Ho's before bro's?
September 9, 2010 11:54 AM   Subscribe

One of my best friends is totally and completely wrapped up in her boyfriend. And she doesn't feel like much of a friend as a result.

I invited a small group of close friends over for a housewarming brunch. None of them have been to my new place yet and I've been talking about hosting a Sunday afternoon brunch for all of us to get together. I sent out the invite and her response was "This sounds great, however bf and I have a big night planned the night before, and are feeling unsure whether or not we'll be getting off the couch on Sunday. I hate to be a maybe, but that's the position I'm going to take." End response. (verbatim.)

I could have taken a "We'll try our best to make it!" But this didn't make me feel like she was interested in coming, or even attempting to come. I felt this was kind of harsh. I haven't said so, but I'm really hurt.

This isn't a new development. In a number of other ways, she's dropping the ball on our friendship, in favor of this relationship. I can feel myself growing very very sour and passive-aggressive. I'd like to talk to her about both her response to my invitation and this overall development. I hate confrontation and I've never had a fight with this friend, so I certainly don't want to start now. But I also hate secretly seething, and feeling like my friends don't care about me.

I know there's tons of advice on here about how to address this kind of situation in general, but I'm looking for advice on how to address this specific instance. I'm kind of at a loss for words.

(And for the record, I like her boyfriend! I think he's lovely. I also have a boyfriend of my own and work hard not to pull this kind of stuff on my friends, even if it's my inclination to do so at times, and knowing I put forth that effort makes this feel suckier.)

Thanks all!
posted by blackcatcuriouser to Human Relations (51 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
How new is your friend's relationship? New relationships make it hard for even the best of us to think about anything else sometimes. Give her some time, and if it's really eating you up, you're gonna have to conquer your fear of confrontation and communicate your feelings to her. Just be careful with this as it can sometimes backfire and lead her to spending even more time with the boyfriend she feels understands her and less with you.
posted by katillathehun at 11:58 AM on September 9, 2010

They've been together for over a year, unofficially for longer.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 11:59 AM on September 9, 2010

Have you spoken with her since her response?

I feel for you - I would find this rude and hurtful too, especially if it's part of an ongoing issue. I would just say something like "Well, that's fine, I guess I won't count you in. Hope you two can come see my new place sometime."

I know it sounds kinda shitty and passive-aggressive but sometimes a little tiny guilt trip never hurt anybody. Maybe she thinks "oh, blackcatcuriouser won't care, it's not a big deal," and if you let her know in an indirect way that you DO care, maybe it'll snap her back into real life.
posted by slyboots421 at 12:00 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Friendship is not an all or nothing proposition. The fact that this friend of yours is not sure that she can attend your housewarming party need not be a problem; if she doesn't attend this party, she probably will still be able to attend other parties in the future. We all get to plan our own schedules and decide what events are most important for us to attend. It's not as if she can't make it to your wedding because there is something interesting on television that she doesn't want to miss. This is not that unreasonable. Let it go.
posted by grizzled at 12:01 PM on September 9, 2010 [6 favorites]

In a number of other ways, she's dropping the ball on our friendship, in favor of this relationship.

This is normal and what usually happens with romantic relationships. Maybe she'll achieve better balance down the road between her significant other and her other friends, or maybe not. I'm not sure you can influence that directly or should try beyond letting her know how you feel.
posted by Phyltre at 12:01 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I really think that you should separate this specific instance from your overall resentment.

Your question makes it sound as though she already had those plans before you offered her an invitation to your housewarming party. Often, when I know I'm going to have big plans one night, part of those plans include lying low the next day, both because I'll probably be uselessly tired, and also because I'm introverted and require a certain amount of time to recharge after a particularly social occasion. Would you still be upset about the boyfriend thing if she had said, "I'll try to make it, but I already had plans!" No? Then it's a separate issue.

I would bring up the boyfriend/lack of friend-time issue separately, and completely out of the context of missing this particular social occasion.
posted by scarykarrey at 12:03 PM on September 9, 2010 [13 favorites]

This happened to me. I was on the other side of it, all wrapped up in a new relationship, and a good friend felt that I was blowing her off. She talked to me about it, told me she was hurt, and I saw she was absolutely right. I amended my behavior, which was unconscious and not in line with my values. I'm so happy she brought it up.
posted by Wordwoman at 12:07 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

The passive-aggressive thing is what you want to avoid at all costs, because it will mainly result in your spoiling your own good time, in hopes that others will notice how much fun you are not having.

Sending someone an brief email that says, "I know it wasn't your intention, but my feelings were hurt when you did/said _________ " gives them a chance to consider their own feelings and decide what they want to do about the situation without putting them right on the spot. Keep it simple, all you really want to do is acknowledge this specific slight -- let her decide what, if anything, should be done about it. Maybe she will feel bad, maybe she won't, but at least you'll feel heard.
posted by hermitosis at 12:07 PM on September 9, 2010

Somehow, this question brings to mind a favorite comment from this thread on why couples don't go out as much once they "settle-down": "We like each other more than we like anyone else. That's why we paired off. Sorry." People get older, people get busier, people have limited free-time to spend and it's not wrong of them to want to spend it with their partner. Work on not holding your friends to expectations they cannot fulfill.

Also, could this possibly be a scheduling issue? Maybe your friend is sitting at home thinking, It's Thursday and OP invited me to another last-minute party that she's pissed I can't go to! When will she learn that I plan my weekends out farther in advance than that? I've turned her down loads of times already!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:10 PM on September 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

I don't think the specific instance is worth addressing -- because you're not upset about a specific instance. You're upset about your friend's general pattern of behavior.

You don't have a throw a fit. You don't have to be passive-aggressive (please oh please don't be passive aggressive). Just send her an e-mail or text that says three key words:

"I miss you."

If she's truly your friend, that will be enough.
posted by missjenny at 12:12 PM on September 9, 2010 [6 favorites]

From her response, it sounds like she and her bf's big plans maybe involve some alcohol? If I planned to go out hardcore drinking with my boyfriend, I wouldn't make any concrete plans for the next day either until I saw how I was feeling. It's definitely not an excuse for her behavior, but it might give you a view into her reasoning for this particular event.
posted by kerning at 12:13 PM on September 9, 2010

I agree that my expectations could use adjusting. I also am really excited about some new developments in my life, and would like my best friend to share that with me, as I do with her new developments.

I know last minute planning isn't an issue for her, as she's kind of a last minute person herself. The way she responded is what really struck me.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 12:16 PM on September 9, 2010

Do you know what I read out of her response? Here's what I read: "I love you, you're a friend of mine, but you're high maintenance, and I know that you're going to be upset that I'm a maybe for the party. Nevertheless, I'm going to stand up for myself and stick to my guns, rather than cancel my plans or drag myself to your party if I feel like crap, just so that you won't throw a fit."

She's not being passive-aggressive, and she's not even being particularly aggressive. She's just standing up to your history together, and being firm about it. Of course, it's possible you're not high-maintenance, but I suspect you are.

And, let's be clear: she's got a boyfriend, and all of her friendships are going to have to take a hit in order to make room for him. You can be jealous if you want, but she's not treating you in some horrible way, she's just making time for him, and so she's going to have to take that time away from somewhere else. She can drop one or more friends entirely (doesn't seem fair), she can quit her job or school (bad decision), or she can spend less time and attention, to a certain degree, on all of her friends. She's chosen a perfectly normal and rational course, and you shouldn't be hung up about it.

In short: she's nesting with her boyfriend, and you should not take it so personally, which I assume you have been (and she knows it, based on her response to the party invite.)
posted by davejay at 12:17 PM on September 9, 2010 [16 favorites]

I could have taken a "We'll try our best to make it!" But this didn't make me feel like she was interested in coming, or even attempting to come. I felt this was kind of harsh. I haven't said so, but I'm really hurt.

So are you more upset that she's not necessarily going to want to go, or that she was honest and said so? A lot of people would have given less details in order to be polite, but they might still blow off an event with friends just because they didn't feel like going.

But I also hate secretly seething, and feeling like my friends don't care about me.

Yeah, it sucks if your friends don't make much of an effort to do friend-y things. Sometimes the solution is to get better friends. But getting mad about it doesn't solve anything. You could try letting her know directly in a calm and understanding manner that you feel like you have been drifting apart and would like to spend more time with her. Otherwise you pretty much need to accept that you have a not-that-great friend and move on.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:19 PM on September 9, 2010

I personally don't think there's anything wrong or unusual about this.
maybe it's because my family and friends (and myself) are completely honest and don't come up with polite phrases?

Sounds like she was just being honest - she was going to have a big night out and would probably be tired the following morning.
I probably would have responded to you with, "I'll be out late the night before, so I doubt I'll be able to make it. Also, I can't get up that early and socialize anyway!"
And I would expect my friends to do the same. I personally don't believe in doing/saying things that are fake (lying).

With the new relationship - a lot of people get like this. i have, my friends have, etc.
I am an introverted person anyway, but when I'm in a relationship - that takes up most of my social energy.
When I was younger, I used to take this personally when my friends were in new relationships (or 1+ year relationships, too). Most of my friends are still like this - including myself.

maybe try to be happy that she's in a happy relationship? And tell her you miss hanging out. Offer some ideas (that aren't on Sunday mornings/early afternoons) like all four of you going to see a movie or hanging out at a bar.
posted by KogeLiz at 12:19 PM on September 9, 2010

Her response sounds pretty legitimate to me:

This sounds great,
Okay, she acknowledges your idea sounds great. So far so good.

however bf and I have a big night planned the night before,
Rats, she already has plans that would interfere.

and are feeling unsure whether or not we'll be getting off the couch on Sunday.
Well, too bad she's such a boozer but she's being honest here.

I hate to be a maybe, but that's the position I'm going to take.
She's kind of apologizing, but again being honest and straightforward with you, and expressing some disappointment that she can't be there.

If you think she's been a distant friend and that's hurting her, talk to her about it. But, I don't think this example is particularly good place to start that conversation.

Another perspective; one of the great, great things about friendship is that you get to ebb and flow in and out of each other's lives with, hopefully, little feeling of "obligation" toward each other as possible - its what makes friendship special and different than family and SOs. I'd suggest thinking about how to graciously let her lead her life and know that you are there as a friend when she's ready to come around.
posted by RajahKing at 12:21 PM on September 9, 2010 [9 favorites]

"Babe, this is going to be kind of awkward. But I'm afraid there's no way of getting around it, something's been bugging me. I like Boy. And I know you like Boy. But lately it feels like you like Boy so much you're always ditching stuff we used to do together to hang with him. I really like seeing you happy, and if you love a guy then he's obviously going to be the most important person in your life. I understand that your priorities might shift. But I can't help feeling a bit stung when you make it clear I'm your second choice. You're my best friend, and I'd like to think I'm not just a fall-back plan when you're thinking of people you want to hang out with. If you can't make to an event I'm planning because you already have plans with him, that's fine, I understand that. But if you're making plans with me, make plans with me. I don't want to wait around in maybe status."

Acknowledge the awkwardness of the conversation that is about to ensue, make clear that this is about how you feel, not a factual or psychological debate about how she acts or feels, and suggest a remedy so that the awkwadrness can be avoided in future.
posted by Diablevert at 12:23 PM on September 9, 2010

I hate being the person that contradicts the majority of other advice already given.. but..

You seem to be overreacting or you're not including all the information.

Does she know how badly you want her to come? Or was your invite more generic?

You say her words are verbatim that she has plans the night before. It sounds more to me like she's saying: I might be exhausted. It would be rude of me to say I'm coming and then I didn't because I was too tired.

Regardless of you liking her boyfriend or not.. it sounds to me like you're a tad bit jealous.
posted by royalsong at 12:24 PM on September 9, 2010

Yeah, you know when someone falls in love with someone else and it's working well, that someone else then becomes more important to them than people they're not in love with, and that includes people who are just friends - even very good friends. The significant other will be the priority and that's reasonable so long as it doesn't lead to a total shut-down of other social interactions. And yes, sometimes that means they'll rather stay home cuddling on the couch than, well, doing anything else. I think your friend's response was refreshingly direct and honest, actually. She was basically saying that she and the boyfriend were likely to be a bit too wrecked to visit that day. It's good that she can be like that with you.

Also, what TPS said: one adjustment you, as a friend, need to make is to give the lovebirds more notice of plans/suggested meet-ups etc than you might have been used to when your friend was single (or less involved with the bf), and not as likely to have other plans or preferred activities in her life.

It can be a bit annoying, I know, but it's natural and understandable, and friends need to understand that they are no longer as high on the social priority scale as they used to be. On the plus side, give it time for familiarity and relationship fatigue to set in (it will) and you'll probably be seeing more of her again. :-)
posted by Decani at 12:26 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

You're reading far, far too much tone and intent into an email. Try this: take her email, imagine her being really happy about your party, but being pretty disappointed that she has other plans that might interfere.

Now read the email out loud with the tone of voice you'd use if those things were all true. I'm pretty sure you'll feel better about it after actually hearing the words in a tone that you're not adding the "blow off" tone to.

Talk to her separately about the boyfriend thing, but this alone doesn't seem like a big deal.
posted by toomuchpete at 12:26 PM on September 9, 2010

Last week, I had a conversation with her about the forthcoming brunch invitation and told her I was so excited to have everyone over finally. She never mentioned having plans.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 12:27 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I could have taken a "We'll try our best to make it!" But this didn't make me feel like she was interested in coming, or even attempting to come.

It seems to me that she RSVPed "basically no" and that no wasn't really an acceptable response to your invitation, from your perspective. There are a lot of different ways to interpret why that may have been the case, but it's worth thinking about the different ways this could have gone. I guess if you are inviting someone to something and it's really important to you that they go, you need to ask them about their schedules and what works for them. Otherwise you have to take your chances. I understand that this feels like part of a larger trend to you, but you asked about this specific situation. It's my feeling that your friend was being appropriate in this situation [seen through my lens] and your reaction seems a little strong.

However, that's probably because I am exactly the sort of person who would have sent an RSVP like the one you received, let me explain to you how I'd be seeing it. I have a boyfriend who I don't get to see as much as I want to [we're a little long distance] and so when I see him, I try to make the time we spend together awesome. So, let's say we were going to have a late night out on Saturday. We'd get in late [2 am ish] and then sleep late the next day [noon or 1], maybe lounge around in bed canoodling or whatever. What we'd like to not do is have something on the calendar that made us not only get out of bed but shower and dress and prepare for an event and actively hang around with a bunch of people. Not that you and your friends aren't probably just fine, but social events for some people just aren't as much fun as they are for other people. Especially "first thing" in the morning.

So, you were having a few people over. I'd assume this wasn't an "I want to see YOU" occasion but a "come see my house" occasion and I'd figure I could catch up with you later. I'd also be mindful of wanting to be clean and dressed and maybe bringing something, all of which would bite into my lounge-around-with-boyfriend-in-pj's time. And that's a choice. And what your friend told you was that she made a choice. If you'd like her to hang out with you more, or if this sort of thing doesn't feel good to you, you have to take an active role in making hang-out time with you into a more genuine option for her, work with her schedule. Some people are really into social planning first, relationship-time planning second and others aren't. It can be a bit of a weird awkward clash when these two groups try to plan things together.
posted by jessamyn at 12:37 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's unreasonable to expect anyone to hold open their weekend because you might invite them to something. Seriously, don't focus on this particular incident—it will make you seem needy and high-maintenance. Your expectation that you hang out with your friend sometime is reasonable, but not that it be at a time and place of your choosing.

It sounds to me like this particular incident isn't really the problem but it's building on something you've felt for some time. Tell her that you haven't seen her as much as you would like to and that you would like to see her more. Then ask her how you two can make things happen.
posted by grouse at 12:38 PM on September 9, 2010

This is where you get a chance to reply and say, "Please do try to make it -- it would really make me very happy, and I'll miss you a lot if you're not there."
posted by amtho at 12:43 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

You like her boyfriend. Does her boyfriend like YOU? Maybe she said maybe because her chances of dragging HIS butt off that couch are slim to none.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:49 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I haven't said so, but I'm really hurt.

This is a fulcrum in so many sore feelings about relationships, whether it be with significant others, friends, family, hell... even bosses and coworkers. I'd assume she doesn't know that your feelings are truly hurt. Sure, she is probably aware you are a little disappointed, but I'd doubt she is aware of the degree that you feel badly about this.

Communicate honestly and openly with her about your feelings. It's a tough thing for me to do sometimes, but owning up to my feelings airs them out, and allows the other person to respond to them as they see fit. She could be too wrapped up right now to put herself in your shoes, but I know I feel better for letting my feelings be known, instead of playing out scenarios and future hurts along with my corresponding "zing" responses in my head. Your side of the street will be clean, and if she reacts selfishly or discompassionately, you may have to distance yourself for awhile for your sanity. But, depending on the depth of your friendship and your compatibility, she may open up to you about insecurites she may be having which are causing her to over prioritize her new beau.

In dealing with others, my most common cause of hurt feelings is dealing with unmet expectations. I expect my friends, family, whatever, to act or respond to me in a certain way, and when they don't, this leads to hurt feelings, which then leads to resentments and a cycle of passive aggressiveness on both parts if I'm not careful. I try not to have expectations of people, but often that is impossible, and my feelings get hurt. The only thing I know to do in that situation where it's really bothering me, even if it seems trivial objectively is to calmly state the "why" of my hurt feelings.

Whether she actually comes or not, I'd bet you'll both feel better about it (I also wouldn't doubt she has some conflicting guilt about it as well), and once the newness of the relationship wears off and she begins to come back from the "honeymoon" and seeks your company, your friendship will have another notch in the communicating honestly belt...
posted by Debaser626 at 12:56 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

You're reading far, far too much tone and intent into an email. Try this: take her email, imagine her being really happy about your party, but being pretty disappointed that she has other plans that might interfere.

Now read the email out loud with the tone of voice you'd use if those things were all true. I'm pretty sure you'll feel better about it after actually hearing the words in a tone that you're not adding the "blow off" tone to.

I agree with this and would add: she didn't do a great job of wording the email. If I were her, I would have deleted this part: "I hate to be a maybe, but that's the position I'm going to take." It sounds stubborn and officious. And while it's good that she started her message with "This sounds great," she probably should have sweetened her message even further by adding a "thank you" for inviting her, saying she hopes you two (or four) can see each other soon, etc.

In short, imagine the message being read in a nice voice and more tactfully worded. (The two tend to go together.)

I'm not saying the issue is solely the wording. But think about how much of what's bothering you is the wording vs. the actual substance. Some people just aren't that great at writing I-may-have-to-take-a-raincheck emails. You can make a mental note to yourself about how she could have handled this more tactfully, without letting this drag down your whole friendship.
posted by John Cohen at 12:58 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

(And for the record, I like her boyfriend! I think he's lovely. I also have a boyfriend of my own and work hard not to pull this kind of stuff on my friends, even if it's my inclination to do so at times, and knowing I put forth that effort makes this feel suckier.)

Both my mom and my sister tend toward this kind of thought. I'm naturally inclined as well, but I've been fighting it--because I can see how consistently miserable it makes them.

Kind behavior is not some sort of guarantee that you'll receive kind behavior in return. If you're being a good friend because you think (and I doubt you think this consciously) it will ensure that other people will be nice to you, then you're doing friendship wrong. Kindness is like a gift--it shouldn't ask for anything in return. Feel morally superior to your friend if you want, but the fact that you wouldn't do this to her doesn't mean that she's made even a lapse in etiquette in doing it to you.

Also: her behavior is not about you. People are, naturally, short-sighted and self-serving. I guarantee that she's not trying to send you a subtle message about your worth to her as a friend, so to cling to your hurt feelings when she was clearly trying to be honest and considerate is silly. It's just going to make you more miserable and blow up a really minor clash of schedules into something dramatic about the Meaning of your Friendship.

I suspect that what you're really upset about is that she's not paying attention to you, and so you're looking for an excuse to direct the attention back to you--in this case, toward a big "state of the friendship" talk. If this is the case, please know that this kind of behavior is exhausting for those around you. Your friends are your friends because they love you and care about you, and to have to constantly reassure you about your worth as their friend--and to have their actions micro-analyzed as a test to see if they're reaffirming your value properly--weakens the foundation of that friendship.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:00 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

In a number of other ways, she's dropping the ball on our friendship, in favor of this relationship ... I also hate secretly seething, and feeling like my friends don't care about me.

I feel you, OP. I really, really value platonic friendships, put a LOT of time, effort, and emotional investment into them, and don't see them as automatically a lesser priority than a romantic relationship. I think that goes against our (American) cultural script though.

But if I have spent, say, 10 years driving someone to the airport when they need it, holding their hair when they puke, listening for hours at a stretch when they cry on the phone, building a lifetime of memories of trips, jokes, good times, bad times ... yeah, frankly, it is extremely hurtful and stunning if someone meets a guy and really does start having the attitude "We like each other more than we like anyone else. That's why we paired off. Sorry." It makes me wish I had known they felt that way from the start so I wouldn't have wasted all my time, and could have made a friendship with another person who places the same importance on them. It also makes me feel like, "okay, next time you have to rant and cry about him, he can be the one to listen to that too."

The thing is though, nobody owes me or you anything. If someone feels this way, that any boyfriend they have is automatically a high priority over their friends, that is totally their right. And it does not make them a bad person at all. I think the best thing to do is adjust the level/priority of the friendship in your own mind like they have adjusted it in theirs. My guess is the anger you have about this situation comes from feeling like you're putting a lot out there and not getting anything back, caring a lot about this friend but they don't care about you. So I think you will feel a lot better if you just stop putting a lot out there and stop caring about her as much. Let this friend downgrade from best friend to acquaintance you see every so often when you both feel like it and don't have anything else to do. I wouldn't do anything about this situation in particular, just take it as a sign to start downgrading and not expecting as much from her, and not giving as much of yourself.

And then you can make other friends who feel the same way about friendship that you do instead of trying to shoehorn someone who doesn't. And maybe in a few years, the way this friend feels might change. I suspect many many people who, in the first few years, are all "we like each other more than we like you, sorry" go on to be the people who are feeling isolated/alienated in the suburbs and feeling like it's impossible to make/sustain good friendships at their age.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:06 PM on September 9, 2010 [12 favorites]

she probably should have sweetened her message even further by adding a "thank you" for inviting her, saying she hopes you two (or four) can see each other soon, etc...

Wow. This seems like an awful lot of tiptoeing and walking on eggshells. I really don't see what's wrong with her message as she sent it. If she honestly doesn't know that the OP is feeling resentful about their relationship, then why would she need to couch her RSVP in nicey-nice and lies/omissions? Is that how friends are supposed to talk to each other? Is that the kind of relationship you want with your friend, OP, or would you prefer to get your feelings out there, and have your friends give you honest responses?
posted by scarykarrey at 1:08 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I personally wouldn't see housewarming brunch as OMG BIGGEST DEAL EVER but if it was for you, my friend, I would make an effort to be there. But you'd have to tell me that this was a big deal. You also don't say what time this brunch is, which might matter very much.

You could say "I know this just seems like a brunch but it's a big deal to me, it would mean a lot if you would be there" instead of seething, doing the typical girl thing of WHY DOESN'T SHE JUST KNOW THAT THIS IS IMPORTANT TO ME. Tell her this is important.

Here's the thing, though: not everything can be important. You can't expect your friendship to remain exactly the same forever. I know that sucks. But it's life.

When people move, get new jobs, travel, have kids, friendship changes. It also changes when you get a boyfriend. There's a huge difference between completely abandoning the girls and being less available for events. You don't say in what other ways she's been dropping the ball, but instead of letting them build up, YOU HAVE TO SAY SOMETHING. WHEN THEY HAPPEN. Not use this brunch as a platform to give her a "hos before bros" lecture.

Deal with each event as it happens. Don't use this as a platform. Tell her this means a lot to you, could she please try to attend. The next time she drops the ball, BE SPECIFIC. Say, "Hey, we made movie plans four times in the last two months and you blew off all of them. That kind of sucks."

Don't pout, don't sulk, just tell her.
posted by micawber at 1:10 PM on September 9, 2010

I just went through a similar situation and it didn't end well. My friend was really getting distant and weird about just coming over for a housewarming, and I said something like "I feel like you just can't make time for me, you seem to prioritize [boyfriend]. Can we talk about it?"

Boy did THAT not work out. She got super defensive and weird and it ended our friendship. But at least I learned that that friendship wasn't for me. I need people in my life who are going to be there for me, whether or not they are in a relationship, and trust me, there are PLENTY of people who can do that. They seem to be able to do that AND spend adequate time in their relationship and with other friends! Amazing!

There's like this couples centric thing where it's ok to call single people or less-attached people "high maintenance" because they want to see their friends. That's completely inappropriate in my mind. I've had friends who've shut me out because they were in a relationship and bam! relationship over, and they come back. i've taken them back with no explanations needed, because things change.

But, I think her response about "her position" on the party was unnecessarily rude and aggressive and hit a nerve in terms of my recent experience. And the whole business about (from the link to another thread) "We've paired off because we like each other more than other people, sorry." is seriously rude. If anyone said that to me, I'd let them stew in their togetherness and bitterness for the rest of us and move on to people who actually like me and don't need to tell me how much they don't.

In short, I feel for you, and would bring this up for your own sake, but it might not go well, especially if one or both of you is not ready or equipped for honest communication. We all owe it to each other to do our best in all our relationships to communicate honestly and with as much understanding for the other person's perspective as possible, whether or not we're also sleeping with them .
posted by sweetkid at 1:12 PM on September 9, 2010 [11 favorites]

For what it's worth, I find her message obnoxious and I'd be annoyed by it, too. I think "maybes" are generally annoying. I wish people would just say they aren't coming. It seems people want to reserve the right to flake out and not feel responsible for it. Her acknowledgment that maybes are lame makes it even worse. "I hate to be a maybe, but that's the position I'm going to take?" Seriously? Shoot yourself in the face.

I also think it's rude to say that she can't make it to your thing in the afternoon because she's got a "big night" with her boyfriend the night before. Well, great. File that under who gives a shit.

Anyhow, just wanted to say that I see where you're coming from, and I think you need to make a choice at this point to either bring it up with her or mentally downgrade her friend status so you stop caring so much. If you do nothing it'll probably keep gnawing at you.
posted by JohnMarston at 1:33 PM on September 9, 2010 [10 favorites]

She says it's an afternoon brunch. To me, any response about it being too early or that sleeping in late should be a priority are ridiculous once you're talking afternoon. I don't care how awesome your night is, you can handle an afternoon brunch.

I am always annoyed by 'maybe' responses. Either yes or no. Choose. If you have something else going on or that might conflict, it's a no. There's some leeway if you forgot a previous engagement and have to cancel, but it's only okay a few times. After that, you're a flake. If it's a party like this with a select number of invitees, then let me invite someone else in your place.

I agree with JohnMarston that you should probably mentally downgrade her friend status. Anyone who emails me that kind of response about something important to me is not really a friend, let alone a best friend.
posted by aabbbiee at 2:05 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a little surprised at these responses. If you invite someone to a party at your home--particularly a party that involves a meal--the only responses are Yes, Thanks, or No, Thanks. A Maybe, and a kind of hostile Maybe at that, is pretty rude. I agree with aabbbiee: "Anyone who emails me that kind of response about something important to me is not really a friend, let alone a best friend."

Now maybe you're younger than I am and this how socializing rolls these days. But if I were in your shoes, I'd stop inviting her to things. The ball is in her court.
posted by pipti at 2:54 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Oh, as to how handle this specific instance: I'd probably send something vague, like "Sorry you can't make it--let's get together soon."
posted by pipti at 2:56 PM on September 9, 2010

What I find interesting about this is that everyone, including the friend, is treating this like the OP is asking her for a favor.

And this is in response to what? The OP inviting her to a party at which she will cook her a meal and show her her new home.

That's not asking for a favor, that's offering her an act of generous hospitality.

Now if this had only happened once or twice, I would think, oh well, I'm sure she's just expressed herself a bit more bluntly than she intended to. But the OP tells us that she's responding to a pattern, and it's not surprising that the cumulative effect would make her feel bad.

Let's not kid ourselves that the wording isn't important and that it's really just an honest and neutral response. There is a blunt middle and a slightly aggressive ending, preceded by a "this sounds great BUT". And no "thanks for the invitation," which the OP rightly notices as being not even minimally polite.

And maybes are obnoxious. It's not like the OP was suggesting that 150 of her friends go to a bar. She was offering to shop, cook, set the table and put out chairs, and possibly make preparations the night before for a small number of her closer friends. It's not really considerate to respond to that with, "well, you can buy food for us and you can cook it for us and you can set places at the table for us, and then by the time your party starts you can find out whether we felt like showing up or not." And the thing that would be keeping her away? It wasn't anything truly important, in fact, it wasn't anything.

I'm not disputing the friend's right to choose doing nothing with the person she's spent the majority of her time with for a year, over attending the OP's party. But then she could've just said, "oh, thanks, but we already have plans." I'm sure the OP would have been disappointed by that, but instead the OP gets an answer which not only disappoints her (which is just the way it goes when our friends don't want what we want), but shows a definite lack of appreciation and respect.

I don't know whether the OP is expecting too much from her friend or not. For all I know, this could be a response to a long stretch of neediness and lack of understanding on the OP's part; but in that case, all the friend needed to say was "no thanks". And I've got to say, I hear huge amounts from couples and parents about how all their single friends dropped them because they just didn't understand, but I've been on the other side of this. Contrary to popular belief, I as a single person can understand that getting a partner reduces the amount of time available to spend with me. I can also grasp the idea that babies and children are, you know, a priority (duh). That is never the thing that's turned me off.

The thing that has always turned me off is finding myself in this situation: that my friend is now doing me a favour by interacting with me in any way. That if I offer to do something that would normally be regarded as a nice gesture - and I include stuff like sending a third birthday gift in the mail - I will be put in my place. It's not that I drop these people, it's that I end up focussing on those of my friends who still show me respect whether they have time to spend with me or not.

Calling the OP needy or high maintenance for expecting a) friendship and b) good manners from a supposed best friend - is quite a smackdown, unless there's a hell of a lot she hasn't told us.

As for what to do about it: I think the best thing would be to take her maybe as a no, and simply reply, "oh, well, I'll be sorry to miss you," and then stop inviting the friend to anything. This isn't "passive aggression" so much as being sensitive to the signs that her friend doesn't want invitations from the OP. The friend is just as capable of dialling a number as the OP is, so if she does want to spend time with the OP, she can take the initiative herself. Heck, if she even wants to ask the OP, "you've been distant lately, is something wrong?" she can do that, but I wouldn't count on that happening.

I'm not sure talking to her about it would help. Whenever I've thought someone was showing me a pattern of disrespectful behaviour, it has turned out to mean they didn't respect me. Therefore, talking about it usually made it worse, whereas taking a step back increased the chances of successful recalibration on both sides.

YMMV of course. I just think there's a high risk that talking about it will be taken as pressure by the friend and it might work better to give her the space she seems to want.
posted by tel3path at 3:12 PM on September 9, 2010 [19 favorites]

Thanks, guys. Interesting responses. I don't really agree that wanting to socialize and keep close connections with people other than your SO makes you needy, jealous, high-maintenance, etc. I put a lot of energy into my friendships, perhaps too much, so those of you who suggested I adjust my expectations were perhaps right.

I responded with "That sucks. I miss you! Hope you and bf can come visit soon." She replied saying she did want to come visit, and told me when she was available. I don't believe she was being malicious; she was being honest and neutral, but her choice of words made me feel like crap, worsened by the fact that she's been MIA in recent times when I could've used a friend.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 4:19 PM on September 9, 2010

I loathe how she said it. Really, she couldn't have just said, "I'm busy and can't make it, thanks?" She had to specifically point out, "I'd rather lounge around on the couch with my boyfriend, and hedge around on my answer?" Yeah, it's a "basically no" answer, but man, if maybe isn't really a maybe, JUST SAY YOU'RE NOT COMING, ALREADY. The point of invitations is to pick one option or the other, not "Well, uh, MAYBE if I fucking feel like it, which I probably won't."

So yeah, I'm feeling your irritation here. This isn't exactly a great, polite answer to me. I think I'd just say back to her in this case, "Well, guess you're not coming then. Maybe I'll talk to you later. Bye."

I think in my head, regardless of whether or not you have A Talking To with her, I'd drop her farther down on my friends list, to the "unlikely to show up to anything ever" list. I only invite those people to things if it doesn't really matter if they show up or not, and I won't care so much if they flake. Say, invite her to a large party, but never invite her to a show when odds are she'll leave you hanging with the tickets. Sometimes people just drop out of your life, especially when they get an SO, and you can't do much about it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:27 PM on September 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

I don't really agree that wanting to socialize and keep close connections with people other than your SO makes you needy, jealous, high-maintenance, etc.

That is not what I see people saying. I'm sure it is not what I'm saying. Rather that, from your friend's perspective, if you focused on this particular incident you might seem a little unreasonable, and that bringing it up wasn't maybe the best course of action when the real problem you want to solve is "wanting to socialize and keep close connections with people."
posted by grouse at 5:36 PM on September 9, 2010

I'm going to have to agree with a lot of what tel3path has said. I don't understand why so many responses have defended this friend or wildly projected bad traits onto the OP.

The response to the OP's invitation reads incredibly rude to me. She basically said "if I feel like it" due to plans that end 12 hours before the event to which she was invited. It's ok to decline, but polite phrases like "thank you" go a long way. I'm pretty informal but I found her response unnecessarily harsh.

I don't know if confronting her will change much in her behavior, but go ahead and do it if you think it will make YOU feel better.
posted by MrsHarper at 6:01 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

Her wording is a complete turn-off. To me, not all "maybes" are obnoxious. But "that's the position I'm going to take" is. It's an RSVP, not a political debate.

You can be straightforward and still be gracious. I have friends, am a friend, get invited to parties, throw parties. The maybe wouldn't bug me (and I definitely prefer it over yes followed by a no-show). But I can't imagine emailing any of my friends with that little jabby sound bite unless it was someone I was trying to distance myself from. Or an exercise in being assertive and setting boundaries. Is it possible that that's what she's doing?

Is she always this harsh? I ask because I have one friend who has a wry sense of humor and words things rather bluntly. I could see him saying something like that. An outsider might think he's rude, but it's just the way he speaks. He's like that with everyone. He's a great friend and never flakes out, so I don't hold it against him.
posted by Majorita at 8:37 PM on September 9, 2010 [2 favorites]

I agree with tel3path. I also think there are two separate issues at play here:

1) You feel she neglects you in favor of spending time with her boyfriend.
2) You feel that her RSVP was rude.

I too feel her RSVP was rude, and in my mind, it would be just as rude if she were single. I disagree with the people who find her honesty refreshing. I don't think honesty is always the best policy. If she really wanted to go to your housewarming, she would be there (she doesn't actually have a conflicting plan at the time of the housewarming). And it's fine if she's lukewarm about going, but a polite RSVP in that case would've been "Thanks for the invite. Not sure if we can make it but we'll try!" or something to that effect, rather than a response that effectively conveys "I feel halfhearted about attending."

I don't see much point in calling her out on this issue, since you can't make someone get excited about attending your housewarming. I'd either (a) not invite her next time, or (b) invite her next time but remind yourself in advance that she may very well respond in a rude way, so that you can be mentally prepared for it.
posted by whitelily at 9:04 PM on September 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't believe she was being malicious; she was being honest and neutral, but her choice of words made me feel like crap, worsened by the fact that she's been MIA in recent times when I could've used a friend.

Blackcatcuriouser, could you talk to her about it?
If it were me, I'd say something like "next time you're not sure whether you can come, can you just say 'We've got something else planned and I'm not sure we can make it'? I'd rather just not know the details, it would make me feel better."
That way she knows what to do rather than getting into a huge discussion about whether she was rude or not.
And about her MIA, proceed the same way. Tell her how you'd like things to go instead of how it's going now.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:18 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a little late to this party but I have to say something-- you see, I'm that friend (well, figuratively and generally). I went through this from the other side. I think you've gotten a lot of advice from YOUR side, but let me tell you what it feels like from the other side.

I have a female friend who invests a lot of time and energy in her friendships. She has relatively few close friends and she values them highly. I was surprised and gratified when she decided to let me in to her inner circle and I did everything I could to appreciate and value her.

But the downside of being her close friend was jealousy. I saw it happen to our other friends: she seemed to take it personally when one of us chose to spend time with a guy instead of with the girls. She would complain over and over about it. It was clear that for her, friends reserved time for each other as a rule, and that when a guy threatened this, the girl in question had some sort of moral failing if she chose to spend time with the guy.

I watched all this with apprehension. But I didn't judge, even when my friend started dating and eventually got married. She herself spent time with her guy, as of course she should. I didn't feel that friendship required the same kind of clear commitments. I supported her and let her do her thing.

They divorced quickly. That's a different long story, and not really germane.

As you have probably figured out, eventually my turn came. I started dating someone. And yes, on those occasions when I chose to spend time with my boyfriend, I got the angry treatment.

And you know what? It infuriated me.

I couldn't believe that she would glare at me and stamp her little foot at me like a child. I couldn't believe that after our years of friendship that she would pout when I decided to invest time to build my future. I couldn't believe that after I had supported her through her relationship and divorce that she would not support me as well. It made me want to laugh in her face: this is what friendship is to you? Where interactions have a right and wrong answer? Where you can judge others because your perceptions are always true?

So I cut her off.

That's right-- I felt so hurt by this unbelievably selfish behavior on her part that I simply withdrew. Because it's exhausting to have to placate someone all the time. I felt like we had fundamentally different ideas of what friendship means. When I realized that my interests and her interests were in opposition -- that choices I was making to increase my happiness and build the future I wanted with a partner I loved were at the same time threatening her and that I would need to change my life to satisfy her -- then it was clear that we didn't have what I believed to be a real friendship. To this day we don't talk.

When people ask me why I don't talk to her, I tell them -- and to a person, they smile sadly and say, "Yeah, I know what you mean, i hate it when she does that."

Tl;dr: Be careful when you force people to choose between you and their other relationships, because it kinda turns out that you are forcing them to choose between you and THEIR OWN HAPPINESS. I married the guy in question and I do not regret a single choice I made. Don't be like my former friend.
posted by woot at 7:37 AM on September 10, 2010 [9 favorites]

The OP isn't framing this as a choice between her and the BF - the friend is.
posted by tel3path at 9:54 AM on September 10, 2010 [2 favorites]

With respect, tel3path, I'm not sure how you see it that way. In the post, the OP *is* framing it as a choice between her and the BF. She says "[my friend] is dropping the ball on our friendship, in favor of this relationship [with the boyfriend]." She also says that she has her own BF, that she manages her time with her BF differently, and that she resents how her friend doesn't manage time the same way (or as she puts it, "pulls this stuff"). My point is that when the OP starts feeling competitive with her friends' other relationships, she will -- and should -- lose the fight.

And because I never answered the question about how to handle this specific situation: be grateful your friend was at least honest with you and gave you that much insight into her priorities. That makes me think you still have a real friendship. Thank her and make plans to see her that are convenient for you both.
posted by woot at 11:31 AM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

The friend is framing it that way by RSVPing 'I'd rather do nothing with my BF than something with you'. She has every right to spend her time as she sees fit, another to throw down the gauntlet about it. ('that's my position') It's the kind of thing some people do to provoke a fight in which the opponent has already been put in the wrong. So it's just as well the OP hasn't stamped her foot or given dirty looks, but simply made a brief but respectful rejoinder. Not saying this is bait, but if it were, the OP should never take it.
posted by tel3path at 11:44 AM on September 10, 2010

The friend is framing it that way by RSVPing 'I'd rather do nothing with my BF than something with you'.

For the sake of making sure woot's excellent advice isn't disregarded, I'd like to respectfully suggest that the framing was "I will be doing something with my boyfriend that will leave me too exhausted to do something with you afterwards, and I know you won't like that, but that's the way it is." Whether this was a thrown gauntlet or a coping mechanism based on past history cannot be determined.
posted by davejay at 12:27 PM on September 10, 2010 [1 favorite]

Well, indeed. And I wouldn't want to underemphasize my advice that the OP step back and let her friend come to her. I would suggest the OP not initiate anything for the foreseeable future, but let her friend be the one to make plans.
posted by tel3path at 12:42 PM on September 10, 2010

woot, that was your friend, and your friend sounds obnoxious and self-centered, and I don't doubt that you were in the right to cut her off.

But the OP is not the person your friend was, necessarily. It sounds to me like her friend is just as obnoxious and self-centered as your friend was.

I am in favor of downgrading or cutting off anyone who is obnoxious and self-centered and writes emails like the OP's friend wrote to her, regardless of relationship status.
posted by aabbbiee at 12:57 PM on September 10, 2010 [3 favorites]

« Older How do I protect my tech from this bug?   |   I've recorded a podcast, but can't open the .wav... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.