The Relationship Judge – When is it time to break up with a friend?

Today’s Friday Relationship Judge entry poses a very tough question that I’m sure others have experienced or will at some point in their life.  What to do about a friendship which used to be fun, supportive and loving, but for one particular reason or just because of the direction life takes people, it is no longer beneficial to one or both participants?

The Facts: “Joyce” from Alberta (happy to post our first entry from a Canadian!) wrote in to tell us her story.  She is 31 years old and has been close friends with Christine since college.  The two of them used to be extremely close.  While they had a nice circle of mutual friends from college, they were known as each other’s best friend, talked on the phone incessantly and spent at least 1-2 days a week hanging out together even after they were married.  Joyce has always known that Christine had a selfish side to her, but despite some small personality quirks that had caused some arguments between them in the past, Joyce was always one to forgive and forget.  Joyce had a baby almost 2 years ago and returned part time to work.   Joyce also joined a mommy yoga class and made a new group of friends through that.  Joyce’s time has become much more limited but she continously tried to make an effort to see Christine and continued to invite her over to hang out.  Over the past year, Christine has grown more distant.  She always rejected Joyce’s invitations to hang out, saying she was “exhausted” or “too busy.”  The phone calls stopped unless Joyce did the calling and if she got Christine on the phone, they chatted for a couple of minutes before Christine would make up an excuse to get off the phone.  Joyce has been extremely stressed by this situation, but could not even get Christine to commit to a 10 minute phone conversation to ask her what was wrong. About 6 months ago, Christine called out of the blue and asked to meet for a drink.  Joyce managed to get a baby sitter, leave work early and met up with Christine.   It was an awful evening.  Christine spent about 45 minutes telling Joyce that she had changed.  That she wasn’t the friend that she used to be. That she was selfish and didn’t have time to be a true friend anymore.  Joyce was shocked, horrified and extremely saddened to hear these words come out of her best friend’s mouth.  She managed to tell Christine that she was sorry, that yes, she had changed – she was a mom now, and had limited time on her hands, but that didn’t mean she devalued their friendship.  Over the last few months, Joyce has tried to to make more of an effort to see Christine, but she has found it much more difficult to balance a baby, a husband and her job – let alone make an effort to see someone who doesn’t seem to understand her situation.  She feels she already had made an effort to keep their friendship going despite the life-changing experience of mommyhood and doesn’t think that a friendship should have to be this difficult.

The Question:  Should Joyce “break up” with Christine?  If not, how can their friendship be repaired?  Joyce is particularly saddened that this is one of her oldest friends and feels it would be a loss despite all that has transpired.  If Joyce does decide to part ways with Christine, what is the best way to do so?  Have another conversation or is there a less stressful way?

The Relationship Judge Says: Ok, wait. To me, the answer is obvious.  Christine is no friend nor does she seem to add any value to your life except if you enjoy being aggravated.  The only people who deserve your friendship are the ones who appreciate it.  Don’t waste your precious, limited, constantly shrinking time with people who don’t.  I should put that in a fortune cookie.  Seriously, it’s an important lesson, but one which is often only learned with time, tears and stress.  Being that Christine is no longer your friend, the more difficult question becomes – do you need to formally “end” this friendship?  If you’re already not speaking regularly, this may be easier than you think.  A formal friendship break-up speech may not be needed.  Life is crazy busy and it is natural that the 30 people you spoke to on the phone every night in high school and the 100 best friends you had in college will not be a part of your life by the time your married and have kids.  It’s normal.  It’s what happens.  If you do want to have a “sit-down” with her, first figure out what you want out of it.  Best case scenario, if you explained your side of it and you get an apology out of her – is this really someone you want to continue spending time with going forward?  Will she have your best interests at heart? Can you trust her?  What are you getting out of this friendship?  If you have to think really hard about this, it is not a friendship worth salvaging.  Yes, it’s nice to stay close with old friends.  But it’s even better to have great friends who you love spending time with when you’re most exhausted, most stressed and need someone to vent to.  I don’t think Christine is this person.  I’d implement the phase-out.  Particularly since your last conversation was not successful.  Stop calling.  Stop texting.  Stop e-mailing.  And please stop trying to make plans.  If she comes to her senses and realizes the damage she’s done, you will hear from her.  Otherwise, I’d declare yourself on a Christine holiday for the immediate future, starting now.  It’s not worth the stress otherwise!

She may, by the way, be going through some other stuff that you just don’t know about – like wanting to have a baby and not being able to or trouble in her marriage. Either way, this is not an excuse to treat her closest friend like dirt and lash out at her. Strong friendships, like any good relationship, should not be that difficult to maintain.   If you have to work too hard at it, it’s probably not the right fit.

Your Turn: What do you guys think?  Have you had a friend who was no good to you?  How did you deal with it?  Did you have a formal break up or did you just stop contacting them and vice versa?

If YOU have a problem for The Relationship Judge, please email me at staceyb@officestace.com with the subject line “The Relationship Judge.”  Instructions for what to submit can be found here.

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The Relationship Judge – I Can’t Stand My Friend’s Significant Other – Entry #4

This week’s Relationship Judge blog post concerns “Trisha” from Arizona, writing in after another very frustrating evening out with her best friend “Kayla” and Kayla’s boyfriend.    In a nutshell – she doesn’t like the guy.  He’s crass, he’s rude and the worst part – he’d driving a wedge into the strong friendship between Trisha and Kayla.   Have any of your friends dated a jerk? Someone who rubbed you the wrong way? Someone you couldn’t bare to spend time with or made you cringe every time you opened your mouth?  That’s what it sounds like Trisha is dealing with.  Let’s see if we can help her.

The Facts: Trisha and Kayla are both 28 years old, grew up together, went to the same state university, lived nearby each other after college in the Scottsdale area and have always been extremely close.   About 7 months ago, Kayla met “Ted,” through mutual friends.  For the first couple of months, Ted treated Kayla poorly.  He would contact her only when he wanted “some action,” usually after 11 PM and when inebriated.  They’d have a sleep-over and hook up, afterwhich Kayla wouldn’t hear from him for a couple weeks.  Trisha advised Kayla to stop seeing him, not to return his advances and basically forget about him.  She thought Kayla had finally ended all ties to Ted.  Then suddenly Kayla confessed about 3 months ago that things had changed and Ted was now her boyfriend.   Wanting Ted to be accepted by Trisha, Kayla organized a couple of dinners and casual get-togethers at her home, but each time, Ted seemed completely disinterested in getting to know Trisha.  When he did ask her any questions, it was about her bra size or her last sexual encounter.  He found it particularly amusing to make fun of her clothing.  He also mentioned that he didn’t like when Kayla spent weekends with Trisha as that was “couple time.” Kayla’s take on this behavior was that Ted was just really sarcastic and that Trisha needed to “lighten up” a bit.  Still, months have passed and Trisha feels more uncomfortable than ever around Ted.  She has started to make up excuses to avoid plans with them.  She’s worried that her friendship has suffered and isn’t quite sure what to do.

The Question: What should Trisha do about her best friend’s obnoxious, rude and less than ideal boyfriend?

The Relationship Judge Says: Oy, Trisha.  Tough spot to be in.  I’m sure just want to shake Kayla’s shoulders and scream into face that she’s dating a psychopath that will just make her miserable.   How could such a stand-up gal like your BFF Kayla end up with such a schmuck?  The answer: it happens and there may not be much you can do about it.   There are, however, several options you may choose to pursue here:  (1)  If you think Kayla is the kind of person who will listen to advice, you may want to arrange to hang out with her one on one and simply tell her your concerns about him.  You don’t have  to go adjective crazy, but you can just say that he makes you feel uncomfortable and guarded.  Try to give some specific examples of his controlling behavior.  This is actually a really tough conversation to have because nobody wants to hear that the guy they have fallen for is a complete loser.  Be prepared for her to get defensive.  She may claim that she’s very happy with him.  That he’s “different” with her.  If that’s truly the case, you may just need to find ways to spend time with Kayla apart from Ted – or perhaps just accompany them to the movies so you don’t have to have much interaction.    You can try talking to a close family member of hers to get their take on Kayla’s relationship.  But be forewarned that teaming up on Kayla to end things with Ted may set her off and next thing you know, she’ll be engaged to him.   Still, if it’s really a problem, an honest conversation can at least put the idea in her head and make her think twice about Ted’s personality traits.

Another option is wait out the relationship until Ted shows his true colors enough that Kayla comes to her senses or the relationship runs its course.  During this time, you can continue to make up excuses as to why you’re busy every single day for the next 8 months, but lying to a close friend is not a habit you should get into.   Your best option is to only make plans with Kayla on her own.  Suggest things he wouldn’t come to like a “Girls Night Out,” and “Sex and the City trivia night” – or find out what his schedule is and try to aim for the nights you know he’s traveling or busy.

No matter what you decide, until Ted mends his ways or Kayla breaks up with him, you’ve got a difficult situation on your hands.  I’d use this time to start branching out and meeting new people.  Join some local organizations in your city.  A sports league for adults.  Volunteer somewhere. Reconnect with old friends who live in the area.   Because if Kayla and Ted get married, it unfortunately sounds like you’re going to need some new friends to hang out with – at least until the divorce.  I know this is a sad notion to face – losing a best friend to a bad boyfriend.  But have faith that she’ll come to her senses, or nudge her a bit in that direction.  Best of luck and please keep us posted!

Your Turn: What should Kayla do? Have you faced this problem before?  What did you do? How did it work out?  Please judge here!

If YOU have a problem for The Relationship Judge, please email me at staceyb@officestace.com with the subject line “The Relationship Judge.”  Instructions for what to submit can be found here.

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The Relationship Judge – Post #3 – Why Hasn’t He Proposed?

This Friday’s post, comes to us from “Maya” in North Carolina.   Maya has been a faithful blog follower for a while now and I thought it was only fair to repay her support with some good ole fashioned judgment on an issue that’s been bugging her.  It’s funny, Maya’s problem seems to be somewhat of an epidemic (not funny in the “ha-ha” way, but more of a – hmmm, that’s very strange ’cause I’ve seen it quite often lately).  Do you guys know others in a similar situation?  People who have been dating for a long time and one person is ready to get engaged but the other has not proposed?  I have actually known dozens of people this has happened to.  Dating for years and years, waiting for the big proposal that doesn’t come.  It’s heartbreaking.  It makes you doubt yourself, your relationship and the situation can turn you into a completely different person you never wanted to be.  So don’t think you’re alone, Maya! I also know people who have gotten engaged and are still in a pickle as one person wants a much longer engagement that carries on for years.  So here’s what’s going on with Maya…

The Facts: Maya is 23 and her boyfriend is 24. They have been together for 3+ years.  When they met, they hit it off immediately and they’ve been together ever since.  They both have jobs, live in the same city and he is the love of Maya’s life.  Back in April, they both agreed that they were ready to take the next step and get engaged so they could get married.  Maya essentially told him that if he proposed, she would say “yes.” It is now beginning of August and still no proposal.  Recently, Maya asked her boyfriend if he was having any doubts.  He said he wasn’t having any and that he loved her very much and that she shouldn’t read into nothing having happened yet.  He also said he didn’t want Maya to see the proposal coming.  This past week, however, he alluded to the fact that he hadn’t even bought the ring yet.

Maya is confident that her boyfriend loves her very much and wants to spend the rest of his life with her.  She doesn’t have any doubts about that.  She can’t understand, however, why he just won’t pop the question.  She notes that they are very good at communication and very open talking about anything.  But she doesn’t want to ask him directly and ruin the element of surprise that comes with a proposal by dragging it out of him.  At the same time, she’s tired of waiting (it’s been 4 months and counting since the initial conversation).

The Questions:  (1) Why Hasn’t He Proposed and (2) What Should Maya Do?

The Relationship Judge Says:  Ahhh, Maya.  You are in a very interesting point of a relationship that every single girl wishes to be in.  You’ve found love.  Your love has found you.  You’ve had “the talk” about where it’s going.  All your ducks are quacking in a row.  So where is the darn proposal?  When can you officially start looking at wedding magazines and think about who your guest list would be?  Here’s what I think: it doesn’t sound like much is “wrong” at this exact point in time.  You’ve confirmed back in April that you’re ripe for the taking in terms of an accepted proposal.  Assuming your boyfriend started ring-shopping at that exact second, it could take several months to find the exact type of ring, plan something special and ask your parents permission to marry you – all without you knowing.  Four months is actually not that long to be waiting in the scheme of things.  On the other hand, you don’t want to be waiting around for years only to find out that your boyfriend is never going to fully commit.

Here’s what I would do: Set a deadline in your mind by which you don’t want to wait any longer.  Think long and hard about this.  Then also promise me that you will truly evaluate during this time whether this boyfriend is HUSBAND material.  I find that people can get so caught up in the excitement of engagement / wedding planning that they completely forget what all of the madness is about.  Does this boyfriend of yours have what it takes to get through the good and bad with you for the next 80 years?  What do your family and friends think of him?  Is he someone you can turn to when things are bad?  Have you talked about religion?  Kids?  Do either of you have major debt that needs to get resolved before getting married?  This is the time to think about these things.  Not to be a Debbie Downer, but you should also realize that people change as they get older – so the reasons you love this person and what made them a great mate when you were 20 and started dating, may not be the same things that keep you interested when you are 28 and 38, etc.  I’m not trying to discourage you from staying with your boyfriend, but rather, to really use the time you have to kick the tires a bit and figure out if this relationship has staying power.  For that reason, I’d urge you not to rush the proposal.

If you really do believe that this guy is the “one” and a few more months don’t yield a proposal, you may choose to be a bit more aggressive with letting your boyfriend know where your head’s at.  Tell him that you love him and are ready to take the next step in your relationship with him, which to you means an engagement.  If he can’t clearly indicate where he stands on the matter, you need to be prepared to move on.  Ultimatums are a tricky thing.  Do you really want to pressure your boyfriend into a drop dead date when you’re talking about marriage?  He should be psyched to take the next step with you and want to propose before some other guys figures out how lucky he is and IS ready to commit.  Don’t worry too much about ruining his secret proposal plans, especially if too much time has passed with no ring.  More important that a potential “ruined romance” of a surprise proposal is not knowing where your future stands!

My guess, based on what you’ve revealed, is that he may have something in the works.  I wouldn’t be surprised if his comment about not buying a ring was just to throw you off. Regardless, please check back and keep us posted on where things stand.  If nothing’s happened by New Year’s Eve, we’ll have some more aggressive advice for you.

You Be The Judge:  Have any of you been in a situation like Maya?  What is your advice?  How did you handle it?  Let’s hear it, Judges!

And if YOU have a problem for The Relationship Judge, you can email me at staceyb@officestace.com with the subject line “The Relationship Judge.”  Instructions for what to submit can be found here.

Happy Friday!!

 

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The Relationship Judge – Post #2 – Work Situation

This Friday’s post, comes to us from “Kelly” in Texas.  Kelly works full time in a corporate job in an office of about 200 employees.  She is a mid-level associate in a large marketing/PR firm.  Kelly hesitated writing in here as the issue she was having was not with a significant other or friendship, but rather, an on-going awkward situation happening with the head honcho in her office.  I was thrilled to get a work related question about a work relationship – that is certainly a ripe relationship meriting discussion here.  Thanks for writing in!

The Facts: Kelly has been at her company for 4 years.  In her immediate group there is a team of 15 staff members.  This group is part of a larger umbrella team of the Marketing division consisting of a total of 45 individuals.  At the top of both her smaller group and the larger group is “Alice.”  Alice, a very Type A personality and runs a very tight ship.  She works non-stop, is very well respected amongst members of the company, however, she is known to have more than the occasional outburst when someone makes a mistake or doesn’t deliver something properly.  Besides these management style quirks, however, is an issue which Kelly was hoping for some feedback on.  For the last three years, Alice has been on the board of a charity that she does a lot of fundraising for throughout the year.  Twice a year, Alice solicits her employees to donate money to the charity.  At first, it was just an email that went around with details about the charity and where a donation could be made.  But then Alice started bringing it up at staff meetings.  She once saw Alice in the office bathroom and got cornered into a conversation about how nice it would be if Kelly could get some of her teammates to contribute something.

On top of this pressure, Alice’s inner circle at work always makes generous donations — anywhere from $100-$500 per year (Alice announces these generations at staff meetings).  Kelly feels that there is heavy pressure to donate to Alice’s charity, and nothing less than $100 would be acceptable.  It has become a competition in the office, people talking about who donated what.  On top of this, Kelly’s immediate boss for her group of 15 has also recently become involved in a charity and has started sending around emails seeking donations.

The Question:  Kelly wants to know if she is obligated to donate to Alice and/or her immediate boss and how much is the minimum she can donate without seeming cheap.  Kelly notes that she is barely saving money each month between rent, college loans, car payments, etc. – she finds these solicitations for donations to be putting her in a difficult position, but she does not want to seem cold or callous at the deserving causes.  She feels she could probably afford to make the donations, but feels resentful that she is being pressured into doing so and questions whether it’s selfish to want to spend money on other things. She also wonders if simply refusing to donate or saying she has already donated to another cause will being damaging to her professional career.

The Relationship Judge Says:  Kelly, you poor thing.  What an awful position to be put in.  I’ve had situations where people come around the office with Girl Scout Cookies solicitations, requests to sponsor them in a race/walk, requests to sponsor their kids in something and in one case a mandatory meeting was set up by a senior manager to talk to everyone about a worthy cause he was seeking donations for.  Talk about awkward.  First off, it is not right for the managers in your company to be seeking money for their personal, non-profit organizations at a place of business.  You work hard to make money – how you spend it and what charities you give to, if you give, should be up to you. There are usually company policies against the sort of pressure you’re getting.  The people seeking such contributions should do so in a non-confrontational way so people do not feel obligated to contribute.   You also have the growing problem of two bosses asking for money – and who knows when the next senior manager will jump on the bandwagon.

The next time you get an email seeking a donation or get directly asked by someone bold enough to put you on the spot, you have a several options.  You can respond honestly and say you just don’t have the extra money right now to contribute.  If you don’t feel comfortable saying that, you can always say something like, “Wow, what a great cause! I just contributed to something very similar for a friend, but maybe next time.”  If these don’t work, perhaps speak to another senior manager about the awkward position you and your colleagues are put in by these solicitations and see if he or she can say something to Alice and your immediate boss.  If that isn’t an option, perhaps consider speaking to HR about it.

If none of the above would work, you may want to just budget for two modest donations and consider it a tax of working where you work.  At least it will hopefully be tax deductible and you’ll be known as a kind and generous person by the people determining your salary.  Not to mention, it’s hopefully for a good cause. Either way, please check back with us and let us know what happens!!

P.S. You have the right to do anything you want with your money!

You Be The Judge:  Have any of you out there been through something like this?  How did you handle it?  What should Kelly do?  Make a donation?  Be honest and say she doesn’t have the money at this point to donate?  Fib and say she already donated elsewhere?  Put them off by saying she has to meet with an accountant?  Let’s hear it, Judges!

And if YOU have a problem for The Relationship Judge, you can email me at staceyb@officestace.com with the subject line “The Relationship Judge.”  Instructions for what to submit can be found here.

Happy Friday!!

 

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Relationship Judge – Entry 1 – YOU Be the Judge

Today’s inaugural Relationship Judge submission comes to us from “Annie” in California.   Annie is 32 and has been living with her boyfriend Chris for 6 months.  Chris is 29 years old.  They have been together for a total of 2 years.

The Facts:  Annie, who is a part time nurse in the greater San Francisco area met Chris at bar one night out with a bunch of co-workers.  They hit it off at the bar, he asked for her phone number and they began dating.   It got serious pretty quickly and Chris, who is an IT consultant, quickly made Annie feel like this was the best relationship she had ever had.  Chris was always calling, showing up on dates with flowers and made her feel very secure.  They talked about their goals and a future together, all of which seemed to line up.  They spent al of their free time together, going to concerts together, exploring San Fran together and just generally enjoying each other’s company.  Pretty soon, they were spending almost every night at each other’s homes and after a year, they talked about moving in together.  Things were going great, they had met each other’s family – all without a hitch.

Shortly after they moved in together, Chris was laid off from work.  He became extremely distraught, temper flaring from time to time.  When Annie tried to talked to him about it, he got angry, saying he’d figure something out and not to bother him about it.  Over the next several weeks, Chris grew distant.  When Annie got home from her nursing shifts late at night, there were several times when Chris would not be home.  She’d try calling or texting him on his cell phone but he wouldn’t answer. Eventually, he’d walk through the door around 4 or 5 AM, claiming he was out with friends and just “needed to blow off some steam.”  Annie notes she had a bad feeling about what he was actually doing during that time, particularly because she checked his cell phone after one of these long night’s out and found a couple text messages from an unknown female saying “You meeting us?” and “I’m in the back.”  When Annie asked Chris about who these texts were from, Chris laughed it off, saying it was a co-worker and mildly getting annoying that Annie was snooping around on his cell phone.

A couple week’s later, Chris got some part time work at a different IT company and seemed to be back to his old self.  Annie concluded that his strange behavior must have been from losing his job.  Chris even talked about the two of them going to look at engagement rings.  A couple of days ago, however, the female co-worker who had texted Chris called him, asking him to dinner to discuss “work stuff” on a Saturday night.  Chris asked me if I minded him going out with her and I went I looked at him like he was crazy, he started telling me that I’m nuts.

The Question:  Annie wants to know if she is being paranoid about Chris developing a friendship with a female co-worker.  She wants input on whether based on his past behavior, she has a vaild reason to be concerned about her relationship.  She notes that other than the time period where Chris was laid off, he has been completely devoted to her.

The Relationship Judge Says:

Annie, thank you so much for being brave enough to write in and be our guinea pig for The Relationship Judge.  Let’s take things chronologically here.  All sounds great with your relationship until Chris lost his job.  Having been a victim of the Lehman bankruptcy, I can understand the kind of emotional toll it takes to lose one’s way of earning a living.  It’s a very scary time.  And very stressful.  I can surely understand him wanting to go out and blow off steam during that time period.  That said, unusual late night benders out on multiple occasions when he is unreachable is a definite “Red Flag.”  Yes, he’s scared.  Yes, he’s stressed.  But he should be talking about these things with you.  Blowing off steam with you.  What better way to end a night out with buddies than for his lovely nurse girlfriend to join him at the bar for some beers?  I don’t like that he was distant during this stressful time in life – whether it was completely innocent or not.  As your relationship continues, there are going to be far more stressful things coming your way (wedding? mortgage? kids? bills? illness?) and you need to learn to resolve conflicts together.

Now as for this pesty female co-worker, you’ve got to go with your gut on this one.  Do you trust Chris?  Does he have a wandering eye?  Or is he naturally a friendly guy with some strictly platonic female friends?  This co-worker may really be nothing to worry about.  What I don’t like, however, is how Chris is handling this.  It does NOT seem appropriate for a single female  (I’m presuming this co-worker of his is single) to be asking a “spoken for” guy for dinner plans on a Saturday night, assuming she knows he’s taken.  That’s a sacred date night for committed couples.  But whether she knows or doesn’t know he’s taken, Chris needs to speak up on this one.  Either he invites you to come along with them or he politely declines her invite, letting her know they can catch up at work.  Either way, it does NOT, in my opinion make you paranoid for wondering what this co-worker’s intentions are.  I’d be the same way.  But more than worry about the co-worker, find out why Chris feels the need to spend free time with another female who isn’t you.  And think carefully about why you find a need to check his cell phone for text messages.  As a nurse, I’m guessing your free time is most likely limited and Chris should be scheduling you in advance to make sure he gets QT in with lady of his heart.

Here is another Rule of the Relationship Judge:  If you’re in a relationship and you’re not physically with the person you’re in the relationship with, there is nothing good that can be going on after 2 AM when you can’t get in touch with your significant other.  Particularly when this is a repeated occurrence.

Annie: Please check back in with us and let us know how things are going. Ok?  Wishing you the best!

YOU BE THE JUDGE:

And now I open this up to others.  What do you think?  How should Annie handle this?  Is it right to be paranoid?  Or was this just a bad spell that can be overlooked?

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