Am I Wrong For Wanting to Cut Off These Friendships?

Hey Ginzo!

So super long story here, I’ll try to shorten it as much as possible…

So my brother in law, let’s call him Tyler, started dating this girl named Sierra a few years back. My husband’s family is very close and we all hang out frequently, so when we met her we were… underwhelmed. It took awhile but we eventually warmed up to her and she started sort of becoming part of the family.

In an effort to make her more comfortable during the rocky period (since I was closest in age), I introduced her to my close friend Anna. They completely hit it off and the three of us hung out a ton for awhile. I started getting busier, however, but the two of them continued to hang out all the time and became really really good friends.

Well, fast forward to this past October — Tyler and Sierra broke up. And now (about a week and a half ago near the end of February), he’s engaged to a girl he met at work. So their relationship has literally gone further than his and Sierra’s ever did in about 1/12 of the time. Ouch.

At this point, Tyler told me that Sierra had been sort of stalking his new fiance, Faye. Sierra had messaged him a few times angrily because she found out how shortly after their breakup he had moved on. Faye fixed her Facebook privacy settings and now has it to where it’s totally impossible to see ANYTHING unless you’re her friend. So Tyler, knowing Sierra, Anna, and I were close at one time, begged me to cut contact with her and severely limit what I tell Anna. I hadn’t seen Sierra in months and we rarely ever talked anymore, so I really had no issue complying.

When Tyler and Faye announced their engagement and said they didn’t care who knew anymore, I felt obligated to at least tell Anna so she could relay it to Sierra (since I didn’t think Sierra would find out any other way). The whole thing blew up in my face.
Anna started insisting that I lied to her because Tyler had asked me to keep their relationship a secret since he knew Sierra and Anna were good friends. She claimed she and Sierra aren’t that close anymore, but I know that’s a complete lie. Now Anna is pressuring me and saying that I’m a bad friend to a girl I used to be close with since I’ve chosen my family over my brother’s ex. Anna keeps stirring up drama where there shouldn’t be any, and she constantly wants me to update her on Tyler’s fiancee and what they’re doing (which is super obviously digging so she can relay it all back to Sierra). It feels like our relationship has become a quiz every time I see her, and though she believes she’s being discreet with her questioning, she really, really isn’t.

I guess my question is twofold–one, am I wrong to cut ties with Sierra mainly only because she’s an ex of a brother I’m very close to?

And two–is being friends with Anna even worth it if she’s going to try to stir the pot on any and everything I do (and all she cares about now is gathering intel and reporting it back to a girl who is heartbroken and really hasn’t had the appropriate amount of time to heal)?

Over the Drama

Dear Over the Drama,

When I read your questions, it seems to me that you know what you want to do. Having written into advice columns myself, I find just the act of writing out the problem helps the decision become clearer, and I suspect that this may have happened for you. So while I am happy to weigh in with my opinion because, hi, that is why I’m here, I think you already know that you don’t want to waste any more of your time on these people, and I can’t blame you. Is that wrong? Not at all.

As you get older, you will have less and less time for your friends, and as everyone goes down different life paths, you lose some along the way. Not every person you befriend is going to stand the test of time. As you get to know them better and face different situations with them, people prove to you exactly how invested they are in you, and you learn how invest you are in them. They show you who they are and sometimes, this is the most beautiful thing in the world, and sometimes, it is a rude awakening.This doesn’t mean that you are disloyal if you decide not to maintain certain friendships; it’s just a natural part of becoming who you really are. Someone you befriend at age 15 may not grow into someone you want to be friends with when you’re 25, and that’s okay. And if these friendships are causing you more stress than they’re worth, it’s okay to let go of them.

Regarding Sierra: you were lukewarm about her when you first met her, it seems like you may never have fully warmed to her, and now the only reason that you were friends with her, her relationship with Tyler, is over. There is no reason to be cruel, but you don’t need to feel obligated to continue being her friend. I understand why she would be upset about Tyler’s engagement; she must feel rejected and insecure right now. While I can empathize with the emotions behind it, ultimately, it isn’t about her. Dating isn’t a competition to see who is going to win the engagement ring. She wasn’t the right person for him, and the timing just worked out that he found someone better suited for him very quickly. Yes, that hurts. But by sending a bunch of nasty messages and trying to find out every scrap of information she can about Tyler and his new relationship, she isn’t doing herself any favors, and she is putting you in an awkward position on top of it. She needs some time to work through her emotions and let the relationship go. Some distance from the entire situation is probably better for her; hearing all about Tyler and Faye from Anna is just making it more difficult for her to move on. Even if, with time, you were to decide that you do want to be friends with Sierra, it’s probably better right now for you both to have distance.

As to the question of whether or not it is worth it to maintain a friendship with Anna, that is up to you to decide. Feeling used by someone is certainly a great reason not to want to spend time with them anymore, and based on this story, I am not convinced that Anna gives you the level of empathy and understanding that you deserve as a friend. She may be working under the guise that she is helping Sierra, and she may sincerely believe she is, but she is not being a good friend to you in the process. Think about the reasons you became friends with Anna, why you are friends with her now, and why you would want to maintain a friendship with her. If your only motivation is obligation, feel free to let it go.

Does this mean you need to them outright to get lost? Not necessarily. It seems like there is distance growing between you all anyway, and you may just be able to let the friendships fade. If a big confrontation is only going to cause more drama, it might be worth it to just phase both of them out, spending less and less time talking to or hanging out with them. When Anna hits you up for the latest gossip, you may be able to be vague or unresponsive enough ( perhaps with a “I don’t really know,” “Just the usual,” or a pointed subject change) that she loses interest with time. Indulging in her need for the gossip even a little bit is only going to keep her coming back for more, so don’t give her anything to work with. Without your supply of information, if gossip is really her only motivation, you may find that the friendship fizzles out on its own. However, if this doesn’t happen, you may have to just tell Anna upfront that you don’t want to be a part of the gossip train anymore, that it is emotionally draining and putting you in a weird position with your family. Based on her recent MO, she will probably try to guilt you, but stand your ground. If you’re over the drama, don’t let it dictate your life; say how you really feel, and the people who are worth your time will accept it. If she can’t understand where you are coming from, she wasn’t your friend to begin with.

XOXO,
Ginzo

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How Do I Help Friends in Politically Tense Relationships?

Hi there Ginzo!

Ever since the Trump elections, many relationships have been very strained. I don’t think it’s really a thing we’ve had to super seriously take into account; the opinion of the other on the presidency and the election. Tensions have been running extremely high among many friends, girlfriend/boyfriend, husband/wife, and many other interpersonal relationships after the most recent election. One thing I am struggling with has been how to help friends who are in relationships where their significant other disagrees with them politically and/or “morally.” How do I keep my own personal feelings out of how I approach those situations or is it better to be completely be upfront about them?

Sincerely,

Concerned Lady Friend

Dear Concerned Lady Friend,

You’re right that tensions are quite high right now, so I don’t blame you for being concerned. Anyone on social media can attest to this fact. When seeing America in a new light, naturally, you’re going to see some Americans in a new light, too. In some cases, this is an extremely unflattering light. Think the fluorescent lights in your high school gym that made your skin look green and blotchy. Personally, I have had to put up boundaries around the role these people play in my life. Now there are people who fall under the “will make pleasant small talk with you but will never discuss politics because I will never want to talk to you again” category or “will discuss politics with you but the minute I can tell you aren’t listening anymore I will leave the conversation” category. The best group to emerge out of this are the people in the “I can count on you to be there when I have deep fear/anger/anxiety/apprehension to ease the burden on my heart” category. Make a point to talk to this last group as often as possible to help you through the emotional work associated with the first two.

Now let me get to the heart of your question. Here’s the thing about giving relationship advice to other people: don’t. That is, unless very obviously explicitly asked. One of the most important pieces of advice my mom ever gave me was to not get too invested in other people’s relationships because they will rarely take your advice to heart. From an outside perspective, your suggestions may be the most logical and sound course of action, but logic doesn’t play a big part in relationships. Your friends may be distressed by this new political tension mixed into their romance, but try not to mix up the difference between someone asking for your opinion and just wanting to be heard. Stick to providing an empathetic ear and maybe talking more generally about your views when they come up until they ask specifically for your advice. It’s helpful to keep in mind that unsolicited advice rarely gets taken, so don’t waste your energy on composing the perfect speech to give about it until you are sure your friend really wants to hear it. A good mantra for you might be, “That’s not my problem.” Frankly, in this political climate, you have bigger fish to fry. Your friends will have to figure out how to cope with this tension themselves because in the end, they will listen to their own heart over your opinion any day.

I don’t think this means you need to censor your opinion when politics come up; for example, if you are spending time with one of these couples and the topic presents itself. In fact, unpacking your respective views could be an educational moment. Try your best to have a constructive conversation, meaning you actively listen instead of merely waiting to speak. If you feel emotional about it, that’s okay; people who say that they would have listened if you hadn’t gotten so “emotional” are people who were looking for reasons not to hear your opinion anyway. If these conversations are not getting anywhere and are draining you, there is nothing wrong with a strategic subject change. They may not lead anywhere, but expressing your view is often more gratifying than simply keeping your mouth shut. Of course, if through these conversations, you find that keeping your mouth shut is a better strategy for now, that’s okay, too.

And if your friend asks you point-blank what you would do if you were in her situation, you don’t need to hide what you feel (though if it is “I would dump that racist monster in 0.3 seconds,” you might want to soften that a bit). The important distinction here is that she asked. Our friends don’t need our judgment, but they deserve our honesty. Strive for nonjudgmental but truthful whenever your friend needs your advice and you are far more likely to get out of the conversation with their mind opened and your friendship intact. Just remember that at the end of the day, whether they listen to you or not, the bigger concern here is what you are doing for your own mental health in the face of tension. If you are behaving in a way that is respectful to your friends and your own needs, you can’t go wrong.

XOXO,
Ginzo