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#381: How do I tell my sad friend I’m getting engaged?

Dear Captain Awkward,

So, this friend is someone I’ve known for nearly a decade. We went to college together, we were roommates during and after college together, we’ve collaborated on work together, we hang out weekly, we have certain holidays we spend with each other . . . that sort of thing. We’ve had our ups and downs, but arguably our relationship with each other is the best it’s ever been.

Problem is this: friend is very unhappy about her dating life. She has never had a significant other in all the time I’ve known her and has barely gone on dates — not for lack of interest in having either, but from a seeming dearth of potential partners. This is inexplicable to me, as she’s not a bad catch in many departments and can be a very likable, funny, cool person with undeniable talent, but the fact remains that she has been unhappily single in all the time I’ve known her. And yes, “unhappily single” are her own words, not mine.

Many of our mutual friends have gotten married in the past few years, which only reinforces her feeling that there’s something wrong with her. While I’d say that priorities re:hanging out probably do change after getting married, I can’t help but agree that many of these friends didn’t really stay in touch or spare her much consideration even after the honeymoon phase was over, which was kind of crappy of them. She says she feels abandoned and like she’s still in high school, which is a hell of a thing for someone in their late twenties to feel about themselves.

Basically, Friend feels really bad about herself and depressed about her life situation, and anger and unhappiness about this have led to some friction and oversensitivity on her part to the point where I don’t even hold hands with my boyfriend around her (yes, she has complained about this at times). Since I didn’t date or have relationships until comparatively late in our friendship, I think she always assumed that she at least had one friend that wouldn’t leave her for a relationship (she said as much once) and initially reacted badly to my boyfriend for that reason. She has since apologized, I try to accommodate her feelings within reason, and she’s warmed up slightly to my S.O., but it’s a little stressful at times. We’ve commiserated in the past about the weirdness of dating, the unhelpfulness of people telling you to be happy on your own when you actually WANT to be with someone, and so on, so it’s not like we don’t talk about the situation.

Here’s the problem — or, more accurately, the new problem: boyfriend and I just had the Talk last week, and we’re planning on getting married within the next two years. We decided on doing the formal proposal thing around Christmas while visiting my family. I’ve told only one person, an old friend who is hugely supportive of us tying the knot. The issue is how and when to inform Friend about our engagement — she’s one of my closest people and would expect to be let in on the secret as soon as possible, and indeed would be hurt not to be told relatively soon (related things have been an issue in the past). At the same time, I’m literally her last friend to get married, and I’m worried this will begin another fugue where she feels terrible about herself.

How do I break the news compassionately? Or am I just being a wiener?

yrs,
Ms. Wiener

Dear Ms. Wiener:

You’re not being a wiener. You have ample evidence that your good news may be met with ill will, and the fact that you are dreading this so far in advance of when it needs to be said is a sign that this friendship is a bumpy one.

However, you are not getting married AT her. Your romantic happiness does not subtract from the sum total of happiness available to others. And her feelings about your happy announcement are very much her own. If she reacts badly to your news, those are her feelings that she is having, not something you did to her or need to apologize for. Not one bit.

Jealousy happens. We get rejected from the film festival and someone we dislike gets in and for a second it’s easy to see it as something they are doing to spite us. Another common problem I see in advice columns is people who are struggling with infertility having trouble being happy for friends and family who get pregnant. Burning hot jealousy and shame and resentment and bitterness is real. But feelings and behavior are two separate things. We can sit with our feelings and respect them, and we can also decide how we behave toward others. And the correct thing to do, even when you feel jealousy and bitterness, is to show happiness for your friends when they are happy and lucky. If you can’t do a minimum amount of “Congratulations!“, absent yourself from the conversation until you can.* If your response to “Guess what, I’m getting married!” is “Cue the sadness spiral of sadness! I demand that you deal with my pain now, at length and in detail” you are the one who is acting like a wiener.

I also think that friends with happier news can be sensitive to their friends’ situations, as you are trying to be.

My advice is to tell her when there is an official proposal/engagement the exact same way you would tell friends you expect to be happy for you and let her feelings be her feelings. Perhaps send an email to her and several other close friends at the same time and don’t put a lot of time into singling her out for a serious talk.

If she gets angry at you for announcing your engagement, you are well within rights to say “I am not getting married AT you, can you try to be happy for me?” and bail on the conversation for a bit. I have a lot of anecdata that suggests that close friendships survive (gasp!) marriage, but I have a theory that those are the ones where people don’t treat the other friend’s marriage as a referendum on the friendship or anything but “I wanted to marry this dude and also be your friend, still.” It’s not like you could solve her problems by not getting married, right? Or that it would be worth it to not get married because it would make her feel a tiny bit better about herself (but still hate herself, really)? You’re gonna do it, so do it totally without apology.

I hope she gets some therapy and treats her depression like the real soul-sucking demon that it is, and I hope you guys remain close, but that’s not something that you can control with the announcement of your nuptials. Just tell her in the same chill way you tell everyone and hope for the best.

And congratulations!

 

*We can’t always control our reactions or predict how news will land with us. Fortunately any good friend worth their salt should be able to roll with an honest: “Congratulations! I am happy for you, but this news is hitting some of my own issues strangely and I need a second to pull myself together. I’ll circle back to celebrating in a bit when I feel less weird.” If you need to hide someone’s social media feed because it’s All Baby or All Wedding, All The Time that is also a totally understandable way of taking care of yourself. You don’t have to lie, you just have to not vomit your despair all over your friends at their happy moments.

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113 comments
  1. L. said:

    I also thought of the infertility analogy. Which, when I think about it, is a situation where no, people are not having babies AT you, but it’s a brutally tough and cruel place to be, so it is a thoughtful thing for a good friend to take a little care about the way the announcement is made.

    I happened to read this post on a similar topic recently: http://www.askmoxie.org/2012/10/qa-how-do-you-tell-a-friend-with-fertility-issues-that-youre-pregnant.html You will see that people’s mileage varies but most people seem to prefer getting the news 1) in an email, giving them time to compose themselves and react appropriately; 2) in a personal/one-on-one manner; and 3) with an acknowledgement that this might be difficult news for them to hear.

    I don’t think infertility is precisely like dearth of relationships. Also I think your friend has already pushed the boundaries of friendship a little bit by asking you not to hold hands and letting you feel the weight of her expectations enough that you’re already concerned about this. So, while I would probably deliver the news gently and in a manner that gives her an opportunity to catch her balance, I would also not tolerate much in the way of “what does this mean for meeeeeee now I feel so lonely”. You can’t make your life an apology for her difficulties. She gets time to recalibrate after hearing this news, but then it’s up to her to find a healthy way to handle it without making it your problem… since it isn’t.

  2. Joan of Anon said:

    Congratulations!

    Your friend seems to be allowing her issues to make her into a nasty person – she is not treating you very well. You cannot hold hands with your boyfriend in front of her. You are so worried about telling her happy news that you wrote to an advice columnist. She pins the idea of “the friend who won’t leave her” on you, which isn’t an expectation anyone is allowed to make and puts a lot of pressure on you.

    Do follow the Captain’s advice, it’s very good, but if she reacts really badly I think you’re in a position where it would be completely reasonable to say “Look, this isn’t a normal reaction and I’m worried depression is getting the better of you. Do you think maybe you should see someone about this? You may not realise it, but your behaviour [use above examples] isn’t something that’s healthy right now and I think you need to take care of yourself.” Approach it with the assumption that once you point out the pattern in her behaviour of being controlling towards you over this stuff, she will see the light so to speak, and realise it is wrong. When depression, or terrible self-esteem, starts to really get to someone, they can get into a funk where it’s hard for them to see all of the irrational things they’ve done, and hard for them to realise they aren’t behaving in a way that’s good for them or the people around them. So while there might be some pain and arguing, I think there’s a good chance, if she’s as good a friend as you think she is, that when confronted with straight-up, no-punches-pulled concern over how she’s acting, she will genuinely reflect on her own behaviour and maybe try to make some changes.

    Of course this is nothing you have any responsibility to do, and disengaging with this side of her personality is completely fine as well if that feels right to you. But I get the impression that this is a relationship you would like to make an effort to maintain – if so, gently, but directly, confronting the way her problems are effecting you might be worth a try.

  3. I send sympathy vibes to your sad friend, LW. I vividly remember how I felt when a close friend started falling in love with her future husband, which coincided with a horrible period of arguing and anger between me and my off-and-on boyfriend. I couldn’t bear to look at them together, sometimes. And I missed my friendship, which had begun when my friend ended a six-year-relationship and started careening through some terrible dating. Terrible dating and dysfunctional relationships were situations I knew and could advise. Love, I knew next to nothing about. And her happy love meant our style of friendship had to change.

    It did, though. We talked of other things. She listened to my relationship drama and I listened to her relationship happiness. But mostly, we talked of other things because our lives are full and our conversation can pass the Bechdel test.

    So perhaps this will happen for you and your friend. But it is not entirely up to you to manage and facilitate this transition. You are already very attuned to this friend’s feelings and responses; you’re a thoughtful participant, but if the friendship is to survive, she’ll have to take up her share of that too.

    tl;dr what the Captain said. : ) and good luck.

    • Oh, I am sad at how many times my life did not pass the Bechdel test. I am so much happier now.

      It was very hard to get out of the mindset, though, no matter how much doing so helped me get and keep the partner I eventually did find…

  4. Andrew said:

    Ive been on that end…well your friends end, except im a male. When my 3 closest guy friends got married I was the single guy at every wedding and still to this day. Yea things changed, I dont see them as much and im still single, which makes going to bars and such on the hunt for single people to meet kinda hard. But I can tell you this…hearing my friends were getting married was always the best news I could ever hear. Dont hold back…tell her, she will be happy for you. And not to mention on the bright side, she could meet a single guy at your wedding!

  5. White Rabbit said:

    So this question is right up my alley. I’m a perpetually unhappily single lady, now in my early 30’s, and my friends have been steadily getting engaged and married for years now – the latest announcement coming just last night. While I think I’m handling my sadness and frustration about being single better than the LW’s friend seems to be, it took me a while to get to this point, and the behavior described isn’t entirely foreign to me. Now, I know I’m just one person, but I wanted to share my relevant experience for what it’s worth.

    My closest gal friend of 15+ years just got engaged a few months ago.

    If someone had asked me a year ago how I would react to this announcement, I might have had similar concerns to those expressed by the LW. The funny and awesome thing is, when it did happen and she told me, I was overcome with joy. My reaction was reflexive – I screamed joyfully, hugged her, and jumped up and down a bit. We were standing outside of a Starbucks in a busy urban neighborhood, so I may have even startled a few passersby. :)

    The part of me that I thought would be panicked is oddly quiet. When I talk to my friend about her wedding plans, I’m genuinely excited for her. My only real concern is about not fumbling in my role as a bridesmaid.

    Now, again, I realize I’m just one person, but I wanted to offer some hope by sharing my positive experience.

    On a separate note, CA mentions “jealousy and bitterness.” While I obviously can’t speak for everyone, I felt it important to point out that, at least in my case, my negative feelings about being perpetually single, and any related emotional reactions to other people’s luck and happiness in love, are NOT about jealousy or bitterness, though I can see how such a thing can appear that way. Perhaps I’m reading too heavy of a negative connotation into the way that people use the term “jealousy” in such contexts, but to me, it carries the implication of pettiness and selfishness, which are not always present in these situations. My perpetual single-ness is a very sore subject for me, especially since I don’t have family and my social circle is small, and there are otherwise innocuous things that poke at and trigger my negative feelings about it. I would say that, just as much as the just-engaged person’s announcement isn’t directed AT me or designed to hurt me, my very real emotional reaction to such an announcement isn’t directed AT the engaged person or designed to hurt them. Within reason, of course – I agree that the sad person making it all about their sad feelings is not being a very good friend (and for the record, I think that the LW’s friend demanding that she and her bf not hold hands around her is waaaaaaay over the line). But simply feeling emotionally poked by such a thing, and doing what you need to do to handle those feelings without burdening others, does not make one jealous and/or bitter. I think the final point after the asterisk addresses this quite well, but I really felt the need to say something about the use of those particular words.

    • caius said:

      I do identify with your point about the connotations of the word “jealous”. I went through a phase where I let my sad single feelings get all over everyone else, and the feelings did feel somewhat reflexive, and not borne out of any sort of pettiness or anything.

      The sad part is that I did eventually drift apart from one of my best friends,and I would not now describe myself as her as one of her closest friend anymore. This was partly because it took me too long to be able to keep my negative feelings compartmentalized away from everyone else.

    • Sarah said:

      I agree. That’s a rather unfortunate phrasing that carries some problematic implications.

      • JenniferP said:

        But jealousy is real. Bitterness is real. Stereotypes aside, being afraid that partnering up will take your friend away from you to the point that you are hostile to their partner and won’t let them hold hands around you is called “jealousy” and being so angry that your negative emotions get vomited out on your friends when they are happy is called “bitterness”. You may describe it differently, or feel a different cocktail of emotions, or not like the stereotype (I don’t like the stereotype) but that doesn’t mean those emotions aren’t real or aren’t part of what’s going on with the LW.

        • White Rabbit said:

          Hi Captain! Since I brought this up initially, I wanted to respond here.

          I agree that jealousy and bitterness are very real things. I also agree that this LW’s friend is behaving in a way that indicates underlying jealousy and/or bitterness.

          My only concern was the seeming implication that *anyone* who struggles with negative reactions to a friend’s good news must be experiencing jealousy and/or bitterness. Based on your comment here, it sounds like that wasn’t your intent.

          • JenniferP said:

            That makes total sense, as did your comment. The follow-ups about how “problematic” that framing is got my tits up, not you.

          • solecism said:

            That’s quite the mental image: “set tits on stun, fire on my command!”

    • Myrin said:

      A big YES to the first half of your comment!
      For me, it was my sister who is all of 16 years old who suddenly was in a relationship whereas I, at the age of 21, have never been even close to being part of a couple. When I had thought about that situation before she told me she’s got a boyfriend I thought I’d be terribly sad and feel not-good-enough and everything that comes with it. Turns out that wasn’t at all what I was feeling. I was genuinely happy and so glad and she still came to me to ask for advice even though I really don’t have any experience at all and yeah, that was beautiful – that changed quickly when I found out that the guy is an abusive jerkface, but thankfully they broke up and she’s now dating the loveliest guy I’ve ever met. Yes, she’s in her second relationship already and I’m even happier for her now and don’t feel worse or anything when I see them together, no, it actually makes me feel really good, too.

      So there’s at least a possibility that there will be a positive outcome. Doesn’t have to be, of course, but it’s not unheard of. I wish you all the best (the Captain’s advice is brilliant as always) and of course congratulations!

    • mskayo said:

      I believe you when you say your feelings about being perpetually single when you don’t want to be — the “ouch” at the reminder that you don’t have that yet and your fear of being left out as friends move into a phase of life you’d dearly love to enter, too, but haven’t found the right partner for yet — are not about bitterness and jealousy. You know they’re not doing it at you, you recognize that there is not a finite supply of love and happiness in the world of which somebody may have just taken your share, and you don’t expect them to not hold hands around you even though it reminds you that nobody’s holding yours. And that is why, when your friend announced her engagement, you could be sincerely happy for her.

      But there are people who seem to be very comparative/competitive in their lives, who DO feel like everything is a zero sum game so other people’s happiness and success diminish their own, and who DO think people not only should not flaunt their blessings (whatever they may be) in front of friends, but should actively hide their joy from anyone who has not already been similarly blessed. And they can lash out quite awfully about it. For those people, the words bitterness and jealousy DO apply. The distinction is not so much in the involuntary ouch, so much as in how people like this expect others to accommodate it… like by not seizing happiness or displaying if they have the good fortune to happen across (or create) before every last one of their friends.

      Here’s hoping your ability to feel joy for the people you love no matter how badly you’d like a piece of that, too, helps you find the lifelong love you’re looking for. Those of us who are happily encoupled could all, so easily, be you.

      • White Rabbit said:

        Yup. I wholeheartedly agree with your comment!

        I just posted a reply to the Captain’s comment above, clarifying that my concern was about what I had interpreted in the original advice as an implication (I might be using this work incorrectly) that *anyone* who experiences negative feelings in response to a friend’s happiness was jealous and/or bitter. The Captain has since clarified that she was referring specifically to the type of behavior the LW’s friend was displaying, in which – as with your reply here – I wholeheartedly agree.

  6. Oh yeah, been there, will always be doing that because I am the permanently single one. Unfortunately, there isn’t a darned thing you can do to make her feel better short of breaking up with you boyfriend. Sometimes you just can’t make someone else feel not-shitty because you are moving on without her. She will feel like shit, it’s just up to her as to how much of that will be put upon you directly to your knowledge, as opposed to crying sadly at home alone. If you’re lucky, she can put on a face around you. If not, then well, drifting off might happen at this point.

    I think the Captain has it right on this one.

    Some folks really embrace being Young Marrieds and insist on only having Couple Friends and ditch people like us as soon as they’re Mrs. Him. And some folks do still pretty much stay the same as they always were and keep their friends. Hopefully you’ll be the latter for her, but it will take awhile for both you and her to figure out if the friendship will last through your big change. Or at least, it will take her awhile to figure out if you’re likely to stay when everyone else didn’t.

  7. Esti said:

    I think this advice is exactly right, and would just add one thing: since you know your friend has had other friends abandon her after getting married, I would maybe put a tiny bit of extra effort into showing your friend that you are not planning to do this. That does NOT mean that you need to reassure her ad nauseum or deal with her being angry (if she gets angry) or double the amount of time you spend with her, or anything of that type. And just to be clear: I completely agree that your friend’s feelings are not your fault and not your job to fix. But when we have friends who are fragile in certain areas, making an effort to support them through those patches (to the extent it is reasonable for you, in your own estimation of what you want to do/feel comfortable doing) is a good way to show that you do care about them.

    So to that end, if she does get upset and you send her the Captain’s suggested email, I would maybe change it slightly to “I am not getting married AT you, can you try to be happy for me? I know X and Y were kind of shitty after they got married, but I’m not them and I’m not going to stop being your friend just because I’m getting hitched.” Similarly, I would maybe keep an eye on the friend-quality-time situation in the run up to/after the wedding. I think everyone has times when they get busy or lazy and then look up and realize that it’s been weeks since they touched base with friends (and that may be unavoidable at points as you deal with wedding planning stuff on top of regular life). But since you know that your friend has been abandoned in the wake of other friends’ marriages, it would be a nice gesture to her if you did make an effort during that period to keep in touch/hang out to the extent you can, even if it’s just a periodic email or gchat session.

    • TheOtherAlice said:

      Yeah, I can imagine it’s very easy to drop off on the ‘friend-time’ when you’re hugely busy planning a wedding/having a wedding/getting settled as newlyweds, and if your friend has had that happen in the past I think she’d definitely appreciate you making a particular effort to hang out with her. Maybe you could also make this a wedding free zone, or at least focus on her stuff more than your relationship?

      • TR said:

        I read a study summary once that said they’d found that on average, a person loses 1.7 friends when they enter a relationship. And I’ve seen this happen with a vast majority of my friends when they get into a relationship. It happens gradually, but it usually happens that friend gets all wrapped up in SO and stops making time for other friends.

        But. You can manage friendships and relationships. My best friend warned me before her wedding that things were going to get crazy and she wasn’t going to have time for me- but afterwards, she would. So our contact was limited to wedding stuff and short texts for a while. Than after a couple of months (wedding+newlywed period), I told her, “Hey, I gave you time but now I really miss you!” and she was really responsive to it. And I think that she enjoyed hearing that her friend had missed her but only after the craziness was done. It really helped that she was clear about what I could expect from her – and what she needed from me as a friend – and that she kept her commitments after and was the kind of friend that I needed.

        • Who abandons whom, though? If it’s only 1.7 (as opposed to, e.g., most of them) I wonder the extent to which it’s the single friend saying “well, if you’re going to off and get married, the heck with you.”

          • coraanderson said:

            My thought was “yeah, I bet I did lose 1.7 friends, but it wasn’t because I got wrapped up in my SO.”

            Instead, it was because I have finite social energy, and getting married expanded my social circle–unavoidably–by more than that. Not because I was adding my partner (he was already part of my social circle), but because getting married meant adding relationships with other people: his immediate family, his extended family, his old friends. Even if I made just the minimum considerations-for-turkey-day adjustments, I was suddenly spending more social energy, and that meant something had to give.

            It sounds really cold and calculating put that way, but I think most people have a finite amount of time/attention/etc. to put into relationships. And as an introvert, my social group is already at the outside edges of what I can maintain, energy-wise. And getting married may have a tendency to stretch that thinner as you add a whole new set of family to your life. And something just… gives. Not with all my friends, not even with most of my friends, but with somebody.

    • Redgirl said:

      This is great advice, and also, it will be good for the LW as well as her friend. It’s not really healthy to bail on all your friends when you get into a relationship (or take it to the next level). Even though it tends to happen a lot. But taking care of your support network beyond your spouse is good for you and good for your marriage.

      • f2 said:

        But it also might be the case that Sad Friend’s other married ex-friends dropped the friendship because Sad Friend didn’t accept their marriages either.

        • SadieBlake said:

          That was exactly my thought. If she’s all “I don’t want you holding hands with your boyfriend in front of me,” then what demands is she making of other friends in regards to how they interact with their partners?

          It’s important in a marriage to view your spouse as your family – the family that you chose, the family that you started (whether kids ever enter the picture or not). That means that Spouse comes first, before other family members and friends and so on. If there’s a Sad Friend demanding that I not spend time around my husband, or that I limit my interactions with him, I’d start seeing less of that friend. It’s not Sad Friend’s decision how I manage my relationship.

          That said, it’s totally normal for couples to hermit post-wedding. I think Mr.Blake and I came up for air at about our one-year anniversary and went “Hey, we had other people in our lives at one point, didn’t we? We should get back in touch with them.” It happens. And most of our friends were level-headed and understanding about it, and we picked right back up like nothing ever happened.

          So it could be that what your Sad Friend is seeing as “They abandoned me” is really “They haven’t been in contact with anyone because post-wedding stress takes AGES to wear off, and they’re just now getting back to a normal life.”

        • neverjaunty said:

          This. I mean, it’s one thing for a friend to say “hey, I just got dumped, would you guys mind keeping the smooshyboo talk to a minimum for a little while”, but Sad Friend has been unhappily single for, what, ten years and there’s not a big sign that is about to change. Who the heck wants to hang out with somebody whose attitude is, you must stifle all evidence of romantic happiness for the foreseeable future because MY FEELINGS?

    • Tabitha said:

      I do think it’s a good idea to make an extra effort to make time for her so she doesn’t feel abandoned. I just wouldn’t expect her to notice the effort you’re making and to maybe even accuse you of drifting away like your other friends because that’s what she’s primed to expect. If that happens it probably won’t be helpful to go through a list of all the time you’ve spent with her, especially if her worries are unfounded. Instead try telling her that you’re sorry you haven’t been able to make as much time for her as she’d like, that she’s really important to you and you’re really looking forward to see her again at X time (whenever you’d planned to meet up again anyway).

  8. GrouchyABD said:

    I could have really used this advice when I was engaged–at the time I had two Sad Friends. Sadly, in my experience you might be right about your engagement bringing up some weird– one of my Sad Friends got especially upset when our other best friend got engaged too, because it was like the Last Person on Earth Besides Her was now getting married. The Captain’s advice is spot on about telling your friend the same way you would tell everyone else (so that she doesn’t feel patronized). Tanglethis upthread is absolutely right about the Bechdel test– if your friendship involves talking about lots of things other than guys anyway, your sensitivity and the Captain’s tools should see you through this, too. Good luck!

  9. The timing of this letter, it is apt. I’ve got a very similar situation except instead of it being my friend, it’s boyfriend’s friend. Well friends but one is particularly bad. The “you’re not getting married AT them” particularly resonates. I may be projecting here but from my own experience–it also puts your SO in a nasty spot where there’s this person glowering about them for no fault of their own, they just hate the idea of your SO, you could be getting hitched to absolutely anyone and your friend would still be acting like they own you (Which really? Your friend can’t stand you holding hands? Sounds like someone wants to pretend you’re still single and theirs).

  10. JA said:

    “Perhaps send an email to her…”

    i like the idea of emailing rather than telling in person. she can react in private however she wants, think through it, and congratulate you in person when she’s ready.

    i’m in a situation where my life is not moving forward the way others’ lives frequently do. it’s just the way it goes, and i’ve mostly come to terms with it. but there have been times when i’ve gotten others’ big news by email and really appreciated the opportunity to react and process alone. i could have all my surprise and selfishness-freakouts privately and freely, and then could get past that and think beyond myself to how i really do want my friends to be happy.

    i might wish i had those possibilities in my own life but that’s not relevant. i want my friends to be happy, and i’m happy for them.

    • JenniferP said:

      I’m suggesting an email for exactly that reason – she can react how she reacts with no pressure to be immediately happy, and also for the comfort of the LW to give it a little time to sink in.

      With the caveat that probably if you told her in person she’s have preferred an email and if you told her in an email she’d have preferred a phone call or one-on-one conversation, so you might as well do what works best FOR YOU and not worry too hard about it.

      • L said:

        Another way to go could be Facebook?
        That way you’re letting the world know, she can react in private and there’s less one-on-one factor like with email/phone, so she doesn’t do the “why didn’t you call me?” Thing.

        • I dunno, that would feel pretty impersonal to me. I’m not on Facebook, but it seems to me like it creates a new category that comes between “people you tell personally” and “people who find out through the grapevine”. Sort of an Intermediate Intimacy category, maybe. It’s possible that my non-Facebook-using perceptions are inaccurate, of course, but I’d expect to hear directly from a really close friend.

          • Britt said:

            I do use Facebook/Twitter and I’d be inclined to agree. If someone I was that close to and presumably saw/spoke to frequently didn’t tell me personally, that would be weird.

        • Kaesa said:

          On the other hand, if I was Sad Friend, I might be avoiding Facebook/some Facebook feeds to take some time away from other people’s coupley pictures? I feel like there’s something to be said for the directness of a group email, so that you know that everyone you wanted to tell (even if they don’t look at your Facebook feed) is getting the news.

        • I think the email is kinder than a facebook announcement. I know in my circle that close friends and family are expected to hear about stuff before it “goes public” on facebook, and that there is the possibility of hurt feelings if a close friend feels like she’s finding out at the same time as some dude I worked with four years ago. It depends entirely on the LW’s social circle as to whether FB is appropriate.

          I think if you go the email route, treat your friend like the intelligent person she is. Say in your email that you know in the past engagements have meant the beginning of the end for some of her friendships, and that you also know that your news might make part of her sad. Spell it out that you wanted to tell her in a way that if it did make her sad, she had the privacy and distance to feel it without hurting their friendship, and you were worried that it would be unfair of you to spring it on you over the phone and force her to scramble to process her mixed feelings.

          Maybe also end the email promising to call her or go visit the next day (or whatever time frame you feel suits your friendship) so she had a timeframe to get her thoughts together, but so that she also doesnt get to stew over any weirdness she might feel about getting the news in email form before you reconnect properly.

          Take the lead by being honest and adult about it. Let her know when she starts to rain on your parade a little bit, and ask her to be honest when she needs a time out from wedding talk. This will be an adjustment in the dymanic but it’s not at all a friendship death sentence.

        • J. Preposterice said:

          also Facebook is kind of a jerk and doesn’t always tell people things properly. So you could Facebook-announce something, Sad Friend could check Facebook that day, and not even see it because Facebook decided something else was more important to show her.

          Like, dear Facebook, the guy who redid my kitchen’s update about his weekly DJ gig is NOT more important than my old roomie’s announcement of her pregnancy that you decided I didn’t even need to see at ALL for SOME UNKNOWN REASON. (So it’s a good thing she’d already told me in person.)

        • Thneedle-dee-dee said:

          Disagree. Announcing something on FB carries a huge assumption that everyone who you expect to see the announcement will — and even without FB doing weird things to the feed, that’s a poor assumption. Maybe the person didn’t look at FB that day and now the news has aged off? But now you think you told them and you feel all good about that.

          This is like leaving someone a voicemail message and assuming that you’ve told them something — you don’t know if they heard the message at all, and technology does fail.

      • coraanderson said:

        Yeah, I was going to say the same thing. I think e-mail is the way to go, BUT be aware that, often, when you give someone news they don’t want, however you delivered it will be the wrong way. Do it by e-mail and you’re cold and distant, do it in person and you’re blindsiding them, tell them as part of a group and you didn’t care enough to personalize it, tell them alone and you singled them out and put them on the spot, etc., etc. Because at the bottom, oftentimes people don’t want to get the news at all, and the method of delivery is an easy thing to pick on.

        LW, I don’t say this to scare you (it’s possible your friend will respond better than you expected), but so that you don’t second-guess yourself. There is no perfect way to get people to receive news they don’t want to hear well, so you gotta do what you gotta do even if they nitpick the delivery method.

    • mintylime said:

      I am 100% behind this comment.

      I’ve spent quite a few years being in the same sort of boat as Sad Friend, but in a different arena than marriage/dating. I have tried to be happy for my friends when it happened for them, even when I sometimes had to vent and cry all over other friends. Recently, I found out in advance that it was going to happen for an acquaintance (I wish I could say friends, but I suspect she thinks I married Mr. mintylime AT her, sooo… complicated), and I was really really glad to have gotten that news by email so I could let the little automatic emotional temper tantrum that’s really all about ME and MY ISSUES and not about her because she’s not doing it AT me and the other people involved are not doing it AT me just roll on by for a few minutes before replying back that I’d be happy to help if there was anything needed.

  11. I’ve been on both sides of this. during my 8 year dry spell, I couldn’t handle friend’s posts about getting laid on Livejournal…and yeah, I was a jerk about it. It took losing a few friends for me to get my head out of my ass.

  12. gmg said:

    I’m your friend, LW — well, not literally, of course, but my life situation is very similar: characterized by a kinda-hard-to-explain lack of dating (I’m told I’m nice-looking, I’m gainfully employed, I’m smart and chatty and fun-loving, etc). The difference is that I think I roll with my single status pretty well and enjoy its advantages. You don’t mention, if anything, what your friend has actively done/tried to bring potential dates into her life. For myself, I concede that I don’t exactly make a heck of a lot of active effort in this regard — partially from just having an otherwise busy/full life, and partially from nervousness/inertia about it — but I accept that that’s my deal to take a crack at changing or not. Sometimes, though, I do really wonder whether there are just very subtle anti-date vibes that people such as us don’t know we’re sending out. Friendship is pretty much as easy as falling off a log for me, but romance sometimes feels like a language I just don’t speak, though I want to learn. I don’t know if that’s how your friend feels about it underneath the anger and the blame, but I can guess that some of the feelings are similar for everyone in our situation — so I hope this “report from the field” is useful in some way.

    I was very lucky when friends married, because they were great about NOT “leaving me behind,” and I had plenty of fun being the third wheel and forming friendships with their spouses. The bumpy ride started when a few of them decided after they had kids that they could only really be friends with other parents. Watch out for that, too, if you go on to have kids and your friend is still single. Give her the opening to be the cool auntie and open her heart to them. Everybody has lots of love to give, and everyone loves differently.

    • Amy said:

      gmg I am your opposite, I always seem to be the right situation to meet a new fella that is actually decent. However the making friends and friends stuff is so alien to me I’m lucky I have any! I am extremely lucky that my two best friends are the type to understand that if I seem to fall off the face of the Earth it’s probably due to my own friendship related anxieties.

      Making the step from meeting someone who I think is lovely, to actually being friends with them, organising things and contacting them regularly is so huge for me. In contrast with my sister who is friends with everyone possible, and has people who wish they were her friend, and has so many friends I can’t keep up with their names.

      Maybe there are also “not making friends” vibes that I am giving out!

      • You and me are two peas in a pod!
        I’m rarely without a romantic interest (or a few) and I can flirt up a storm. I make record time between meeting a guy and exchanging numbers/making a date.
        I’m utterly hopeless at making friends – I’m kick-ass at being lovely to the ones – but I don’t seem to ever get past the “we see each other around and have a catch up chat” stage.
        Sigh lol

    • dualityheart said:

      I find that after having kids, a similar crunch of time comes into play. Most of the time, (especially if your support network is limited or nonexistant and you do not have the 60 or so bucks per couple hours to go out and leave your kid with a babysitter), you do not have the spontaneous flexibility, money and unfrazzled head to enjoy stuff you could before children came along. I do not have as much time to watch that kickass violent anime or that sex-filled foreign film that everyone else is going on about, so now I am clueless and less interesting to friends because now I am hopelessly behind in Non Baby Things because I have to spend a lot of time on All Baby All The Time things to keep the child from eating rat poison or jumping in front of cars or shoving thumb tacks in her eye. Only other parents can really understand “baby pinging,” where every minute or less, you have to disengage from conversation to check on the kid and make sure said kid is not doing anything dangerous, messy, annoying or otherwise ruining the party. Frankly, it is exhausting. If you lose 1.7 friends after marriage, it is more like 10 friends after kids. Maybe not lost per se, but tge friendships seem to mostly devolve into Facebook friends who comment on your stuff and maybe see you once or twice a year on birthdays or holiday things. Or once they too have kids. Because there is just something about having braved the trenches of parenting (this is also somwhat true for those who work with kids ad a career) that makes a person feel like a fellow comrade.

      • espritdecorps said:

        Delurking to second this.
        My group of longtime friends has spit into those who had kids and those who didn’t, and it’s not because the two groups don’t care about each other. We still see each other a couple times a year at things we make a point to do together. But in general:
        Other parents don’t give a tiny sigh when I’m really excited about that awesome movie from two years ago that I just watched on Netflix. They’re happy to get a recommendation for something that’s either interesting and family-safe or worth spending precious after bedtime hours on.
        Other parents aren’t put out when a planned evening is derailed by a fever, most outings are group things because at least one of us isn’t gonna show or will be late.
        I’m not putting a damper on the evening if I have to leave early, not drink, check in with my spouse, etc.
        I can suggest coupon/Groupon get togethers, and be explicit about how much I can spend on the evening without being that friend with no money all the time. Because kids=budgets.
        I can talk about my problems and accomplishments without feeling silly or put up with.
        And the biggie, of course, is that we can do things with the kids. That eliminates 90 percent of the obstacles to regular socializing right there.

        TL;DR: We’re not sitting atop Mount Perfect Normal Life being too awesome to hang out with The Childless. You are the cool one now, out doing interesting things that don’t involve poop. We miss you! It’s just, you know, life.

  13. neverjaunty said:

    LW, your sad friend seems like she has boundary issues – that it’s not enough for her to be sad, but she is demanding you bend your life to accommodate her sad. If you’re in a relationship, you’re abandoning her; if she puts up with your being in a relationship you have to keep it quiet so she doesn’t have to hear/see it. (This is, btw, probably why all of her married/coupled friends drifted off; who wants to hang around somebody who pouts every time you hold hands with your spouse/partner?)

    Also, while she’s asking for advice and she’s your friend and you obviously like her, there’s a lot of careful language in your post: she’s ‘not a bad catch in many departments’, she ‘can be’ funny and likeable, your relationship is ‘arguably’ the best it’s ever been. Not, “she’s a great catch, she’s funny and likeable, our friendship is better than ever”.

    The impression I’m getting from your post is of somebody who has problems that a big factor in her being unhappily single. If she isn’t facing and dealing with those problems, it’s predictable that she’s going to aim her anger and frustration outward: on you, on her other friends who ‘abandon’ her.

    • Ruth said:

      This was the feeling I was getting from the letter, although I’m biased because I’m dealing with a friend who absolutely hates that I’m dating someone and does not hesitate to let me know it. LW, it’s great that you want to be supportive and kind to your friend. But also know this – you don’t HAVE to continue being her friend, if she is unable to support you. It’s not your fault that other friends have drifted away, and it’s not your job to make sure she never feels bad. That is her work to do, and you don’t have to take it on for yourself.

      It seems like you do still want to put the effort in, so go for it! Maybe she can work her issues out and celebrate your happiness. If you get to a point where you have nothing left to give, though, that’s ok.

    • popesuburban said:

      Yeah, I started getting the impression that the problem is not that Sad Friend is sad, it’s that Sad Friend is a bit of a self-centered Eeyore type. I have known and been the single person in a group of friends or general age cohort, and simply being sad is not enough to inspire this kind of anxiety in others. Being passive-aggressive, gaslighting, or sending people on all-expenses-paid guilt trips, on the other hand…yeah, that’s what makes people walk on eggshells around you, whether or not you’re single or sad. I would guess that Sad Friend’s singleness has become this vicious recursive cycle where she feel there’s proof that she’s some unlovable mutant, and that poisons her life, which makes it harder for her to date, which reaffirms the belief that she’s an unlovable mutant, and so forth.

      Of course, LW, none of this is your problem, and wrecking your head or trying to keep secrets won’t fix it. Only Sad Friend and the right therapist for her can do that– and no, there’s nothing you can do to create that situation either. You shouldn’t have to be afraid of any of your friends, and this really should not suck the joy out of your plans for this great relationship you’ve built. I would share the news like you would with anyone else, and if Sad Friend is more like Jerk Friend about it? Maybe it is time for a serious talk, or time to disengage. I know you don’t want to, but walking on eggshells around someone all the time is really stressful and unfair to you, and your mental health counts too.

      • icelimbo said:

        Eeyore! That is exactly the character I was thinking of when reading LW’s letter, and of an acquaintance of mine who struggles with Eeyore-like boundaries with mutual friends of ours. I think the Cap’n is on the mark with good advice, but I also think neverjaunty, Ruth, & popesuburban have some really valid insight too. I will attempt to synthesize one overall point briefly: there are some people who honestly have a hard time being happy for their friends when their friends find fulfillment in a place/with a person/in a life state which doesn’t include them intimately. They are clinging, not to their friend, but to the IDEA of a friend who will never change on them. And that’s not our LW or anyone else’s bailiwick, simply because life involves change – people who change, relationships which change, big or little or medium-sized circumstances that change. We love our Eeyores, but at the end of the day it’s their concern and their concern only how they react and adapt to the inevitability of change.

        • popesuburban said:

          Yes! This is where I wanted to go with the second paragraph, but it didn’t come together quite so awesomely. LW can control how she tells Sad Friend, and she can control her general levels of tact with all people. LW cannot control what Sad Friend/all people do with the tactful, carefully-sent information she gives. As great as it would be to be able to just “hug it out” and make Eeyore a little less Eeyore-y, it’s just not possible. LW’s big challenge is going to be, really, finding as much of a Zen state of acceptance about Sad Friend so she can have a nice time with her wedding and marriage,

  14. JetGirl said:

    LW, congratulations on having the Talk with your boyfriend, and on being unofficially engaged!
    May you make a lovely life together.
    Now, your sad friend: I sympathize, I really do. I spent my 20s watching my girlfriends getting into happy relationships that led to marriage, while I could barely get a great second date. (First dates were not the problem!) I felt like the ugliest woman in the world. Being a third wheel sucked.
    But I loved my friends, and they were great friends, and because of that, I just couldn’t begrudge them their happiness. Because then, I wasn’t just a sadsack singleton, I was also a crappy friend.
    The fact that you can’t share your happiness with her without worrying about blowback makes her a crappy friend. Being a good friend means acknowledging that other people have a right to happiness even if you don’t have it. Sometimes it’s your day, and sometimes it’s theirs. When it’s theirs, you don’t pout. And when it’s yours, they don’t pout.
    Now that I’m old, crotchety and married (yes, I finally met someone once I hit 30), I am wary of any friend who can’t make an effort to be happy for me when something goes well, because that says a lot about their character. And even when my life is crap (which it has been off and on for a while), hearing that a dear friend had a success makes me happy. It gives me hope. I’m working on not resenting the a-holes for their success. But I’m also not bucking for sainthood.
    TL;DR A real friend at least makes an effort to be happy for you. And an awesome friend doesn’t even have to make the effort; they just are.

  15. thegirlfrommarz said:

    Hi LW. I think you’re being very compassionate and thoughtful about this, and your friend is lucky to have someone so considerate in her life. I hope she appreciates you!

    I am, at the moment, unhappily single myself and sometimes it is hard seeing people’s happy Facebook feeds (as I am in my late 30s and would like kids, it’s all the children pictures that get me). But my feelings are MY feelings – no one else should have to censor their lives (or even their Facebook status!) in case I might be hurt.

    One of the most difficult things for me was going to a close friend’s wedding just after my ex and I split. I was happy for her and her husband, but it was hard at the same time to be reminded of what I’d just lost. Bizarrely, the worst point was the first dance, when all the couples took to the floor. My ex WOULD NOT dance, ever, and there’s no way we’d have been out there on the floor, but I got all choked up at not dancing! Anyway, I did kind of have to grit my teeth and get through it for my awesome friend, but I’m glad I didn’t miss out on such an important event in my friend’s life!

    Can you prepare the ground at all? Maybe talk about the relationship getting more serious, but keep up your normal level of connection with your friend? That way she may be reassured that increasing your commitment to your SO doesn’t mean that you’ll drop your friends/her, and not be surprised when you announce your engagement (if you’re purposely holding back on talking about your SO to avoid her feeling bad, she may get a nasty shock at the engagement news – which is entirely down to her to manage, but maybe can be avoided).

    I have a group of friends who have been single for a long time, and we’re kind of pseudo-family. When I got together with my ex, we all were a bit unsure how to navigate the change in the group dynamic, but we’re all still really close friends and we survived! Whenever one of us gets together with someone, we like to quote a Friends line (from which episode I can’t now remember) at each other: “I’m 100% happy for you. Well, 80/20. No, 60/40.” It’s silly, but it means we have a in-joke about how it feels when one of your friend’s lives is going well and yours is feeling a bit stalled that we all share.

    I hope your friend hears your news, takes a moment to collect herself, and then tells you how happy she is for you. But if she doesn’t, then her feelings are HER feelings. I’m sure, from your letter, that you will tell her in a kind and thoughtful way (not “Surprise! Guess who’s the only Sad Singleton left in town? You!”). If she’s a good friend, she’ll appreciate that and understand that you can’t put your life on hold just to keep her company in misery.

  16. Fantastic answer.
    I have had new loves when my amazing-yet-inexplicably-chronically-single friend has not, and she fortunately has been able to roll with her emotional response.
    I actually get tripped up on my OWN response which is “I don’t want to rub others’ noses in this” but also secretly guilt over my good fortune and even more secretly feeling like I don’t deserve it.
    I know this is my baggage but the feels, they still feel. So I know RIGHT where LW is coming from, even though in LW’s case, it is openly coming from the friend rather than being generated in my jerkbrain.
    Keep thinking “more love in the world is good” and that marvelous turn of phrase “I am not [verbing] AT you” and be sure you don’t do what those other couples did which was talk only wedding all the time and then vanish off the face of the earth.

    Could LW’s friend here be a bridesmaid?

  17. I can completely understand your friend’s sadness, even though she is being a total baby about it!
    I am one of those permanently single people, and on the whole, it doesn’t bother me. All my money is my money, my house is all for me, the fridge is full of the stuff I like to eat and I don’t have to share anything. That being said, it can be awkward and lonely when friends are busy doing all that terribly grown up stuff and you feel left behind. On the whole I deal with it by hiding Facebook feeds when they get all “BABY!” or “WEDDING!” because that’s how I have chosen to Look After Me. It doesn’t stop me feeling happy for them, but it allows me to deal with my own feelings of LeftOnTheShelf by myself.

    LW: You seem like you are very close to this person, and if I were her, I think I’d want to find out on my own, from you. Not as part of a group of mutuals. That way she can process in a way that’s right for her, not have to put on the “happy face” because that’s what all the mutuals are doing. If I were you, I’d speak to her over the phone. Tell her the news and see what she says. Now, you’d like to think that a person of her age would have enough social sense to go “that’s great! Congrats!” But even if she doesn’t, if you are on the phone, both of you have the chance to go “Oh! The doorbell just rang! Listen, I’ll give you a call in a couple of days okay? Bye!” if needs be.

    All this aside, my best friend got married about 18 months ago. I was in charge of organising the Hen Night, and although I had my own sadness issues to deal with, having this role gave me something to focus on and acknowledgement from my engaged friend that I was the girl for this special job gave me a lot of validation. Could you do something like that for your friend?

    The happy ending to my story is that our friendship is, if anything, closer than it was before her wedding. Because we both felt it was important for it to be that way. I get on well with her husband and we are as close as sisters. I love our relationship. I hope you and friend can find a way to get through this transition with a minimum of drama. xx

  18. bluecandles said:

    As someone who is on the other side of the fence (if it wasn’t for her reactions to you & your boyfriend, and comments about being left behind, that whole letter reminds me of me), and who has recently heard of a close friend’s engagement, I can only say the following:

    Yes, it will sting her. Yes, it’ll bring up her own very raw and real issues of loneliness. But if she’s your friend, she’ll still be happy for you, for your happiness.

    My friend getting married does remind me of my own long term singledom, but whether or not she’s engaged, it doesn’t get rid of my loneliness, it is a completely separate issue. And if she were to turn around and flee from marriage, I wouldn’t be any less single and alone for it. Those are my issues, not hers.

    LW, tell your friend via email, inviting to meet up for a coffee/drink of some kind if she wants to talk about it further. Hopefully, she won’t react as badly as you think. The overreaction to your holding hands may just be insecurity over being the Third Wheel yet again. I can’t tell just how badly she reacted by your letter or how intensely she’s been holding the No Partner Angst against you. She doesn’t dislike you for having a boyfriend, or for getting engaged – the irritation and anger isn’t about you, it’s about her, and probably, deep down, anger with herself for Not Being Good Enough for A Boyfriend.

    All you can do is keep being her friend, as you said you would be, and that’s what’ll matter in the long term. If she seems pretty cool on the whole engagement thing, see if she could play some part in the wedding, even if it’s just being a sounding board for venues you get excited over. Being even a tiny part of it can make someone feel less alone (though it is your wedding, not hers, so don’t do this unless you had already wanted her involved).

    • Elikit said:

      I hear you on the Third Wheel thing. One of my close friends has a New Love, and while I am happy for her, I wouldn’t be enthusiastic about hanging out alone with her and New Love (especially with alcohol in the picture) because they just get into each other, prolonged eye contact, hand-holding, nuzzling, the whole works. And they’re not making out or sitting in each other’s lap (just) but it is awkward to be the the odd man out in the hangout. Doesn’t make me any less happy for her, just means I’d rather hang out with my friend solo or with the two of them in a group situation so that I have other people to bounce off of.

      • bluecandles said:

        Yes! This is a difficult situation. I have, a number of times, found myself as the Third Wheel with a friend & her partner . I’m happy she’s found someone, and I’m glad she still wants to hang out, but there’s no doubt that it gets Awkward when they’re staring moonily at each other, and I have to suddenly find the ceiling/wall/sky/random cloud fascinating, or ‘discover’ a text that I have to reply to. As a group, there’s at least someone else you can turn to, to give them privacy and yourself something to do.

  19. boots mcgee said:

    I am going through a similar thing as this LW, though I’m on the other side of the actual wedding–it’s been several months since I married my husband, but my best friend continues to be weird and passive aggressive toward me, though she seems to be really careful about not explicitly making it about the fact that I’m married, maintaining plausible deniability, I guess. I’m left to read between the lines based on who she hangs out with now (our other single friends, pointedly doesn’t invite me out to things with them) and her sadtweets.

    I’m heartbroken and confused, because the difference between not-married Boots and married-Boots is pretty much a piece of paper in a drawer somewhere. I’m not exaggerating. Friend was totally fine with my relationship/the time I spent on it vs. the time I spent with her when Mr. Boots and I were not married or engaged and merely together-forever-living-in-sin, but as soon as there was an engagement and ensuing (small, fun, non-obtrusive or obnoxious) wedding at which she says she had a great time, she’s been too busy/tired/etc. to hang out when I ask her, even when I go out of my way to be in her neighborhood, and she has practically never asked me to hang out. It’s been MONTHS. I’ve made the same/more effort to see my friend since the wedding as I did before and throughout our years-old relationship. I make sure to ask her about her goings-on, not because I’m trying to prove a point but because I’m the same interested in her goings-on as I was before I was married; but no amount of my doing that–no amount of my just being the SAME FRIEND AS ALWAYS EXCEPT TECHNICALLY MARRIED–seems to fix what’s wrong, which is that she is unhappy with herself and her situation.

    Here’s what I wish I’d realized before I got so down about the whole thing: when the problem *is not your behavior in the first place* but the way your behavior is perceived by someone else, you actually can’t DO much of anything about it. I didn’t get married AT my friend, but maybe she needs that to be true so she can externalize the things that make her depressed and unhappy rather than work on them. (Yes, I’ve encouraged her to seek counseling; she “can’t” do it because Reasons.)

    tl;dr: unreasonably editing yourself/your feelings when dealing with a jealous/unhappy friend is at best a band-aid, and definitely not a cure.

    • neverjaunty said:

      but maybe she needs that to be true so she can externalize the things that make her depressed and unhappy rather than work on them

      THIS. Argh. Friend needs some space and/or is bummed out? Totally get that. Friend is going to be passive-aggressive and make your happiness all about their unhappiness? Go live in your FEELINGSGARRET instead of moping at me.

      • Two_Kinds said:

        My friend and I just watched the epic and totally confusing BBC Bleak House adaption and one of the characters has a “growlery.” It’s basically just a study, but now it’s where we go/are in when we’re cranky. “I’m in my growlery today” and “I had a terrible day at work, I’m heading to my growlery.”

        It’s like FEELINGSGARRET, except for mildly cranky feelings. I just thought I’d share, because saying the word “growlery” really helps you leave your growlery.

        • KL said:

          That is wonderful! It’s like the professor’s Angry Dome on Futurama.

    • Sarah said:

      Because I’ve felt the same after wedding-type things – was your bf included in the wedding? Was there a role she thought she might have been a shoe-in for that was maybe given to a relative? I was asked to be maid of honour then downgraded to bridesmaid then bumped altogether and it took some really deep breathing to let that go. Even though I understood why she needed to do it, I didn’t get to ride in the limo, I didn’t get to get dressed with her – I’m her best friend in this city and got totally bumped for 6 women from her hometown. Which I’m fine with now. But it was a bit rough for a while. Weddings are notorious for this kind of crap – anything like that happen?

      • Ruth said:

        Although in this case from the LW, she might not want to have the friend in her wedding party, and that’s ok. I can see why she might not want to include someone who would be down on the whole thing as one of her bridesmaids!

      • boots mcgee said:

        She was my maid of honor and I expressly asked her to do nothing besides show up and have an awesome time on the day (and give a nice toast, which she did). I also paid for her outfit and her hotel/travel. We discussed all of it beforehand and I made it clear that (1) she did not AT ALL have to do it if she didn’t want to or was uncomfortable and (2) her presence and support on the day was all I cared about, and I genuinely meant it.

        I hear what you’re saying, and I actually think her problem may be the opposite of what you’re saying–maybe she wishes she hadn’t been my MOH or been part of the wedding attendants at all?

        • Sarah said:

          What a considerate bride you sound like! You never know though – maybe a bridesmaid insulted her or froze her out or she took some joking the wrong way or *something* went down. Or maybe this has coincided with a depression. Sounds like a lay it on the line convo is in order. Ah, life changes. How they change lives!

  20. Mori said:

    LW, I commend you for being so sensitive towards your friends feelings. That is a really wonderful thing. I do feel, though, that her sadness and frustration about your relationship may end up making her pull away from your friendship, rather than you abandoning her as she may be predicting in her head. She may not interpret it that way though. That’s the trouble with this kind of depression. It makes you isolate yourself and then tells you that your friends don’t love you because they left you. This anger about you holding hands with your boyfriend may be the start of that.

    When you tell her, the Captain’s right and she should at least say congratulations. But I wonder, would it help for you to acknowledge her feelings straight up? Something like: ‘I know this news may be hard for you to hear, and I’ll totally understand if you need to be sad for a while. I know you are happy for me, but may not seem so just now, and that’s fine.’ I think the possible sadness is something that might be best to happen away from you, and if it doesn’t or she becomes angry at you then that’s not quite so fine, so definitely draw clear boundaries if that does happen. The trouble with jealous feelings is you feel so much guilt for having them that it makes you feel even worse, and if you’re already feeling bad about yourself due to not being able to find a relationship and friendships fading out, it’s going to escalate. Acknowledging her feelings may help her feel less awful for having them.

    I hope it all goes ok, and congratulations!

    • gmg said:

      Re acknowledgement of feelings: It occurs to me that LW’s plan to wait on the “formal” engagement until the holidays might give her some time to talk this over with her friend in a way that doesn’t come off like Big Confession Oh-Dear-Now-I’ve-Hurt-Your-Feelings Time, but rather like she’s truly involving her friend in the evolution of a life-changing moment. She could plan a nice girls’ night with her and amid the usual conversation just say something like, “You know, BF and I have been talking about marriage. I know you are getting to know him better lately, and that makes me really happy because you are so important to me. What do you think about it?” Give her a chance to be her best self and become accustomed to the idea without staging a big, intimidating-seeming Sharing of News. I always feel a little pandered to when my friends feel the need to “break” exciting/good life events to me as if they’re telling me they have cancer or something. In my experience, none of my friends’ engagements came as the slightest surprise. This one shouldn’t/probably won’t either — surely LW’s friend has seen her relationship grow.

      • hereandnow said:

        Hmm. I do like giving the LW’s friend an opportunity to be her best self, but I wonder if presenting marriage as a possibility and asking her what she thinks might exacerbate some of those boundary issues the LW described (e.g. no hand-holding when friend is present).

        LW and partner have already decided to get engaged; by presenting it as a possibility and asking for input, the LW might give the false impression that the friend has a say, when the decision has already been made. The LW’s decision to get married (or not get married, or to change her mind at any point) may provoke Feelings in her friend, but ultimately that’s not going to be the sole factor that changes LW’s decision, right?

        I was my group’s Single Friend for many years, so I commend the LW’s compassion and consideration, but in these kinds of situations I think it’s best to be gentle yet direct.

        (LW, congratulations, by the way!)

        • Emily said:

          Yeah, I think LW is much better off just assuming Friend will be, or at least act, happy about the news. If I were Friend, I might hear “I’m engaged! Sorry if this makes you sad” as “I’m engaged! Don’t be all awkward about this, like you usually are.” There will be time later on to talk about the Feelings.

          • gmg said:

            Agreed. And maybe my approach is not the right one for the good reason outlined above (giving the friend the wrong impression), but I am really, really not persuaded that all the “I know how hard this might be for you” stuff is right either — the danger is that it will come off as smug or patronizing. Instead of worrying about feelings from her friend that she can’t control, LW should focus on ways to make friend feel like she’s going to continue to be a key part of LW’s life. Take it from a self-described spinster: I’d much rather hear “I wanted you to be one of the first people to know about our plans, because you’re so important to me” than “I know this might make you sad, but …”

        • neverjaunty said:

          Right. Because how awkward it will be when SadFriend says “What do I think? I think that you shouldn’t get married because then you will ABANDON ME FOREVER and I will lose my one real friend.”

      • Mori said:

        You could well be right. I feel like I am probably quite like the LW’s friend at the moment in that I feel like I keep having emotions that I have no right to feel, especially sadness. When that happens, it does help me to hear something along the lines of ‘I know you’re an emotional mess right now, but that’s ok’. However I guess I need to remember that this letter is not from the point of view of the LW’s friend. The LW is the one with the happy situation, and is therefore perhaps not the best person to acknowledge the sad feelings. It’s sad that the LW’s friend seems to have lost a lot of friends recently but hopefully there is someone else who can be there for her if she’s having feelings she feels bad about.

        As for whether verbally pre-empting someone’s feelings is a good thing or a bad thing, it’s hard to say. I would personally find it helpful, but everyone is different and the LW knows her friend very well while I don’t. I didn’t want it to sound like I think the news needs to be ‘broken’ like it’s bad news. The engagement is very happy news. The feelings the LW’s friend may feel are not happy. That’s where the guilt for feeling ‘wrong’ things can come in. I was thinking more of taking some of the pressure off the friend to be happy and completely together for the few weeks after the news. After the initial finding out, she might not feel up to it, even if she is able to congratulate and be happy for the LW at the time. Also, I totally agree that the friend probably won’t find the engagement a huge surprise.

        I hope that make sense. I feel like I’m not expressing myself very well but I’m at work and my lunch break is nearly over so I can’t rewrite.

        • JenniferP said:

          I think “I know this might make you sad” is the LW doing too much of the emotional work. Let the sad friend be sad, if that’s how she’s going to be. You don’t have to pre-empt another person’s emotions. Tell this person as you would tell anyone close to you, and let them have their reaction, even if it’s not what you want.

  21. PCSDevil said:

    I have been on both sides of similar situations, and the Captain’s advice is spot on. First, I have been in your friend’s position. I had made the mistake of falling for a dude with whom I had a serious friendship plus mad chemistry, but who had met someone else and was in a relationship with her. He didn’t discourage me from keeping hope alive, though, so my deep hope was alive and kicking. One day, he said, “I have something to tell you,” and told me that this other woman was pregnant. You know that expression, “My life flashed before my eyes”? That is exactly what happened, only it was our relationship that flashed before my eyes. It was the craziest thing, and I can’t imagine what my face looked like. But then I took a breath and said, “Congratulations. That is wonderful news.” He was visibly relieved, and we talked about due dates and such, and I went away and shook and sobbed and eventually, eventually got over it. Because that is what grownups do. I had no business vomiting pain and sadness all over this monumentally important moment in his life, so I choked it back. His impending fatherhood was manifestly not about me, so I didn’t try to make it about me. The part of it that was about me was not his burden to bear. LW, if your friend tries to make it about her, she’s doing wrong. You will be absolutely right to enforce whatever boundaries you need around this monumentally important moment in your life.

    The second situation I’m in is ongoing. I have two little ones, one of them just born this summer. I’m part of a little circle of friends with whom I’m in touch mostly on Facebook. In this circle is a couple who has been trying unsuccessfully to have a baby. Out of regard for this couple (and a few other people in similar situations), I didn’t post much about my pregnancy, and was especially careful never to complain about my pregnancy. Neither person in this couple has ever “liked” any photo of or status update about my children, and neither of them congratulated me on the birth of my son. I won’t lie: it stings. Sometimes, I feel a little petulant about it, but then I check myself because what they’re going through needs so much more tenderness and care than my frankly petty hurt. I don’t not post pictures of my kids, and I don’t not talk about them–I don’t not live my life, and that would be my advice. Figure out how far out of your way you’re willing to go to be gentle with your friend. Be generous with her. But live your life.

    • neverjaunty said:

      PCSDevil, you may have thought of this already, but you can set up a Facebook friend group just for baby news that does not include this couple.

      • PCSDevil said:

        No, I hadn’t thought of it. Thank you for the suggestion. :-)

    • Alrei said:

      Neither person in this couple has ever “liked” any photo of or status update about my children, and neither of them congratulated me on the birth of my son. I won’t lie: it stings.

      I am sorry, but why ? Why not liking kids-related updates stings. Is it some kind of Facebook thing ? It’s not like they said something bad, not liking is more of a “not interested in this aspect of your life” thingy for me.
      And I do second the setting up a new group Idea.

      • SWNC said:

        It’s not just a Facebook thing. I have a number of friends who have chosen not to have children themselves, and I am wholeheartedly supportive of their decision. But it means a *lot* to me when they ask about my kid. Because while my child is certainly not the entirety of my life, she is hugely, hugely important in it, and it’s nice when they acknowledge that.

        And frankly, not congratulating someone on the birth of their child is a little odd, just as it would be odd not to congratulate someone on their marriage or their promotion.

      • PCSDevil said:

        The part about not “liking” the photos and updates isn’t in itself a big deal, but the fact that they didn’t congratulate me when my son was born honestly bothers me a little. It’s not like they don’t know how meaningful something like that is–they want kids themselves. When big, important, happy things happen in people’s lives, friends congratulate one another. Weddings, graduations, big promotions, buying homes, having kids, etc. They didn’t. It hurts a little–not enough to salt their wound over it, but a little. But I recognize that this is one of those cases where talking things out would make everything worse, so I’m keeping it to myself.

        There was another important person who didn’t offer congratulations: my mother-in-law. The reason she didn’t is that she is going through a mental health crisis, and she just can’t, and we get that. We have feelings about it, but nothing good would come of our expressing those feelings to her, so we don’t. Someday, we hope she will be in a place where she can share our happiness, but for now, of course, we keep this little hurt to ourselves. In the big picture, this hurt is vanishingly small.

        My point for the LW was that sometimes, it’s not worth the salt that inevitably gets in the wound when we talk things out. But if these friends were not just keeping silent but saying nasty things to me about my pregnancy and my baby–which people do all the time, and which her friend has already done about her relationship–then I would not hesitate to have a conversation with these people in which I laid out boundaries. I think it’s good to be generous and understanding, but there is a line. My friends and family have not crossed my line on this, but when people cross our lines, words need to be spoken.

  22. LW: If your friend is sad at you after you break the news, maybe link her to some of Captain Awkward’s excellent “my friend is in a new relationship and never hangs out with me anymore, what do I do?!” advice columns, in which the predominant advice is to say things like “Hey, would you like to x with me at y time, just the two of us?” and say that it sounds like she’s afraid of being forgotten, but if she can ask you that way when she feels lonely or forgotten, you’ll do your best to make it, and also understand where it is coming from?

  23. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help said:

    I feel for your friend, LW – and for you. I have been in the situation of friends getting partnered, though for me it was less about being single (the person I was in love with wasn’t available, but I wasn’t interested in looking elsewhere) than about fear of the friendship ending or just changing, with a dash of mistrust of Teh Man and whether he’d be a worthwhile partner for my friend. Definitely a touch of jealousy there, though it didn’t – I hope! – show in my behaviour.

    The first thing I thought on reading your letter was what the Captain advised: I think your friend needs therapy, someone to talk to who isn’t one of those Getting Married In Her Face people. The other thing – which I don’t recommend because I doubt it would be helpful – was asking “Do you want me to remain single until you’re partnered? Is that really what you’re asking?” Because that really does come out of the no-hand-holding and so on.

    Good fortune to you and your beloved, and your friend as well.

  24. Kaesa said:

    I love this community, because I’ve found myself in a place today where I need to be reminded that I’m not being happy AT someone and that I shouldn’t have to change how I live my life out of fear of making someone angry or jealous. The specifics are not relevant to this post, but thank you, Captain and Awkward Army, I needed to hear this.

    ON TOPIC, I have been That Single Friend embarassingly often, and I have also been a Happy To See You Happy Friend as well.

    The instances when I am That Single Friend tended to be:
    1. When our friendship was based more on being unhappily single than on having interests in common.
    2. When their love life was suddenly the only thing they cared/could talk about. (NOT “they hold hands with their SOs around me!” but, like, standing me up for plans, or starting every conversation with relationship gushing/relationship complaining/really explicit sex stories.)
    3. When I was DESPERATELY UNHAPPY WITH MOST OF MY LIFE for whatever reason, and was assuming that the cure for desperate unhappiness was either A Boyfriend, or to cling to my suddenly not-single friend as hard as possible.

    So that’s a lot of different reasons. Some of them are totally my fault. Some of them are more the friend’s fault. However, in almost all cases Reason 3 was involved, and I was acting like my friends were stealing my happiness by having SOs, because happiness definitely follows the Laws of Thermodynamics, right? No. No, it does not. And when I am more or less happy with my life, and my friends are kind of irritating about their relationships, I have the good sense to give myself some space, or ask them to stop with the blowjob stories.

    So, LW, please don’t feel guilty about all the good things that are happening in your relationship. It doesn’t sound like you are doing anything wrong (if you are the kind of person who worries about how to break this awesomely happy news, you’re obviously a considerate person), and even if you were doing something mildly irritating, this is not something that you are doing to her or at her or against her, and if you’d done things differently she probably still would have found something to get upset about.

  25. H.Regalis said:

    First off, congrats, LW!

    Agreeing with CA, et. al on everything said above. It’s not your job to manage her feelings, and while I too get irked with folks who completely disappear because they get a partner/have kids/get married, it doesn’t sound like your friend is the easiest person to get along with. You’re not getting married AT her, you’re not holding hands AT her, and while you’re friends, there’s a big gap on the spectrum between being an insensitive jerk and creating a censorship forcefield around anything that might ping your friend’s issues.

    So far I haven’t had tons of experience being the Only Single Person, I’d sooner gnaw my own legs off than spend time only with my S.O. and no one else, and while only a few people in my most-often-seen circle of friends have kids and/or are married, I’ve definitely had the experience of being the only non-married person at social events where everyone was my age.

    I know a fair number of people who got married immediately after undergrad and/or within a year of starting grad school, and I’ve had times of feeling weird and insecure, like I’m so far behind everyone or like I should’ve spent my college years looking for a Serious Partner instead of playing the field; I’ve wondered if I’m too immature, I worry all my friends will get married and have kids and then we’ll all grow apart, etc. etc. None of that is easy stuff to think about, but all of it is for me to deal with, and no one got married/had a baby/met a new partner to mock me and make me feel like shit, and you’re not doing that to your friend either.

  26. Wow, okay. I don’t have much sympathy for your friend. Guess what, I am also in my late 20s and chronically single, but I don’t take it out on my attached friends or begrudge them happy relationships just because I’ve never been in one before. If friends stop keeping in touch because they get married I hang out more with other people and take the initiative to ask them out to catch up now and then.

  27. I’m not the LW but I just got engaged. Like, this weekend. We wanted to wait ’til Christmas to make it a thing, but we want to have the wedding on the most sought-after wedding weekend of the year because it’s our anniversary and so we needed to get a jump on planning (plus we were super-excited and couldn’t bear not to tell people!)

    And I too had one friend who might be upset and feel left behind

    My method was to wait until she was really, really happy (in her case, she was with her girlfriend and cheerfully drunk and dressed up in a nuclear rainbow dress) and then told her. She was delighted for us!

    In the sober light of day, she was slightly less enthused, but not by too much. She did say “I never expected you to be married first” although I am the only one of my group of friends who can legally get married, but I just filed that under “shit people say to people who just got engaged”, which the LW will soon learn is a large category.

    • RACHEL, CONGRATULATIONS, HOLY BALLS! GO TEAM YOU.

      My own Sad Friend’s response was a bitter, contemptuous “Another one bites the dust.”

      So “SPSTPWJGE” is indeed a growing list.

  28. I had a friend who behaved the same way to me. When she heard that I was engaged, she said “Another one bites the dust” in a very bitter way, asked to try on my ring, scowled at it for a few minutes, threw it back across the table, and said “You’d better not be one of my friends who get lame and disappear.”

    Apparently all of her other friends, upon getting engaged, turned their backs on her and spent less time with her. It is possible that this was because she would throw small tantrums whenever one mentioned the word “wedding.” At one point, in an unrelated conversation, I mentioned that my aunt restored old clothes and was working on a wedding dress: Friend said “I just lost all respect for your aunt since she works in the wedding industry.” At another point, when we were talking about her career, I suggested that I could put her in touch a friend who does interview training, since she was coming up for the party anyway; she accused me of becoming “one of those incredibly tedious and lame women who always talk about their weddings.” It was like we were reading from different scripts, but in her script it just said “WEDDINGWEDDINGWEDDING HAHAHAHA I’M GETTING MARRIED PEASANT.”

    I started to side-eye her a lot, slowly realizing that her mental blocks about marriage were definitely nothing to do with me. It was the script that she was reading from. She and Dr Glass had previously been great friends, but since he was At Fault for Stealing Me, she started snapping at him and uninviting him from gatherings. There were passive-aggressive statuses on Facebook, and verily, a fine rendition of “Another One Bites The Dust” on the day of the celebration.

    But we met her parents at another event and I really saw where it was coming from. She’s older than me, and her parents were sniping at her because she had been single for years and there were no signs of diamond rings on her fingers. That’s what she had been raised to value; she was the Golden Girl, and I was just her younger, plainer, poorer friend, and there I was with a fiance, and there she was, not Achieving Happiness Milestone #14, The Nice High-Status White Boy. For her whole life my friend had been told that she NEEDED TO ACQUIRE A DECENT WASP-Y HUSBAND BEFORE THE AGE OF THIRTY, and her way of rebelling against that was to turn around and tear pieces off any of her younger friends who were getting this thing that she didn’t have. Then another younger friend got engaged and the same thing happened to her; Friend would accuse her of ‘flashing her ring in everyone’s face’ when in fact the young woman was already so nervous of Friend’s reaction to her ring that she was keeping it on a chain under her shirt.

    It was painful to watch, and I had a lot of empathy, understanding where this was coming from. Just like I wasn’t getting married at her, her anger wasn’t aimed at me – but that didn’t mean it wasn’t inappropriate and didn’t hurt me. There was nothing I had done to make her behave this way. There is nothing OMG CRIMINAL about deciding to sign a document with your partner.

    The thing was, I couldn’t change the script she was reading from. I tried speaking to her parents, to her, and to the younger friend who was getting engaged, but there was nothing that I could do! Everyone had decided on their roles. No amount of not-holding-hands and not-talking-about-my-future could . It hurt. It really did. I loved her dearly and I don’t think that I can repair the relationship. Sometimes these things happen, too. But if it does in this case, I think you’ll be all right.

    • JenniferP said:

      And yet we’re not supposed to use the words “jealous” (of your wedding, of your partner for taking you away from her) or “bitter” (so caught up in one’s own unhappiness that you vomit it all over other people’s happiness) even when in certain circumstances it’s absolutely descriptive of what’s going on and real emotions that people actually have. Jealousy is an ugly emotion. It’s also a real one. Being a cool feminist doesn’t mean you’re above it.

      I used to get a lot of shit from former friends who couldn’t figure out how the fat girl had happiness and love because they’d signed up for the pact that you can’t have love until you perfectly Cosmo-yourself into a thin person with glossy hair who knows 107 ways to give blow jobs, and I was breaking some rule that I didn’t ever sign up to follow by daring to be happy. It was totally 100% about their issues and not about me, but the vitriol came at me, and I didn’t care for it.

      • Lilly said:

        “Jealousy is an ugly emotion. It’s also a real one.”

        Yes, and it’s probably an emotion that so many of us will have felt at one stage or other. I know I have. Jealousy is also a self-destructive emotion, or at least it can be, because it makes you beat yourself up, like your friends who are angry they can never be Cosmo-perfect when they could be happy.

        I think that’s why I like the advice here – of telling the friend in a way that means she can deal with it, which is caring for her and being a good friend, but not letting her upset hurt the LW’s happiness.

        Walking on eggshells around emotions like this is harmful for both people, the ‘jealous’ one and the happy one – it says to the jealous person that they are entitled to have someone else suppress part of themselves, and that treating them like a “missing stair” is the right thing to do.

        I used to have a friend whose wife was terribly, terribly unhappy because she could not have children, to the extent that she would not attend events where mothers and kids would be present, and got very bitter at another couple we knew who had a small child, saying they were deliberately rubbing it in by talking about their kid in front of her. But what could they do? Pretend their baby did not exist? Would that have helped her or reinforce her bitterness?

      • Goodness, Captain, however did you know that I was also the fatter friend with worse hair? ;)

        I didn’t care for that feeling either; it’s really why she got the African Violet in the end. I did understand that she’d been socialized to view life as a very concrete Ladder to Success, and that it frustrated and upset her that I wasn’t playing the game and I still had Success; this wasn’t her fault, but I wasn’t going to stand around and be her whipping girl. It really isn’t appropriate; it’s trying to make a friend feel like shit because they were feeling happy.

        It reminds me of GlutenFreeGirl’s story, which she told in her blog. When she started writing it, she was extremely sick, and the blog documents her recovery from celiac and what recipes she likes. Over the years, her blog has brought her a lot of things. She’s got a husband now – a chef who loves to cook for her – and a great kid. She is healthy and joyful. She was able to leave her job and now works as a professional blogger and writer. Her mindfulness is present in all of her posts.

        So in this post she was discussing why she gets hate mail. She gets a lot, mostly targeted at her weight, her kid and her husband. She writes, orgasmically, about gluten-free food, shares the recipes, and talks about how much she likes cake. What’s there to hate?

        Well, she’s broken the rules, hasn’t she? GlutenFreeGirl is overweight! And well over forty! She has an intestinal disorder and she isn’t conventionally pretty. She shouldn’t be getting attention and NYT bestseller status and book deals, she shouldn’t be roaring about how passionately she loves her food, and how radiantly happy she is with her husband and how much she loves their child – she should be sobbing in a corner of a studio apartment, surrounded by cats! She shouldn’t be pointing out that diets don’t work as she posts pictures of her beautiful homemade breads! OTHERWISE ALL OF OUR HARD WORK IS BEING INVALIDATED! HER LIVES INVALIDATE OUR LIVES! How dare she “get” a man who loves her like she hung the moon? How dare she be so full of obvious joy?

        Anyway, the point is, in the post (which I recommend) she had this nice conversation with Brene Brown, of Ordinary Courage:

        “I know exactly why some people must hate your guts.” [Brene said]

        “Why?” [asked GlutenFreeGirl]

        “Because you are joyful,” she said immediately.

        “And I have endured a lot of suffering and I still love my life,” I told her.

        “Yes, who do you think you are?”

        “And I write cookbooks for a living and I’m not a size 4,” I said, knowing this was true.

        • alphakitty said:

          Nothing pisses conformist people off more than someone finding happiness on their own terms!

      • Sarah said:

        Wow, what a nasty dig at your commenters.

        • JenniferP said:

          Sorry you see it that way.

          No one said that EVERYONE feels jealousy at a time like this, but to say that we can’t say that is a possible emotion without it being “problematic” is…problematic. It doesn’t have to confirm a stereotype to be one possible thing that is true. It doesn’t have to describe your particular emotions – your particular emotions can be whatever they are. Someone who describes themselves as “unhappily single” and laments that all her friends leave her forever when they partner up is experiencing a healthy dose of both jealousy and bitterness, in my opinion. Like Jo lamenting Meg’s marriage in Little Women – “He’s taking you away from me.”

          The second part of that comment was a response specifically to Elodie’s story about the person who was judging herself harshly by different rules – the “should be married by now” set of rules, and getting the vitriol all over Elodie. NOT a dig at commenters.

          • mskayo said:

            Yeah, I didn’t take it as a dig at the commentariat at all, but at people who vocally begrudge others happiness because they think they are more “deserving,” having come closer to the Cosmo ideal. While a few commenters have owned to having a hard time with others’ happiness when they were down, none of them have contended that it’s legitimate to dump your bitter unhappiness all over someone’s joy just because at the moment they’ve got it and you don’t.

        • I am confused, what part of that was an insult at commenters? I’m following this thread on email and might have missed a thread or something?

          • Huh. Okay. I am glad White Rabbit is not jealous or bitter, although I am sad she feels other painful feelings over her singleness.

            I am no longer a single lady, but I have been jealous and bitter when I was single and unhappy about it. Especially towards a certain artist whose work I adore and who seemed to Have It All, including the agent falling into her lap and PMS that causes her to clean things. I MEAN REALLY! Then that lady got divorced from her husband, who had previously been all perfection as far as I knew, and it was… okay, but I was still jealous and bitter a bit because when she got depressed, she LOST weight. And then she found an awesome guy with tattoos and is crazy happy with him. I got out of my sad and bitter phase before she started hitting bestseller lists and winning Hugos. I MEAN SERIOUSLY. She does work wicked hard, but she hasn’t done the Slogging Through The Unpublished Muck Of Authorship, and she’s all confused at being an Author when she thought she was an Artist. IT IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THAT EASY okay I might still be a little jealous, even as I understand that it is in no way easy for her.

            Anyway. I admit it, jealous and bitter happened. It’s not wrong to acknowledge that, regardless of stereotypes, even as it is as important to recognize that not everyone’s pain takes the form of jealousy or bitterness. Sometimes it’s rage or grief or depression or straight up OW or self-hatred or ex-hatred or the sound of twenty confused wet kittens.

          • Joysweeper said:

            Ursula Vernon?

          • White Rabbit said:

            Actually, I’m pretty sure it was a reference to this comment from Sarah, which was in reply to my comment: http://captainawkward.com/2012/10/16/381-how-do-i-tell-my-sad-friend-im-getting-engaged/#comment-31508

            Hence Sarah’s reply here.

            I wish this discussion about whether these terms are “problematic” or not could be discussed more directly. I agree with the Captain’s take on the use of those terms, but the way it was brought up again here does read as a bit snarky to me.

          • @White Rabbit: Oh, I think I follow the thread of that now. I couldn’t figure out why suddenly people were cranky.

            I wrote up a big thing and then realised that no, it does not belong here. I put it here:

            http://carbonatedwit.com/2012/10/17/problematicity

            I also invite people to discuss if things are problematic there.

          • White Rabbit said:

            Thank you, Carbonated Wit!

  29. Hey LW,

    Congrats on the unofficial engagement! So, like others, I can relate to Sad Friend. I’m nearly 29 and have never had a relationship, and am sometimes Sad about this. I also generally dislike PDA, though I would never snark on a friend for holding hands w/ a boyfriend/SO/husband around me (because that’s just a bitter thing to do). But meaning, I can relate to your friend on several levels. However, personally, no matter how I feel about my own dating life, I am always happy for my friends who find someone, fall in love and get married.

    Others have relayed their perspective as Sad Friends better than I could, but there is one point that I’d like to throw out, just as a counterpoint, just in case it’s applicable for you. The Captain’s advice to email your friend is sound, as should she react adversely, she can do so in private. That said, I’m a bit old fashioned when it comes to relaying news, and if a close friend of mine had gotten engaged, I would want to be told in person. It sounds like you’ve not only known her a long time, but you see her often, so making a point not to tell her in person will spell out loud and clear “I know you will react poorly to this news which is why I am doing it over the Internet.” Now, if you are sure she will react poorly, then go for email. But if you think there’s a chance she could surprise you, I would tell her in person. It might show her just how important she is to you, and that you have faith in her being happy for you.

    Honesty report: your getting married probably will trigger her into a Sad Place for a while. Being the last of your friends to be single is rough, especially if many other friends have ditched her once they got married. You are all part of a club that she is not only not a part of, but has NEVER been a part of. It’s a bummer, especially when you worry that there is something wrong with you and nothing will ever change. It’s scary. It’s also not your responsibility, but it sounds like you want to be as nice as possible about it. Which is lovely :)

    Your friend might feel differently, but if it were me, I would want to be involved in the wedding. ie: having her as a bridesmaid (or something) might make her feel more secure that you won’t ditch her. Your life is likely going to be consumed by wedding planning, and I’d say it’s better to involve her where you can than to not have time for her at all. That said, I wouldn’t involve her without a conversation about how she’s Not Allowed to be a Bitter Betty, and if she can’t not be so, she won’t be included.

    Good luck, and congrats!

  30. Marty Farley said:

    I admit, this thread kind of made me want to hide under my bed for the rest of my social life. I’ve always been the Sad Single, and I have a difficult time not expressing what’s on my brain. I try not to take away from my friend’s happiness, but in terms of romance, when my friends go on and on and ON about how many guys like them, how they’re so popular, how they just can’t figure out if they should date Guy A or Guy B…. it’s very very difficult for me to keep my mouth shut.
    I wear my heart on my sleeve, and since I’ve found it damn-near impossible to shut up about my feelings, I’ve started just taking myself out of social situations.
    For example: I introduced a friend of mine to the Burlesque academy I go to. However in the course of attending classes, I started to feel more and more awful about myself around her. She was just enjoying herself so much, that I felt subtly (sometimes overly) belittled. It finally got to the point where I just quit the academy all together without an explanation, instead of spewing my feelings all over her.
    I found cutting off/walking away from something that made me Sad was the only way I could emotionally deal with it, without alienating people.

    Long rambling story short… maybe it’s all right for you and your friend to drift apart. Maybe you two just aren’t compatible, since you can’t endure her Sadness, and she can’t adequately hide her Sadness in face of your Happiness. It’s a difficult thing to walk away from anything, but maybe that’s the best course of action for everyone.

    • JenniferP said:

      See, going on and on and ON about your coupledom in a smug way is just as rude as FEELINGSVOMIT. When my friends get married, for instance, I am psyched to hear about their weddings, but also grateful when they say “Ok, enough wedding stuff!” and move on to a new topic. So saying “I am happy for you, but can we change the subject to (thing we do have in common)?” is not out of line in any way.

  31. Congratulations! Maybe your friend will find someone, maybe she won’t.

    But, do not let her experience rain on your parade!

    ghost.

  32. redbed84 said:

    What strikes me is that there might be a case of a relationship hierarchy clash here. The LW’s friend probably has as her top-priority relationship(s) as her friends, whereas her friends top-priority might be their partners (certainly seems this way for LW’s friend’s other friends, especially since they have been married). This is going to feel uncomfortable for both parties in the hierarchy mismatch, and it is nobody’s fault, it is just how thing are in these types of situations. Society teaches a heck of a lot of this partner taking priority stuff, and it can hit people hard who prioritise friendships (either out of choice, or because they can’t find a partner). LW’s friend has every right to her feelings of upset, just like LW might be if her top-priority-relationship could potentially be at risk of some big changes. This is a normal reaction to have when a significant relationship might be under threat (even if in reality it isn’t!). LW’s friend certainly has a responsibility not to make that reaction her friends problem, but I think it is entirely appropriate for LW to be sensitive to the possible reaction. All too often friendships are not given the same value in wider society as sexual/romantic partnerships, even when they mean the whole world/have a LOT of value to some. So, yes, I would say LW should be sensitive. But not to take any manipulation or any excessive reactions AT them, because that would not be sensitive of LWs friend. You both have a right to sensitivity from the other if you are truly friends. Good luck!

  33. Leela said:

    I’m wondering how much of those friends backing off was because SadFriend was Eyeoreing at them.

    As a late 30s and terminally single gal, I’ve been there. It sucks sometimes when it feels like you’re the only single person left on the planet. But, as the Captain so rightly points out, my friends are not getting married and having babies AT me. They are living their lives. It is not on you to “manage” her. It is on her to manage herself and her feelings.

  34. As others have said, Sad Friend is kinda controlling.

    “You’d better not do X and not tell me” + “You’d better not tell me about X” = “You’d better not do X”

    The good news is I suspect the first is nothing more than GSF#1 on a small scale. I don’t know what to do about that, but it’s relatively tractable.

  35. That In A Hat said:

    Many of our mutual friends have gotten married in the past few years, which only reinforces her feeling that there’s something wrong with her…She says she feels abandoned and like she’s still in high school, which is a hell of a thing for someone in their late twenties to feel about themselves.

    …Since I didn’t date or have relationships until comparatively late in our friendship, I think she always assumed that she at least had one friend that wouldn’t leave her for a relationship.”

    Oof. This hit a button hard enough that I had to scroll back up and double check to make sure one of my IRL friends hadn’t written this about me.

    I’m that single friend in her late 20’s watching my friends and coworkers get married, or at least wind up in serious relationships right now. And, not gonna lie, sometimes I look at how many people I know in happy, healthy relationships and wonder what the hell is wrong with me and doubt that I’ll ever actually have a relationship. And sometimes–just sometimes–I get a little bit jealous when I see how happy my friends are.

    That feeling goes away with proximity. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe it is a growing up thing, but part of growing up is sussing out the difference between “I want to be in a relationship, ANY relationship!” and “I want to be in THIS kind of relationship.” And looking at my friends, most of whom are adorably, disgustingly happy with their SO’s, all of whom have completely different flavors of relationship–none of those look like the one I want. So that takes care of the “Grrr, I want what you have!” jealousy.

    Which leaves the “WHAAA, MY FRIENDS ARE LEAVING ME!” feels. Which is its own little panic attack that needs to happen and be gotten over. She’s your friend. Make time for her. Call her up and ask her to do things. Basically, spend time with her. And, if you can, spend some time with her without your boyfriend. (The “holding hands makes me feel sad” thing, though? That’s a little unfortunate.) But spend time with your boyfriend and her as well. If they like each other, or if at the very least, she sees him making you happy, she’ll be able to get over that kneejerk sense of abandonment.

    I’m going to disagree with CW, though on one score. If you were casual friends, then yeah, let her find out when everyone else does. But from the sound of it, you’re close. Don’t do that to her. I’ve had friends leave me out of the loop on their relationships–either the existence or the seriousness thereof–for the sake of sparing my feelings, and all it makes me feel is hurt, and a little bit paranoid. I have at least two friends whose impending marriages I would expect to be told about shortly after they informed their families (and one of those I’d almost expect to be told before). Both of them know I’m a little sad in my single status and not always 100% comfortable with being around Happy Couples. But both of them are close enough to be considered family, and both of them are people that I trust to tell me when something’s up. Communication is so, so crucial. If you let her know sooner, you’re giving her time to get used to the idea, but you’re also making her feel like she’s still a part of your inner circle and that she’s important to you and has your trust.

    I hope she can be happy for you. Best of luck and congratulations!

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