DEAR NATALIE: A year ago a very good friend/co-worker and I had a falling out of sorts. When "Sue" was on vacation, I said some uncaring, disloyal things about her. I was under extreme stress due to family and work issues but that is no excuse. My comments were relayed to her by another co-worker/friend while Sue was away. When she returned, she was very cool towards me. I called her the next day and we had a good talk about what I had said and why. She said she was very "disappointed" and hurt that I didn't have her back when she always had mine. I apologized profusely, admitted there was no excuse for me to talk about her that way and hoped she could forgive me and we could still be friends. She said not to worry, we would always be friends. However, throughout the past year, our friendship has not been the same. I miss the way we used to talk and confide in each other. We are still friends but the closeness is gone. I don't know what I can do at this point. It's more of a feeling on my part, not something I can put in words as so much time has gone by. Do I just accept the fact that I really screwed up and we'll never be best friends again? -- MISSING MY BFF
DEAR MISSING MY BFF: Ouch. Sounds as though you made quite a mess, but I don't believe that all is lost. First, let's look at this from Sue's perspective. Her BFF talks behind her back, says some really hurtful/embarrassing things and then gets an apology from her so-called BFF. What's a girl to do? However, we are all human. We all make mistakes and it sounds as though you have beaten yourself up about this long enough. Actions speak louder than words, and the best thing you can do is to show her -- no matter how long it takes -- that you miss her, you want to be close again, and that you learned your lesson about talking behind her back. It's not a nice feeling when unkind words are said, and I'm sure she was really sad when those words got back to her. It's also important to note that the little bird that told her what was said should be kept at arm's length, as well, as you don't need her meddling. Instead, make a concerted effort to continue to reach out to Sue and recognize that while you may never have the exact same relationship as you once did, friendship is built on trust and loyalty, and that can take time to rebuild. But you can do it, brick by brick.
DEAR NATALIE: With the holidays right around the corner - can you believe it! -- my partner and I are already fighting about where we will be spending our time. She wants to visit her family out in Arizona, but my family is in our city. I don't really have the funds, or the time, to travel this season, but she is adamant, saying that we always do what I want to do. While there is a little truth to that, her family was really cold toward her when she came out, and I don't understand why she wants to spend time with them, anyway, considering my family adores her and she loves them, too. Any thoughts as to how to make this work? -- I'M DREAMING OF A CALM CHRISTMAS
DEAR I’M DREAMING OF A CALM CHRISTMAS: I was totally on board with you until I got halfway through your letter and realized that maybe your partner is trying to improve her relationship with her family. Don't roll your eyes. I know it may seem weird to think that since they were so cold to her, why would she care so much? But, these issues run deep and we all want to be loved and accepted by our family. Maybe she feels as though things are calmer now, maybe the dust has settled, or maybe her family has been reaching out and she just hasn't told you because - ahem - you sound a little judgy about the whole thing. And while they were probably acting like jerks about the whole thing, time can heal, and the holidays, as cliche as it sounds, are a perfect time to feel nostalgic, to feel warm and fuzzy and to feel like you just want to forgive and hug it out. Don't deny her that. Find a way to make it happen so that she can spend some time making up for lost time this holiday season. Betcha she will kiss you under the mistletoe!
Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Recently, I checked off an item from my bucket list: Buy a drink for the person behind me in line at the coffee shop. It felt really awesome to do a totally random act of kindness, and we ended up having a really great conversation. You never know where or how you are going to make a connection, so open yourself up to the possibility that a latte love can go a long way.
Please send your relationship and lifestyle questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet them to @NBSeen. You can also send postal letters to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Drive, Pittsburgh, PA 15212
(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)