Coping with Friendship Blues
August 30, 2014 11:56 PM   Subscribe

I wrote this question. I've been thinking a lot about my friendship with that guy, specifically how to proceed with it. Small blizzard under the fold.

Things have been okay, and he's always willing to be clear and blunt about when I'm engaging too much. but I've been noticing that lately whenever we talk and he mentions something he does with another friend, I get upset. He got engaged after I wrote that last question (I'm also acquaintances with his fiancee), and there was an engagement party that was thrown for them which I also wasn't invited to. When he told me about that, I started crying. He has also all but told me that I'm not invited to the wedding (which he said he wanted to keep small, but still).

(Yes, I am in therapy. Yes, I am trying to make friends via the usual avenues, but it's a slow process. I talked to this couple more than any of my other friends. Additionally, I live closest to them than I do to the rest of my friends/acquaintances-- we live in the same neighborhood, take gym classes at the local Y occasionally, and the guy half and I sometimes take the same trains to work since we both work in the same part of the city.)

I'm tired of feeling sad when I talk to him. I'm also Facebook friends with them and I feel sad when I look at their profiles. I took a staycation recently, and I realized that I was most happiest and stress free when I wasn't running into them on the subway. The fact that I wasn't invited to the wedding also made me realize that I'm tired of not mattering to people. I want to not be a nothing friend. So, lately I've been thinking that maybe it would be best if I ended the friendship. I'm still trying to figure out whether or not I want to do this, but I'm trying to take some more time out in the hopes that maybe I'll figure it out. At the very least, I won't be so sad and anxious.

I have some questions about how to do this, which I'd like to pose to you:

-What should I do if I see either of them in the street or in the subway? It would be rude to keep walking and ignore them, but I'm afraid that if I start talking I'll feel sad, especially if they bring up the wedding. I also don't want to tell them so much about what's going on because if I do I'm afraid that they'll friend dump me, and I'm not sure if that's something I want yet.

-Before, I had gotten into the habit of looking at their Facebook profiles a lot. I've unfollowed them, but I still put their names in the search bar. I want to stop doing this. Any pointers for stopping this habit? I was doing fine for a couple of days, but then the fiancee invited me to like her page (she's an artist) and I stupidly accepted, and then fell off the wagon. I'm considering blocking, but I'm not exactly sure how that works-- I know they wouldn't see my stuff, but would I see theirs? Would I still be able to look them up? Facebook's site doesn't seem to speak too much about that, and my leaving the site is not an option at this time.

-How do I stop feeling so sad and confused about this? I get sad when I think of how things used to be and we used to talk all the time, but now we don't because that's not what he wants. Part of me doesn't want to end the friendship because he's a really nice guy and is willing to be clear about what he does/doesn't want. He also didn't freak out about the Asperger's, which is surprisingly hard to find in a friend. (Not sure if the fiancee knows, but she is also very nice.) I'm just really torn here and I expected to know the answer with time away, but it's just not helping.

I know this is long, but since this is anonymous I wanted to give as much info as possible. Anything you can provide here would be much appreciated. Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I'm considering blocking, but I'm not exactly sure how that works-- I know they wouldn't see my stuff, but would I see theirs? Would I still be able to look them up?

Blocking hides them from you as well as you from them. They won't even show up as friends of friends and you won't be able to search for their profile. It effectively makes you cease to exist to each other on Facebook.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:14 AM on August 31, 2014

Things change, people change, friendships change.

Sometimes if you want to have friends you just have to accept that you will sometimes feel left out. You might feel confused or sad about it, and it's OK to feel that way. Just because you feel left out doesn't mean someone isn't your friend, there are all different kinds of friends. Maybe these are your workout and on the train friends.

Especially around weddings and engagements, there can be a lot of who's invited/who isn't that doesn't have much to do with you at all. Only so many people can go, and there's often a lot of family politics around who is invited.

How to not feel confused about this? You need to find a way to get your mind off it and think about something else. If you have a hobby that's very engrossing that can be helpful.

I still put their names in the search bar. I want to stop doing this.

You can block access to specific URLs from your computer. Maybe someone else has some tips on how to do that. It won't stop you from putting their names in the search bar, but you won't be able to see their facebook page.
posted by yohko at 12:54 AM on August 31, 2014

It sounds like they think of you as an acquaintance. That really sucks, I'm sorry. Maybe it would help if you started thinking of them as acquaintances, too, not as friends. I don't mean change how you feel about them necessarily. I mean re-categorize them in your mind so that they are no longer "friends who are treating me like an acquaintance," but "acquaintances I wish were friends."

"Friends who are treating you like an acquaintance" is a terrible place thing to have. It implies that, as friends, they are treating you coldly and unfairly. "Acquaintances who you wish were friends" is a different story. You might still feel bad that they're not willing to board the friend train, but at least they aren't treating you badly like "friends who are treating me like an acquaintance" are.
posted by wrabbit at 2:21 AM on August 31, 2014 [10 favorites]

-What should I do if I see either of them in the street or in the subway?

You smile and nod, maybe say hello, never breaking stride. In the subway, what are you typically doing? Reading a paper, listening to a podcast? Same deal - smile and nod, and keep on keepin on.
posted by solotoro at 2:33 AM on August 31, 2014 [6 favorites]

How do I stop feeling so sad and confused about this?

From the wording of this (and your previous) Ask, I get the feeling that you approach friendships with a similar level of intensity and worry that many people experience surrounding romantic stuff. And this friendship is kind of "unrequited," so it's understandable that you'd be somewhat hurt and lost right now. You thought you had a deeper friendship than this guy thought you did; you want one thing, and he's more comfortable with another. That sucks.

And, as in a case of unrequited love, you just sort of have to muscle through a grieving period if you want to feel healthy in the future. If you were asking about dealing with the pain/confusion of being rejected as a romantic partner, we'd be telling you to refocus on doing things that keep you busy, exploring new or old interests, and meeting new people. It's important to understand that you won't be able to "stop" feeling bad, at least not through direct action, and probably not right away; it's simply something that "happens" via a period of distraction, self-care, and emotional/physical distance.

I still put their names in the search bar. I want to stop doing this. Would I still be able to look them up?

I just tried looking up a friend who I had to block (too many vaguebooking infractions, too much negativity, etc.), and yes, you apparently can look them up and view their entire page. But I no longer receive any notifications from them; not in my newsfeed, and not in the sidebar. I don't see their interactions with mutual friends, either. They do not intrude on my life in any way, unless I go looking. So, if you can stay on top of not-looking, you should be fine. (Understood that this may be difficult at first, but not "seeing" them for a while will probably ease your compulsion to check up; out of sight, out of mind, right?) And the best part is that they'll likely never know you blocked them from view. They might put two and two together eventually, but the radio silence will not read as some sort of dramatic gesture.

he's a really nice guy and is willing to be clear about what he does/doesn't want.

And it therefore doubly sucks that you can't have a friendship at the level that you wish. But, you can't; he's been clear that he doesn't want that. Be grateful that he was 1) able to express this, and 2) able to express it clearly and kindly, and keep moving on.

What should I do if I see either of them in the street or in the subway?

Given the previous level of engagement, it might read as weird if you start blanking this guy (or his fiancee) in public. I used to live in a small city where it was impossible to avoid running into exes, and I found that it was best to accept this with good humor rather than trying to pretend they weren't there. Keep a pleasant face on, enjoy some shallow back-and-forth about the coming workday, the commute, or the weather, and then pleasantly "fade." I'd suggest keeping something on hand that you can (plausibly) engage with -- a book, music, etc. -- once you've exchanged a few words.

I'm tired of not mattering to people.

I struggle with that feeling, myself. But whether a sorta-friend invites you to their wedding is a bad barometer of how much you "matter" in the larger scheme of things. People are not invited to weddings for so many reasons, and so few of them are personal.
posted by credible hulk at 6:33 AM on August 31, 2014 [8 favorites]

Look, sometimes what happens is that as people evolve into adulthood, their social groups become much more homogenised, smaller, and self-reflective. He may be at a point where he's mostly all about her, and as a unit they tend to form their relationships with other couples in the same life stage. This is TOTALLY TYPICAL and for people who are like this, only gets worse when they have kids, so you know... at least you have an early warning system at play here.

So I think you should cool the friendship. You can be friendly without being besties. Give his emails or texts a couple of days before you reply and don't make arrangements with them. Ignore the wedding. Get a browser add-on that will let you block specific FB pages, and block hers, his and her artist page.

What should I do if I see either of them in the street or in the subway? It would be rude to keep walking and ignore them, but I'm afraid that if I start talking I'll feel sad, especially if they bring up the wedding. I also don't want to tell them so much about what's going on because if I do I'm afraid that they'll friend dump me, and I'm not sure if that's something I want yet.

I would encourage you not to snub them, but rather to go back to our new watchword, friendly, and be friendly. "Hey! Nice surprise, great to see you guys! Cindy you look great. Listen I'd love to catch up but I'm running late -- have a great day!"

Overall, I would encourage you to work towards meeting and becoming friendly with more people so that you have less focus on these people. Less focus means they are less important and less capable of causing you pain and sadness when you think of them.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:44 AM on August 31, 2014 [3 favorites]

From your previous question:

Basically, our definitions/visions of the friendship weren't the same, and he felt I was expecting more out of it than he was.

This is all you need to know. You have mismatched expectations; you want more than they are willing or able to give. Fade away. (I am usually against the slow fade technique, but in this specific case it seems like having A Serious Discussion About Your Friendship would be wildly negative and uncomfortable for everyone concerned.)

I'd suggest not blocking, yet, on Facebook. Just click that little upside down caret next to their posts and hide them. Fade away for a bit, then unfriend--block if necessary for your own mental equilibrium.

Meet more people (yeah, I know how easy that is to say. You got hobbies? Join a group that is centred around one or more of them). And search out support groups or a therapist who can help you manage your Asperger's and help you build a toolkit for approaching friendships in a way that is healthier for you.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:02 AM on August 31, 2014 [4 favorites]

How do I stop feeling so sad and confused about this?

You don't have to address your feelings directly. Feelings are not facts. You're not bad for feeling them, either.

And then-- as an experiment, why don't you try to get off Facebook for a while? Or if you have a certain group, like your family, that you use Facebook to interact with, limit it to that. Facebook has an awful way of making people feel inadequate. All you see are the shiny outsides that other people present for the medium. People who are about to get married look the shiniest of all. Trust me, people do not feel the way they look on Facebook. If you are feeling down about the way a friendship/relationship worked out, seeing that person on Facebook is the absolute worst.
posted by BibiRose at 8:23 AM on August 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would do a few things:

1. Find a different route to work and go earlier or later so as to not run into them anymore.

2. Block on all media.

It's going to hurt to hear this, but I doubt very seriously that either of these folks would be very upset about not seeing you anymore. Your 'friend' has made it clear that he wants less involved anyway.

You feel sad and confused because you had romantic feelings about this guy and he's rejected you and has found love with someone else. It sucks to be rejected.

Let it all taper off, and try fishing in a different stream. Get involved with other groups, other people. Volunteer, take classes and go to the gym, a DIFFERENT gym.,

Move to a different neighborhood, if you can. That gets you out of the milieu.

If you do run into them, don't engage, nod and keep trucking. If you do get stopped, say, "Gosh, it's been ages, I wish I could stop, but I must dash!" Then haul ass as far away as possible.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:47 AM on August 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

What should I do if I see either of them in the street or in the subway?

I'm currently on your friend's side of a very similar situation, and if I could favourite solotoro's answer a dozen times, I would. In particular, please please please don't blank them.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 12:02 PM on August 31, 2014

It does sound like you will be better off putting some distance between yourself and this couple. I agree with what others have said - if you run into them on the subway or out and about, just smile, say something neutral and superficial, and keep moving (Hot isn't it? Good thing autumn's on the way. Can you believe this rain? Whatever - weather is almost an inexhaustible topic for this kind of thing, and there's a reason it's a cliché).

In terms of not wanting to feel the way you feel, time will help with that. But I would suggest that rather than fighting against the feelings, making yourself feel worse because you feel them, try to acknowledge that they are a normal part of being disappointed and having a relationship not work out (doesn't matter whether it was/wasn't romantic). When you feel sad, just acknowledge that you are feeling that way, recognise it. It doesn't mean you dwell on it either; feeding them is counter-productive. Just see it, name it, give it a pat on the head and move on with whatever else you were doing. If you weren't doing anything but sitting and ruminating, stop and do something. Dishes. Vacuuming. Walk.

The more you try to stop thinking of them and feeling sad, the more likely you are to do it. It's the classic don't think of pink elephants thing. If you allow yourself those thoughts and feelings but don't get caught up in them, they'll diminish in frequency over time.
posted by Athanassiel at 4:59 PM on August 31, 2014

Since your previous questioned mentioned having difficulty with gray areas, maybe, rather than ending the friendship, think of this as a "gray zone" challenge? It's completely fine to end the friendship, if it's not working for you. On the other hand, this might be a way to practice being in that uncomfortable gray zone.

Maybe you could set a goal for yourself, like "when I see this person on the subway I will smile/wave/give a polite greeting, and then go back to whatever I was doing." Or "when I feel like looking them up on Facebook I will try to figure out what feeling is driving that impulse" (maybe loneliness or anxiety? "and do something else to help cope with that emotion."
posted by MrBobinski at 5:35 PM on August 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Fellow Aspie here. I just wanted to validate the gray area issue you're having. I think it's part of the concrete, literal, and straightforward nature of the Aspie brain. I had a similar issue with a person telling me they "valued our friendship" and telling our mutual friends that he "would bend over backwards to make things right" between us after a falling out. Well, apparently for some people words like that really mean that they just don't want to look like a jerk to their other friends. If my "friend" had really been truthful with me, he would have said that he valued people's good opinion of him but that he doesn't care one way or the other if he and I socialize together. Of course, who is going to say that? To me, valuing a friendship means that you stay in touch with someone.

To me, that makes him a liar. White lies are still lies. How do I deal with him? If I run into him, which I don't do much, I wait for him to say hi and then I say hi back. If he doesn't bother to greet me, I don't greet him either. He doesn't really deserve it.

It is okay to be angry with people who diss you. This person admitted that the only reason he didn't give you the fade was that he didn't want to be a jerk. Maybe I'm identifying too much with your question, but when you seemed grateful that he didn't freak out about the Asperger's, I got angry on your behalf. We should not have to grovel for acceptance because we have a brain difference. It's not like we're freaks. We are just as entitled to have our differences accepted as any neurotypical person. Come over to the Aspergers Subreddit and hang out with us.
posted by sucky_poppet at 6:54 AM on September 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

-What should I do if I see either of them in the street or in the subway?

Like others have said, be friendly. Smile and nod. If he says hello and wants to chat, make smalltalk with him. Keep the conversation more focused on him than on you, because that will make it easier for him to break it off when he wants to leave and will hopefully keep you from working yourself up emotionally.

If he brings up a topic that makes you really sad to hear about, and you feel like you might start crying or like you just can't hear any more about the topic, just be straightforward about how you're feeling and ask to change the subject. Personally, I would say something like, "That sounds wonderful and I'm so happy for you! I'm going through some stuff that makes the topic of [topic that's making you sad] kind of touchy for me, though. Can we talk about something else instead?"

-Before, I had gotten into the habit of looking at their Facebook profiles a lot. I've unfollowed them, but I still put their names in the search bar. I want to stop doing this. Any pointers for stopping this habit?

When I get a crush on someone, I have a hard time concentrating on anything aside from my thoughts of them, and will do things like this.

The way I stop myself from hassling the person too much or even fixating on them too much is, whenever I feel an intense impulse to reach out to the person or check on them (via facebook, etc), I contact someone *else.* Another friend or family member. Usually, once I've contacted someone else, even if it's just a short text or something, the impulse goes away. That also keeps me from isolating myself from everyone else.

-How do I stop feeling so sad and confused about this?

I don't think there is a way to stop feeling bad when you feel bad. I wish there were! But something that can lessen the sting is becoming more connected to more people, so there's not such a big vacuum in your life that you wish he were (still) there to fill.

Even though making friends is hard, signing up for volunteer activities or classes or clubs isn't. So do that. If you have a fairly good relationship with your family, try to deepen your relationships with your relatives. This would maybe even be a good time to get a pet, if that's feasible. To be honest, I felt so much lonelier before I got a cat -- it made a *huge* difference in my quality of life. Also, even if you don't become closer to any one person, building closer ties to your community (through community activities like volunteering) or to nature (through outdoors-y activities or connecting with an animal/animals) will probably help a lot.

You sound like you're feeling very lonely, and I know from experience that loneliness is horrible. Sadly, it's part of the human condition, so there's no way to just wipe it out of your life, you just have to learn to deal with it and ameliorate it here and there when/how you can. But happily, it's part of the human condition, so it's something that *many* (maybe all) people can feel empathy toward and understand. Loneliness =/= alone.

Do you ever read fiction or watch movies? I get a lot out of stories about lonely people or about loneliness. The Secret Garden or The Hunchback of Notre Dame are both good, fun reads. The French existentialist school is a little bleaker but still interesting -- I'd recommend Camus's The Stranger as a start there. Tennessee Williams wrote a lot of plays about similar themes: I'd recommend the Glass Menagerie and A Streetcar Named Desire (the movie is, obviously, wonderful). Faulkner's Light in August is very powerful. There are tons of Russian novelists who go on and on about this stuff, but they're even bleaker than the French existentialists, so I'm not sure about recommending any of those, but you may find a lot of Dostoevsky's work helpful and I've never met anyone who didn't enjoy Anna Karenina. Art and literature are generally good ways to feel a connection to others even if you're on your own.

Anyway, I'm sorry that you're going through this and that you're in pain. Oh, and your sadness over this man's engagement in particular makes me think of this, which I have also learned the hard way (over and over!): whatever you do, though, do NOT try to start dating somebody so that you won't feel so alone. That will just make things worse, because you're liable to choose someone to be with on the basis of their eagerness to be with you rather than any actual compatibility, and a lot of the time that kind of vulnerability also attracts exactly the people you *shouldn't* be with. Be *very* careful about dating altogether when you feel lonely.
posted by rue72 at 4:36 PM on September 19, 2014

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