Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Friendship over but afraid to pull the plug?

DEAR NATALIE: I used to be best friends with someone for almost 10 years. A few years ago, the relationship started getting toxic around the same time I started dating someone that lives about an hour from her.  This is significant because she lives about four hours from me. I used to try and spend time with both of them somewhat equally, but I would end up spending more time with him. The closer I got to him, the more left out she would feel.  I know that she somehow thinks that it’s his fault for "stealing" me away from her. She is also just a very bitter person.  She has tried to commit suicide a couple times in the past, but those attempts failed.  We haven't really spoken in the last three years since she moved to the south. I haven't spoken to her at all in the past year. Part of me wants to send her a letter telling her that I don't think I can be in her life, anymore.  Our lives are too different now, and I'm tired of her blaming me for it. I am afraid to end it with her formally because I don't want her to try suicide again. She now lives with her mom, stepdad, and her son. She has very few friends. What should I do? I need closure. -- AFRAID TO PULL THE PLUG 

DEAR AFRAID TO PULL THE PLUG: You should write her that letter. And then take it, crumble it up, burn it and let it all go. Clearly you have been distancing yourself for a long time now, and while it can be hard to let go of old friendships (even when they have become incredibly toxic) it doesn’t seem like you have much left to tether you to each other. Why send her a letter? What is the purpose? Considering how emotionally frail she is, it may not be in your best interest or hers for you to “break up” with her. If you haven’t even spoken to her in a year, that says enough about the state of things. She doesn’t live near you, you don’t seem to have anything to communicate about, why not just let it be? Maybe you don’t like the idea of there being unfinished business or an open door, but what is the harm in just leaving things the way they are? Don’t stir it up for just the drama. She has enough of that in her life. Take into account one of my favorite quotes: “As hard as it is to be around her, imagine how hard it must be to be her.”  Dig deep and find your empathy.

DEAR NATALIE: What’s worse? Emotional or physical infidelity? --QUESTIONING

DEAR QUESIONING: Without knowing the context, I would say both have their issues, but for me personally, emotional infidelity would be worse. I think I could get over *one* bad physical decision by my partner, but emotional infidelity would run deeper for me. I wouldn’t like the idea of a connection being made on a level like that. But, some people would say that infidelity really only counts if it is physical cheating. So does pornography count? Do webcams count? What about texting flirtatious or salacious messages? All of this becomes incredibly grey because of technology. There really are no hard and fast rules on any of this, so the best thing to do is to make sure that you are on the same page as your partner. A good place to start? If you wouldn’t say it or do it with them in the room, then you might be playing with fire. And some people like that... until they get burned. 

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: What are your goals with networking? Are you trying to make contacts to find a new job? To find new groups to socialize with? Once you establish your reasons for networking, that will help you in defining your relationships with new connections.

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga: or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga 358 North Shore Dr. Pittsburgh, PA 15212

(This column was originally published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.)