Dear Friend or Foe,
Several years ago, I had breakups with three of my closest friends, all in rapid succession. The first happened after my friend “Sara” began making snide remarks to me (e.g. “you know, when you’re older, your neck is going to be so ugly”). Later, after she found out I’d gone out to lunch with a friend with whom she was embroiled in a fight, she got angry, dumped me, and wanted an apology for not backing her up. The second falling out—with my friend “Jane”—occurred after I introduced her to a male friend of mine. I was hoping they’d hit it off. (Jane’s greatest complaint—and source of insecurity—is that she’s single.) He invited us to see his band play. But on the night of the performance, I was sick with a cold and opted out. After that, Jane stopped talking to me—even after I wrote her a letter.
The third breakup happened when my friend “Claire” bought a townhouse right across the way from me. At first, we were carpooling everywhere and watching over each other’s homes. After she became distant and flaky, I discovered she was seeing my rude louse of an ex-boyfriend (“Sam”). To make matters worse, I’d confided in Claire about all of his ... ahem ... shortcomings before I dumped him! Now, all of a sudden, he was lurking at every event and even on my front lawn. To me, that was a serious breach of trust. (Adios to another pal.)
Since all of this went down, I’ve become a lot more closed-off to women. I still have female friends, but I no longer confide in them the way I did with Sara, Jane, and Claire. I long for that closeness, but I’m afraid of losing another friend, or worse, discovering that I’m just a horrible friend and these breaks were really my fault. To make matters worse, Sara is now trying to get me blackballed from the group. Oddly enough, everything else in my life is better than ever. I recently got a dream job, and my boyfriend and I are about to get engaged. Yet I feel like I’m in crisis. Should I just chalk these fallings out up to bad luck—or am I missing something?
At a Loss
Let’s break it down. The Sara chick sounds like a bitch with a capital B. For one thing, all necks assume turkeylike properties in old age. (Just ask Nora Ephron.) For another, when you became friends with the woman, I’m assuming that you didn’t also agree to join a cult. Therefore, I fail to see the crime in having lunch with her ex-friend. Nor am I surprised to hear that she’s now trying to ostracize you in a similar manner. That said, I can make a similar accusations against you in your dealings with Claire. Sure, it’s a little awkward now to think of you giggling over Sam’s anatomical “challenges.” But you dumped him! Why it is disloyal of Claire to have picked him up off the floor? Besides, maybe he’s not as much of a louse as he once was. I’m not saying you have to double date with the two of them. But unless there’s something missing from the story, I’m not “getting” the breach of trust part.
As for Jane, my hunch is that, even if you’d shown up to hear the band play that night, Jane would have found another way to convince herself that you’d disappointed her. Some people think the whole world is out to screw them. No doubt she finds similar tendencies in potential boyfriends—hence, her perpetual lack of one. Unless you’ve made a pattern of canceling on her at critical moments, one lame-out doesn’t even come close to a friendship sin.
In any case, if I were you, I’d let the old gang go. You’re about to enter a new chapter of your life, and the group dynamics seem past the point of repair. The only person I might reach out to—and maybe even apologize to?—is Claire. Also, you two are neighbors. Who wants an enemy you can see out your kitchen window while you’re doing the dishes?
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend of Foe,
After 10 years of working with the same group of people, we’ve all become friends. Or so I thought. Recently my co-worker/friend—“Tina”—stopped speaking to me and won’t even eat lunch with the crew. Work-related questions are answered gruffly and with attitude. This was all after an associate quit, and I hired an individual to fill the position. From what I can garner through office gossip, Tina is angry because I dismissed her choice for the position; hired an individual who had quit a few years before and who she didn’t like; didn’t fill her in on every step and now she feels "left out"—or all of the above.
I feel hurt. I thought Tina was not just a co-worker but a friend and that, as a friend, she’d have come to me to talk about what was bothering her. If she felt left out at any point, she could have asked me what was going on. To my mind, she’s acting like a child having a tantrum, and I’ve done nothing wrong. Should I forget about the friendship and move on? Ask her what her problem is? (This will likely result in yelling.) Agree not to be friends but ask if we can be civil co-workers? I refuse to apologize for something I haven’t done.
Confused, Hurt, Mad, and With One Less Friend