All your burned bridges are belong to me.
April 1, 2013 10:22 AM   Subscribe

Fubar'd a friendship. Hope me.

I'm pretty good at wrecking friendships. When any relationship gets iffy, I bail, burn the bridge and build a wall. That's what I'm working with in this particular flurry.

Met a guy, had a couple of dates, really, really liked him. We were both very clear and upfront about not jumping into dating-relationship territory which thrilled me because I'd been wanting to get to know someone slowly before jumping into Relationship Land again. So that was great, lots of groups and also one-on-one time. Very fun.

Then it turned out he was in a pretty bad spot. I put on my emotional brakes because I did not want to add the pressure of relationshippy expectations on him while he was dealing with some heavy emotional stuff. I probably let myself do too much for him but regardless my feelings deepened but I tried very hard not to let it show. I even went on a few dates with other guys in an effort to distract myself from my feelings for him and I suppose to prove to myself and everyone else that I didn't want or need anything more than friendship.

So...the other night he dropped on me that he's found this great girl to date and I did not handle it well at all. I lack a poker face in the best of circumstances so my face and my mood basically broadcast to the world how I felt. I kept it together and got out of the event as fast as I could, but thanks to poor emotional regulation I got into a snippy text / IM exchange.

I'm mortified at my poor reaction and ashamed that I feel rejected even when everyone's boundaries were always perfectly clear. I feel vain, demanding and selfish. I'm so angry at myself for letting it show at the cost of losing a friendship that I really valued. He speaks highly of me and my friendship to him and he's made it clear that he can go forward without letting this change anything (well, sort of clear, everything is murky when I go back and rewrite mixed messages). Because I have that habit of walking away from relationships whenever they distress me, I'd like to avoid cutting, running, blocking and ignoring. Also, I miss his friendship and I'm still concerned about him.

TL;DR. Wore my heart on my sleeve and feel stupid.

1. Should I try to fix this?
2. If so, how so?
3. How do I avoid being a petulant diva in the future, especially if this girl starts coming around? I started to feel my mean-spirited bitchiness arise last time I talked to him.
posted by mibo to Human Relations (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
1. Yes.
2. Apologize.
3. Take a moment before you react to things. When you're feeling like you're going to act out, stop, remove yourself if possible, take some deep breaths or a night off, and come back with a healthier outlook.
posted by xingcat at 10:27 AM on April 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Don't fix this, you wanted a relationship with this guy, and he's found someone else.

Let's get real. In Fantasy-World, we can be friends with people we have romatic feelings for, even if they're all schmoopy with someone else. In Real-Life this is just super-painful to us. So don't put yourself through that.

You can send him an email with the truth. "I'm rather sad about the fact that you've found a great girl to date, and it's not me. For now, I think it's best that we don't talk."

He didn't want to jump into Dating/Relationship territory--WITH YOU! That's the crux of it. He jumped with this other chick. It wasn't like he was slowly getting to know you, it was like he was dating you until someone better came along.

You have every right to be angry and you were not AT ALL out of line.

DTMFA. Find a guy who only has eyes for you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:28 AM on April 1, 2013 [51 favorites]

Actually it sounds like you handled it fairly okay, all things being equal. You didn't go all psycho hose-beast on him and rush at him screeching and try to scratch his eyes out; a snippy email exchange is all that happened, and quite honestly, I think that's forgiveable given the circumstances.

So here's how I would answer your questions -

1. Not really seeing that there's as much to "fix" as you think there is.

2. First, calm down, because even though what you are feeling is totally and completely justifiable, it is complicating things. Then send him a very brief email apologizing for how you handled the situation and telling him that you MIGHT want to be friends still, but you will need to decide when you're ready for that. You will need a little time, and he needs to respect that. Then, when the mean-spirited bitchiness is gone, you just call him to catch up and see how that goes. And if it's fine, then...yay, you have a friend.

3. Taking the time to process the justifiable disappointment you feel will keep you from being a petulant diva in the future. But, more importantly, it will make you realize that you weren't being a "petulant diva" in the first place anyway - you were having a forgiveable and human reaction to getting an unpleasant shock and getting disappointed.

And a fourth thing to do -

4. For the love of God, forgive yourself for having actual human reactions to things that are justifiably disappointing. You didn't turn up on his doorstep in black crepe and wail and rend your garments, and you didn't break into his place and boil a bunny, you just sent him a couple snippy emails after he introduced you to his new girlfriend when you thought you guys were dating. That is absolutely normal.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:31 AM on April 1, 2013 [17 favorites]

It sounds like you have some very strong feelings for this guy which perhaps you didn't fully realize before. Your reaction tells you the truth about how you feel and what you want. Do you REALLY want to continue the friendship under these circumstances - where you are constantly struggling to hide you feelings?

Take a giant step back. Hide him on FB, put your energy into other friends and activities. It's been said on the green before that when the idea of him announcing that he's marrying or expecting children with someone else brings you only happiness, then you can be friends. That's a pretty good rule of thumb.

Ruthless Bunny is dead on.
posted by bunderful at 10:33 AM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

The way you are talking to yourself is so negative! Petulant mean-spirited bitch? Please don't do that to yourself. And for what it's worth, it doesn't sound to me like you went and fucked up this friendship. He said he didn't want a relationship and then he did-- with someone else? That's how I am reading it. That sounds rather hurtful. Some people can take a potential romance and turn it into a straightforward friendship. But some can't. And if, for you, there was still the hope of romance and you were disappointed, that's a natural reaction.

Plus, texting and IMing often gets snippy in better circumstances. It's a very reactive medium. Don't do it when you are feeling bad.
posted by BibiRose at 10:34 AM on April 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm with RB. This guy took advantage of a technicality. Yes, it was his technical right, and yes, you agreed to those boundaries. But, frankly, people are under a LOT of pressure to agree to those boundaries these days, and they don't work for everyone! And then everyone's (and by everyone I mean mostly women) under tremendous pressure to avoid showing any negative emotion, and to remain within punching distance.

he's made it clear that he can go forward without letting this change anything (well, sort of clear, everything is murky when I go back and rewrite mixed messages)

So in other words he's setting things up to where you'll still be a fallback when New Manic Pixie Dream Girl fizzles out on him.


I say this as someone who recently NUKED a relationship --twice-- with a guy who really liked to use this sort of technicality to stomp all over my heart all the time. My only regret is not sticking to my initial nuking when he begged me to come back. (Because it turned out he only wanted to fill the time before he met ANOTHER perfect girl a month and a half later.)
posted by like_a_friend at 10:36 AM on April 1, 2013 [9 favorites]

I don't think you should be beating yourself up over how you handled this. Both posters here have good advice. It's okay to have feelings and it's okay to be honest about them. Being let down in this kind of situation is frankly fine and totally understandable. Your reaction doesn't need to take up any more of your headspace! Agonizing about this and dissecting your emotional response is letting him take up mental and emotional real estate that he has no claim to, imho.

The best and healthiest way to handle this from here on out will be to make a clean break--if you do speak again, wish him the best with the new girl he's decided to date, and cut contact (at least until you're over this). Then, go meet someone who does want to date you.

As a general "just for self-improvement" thing, if you want to make a concerted effort not to be a snippy texter when you're upset in the future, work on that--but give yourself permission to move on from this particular situation.
posted by anonnymoose at 10:40 AM on April 1, 2013

I'm pretty good at wrecking friendships.

Wanting to un-FUBAR a friendship is a laudable aim. When friendships get FUBAR'd it's often because they've strayed into non-friendship territory, e.g. sexual attraction, business partnership, etc. But from your description, it's not clear that this particular example was ever a friendship-type-friendship as opposed to a once-and-future-romance-on-hold.

If your goal is to learn friendship-UNFUBARing skills, you might do better to wait and practice on a more canonical example.
posted by feral_goldfish at 10:40 AM on April 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

had a couple of dates, really, really liked him. We were both very clear and upfront about not jumping into dating-relationship

It seems like one of two things happened here:

1) You went out with him a few times and then agreed to his request for Just Friends status even though that's not how you felt, thinking you could smush your feelings down into a pocket and keep them there and anyway once he has a chance to see how great you are he's totally going to change his mind.

2) He was all "I'm not really quote-unquote ready to date but you're welcome to hang out" ...and wait for me to change my mind, acting as my de facto girlfriend until I find someone I want to sleep with.

Both of these are common mistakes. Most people have to live through them both - sometimes more than once - before learning to spot them in the wild. There is no shame in it; live and learn.

What is worrying is that you then come here and essentially ask the question: how could I be the best possible doormat here? How do I stop being mad when people are crappy to me?

80% of the relationships in your life should be walked away from when they are unpleasant and you are treated badly. The other 20% are generally tied to a paycheck, related to medical procedures, or involve family.

This guy basically told you he wasn't into you. And you found him emotionally unpleasant enough that you tried to convince yourself you weren't getting involved. And then you hung out waiting for him to change his mind. The more you waited for him to come around, the more you got invested in a relationship that did not exist. On one hand, you shouldn't do that to yourself. On the other, he shouldn't have taken advantage of it either.

He's kind of a dick. He's kept his hands nice and clean, but an honest person would have said hey, I feel like all this time we're spending together is probably inappropriate and you have some expectations I just am not going to meet, so let's not do this.

Go be friends (or more) with people who like you. Don't be friends with people who don't care about your feelings, especially just so you can say you don't run away from friendships or whatever. Don't subscribe to your own poor treatment like that.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:07 AM on April 1, 2013 [27 favorites]

The thing is, the agreement you had with this guy was not a legally-binding contract. Which means that he was not wrong to meet someone else, but you were also not wrong to be upset about it.

I'd just give yourself some time away from the guy and see how you feel in a few weeks/months. If you feel really bad about the snippy IM exchange, sure, go ahead and apologize for that, and then withdraw for a bit. I've been on both sides of this situation and, in a way, it's a bit like an actual breakup in that you're going to need some time to get over it. If you try to force yourself to hang out with him right away, either out of pride or obligation, then it'll probably be painful and awkward.

Also, I'm not sure where poor emotional regulation comes into this. It sounds like you were a bit snarky, but that's not the worst thing in the world. If you'd screamed at him when he told you or stayed in bed crying for days, sure, that would be a problem. But vey few people can control their emotions to the extent that they never fall for people they "shouldn't" or are not hurt or upset when they are rejected. And honestly, you don't want to be one of those people who can, because emotions like this are healthy.
posted by the essence of class and fanciness at 11:11 AM on April 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

You need to be more honest with yourself about what you're feeling, and you need to be more accepting of your feelings.

Then you can tell the guy friend who you were pre-dating something like "I know I tried to hide my feelings, but the truth is I was getting really attached to the idea of a relationship with you, now that you have found someone else I feel really disappointed. I'd like to continue being your friend, but I might need some time first. It was fun, I hope to see you around."
posted by Locochona at 11:42 AM on April 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

I probably let myself do too much for him but regardless my feelings deepened but I tried very hard not to let it show.

Listen to this self-observation. Your actions were showing him the depth of your feelings, regardless.

So...the other night he dropped on me that he's found this great girl to date and I did not handle it well at all.

There's nothing to fix, as this is not a friend. He knew you were very interested in him, he claimed he had emotional issues that were making him unavailable, and now he's shown you his true cards: that he is actually only unavailable to you.

In these circumstances, you don't owe him a friendship. You don't owe him the lie that his behaviors do not have any consequences for the friendship/relationship he mutually encouraged between the two of you. By sucking it up you are telling him that it's okay to behave like this. Repeat as often as necessary: he is doing you a favor by showing you his true colors now, instead of waiting 3 months/1 year/etc.

I started to feel my mean-spirited bitchiness arise last time I talked to him.

Listen to this feeling too. You're feeling mean-spirited bitchiness for a reason --because being vulnerable with him ended up hurting you. Of course, just because you FEEL angry doesn't mean you have to go out and do something angry. Just don't deny the truth of your feelings --that you're hurting and feel bitter for legitimate reasons (and not because you're a petulant diva --that's a lot of self-shaming there).

Also, seconding what Locochona said above re: being more honest with yourself about what you're feeling. I think sometimes somewhere along the line we're trained to discount what we honestly feel for others' convenience. IMO/IME that's a path to much more disappointing outcomes, than learning to honor your truth is. It's a valuable life skill that, with some practice, will take you much further with people. Sometimes there are some friendships/relationships that need to burn themselves out, and it's not really anyone's fault so much as realizing you weren't all that compatible to begin with. Knowing yourself (and feelings and truth) will help protect you from owning any of that unnecessarily, which sounds like what's probably the case here.
posted by human ecologist at 11:50 AM on April 1, 2013 [8 favorites]

I'm going to be in the minority and say that I don't think that this guy treated you poorly. I think you are treating yourself pretty unkindly, though. You don't have to burn a bridge but I'd suggest putting up some walls and actually trying to get over this guy romantically. You may find that you miss his friendship less or not at all when you are less focused on "saving" it.

In terms of not bailing on friendships when they hit a rough patch, I think this is actually a great example of when it's okay to do this.
posted by sm1tten at 12:05 PM on April 1, 2013 [5 favorites]

There are a lot of people who want to label a woman a "petulant diva" for desiring an exclusive or even just mutually satisfying romantic relationship, and I feel like maybe the OP has been listening to too many of those people.

Those people, like the guy in your question, are ALSO not your friends. And you should DThoseMFsA too.

A talent for ditching unsatisfying, manipulative, and painful friendships/relationships is a tremendous gift! TREMENDOUS. Devote your energies to preserving mutual, supportive, non-bullshitty friendships and let dudes like this one go with extreme prejudice.
posted by like_a_friend at 12:17 PM on April 1, 2013 [8 favorites]

On reading other responses, I completely do not get how this guy is a motherfucker that must be dumped because he used some sort of technicality that only women are socialized to fall for. Or something. Sigh.

You were both "clear and upfront" that you weren't into dating relationship territory. You say, "everyone's boundaries were always perfectly clear." YOU even went on some dates with other men. When he says he found a great girl to date, exactly what agreement did he fail to live up to? You two weren't exclusive. And who's to say this new woman is his exclusive girlfriend even now?

That being said, it doesn't sound to me like you over reacted. Maybe you didn't realize how much you liked him until he mentioned this other woman. Either way, a simple apology seems appropriate, then put it behind you. And realize, you may simply be the sort of person who isn't cut out for these types of casual relationships - i know I'm not, never was, and many people aren't, either.
posted by see_change at 2:02 PM on April 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

A lot of good things have already been said, but something to keep in your mind is that any attempt at a friendship after there's been all these romantic overtones on both sides. I'm not sure i buy in to the whole "this guys an awful motherfucker" narrative, but what i -do- thing is that if after all that he wants to continue being "friends" with you, that like_a_friend mentioned above in their first post(and jeeze, read all their other posts too, good stuff), he just wants you as a plan B.

You're good enough for him to keep around, but not good enough for him to date when someone better is right in front of him. Fuck being someones plan B.

And yes, i know some people become friends after situations like this, but that just is not how i read this, especially with how it was handled... and having seem several similar situations play out in my life and with people i know.

Oh, and even if there is nothing sinister like that going on, starting a friendship from the position of "guy who i had a romantic interest in, who's dating that bitch that isn't me that i resent the hell out of" isn't really worth much of anything anyways. So even in perfectland, this is still something to pull the eject lever on. Walk.
posted by emptythought at 2:27 PM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Ruthless Bunny is wise. Even though you made your intentions clear about not wanting to jump into a relationship, the heart wants what the heart wants, and your heart wanted a relationship with this guy.

Whatever you do, try to learn the difference between what your brain wants and what your heart wants. If you can do that, it'll make it easier in the future to avoid putting yourself into accidental-relationship territory.

Best of luck with working through your feelings.
posted by 2oh1 at 2:34 PM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

This doesn't seem like a big deal? You felt hurt and rejected for totally valid reasons right - he wanted emotional support from you and you aren't supposed to expect anything from him? Sometimes people send pissy text messages. I would too. Also I feel like, if you were dating briefly and you really care about him but it didn't work out because he wants to go date this other great girl instead, what kind of friendship can you really have after that.
posted by citron at 2:58 PM on April 1, 2013

Er, I mean, it doesn't seem like your reaction is a big deal in a negative way, and you shouldn't feel bad about being upset or call yourself names over it. I wasn't trying to say this didn't matter, sorry for the poor phrasing there.
posted by citron at 3:00 PM on April 1, 2013

You didn't FUBAR this friendship. He did. Defriend, unfollow, don't try to fix what you didn't break, maybe don't think so highly of his character.

(The "omg I'm in suuuuch a horrible place right now oh also btw here's my new girlfriend" thing seems to be really common with guys. I think it's fundamentally shitty - it uses mental issues, whether real or exaggerated or totally fake, as a excuse to avoid dealing with relationships [or, later on, their girlfriends' own shit] honestly. It's different from people legitimately struggling with Bad Shit - it's hard to explain but I feel like a lot of girls have been on the receiving end of it. I have. Repeatedly. And it looks like you have too.)
posted by dekathelon at 8:06 PM on April 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Thank you, Green. This has gone a way toward giving me a better perspective.

On the other hand, I keep worrying that I am the one who was a jerk; maybe I'm the one operating under the double standard that I can go find people to date but then get upset when he does. That may be the number one reason I feel like my response is irrational. Maybe when I took him at his word, he took me at mine.

On the other other hand, I also remember some more of the explicit things I should have paid more attention to and how he's either oblivious / I miscommunicated the reasons I was upset or seriously a total asshole by assuring me that he's not mad at me for being upset and asking to please let him be there for me during this "difficult time" for me.

I'm way too old for this shit. I think I'm going to go find someone who says nice things to me even while stone cold sober. Or seek total solitude for a while.
posted by mibo at 6:03 AM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

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