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Friendship: When Little Problems Mushroom into Big Ones

March 16, 2012 | By | 10 Replies Continue Reading

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I’ve been struggling about
what to do about my friend Jennifer, whom I’ve known for 14 years. She really
took me aback with a letter she wrote me almost a year ago. It included everything
I had done that had upset her, all the way back to 2005, when she was my maid
of honor.
 

In 2010, she and her husband were coming to my
city. Her husband has a best friend in a city two hours from me so we weren’t
the only reason they were coming to visit. But we ended up not seeing each
other because she said her husband got sick after they visited her husband’s
friend.

 

I was three months pregnant
with my second child (and really excited for her to see my belly) and I was
planning on driving to her with my four-year-old. On the day of the visit, she
left a message saying her husband was sick and it wouldn’t be a good idea to see
each other.

 

I was really upset because I
only see her once a year, and I made the mistake of jumping to the conclusion
that her husband wasn’t really sick—rather, that he didn’t like me because
this was the second time something like this had happened.

 

Something like this had
happened once before so it seemed like a pattern. I also had accused him of not
wanting me in their wedding party but I was wrong, and sent him an apology
letter. He forgave me but she hasn’t.

 

I was in tears when she refused to have me come
see me. That is when I realized it had to be something more. The next month I
got a hand written letter from her. It seemed like the purpose of her letter
was to deliberately get back at me for things that I did but didn’t know about.
More than once, it said how selfish I am.

I sent her an apology letter, I’ve posted on her
wall wishing her a Happy Birthday, Happy Veteran’s Day, mentioning how sorry to
hear that her cat had passed, etc. with no response. What hurt me the most was
to not receive a message from her or congratulations on the birth of my son in
2010. If she is that angry, I’m at a loss as to why she hasn’t blocked me on
Facebook.

I had no idea she was so angry all this time.
When I told her I was upset because I wasn’t in her wedding (the day after
the  wedding in 2007) all she said was,
"I have to make this up to you." Now, in the letter, she wrote that I
"dashed her wedding experience to the floor".

 

A person can’t fix anything
if they don’t know about it. But to let me know now has just boggled my mind. I
guess I’ve been holding on to hope that we would be okay because I’ve known her
for over 14 years. Ever since my life turned around for the better our
friendship has not been the same.

I’m at the point I want to completely end it.
Block her from Facebook but it’s tricky. It’s really difficult to see posts from her
to her other friends and not response to any of my posts. I’ve reached out more
than once to try and mend our relationship. I’m still at a loss about this.

 

When we go to Florida (where I’m from) for vacation I
always make sure to have time to visit her. Our upcoming trip in April I won’t
be doing that. I want to send her one last letter to tell her how I feel and to
end our friendship. But I’m really not sure how to go about it. What I really
need to do is burn the letter. I’m just not ready to do that yet. Not sure why.

Would love to hear your ideas. 

Signed, Rebecca

 

ANSWER

Dear Rebecca, 

It’s hard to know exactly
what is going on with you and your friend—or with your friend and her
husband. It seems like most of the difficulties in your friendship cropped up
after you both got married. For a variety of reasons, sometimes the close friends
we have as singles aren’t the same ones that work for us as wives, partners,
and/or mothers.

 

By the time Jennifer sent the
letter, it sounds like she had been accumulating a litany of complaints against
you for years or else was reaching back more recently to re-write history. In
any relationship, it’s never fair fighting to bring up grudges from the past.
It’s always a mistake, too, to let little problems in a relationship continue
to fester. This can lead to a build up of anger and can be crushing to the
person to whom they are suddenly delivered all at once.

 

Fourteen years is a long
friendship and I suspect it was one that was very important to you and
Jennifer. At this point, I don’t think Facebook is a good mechanism for you to
use to stay connected with her. Just block her from your Facebook page if you
are irritated seeing her interact with other friends.

 

At this point, my suggestion is
to simply let go of the friendship. You have so little contact with your ex-friend
now that a letter isn’t necessary nor do I think it would achieve anything. It
seems like Jennifer isn’t very good at resolving conflicts—so I’m not too
hopeful you can repair things.

Hope this helps. 

Best, Irene

 

Can you take a minute to vote for my blog and my book, which are finalists for the
About.com Friendship Awards? You can vote once each day—for each of
them—through March 21, 2012.

  • Click
    here
     to vote for The Friendship Blog! (It’s the third one on the list).
  • Click
    here
     to vote for Best Friends Forever! (It’s the last one on the list).

There are no monetary rewards—only a feel-good feeling that we are all in this together.

Huge thanks for your support always! Irene

 

 

 

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Comments (10)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Thank you all for your responses.

    The letter my friend wrote was actually hand written not emailed. I’m not sure why she did that? Was it her way of making things “final”?

  2. Anonymous says:

    Here’s the wonderful thing (and little known) benefit to blocking someone on Facebook. Whoever you blocked will become completely invisible on Facebook to you. Plus you will become completely invisible to that person. Whoever you’ve blocked will think you’ve deleted your Facebook account. They will not even be able to find you in a search. However, if you both are participating in a conversation and someone responds to you by name, they would then figure it out.

  3. Jacqueline says:

    jacqueline

    Sorry, but I beg to differ. Too many people hide behind the screen, which is impersonal, especially when it comes to expressing feelings.

    I am tired of seeing people break up on Facebook (which I am no longer part of) or text each other when they could just pick up the phone and TALK. The human-ness is gone. This world has become a much colder place because of all the technology. Everything is fast fast fast….

    We all have to make our personal boundary of when enough is enough.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Did you express to your friend that you would prefer to communicate in person or over the phone? Why is it wrong to use email to unload? Writing is a means of communication. If it doesn’t work for you to receive emails did you suggest that you and your friend talk in person? If you are unresponsive to a friend’s anger, which is ulitmately just a concern in the friendship, after she took the time to express it in email, why would you expect that she wouldnt’ be hurt? Did you figure out antoher means of discussing her concerns or were her angry feelings totally out of reality? In this day and age, email is used often to communicate, and in your case, anger. Why is that so wrong? Sorry, I don’t understand.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I agree wholeheartedly about the fact that the poster receiving an email of a iltany of complaints from many years should make her question the validity of the friendship.But not so much that it was an angry email, but that the friend did not see the good in the friendship and let resentments fester in it for so long without saying anything. As far as angry emails though, referred to responders, why is it wrong to send an email to let someone know you’re angry. Email has become something like letter writing, a means to communicate issues. Did you intersperse phone and in person talk with the issues brought out in the angry emails you received from your friends? Again, if the nature of the emails was stuff you didn’t understand such as letting things fester for years and then a litany of blame, sure, but bringing things up by email, even anger, like letter writing, is a means of communication and sometimes friends get angry with each other. Did you attempt to address what the anger was about or was it stuff you truly couldn’t understand why the person was upset?

  6. Anonymous says:

    This person doesn’t sound very forgiving or willing to work things out with you, and very dramatic saying you dashed her wedding when you expressed a concern after it was over and was supportive to her. You could simply hide her posts so you don’t have to see them for now, instead of blocking which is very permanent. not that it might not be healthy for you to let go of the friendship but blocking opens up a whole new set of consequences. If you hide her posts you will not see them and not feel repeatedly hurt by her non responses to you. And yes, don’t go out of your way to make plans with her if she doesn’t tend to reciprocate and don’t well wish her anymore if she is not being mutual. Let her come to you, if she values the friendship and wants to mend things she will. But try not to expect it or count on it, because she likely won’t. I truly don’t understand how people can be this way, but they are.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for this response. I also had a friend who would use email as a way to unload her angry feelings toward me. I also had made the same pact with myself that I would not respond to these kinds of emails again. I unfortunately lost the friendship when I chose not to respond to an email like this. So, my friendship sadly ended. It has been 7 months since we’ve spoken, and I am still trying to get over it. It is helpful to read you email, and feel a connection to it.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hi Rebecca,

    I can relate to what you’re going through. I had a long time friend who sent me letters/emails when she was hurt, frustrated, and/or disappointed with me. These emails would start with the issue that caused her negative feelings towards me, and then turn into a laundry list of all the ways I was deficient and defective as a friend and/or person.

    In her angry emails to me, she reached back into our history to find topics to dump in my lap. There were even things that I was hearing about for the first time. I attempted to discuss the issues she raised, but she wasn’t interested in discussing them. I felt frustrated by her method of “dump and run” when it came to conflict resolution.

    The last time I received this kind of email from her almost caused me to end my friendship with her. However, I wasn’t ready to toss in the towel. I really enjoyed spending time with her and had a lot of fun when I did. In addition, there were times in the past when I needed her and she was there.

    I continued my friendship with her, but I set boundaries for myself. I also told myself that if I ever received that type of email from her again, that I would end my friendship with her.

    Interestingly, as the years passed, I learned that I wasn’t the only one in her life that received these types of emails from her. I concluded that it wasn’t so much me who brought out her angry email writing, that in fact, this was how she managed conflict and her feelings. I was both frustrated and relieved to learn that it wasn’t me and that I wasn’t alone in experiencing her wrath. I didn’t take her statements about me so personally after that.

    My friendship with her continued for several years. Over time though, we both became busy with our own lives and drifted apart. Once or twice a year I will hear from her and we’ll exchange brief ‘info-emails’ about what each of us is up to, and that’s the extent of our friendship now. Actually, she’s more of an acquaintance, and if I didn’t receive the odd email from her, I would probably drop all contact with her (I’m not on Facebook). I remember the previous years with fondness and I’m glad I was friends with her unfortunately, I believe I outgrew our friendship and perhaps she feels the same.

    Although I continued with my friendship, ultimately it didn’t last. I agree with the advice you’ve received thus far; walk away from the friendship. I never received another angry email from my friend, but I know if I had, it would have caused me more pain. Besides, I never felt as close to my friend after her last angry email to me as I had prior to that.

    Be good to yourself and try not to beat yourself up about your friend’s behaviour. You’re not responsible for managing her feelings and based on what I read of your letter, you’ve shown her far more consideration than she has to you. Take care.

  9. Anonymous says:

    A good reminder that making wedding details into something bigger than they are is a clear indication that a person values things and appearances more than others and their feelings. Between the letter writer and the commend above, we have three weddings upsetting three friendships. There’s something amiss in the way weddings are being handled these days…jus’ sayin’.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Hi Rebecca – I experienced something similar with a trusted friend. She equated being needed to being valued. It was impossible to reassure her. When she finally decided to unload her complaints about me, I was devastated. My crimes were refusing to go on a blind date she’d scheduled for me – without my knowledge, and which conflicted with a prior committment, and expressing a desire not to see a horror movie with her. I’m not good at horror movies. Those things meant I put my wants ahead of her own. Unfortunately she brought her anger into the workplace by accusing me of not helping her with a problem that wasn’t in my area of expertise, or responsibility. I’d tried to help but couldn’t. At that time in my life I was making changes and growing in confidence.

    When a friend of mine was planning her wedding, her maid of honour, a childhood friend, pulled out at the last minute. Her complaint? The bride-to-be was too demanding – because she’d suggested the bridesmaids would be more comfortable in a 1/2″ heeled shoe and the maid-the-honour wanted to wear a 2″ heel. My friend was stunned, sick at heart, and missing her best friend at her wedding. The friendship died then and there. Obviously it wasn’t about heel height. The bride was moving on to a new stage in life.

    I’m recounting these stories because you noticed your friendship hadn’t been the same since your life “turned around for the better”.

    Unfortunately reassuring her back then or now isn’t going to fix things. It’s not something within your power to do.

    Block her on Facebook. Yes, you will still see any posts she makes in a group conversation but she make just fade from the picture … once you’ve blocked her. I have my fingers crossed that you’ll be spared any future pain. Take care, Rebecca.

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