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Sammon Says: That’s (Not) What Friends are For

Hello Sammon Says,

I don’t know what it is about me, but I seem to attract “best” friends that treat me like, for lack of a better word, shit.

So, I find myself, yet again, in a position of being “best” friends with someone who I don’t really believe actually deserves that title. The only problem is…I WORK with this person. Granted, our workplace is big enough that I don’t see her often, but there’s still a chance.

Let’s call her Jenny.

Backstory-I have been friends with Jenny for about 3 years. We started hanging out in senior year of college. We actually ended up bonding over a shared interest in fitness/lifting. From the beginning, I always knew Jenny was competitive. She always tried to outdo me at the gym and then throw it in my face. It was unnecessary and weird. Who cares? We were just working out.

I should have run then. But…I did not. I knew Jenny had a tough childhood and that I was like family to her. I felt kind of responsible for her.

Three years later and I have had countless fun memories with Jenny. But I wouldn’t be writing to you now if there weren’t countless negative memories as well.

After some time I started to notice a trend with Jenny. She consistently pointed out my flaws. She also made me feel like I was always the one at fault anytime we had a disagreement or argument. She was manipulative and always made me feel like the bad person. I’d end up apologizing for things I didn’t need to apologize for.

One time, I was having a tough time with my boyfriend. I went to Jenny for some support but she pretty much told me, “Thank god, I was kind of getting sick of hearing how happy you were with him all the time.”

So you may be wondering, why did you put up with this for so long and what finally made you say enough is enough?

It all ended because she got pissy at me during a drunken night out. My friends and I didn’t go and do what she wanted to do. I decided not to apologize this time or try to keep the peace. Honestly, I do not want to be her friend anymore.

But, 1) I have no idea how to end the friendship and remain cordial at work 2) I am one of Jenny’s only friends and I feel like shit about leaving her 3) I am scared of what Jenny would say to me if I tried to stick up for myself.

Sammon Says, I need your help. Any advice you can provide would be appreciated.

Thanks!

Pushover Pam

Friend Break-up

 

Dear Pam,

You know what you need to do and you’ve known for awhile. You know you need to remove yourself from this situation and I’m here to validate that. Yes, you absolutely should end this friendship and you absolutely can, co-workers or not.

A few months back, I was talking to a teenager about friends. She’d recently stopped talking to a close friend of hers. I mentioned that I too had a good friend I no longer spoke to. The teenager looked at me earnestly and slowly asked, “Was she mean to you?” My gut reaction was a smile and a small laugh. Not out of disrespect, but because it was so simple. Not once in my explanations to various people as to why my friend and I stopped speaking (“It’s just better this way”, “Things got very complicated and very hard”, “It’s a long story, but if you have some time…”) did I ever just say, “She was mean to me.” The teen envisioned my friend being catty, I’m sure, maybe flirting with my boyfriend or talking behind my back. But instead, it was more complicated, as things in adulthood often are. My friend, like your friend, was hurting…and sometimes hurt people hurt people. For me, it was easy to excuse the difficult or mean behavior because I clearly saw the cause. But because of that, I ultimately felt like a pushover too.

So, I feel you, Pam, but I’m also impressed by you. You’re young and rather than write this situation off or avoid it, you’re willing to face it and do what’s best for you, and maybe for your friend. It took me much longer to do that.

You mentioned that your office was large enough that you wouldn’t see her every day. Good! If something weird happens, if she makes a scene or threatens you, well that’s what your Human Resources department is for. But chances are, she won’t. She probably wants to keep her job as much as you want to keep yours.

As for your other concerns, don’t expect Jenny to be reasonable when you say your piece. In fact, she might not be very nice at all. That’s okay. That only validates your decision. If she’s sweet and apologetic, tell her you wish her the best, but you think this is the healthy choice right now and ask that she respects that. Keep it short, don’t linger. Don’t meet for dinner (too long), don’t meet for drinks (too boozy). Meet for coffee.

Pam, you’re one of Jenny’s only friends for reasons you know all too well. You’ve held on longer than others because you saw the good in her. Maybe part of you wanted to save her, come through for her.  But now you need to walk. And maybe now is a good time to do some soul-searching; if you’re seriously concerned about this pattern in your life and you can’t identify its source, go talk to a professional. They might be able to help you make some sense of things.

There will always be excuses and explanations for mistreatment, but shitty behavior is shitty behavior. In every close relationship, there are bound to be squabbles, fights, unreasonable moments, but when someone treats you poorly on a consistent basis, you need to leave. A lot of times our desire for things to work out and our own insecurities cloud that fact, but don’t let them.

Some days you’ll revel in the fact that this is behind you, some days you’re probably going to miss the good stuff about Jenny. Maybe part of you always will. A few weeks ago, I read this piece in by Jenn Hanff Korelitz. (I highly recommend you read the whole thing.) I thought the most poignant part was the last quote: “Sometimes, old friends and family members ask me if I miss Molly, and the answer is yes, I miss her very much. But I don’t miss the friendship. I don’t miss the friendship at all.”

I’ve found that the most enduring friendships I’ve had have been with people whose character I admire and whose kindness I’m inspired by. Simply put, my best friendships are with people who aren’t mean to me. Yours will be too.

 

2 Responses to Sammon Says: That’s (Not) What Friends are For

  1. hkorabik@gmail.com'
    Hilary Korabik September 1, 2017 at 11:06 pm #

    So glad you wrote this post at this time, as I was just this morning thinking about a friend breakup I had a couple of months ago. I was remembering a time when she was supportive of my half marathon training and ran 8 miles with me, right as the weather was turning crisp in the Midwest as it is now. I’m again training for a half marathon, and thinking of that time with her made me miss that part of our friendship… of course! But I looked at what the friendship ended up being over the past several years, and I knew I’d made the right decision to back away, at least for now. It’s easy when you’re a kind person who wants to love and be loved to fall into manipulative friendships; I have many times. We talk about boundaries when it comes to romantic relationships and work relationships, but we neglect to talk about boundaries in friendships–relationships that are even more common and sometimes more complicated. Cheryl Strayed writes: “You are not a terrible person for wanting to break up with someone you love. You don’t need a reason to leave. Wanting to leave is enough. Leaving doesn’t mean you’re incapable of real love or that you’ll never love anyone else again. It doesn’t mean you’re morally bankrupt or psychologically demented or a nymphomaniac. It means you wish to change the terms of one particular relationship. That’s all. Be brave enough to break your own heart.” I think this applies to friendships as well… sometimes we can love someone better from far away.

    • Kate September 1, 2017 at 11:12 pm #

      This is the most beautifully written comment I’ve ever received on here (or otherwise). Love you, love your words. Thank you!

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