Ask Natalie by Natalie Bencivenga

Needy and jealous friend creating problems? Friend forgot your birthday and so you retaliated?

DEAR NATALIE: My friend gets easily jealous whenever I am with any of our other mutual friends. She acts as though we are in high school, almost pinning one against another to “prove” that we are the better friends. I didn’t really notice it until recently. One of my friends was going through a really tough time. My “needy” friend became really annoyed with her and started making snide remarks about her personal issues and how they were impacting our “fun” together. I was really taken aback by her words and can’t even bring myself to look at her right now. She keeps calling and wants to know why I haven’t been responsive. What should I do? I care about her but her jealousy is really ruining my other relationships. --NEEDY AND JEALOUS

DEAR NEEDY AND JEALOUS: This sounds like a make-or-break moment in your relationship. Friendships ebb and flow and it seems as though this friend is allowing her insecurities to overtake her ability to maintain healthy boundaries. The next time she calls, answer the phone and explain to her why you have been distant. You need to be honest with her or this situation will fester and become worse over time. Let her know that while you value your relationship with her, you won’t allow her to hurt other people that you care about. She may become defensive and angry, but stand your ground. Remember, it sounds as though she needs you more than you need her so stand up for yourself. We don’t have to accept bad behavior as the norm. We don’t have to give people free passes because “that’s just who they are.” You get to decide who you spend time with and how much energy you want to give them. If she is really a friend, she will heed your advice and make things right. Introspection is not a strong suit for so many in our culture. Everything is about wanting it now, and very few times do we give space for reflection. She needs to think about how she acts and treats the people in her life or she may find herself all alone.

DEAR NATALIE: My best friend forgot my birthday last year and it really upset me. No card, no text, no gift, nothing. I always make a big deal about her birthday and she knew I was hurt, but she didn’t really seem that bothered by it. This year, I decided to give her a taste of how it felt and so I didn’t do anything for her birthday. Now she is angry with me and calling me petty for “getting back” at her. I just think that sometimes you reap what you sow. Do you think I was wrong? She is expecting an apology but I’m not sure I need to offer one. What do you think?

-- MAD ABOUT BIRTHDAY

DEAR MAD ABOUT BIRTHDAY: Wow, with friends like this, who needs enemies? I think you both are pretty caught up in some pettiness that is potentially going to ruin your relationship. Take a step back. Breathe. Recognize why are you are both upset. Clearly this relationship is important to the both of you and do you want it to fall apart because of one mistake that snowballed into something bigger? I think you do need to apologize. She should, too. What set this all off was the fact that you didn’t feel as though your emotions were validated. You were upset by her forgetting your birthday and she didn’t really seem to care. Instead of letting her know that her response upset you, you retaliated. And so here we are. Do not let your emotions get in the way of good judgment. Call her. Set up some time to meet for coffee and start with “I’m sorry.” Sometimes those two words can heal in ways we didn’t know were possible. Say, mean it, and I hope you get an apology in return.

Natalie's Networking Tip of the Week: Running more than a few minutes late to your meeting? Call or text to let them know that you are on your way. Everyone’s time is valuable. Showing that you care can go a long way.

Please send your questions to Natalie Bencivenga to her email, nbencivenga@post-gazette.com; or through postal mail to Natalie Bencivenga, 358 North Shore Dr., Pittsburgh, PA 15212. Follow her on Twitter at @NBSeen and on Instagram @NatalieBenci

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