fractured friendship

Reader Q &A: Should breaking up be a blame game?

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QUESTION

Dear Irene:

 

When you break up with a female friend, is it really necessary to "give advice" about what they should do in the future, or is it better to focus on the problems within the relationship you were personally involved with?

 

I just got dumped by a friend who went on to say some very hurtful things under the guise of giving advice and saying she still cared about me, even if she didn't want to be friends anymore. It just felt like having salt rubbed into the wound -- she insulted my parents, my family, me, and cast doubt on my other relationships (none of which I'd been having trouble with), all while supposedly trying to help me be a better friend. I know she was just trying to give me a good explanation, but was it really necessary?

 

I've always tried to focus just on why it wasn't working for me when I end a friendship, not try to give advice on how they should behave with other friends; it just seems like it's enough to leave it implied. I also do a bit of the "It's not you, it's me" approach if I really care about the person but just can't handle them anymore, since I don't believe in putting all the blame on the other person when breaking up even if I feel that way --it just seems too hurtful/unfair. Is this correct, or is it okay to come out and say that it was all the other person's fault?

 

And when you break up with a friend, do you also unfriend them on Facebook/MySpace? What am I supposed to think if she tells me she has no desire to have me in her life, then doesn't unfriend me on Facebook?

 

Signed,
Anonymous

 

ANSWER:

Dear Anonymous,

 

Just as knowing what to say at a time of loss (e.g. a death) is always awkward, there is no commonly accepted protocol for breaking off a female friendship. That said, my thinking is that if an individual decides to unilaterally end a relationship, leaving no room for discussion, she should take responsibility for her decision and do whatever she can to allow the other person to feel unscathed.

 

Although your friend rationalized her bluntness by saying she was trying to help you become a better friend, her explanation doesn’t quite cut it for me.

 

  • She was insensitive about how you might be feeling. Being dumped without warning leaves any woman reeling, so her approach and timing was off if she really wanted to “help” you become a better friend.
  • Disparaging your parents and family should have been off bounds; Her relationship was with you, not them.
  • It is arrogant and unfair for her to blame the relationship’s demise entirely on you. She failed to recognize that all relationships are defined by two parties, not one. While your ex-friend may not have been able to sustain her relationship with you, other friends don’t seem to have the same problem with you. Did she even consider that it might be her and not you?
  • It sounds like she lashed out at you in anger. I’m not sure why. And because of the way she handled it, it has made it extraordinarily difficult for you to ever consider reconciling your relationship.

 

Since the ball is entirely in her court, I would consider the friendship over unless she comes back with a very good apology and you want to accept it. And if I were you, I would want to be sure to establish a comfortable distance from the woman who just dumped me. I wouldn’t want to know what she was doing and wouldn’t want her to know about me and my relationships. I understand your pain but I think you just need to move on. Taking control and defriending her might help.

 

Warm wishes,

Irene

 

The awkwardness of defriending

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David Spark, a new media consultant and producer, interviewed me a few evenings ago on the awkwardness of social network defriending (e.g, taking someone off your friends list on Facebook, Linked In, MySpace, or Twitter). Here is the link to David's piece called The Awkwardness of De-friending. (You may notice that the jury is still out on whether defriending is hyphenated.)

 

Since there are no commonly accepted rules on the etiquette of how to go about ending face-to-face friendships, imagine how murky the rules of behavior are in defriending in cyberspace. The act of defriending is as easy as hitting a key but your decision can have long-lasting repercussions, both for you and the person you defriend.

 

My advice: Before you defriend someone, face-to-face or in cyberspace, take time to think before you act. Depending on the nature of your relationship, social media defriending can be the emotional equivalent of being jilted or jilting someone else. If the friendship was once meaningful and you change your mind after you've defriended someone, your relationship will never be the same. Don't let your fingers work more quickly than your mind.

 

David also wrote a piece published on Mashable, 12 Great Tales of De-friending and another on his own blog When technology tells us we have no friends. You may want to take a look at one of my earlier blog entries too, Online friending and defriending patterns.

 

 

Reader Q & A: Emotionally drained newlywed

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QUESTION:

Hi Irene,

I'm in a really tight spot and would appreciate ANY advice you could provide. I have had two friends, A and B, since elementary school, but we went our separate ways after high school. A went to college, B partied and worked various jobs, and I went on to complete undergraduate and graduate studies. Shortly after, we happened to all live in the same city, started hanging out again, and had a great time. I got engaged with my boyfriend of 8 years, and it just seemed fitting that A and B would be my bridesmaids.

The trouble started during the year leading up to my wedding. We all spent tons of time together and I started feeling self conscious, saddened and emotionally drained after spending time with A and B. I just couldn't figure out why I had these negative feelings. I would come home to my fiancé and all I would do is complain about them, which is totally out of my character. As the wedding date approached, it hit me! I realized that I hardly had anything in common with A and B anymore. They are superficial, and obsessed with appearances-weight, dieting, plastic surgery and gossip, whereas I'm more down-to-earth and laid back.

On top of that, I realized that B does not respect me very much. She is judgmental, critical and totally unsupportive. When I talked about the trouble I was having at my new job, she would have no sympathy and tell me it was my own fault. She would often say, jokingly, that I was lazy because I did not exercise, but when I finally signed up for a fitness program, she told me I was wasting my money. She never misses an opportunity to point out that I am the "prudish" one of the bunch. (Does that even matter?). And I have reason to believe she is a compulsive liar.

After this, I started feeling really down about how my "closest friends", who were to be my bridesmaids, turned out to be toxic friends that I share little in common with. I was distraught to the point that I became physically ill with bad stomach aches. I actually struggled with the idea of kicking them out of the wedding party, but decided against it because I thought that would be too mean and drastic. It would have created too much drama, considering we all have many common friends. And it's not like I want to completely cut all ties with them, we do share a lot of history.

So I decided to go ahead with the wedding as planned, and after it was over, concentrate more on my own well-being, and on friendships that make me feel happy and good about myself. I do still spend some time with A and B, but nothing compared to how it was before. But the fact is that I keep feeling so guilty for distancing myself after the wedding. Another of my faults is that I have never talked to either one about my negative feelings, because it took me so much time to put my finger on what was bothering me. Now it seems like it's too "after-the-fact" to have a talk with them. I really feel like a bad friend and a bad person.

To complicate things further, my new brother-in-law (who lives with me and my husband!) is now seeing B. He actually asked me if I felt awkward about him dating her, and I explained to him how I feel about B, how she's hurt me, and how I was actually hoping to distance myself from her. But he's head-over-heels for her and maintains that she doesn't have a bad bone in her body. I feel so helpless! And I feel bad again because I am not being supportive of his new relationship, I do want him to be happy, but this is hard! B is a person that I really want to distance myself from, and she's now going to be part of family events!!

So the big questions are: Do I owe anything to my bridesmaids? Should I feel guilty for wanting to distance myself from them? And how should I handle the brother in-law situation? How can I be supportive of my brother-in-law when I have these negative feelings about B? Should I tell my friends how I feel, even if it's so after-the-fact by now? Again, ANY advice will be greatly appreciated! I've been struggling with this for too long!

Signed,
Emotionally Drained Newlywed

ANSWER:

Dear Emotionally Drained Newlywed:

It sounds like you have a great deal of insight. You made a wise decision to not "rock the boat" at the time of your wedding and to include A & B as bridesmaids. They were an important part of your past and helped you become the person you are today.

I doubt any good could come out of telling them that they are superficial and/or judgmental or such-either before the wedding or now. It's good that you recognize what feels toxic about your relationships with them because it has helped you establish some healthy distance.

With your marriage, you have embarked on a new life and it's not unusual that the nature of some of your female friendships might change or even go dormant. Having a change in heart about your feelings towards your friends doesn't make you a bad person! You need to get over that irrational thought. People change over time so it's natural for friendships to change as well. You are being true to yourself and your own feelings.

The real fly in the ointment, as I see it, is living with your brother-in-law. Is there any way that he can find another place to live? That would simplify your life greatly-probably in more ways than one.

Short of that, if he remains under your roof, things can go one of two ways: Either he will remain involved with B-or break up with her.

  • If B and your brother-in-law remain connected, you will probably want to maintain a friendly relationship with her, as the girlfriend of your brother-in-law (although it may be more distant than the one you had before.) Don't be surprised if he already leaked some of your feelings to his girlfriend. Many of us tolerate people because they are related by marriage.
  • If the brother-in-law and B break up, it may be a perfect opportunity to allow your relationship with B to fade away. At that point, B might feel the same way too.

Don't get too stressed out. You married your husband, not his brother. I think your instincts are good ones. Trust your gut!

Best wishes, Irene

 

 

Reader Q & A: Coping with a roller coaster friendship

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QUESTION:

Dear Irene:

I came across your blog tonight. I am thankful. I am feeling desperate for some advice. I became good friends with a girl in the same town where I live. We met in February of this year. We hit it off right away. We became super close really fast. Had the same interests, desires and goals. Our daughters are 2 weeks apart. She became part of my family. We spent hours together in person, by phone or email. We took a trip to California together with our families.

Off and on I noticed she would shut down and ignore me for days. No call back, no response to emails, no texting back, etc. I thought it was odd but didn't think anything of it at the time. She claimed she wasn't feeling well, she was having marriage problems, etc.-excuses. Her marriage has been rocky since day 1. She is only married for less than one year. She is currently pregnant with her second child. Her husband and she go to marriage therapy every other week. Their communication is horrible from what she says.

She claims I "yelled" at her all the time. She blew up at me over the phone one night the end of Sept. I was shocked! Not one time did she lead me to believe that things were bothering her. I knew she was either having a bad day or not feeling well. I kept my distance, but at the same time tried to reach out in case she needed anything. She would ignore me for days, not call me back, not answer emails or texts. After a few days, she would call and pretend nothing is wrong when truly she was ignoring me on purpose. She brushed things under the mat. She never communicated her true feelings. She bottled everything inside and finally blew up at me. I had no idea.

I was crushed, disappointed, hurt, angry, etc. I considered her like my sister. I thought the world of her. I could talk to her about anything. It was devastating to hear her accusations. I don't feel I ever "yelled" at her...that's just not me. I think she might be bipolar because she was either really happy (on the high side) and other times she was sad, not wanting to talk to anybody (low side). It was extreme.

I tried to contact her, but she does not answer her phone. I sent her an email asking her to forgive me (even though I don't feel I did anything wrong), but she said she is "happy with the way her life is."

The hardest thing is that we have lots of mutual friends. We are the coordinators of a local moms group. Everyone is starting to notice that we don't talk and ignore each other. What am I suppose to tell our mutual friends? I am not trying to get girls on my side, but it has been extremely difficult to keep this from others. I truly care about her. I loved her and her family. I gave her everything. I hurt. I think about her every day. I wonder how she is doing, but can't contact her anymore. She truly slapped my face and said she doesn't need someone like me in her life.
I don't know what to do. Please help! Any advice is appreciated.

Signed,
Hurt Friend

ANSWER:

Dear Hurt Friend:

It sounds like over the course of your friendship you have observed that your friend may be facing a number of challenges/problems-that have nothing to do with your relationship with each other, per se. You've noticed that she:

  • Has marital problems (which could make her feel ambivalent about becoming pregnant a second time)
  • Is pregnant (which could be playing havoc with her hormones)
  • Is parenting a toddler while she is pregnant (which can be challenging when things are stable)
  • Has communication problems (and, specifically, has a hard time talking about little slights until they escalate and become big ones)
  • Tends toward mood swings (whether or not they are symptoms of, or fall short of, a diagnosable mental disorder)

The two of you became very close within a very short period of time, perhaps because of all you had in common. You became fast friends before you really knew one another.

But even if you had known her longer, you don't always know what else is going on in another person's life. As you describe your friend, she seems to be a very moody person who gets upset over little things and who has a hard time resolving conflicts. When you first met, either her mood may have been more stable or it may have been more elevated-which can make someone extremely likable and engaging. Then, over time, you began to see her roller coaster personality emerge.

You sound like a very caring, understanding and forgiving friend. You have done everything you could possibly do to mend the friendship. Your friend may or may not be able to appreciate the friendship she has lost. There may be other things going on in her life that are consuming her.

In terms of seeing one another (which you inevitably will, if you live in the same town and have a child the same age) and handling your failed friendship with your mutual friends, my advice is:

1) Always act cordially to your friend when you meet (smile, nod or say hello).

2) Don't make any further efforts to mend the relationship unless your friend extends herself to you. Even if she does, be cautious and careful because the same thing may happen again.

3) If you are close to these mutual friends, you can say (one-on-one) that the two of you had a small tiff that you couldn't resolve. They will understand because this isn't that unusual.

4) Don't provide any details. Say it's nothing you want to talk about because you feel like it would be a betrayal. They will respect you for that.

5) Try to do things with other women so you have less time to think about the failed friendship. You deserve someone who is able to appreciate you.

Despite the hurt and pain, you just need to move on. With time, you will heal. Everyl friendship don't last forever, even the best of them.

Best wishes,
Irene

 

Reader Q & A: Trying to find the courage to end it

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QUESTION:


Dear Irene,

I am in the middle of a bad friendship and am so grateful to have found this site. Thanks everyone! I am trying to find the courage to "cut down" on the friendship but I am a person who generally will hold things in and then explode. I did this to a friend in high school and still regret it and I never want to shout horrible things at a person again. This is one of the reasons that I have been putting off cutting down or ending this current friendship. But I have been practicing being assertive instead of aggressive and I hope this will help me in this situation.

 

My friend and I would see each other about twice a year and that was good. We would have fun and then I could get on with my life and spend time with the friends that I had more in common with. But, idiot me, I needed a job and she was able to offer me one. I then felt obligated to go out with her more.

 

She was recently separated and didn't have that many people to hang out with. I had nothing else really going on so I went. Since she only -- and I really mean only -- talks about herself (I just realized that I can't recall her ever asking anyone "How are you?") I got tired of going out all the time pretty fast. I am a super fantastic listener and do not even need to talk about myself a whole lot to be happy. This post is the most I've "talked" about this situation to anyone. But when you tell someone something and they say "uh-huh, so anyway..." it makes you feel like a doormat.

 

I have some very nice friends that I would love to spend more time with but I am so exhausted by this friend. I will actually daydream about the "real" conversations that I have with my other friends while this friend is telling me the same story for the tenth time. You remember those "real" conversations where one person says something while the other one listens and then the other person says something while the other person listens - Ah! the good old days!

 

So why, after a year, am I still a slave to the phone calls and "dropping-ins"? Well, first, I just had to hang out with her when her boyfriend was out of town (She has boundless energy and is easily bored, while I need ten hours [sleep] a night!). I would say to myself, "Okay, he'll be back and it's just one night and she's been going through hell with her ex-husband and needs a friend." But it wouldn't be one night because he would be gone for work for weeks at a time and so I was apparently supposed to be his stand in. At this point it was annoying but tolerable. Looking back (hindsight!!!) I should not have gone out with someone to have a tolerable time.

 

Now I feel like I missed the chance to get out of this because she is in a worse state than she was before. I kept thinking that she needed me because her ex-husband was making things difficult with child custody and after she got out of this rough patch I could slowly make myself less available. Well, now her boyfriend suddenly dumps her and she is semi-suicidal. I told her that she should consider seeing a therapist and gave her the suicide prevention hotline number. She is still saying things about suicide. Now how am I supposed to tell a suicidal person that they are annoying the crap out of me? Any advice would be greatly appreciated if anyone takes the time to read my ramblings.

 

Good luck everyone!

Signed,

Trying to find the courage

 

ANSWER:


Dear "Trying to Find the Courage:"

 

It sounds like you have gained quite a bit of insight into yourself and your relationships over time. That's good---but now you need to act on that self-knowledge. For some reason, it seems like you have been unable to extricate yourself from a relationship that has felt very draining. Admittedly, the timing now makes your situation more challenging.

 

As I understand from your note, you may also work with your friend or work for her. This makes it extraordinarily difficult to disengage or cut it off without worrying about its effect on your employment, so perhaps that is another reason holding you back from doing what you know you should do.

 

It's nice to be helpful and supportive to friends but relationships can't be consistently one-sided; they need to be reciprocal. I'm sorry that your friend is depressed and talks about suicide (as you are). Her threats need to be taken seriously. However, you aren't the person who can help her. It was wise (and appropriate) that you suggested she seek professional help. Do you know any other family members who should be informed and might be able to step up and help her? I think you also need to tell your friend that as much as you care about her and would like to help her, her issues are too complicated for you to handle.

 

Try to back off gradually and spend more time with other friends. Spending large amounts of time with someone who is very depressed can be depressing. I think you need a little respite from this difficult situation, which will help provide you with more perspective.

 

Let us know how things go.

Best,
Irene

 

 

 

 

Reader Q & A: Needy Friends: They just don't understand

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QUESTION:

 

Dear Irene:

 

I have several girlfriends who seem needy to me. While we all go through difficult times, it seems they always have problems. I am unmarried, with a boyfriend who lives an hour away, I am running a business and my household and they have all of the support - husbands, children, family - which is great. But for some reason even with all this support they do not seem to have anyone to go to. I am essentially alone - which is fine and I get up everyday and do what I have to do.

 

Every single time I talk to any of them they are always asking me to come visit or to go out---one hour away driving from my home after I've worked all day. I don't get it. It is really annoying and upsetting to me. I want these friends to be a part of my life not my whole life.

 

One seems to think that I should hang out at her place while she complains about her husband and yells at her two kids. The other wants me to sit with her while she - using her words "wallows" - she has nothing to wallow about - nothing bad has happened to her. I feel like these people have no problem always asking for something from me. I am tired of it.

 

Signed,
Anonymous Single Person

 

ANSWER:

 

Dear Anonymous Single Person:

 

I guess your friends assume that because you don't have a husband or kids, you have no responsibilities to yourself, your business, or to other people. NOT. If this is their thinking, it makes me wonder how you ever managed to surround yourself with "several" of these self-centered people.

 

I am so happy that you are able to say that you are tired of these lopsided relationships. Identifying the problem, even to yourself, means that you realize you deserve much more. These people are going to continue to act the way they habitually do unless you give them a reason to change their behavior.

 

As a first step, set some firm boundaries (to them and to yourself) about how often you see them, where you see them, and what you do when you are together. Can you suggest that you get together and see a movie? Go to dinner? Go to a gym? Any of these would offer a more neutral turf and might also offer a much needed respite for your family-beleaguered friends.

 

If you're tired after a long day, you're entitled to say you that you are---why not ask them to get a babysitter or relative to watch the kids and come see you? Can you tell them that it doesn't help to "wallow" in pity and suggest that you do something else when you are together?

 

These are a few suggestions but I think you will need to evaluate each of these relationships that you lump together as ‘needy friendships' and figure out what you are receiving from each one. For relationships to be rewarding, they need to offer a sense of intimacy (feeling like you understand her and are understood) and a sense of reciprocity (like you are getting as much from her as you are giving). I'm not sure that these "friendships" you have described offer either.

 

Best,
Irene

 

Reader Q & A: Good boundaries make good friendships

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Dear Irene:

Hi, I have a friend who doesn’t have very good boundaries. I live in a small town. I am a fairly private person who is social but also like my alone time. This friend has stopped by my house when I don't answer the phone and once she comes over, doesn't leave until really late.


I have no idea how to tell her nicely that it is now time for her and her children to leave. I really value our friendship, but she and her children are very intense and I don't want to spend every waking moment with her. I think she would spend all the time with me if she could.

Any advice? I want to be able to get together with her without being with her for the rest of the day. Also, she seems to get irritated with me and think something is wrong when I don't do what she wants or don’t see her for a couple of days.

Signed,

Anonymous

 

Dear Anonymous,

The most satisfying friendships are built on a foundation of balance and reciprocity. It sounds like your relationship isn’t balanced; your friend covets more of your time and space than is comfortable for you. Yet, you allow her to show up at your home uninvited---and permit her to stay past her welcome. That’s a recipe for a fractured friendship to come!

Sadly, she doesn’t have the sensitivity to sense when you’ve had enough of her or to read your nonverbal cues. In cases like this, you need to be more explicit and tell her something like, “I hope you won’t take offense but it’s getting late and I have an early appointment in the morning” or “I have to get the kids to calm down before bedtime.”

Another tactic might be to schedule your time with your friend so there is a beginning and an end that it is set firm. For example, you might say “I have about four hours before I need to take care of stuff. We’ll have to wrap things up by 2PM” or “Why don’t we meet at the park for an hour or two?”

Acknowledge (to yourself) that you may have boundary issues as well. You need to start to establish ground rules so you don’t wind up feeling angry and abused. Since you really seem to like this friend, it’s worth the risk of explaining how you feel. Tell her that you treasure her friendship but need more alone time for yourself and your family.

Admittedly, I have only heard a little slice of a long story and I suspect your discomfort over this boundary may be just the tip of the iceberg. I suspect that there are other ways in which she is insensitive to your needs and that you feel like you are giving more than you’re getting. Let us know what happens.

My best,

Irene

 

Reader Q&A: Achieving closure after being dumped by a friend at work

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QUESTION

 

Dear Irene,

I’ve read many of your posts regarding the breakup of female friendships and I am going thru one myself as we speak. Anna and I met two years ago at graduate school. A little over a year ago, I helped get her a job at my company and we become inseparable. We did everything together from going to dinner, the movies, and jogging at the park. Also, we spent a lot of time texting and instant messaging everyday at work.  

About three months ago, Anna had met a new friend, "Lisa," and I felt replaced. Little by little, I felt pushed aside and believe that Lisa had put a rift in the friendship between Anna and me. All of the sudden, Anna and I spent less and less time together as she made for time for Lisa. The two of them would go bar hopping, swimming, and yoga together...all of the activities that I do not enjoy but Anna likes.

So, one day after I dropped Anna off home from lunch, I texted her saying that maybe we should give our friendship a break because she and I have gotten into many small arguments within the last couple of months. I said that friendship is a two-way street and I was tired of working doing all of the work. So, she texted me back saying, "Fine and take care."

The next day, I felt badly about what I said and texted Anna saying that I was very sorry and hope that she could forgive for the angry outburst. Anna texted back saying, "There is no need for you to be sorry.” She was and had always been a b$$ch to me. She said that I needed a friend that could be there for me constantly, someone to listen to me, and someone to keep me company." Anna said that she feels badly but she cannot be that kind of friend to me and for me to take care. However, she still would like to be a work acquaintance. Nevertheless, this took place over 6 weeks ago and Anna and I have not spoken since. We often avoid each other at the office because things feel so awkward.

I’ve texted Anna several times since then, asking for a face-to-face meeting. I told her that I have and will always continue to value her friendship and would like to work things out with her. Last week, she answered back saying that our friendship just doesn’t work anymore and for me to move on with my life. She said that she has nothing to say to me. 

However, despite her response, I still feel the need to have one last face-to-face meeting. The break-up of our friendship clearly had more to do than just that one text and I want real closure. So, should I try to reach out to Anna one last time or should I just let her go? Seeing her every day at work and not speaking to one another makes it very painful for me.  I still want to reconnect with her and be friends once more.

Marcie 

 

ANSWER 

Hi Marcie:

What a painful and difficult situation! In addition to losing a close friend with whom you once spent a lot of time, you still have to face her (and her new best friend) at work. That really has to hurt!

You are correct---the friendship didn’t break up solely because of the text message (although texting generally isn’t a good way to handle sensitive discussions, as I’m sure you are now aware). But you were already seeing red flags that something was wrong: You were arguing with each other more and she was choosing to spend her time with Lisa rather than you. If Anna had wanted to, she could have brought you into their circle. She chose not to without any explanation or apology, even when pressed for one.

It’s infuriating when a decision to end a friendship is unilateral---and you aren’t the one who makes the decision. It is natural to feel hurt and angry, and to want some closure. Unfortunately, it looks like Anna isn’t ready to talk or discuss what happened. Anna may be more close-mouthed than you, in general, and have less of an interest in intimate relationships than you do. Whatever the reasons, she has made it clear that she doesn’t want to talk about your split and while you may have been close at one time, given what has happened, it doesn’t appear like you will be able to get over this rift.

You definitely need to back off at this point and involve yourself with other friends at work and outside work. There may be some truth to Anna’s accusation that you are too needy or perhaps you are only too needy for her. You need to dig deep into yourself and think about what you asked of Anna in the past to determine whether you need to set boundaries for your future friendships.

You will be able to achieve closure when you assume control of your circumstances. When you accept that the relationship is over, you’ll feel better about the situation and about yourself. As brutal as it sounds, this isn’t the first time a good friend has been dumped and won’t be the last. You deserve someone who will appreciate your kindness and sincerity, and whose personality and interests are in better balance with yours.

Focus on your work and maintaining a professional demeanor in the office. And try to forget about Anna’s relationship with Lisa: that will probably become history, too. It’s going to take some time but I promise, you will get over this trauma.

Let us know how it goes.

My best,

Irene

 

Reader Q & A: Avoiding entanglements after a break up

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Dear Irene,

 

I have a long time friend who was a single mother just like me when we first met ten years ago. I knew she was a headstrong and opinionated early on and accepted that. However, I’ve always worried a bit about her. She had a traumatic childhood; she was adopted after her mother, a drug addict, who gave her up at the age of 5.

 

I kept the friendship almost out of pity because I knew she felt she could always turn to me. She loses friends easily due to her tendency to be mean and hurtful. I could write a book about all the hateful things she has said to me and it would take volumes to write all the negatives things she said about my child. I put this aside because she has a good heart in there somewhere. She is very smart, clever and used to be fun, and our friendship centered on getting together to let our kids play. Over the years, I become like an Aunt to her first son.

 

I went on to get married; she did too. She married for money, clearly stating to me and her family that her life plan was to marry someone with money, have a few more kids and never ever, ever have to work. This kind of stunned me but I sort of brushed it off. Now, she flaunts her husband's money, and often makes snide remarks about my husband's occupation. She is rude to me, her family, and especially to wait staff, baristas, anyone in the service industry, as if she is a queen. She calls her husband a “meal ticket” and continues to cheat on him, saying she’s not attracted to him. She recently moved away with her family but she hardly spent any time with me before she moved, and I have to say, I was relieved not to spend time with her.

 

Here is the problem. I had planned to call her after she settled in her new home to finally confront her and let her know we’ve grown apart and that I need to move on. Before I did, her mother called me very upset. When I told her mother, she didn’t even know that Claire had moved. Turns out her entire family is furious with her for becoming a snob, being rude to them all, and excluding them from her life. She had a fight with her mother several months before and they haven’t talked since. The sad thing is her mother has cancer, and because my friend is so self absorbed she doesn’t even know.

 

I want to pick up the phone and just unleash on this person I used to know! But, I have been asked not to divulge that I spoke to her mother. Yesterday, her brother called and said he wanted me to know that he hates his "ex-sister" and that if I do speak to her that the family is very angry with her. Now I am stuck and have no idea what to do. I am not outraged, more just disappointed and annoyed and ready to move on but I have this nagging feeling that I should confront her before her family members let on that they spoke to me. I just can't find the courage to do it! Please send your suggestions.

Signed,

Anonymous in Florida

____________________________

Dear Anonymous in Florida:

 

First, you should be congratulated on having such keen insight into your fractured friendship. You realize the factors that brought you and Claire together: sharing the experience of being single moms and your understanding and acceptance of someone who had a hard time in life. You also realize the downsides of the friendship that you initially overlooked but caused it to end.

 

After each of you married, the vast discrepancy between your values towards marriage/family and Claire’s become obvious. With her new involvements with both a husband and lover---as well as a geographical move---seems like your friendship just took a natural course and drifted apart, which was a fine resolution on both ends. (It’s common to feel like there hasn’t been closure when two people drift apart although it really is a type of closure.)

 

Then you somehow got involved in discussions with Claire’s family which has indirectly involved you with this toxic person again. I understand how this could easily happen but it was a mistake on your part. There is no need to confront Claire over her transgressions or lack of character or to report them to her family; they are well aware of her foibles. To the contrary, you need to extricate yourself from her family drama. Don’t call her relatives and if they call you again, you can honestly say that you are Claire have parted ways and you really aren’t in touch with her anymore. Her mom’s illness is a sad fact but there is nothing you can do about it.

 

This fractured friendship has really been over for some time. Unleashing isn't a sign of courage and won't repair what's broken. Now, it’s time for you to more forward and replace it with healthier relationships with people you respect. By the way: Don’t be surprised if you hear from Claire again around the time of her divorce. Hopefully, if that comes to pass, you will be prepared and you’ll be too busy and involved with others---who deserve a friend like you---to get sucked in again.

 

Hope this helps a little.

 

My best,

Irene

 

The Bridal Wave

Bridal Wave Cover_People-1.JPG

An interview with Valerie Krause

June weddings are legend. A better-kept secret is that this is also a month of hurt feelings--- a month when many brides and brides-to-be cut off their female friends. Yes, they ignore and alienate the very same women who made their showers, wore the hideous bridesmaid gowns they selected, and broke the bank to buy them wedding gifts.

Valerie Krause and Erin Torneo wrote The Bridal Wave as a prescription for all the women who strive to “stay sane in a marriage-crazy world.” It’s filled with wisdom and wit for the woman who feels like she is always a bridesmaid.

In this brief interview, Valerie offers her no-nonsense advice for a close friend of the bride who feels betrayed on some level, but wants to stay attached to her friend before and after the wedding.

 
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