How do I navigate this potentially dramatic work/friends situation? Snowflakes and a long backstory ahead.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I need advice on how to deal with this situation. I'm totally at a loss here, hive mind.
Last year, I met my best friend, Sam, at work. I became an informal mentor to Sam as he developed in the profession. We started hanging out a lot - both at work and outside of work. We both left that job and took jobs at separate places, where I was pretty happy and Sam was miserable. A few months ago, he supported me when I left an abusive relationship. At the time, he and I talked about how we dealt with conflict and difficult situations - we both tend to withdraw. We had conversations about how we would try to work past that so that we didn't hurt the other person. We had a codeword for when we felt like being alone and didn't want the other person to think something was wrong. He promised that his allegiance was to me and that we'd talk through our problems if any came up.
Well, around that time, he quit his horrible job situation and applied for a mid-year opening at my work place. At that point, he also met the girl I'm mentoring, Jenny, and with whom I stayed while I left my husband. Within a few hours, he asked if I thought Jenny would date him. So Sam asked Jenny out that night via text. She said yes via text. Then we all hung out together. Pretty soon, it was apparent that I was on their first date, so I started hanging back and disappearing. They confronted me, and I told them how I felt. They agreed that it was probably a good idea if we didn't spend time as a group for a while.
Then Jenny told me that she was uncomfortable pursuing a relationship with him for a few reasons, one of which being that she didn't want to affect our friendship or my friendship with Sam (the other reasons had to do with a prior relationship that was unfinished and various personal stuff). She went out with Sam once, so she could tell him that in person. That's the last I heard about their relationship so I assumed they had decided not to pursue anything.
About a week later, Jenny casually mentioned that they were going out again, and that was when Sam began to withdraw from our friendship. It caused a fight between Sam and I, because he felt like he had to hide his relationship with Jenny and I felt like he was going against the promise he had made me about NOT withdrawing from our friendship. We both apologised and worked it out. Things were then going really well between us.
They went out a few more times after that conversation, including one time where I caught him lying to me about where he was going (he said he was with his parents, but confessed he was actually with Jenny when he found out that Jenny and I had plans that night). Sam came over the next day and we talked about it, and he apologised for lying. He said he wasn't really interested in Jenny, and didn't see it going anywhere. He was concerned that it was affecting our friendship. He showed me a personal ad he had created on a few different sites and it seemed like it was just going to fade away...
...until his first day at our work. He was really weird around Jenny at lunch and again when we saw her after work. He and I talked for a while, at which point he said that he was taking Jenny out that night. I was a little shocked, but didn't say anything. And then Jenny came in and stood there for an hour and a half while Sam and I talked (I tried to end the conversation a few times, or try to include her, but Sam kept drawing me back and wouldn't look at or talk to Jenny the whole time). They then left together.
That night, I texted him that I had felt a little weird about the situation and thought that maybe I should step back. He sent several enraged messages and emails, accusing me of various things, including trying to get attention, hating that he was in a relationship with her, trying to manipulate and control him, and expecting him to never make plans with anyone else. He said that I was the only one who thought it was weird and that it was my obsession with him abandoning me that was causing the weirdness in the first place.
I tried to explain. He just stopped responding.
I spoke to Jenny the next day, and she apologised for how weird the situation had been the previous day, and also offered to step back and to eat lunch by herself. I told her I didn't want that to happen and anyway, I know Sam would resent me if she did that.
Sam didn't talk to me for a week. When he saw me at work, he literally walked as far around me as possible. Finally, I texted him five days later to ask if we could work it out. He said that he didn't know what I was talking about, and he point-blank refused to talk face-to-face (I requested that five or six times because fighting via text message is not helpful). Hours of angry text messages later, and I finally got to the point where I told him that I didn't think we could be friends if he doubted me and my intentions and that it didn't seem like he gave a shit about the friendship. He finally invited me to come over and talk about it.
So we did. I apologised for not trusting him. He apologised for the tone he had used. He was convinced (and still is) that the problem with the three of us being in a room originated with me, and said that he and Jenny had decided to be in a serious relationship. The best solution we could come up with was to say that we would all eat lunch together and try to talk about it all together if it got weird. I left at that point. I texted him later and said that I hoped we could be ok and talk later. He didn't respond.
It was his birthday a few days later, so I left the gift (which I had bought before this all started) for him by his car. He texted to say thanks. I texted him later with a work question and he ignored it.
That's the last I've heard from him. It's now been a week and a half since he stopped talking to me at all. My relationship with Jenny has been a bit strained as well. I'm really sad that I've lost my best friend, especially when he promised that this wouldn't happen. I'm also pretty emotionally vulnerable, having just left my marriage and having my entire life change. It's hard for me to trust people and I feel stupid for having trusted him so much, despite a history where he's been flaky, especially when he's dating someone.
But I also have a professional responsibility to be in this mentor position for both of them. They're basically my only close friends at work, and it's really hard to imagine not having them around. If I could leave and get a job elsewhere, I would, just to avoid this. But there's absolutely no way I can, and I actually love my job and work situation.
The best case scenario would include Sam stopping this withdrawal from our friendship and starting to talk to me again. It would also include Jenny remaining a friend but with a more distant relationship to preserve the friendship between Sam and I. Worst case scenario is to lose both of them as friends and still have to be their mentor (I agreed to mentor Sam at a high personal cost to me, mostly because his career would be set back if someone didn't, and no one else would). Losing Sam freaks me out, although functionally, that's what has already happened. Sam really is the only friend who really understands me and has been there through the divorce, so has seen it all. That's hard to walk away from. But I really do want him to be happy and if cutting off our friendship is what it takes, I'll do it.
If it matters, they're mid-twenties and I'm nearly thirty. We're on the West Coast of the USA. They are both in their first two years of "having a real job" whereas I'm closer to a decade.
TL;DR - after a period of personal and emotional upheaval in my life, my best friend, who had previously provided strong support, has started ignoring me; not-coincidentally, it happened at the same time that he started dating my other close friend. I am in a professional mentor role to both of them, as we all work together. It's awkward and I'm really lonely without them. Hope me.