Dear Friend or Foe,
My very good friend, “Ellen,” has made it very clear that she doesn’t like my boyfriend, and I don’t know what to do. My boyfriend, “Doug,” and I have a very complicated relationship. He’s my brother’s best friend. He’s divorced with four kids. We have a long-distance relationship. And he has ADHD. But I know him to be honest and loyal, and he treats me like a queen. Not long ago, we realized that we’d been in love with each other for many years. (I’ve known him for more than 20.) Now we want to put the work into making a lasting relationship. However, the start was a little bumpy, and we broke up a couple of times. The breakups usually only lasted a few days; both times we realized how committed we were to working things out. But Ellen doesn’t seem to be able to let go of the breakups. She only judges Doug based on those two incidents, doesn’t see his great qualities, and thinks I’m dumb for “going back” to him—even though, in my mind, I never really left.
I realize that she doesn’t want me to get hurt. But she can’t seem to accept that Doug is not a bad guy, and that the breakups were mutual. She makes snarky comments about how he doesn’t know what he wants and is jerking me around. She has even gone so far as to try to hook me up with new guys. I thought that if she and Doug spent more time together she’d see what a great person he is. But after his last visit, she went on and on about how irritating she found him.
I’m surprised to see this side of Ellen. In all other ways, she’s a fantastic friend. And I hate the thought that our friendship might end because of my other relationship. But I’m at the point where I’m afraid to even bring up Doug’s name in front of her. What’s more, Doug and I have started talking about marriage, and I’m terrified at how Ellen will react. But I can’t just ignore the fact that he exists when I’m talking to her. Should I just let things play themselves out and assume that, with time, she’ll come around? Or should I sit her down and try to explain? At the moment, she’s convinced that I’m “blinded by love” (a comment she’s already made).
Torn in Half
You’re both right. Ellen is refusing to see the positive elements of your relationship with Doug. And you’re refusing to accept that, just as Ellen commented, you’re likely “blinded by love.” (Probably by sex, too.) A divorced guy with attention deficit disorder and four children by another woman is unlikely to be a walk in the park as a husband. Then again, few among us qualify as Walks in the Park. That said, I’d seriously recommend you try living in the same house with the guy—never mind city—before you take the big plunge into marriage. Long-distance relationships are fantasies; let’s see how he does when faced with a dishwasher that needs unloading.
But this is a friendship advice column, not a marital one—so let’s bring the focus back to you and Ellen. As you intuit, Ellen likely feels she’s just trying to protect you from making a wrong turn in the road. If you’re 100 percent committed to this guy, you need to sit her down and say that you know she’s just trying to help. You also know that your relationship with Doug is never going to be easy. (What relationship is?) But you’re committed to making it work and you’d appreciate it if, as your close friend, she’d support you in that decision until further notice. You’ve also long since moved on from the early breakups. Doug loves you—and you, him. In short, Ellen needs to understand that, this time, the two of you are here to stay.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend of Foe,
After working closely with the same group of people for 10 years, we’ve all become friends. Or so I thought. Recently, my co-worker/friend, “Gina,” has stopped speaking to me and no longer eats lunch with the group. She also answers works-related questions gruffly and with attitude. There is tension through the whole office. This was all after an associate quit and I hired an individual to fill the position. From what I can garner through office gossip, Gina isn’t speaking to me either because I dismissed her choice for the position, hired an individual that had quit a few years before and whom she didn’t like, or didn’t fill her in on every step of the hiring process—or all of the above.
I’m very hurt. I thought Gina was not just a co-worker but a friend and that, as a friend, she should have talked to me about what was bothering her. If she felt “left out” at any point, she could have told me that and asked me what was going on. Instead, she’s acting like a child and throwing a tantrum. What should I do? Forget about the friendship and move on? Speak to her about our work relationship and agree not to be friends but ask if we can be civil co-workers? Ask her what her problem is? (The latter will likely result in yelling.) I refuse to apologize when I’ve done nothing wrong.
Confused, Hurt, Mad With One Fewer Friend
The final decision re: the hiring of a new associate was yours to make. But you don’t say if you and Gina are equals on the company totem pole (i.e., each the head of your own department). If she’s beneath you, the woman needs to concentrate on getting a promotion—not being mad at you for already having one! If you’re equals, it’s more complicated. You also don’t say if, by company tradition, new hires are made with some degree of consensus among the middle management. If this is the case, I can see how Gina might feel peeved, especially if you just (re)hired someone with whom she had a particularly negative experience without first seeking her input.
In any case, approaching this conflict with the pre-condition that you refuse to apologize isn’t going to get you anywhere. You may not have broken the Ten Commandments. And Gina may be acting like a big baby. But people apologize when they accidentally brush against each other on the sidewalk. By the same token, there’s no reason you can’t apologize for the fact that she seems to have felt written out of the hiring process. If you’re serious about repairing the friendship, I’d (yes) sit her down and begin by saying exactly this. You can add that making her feel excluded wasn’t your intention. What’s more, you now feel hurt that, rather than coming to you to express her grievance, she seems to have taken the passive-aggressive route. You thought the two of you were better friends than that.
See what she says. I suspect she’ll welcome the chance to vent. Hopefully, the conversation will clear the air and lead back to the lunch table.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
I met “Rachel” a few weeks before she married her husband “Mike,” who went to college with two of my guy friends. After they got married, Rachel and I hung out a few times. As their first year of marriage went by, Rachel eventually stopped suggesting girls’ nights. By that point I’d realized that Rachel was kind of mean and socially awkward and has anxiety issues that need a treatment stronger than friendship. After that, I didn’t make much effort to maintain the relationship. However, Mike has also stopped hanging out with our (coed) group of friends, which is far more disappointing because we all like Mike a lot. It also seems as if Rachel is intentionally keeping him away. When we invite both of them to a group event, Mike replies that they’ll both be there, and Rachel replies that they both have to work. Most of the time, Mike goes along with the lie and doesn’t show up. This has been going on for several years.
Recently, Rachel has started asking me to hang out again (usually when Mike has other plans) and behaving as if we’re best girlfriends. I always say I have other plans because I’d rather sit at home alone than be around her pointless arguments and political tirades. Plus, I’m tired of the obvious lying. Can I maintain a separate friendship with Mike, who is understandably just sticking by his crazy wife? Or do I give up and quit trying to invite Mike to things?
We Like You, but Not Your Crazy Wife
The wife has reached out to you (again). If you want to continue your friendship with the husband, you’re going to have to reciprocate. In fact, it wouldn’t entirely surprise me if it was Mike who encouraged Rachel to call (or email or text). He loves this woman, and he wants you (his old friend) to love her, too—or, if love isn’t possible, then tolerate her for a few cocktails, a couple times a year. Is that too much to ask? As a general rule, I don’t believe that married people need to be treated as a single unit on the social front. However, this situation is complicated by the fact that a) the good friend is male, and b) the wife is an anxious type. I simply don’t see an exclusive friendship with Mike happening. As you’ve already seen, Rachel is quite capable of nixing his plans, too. If you continue blowing her off, she’ll have even more reason to nix, whether out of jealousy or out of hurt that, well, you can’t stand her. (After the fourth turn-down, people tend to get the message.)
Friend or Foe