A close friend, "Tom" has just gotten engaged to somebody, "Jane", who, in the recent past, despised me for reasons unknown and said terribly hurtful things to me. I am 100% ready to be pleasant and graceful about this, but Tom wants me (and my spouse) to be good friends with Jane. I am not interested in this. Help me figure out how to navigate this situation.
posted by Cygnet to Human Relations (61 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
The history, as brief as I can make it:
I met Jane several years ago, after she and Tom began dating. One of the first times we spent time together was on a long drive and some hikes over a weekend. During that time (not just the weekend, but the surrounding several years) I was in extremely poor health - a chronic condition. During the weekend, I had a particularly severe flare-up and felt *awful*. I informed the group that I wasn't well, without complaining, and tried to participate as best I was able. It was a terrible weekend for me, and I subsequently went to therapy for a year to deal with my significant anxiety about ruining group activities for others due to my unpredictable condition.
Nearly a year after that trip, Jane emailed me and my spouse. She was absolutely FURIOUS with us, especially me, for what she perceived as neglect, "vile treatment", hostility, extreme selfishness and a whole host of other sins on our part. She said she had never been treated as badly as a human being. (The weekend had been spent with members of my family, who are sensitive and caring people. They had not noticed any such treatment and were as confused as I was to hear Jane's accusations [second hand only, from me].)
Shocked - neither of us have ever had a fight with a friend in our lives, let alone an accusation of this magnitude - my husband and I both spent most of the day writing deeply heart-felt apologies for not making her feel more included and appreciated. I also mentioned that my demeanor during that weekend was due to my medical condition.
Unfortunately, our apologies were unanswered and the situation got much worse. Over the next two years, we bent over backwards to patch things up with Jane, for Tom's sake. (We spoke about this openly with Tom.) You are going to have to believe me when I say that we tried very, very, very hard to be warm, accepting and interested. Jane responded to our efforts with vitriol. Every little thing we did - even asking her about her activities and interests, which she had specifically requested - was twisted in to more proof that we are bad people. In particular, she wrote one extremely hurtful email directed at me specifically after a short hour-long meeting we had shared in a train station. During the meeting, Jane literally refused to look at me and gave one-word answers to my friendly questions, making it the most awkward and baffling half-hour of my life. Jane accused me of being extremely selfish, holier-than-thou, immature, incapable of being kind to others - the works. I cried all day. My husband also had a very, very uncomfortable meeting with Jane at which she made it very clear that she was never going to give him a second chance as a person.
Ultimately, my husband and I wrote to Tom and said that while we wished him and Jane happiness, we were no longer willing to spend time with Jane. We thought this was the end of the situation.
HOWEVER.... Jane changed her mind. Jane emailed us to say that she had realized that she was in the wrong. She apologized. We each wrote brief emails saying that we accepted her apology and wished her the best. We still thought this was the end of the situation.
But now, Jane and Tom have gotten engaged, and they are both obviously interested in starting over with this "couples friendship". Jane has written two very short, friendly emails. She even baked cookies that she included when returning a borrowed item. Tom has suggested we all have dinner, or that we go on a day trip. [Note: my husband and I have maintained a good relationship with Tom throughout this ordeal. We have certainly never complained about Jane to Tom. We are not sure if Tom saw Jane's emails or not.]
So here's my dilemma.
On the one hand, I have no interest in being friends with Jane. We have nothing in common, and there is a LOT of lingering hurt and mistrust on my part. I feel like there are lots of other things in to which I want to invest my emotional energy and time.
On the other hand, I have forgiven Jane. Sometimes second chances are important. Tom really, really wants us all to be friends. Jane wants to turn over a new leaf. And, they are going to be married. It will be difficult to maintain the significant friendship with Tom without including Jane. (It already IS difficult.)
My question: In my shoes, would YOU open yourself up to a friendship with Jane?