Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: Dumped by a Friend

This week, Danny M. Lavery and Slate social media editor Sol Werthan discuss a Prudie letter: dumped by a friend.

Sol Werthan: wow this letter escalated quickly - started in one place and ended somewhere very different

Danny Lavery: it did at that!

I mentioned in my original response that I’m not going to make a ruling on whether any LW is “crazy” or “not crazy”

in part because I don’t think that’s a useful categorization and also because I think the implication there is “If I’m ‘crazy’ I’m completely wrong and deserve only recrimination and judgment, but if I’m ‘not crazy’ I’m totally right” and I don’t think it’s necessary to view this situation through such a lens

Sol Werthan: yes, I agree that framing is not going to serve the LW very much. I think a more useful way to look at it is, “is this how I want to be treated in my relationships? Do I feel good about my actions in this friendship?”

Danny Lavery: yeah and I really want to encourage the LW to create some distance between how she feels and what actions she takes as a result of those feelings

it makes a lot of sense that she felt hurt and angry by Ann’s original response

and I think she’s perfectly entitled to feel that way

Sol Werthan: absolutely

Danny Lavery: but I think calling someone fifteen times in a row when you know they don’t want to talk with you is a really bad idea

no matter how bad you feel!

Sol Werthan: yep, and texting was def not the best medium for this conversation to begin

Danny Lavery: right

and it’s clear that whenever the LW feels hurt or aggrieved she begins to feel unable to resist the allure of lashing out again

so like – she already sent Ann an unsolicited letter telling her what a shit friend she thinks she is, and part of her wants to contact her again now because she still feels hurt

and there’s this belief that whenever she’s hurt, it’ll help relieve that hurt and pain if she can just yell at Ann again

Sol Werthan: yeah, the LW needs to step back and not act on these feelings for a while

it feels like they’re stuck in quicksand and the more they are lashing out, the more stuck they’re becoming

Danny Lavery: right

Sol Werthan: even though it feels urgent and imperative to resolve it, all the energy they’re expending is making things worse, possibly irreparably

Danny Lavery: it’s not “hypocritical” to not send an angry letter to someone you’ve already agreed not to be friends with

peaceful neutrality is not hypocrisy

Sol Werthan: yep

and I get how easy it is to analyze it all and feel like if you can just crack the code of what went wrong, you can fix it by sheer force of will

Danny Lavery: so that ending, “I want to work through issues,” is also worth re-examining – I don’t think that’s a realistic option here

both because Ann doesn’t seem interested in working through it and also because the LW seems fairly convinced that she could never feel safe or secure in a friendship with Ann again

Sol Werthan: yes, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be productive or worthwhile to pursue this relationship anymore

Danny Lavery: so I think the best thing the LW can do right now is commit to leaving Ann alone, for her own sake as well as Ann’s

Sol Werthan: 100%

Danny Lavery: the solution to these ongoing feelings of resentment is not going to come from forcing Ann to talk to you

Sol Werthan: I think the LW’s next steps should be mostly internal. why they were unable to let this go, why they felt like hounding Ann was going to lead to a positive outcome, and how they can respect that friendships are a two-way street

Danny Lavery: I also think it’s worth reexamining how she handled the situation – not that she has to go back and decide everything was her fault from the start, or that Ann never did anything wrong

yes, exactly

to treat this as a neutral fact-finding mission

Sol Werthan: yep, for sure

Danny Lavery: not “was I bad and in the wrong” but “could I have handled my hurt feelings differently” and “how might I act differently in the future if I fight with another friend?”

If you’re concerned about a friend’s behavior and you’ve noticed that they’re pulling away, making a flippant joke over text is not a good way to invite honest discussion

Sol Werthan: yes, this relationship was not serving the LW well either - there’s a lot of insecurity in this letter about how they were mistreated, speculating about Ann’s headspace

and the LW needs to let some of that go - it’s not in their control. they need to think more about their actions and their headspace

Danny Lavery: and I really want to stress that you should not ever call/text someone fifteen times in a row when they’ve made it clear they don’t want to talk

Sol Werthan: oh boy. yeah.

Danny Lavery: that’s a guaranteed way to make sure someone never wants to talk to you again

Sol Werthan: very fast way to push someone away

it’s extremely uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of that

Danny Lavery: the LW is so angry that Ann never explained in greater detail why she was “done with her,” but then basically acted in such a way as to pretty much guarantee Ann would not feel like offering an explanation was safe or possible

it’s frightening!

Sol Werthan: someone once sent me 84 text messages in a row, and it was one of the most concerning digital interaction I’ve ever had

Danny Lavery: oh gosh I’m so sorry

Sol Werthan: it was… a lot!

Danny Lavery: yeah it’s just not okay

and “I was really upset” or “I felt disposable” is not a worthwhile justification

it’s wrong, full stop, no matter how upset you feel

Sol Werthan: right, there needs to be some separation between how you feel, and what actions you take as a result of that

Danny Lavery: a better response would have been something like “I really hope we can talk about this, because I want to understand what I’ve done to upset you – let me know if you want to have a conversation about this later and I can promise I’ll listen before I respond”

Sol Werthan: and then recognize that if you don’t get a response, you cannot keep pushing it

Danny Lavery: which I realize can be difficult to say when you’re feeling angry and misunderstood

right

but it’s necessary to find ways to de-escalate fights even when you’re feeling really heated, because otherwise fights don’t end!

Sol Werthan: exactly! big fan of taking time to cool off

Danny Lavery: so while you can’t control how this friendship ended, LW, and you can’t force Ann to talk to you or to absorb any more of your anger, you can try to learn from how things fell apart and take steps to ensure you don’t handle other potential fights with friends in the future the way you handled this one

and you should figure out what additional kinds of support you might need to ensure that you don’t ever use your hurt feelings to justify blowing up someone else’s phone again

you’ve got to find another outlet for your hurt and anger than “You have to talk to me now and I’m going to try to brute-force you into a conversation on my terms”

because it’s not healthy or kind but also because it just doesn’t work

it’s not going to get you what you want

and it’s going to drive people away

Sol Werthan: absolutely, it is not a healthy or respectful way to relate to others

Danny Lavery: and it does make me wonder what else you might have done over the course of that friendship that made Ann feel like she couldn’t honestly discuss her frustrations with you!

Sol Werthan: yes, I have to imagine this dynamic is not isolated to this blow-up with Ann

really this boils down to BOUNDARIES

Danny Lavery: yes! and I think for the LW, acknowledging mistakes or bad decisions on her part brings up a lot of fear

the idea is threatening because it’s very all-or-nothing

“either I’m crazy and bad, or I’m justified and right”

so the idea of saying “I did X and Y wrong, and mishandled my anger” feels as threatening as saying “I’m a bad friend and a bad person and I deserve to lose my friends”

Sol Werthan: yes, that all-or-nothing mindset is not a good way to interact with others

Danny Lavery: but they’re not the same thing, and you can treat your own hurt feelings with kindness and compassion while also acknowledging what you’ve done wrong

and I really do wish her the best in trying to sort through the aftermath of this friend breakup

it’s hard and painful work, and admitting you’ve acted wrongly does not mean you have to treat yourself as a disposable person

Now available in your podcast player: the audiobook edition of Danny M. Lavery’s latest book, Something That May Shock and Discredit YouGet it from Slate