The aftershocks of an ended friendship
November 7, 2021 6:37 PM   Subscribe

Our friend group blew up a year ago. Now there's a mcguffin in the middle and I'm still grieving the relationships. Every time I think it's over something else comes up- and now there are mutual friends stuck in the middle. Many, many snowflakes ahead, but: What's the next step forward?

I (she/they,30s) and my fiancee (she/her,30s) were a part of a very close friend group. Multiple group chats, D&D games every weekend- We were 'hang out every weekend' and 'help each other move' friends. Quinn (he/him,30s) and my fiancee went halfsies on a kickstarter that delivered after the friendopocalypse, and now there's an anxiety trigger that's been on my kitchen table for four months. We're second guessing every gesture from mutual friends, and just want to move forward with our lives. A ton of detail below- with a TL;DR at the end.

There's a lot of backstory here, but the short version is that COVID was hard and our (very close) friend group exploded in spectacular fashion in January of this year. Quinn lashed out at fiancee and I about a life choice, and then they and their polyamorous COVID bubble (2) ghosted us. One of the 2 later responded to fiancee’s apology, and they had a phone conversation about the breakdown of the relationship, but their terms for reconciliation were unacceptable and cruel.

On social media, nothing looked any different- one even still regularly liked facebook posts of ours, and occasionally dropped a comment or reply. The unspoken agreement appeared to be 'nothing to see here!'

In March, I cleaned out my gaming closet and discovered I had some painting projects I needed to return to folks. I also decided to get rid of my own collection, as I wasn't likely to return to the scene. I gifted a friend, Frank, my armies, and he kindly returned the items to their owners – including Quinn. I didn't message Quinn about it, but Frank confirmed it was received.

From early January until October, there was no contact between Q&2 and Fiance&I. In October, my therapist made a good point: If this had been a romantic relationship, would we still be friends on facebook? I defriended all three- Q&2- as did fiancee. I would still see their comments on mutual friends stuff, but it was a relief of finally letting something go. That feeling lasted 24 hours, because the very next day Quinn messaged fiancee. Now, I've read metafilter's perennial favorite, The Gift of Fear, and I've been in therapy for a Very Long Time. The timing? Super suspicious and weird. But he did have a legitimate reason to reach out- The kickstarter.

In The Beforetimes of 2019, my favorite piece of media began a kickstarter. I made a small pledge at the lowest reward tier as it’s what I could afford at the time. Knowing I loved the media but couldn't get anything more than the lowest tier, not-yet-my-Fiancee/fan-adjacent backed it at a much higher rate to secure a specific item as a gift for me. The night it closed Quinn asked if he could reimburse her for part of the pledge to receive a few items in the reward tier, as he couldn’t afford them otherwise.

Fiancee agreed, money was exchanged via paypal- After shipping, the cost split was approximately 45% fiancee and 55% Quinn. Of the tier rewards, two items were specifically discussed (out of 8?) in writing. They figured they could talk through the rest of the items after rewards arrived. This was pretty common- we'd done similar things within the group in the past.

Back to July 2021- over two years later!- the rewards from the kickstarter arrived. Social media was ablaze with the rewards, people talking about getting their packages, etc. Q&2 liked posts in facebook groups related to the media. Fiancee waited for him to reach out about the rewards. And waited. And then she talked to her therapist. And then her lawyer mom. Two months passed. The anxiety was how the goods could be exchanged and the division of the items: There was no agreement for the majority of the box, and the values were fluctuating wildly. Some people were giving them away on reddit, twitter & instagram with others selling whole boxes on ebay for triple their value.

The message sent 1 day after we defriended him implied he expected the whole box. He stated he would come to our house to get it, and we should leave it on the porch for him. He proposed the alternative was asking Frank to come to us to fetch it. None of those were acceptable to us- We didn't want him near our home, fiancee did not want to negotiate the items, and it felt like an excuse for him to further punish us for the life choice we'd made in January. She considered sending the items that were agreed on in writing, but that still left the question of how to get it to him without Frank-in-the-middle, as well as the possibility of further contact if he wasn't satisfied with those items alone.

Fiancee didn't respond immediately. After a few days, Quinn reached out to me via facebook. When there was no response within a day, he started sending me messages via instagram demanding a response. After seeing a car very much like his parked outside our home, we changed the locks after remembering all 3 had keys- probably paranoid, probably nothing, but hey, gift of fear as well as good practice since we didn't get our keys back.

After another talk to her lawyer!mom, fiancee felt the best way forward was to make Quinn whole. Via paypal, she returned the funds sent in 2019 along with an additional 50%. The amount was based on the actual-last-sold price on ebay at the time, and was enough for him to obtain the majority of the items in the box if he chose to. Fiancee added notes via paypal asking for no-contact, and then followed up immediately via facebook, stating she wanted no further contact. She then blocked Q&2.

Minutes later, I received multiple messages across facebook and instagram from Quinn. I responded once- To remind them I had nothing to do with the kickstarter as I had my own pledge and to please not contact me again. He continued, saying he was going to talk to me as Fiancee blocked him. I didn't respond to any further messages throughout the night- but they were cruel. The next morning, I deactivated instagram and blocked Q&2 on facebook. He still has my e-mail, my address, and my phone number- but hasn't used those to continue contact.

A week went by. Yesterday, Frank messaged asking if he could return items to us from Q&2. My initial response was sure- they did have a few of our belongings from the beforetimes. And way back in March, I’d returned items to Quinn via Frank- but that was in March. It's November. Something felt strange- so I let Frank know that if it was cash, check, or letter we couldn't accept them. After a brief explanation (longer than this novel of a post, shorter than War & Peace), he said he understood and never mind. We went back to sharing memes, pet posts and gaming stuff.

Frank still has the items he was asked to 'return', leaving him stuck in the middle. I don't know what the items are, but I feel that we shouldn't accept anything from Q&2 at this point. But since now Frank is stuck holding the bag, I don't know what Q&2 will do. Because we've kept the situation to ourselves to save face, there is a very long list of mutual friends who may find themselves in a similar position as a messenger. I don't want more people dragged into this apparent cold war. I just want this to end. We want to move on with our lives with the least amount of collateral damage. Because this has been a ten month ordeal and we've been very close-lipped, there feels like no way forward but waiting for the other shoe to drop on the daily. It's been hard. Really, really fucking hard. And it just won't end.

I can't see an easy way out of this one- this has almost been an askme about 4 different times as we've been living through this. Usually I read a few posts, reframe with my therapist, and move on.

But it's at the point that I'm stuck- What can we do? Wait for the next attempt to contact us? How do we keep people out of the middle? Is there anywhere we can 'fix' it?

TL;DR: Friendship ended, after ten months of silence ex-friend says we owe him kickstarter rewards. They were repaid, and we requested no contact. Now they're using a third party to try and contact us, and it feels never ending. How do we make it stop, and how can we keep people from being used as pawns between opposing sides?
posted by Torosaurus to Human Relations (15 answers total)
Ok, so there was a heck of a lot going on there, so I'll just skip to your TL;DR because that's your actual question:
TL;DR: Friendship ended, after ten months of silence ex-friend says we owe him kickstarter rewards. They were repaid, and we requested no contact. Now they're using a third party to try and contact us, and it feels never ending. How do we make it stop, and how can we keep people from being used as pawns between opposing sides?
Tell anyone who contacts you on ex-friend's behalf "I'm sorry you got pulled into this, but for personal reasons we've cut ties with that person and won't be contacting them, and they know that. Please remind them to stop contacting us." Repeat that every single time. No explanation needed. Just "for personal reasons, we won't be contacting them."
posted by erst at 6:43 PM on November 7, 2021 [33 favorites]

Best answer: Friends+money+drama=always equals trouble. You've done what you can to take the high road; I would follow erst's advice.

Your friends in the middle are adults, and can decide not to let themselves be used as go-betweens if they want.

You are not responsible for ex-friends harassing them; that is between them and ex-friends. You can let them know you don't want or expect them to carry messages to you, which you have done.

This is probably all much harder because it's people you were close to, and it must hurt. I'm sorry. In the end, whatever their problems are and what actions they take are not things you can change or help.

I hope you and your fiance get to a place of peace and resolution, and there will be other friends.
posted by emjaybee at 7:06 PM on November 7, 2021 [5 favorites]

I agree with what erst said, but also if you feel the need to reach out to Frank about the items you could say something like "Whatever those items are, if you're stuck with them please know we don't want them, so you should trash or donate them as you see fit." Just so you don't feel like you've left him in the middle with a burden on his hands.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:08 PM on November 7, 2021 [10 favorites]

Best answer: The night it closed Quinn asked if he could reimburse her for part of the pledge to receive a few items in the reward tier, as he couldn’t afford them otherwise.

Fiancee agreed, money was exchanged via paypal- After shipping, the cost split was approximately 45% fiancee and 55% Quinn. Of the tier rewards, two items were specifically discussed (out of 8?) in writing.

she didn't want to give him the stuff he already paid for, because it would have required some basic communication and this was not acceptable to either of you, for reasons. ok. but

Fiancee waited for him to reach out about the rewards.

that doesn't make sense. she was the one who received the box and had already collected the money, so she's the one who would have had to be making contact to arrange the distribution. why would she be waiting? he would have been the one waiting.

She considered sending the items that were agreed on in writing, but that still left the question of how to get it to him without Frank-in-the-middle,

...the way to get a package to someone without seeing them is to mail it.

you guys don't want to be in touch with him anymore so you went back on the informal (but acknowledged) deal you had and refunded the payment instead of delivering the goods. now he's pissed. predictably. so you both block him and inform mutual friends you are not accepting messages, in order not to deal with it. that is all perfectly straightforward as far as it goes. all you have to do now is keep him blocked for good.

I don't understand why you won't accept these unrelated mystery returned items back if there's a chance they are real things that belong to you - if they are real, you put this guy you aren't speaking to in the position of having to either store your shit for you or destroy it without permission - but that's your privilege.

again, there is nothing to be done about it, you already said No and the intermediary already said Okay. you're done. you've done it. except you ought to give Frank your explicit permission to destroy those items given to him for you, in your capacity as the alleged owners. if he feels some obligation to hold onto them until permitted to let go, you owe him that. the ex-friend has done his part in getting them out of his possession; you will not take them into your own possession; so you can't just let Frank feel like he has some obligation to hold what he has been told is your stuff, forever. he's not "stuck" unless both he and you want him to be stuck.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:26 PM on November 7, 2021 [38 favorites]

Frank still has the items he was asked to 'return', leaving him stuck in the middle. I don't know what the items are, but I feel that we shouldn't accept anything from Q&2 at this point.

Why not? What do you expect it to be that's so terrifying to receive? I get that this has been hard and traumatic for you, but acting like you can't touch anything they've been near for fear of some sort of emotional contamination is actively making it worse for you. This feels like it's getting to the point of being irrational.

I agree with queenofbithynia -- from Q&2's POV, you've been actively avoiding even the simplest way of solving this, and have potentially stiffed him out of Kickstarter rewards he's been anticipating for years (yes, he can probably buy most of them back, but I assume there may be unique Kickstarter-only items in there?). Either way, you two went back on the agreement, and even if you compensated him for the Kickstarter rewards, I can see why he'd be pissed, especially when you're blocking him instead of explaining.

It sounds like Fiancée didn't even explain what she was doing, only sent money, then asked to go no contact in PayPal notes and then blocked him. Obviously you don't deserve to be treated cruelly, but to look at this from Q&2's POV (and with admittedly as little information as we have), this may seem extreme. I get the impression that maybe Q&2 didn't feel as strongly as you both did about the friendship ending (given they were still communicating somewhat with you via social media) and maybe they're shocked at how you're treating them, which is causing them to act confused and frustrated during your communication. Maybe they thought you guys were just cooling off from an intense friendship, but you're both acting like they're an active threat and physically/emotionally dangerous to you.

Personally, I think you both need to take a step back from this whole thing and stop obsessing about it. Either accept the items, or let Frank know he can dispose of them or do whatever he wants to do with them so he's no longer "stuck". I'm betting that he doesn't feel as strongly about this as you do and he just wants to pass on your stuff and get the space back in his house.

At this point it sounds as though you're the ones creating half of this drama for yourselves, then getting upset about it, and creating more drama in an emotional spiral. It's shitty that you got hurt by the friendship breakup, but 10 months later it should not be at this level of intensity with you. There's something else going on here, something internal to you and your fiancée that has absolutely nothing to do with Q&2, that you need to address.
posted by fight or flight at 5:02 AM on November 8, 2021 [36 favorites]

I feel like I must be missing something: This sounds like an absolutely immense amount of drama for a relatively small problem. Quinn's now stopped contacting you, right? So that's solved.

I can't see an easy way out of this one

Either take the items from poor Frank, or give him permission to do whatever he wants with them. That's it. Maybe just ask him what they are, and then decide?

That seems to be all that's required for this to be over.

Ideally, your finance would have contacted Quinn when the Kickstarter items arrived to ask what extra items he wanted, mailed the required items to Quinn and that would have been that. The 'waiting to hear from him' and unilaterally deciding to send a refund weren't great ways to deal with it, but Quinn seems to have accepted it and moved on, so that's over.

This seems to be more about your intense emotional reaction to the conflict than any kind of intractable practical problem. But you say you know what will help you with that - "reframe with my therapist, and move on". So book in with your therapist, tell them you need some help reframing and moving on.
posted by penguin pie at 5:39 AM on November 8, 2021 [12 favorites]

I wonder if what you’re really worried about here is others finding out whatever it was that destroyed your friendship and having a similarly negative reaction. You’re working really hard to turn your former friend into the bad guy (referencing The Gift of Fear) in a way that doesn’t seem warranted given the facts at hand.

If you’ve done something others might object to, maybe spend some time figuring out how to deal with that, both personally and if it comes up with others.
posted by jeoc at 5:51 AM on November 8, 2021 [8 favorites]

after ten months of silence ex-friend says we owe him kickstarter rewards. They were repaid

Yeah, nah.

Kickstarter is a lottery, and when you're part of a syndicate that wins a lottery, you don't get to keep the whole winnings and assume a right to decide unilaterally what multiple of their stake to fob your syndicate parters off with. What you ought to have done is split the actual winnings according to percentage of stake, erring on the side of generosity if the split can't be made exactly proportionate.

Given that Quinn and your fiancee had split the stake 55%/45%, a better choice on your fiancee's part would have been to keep the particular thing out of eight that she'd specifically entered into this arrangement in order to be able to gift to you, then mailed five of the remaining seven things to Quinn. If communication between you was not such that you were in a position to negotiate which specific things those should have been, smart diplomacy would require that you pick the five most valuable things.

But that advice is now only actionable should similar circumstances arise in your future. What you have right now is a high-drama shitshow, apparently with bad feeling on both sides, and given your unwillingness to communicate with the other side your only realistic choice is to stop poking at the situation and give it enough years to fade into the mists of history.

As for the business with Frank and the cheques or cash or letters or whatever it is he's been given for you that you've apparently convinced him that you won't accept, that's now between him and Q&2. Frank isn't "holding the bag", he's merely been unable to deliver something or other for a friend. Deciding how to deal with that is now his problem, not yours, and requires no further input from you.

What can we do?

Either forgive Q&2 for whatever hurtful things they've said and try to repair the friendship, or don't. Sounds to me like you've already picked "don't" so that's Job Done.

Wait for the next attempt to contact us?

Stop expecting attempts to contact you. If you've decided you want nothing further to do with Q&2, have nothing further to do with Q&2.

How do we keep people out of the middle?

By not putting anybody in the middle yourself, and by politely and non-judgmentally informing any mutual friends who appear to have been specifically put in the middle by Q&2, as Frank was, that you'd prefer to have no dealings at all with Q&2, directly or indirectly, from here on out.

Is there anywhere we can 'fix' it?

Doesn't sound like it to me; that's a reasonably thorough train wreck as these things go. Best you can do is grieve the lost friendship until the pain of the loss is no longer consuming you to the extent that it clearly still is now.
posted by flabdablet at 5:52 AM on November 8, 2021 [10 favorites]

I'm sorry this has all been so painful for you.

The best way to resolve this would have been to mail the items promised to Quinn, perhaps with the additional items as well if losing them would have been a reasonable price to pay for not having to negotiate about them, when the Kickstarter was done. Since your fiancee didn't do that - which I get, sometimes when we're tangled up in painful personal stuff we don't do the best thing! - she may need to take an extra uncomfortable step now to resolve it. That step is just: "Hey, Frank, I realized I wasn't as clear as I meant to be - I really don't want to receive any messages or items from Q et al. ever, please throw whatever it is away or dispose of it any other way you want. I'm sorry you got put in an awkward position here."

Done! Repeat if any further go-between attempts are made, otherwise move on and keep Q et al. blocked everywhere. You don't have to give your friends any backstory here, and shouldn't, if you want to keep the drama to a minimum. "We're no longer in contact with them and want to keep it that way, please don't pass along any messages" is a complete response to any go-between attempts with other friends.

Please keep talking about this with your therapist; it sounds like it's looming larger in your head than it needs to be after this much time has passed, but of course we don't have all the backstory. Regardless, it's clearly still bothering you and I hope you can work through that with your support system and really get some closure on this.
posted by Stacey at 5:53 AM on November 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

It really sounds like there's context missing here. You keep mentioning The Gift of Fear, but in this question there doesn't seem any reason to actually be afraid of these people - Q responds after being unfriended? So? - and your handling of the kickstarter stuff was, as mentioned above, both odd and, imo, not actually fair. So maybe there's extra context that would make your behavior make more sense than it seems to?
posted by trig at 5:57 AM on November 8, 2021 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your perspectives and answers- it's very much appreciated. As a lot of you see, it is a big emotional triggery mess for me at this point, and this has been really helpful. I'd tried seeing it from their perspective, but couldn't manage it due to my own entanglements and years of gaslighting from one of the 2. I'm going to mark this resolved, and follow up with my therapist and fiancee.

To give a bit more context- I have depression and ADHD. I've sought inpatient treatment in the past. Q&2 are aware, and have their own mental health struggles. 1/2 is/was convinced I have bipolar and borderline and possibly schizophrenia. She wasn't shy about sharing that with me, my partner, and the friend group as a whole. Hell, I think I'd even started to believe it, the relationships had gotten so toxic. It never should have gotten to the point it did, but the group chats felt like a lifeline during COVID.

Part of the January incident was a threat to have me involuntarily committed via police welfare check, and an ultimatum that fiancee leave me in order to preserve her friendship with Q&2. I was in no way a danger to myself or anyone else at that time. My mental health was pretty good then, but in September I did seek additional support via a PHP program and am now in TMS treatment. Life Event was us getting a puppy from an animal shelter three weeks after a positive COVID test and more than 14 days without symptoms. (Other then some brain fog on my part).

The messages from last week brought back a lot of the feelings and fears from January. It's taken a long time to disentangle ourselves and see the group for what it actually was. So many books and therapy sessions, ya'll, and as is clear- I'm still a mess. But there are really good points above regarding what could be so toxic to receive, and the lack of explanation to him. Ya'll are right- That wasn't fair.
posted by Torosaurus at 6:00 AM on November 8, 2021 [4 favorites]

By the way: if the "life choice" that Q&2 gave you all this grief over was you and your fiancee getting engaged, then ZUCK THAT NOISE. You're always better off without bigots in your circle.

If it was getting involved in an MLM scheme, they might have a point.
posted by flabdablet at 6:02 AM on November 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Ah! Posted two minutes too late. As you were.
posted by flabdablet at 6:04 AM on November 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

On reflection with this added context, I think you're in the right to go no contact, but you just went about it a clumsy way (which is understandable but a shame), which just made things worse. But you're here now, you can only move on from where things are, so let's leave the past behind and focus on moving forward.

Rereading, it looks like most of this happened fairly recently, which means it might still keep bubbling along. So, my suggested next steps:

- Talk to Frank and either say that he can dispose of the items, or if he doesn't want to do that, donate them to charity or something OR ask him to tell you what the items are and decide from there. Thank him for being a good friend and helping you out through this mess.

- Divide up the Kickstarter items with the ones intended for Quinn kept separately, both so you can get them off your kitchen table and just in case he contacts you again and asks for them. If it becomes A Thing, you may have to swallow the idea of giving him the items anyway even after you've reimbursed him -- consider it the cost of the mistake and the price of getting to fully wash your hands of the whole experience.

- Talk to your therapist about this (which you're already doing, so tick that box). Maybe send them this post and the answers you got for reference.

- Stay no contact with Quinn and his partners. If your friends ask, give them the script that erst suggested. Don't make it into a big issue, emphasise that this is a personal thing between you guys and Q&2. Don't ask them to take sides, but be prepared to quietly step back from friends who don't respect these boundaries (there may be someone who tries to "fix" things or who decides to pass on messages/information). Again, for your own mental health, try not to make it into a big deal. The more drama you bring in to the situation, the more it will escalate.

I'm sorry that things still feel triggery and crappy, but you're doing the right thing in reaching out here and asking for outside perspectives. I hope this is helpful and things become more peaceful for you.
posted by fight or flight at 6:16 AM on November 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

I think that the better path here would be to send him the stuff you said you'd send him.

I know the green sees a decision of No Contact as some sort of holy cone of silence, but I think the whole reason that you and your fiancee are feeling this torn up and anxious about this is that you know perfectly well you went back on your word, and you didn't really make Quinn whole. You feel guilty for that and you also feel worried that people are going to think poorly of you for this whole thing. And you don't want to face that, which is why you're focusing on Frank or whatever instead.

I think your peace of mind and clean conscience is probably worth more than whatever that kickstarter thing is. I'd put it in a box and send it. I'd bet you'll feel much better.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:52 AM on November 8, 2021 [16 favorites]

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