitled to support, in this case in the form of you and others sharing her work on, I’m assuming, Facebook and Twitter. I’m guessing she shares others’ work often and is annoyed at the lack of tit-for-tat reciprocation. If she came to you for authentic advice asking why she’s having a hard time gathering a supportive “tribe” online, then I would feel less irritated on your behalf. Though truthfully that would be a hard question to answer for her so let’s just deal with the situation at hand and hope she never asks you.

    I’m not sure confronting your friend about her behavior is worthwhile. I’m imagining a scenario where next time she complains that nobody supports her you gently say, “Hey, not sure if you saw that I shared your article on Facebook.” I’m guessing she would respond with, “Oh, I’m so sorry. I saw that! Thank you so much! I didn’t mean ‘nobody supports me,’ but hardly anybody shares my stuff.” And then the complaining would start again.

    A conversation like this doesn’t really get you anywhere unless you’re willing to outright say, “I only hear from you when you need something.” My hesitation is that at this level of friendship it’s not wise to get into a conversation where the only logical outcome would be for her to contact you not just when she needs something, which would mean contacting you more often, thereby changing her status from a “now and then” friend to a someone who is a more constant figure in your life. It sounds like that’s not something you would want. If I’m wrong, then you should tell her exactly how you feel.

    If I’m right that you don’t want her reaching out to you more often, I would stop sharing her stuff every time she asks. If you “feed the monster” so to say, she will keep coming back for more. It’s okay to say, “I’ll try!” next time she asks. If she has the nerve to follow up and ask why you didn’t share her work, say you forgot. I know this is a white lie, but the occasional white lie is a fair strategy to use out of kindness and out of the desire to create some new boundaries.

    I hope that helps! I’m curious to hear readers’ opinions, too.

    Good luck! Nina

     

    You can submit an anonymous question for Nina here! Bloggers: we are now offering our most recent online writing course, “Write Your Way to a Better Blog” as a PDF! Buy it this week for only $29! Details here.

     

     

  • Friends in New Places: 5 Tips for Making Friends in a New City

    Making friends in a new city as an adult is never easy. But as we get older, it gets even tougher.

    We may meet new people — at the gym, at kids’ playdates, at work — but it becomes increasingly difficult to turn those acquaintances into friends. Our schedules are packed and less flexible, and our priorities change.

    This month Nina Badzin, our friendship advice columnist, tackles the question of a reader who also faces the challenge of finding friends in an unfamiliar town.

     

    Dear Nina,

    I have several close girlfriends, but not many who live geographically close to me. I had a difficult year last year welcoming a new baby while my husband traveled extensively for work, with little to no family support. I generally come across as a very “on top of things” person, so people often don’t think I need any help. But last year showed me I do need help! As our family plans to move in a few months I want to try to cultivate friendships where it’s not unusual to get together with friends for dinner, or to help one another out. Any tips on how to start from scratch in a new place with that particular goal in mind?

    Thanks,

    Making Friends in a New City

     

    Dear Making Friends in a New City,

    I love your question and your specific goal! In fact, my answer is on the longer side so it will be the only question we tackle here today.

    No matter the number of friends we talk to on the phone, or via texts, emails, Facebook comments, Tweets, and so on, many of us are wired to see friends face-to-face. Let’s be honest, considering that even a phone conversation can seem rare these days, time together can be that much harder to schedule. As you implied with your question, however, it’s those face-to-face interactions that lead to the kind of friendship where you can rely on others in times of need and joy. Despite what Katherine Rosman reported in the New York Times last week about people who manage to find time for Twitter and Instagram, but can’t be bothered to return a phone call, there are still people who remember that nothing can replace the real connection of hearing a friend’s voice and seeing her face (not on your iPhone screen or in the form of an avatar).

    Fourteen years ago I moved to Minneapolis without any friends. It took me a long time to feel settled, but I eventually made this city my home. I’ve also watched others move here through the years and marveled at how gracefully some transitioned despite the reputation among non-native Minnesotans that it’s impossible to make new friends when “Minnesota Nice” means “Minnesota Ice.” (I’ve also seen less graceful situations, but I’m going to keep it positive.) I’ll share my tips and some ideas from the women who arrived in town more recently.

    I cannot talk about making friends in a new city without mentioning Rachel Bertsche’s memoir MWF Seeking BFF in which she chronicles her systematic effort of going on weekly “friend dates” for her entire first year in Chicago. Like you, Rachel had several close friends in other cities, but she missed having that support system nearby. While going on 52 outings with new friends over the course of a year only makes sense for a book deal, I think anyone can glean lessons from Rachel’s active approach of making friends in a new city, which was: Do not wait for friendships to happen.

    While some people feel annoyed by the word “dating” in reference to making new friends, it is an apt description. Actively looking for quality friends is just like dating, yet in some ways much easier because you can have several friends who fulfill different needs in your life rather than seeking a “perfect” match. I think the biggest key to making new friends in a new city is to accept the fact that she who is interested in new friends is the one who must make the effort. Fight that fact, and you will still be asking this question in five years. Harsh but true.

    1. Making Friends in a New City: If You Feed Them, They Will Come

    Clara* moved to Minneapolis two years ago and she’s already one of my closest friends. She’s managed to achieve what you’re looking for in terms of asking for help and providing help to others. She’s always carpooling with other families to birthday parties, organizing play dates at her house, or sending her kids to someone else’s house. Clara’s willingness to ask for help has influenced those of us in her midst to feel we can ask, too.

    I asked Clara how she settled in so quickly. “Do a lot of hosting,” she said. She hosted dinners and brunches for families from her kids’ classes and her social life grew from there. She didn’t wait for invitations, nor did she feel entitled to tit-for-tat reciprocation. If someone who’d been to her house for a meal reached out to meet for coffee or a walk, Clara considered that invitation a great result from her hosting efforts. She didn’t eliminate women as “friend potential” if they didn’t have her family over right away.

    2. Accept Invitations

    Julie is another newer friend of mine. She moved to Minneapolis a bit after Clara, and she did so without kids. Furthermore, her job gave her no immediate connections to potential friends because she works from home. We met after getting assigned to the same table at a benefit for an organization we both care about, and at some point after that we got together for lunch. (Lunch was Julie’s idea despite the fact that I’m seven years older and a mom of four.) I later invited Julie and her husband for dinner, and some time after that she had the six of us over, too. (Brave!)

    I asked Julie for her number one tip. “Making friends has to be a priority,” she said. Even if she didn’t feel like going out to a particular event, Julie forced herself to go simply for the opportunity to meet someone new or to deepen a connection with an acquaintance. Clara added on the same subject, “If someone wants to set you up with a new friend, always say yes. Worst case and it’s a bad match, it makes for a good story.”

    1. Keep Your Net Wide

    While it’s tempting to look for people who remind you of your long-distance friends, I would keep yourself open to anyone no matter their age and stage in life. (Julie inviting me to lunch is a great example.) That means that if you get an invitation to a family’s house, but they’re much more or less religious than you, have signs in their driveway for candidates you abhor, or don’t seem like “your type,” give them a chance anyway. Instead of worrying “why” you would possibly hit it off with a potential new friend, ask yourself “why not.”

     4. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

    I recently learned of a friend-making app called Smile Mom from my friend Ellie, who moved to a new city six months ago. Ellie saw another woman post on the app that she was also new to town and had nobody to invite to her two-year-old’s party. This woman was hoping that others would show up to the party she’d planned for her son at the park. Talk about getting out of your comfort zone for all the individuals involved! Even though Ellie’s kids are several years older, Ellie, also brave in this scenario, showed up with a small birthday gift and hit if off with a few of the other woman who also showed up because of the app. I love that in this case technology brought people together instead of allowing everyone to stay behind a screen.

    For MWF Seeking BFF, Rachel took an improv class, started a cooking club, a book club, tried different exercise options, and even asked a waitress who seemed like good friend potential for her phone number. The key here is that she didn’t rely on just one method to make friends. I’d also consider volunteering and even offering to lead committees. It’s a great way to learn more about your new community.

    5. Accept the Reality of The Friend Plate and Chemistry

    There’s no getting around the fact that some people’s friend plates are already too full. I’ve met women new to town as great as Clara and Julie, but I only have so much room in my life for new, close friends at any given time. And of course the issue of chemistry comes to play, too. I think the best policy is to not take things too personally if a relationship does not get beyond the surface. Just keep going and a few friendships will deepen to the level you’re looking for.

    *Names were changed.

     

    Readers: What advice would you add? Do you know people who excel at making friends in a new city? Have you seen situations where certain tactics haven’t worked at all? Please share!

     

    Also, remember that our contact form is anonymous. While we have several questions waiting for answers, we are open to more. And your question might even get discussed on the radio!

  • 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

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    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.