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Goals, not wishes-- I'm a doctor, not a genie.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Bitter Friend

Posted by fxckfeelings on March 11, 2013

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Many women think that having a friend turn on you is just a call for better communication, deep soul-searching, and improved understanding, but “turning” as acceptable behavior is reserved for werewolves and superheroes, not friends; anyone who turns on you is probably not a friend worth fighting for, and such reaching out usually causes more harm than good. Instead of hoping to find a TV-like misunderstanding, unknown secret identity, or even a way to even the score, learn to accept the fact that friendships are not always forever. Stay true to your standards for friendship and learn strength and better rules for admitting people (without supernatural powers or super-Asshole-like tendencies) into your inner circle.
Dr. Lastname

Recently one of my best friends arranged a party with some of our mutual friends and purposely did not invite me and avoided my phone calls (which I only realized after). I feel like she’s just stuck her middle finger at me– she knew what she did, it wasn’t a mistake as she’s already tried to cover it up which is the part that hurt the most. We’ve been good friends for over 9 years and this is the first time anything like this has happened. I was in shock and have not been able to stop thinking about it and why she would do that. I take my few close friendships very seriously and the friends that I do have I spend time on and treat with respect. I would never treat her the way she treated me. I haven’t talked to her about the way I feel, and to be honest, I don’t even know what to say…knowing her she would blow it over and pretend it was nothing. She gossips a lot about her other friends and now I can’t help but now wonder what she says about me. I’m so angry right now that I don’t want to talk to her anyway and plan on not answering the phone if/when she calls, but I guess my goal is to figure out if I should just move on and focus on my other friendships or try to resolve this. I hate losing a friend but I can’t trust her now and even if there is a way to resolve this our friendship is already different/altered.

F*ck Feelings has always encouraged a pragmatic approach to romantic relationships, and while friendships don’t have the same bottom line that marriages do, they do have a purpose, even if it’s not as grand as raising healthy kids, making a happy home, peaceably sharing space on the DVR, etc.

It’s hard to consider the purpose of friendship in the midst of feeling hurt and betrayed by an old friend, but it’s useful, because friendship isn’t just for the good feelings of shared secrets, emotions, shoes, etc.

It also connects you in complicated ways to family and community, so that an open falling-out with one friend, no matter how well justified, can cause unintended damage to other relationships, including ones that lie closer to your heart or are important to your ideals. For instance, confronting and losing this one friend may cause a domino effect, but instead of all the other connection friends falling down, they’ll all fall-out with you.

So, as much as friendship thrives on spontaneity and mutual pleasure, think hard before expressing yourself honestly to a close-but-now-in-doubt friend about hurt feelings, even if not doing so will prevent you from ever feeling close to this person again.

You wonder whether you should try to resolve your hurt feelings or get an explanation by speaking out, but you’ve also suggested that she’s unlikely to acknowledge what she’s done and that confrontation may make unpleasant waves. So, before saying something about feeling dumped, mistreated, and insulted, ask yourself whether her uninviting you to her party says more about who she is than about you and your relationship. Think back to her tendency to gossip nastily about others and ask yourself whether she’s a basically mean person who needs to cause pain from time to time, always feeling it’s the other guy’s fault—in DSM V diagnostic jargon, an Asshole™. If she is, and has the charisma to lead others away from you in the event that you confront her, then that’s the last thing you want to do.

Instead, pretend that nothing happened, keep your sorrow to yourself, and watch how people behave. If a woman in your group asks you why you weren’t at the party, she may be a real friend, and those who don’t may not. In any case, give a response that removes blame or anger from the conversation, explaining that you assumed your (maybe-Asshole™) friend thought you were unavailable. Truly, you think it’s more likely that she just wanted to exclude you, but that’s not a topic you want to raise.

Perhaps, if you deprive her of her Unhappy Meal of a dramatic, feeling-drenched response, she’ll forget about dissing you and look for trouble elsewhere, which gives you an opportunity to cross her off your friendship list without anyone’s knowing, including her. That’s probably the best way to cut your losses while steering clear of the Reality-TV maelstrom of wounded-feeling conversations.

As much as it hurts to lose an old friend, it’s better to know who she really is and who among your friends cares more about her approval than about their friendship with you. Sometimes you discover the women you thought were real friends are just a middle school bitch-clique and that you’re far better off dumping them and starting over.

No matter what your friend is, you know you’ve done nothing wrong, so stand by that knowledge and don’t let your hurt feelings cause you to compromise your standards or expose yourself to additional pain. Remember that one purpose of a good friendship is to give you comfort against enemies, not make you feel like one.

“I feel like I’ve lost a close friend, but I know I’ve done nothing wrong so what I’ve lost may be my ability to trust someone I thought was a close friend and isn’t. I will learn from this experience and probably become more selective. I will respect myself for enduring a loss and not letting it drive me to compromise or hurt myself.”

I wish there was something I could do to help my fourteen-year-old deal with the mean girls in her class. It started just before Christmas when my daughter’s best friend since first grade decided to throw her under the bus in order to get in with the mean girls and make them think she’s cool. Now they all treat my daughter as if she’s a social leper and have something nasty to say about everything she says, does, and wears, and her old friend doesn’t return her calls. I want to speak to the other girls’ parents and try to stop this—I’ve become friendly with my daughter’s ex-friend/now tormenter’s mom over the years—but my daughter says that that would make the girls hate her more and I should just stay out of it. My husband and I have started talking about whether moving is actually possible, and while we’d like to avoid it since our other kids are happy where they are (and the costs would be enormous), we can’t afford private education. My goal is to help, because I can only imagine how hurt my daughter is by the bullying since it’s hurting me so much just watching her go through it.

It’s horribly painful to be dumped by an apparently close friend at any age (see above), but particularly when you’re young and have no escape from seeing the same people every day at school, together with the raw emotions adolescents have so little ability to restrain. What your daughter understands, however, is that some of the things you’d like to do to protect her could cause her more trouble, a truth that applies at any age (see above as well).

If you do nothing but feel her pain, you may well become paralyzed by feelings of helplessness. Fortunately, however, your job isn’t to protect her from pain like this—because you can’t—but to help her manage it. You’re the teacher of her new course in Shunned-by-Assholes™ 101, and there’s much you can put in your syllabus.

First, remind her that the one thing that’s more important than losing a friend is knowing you’ve been a good friend yourself, and, to your knowledge, she is a good friend. Of course, her opinion is the one that counts, but insist that she use objective standards in evaluating herself, not should-have, could-have feelings. If she’s done nothing wrong, and many things right, then you’re confident she’ll be a good friend in the future, and that’s what matters. You don’t have the same confidence in her old friend or the mean girls she now buddies with.

Tell her you’re proud of all the negative things she’s not doing after getting an object lesson in the great unfairness of life, like becoming bitter and negative; until that time, most kids don’t realize how unfair life can be, particularly if they’ve got a nice family, attend a nice school, and are reasonably healthy and smart. You can see she’s been hit hard and you’re impressed with the way she’s soldiering on and taking care of business, in spite of her pain. She hasn’t lost respect for her own values just because life has stabbed her in the heart.

Since it isn’t easy for her to change schools, offer to beef up her out-of-school activities, particularly if they bring her into contact with a new community of kids. If you enjoy one another’s company, do more things together. Remember, just because you’re her mother doesn’t mean you can’t also be her friend.

Don’t reassure her that life won’t hurt her like this again, if only because it’s nearly impossible to do with a straight face. Instead, show her you’re confident that she’ll learn from this sad event and be strong at handling similar trauma in the future, using the techniques and ideas you’re giving her now, and remind her that mean girls can’t help but be mean, but no matter how much it hurts, she can keep meanness out of her response.

“To watch my daughter suffer and not be able to protect her makes me feel like a totally useless mother, but I know she has good values and must learn to manage and survive this kind of trauma. It’s better happening now, while I’m around to coach and support her, than later, when she’s alone. I’ll give her the tools that have always helped me and I’ll keep reminding her that she’s growing stronger and will find good friends in the future.”

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