I may have burned a bridge with an aquaintance. How do I fix this?
October 7, 2014 11:22 PM   Subscribe

Should I try to fix this or move on?

Ok so first just a bit of background. I moved to a new country a couple of years ago and maybe a year or so ago I got put in touch with a girl who is in the same small minority that I am in. She does not live in the same city as me but her partner and my partner are friends and we got put in touch through them as I was looking for someone to talk to who I could relate to a bit more. She was more than happy to talk to me and would always let me know that she was more than happy to talk anytime. I would email her occasionally to get advice and just to have someone to talk to. I also met her and her husband a few times when I was up visiting their city for work or other engagements.

At first she was nice, but I sensed there was something a bit "off" about her. My partner also got this feeling. As time went on I got the idea she had some kind of problem with me. For example, just to be nice and try to keep a connection going I followed her on instagram. She didn't follow me back. Another time I asked for her help in a matter, and while acting like she was happy to help, I received no help whatsoever from her until her husband found out and I assume pushed her to help. There a other examples, but in general it's just been little things like that.

The final straw happened when I tried to make a purchase from her online shop. She had just opened it and I not only liked some of her products, but I thought making a small order would be a nice thing to do. My partner asked her husband about a special order and he indicated it would be no problem and would get back to us by the end of the night. We didn't hear anything for about a week. In isolation this is no big deal, but considering previous actions I was actually quite angry by it.

My partner contacted her husband again and asked basically what was going on. Her husband was a bit rude about it so my husband essentially said thanks but no thanks and in the future it would be nice if they showed a bit of manners. My partner since apologized and it appeared to be happily accepted (of course they never acknowledged even 1% fault), but nonetheless I'm pretty sure that burned a bridge.

I get the feeling that both her and her husband don't really like us, but as they are quite religious they will act nice as this is something that (at least it appears to me) they feel they"should" do but don't really feel. I think this is why she has always come across a bit inauthentic and somewhat fake.

I know it all sounds somewhat petty, but I'm really hurt by all of this and it's something I can't seem to stop caring about. I don't know if I'm overreacting and making something out of nothing or if I even just have a desperate need to be liked. I would like to at least be on good terms with her and be able to contact her from time to time. How do fix this or is this something that's better to move on from?
posted by deeba to Human Relations (30 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Response by poster: Sorry for the spelling errors, I was in kind of a rush posting this!
posted by deeba at 11:26 PM on October 7, 2014


Sounds like they're people with false faces. You can't even trust that the apology they accepted was even really accepted. I really think you dodged a bullet her from having wasted any more time down this rabbit hole. They're people you have to guess on what they mean or what they think and who has time for that with people you are only marginally acquainted with?

So move on. Life is waaay too short to play guessing games with friends.
posted by inturnaround at 11:31 PM on October 7, 2014 [4 favorites]


Best answer: You seem to be making a lot of assumptions about their motivations. You are assuming that she only helped you because her husband pushed her, but you don't know that. Maybe she was just busy with other things. And how do you know that she was even aware of your special order request? From what you say, that was a conversation between your partner and her partner. As far as Instagram, I'm not on there and don't really know how it works, but is it possible that she didn't even notice you following her, or just doesn't follow many people herself?

They may have felt like your partner calling them rude was coming out of nowhere.

But if you feel like you're not clicking with her as a friend, then just move on. Who needs the stress?
posted by amro at 12:11 AM on October 8, 2014 [22 favorites]


Best answer: It's hard when you move to a new country and don't have an established base of friends. It can wind up with situations just like this, where the people you're trying to be friends with really aren't friend material but you persist because you don't have that wider friend base. I've been there.

Let them go. Whether you don't click or you mutually offend each other, it doesn't sound like anyone's getting much out of the "friendship". Make some connections with people you are more likely to have things in common with - rather than basing it on a surface similarity such as you are both expatriates from X country living in Y country, base it on shared interests or activities. Join a choir, or a book group. Take an art class, or a language class, or a dance class, or something. You'll meet more interesting people and won't have to waste time worrying about these people's motivations or true feelings.
posted by Athanassiel at 12:17 AM on October 8, 2014 [7 favorites]


You sensed she did not like you after a while, but you kept pushing your friendship on her anyway??

Uh. You are incredibly in the wrong here.

Ditto your expectation that their acceptance of any apology from your husband be genuine. That's not how the world works.

When you act inappropriately, people will be polite to your face, but put as much distance between you and themselves as possible. That is what is going on here.

Stop stalking this woman on social media. Buying items from her online store does not give you a right to any friendship, or a right to have "special" orders from her online store fulfilled.


Move on to other connections. The door has permanently closed on this relationship.

Move on.
posted by jbenben at 12:19 AM on October 8, 2014 [35 favorites]


You sound like you feel entitled to be this woman's friend or get her help or whatever--either because if your shared background or your Instagramming or purchases, or because she said she was happy to talk to you. That's not how friendship works.

Leave this woman alone. Move on.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:08 AM on October 8, 2014 [19 favorites]


People don't owe you friendship or help just because they are in the same religious minority. People aren't obligated to like you, even if you've done nothing objectively offensive. People are busy, they have their own lives and obligations to their existing friends and family. Even if they like you, they may simply lack the time and space to take on new friendships.

You've made a lot of assumptions about this woman and her husband and their intentions, read a lot into actions that frankly seem harmless. There are so many valid reasons why accommodating the favors you seek may not have been their first or even fiftieth priority. This makes you seem rather petty and demanding, like someone who would have difficulty accepting no for an answer, and would become increasingly imposing and confrontational. I wouldn't be surprised if they sensed that, and felt it would be best to keep you at arm's length. And with that accusational outburst (seriously unwarranted, a dramatic overreaction and overstepping of boundaries), you and your husband may have confirmed that impression.

I think most people in your position would have backed off as soon as they got a good sense that the friendship was not clicking, and moved along to someone else. You admit you sensed early on that it wasn't the friendship you were looking for, yet your impulse was to put more, not less, pressure on her to reciprocate. That's something you should try not to repeat as you meet other new people and start to develop friendships. Fledgling friendships can be a fragile thing, like holding a fistful of sand and trying to squeeze ever harder to keep it from running through your fingers. Move on, there's nothing worth fixing here.
posted by keep it under cover at 1:16 AM on October 8, 2014 [16 favorites]


I think the only thing really to "fix", if you want to continue this relationship amicably (which you certainly aren't obligated to do), is your expectations. Relax your standards, realize that for some people, waiting a few days or a few weeks to get back to you on something isn't unusual, even if they do consider you a friend, and if you find yourself getting worked up or frustrated about her not being timely enough for you in terms of responding to some action or request, take a breather and try to focus on other things or other friends.

Also try hard to keep in mind that people may not be aware at all of things that you are upset about - for example not being followed back on Instagram - and if you want something from them, you need to let them know directly (politely!). If you haven't told someone you want something from them, you can't be offended when you don't get it.

If you read this response and you find yourself getting angry and thinking that that's not the way friendship should be/relationships should work, from your perspective, then don't bother 'fixing' anything and move on.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:34 AM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


"My partner asked her husband about a special order"

What is a "special order"? Were you asking for a discount because you know her or do you mean some sort of custom order that couldn't go through the regular purchase process?
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:44 AM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


It sounds like this friendship has been pretty unilateral from the beginning: she made friends with you at the behest of her husband, because you needed someone to talk to, and she continued to be called on for occasional advice, to provide a listening ear, to help out with stuff of yours, to fulfill special orders on her website with lightning promptitude... Just not really a two-sided friendship, or one where she seems to be getting any benefit out of it, as you've described it, other than keeping her husband happy because he's friends with your husband.

I think the solution is not to apologize copiously or try to figure out a way for her to benefit and then force that upon her, but to acknowledge that sometimes, people are happy to give a little but wary about giving much more than that. It's not your fault, but maybe relegate her to "couples hangout" status and focus on building other friendships.
posted by Bardolph at 3:57 AM on October 8, 2014


Best answer: You don't seem to like this person at all, so why do you even care if you've burnt the bridge?
posted by jacquilynne at 3:58 AM on October 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


You sound incredibly bored. Like you don't know anyone in this country so you found the first person who would let you talk and bonus points! shes from your minority so you thought you had a friend, but she's just a regular person you sort-of-know.

I don't think you should pursue this friendship any more and I think you should try to cast a wider net for friend-finding, because if nothing else, it will occupy your time until you find someone you really "click" with.
posted by WeekendJen at 5:09 AM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Let it go. People that turn into friends have lots in common with you and view interactions with you as fun and enjoyable, not duties.

It happens. No reason to be angry, in fact if I'm weighing fault, you're more wrong than they. But really why bother? Chalk it up to a mis-match in interest and move on.

Perhaps you can start a meet-up in your area for folks who share your culture/language, and start making more connections in your community.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:15 AM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Sounds like you not only tried to build a bridge that wasn't necessarily welcome, you also then poured gas on it and struck a match by pushing the issue.

I understand that you and your partner might be a bit isolated, and might have needed someone to lean on when you first got to the country, but you've been there a while now.

Move on from these folks, and expand your circle to others.
posted by John Kennedy Toole Box at 5:15 AM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Best answer: You might have come on a little strong, that's all. Relax, take a breath, and recognize that you don't really know this person that well. How much do you have in common? How similar are your personalities? Why do you really want to be her friend?

In the past, I've made the mistake of trying to be people's friends out of insecurity, or loneliness, while neglecting the fact that I might not have even liked the person all that much or we weren't a good fit as friends. Many people can be acquaintances, as long as you relax your expectations and remain positive. Friendship is different, and may not be possible with many people. I think you have a chance to remain her acquaintance if you relax, expect little, give her space, and be positive whenever you interact with her.
posted by bearette at 7:36 AM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


If I were you, I would give it a rest for several months - maybe 6. Then send a small communication (email, text, instagram, whatever the kids are doing these days) just to say hi or 'happy [whatever holiday] or to ask a VERY SIMPLE question. And then see what happens.

Don't go apologizing, or trying to "talk about the relationship", just let it rest and then reach out in a very small way to see if she responds at all. Base your further actions on her response. If none, then forget about it. If she responds in a small way, then maybe you have an acquaintance that you can occasionally see socially or email with small things. If she replies by asking you to lunch, then it sounds like things might be ok in the future.

Also, you need to quit with the "my partner spoke to her partner" stuff. Anything you tell your partner about this relationship is just for your partner and you - they can give you advice or be a sympathetic ear, but they DON'T march off and try to fix things through another third party.
posted by CathyG at 7:43 AM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


At first she was nice, but I sensed there was something a bit "off" about her. My partner also got this feeling. As time went on I got the idea she had some kind of problem with me.

So.. You thought something was off about her mainly because she wasn't nice to you? The other explanation here is that she simply doesn't like you and therefore has no desire to interact with you. This doesn't mean there is something "off" about her - it means she doesn't want to be your friend.

People have the right to not want to be your friend.

For example, just to be nice and try to keep a connection going I followed her on instagram. She didn't follow me back.

She doesn't want to be your friend.

Another time I asked for her help in a matter, and while acting like she was happy to help, I received no help whatsoever from her

She doesn't want to be your friend.

There are other examples, but in general it's just been little things like that.

She doesn't want to be your friend.

The bridge wasn't burned. It was never built in the first place. You were never close, she apparently never indicated that she wanted to be close to you.

Lesson: Do not *expect* people (including those who are in your minority group) to necessarily feel any connection to you or want to be your friend. It's okay to hope that this happens, but don't go around feeling entitled to it.
posted by Gray Skies at 7:46 AM on October 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


Best answer: You should just leave this be for a few months, at least, and during that time let them be the ones to reach out, if at all. Best case scenario, you came on too strong and they can tell this relationship means way more to you than them, and they don't want to deal with that -- in which case, dialing back is the only way to salvage things.

Make some more friends.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:37 AM on October 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Response by poster: @EndsOfInvention I mean just a custom order that couldn't go through the normal purchase process. She sells crafts and stuff and having been sort of involved in that world back in my home country asking for different colors and whatever is pretty standard and I didn't see it as some soft of unusual request at all.
posted by deeba at 10:20 AM on October 8, 2014


"As time went on I got the idea she had some kind of problem with me."

When I read this, I was expecting you'd provide some, say, actual evidence to support this accusation, but you haven't. At all. There is no reading of her behavior that suggests she has done a damn thing wrong, and yet you're... angry with her?? Huh? This suggests you might be projecting your feelings of dislike on to her. Clearly, YOU don't like this person who has done nothing per se wrong to you, but for some reason you are not allowed to admit it.

"The final straw happened when I tried to make a purchase from her online shop. She had just opened it..."

OP, when a prospective friend is opening a new shop, it's a stressful time as they are getting established and figuring out their systems. The supportive thing to do would be to give her a break as she navigates these new challenges. Instead, you made a special request, got impatient for no valid reason at all, and caused drama with the husbands. That was totally unfriendly of you.

"Her husband was a bit rude about it so my husband essentially said thanks but no thanks and in the future it would be nice if they showed a bit of manners."

With all due respect, you and your husband are not this couple's etiquette coaches. It is rude and hurtful to call people out on "bad manners."

"...they will act nice as this is something that ... they feel they "should" do but don't really feel. I think this is why she has always come across a bit inauthentic and somewhat fake."

OP, THIS is what good manners look like! Look up all the myriad Asks on doing the "slow fade" and not causing drama in friendships. Honestly? You should try to emulate these traits. As @jenben said upthread: "When you act inappropriately, people will be polite to your face, but put as much distance between you and themselves as possible. That is what is going on here." Amen.

You, and especially your husband, acted completely inappropriately. On these facts, you have zero right to be angry. Sorry if this sounds harsh, but really OP, there is something really wrong with feeling anger towards this woman over this situation as you have described it here. I'm left feeling sorry for this couple, who have been generally welcoming and kind to you. Sounds like no good deed goes unpunished.
posted by hush at 10:47 AM on October 8, 2014 [8 favorites]


Response by poster: I feel like a little bit more information might be justified. The favor I referred to was simply a few names of some people in our community that might be renting a room in a city I was moving to. She and her husband are quite active in the community and know a lot of people so such a request didn't seem to be (at least to me) asking for a lot of her time or anything. I understand she may not have wanted to help, but I don't think asking was too much, but perhaps I am wrong.

Another time, my partner brought her husband a gift back from his home country (a gift he had explicitly asked for) and he didn't receive so much as a thank you. It wasn't that there were strings attached but adding everything up it was a bit weird.

In regards to pushing the friendship, I do want to add that after she didn't follow me on instagram, she went on to ask me if I had a facebook, for example. I found things confusing which is why I continued as I didn't understand exactly what was going on. Also, with the online shop, her husband had volunteered that they would get back to us that night. If he hadn't volunteered that information I would have not gotten offended as I know people are busy.

Her husband and her are very active in our community and they participate in wider outreaches and the like to the wider non-minority community. I think this is why I'm more offended than if it was a regular person. I think that is why they come across as somewhat fake to me, but I could be interpreting things wrongly.
posted by deeba at 11:34 AM on October 8, 2014


You don't have to be close friends with this person. She doesn't have to be close friends with you. You can be acquaintances who interact in a cordial way, but not all the time.
Plus, you don't know what else was going on. She could have been really busy and stressed out about something and didn't want to talk about it. She might be too overwhelmed to even notice the Instagram thing. Just cut her some slack. Be nice.

Being someone who moved to a different country, my rule of thumb is: would we have been close friends in our home country? No? Then don't push that perceived closeness with this person. Be friendly acquaintances and move on.
posted by Neekee at 12:05 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


The favor I referred to was simply a few names of some people in our community that might be renting a room in a city I was moving to.

if she didn't like you/had issues with you in the first place, which seems to be the case through the series of events you described, then naturally she wouldn't want to be introducing you to anyone she knew. what she did is much like if someone responded to a date request with "sure maybe next week..." and not follow up. it's the fade away.

some people just don't want to be some people's friends, and you may never really know why. just let it go.
posted by monologish at 12:08 PM on October 8, 2014


Best answer: This situation is really familiar to me. I am really, really absent minded, and became socially anxious when I moved here (US).

After moving here, I felt like all the other expats were expecting me to be a really good friend but in a style of friendship I am not familiar with. Like interactions were more like social duties than hey let's hang out and get to know each other. I was in my early 20s and other people in the immigrant community kept trying to pair me up with women my age, but I did not click with them. That coupled with the fact that as I said I am really absent-minded and kept offending everyone without noticing made me dread hanging out with all the other expats, and I felt like some of them got quite pushy and demanding. Gossipy, too. Like a small town.

Being an expat looking for friends is like dating only ten times worse. Things become so entangled and expectations are so high that relationships can feel like a chore. I am on good terms with most of the people I met at that stage, but none of them are my friends. I ended up clicking with American people and my best friends are all from here.

What I am trying to say is that in your context, welcoming signals can become demands. It is possible she is not that into you, and she is coping with her own process of acculturation in her own way.

And last, I think you are being a bit like the "nice guy" who actually has ulterior motives to be nice. Follow her on instagram because you want to, not because you want her to follow you back. Don't do things out of interest, just do them if you actually want to, but not to create a debt from her.
posted by Tarumba at 1:27 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Try to have some insight into how your own set of behaviors might have made these people feel.

"The favor I referred to was simply a few names of some people in our community that might be renting a room in a city I was moving to. She and her husband are quite active in the community and know a lot of people so such a request didn't seem to be (at least to me) asking for a lot of her time or anything."

No, actually that's a potentially huge favor. You completely underestimated the time commitment on her part. And "time" is not the only resource of hers you were asking for - you were asking her to spend some of her hard-earned social capital on you. Again, here you sound like you acted out of a false sense of entitlement - as if she OWED you her help or something because: minority woman like you? She didn't owe you anything. Certainly, there were other ways for you to get that kind of information that didn't involve imposing on her.

"My partner brought her husband a gift back from his home country (a gift he had explicitly asked for) and he didn't receive so much as a thank you. It wasn't that there were strings attached but adding everything up it was a bit weird."

No, you were not entitled to a thank you. Sounds like they did a ton for you prior to that, and might have perceived that gift as a thank you for all they have done, which does not necessitate a separate thank you. Try to see this from their perspective: if what you've written here so far is any indicator, you've probably demanded a LOT from them in the last year - these people you had only just met. You don't seem to be acknowledging that here at all. What did you offer in return in terms of goodwill? Did your presence make life a little easier for them? No. You give them no credit at all.

"Her husband and her are very active in our community and they participate in wider outreaches and the like to the wider non-minority community. I think this is why I'm more offended than if it was a regular person."

Oh dear. You're angry and offended over nothing. Just because they are popular with your larger group does not mean they need to be friends with you. That old expression comes to mind: "The friend to everyone is the friend to no one." Just because they're nice does not mean you're going to be BFFs. In fact, people like them with a huge network get to be pickiest of all about who they choose to befriend.

Do you see why you will never make it into their inner circle based on how you behaved?

Take this for the little life lesson it is: work on yourselves. You need to acknowledge to yourselves how your behavior here was inappropriate and pushed these sweet people away, to the extent they were ever available in the first place. Next time, lower your expectations. Don't be so intense. Folks who are generally pleasant and drama-free to be around are the most attractive as friends - strive to be that way.
posted by hush at 2:10 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


they participate in wider outreaches and the like to the wider non-minority community. I think this is why I'm more offended than if it was a regular person

Wow, so you expect someone who is very busy and has many people they might choose to be friends with to do more work than a "regular person" would for the prize of your friendship - and you don't see them as being a "regular person" who might want to relax with friends like anyone else, either.

I'm not surprised they don't want to be friends, you are expecting way too much here.

I tried to make a purchase from her online shop...My partner asked her husband about a special order

You had someone other than you talk to someone who didn't run the shop. This is not the way to transact business between yourself and an online shop. You want to purchase from the shop, contact via the shop.
posted by yohko at 6:35 PM on October 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


The favor I referred to was simply a few names of some people in our community that might be renting a room in a city I was moving to.

This is actually a bigger favour than you might imagine. I would never provide a third party with names and contact information for a friend or acquaintance without first checking with them. If she felt the same way, she would need to reach out to them, engage in the usual social niceties and then ask about this, wait for a response and pass it along to you.

There's also an element of social capital there. I was recently looking for a new roommate and I turned to my friends first to see if they knew anyone who was looking, because I trust my friends and trusted that they'd send me only good people as possible roommates. They, in turn, would be trusting her to only send them to good people. There's trust there, trust she may or may not feel for you given the non-closeness of your relationship with her, and potential lost social standing if things don't work out.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:56 PM on October 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


Response by poster: I just thought I might add a few more relevant details that I think I probably should have expanded on originally.

Firstly, regarding the online shop, this is how it all went down: My husband messages her husband to say hi, how are you, blah blah. They talk about their lives and what not. My husband asks how is your wife doing. Her husband says good and she recently opened an online shop. My husband says that's great, send the link over maybe my partner wants to buy something. Her husband says great and sends the link. I look at some of the stuff and think it would be a nice thing to do to support someone who just opened a business so I say I'll buy something, but is it possible to get it in a different color? Her husband says yes, I'll ask her and get back to you by the end of tonight.

That was it. I simply had the intention to be supportive of a new business venture. Woman and small business is something I believe in and I really just wanted to encourage her. I didn't appreciate( to the full extent) that opening a shop is busy and perhaps she was stressed and I do see now I should have cut her some slack. However, at the time, it was really hurtful and it seemed like she didn't even want to sell me something and get some money. Perhaps I interpreted it wrong and I made a mistake, but I hope some people can see where I am coming from.

In regards to asking for a few people that may be renting rooms, I can see that if she didn't like me she wouldn't want to give me names and I respect that. However, as soon as I asked her she responded and said I've already sent your details to a few friends and fingers crossed I can help and so forth. It was definitely a friendly response. I didn't hear from any of her contacts for a month (although I had already moved on and found a room through others in our community who were keen to help) and it was then that her husband contacted my partner and asked if any of his wife's contacts had messaged me. My partner said no and then her husband said he would ask his wife about it. After that, I got a weird email from one of her friends that seemed a bit fake and almost as if she had been told to write it just recently. It was not me or my partner who pushed this issue. We asked a lot of people and some said yes, some said no (which is totally fine), but she was the only one quite weird about it and it seemed as if she was pretending she was trying to help. I don't know exactly but it was a big turn off for me and what I mean when I say she was a bit "off".

Finally, in regards to them being active in the wider community, I really see where everyone is coming from and there have been some great points made. That said, I do feel if you're working to help your community, but you don't seem to care much about actual people in your community that could use your help, there is at least a slight contradiction there. Furthermore, our community does receive a fair share of discrimination and for better of for worse that can add to an increase in expectations from others.

And just to be clear, do I think I made a lot of mistakes here? Yes, I do and I have gotten a lot of useful feedback so thanks to everyone for their replies :)
posted by deeba at 9:19 PM on October 8, 2014


Best answer: I do feel if you're working to help your community, but you don't seem to care much about actual people in your community that could use your help, there is at least a slight contradiction there.

I agree, so the question is, why would you want to build (or, in your mind, rebuild) a bridge with someone who behaves this way toward you? This person doesn't seem like someone you actually like, admire or respect. I think the moral of this story is that she doesn't want to be your friend, and you don't want to be hers either.

Cast your net broadly with making connections, sure, but when/if the other person(s) behave in ways that suggest they are not actually 1) interested in you (or helping you) 2) the kind of people you'd want to connect with, then walk away and connect with someone else.
posted by Gray Skies at 12:04 PM on October 9, 2014


I didn't hear from any of her contacts for a month

She can't actually control how long it takes someone else to get back to you, or even whether or not they get back to you at all.
posted by yohko at 4:50 PM on October 9, 2014 [2 favorites]


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