Dear smart funny awesome Julie,
For more than 10 years, I was close friends with a colleague—we were two women in a competitive, male-dominated industry that required a lot of hustle and brain power. I revered this person. She had the education, and some of the upbringing, mentors/support network, and talent that I lacked, or was still struggling to find. She was extremely good at her job; I was good at mine, in a different way. Mostly, I was insecure and struggling to figure out how to be a real person; oftentimes my insecurities, complicated by depression, led me to withdraw from others, and to alienate them. I lost this friend—I'm still not exactly sure how it happened, or why. We live in different cities, and as I've improved my life, and become more devoted to the idea of tending to one’s friendships, I’ve tried to reconcile with her by email and phone. She altogether ignores my attempts, having gone on with her life (a family, different circles of friends, career pressures). I feel I failed her. I'd like to make it right. She's not having it. Should I just give up?
One More Try
Well, aren’t you nice! And the very fact that you call me smart, funny, AND awesome makes me think right off the bat that this so-called former friend is the one who is losing out. In all seriousness, let’s talk more about me. I noticed you didn’t say pretty or mention the fact that I’m a snappy dresser. KIDDING, of course, I’m kidding (that’s the funny you were talking about right?). Okay, enough about me! A surprising number of people write in to me saying they don’t know exactly why a friendship dissolved. This tells me they didn’t sleep with the person’s partner or bilk them out of millions of dollars or try to make their puppies into a coat. People make all kinds of errors in friendships—sometimes it truly feels like a minefield. Add in youth and work and you’ve got whole new layers of complications. What’s important to me is that you’ve taken responsibility and have tried to reconcile with her. Honestly, you’re good to go. You can’t control her response or even whether or not she has one. I, too, lost a friend years ago for reasons I can’t figure out. After a couple of unanswered emails and a voicemail, I had to, a little sadly, move on. You didn’t fail her, but at this point I would let her go.
I’ve been dating my girlfriend Michelle for about six months now. We get along great one-on-one but she’s not so personable when it comes to group interactions. She gets shy and people often interpret her behavior as standoffish. Which I think is what’s happened with my social circle; though no one’s said it outright, I get the feeling they don’t like her. I’ve noticed lately (thanks to social media) that they’ve been having couples dinners without me. When I do get invited to things there is no mention of Michelle, and for an upcoming weekend away that my friends have been planning, I’ve been told by the organizer that there isn’t room for me to bring her. I love my friends and I know they love me too, but I also understand that we can be a difficult group to break into ’cause we’ve all known each other for so long. This is the first time I’ve experienced it directly though. Can I get Michelle to win them over? Do I have to find a new crew? Should I be dating someone who gets along with my friends to begin with? Ugh, this is driving a wedge in my friendships AND my relationship. Please help!
The (Don’t Want to Say) Goodbye Girl
At this moment I’ve put on my white doctor jacket and miner’s light because this is a problem that deserves serious attention. I’m a little concerned about you saying that maybe you should be dating someone who gets along with your friends better. You need to figure out if you want to be with Michelle or not and if it’s based on how she hangs with your friends then I’m going to call “yipes.” People come with lots of qualities—not all of them are perfect and unforch you can’t bring her back to the girlfriend store and ask for one that cleans under beds, because some of us just don’t see those big wads of hair. Here’s what I think you should do: Talk to Michelle and see if she has feelings about the get-togethers. Is she uncomfortable? Does she like your friends? Maybe she doesn’t want to hang out with them. But if she does, then she needs help and I don’t think it necessarily should come from you. Talk to one of your close friends about it, tell them how this pains you, and ask them to bring her into the fold a bit. There are many ways to talk to shy people to put them at ease, and sometimes if someone knows that someone else is having difficulty, it can help. (I like to break the ice with, “What’s your favorite SSRI?”) This isn’t an insurmountable issue if you don’t want it to be.
Got a platonic problem of your own that could use the Friendkeeper’s advice? Fire away: firstname.lastname@example.org. No situation is too uncomfortable or too small and all details are kept confidential.