Nina Badzin

  • A Friend Who Wants to Stay Out of the Middle

    In this month’s column Nina addresses two issues. Should a friend be expected to get in the middle of two other friends’ tension? And she also covers some thoughts on invitation lists for big parties. Nina is always taking anonymous questions here. And catch up on all the other letters Nina has answered here.

     

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    Dear Nina,

    A few years ago, I introduced a longtime, dear friend to an acquaintance as I thought they would have a lot in common. As it turns out, the women connected and their husbands really connected, and the two couples became fast friends.

    I invited both couples to my son’s Bar Mitzvah, but only invited the children of the longtime friend. The acquaintance-friend was very upset and shared her feelings with my longtime friend.

    Fast forward to after the Bar Mitzvah. The acquaintance no longer speaks to me if she sees me, yet she and her husband go out with my longtime friend regularly. I tried to make amends with the acquaintance to no avail.

    The question: I confronted my longtime friend, letting her know that it would have been nice if she had told me the issue before the Bar Mitzvah as I would have included the children rather than cause any upset. She had no explanation, nor has she ever tried to intervene to help the relationship. I feel betrayed by my longtime friend, especially when she talks about the acquaintance. Any advice?

    Signed,

    Looking to Move Forward

     

    Dear Looking to Move Forward,

    This is a tough one because I see why you’re upset.

    #1. You made a great friend match for the two women, but it seemed to backfire. Nobody likes that, even people like me who get a real thrill out of connecting people to each other.

    #2. Anyone planning a party needs to set boundaries on the invitation list or the sheer number of guests would make the party less fun and way less affordable.

    And yet, despite having every right to be upset, you will have to make the choice to let your longtime friend off the hook before any moving forward can happen.

    Nowhere in your note did you say you want to drop the friendship. Assuming you want to stay friends with Longtime (that’s what I’m going to call her), you either have to be okay with Longtime setting that boundary of not getting in the middle, OR, you have to talk to her about it again and understand that she may feel you’re asking too much of her.

    I want to rewind a moment and remind you (and all of us!) that it’s okay for people to be disappointed with us. Meaning, the acquaintance’s disappointment doesn’t mean you did anything wrong. And just because you wish Longtime would have intervened then and even now, it doesn’t mean that she agrees with you or that she made the wrong call. It’s clear she doesn’t feel it’s her place to get in the middle. I’m not saying she’s right or that you’re right. I don’t really know. But if SHE feels it’s not the right thing to be in the middle, then you have to accept that if you want to put this behind you. One extra point to make: I would argue that Longtime never should have told you that acquaintance was upset about the party. Because that WAS getting in the middle and not in a helpful way. It only served to make you feel bad about a party that was already underway.

    As usual I consulted a few of my best advisors for my own dilemmas.

    Taryn, my best friend from childhood said this: “I’m going to give Looking to Move Forward the same advice I give you sometimes. Don’t assume to know what was said between your longtime friend and the acquaintance. Staying out of it might have been your longtime friend’s way to stay loyal to both of you. Time to turn the page.”

    I agree with Taryn that there are simply too many assumptions here. What if your acquaintance wasn’t feeling a deep connection with you before the bat mitzvah and just used that as an excuse to let things drift? There’s really no way to know.

    My best friend from college, Rebecca, pointed out that if this acquaintance was truly upset about her kids not being invited then she was bound to get upset with you over something small some other time. Maybe you dodged a bullet. It’s totally inbounds not to invite the children of all your friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and so on to an event that is a special milestone for your child. Rebecca also said, “Don’t relive something that happened only once.” In other words, continuing to think about this event gives you the false sense that Longtime has wronged you many times when it was just this one event. (And whether she was wrong is still up for debate.)

    And of course I consulted my mom.

    “As hurtful as it is, it’s not reasonable to expect your old friend to give up the friendship with the acquaintance or to intervene. I remember something similar happening in my own life. I had a huge blow up with an old friend, and somewhere in my head I was hoping that some of my close friends who knew her would not be friends with her anymore. I kept the thoughts to myself, but felt that my friends had picked sides by staying friends with her.  After some time, my friends were no longer friends with the person I had fought with for some of the same reasons I could not get along with her. So who knows how this will all play out in the future.”

    I hope we were able to help you move forward. I sympathize with the situation as did Taryn, Rebecca, and my mom.

    Best of luck,

    Nina

     

  • When a Mean Girl Excludes You From a Group of Friends

    What should you do when you’re being excluded by friends?

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

     

    Our advice columnist Nina Badzin is back with a dilemma from a woman who moved to her husband’s hometown and inherited his less-than-friendly group of friends. She likes some of them, but one “mean girl” in particular seems determined to exclude our letter writer.

    Nina is always accepting anonymous questions here.  

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    Dear Nina,

    When my husband and I moved to his hometown, I knew nobody here. His group is generally very welcoming to all newcomers. I’ve seen strong friendships form among other newcomers and “old timers.” But as one of the first women in the group to have a baby, I was quickly left out. This was understandable (sadly) until other women also became mothers and still left me out.

    For nearly a year, a “powerful” or at least “controlling,” woman in my husband’s friend group has been excluding me, pretty blatantly, since she too became a mother. My husband and I have no idea why. It is pretty clear to us that she’s trying to engineer the social group to exclude me. She plans things without including me and without my husband now too, by extension. They used to be good friends.

    I do not feel I’m missing out on her friendship, but what upsets me (and my husband very much), is that she is trying to close the whole group off from us. My husband’s best friend has a fiancée, and naturally we two couples have grown closer as a group of four. The excluder is now becoming very buddy-buddy with this new fiancée, excluding me. It seems very deliberate. The fiancée is “new” and doesn’t realize this, of course. It is not her problem, but I can see how it will get awkward fast.

    There is so much more detail, but it is too difficult to explain in writing. Basically, our group dynamic is getting messed up by a self-centered person who fancies herself an “influencer.” Having no other family or friends around and the reality of how difficult it is to start from scratch making friends as new parents who are busy with our children, this situation is really harmful to us. My husband is so angry and upset and has tried to find out what the deal is, but it’s a mystery. I am not close enough to Excluder to ask her directly. What should we do?

    Tired of Getting Excluded

    Dear Tired of Getting Excluded,

    The Allure of His Friendship Group

    The temptation to make your husband’s group your group makes perfect sense. Almost 18 years ago when I moved to my husband’s hometown, I was distraught when I realized he had no such group to make for an easy transition to my new town.

    Although my husband (fiancée at the time) and I had spoken about that reality of starting over before we arrived in Minneapolis, I guess I thought he was being hyperbolic—as if by “no group” he meant, “only a few of them moved back to town or never left.”

    Nope. He meant no friendship group, not even a small one. He had been living away from Minneapolis for a decade already, and although he had a few friends from the old days, I really did have to create my own social life. And it was hard. On the positive side, I can tell you now, 18 years later, I feel very much at home in Minnesota. And it did not take more than a few years. I promise.

    I used to tell my new-to-town story with a “woe is me” slant, but now that I’ve read your letter, I’m going to stop telling it that way. Maybe it’s easier and better to start from zero; you get to make your own way with no expectations to be friends with people your significant other met at some point in childhood or adolescence.

    Mean Girls and Being Excluded By Friends

    I am thrilled you put “powerful” and “controlling” in quotes because in these cases of friend-group power plays, people only have the influence over us we hand them on a platter. Her power isn’t real. Her control also isn’t real unless you allow this situation to control you. She might control others’ actions, but you get to make your own decisions.

    It’s time to stop hoping your husband’s group will become your inner circle. Excluder sounds awful, but what are we to make of these women who are following Excluder? I also think it’s time your husband make some new friends, but as I said, you can only control YOU.

    I’m not even going to bother arming you with tips on dealing directly with Excluder. She’s a classic mean girl. I agree that it seems as though she doesn’t like you. We don’t know why. I want you to decide not to care. There’s no way you can ask her what her problem is without sounding paranoid or insecure. I want you to rise above needing an explantation from her. She would not likely tell you the truth anyway. She has her reasons and those reasons are her business. I am willing to bet those reasons are more about her than you anyway.

    Listen, not everyone has good chemistry. There were all kinds of women who didn’t care for me when I moved to town. Some still don’t, I’m sure. I learned to make peace with the fact that chemistry is mysterious and things don’t always work out as we hope. Friend plates get full. We say the wrong thing one time and people don’t forget. Haven’t there been people you didn’t want to pursue a friendship with for reasons you could hardly articulate? I know that has been true for me. We have to allow others the same space. The worst thing you can do for your social life is overly focus on this one group of friends. It’s time to let this crew go, and start your search for real connections.

    Your New Friends Do Not Need To Fall Into One Friendship Group

    This was a great question to run by mom who is often-quoted in this column. She met my father when she was a junior at Northwestern and he was a grad student. While my mom had come to Northwestern from Rochester, New York, my dad was raised in the Chicago suburbs. She, like me and like you, ended up in her husband’s hometown. Here’s her advice:

    “When I graduated from Northwestern, I had been married for a year. Suddenly my college friends left for other parts of the country, and I felt like I had no one left other than my husband—-no family and no friends. Tired of Getting Excluded needs to find new friends, and they don’t need to be in one particular group. She can join “mom and tot” groups. If she likes to exercise, she should join an exercise class. In other words, she should look for friends outside the “group.”  She can have a variety of friends who don’t know each other. She should pursue her interests and find others with similar interests. It takes a long time to form friendships. She needs to be patient and keep working at it. And she needs to be the initiator sometimes. Through the years, I often times was the one to pick up the phone and make dates. She shouldn’t wait for others to take the initiative. I still do that. If there is someone I want to be with, I make the call or email.”

    Be The Initiator

    My mom and I have The Initiator trait in common. If I waited for every friend to schedule a walk or a lunch or a couples’ outing with me, I would be waiting FOREVER. I actually think the key to a happy social life is adopting the initiator mentality and not keeping score—within reason. Meaning, if you’re making the plans with any particular person more than, say, four times, it may be worth letting that person know you’d love to be on the receiving end of the call (text, email, etc.) sometimes.

    I hope this all helps. I wish you the best in your new friend making endeavor. It’s like dating, but better, because you get to keep as many of the good relationships as you want. I have a good feeling that some new close friends are out there waiting for you to find them.

    Good luck and let me know how it goes,

    Nina

  • 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.

     

     

     

  • 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.

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    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.

     

     

  • A Friend Who Gives Too Many Gifts

    Do you have a friend who is too generous?

    In this month’s HerTake question, Nina answers a question about a friend who gives too many gifts as well as how to end a friendship with someone who is not taking the hint. We love that our community helps each other in the comments section. Please 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.

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    Dear Nina,

    I would very much welcome advice on a situation that has been happening over the last year or so. I moved areas, and a woman (“Kim”) whom I had met online and talked to a bit said she lived fairly close and suggested we meet up. I thought it was nice she reached out as I was getting settled in a new place.

    That first time Kim and I met, she brought me a little present. Then when we got together again, she brought me a tote bag. Another time, I went up to her city, and while we were in a bookshop she bought me three little books. We’ve met up at least six times and on every outing she’s either brought me a gift or bought something for me while we were shopping. I’ve never bought her anything. I don’t feel guilty about this, but I do feel a bit awkward. I feel as though I’m being courted, which is a bit odd. (Just for clarity we are both straight.)

    I have at least two other friends who buy me gifts now and then and vice versa. In those friendships it seems to work out, but with Kim, I feel as though there are strings attached. She’s never said, “I buy you things so you have to be my friend,” but that’s how it feels, and it makes me very uncomfortable.

    One other issue is that I’m coming to the conclusion that Kim is a very negative person. The first time or two, I assumed she was having a particularly bad time or was tired. But in most of our time together she complains about people and situations. If someone says something or does something that could possibly cause offense, she takes the offense.

    As I hear how I sound in this note, I know that I’m not interested in continuing this friendship. The negative talk makes me dread seeing Kim and so does the gift giving. Unfortunately, I’ve already tried to pull away and she doesn’t take hints. No matter how busy I say I am, or how many meet ups I refuse, she carries on suggesting more and sending me long emails. (I am currently only replying to every other one.) I’m really not sure what to do next.

    Thanks for the help,

    Yours In Bafflement

     

    Dear Yours In Bafflement,

    Before we address ending this friendship, we need to discuss the gift giving. I admire people who get gift giving exactly right. Kim is clearly an over-giver. There’s no reason to exchange gifts with friends at every lunch, dinner, walk, and so on. On the flip side, I tend to suffer from under-giving. I might show up to a casual, last-minute birthday dinner with a card while a few of the other women found the time to procure the perfect small gift for just such a moment. I’m rarely the one to organize big group gifts for friends. It’s not that I don’t care about my friends, it’s simply one of those areas where the right thing to give and do is less obvious to me. My point is this: we all have different gift-giving styles, but somewhere between Kim’s style and mine is likely the sweet spot.

    More important than the “right” way to give gifts, however, is the issue of why you never told Kim that her method was making you uncomfortable. The fact that Kim didn’t take the hint about the gifts when you never reciprocated is unfortunate, but you need to take responsibility for not speaking up about it after the third time. First time, yes accept the gift. Second time, another gift is surprising, but not quite cause for concern. The third gift and certainly the fourth, fifth, and sixth ones were all opportunities to gently say how much you appreciate the gesture in concept, but the idea of being spoiled by a friend was feeling uncomfortable. We can’t assume that our silent messages (like never showing up with a gift for her) are being communicated to the next person. Your silence might have encouraged Kim to continue giving gifts and to seeing you as a closer friend than you are. When we give, we often feel closer to the next person. I’m guessing Kim felt closer to you with each get together.

    Likewise, Kim hasn’t picked up other hints. She hasn’t recognized you as an (understandably) unreceptive audience to her complaining and therefore has continued to complain. And she hasn’t noticed your lack of enthusiasm for making plans. Kim obviously does not pick up your hints, which means the onus is on you to communicate more clearly. I’m guessing you don’t like confrontation. (Does anyone?) Nevertheless, you owe more directness to Kim, a woman who welcomed you to town and tried to be your friend.

    For the record, I want to say that your attempts to subtly give Kim the message that you’re not terribly interested in a friendship was the right way to go at first. I do think it’s unnecessary to be direct with every person as nobody wants to be told that the next person is too busy to make time. When I say “direct,” I do not mean that you should say, “I don’t want to be friends because you complain too much and the gifts were over the top.” That type of honesty would be unkind. Kim’s style may be perfectly fine for someone else. There are plenty of people who like to engage in the drama of “being offended.” I also find it tiresome when someone manages to find a way to feel offended at every turn, but for some women, bonding over such “battle wounds” is an essential friendship ritual.

    As for exactly what to do next with this friendship, I turned to my mom to help you because she has mastered the art of balancing the subtle with the direct. I sent her your question and this is what she said:

    “Clearly Yours In Bafflement wants to end the friendship. The question is how. Perhaps she should answer every third email, then every fourth email. There is no point in having a confrontation, if she has no interest in continuing the relationship. If, on the other hand, she does not mind seeing Kim on occasion, then she has to set some ground rules. First, no more gifts. Second, if Kim persists on complaining about other people, then Bafflement might consider asking Kim if she can put herself in the other person’s shoes. Maybe she can offer a different way to look at the “offense.” That would be an interesting conversation. There is no reason for Bafflement (or anyone) to be mute and listen to the complaints without offering some feedback. If, however, all of the above seems like too much work, I would advise fading away a little bit at a time.”

    A quick note on my mom and gifts. My mom and my nieces are staying at my house this week. My mom remembered our shortage of towels from the last time she visited so what do think arrived in a big Bloomingdales box days before her trip? New towels! It was the perfect hostess gift for me because my mom knows I like useful gifts most of all.

    I hope our advice helped and that you’re able to let this friendship go in the kindest way possible.

    Good luck! Nina (and my mom, Kathy)

     

     

    You can follow Nina on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter. UPDATE (2019): Find Nina and her advice column at HER NEW FRIENDSHIP ADVICE SITE

     

  • Am I an Acquaintance or Friend? I Can’t Figure Out If She Wants To Be Friends

    Does she want to be my acquaintance or friend? In this month’s HerTake question, Nina answers a question about how to know if someone is interested in pursuing a friendship, if someone wants to be an acquaintance or friend.

    Have you ever been confused about whether your efforts were appreciated by a potential new friend or if that person is simply trying to stay at the acquaintance level? We love that our community helps each other in the comments section. Please 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.

     

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    Dear Nina

    For the love of everything good and decent please help me! I’m driving myself nuts over this situation. I’m never like this with my other friends, but this one woman has my head spinning. Are we friends or not? Sometimes I can’t tell.

    Here’s the situation. I’ve struck up what I guess you could call a friendship, sort of, with a woman I’ll call Mindy. I’m so confused about what it is. I just can’t read Mindy at all. I only see her two nights a week, as she is my child’s dance instructor. We text back and forth throughout the week, mostly joking around about life. I admire her and she has told me the same. So great, mutual admiration, joking around—wonderful. However, when I see her in person, there’s virtually no acknowledgement of my existence if I don’t acknowledge her first.

    Now, to be fair, Mindy doesn’t really acknowledge any of the parents first, but being a friend, I assumed she would at least say hello. And it’s pretty much the same with the texting. She seems to enjoy talking with me when we do talk through texts. She always responds right away and keeps the conversation going. However, when I’ve asked her to hang out in person, she always has an excuse not to. She says she doesn’t go out much, but she does have a close group of friends that gets together to drink every so often.

    I wish I knew why Mindy is not open to hanging out with me. I’ve even, in a moment of weakness, asked her if I was being a pain by texting her and she said, “Absolutely not. Why would you ask me that?” I’m just not sure if I should keep pushing on with the relationship or not. It’s getting exhausting trying to figure Mindy out. And truthfully, it hurts that she’s not acknowledging me when I see her. I can’t figure out if she even wants to be friends.

    Signed,

    Can’t Figure Her Out

     

    Dear Can’t Figure Her Out,

    I don’t blame you for feeling confused about how to think of this friendship and for that I blame the texting. The friendly banter you and Mindy have established between your child’s dance lessons has blurred the line between acquaintance or friend. Despite all other evidence suggesting that you and Mindy are “friendly,” but not deeper friends, the day-to-day catching up via text has superficially elevated an otherwise casual acquaintanceship.

    Technology can help us keep in touch with our good friends, but it can also create a false foundation for a friendship. Just because it’s easy to keep in touch with texts and emails, it does not mean that a worthwhile relationship exists beyond the words on the screen. Every case is different. I have relationships with women I’ve met online who I will never meet in person, but the connection feels deep and real. How do I know? The efforts and sentiments are mutual. I think your awareness that you’re always initiating the texts is why you’re feeling uneasy about Mindy.

    Should Mindy say hello to you and other parents when you all come in for class? Probably. I’m guessing she doesn’t fuss over you specifically because she’s in a professional role where she’s focusing on the students. I wouldn’t take that too personally or read too much into her lack of effort there. The fact that she rarely initiates the texts and seems uninterested in getting together is what tells me that Mindy is not interested in being more than “friendly.”

    Please keep in mind that Mindy’s lack of interest may not be personal and that you have no idea what else is going on in Mindy’s life. Maybe one day she will initiate the conversations or she will include you with her friends. It’s impossible to predict.

    Wait It Out

    You have to decide if you’re willing to wait. I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t wait around for Mindy, but it would probably help your level of frustration to consider Mindy a “fun acquaintance” for now rather than one of your better friends or even a real potential for a close friend unless she does show interest in seeing outside of the texting context. If you ever decide that you’re tired of making the first contact, you can stop trying and see what happens. If the acquaintanceship disappears, then I would encourage you to put your efforts, even these casual texting efforts, elsewhere.

    Acquaintances Are Fun Too!

    Despite everything I’ve said here, I don’t want this month’s column to devalue the role of a solid acquaintanceship because there’s much to appreciate about these types of friends. By “solid” I mean mutually satisfying and casual, which these friendships can be if we accept that not every relationship needs to reach best friend status or even good friend status.

    When I think of all the women I enjoy (truly enjoy) seeing at the gym, coming in and out of my kids’ schools, at our synagogue, or even catching up with on Facebook, I get a big smile on my face. I respect and like each one of those woman, but if I spent tons of time texting with them all and making plans to get together, I wouldn’t have time for anything else in my life. My days would be less joyful, however, without these daily run-ins with various women (and some men) I know in town. This was a slightly off-topic tangent from your question about the difference between an acquaintance and a friend except to remind you that Mindy might become someone you enjoy talking to here and there and it doesn’t have to feel personal if it’s not something more.

    I hope this helped!

    Nina

    Editor’s Note: Also, check out Nina’s post about how to turn an acquaintance into a friend.

     

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