DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: About three years ago, I had a close knit friend group that I had a falling out with. I was close with all of those girls but one in particular, and she was the main cause of why I don’t speak to that group to this day.
Now I won’t bore you with the details of why I don’t speak or acknowledge her but essentially her choices, words and actions could be summated into bullying, purposeful ostracizing of me from the group and horrid gossip. I can’t pinpoint how this all started, but I cut my losses after a year of the harassment and stopped talking to them (even the ones who acknowledged her abuse). It took me about a year with therapy to get over the loss of that friend group and the anger I felt for her turning them against me, but I picked myself up and started making new friends.
My friends now are beautiful and supportive; however, recently I have noticed that this “old friend” has begun hanging around my group. This is fine because for the last 3 years, if we are at the same party, she and I are free to enjoy but I’m not going to converse with her. So here’s the issue. I noticed that one of our mutual friends said something along the lines of “don’t worry about Friends of Foe, she won’t do anything that would bother you” to her at one of these parties. I know this sounds like I’m jumping to conclusions (entirely possible), but this is the similar attack method she used last time. She made me out to be a bully and rallied our friends around her cause of taking me down…
Am I wrong to feel like she is up to her old tricks? Am I wrong for setting high boundaries and not letting her in my life even though its been 3 year and she and I have mutual friends? Should I just ignore her and continue on my way?
All in all, I’m worried that she is bomb about to explode in my friend group. And if this concern is warranted, I’m unsure on what to do. I’m firmly against speaking to my friends about her because I don’t want to preach to my friends that she destroyed my reputation, while simultaneously doing that to hers. Her presence doesn’t give me anxiety the way it used to but I still have one line, I’m fine with having mutual friends but I can’t tolerate that kind of behavior again. Unsure what to do…
Friends of Foe
DEAR FRIENDS OF FOE: Um, FoF, I’m not entirely sure why you don’t want to talk to your friends about this person’s awful behavior. If you don’t want to have a repeat of what happened to your previous social circles, you’re going to have to do things differently… and that means actually speaking up before she burrows in like a tick and starts playing whatever weird games she did last time. I mean, I guess there’s some perverse nobility to be had in not wanting to “stoop to her level” but honestly, moral victories only really count when people give a damn about morals. The people who do the most concern trolling about maintaining moral standards are the ones who want to cut of your ability to defend yourself effectively. If there’s anything we’ve learned in this, the year of our Lord 2018, it’s that when they go low, you kick them in the face.
Because honestly? If you don’t say anything, then you’re just going to watch history repeat itself. Again. You have a right to set boundaries and keep her from being a toxic drain on your life. If you want different results, then you have to do things differently. That means speaking up and getting proactive before she’s able to dig in and her lies can start getting traction.
Now this doesn’t mean that you need to start a whisper campaign against her and, I dunno, tell your friends that she burned down an orphanage stuffed with golden retriever puppies and greenlit the Adam Sandler/Netflix deal. You don’t need to sit all your friends down and say that it’s you or her and they have to decide right the hell now. But you should talk with your friends about what she did last time. The more that you give the download of her behavior and tactics, the more you insulate yourself against her gossip and bulls
t – especially if you can connect them with your other ex-friends who actually acknowledged what she did. It’s harder for her to divide and conquer if they already know that she’s so full of crap her eyes are brown.
So start with the friend you overheard at the party. Ask her about what this frenemy of your said and give her the lowdown about what happened last time, what it did to you and your friends and how much it hurt you. And then start working outward from there. Cultivate your allies. Make sure they know the truth before they’re given the gossipy, distorted version.
This isn’t destroying her reputation. It’s sharing what happened to you and – importantly – letting your friends know about a walking drama bomb who’s looking for a place to explode, messily and all over the place. If this is a person who, for whatever benighted reason, likes to roll into your social circles and cause drama, this is information your friends have a right to know. Especially if your Spidey-sense is right and she is just looking to start some s
DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: So I have an interesting story. It started two years ago when I first met this girl. I was hosting a weekly game night at a store when a new player came. As soon as she smiled I was hooked. I don’t know why but I have never felt something so strong just like that. I have been in serious relationships before and this was crazy to know there is a connection without even getting her name.
Throughout the night we talked and connected further but I discovered she was seeing someone at the time so I backed off. She started coming to the games I was hosting weekly and even informed me that she was breaking off the relationship she was having with the person she was seeing. I got really excited and was trying to think of the best way to tell her that I had feelings for her. I still didn’t know her very well but something was there that I just couldn’t deny. A couple of days later I bumped into her at the university I was attending. We ended up hanging out and talking for a little between classes. I really was close to asking her out when I discovered she was 11 years younger then me. I was a little embarrassed about the age difference and didn’t say anything to her about my feelings.
A few days later I had resolved myself to tell her how I felt and see if she felt the same way and to see if the age difference would bother her. When I saw her again at my weekly game night my close friend swooped in and asked her out on a date right in front of me. I was crushed! He is a good guy and friend and I didn’t want to interfere so I let it go. They began to date and get serious. With time I saw problems with their relationship (especially with intimacy) and tried to help them through it even though it meant I was not getting anything out of it. They were my friends so I wanted to see them both happy.
Fast forward to today and those two are engaged. I have tried to bury those feelings but it is hard when I am close to both of them. A few months ago she was attacked and raped. She turned to me for comfort and I encouraged her to tell her fiancé and get help. She did, but seeing her go through all that brought my feelings to the forefront and I was really struggling with it. She eventually wanted to know what was bothering me. I refused to tell her and even tried to play it off as If nothing was wrong but she knew that I was keeping something from her. In a moment of weakness I broke and told her everything, my feelings for her, how I had fought them off for so long, and how I was ashamed to love her while she was engaged to my friend.
After I told her all this I figured she would want nothing to do with me but instead she told me she felt the same for me and that she had the same feelings from the beginning. When her fiancé first asked her out instead of me those two years ago, she believed that I wasn’t interested in her. With all this out in the open we agreed it would be best, given the situation, to stay just friends. However, that quickly failed and a few days later, we had sex. I am ashamed that I betrayed my friend but I could no longer ignore my feelings. A few days later she told me that she didn’t regret what had happened between us but that she was with her fiancé and that we couldn’t do that again.
I again was crushed and now felt shame. It has been a couple of months since all this has happened, and she has pulled away from me and really doesn’t talk to me anymore. When I asked why, she said she knows it hurts me that we can’t be together and she doesn’t know how to talk to me anymore. I have to put on a face now every time I see her fiancé who is still my friend and oblivious to what happened. I don’t know what to do.
I feel I have lost a friend and my heart is broken.
Not Better To Have Loved and Lost
DEAR NOT BETTER TO HAVE LOVED AND LOST: I hate to say this, NBTHLL but the thing to have done was to ask her out on a date two years ago, back when you were dealing with that initial rush of attraction. Not “confessed your feelings” but actually asked her out on an honest-to-God-actually-use-the-word date. This has several benefits over just confessing. First: it means that you won’t spend weeks or months investing in her, only to have your heart broken because somebody decided make their move while you were busy waiting for the right time. Second: it means that you’re actually being proactive about your attraction instead of dropping your feelings into her lap and telling her to do something with them. Third: she might have said “yes”.
And if she hadn’t… well, it would’ve given you a chance to actually process your feelings and stop seeing her as this lost chance at love. Then you might’ve been able to maintain your friendship with her without holding onto this hope that maybe someday she’ll come to her senses and ditch your buddy for you instead. You could have had a sad about it, felt the hell out of your feels and then gotten to a point where hey you could say “well that sucked but it didn’t kill me. Time to move on.”
But you didn’t. You tried to bury everything and pretend everything was fine. And it wasn’t. Burying emotions doesn’t make them go away. It just squeezes them down into a can that’s marked “contents under pressure”. Then you went and poked a hole in it and things went off, messily and all over the place and at the worst possible time.
Because, honestly, chief? Telling her all of this at a time when she was incredibly vulnerable was an unbelievably awful thing to do. I don’t doubt that you didn’t intend for it to happen that way and you didn’t mean for it to blow up the way that they did. But intentions aren’t magic and they don’t undo the mistakes that you made. And hoo boy you made a lot of them.
But here’s the thing: the biggest mistake wasn’t sleeping with her, though that was a pretty GODDAMN big one. The biggest was thinking that the fact that she cheated on her fiancé with you was going to change things. If you’d been smart, the two of you would’ve separated after that. You’d have given each other a lot of goddamn space. She’d need space so that she can get her head on straight, decide what she was going to do about the fact that she cheated and try to repair any potential damage to her relationship. You, on the other hand, would’ve had time to finally confront your feelings, give them the proper airing out they needed and finally be able to put things behind you. Then, over time, you might have been able to pick up a friendship again. A different one, one that would by necessity not be the same as the one you had when you started, but a friendship none the less.
You didn’t. You got moody and broody. You got that sad puppy look every time you saw the two of them together. You made it clear, through a thousand little (and likely not so little) gestures, sighs, moans and looks and comments that you were all kinds of messed up over her. So not only is it hurting her to see you, her friend, so upset and in pain, but it also ran the risk of blowing up her relationship with her fiancé. You know, the one that she was choosing to prioritize. So she had to make a choice and now here we are.
So yeah… you lost a friend, dude. And it sucks. And the thing you may need to dial back your friendship with her fiancé if you don’t want to lose a second one and risk ruining her relationship in the process. And that would be a rotten little cherry on top of a crap sundae.
It’s time to do what you should’ve done a while ago: get some distance. Take ownership of what happened. Accept the responsibility for this. Then go and mourn the loss, not just of the dream of her but the friendship as well. Quit trying to bury those feels, feel them, let them flow through you finally. Lance that particular emotional boil and let the infection drain out so you can finally heal. Then, once you’ve started to come to terms with all of this: let it go. Don’t stick around hoping to find a path back to her. Don’t hang around in hopes that you can maybe rekindle that old friendship (because let’s be real here, that won’t be about the friendship, it’ll be about the hope of finally making things happen with her). Give her up. Accept that it’s not going to happen. Put that dream in the past and wake up to your new future. It won’t be the one you hoped for, but this one will be better because it will be one that has actual potential in it. Not your sitting around in the crumbling ruins of your infatuation on someone who made her choice and she chose someone else.
It’ll suck. It’ll suck a lot. But in the end, you’ll be better for it. And maybe – MAYBE – you’ll be able to find a new friendship with them. One that isn’t predicated on your pain or the hope of a relationship that won’t happen.
But that won’t be for a while, if at all. You’ve got a lot of healing and learning to do in the meantime.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, firstname.lastname@example.org)