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#546: Counter-Intuitive Friendship Fixing Advice: The Be Nice To Yourself Project

Dear Captain Awkward:

My very best friend and roommate acquired a boyfriend and I’ve become a bitter, jealous, monster.

I never, ever thought I would be one of those jealous, possessive friends, but it turns out I am.

We are very wonderful friends and roommates and are happy and enjoy each other about 90% of the time. But I feel disproportionately sad when friends seem to have fun without me, or really any time I feel left out, which is often.

This anxiety has seriously been brought up by the new boyfriend, since my friend is now dividing funtimes with someone else, and also since my friend is having boyfriend fun that I am not having.

For the past 4 years we’ve known each other and the past 3 that we’ve lived together, we’ve both always been single. I’ve dated around much more than she has but we’ve always commiserated over shitty guys and being lonely and taken each other out on dates, etc. Our relationship has come to be somewhere between sisters and girlfriends, which sounds gross and weird, but basically there’s a lot of emotional stakes wrapped up in our relationship.

Anyway, over the summer, I was dating a new guy and she had a huge, secret, crush on our mutual friend. All four of us hung out all the time. Six months later, the guy I was dating is a shithead who I am still sleeping with occasionally and the guy my friend was secretly crushing on is her loving, caring boyfriend.

Despite my best efforts, I sometimes find myself comparing our situations and feeling pretty down on myself. This, along with losing #1 status in my best friend’s life, makes me pretty bitter and resentful. She’s adopted this guy’s hobbies (hobbies that the four of us used to do together that I’m now totally left out of) and made a mushy gushy picture of them her faceboook photo, things we swore we’d never do! Which is totally understandable, but still makes me sad and angry.

So. Here is where I cross the line into terrible person. My friend has a secret Tumblr where she posts her poetry, which she sometimes reads to me and which I know the url of but am supposed to never look at. I never ever have, until, out of nowhere the other day I got a really strong urge to look. I did. Her post that day wasn’t even a poem, it was just “Sometimes I wonder why I continue to live with/be friends with someone who puts me down and makes me feel so terrible about myself. It’s not like that with anyone else.” I instantly closed it.

First of all, I know I’ve been a shitty friend lately, but I don’t know what I said or did that made her feel that way! Second, maybe this is just a vent-y post stemming from one specific instance that I just should never have read. But it sort of sounds like a post that’s come out of some long term stuff that she’s just never told me about. But I obviously can’t bring it up.

Now I feel terribly guilty but also deceived- like our friendship wasn’t anything like what I thought it was. I’m walking on eggshells, which I guess is maybe a good role reversal, since I feel like my friend has been walking on eggshells around me, this emotional-ogre, the entire friendship. My resentfulness definitely makes her walk on eggshells around the topic of her boyfriend, which makes me feel like she’s pitying me, which makes me even more resentful.

Help! This friendship is my Only Close Friendship. I love this person as much as I love my family. How do I fix this? How do I stop the resentful, bitter feelings without just bottling them up? How do I stop feeling like my friend doesn’t love me anymore because I’m an asshole who betrayed her trust and read her diary? Also, how do I stop hating myself for being totally emotionally and socially inept and having no boyfriend and only one close friend, who now maybe hates me, because of it?

Okay, I have a prescription for you, are you  ready?

First, watch the movie Walking & Talking by Nicole Holofcener. It’s about exactly this – a close friendship where one person feels like her life is falling to shit right at the time that the other friend is getting happily coupled up. You’re not alone in feeling how you feel, so look at some art that will remind you that you’re not alone and that what you’re going through can be funny and survivable. Also, I posted a film by one of my former students a little bit ago that is relevant to your interests:

Don’t watch if parody of violent horror movies bothers you. And don’t be the Taco Tuesday guy.

Second, DON’T use your words yet. You’re not ready. Leave the entire question of the living situation, the friendship, the boyfriend, the jealousy, the fruit of the poisoned Tumblr alone for right now. 

Here is my read on what is happening:

Your friend is feeling the pressure of being your only close friend and needs some breathing space. She wants a break from being the only person you process your emotions with. She wants to enjoy her new romantic relationship without feeling guilty about it or feeling like it’s something she’s doing AT you. She is at least thinking about a future where you guys are no longer roommates.

You’re allowed to feel down, and you’re allowed to feel like she is neglecting you in favor of New Dude (which, yeah, it sounds like she actually is), but you’re not allowed to be mean to her or put all of your bad feelings on her to manage, and it sounds like you’re crossing some lines with that. She’s venting to her LiveTumble because it needs to come out somewhere, and by venting there she can hang in there when she’s actually with you. That doesn’t make your entire friendship a lie. It does makes now a delicate time.

I know that this is like a scab you can’t stop picking. You want to FIX IT FIX IT FIX IT FIX IT so bad.

My recommendation is for you to take all of that energy you are putting toward MUST FIX IT and put it into shoring up the other parts of your life that don’t feel good right now. Let us institute a Three-Month Be Really Nice To Yourself project. Your job, for the next three months, isn’t to try to fix your friendship. It’s just to be really nice to yourself. Some things you can do:

1) Find an alternate audience for your feelings. If you can get access to a counselor of some sort, do it. Vent to that person! Alternatives: Write it all down in a letter that you don’t send, call a hotline, find an internet community or space to write. Using 750words.com or the “Morning Pages” exercise from The Artist’s Way (3 pages longhand in a notebook that you don’t edit or necessarily even read ever again, first thing in the morning) can be good, as it gives you a daily writing practice. Whatever works for you, get the feelings and worries about the friendship and your life 1) OUT OF YOUR BRAIN 2) Somewhere that is not at your friend.

2) Meet more people. Be it a hobby, a sport, a game group, a Meetup, a fandom, singing in a chorus, get yourself out there and meet some new people doing fun stuff that interests you and makes you feel good. The best is if you can find some kind of recurring, weekly activity that will let you slowly get to know people over time.

Notice I said “Meet more people”, not “make more friends.” Making new friends = pressure! Pressure on you, pressure on the people to be good friend material. Meeting new people = No pressure! You can say “I met & talked to one new person tonight, SUCCESS!” Let making new friends be a happy surprise, not a goal.

3) Volunteer. It’s a way to meet people. It’s a way to be useful. It’s a way to have interactions that don’t put yourself at the center and remind yourself that you have something to offer. It is, to be blunt, a way to see yourself as part of a community of your fellow human beings rather than as drowning person clinging to the leaky raft of your only friendship. Chances are there is an organization out there that matches your interests and skills. These puppies aren’t going to pet themselves.

4) Say only nice things about yourself. It’s really hard to break a habit of comparing yourself to other people and putting yourself down, but it can be done. Don’t say mean things about your body or describe yourself as a collection of flaws. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Don’t read or watch pop culture stuff that shits on women for being single or having bodies. Try to write down or or say one thing you like about yourself every single day. It’s hokey and cheesy, and you may start out like “fucking fucking stupid affirmations stupid this will never fucking work I fucking hate everything” but if you keep doing it you’ll start laughing at the absurdity and you’ll feel tiny bit better. Your friend met someone she meshes with because of dumb fucking luck, not because she’s magically better than you in some way. You’re okay. You’re great, in fact.

5) Practice excellent self-care. Get enough sleep, eat good food, a flattering haircut (or something else that makes you feel pretty and alive), call your family regularly if they are people who make you feel good, move your body in some way that energizes you, unfuck your habitat, pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read, maybe stop sleeping with “Shithead,” visit the dentist if it’s been awhile. This is all about finding ways to reward and nurture yourself that you can control. Be the kind of friend to yourself that you need right now. If you need someone to buy you flowers and tell you you are great today, then buy yourself flowers and tell yourself you are great.

Now, how do you deal with your friend, especially since she’s your roommate?

Do not initiate deep State of the Friendship conversations for at least a few months. Resist the urge to abase yourself here, and make it all about how you are a shitty friend and you are so sorry and confess your sins of looking at her secret Tumblr. There’s too much potential for a Woe Is Me kind of apology, where she ends up having to reassure you at the end of it and clean up your FEELINGSBARF. This friendship does not need a “Why are you even friends with a terrible person like me?” talk. Also, holding off puts time back on your side, since your friend’s New-Relationship-We-Spend-Every-Waking-Moment-Together-Frenzy might dissipate a bit on its own as the novelty wears off and the laundry piles up and she starts to miss you.

That doesn’t mean being fake or pretending everything is great. What we’re going for here is balance. This is where the Be Nice To Yourself Project will start to pay off. For example:

  • Meeting new people, trying out new stuff, volunteering = good news! You’ll have new stories to tell and new stuff to talk about when she asks how your day was.
  • You being out and about more = your friend has more time to be alone in the house, or more time to spend with boyfriend without feeling guilty or pressured.
  • Unfucking your habitat = good news! The shared living space will be welcoming and nice.
  • Spilling out your worries and complaints to a trusted pro or on the page means that hopefully you can leave some of them there. Keep conversation lighter than you normally would, for the time being, and let her take the lead on bringing up serious topics.
  • Say only nice things about yourself, and say only nice things to and about your friend. Compliment her. Ask her how things are going and just listen. If she says “I am happy” say “Then I am happy for you.” Part of being a friend is celebrating your friend’s happiness with her, not calculating how it subtracts from yours. Love is not a pie. 
  • If you fuck up, apologize. “I’m sorry, that was out of line.” + start again tomorrow. This about making things better in the present and doing no new damage to the relationship, not solving the future or excavating the past. 

Another thing I suggest is adding more structure to your friendship. As in, now you guys are roommates, and you used to spend every waking leisure minute of time together, so there weren’t a lot of boundaries about when & how you talked about stuff. You did everything together until she got the new boyfriend and suddenly you didn’t do everything together, but it wasn’t explicitly planned or negotiated to be that way. No wonder you’re feeling weird and lonely! But when you were single, you used to go on Friend Dates. It’s time to go on Friend Dates again: Saturday morning breakfast every 2 weeks. A night every 2 weeks to order in and catch up on your favorite TV show together.  Start very small and low-key: Nothing that requires elaborate clothing or reservations. Leave a lot of room for reciprocity – like, invite her to a thing, and if she can’t, wait a week and invite her to another thing, and if she can’t do that, then it’s on her to follow up and make a plan with you.

There is some talking to be done and some mending to be done, a little bit down the road. “I felt so lonely when you met boyfriend, it was hard to be happy for you right then, or to know how to show it, but I want you to know that I am happy for you.” “I’m sorry I was mean to you. Unhappiness is no excuse for that.” “It makes me feel more secure and happy in our friendship if we can plan regular hangouts, is that something that sounds good to you?” “I would like to come along to (hobby) sometimes, is that cool? I really miss doing that with you.” This isn’t a project where you become some kind of FriendBot, pretending you don’t have needs and performing only detachment to prove you are Cool Enough.

But I think you gotta step outside the hothouse a little bit first. “You are the only person who understands me!” “You’re my only friend!” sound like compliments, but they come with too much pressure and too much…self… to actually be compliments. Your friend, even if she promises to be your best friend forever, can’t actually fix your bad feelings about yourself or fill up all your lonely places. I get why you feel abandoned, I get why you are panicking, I get that you would do anything to make this right, and I have oh so much love and empathy for you right now. But my honest advice is, take massive, radical care of yourself and do what you can to comfort and distract yourself  until you can meet her on more solid emotional ground. You are my *favorite* friend. You are my beloved friend, and I want to sweeten what’s gone sour between us. You are an important friend, and I want to find a way for us to stay in each other’s lives through all the growth and changes that will come our way. Those are compliments.

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110 comments
  1. robiewankenobie said:

    This is one of my favorite posts of all time ever. The end.

    • brighteyes said:

      Seconded. Delurked just to say that.

    • Copcher said:

      Agreed. This is such good advice. Always take care of yourself first.

    • Fourthed! So amazingly put!

  2. Monica said:

    Gosh my life would have worked so much better if this post had existed four years ago. LW, I was once in your exact position. The Captain has given you excellent advice. Take it!!!!

    • Apple said:

      Truth! I was in a similar situation, and it didn’t turn out so well because I had no idea what to do and just floundered all over the place.

  3. treetopfairydust said:

    Oh man. “Love is not a pie” is such an excellent expression of something I’ve been trying to unlearn. New mantra. Thank you.

    • kaiwilli said:

      Agreed. “Love is not a pie” should be on t-shirts!

      • Brynndragon said:

        I’m definitely making a cross-stitch sampler out of it!

    • arthaey said:

      “Love is not a pie.”

      Unless it’s ollalieberry pie. That IS love. Just sayin’.

      • staranise said:

        Love is an endless pie kitchen with a new pie just coming out of the oven.

      • isabeausuro said:

        Pie is definitely love, but love is not a pie.

        • Kootiepatra said:

          “Love is not a pie” = front of the T-shirt. “Pie is definitely love, but love is not a pie” = back of the T-shirt.

    • Torrey said:

      Love is like pi. It’s of indeterminate and infinite length.

      So, what do you do when you’re on the other side of this?

      • staranise said:

        You mean, when someone else is feeling jealous and unloved and like you don’t pay attention to them enough?

      • Kootiepatra said:

        I’m a relatively new non-lurker, but I had a few thoughts on this for whatever they’re worth:

        I think the main thing is that, if Jealous Friend is someone whose friendship you value, and want to continue, then make sure you are intentionally showing that to them with your words and with your time.

        Of course, this has to happen within the framework of healthy boundaries. Where do you need alone time with your S.O.? How do you feel about Jealous Friend inviting themselves to things you are doing? Are there areas where you’re happy to have them along sometimes? Are there areas where you are never okay with them joining in?

        If you have a clear(ish) idea of what you need, it helps eliminate the crisis in the moment of when Jealous Friend says “Hey, you are going to do [thing]! I love doing [thing]. Let’s go do [thing] together!”–or “*Puppy dog eyes* I wish someone would invite ME to do [thing]”–and now you’re trying to figure out whether or not you want their company at the [thing] AND how to say that nicely. If you’ve already thought about it, you can be ready with a cheerful “Sure, that would be fun”, or an “Actually, I’m going to [thing] with just me and S.O.”

        But part of establishing boundaries means figuring out what you ARE able and willing to do with Jealous Friend. So you might say, “Actually, I’m going to [thing] with S.O. But you and I should totally get together for [same or different thing] soon! Are you free on Friday?” (Follow-through on those kinds of offers will be very, very important.)

        Find ways, on your own terms, to proactively reaffirm your friendship with Jealous Friend. You don’t have to agree to every request to hang out; you don’t have to reward a dagger-stare or manipulative behavior. But can you figure out a time in your schedule that you can set aside for them? Can you make a point of inviting them to do some [things] without them hinting at it first? Are you willing to spend some time with just the two of you? Have you told them recently how important they are to you?

        If they feel like they are the only one trying to maintain the friendship, they will begin to worry. If they see that you are still interested in being friends, and willing to take some initiative to make that work, they may relax a bit. You don’t have the ability to stop them from being jealous, but you can be purposeful about affirming them, which may ease their adjustment to your S.O. a little bit.

      • Bev said:

        I’m sorry, but, mathematician. Pi does not have a finite representation, it’s true (unless you count just drawing a circle), but that means the length of any representation is determined. A better analogy might be that love is like the natural numbers, you can divide it in two and it’s still the same size*, but then I guess that wouldn’t fit with pie.

        My solution to feeling like I was someone’s ONLY FRIEND was to eventually panic and run. Things are still awkward. Do not be me.

        *-ish. Everything is more complicated than its analogy.

        • Thank you, fellow mathematician :)

          Perhaps love is like the real numbers — sometimes rational, often irrational, “how do I love thee? let me count the ways… oh wait, I can’t, there are too many!”

      • mehting said:

        I’d say on the other side, the best thing to do is to 1. figure out your boundaries and keep them, while being cheerfully oblivious to all hinting and 2. Create specific times for positive interactions with the friend feeling left out, doing concrete fun things, instead of amorphous hanging outs. Positive Activity time has really helped me with not being so annoyed at a friend behaving badly, and seems to have helped a jealous friend to feel more secure. Bringing these up in response to hinting like Kootiepatra said is good, because it simultaneously affirms your friendship while not giving in to the hinting

    • “Love is not a pie” was brilliant and “FEELINGSBARF” made me laugh out loud. Fabulous post; outstanding advice.

    • Jiggs said:

      I have to remind myself of this a lot of the time. I have trouble making friends, and so I generally tend to be very nervous that the friends I have are going to leave me somehow. I have one extremely close friend who is basically a sister to me, and though I have never ever told her this, every time she has a life change I am deeply saddened and terrified at the same time as happy for her. This year she is having a baby, and I feel awful that it has been so hard for me. I am doing a bang-up job of being her biggest cheerleader (I AM very happy for her and excited), but I also have a lot of pain and terror that she will leave me. It’s a battle sometimes to reframe “Bestie is going to have a baby and she’ll never talk to me again!” to “Another tiny friend to love!” Most of the time lately I’m able to feel the latter.

      • Remember that she will likely be distant and difficult to get hold of for a while after baby – but that does NOT reflect on you. A new baby is a huge adjustment, I know I’ve lost my social life for most of the last 12 months, and I really miss my friends.

    • hebbyn said:

      I’ve always heard it as “Love is not like cake. Giving someone a slice doesn’t mean there’s less for you.”

      That said, love may be infinite, but time and attention are not. When people couple-up, their default person tends to be the other half of the couple, which -if you were the default person before- can really suck. They may not love you less, but they will have less time for you. If they get a bonus ticket for something, odds are, they’ll ask their SO if they want to come with first. Things that used to be yours (Going to the pictures! Weekends vegging out on the couch! Steampunk club nights!) may become theirs– are likely to, because we tend to have, you know, shared interests with the people we fall in love with. You might still plan holidays together, but they’ll probably also be planning holidays with their SO– so you have less time, or they’ll already have been to XYZ, or… if you were each other’s default people, and now you’re not, you can feel like you’ve been downgraded.

      Which doesn’t make them a bad person, but does mean that the niche you occupy in each other’s lives will change. And that’s not a bad thing either– it can mean that your life gets more varied, that you have more time for your other friends, that you find new interests– but that doesn’t always make it easy.

      Anyway, the point is– all of that can suck, but it is what it is, it doesn’t necessarily make anyone a bad person, and you don’t get to choose what happens to you, but you do get to choose how you deal with it. part of that is going to be finding new Someones, or other people to deal with. Part of that may be setting boundaries for yourself and your friendship (not assuming you have an automatic invite, setting up just the two of you activities). Part of that may be acknowledging that the friendship takes a level of maintenance it didn’t before– or a different kind, at least.

      But yeah, bottom line is that you have more space now, and you have to choose how to fill it. And that needs to happen before trying to fix the friendship, because honestly? Until it does, you won’t know what you actually want and need out of that, and what you’re taking because you can or putting up with for lack of other options.

    • I love this expression and will use it all the damn time. I think it also works as an example of love you can give as well. For example, having many relationships does not mean you’ve used up all of your love pie and have nothing to give to anyone else. Having a partner that has had more romantic experience than you does not mean that they have no pie left for you so getting jealous about their past is pointless.

    • On a recent Planet Money podcast, Tim Harford (undercover economist) answered relationship questions. One of them were from a polyamorist who asked Tim about his thoughts on monogamy being an artificially created scarcity whereas polyamory is a natural abundance of love.

      Tim replied that there may very well be an infinite abundance of love, but there is an innate scarcity of time. In order for relationships to be deep and meaningful, there must be some time spent on them. The amount of time of course differs with different relationships, but there needs to be some time spent to build a solid foundation even if once it’s built you maybe don’t meet all that often.

      When I do get jealous in my poly relationships, it’s not my partner’s love that I don’t get enough of. I have that, I know I have it, and their loving someone else doesn’t detract from it. But I do miss not being able to do things with them – even things that aren’t us actively doing stuff together. A while back, when my girlfriend stayed over, my husband snapped a picture of us sitting each in one chair reading books on or iPads. It’s the same thing that I often do, but we did it in one another’s presence, and that did make a difference.

      So, yeah. Love is infinite. Time isn’t. And when you used to have 100% of one person’s Time, and suddenly you have maybe 20%, of *course* that will hurt. How could it not?
      Doesn’t mean they don’t love you, but it does mean that you are alone and missing them and hurting, even if you’re not jealous – and more so if you are.

      And it’s extra hard when the relationship is one that our culture at large sees as less valid. One “should” value a love relationship more than a friendship. Friendship shouldn’t need negotiation the way love relationships do. Etc. All of that is toxic. Love is love, love without sexual desire isn’t any less important or worthy than love with it, and when someone you love is not with you, it will hurt.

      I think the Captain’s advice is very good and I hope it helps you.

  4. Socky said:

    Wow, this is something I really needed to read since I’m going through something similar.

    LW, I feel for you – I really do. It’s a sucky position to feel in, particularly since, if you’re anything like me, you feel the pressure to “Fix It” both because you feel guilty and because you don’t want to risk losing your friend by waiting too long.

    I don’t really have any advice, but I can offer you a jedi-hug and a “You can get through this”?

    • C. said:

      You can get through this, too! Jedi-hugs for everyone.

  5. This is great advice – not just for LW, but for all of us. We are happier when we make ourselves happier. We can’t be present and giving to the people around us if the well of the heart has run dry. We need to fill it up with tenderness and care and fun stuff in order for it to flow outward. In the end, self-care isn’t selfish – it’s what allows us to be more caring to the people around us.

    Best of luck to the letter writer. I was in a similar place in my youth. I know how much it hurts. I wish you an ocean of joy.

  6. I wish I’d read this back in high school…probably middle school, actually. It’s so rare that friendships are treated like the extremely important relationships that they are–and they take work! Friends fight, they love, they feel lonely, they want to be together forever–and they need outside counseling sometimes. Although there are fewer “complications” (like sex) in most cases, it doesn’t make it less important to do that relationship maintenance.

    Basically I’m just saying, thank you for posting this. I’ll definitely use it to remind myself of things in the future.

  7. Jake said:

    LW, I feel for you. I had a close friend who got married and I was a total shit to her and her (honestly, awesome) husband about it at the time, because I had had ideas about our friendship that didn’t gel with her getting married. Like the captain says, take good care of yourself.

  8. Jane said:

    Oh God, LW, I feel you so much.

    I first want to give you a bit of understanding of where I’m coming from, because I’m scared my advice will sound kind of harsh, but it’s truly not meant to be. Early this year I sat where you are sitting now, and the only real friend I had managed to make in my new country suddenly ditched me, and I pretty much vaporized whatever was left of that friendship. Been there, fucked that up, triggered all my mental health problems, survived.

    I think it is really important to sit with the idea that this friendship might end but that is not the end of you. You will love and be loved by other people, even if this is your only strong friendship right now. Yes: if this friendship ended, it would be like having a beloved friend die. It would be a terrible, horrific loss, like having part of your emotional self amputated. But you would grieve that loss, and you would heal, even if it took years, and you would become a different person.

    I guess I am saying this because I feel like having your whole body clenched with fear for months on end will cause permanent harm to you and your relationships. If you set losing this friendship up as “the worst thing ever” (hat tip to Cliff!) you will trap yourself in a situation where you feel like you have no choices to control your own life or feel better, and that is a terrible, frightening place to be in.

    I’ve spent a large majority of the last six months alone, and it has been good for me to remember what I like about myself, what I’m good at, and just . . . how to exist without negotiating my emotions about other people 100% of the time. I think that maybe you should consider looking at finding a place to live by yourself or with a new roommate now — again, so that you feel like you are in control, and so you have a place to retreat from this situation that is not laden with reminders of your friend. (I say, as the person whose mental health went from “crying once a month” to “crying every night, sometimes for hours” because I continued to work in the same lab as my former friend and so had to be reminded of my “failure” every. single. day.) Obviously, if it isn’t possible, it isn’t possible, but even having a plan in place for what you want and where you might go in the future is strengthening.

    Finally — I just want you to know, really know, that I’ve been there, in the place where you feel like your love is being spat back into your face and you flail out in anger and pain. I think a lot of the commenters have. It hurts so fucking much. If I could I would make you a cup of tea and a muffin.

    • JenniferP said:

      Jane, as someone who watched this from afar, as it unfolded in real time during various comment threads, I want to draw big shiny hearts around your comment. Love to you.

  9. Definitely signing on to the great advice you’ve been given here, by both Captain and commenters. And I’ll add one thing that has worked for me.

    As background: I’m a person who has a hard time with ‘small talk’ – I’ve learned how to comment on the weather when we’re standing in the elevator, but I can’t do lightweight conversation much longer than that. What really works for me is heartfelt sharing of what’s going on inside.

    Which is a huge challenge in most ‘newcomer’ situations. Whether it’s volunteering, singing in the chorus, going dancing, taking up a new hobby … in all of those situations, heart to heart talk may arise eventually, but it won’t be this week or this month.

    What has worked for me is attending 12-step groups. Many of us qualify for at least one, and today there are dozens. If you don’t qualify for Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts, Overeaters Anonymous, or Gamblers Anonymous (to name the most famous ones), what about Adult Children of Alcoholics and Other Dysfunctional Families? (no need to have an alcoholic parent to join ACA; lots of families have dysfunction without substance abuse).

    When I’ve moved to a new location, or lost a whole social group at once (like when they laid us all off and closed our factory, and we scattered to the four winds), 12-step groups have given me: a place to vent to people who ‘get it'; people who will love me through whatever I’m going through without having to understand it all or know me well; people who will honestly share what’s going on inside themselves at the moment, which usually leads to me not feeling so alone (because, trust me, a lot of folks are going through the same thing we are, whatever it is).

    Sometimes I’ve found a friend or two in such places; other times, the group has helped me keep my balance while friendships in other places have had time to develop. Often it’s both.

    So much love and light to you and the situation you’re in now. Jedi hugs for whatever’s next.

  10. Nicola said:

    Oh God, I could not love this advice any more if I tried. Jedi Hugs for you LW (I think this is the first Jedi hug I have ever given, and to tell you the truth I’m pretty excited about it). I also second Jane’s advice above, about maybe coming to terms with the idea that if this friendship ends, you will survive. Think of it as another part of caring for your own mental and emotional health.

  11. This is brilliant. I wish I had read it ten years ago. Thank you.

  12. breadandroses18 said:

    This is brilliant. I wish I had read it ten years ago. Thank you.

  13. mehting said:

    This is so true. This is the best post ever, and it is exactly what would repair a friendship going wrong for me from either side. PARTICULARLY the not talking about it bit. And the more concrete doing things together. And the being nice to yourself. Really, the whole post.

  14. Long Time Lurker said:

    I am all for women sleeping with whomever they want, but, please don’t sleep with someone who treats or treated you like shit. I have seen so many women (including me) rationalize doing this to the Nth, and the truth is it’s way better to be alone than to be with someone who doesn’t make you feel good. And I’m a firm believer that you can’t get over someone you dated until you stop sleeping with them.

    • I’ve had sexual relationships with people I didn’t particularly care for (or the way they behaved outside of sex) but the sex was great and I knew what I was getting into and I was okay with that. For me, some pretty great things came from those – sexual exploration and physical closeness without emotional closeness, which is exactly what I needed.
      (Also, if they crossed a line, I just walked away. I went in knowing their faults and had no desire to change them but I also had no desire to stick around when they acted awfully.)

      One can totally compartmentalize somebody they mostly don’t like into “just sex” or “just game night” or “just music” – but then if they start to spill over into other parts of your life, and you don’t like them in those parts, it’s best to walk away.

      I think, OP, with the guy, maybe think really hard about why you’re sleeping with him and what you’re getting vs what you would want. I would agree that it’s probably very, very hard to maintain a just-sex relationship with an ex, plus you’re in a bad place emotionally that might make you seek out emotional relationships in places you normally wouldn’t.

  15. Marna Nightingale said:

    I pretty much agree with everything the Captain has to say, except that I might say *one thing* to your friend right now, which is, roughly, “This is being a rough transition for us, and I don’t like how I’ve been dealing with it. I need to get my head on straight before I try to talk about it in any depth with you, but I want you to know that I’m aware, that I’m taking it seriously, and even when I’m not conveying it well, I genuinely care about you and I’m genuinely happy for you. I hope it’s okay with you that I need to leave it at that for now.”

    Possibly it could be a letter, or a card, or an email.

    • Shondra said:

      I think this is good advice, if you can avoid making it into a FEELINGSDUMP. Which might be difficult, understandably, because these are intense emotions that are really close to the surface right now. So I think the letter, card, or email might be a really good route to take here.

      • Marna Nightingale said:

        Yeah, written is safest, unless LW is pretty sure that she and Friend can keep it short and sweet(ish). Some people know they can, some people know they can’t, for most people It Depends, so.

        The main reason I’m recommending saying SOMETHING, even given the difficulty, is this: change, even positive change, is stressful — as LW is knee-deep in living through right now — and what LW is looking at doing, if they go with the Captain’s advice, is making another big — very much positive! but big — change. Which may well mean that it’s going to be Friend’s turn to have a — likely brief, probably mostly unconscious or at least emotionally complicated — Change Back Please This Is Scary! response at first, because even when a change is good and healthy and wanted by everyone, when one person in a relationship changes, well, in the short term it’s destabilising, unnerving, all that.

        So it seems like it would be good to have a bit of insurance in place against Friend, when faced with LW taking a bunch of steps to make themself happier, more independent, etc., concluding that this looks a lot like “going away mad”, or, indeed, just “going away”, instead of like LW making changes because they want to be happier AND have a better, healthier relationship with Friend and possibly FriendBF,

    • epigraphical said:

      Yes, I really agree. Say a short sentence to your friend – “I know I’ve been being a bit of a shit friend lately, and I am trying to fix it.” and then a bit later, when she shares boyfriend stuff “I really am happy for you, you know.” Just to let your friend now you know. It works wonders.

      • Ve said:

        I really like this approach. Says what you need to say without 1) inviting any follow-up questions 2) giving too many details or being overly vague.

    • Wildeabandon said:

      Yes, I was about to say something very similar.

  16. dancerdc said:

    I love your response, but I’d like you to elaborate: My temptation would be to do a work around the tumblr thing: “Hey, I know I’m being a shitty friend. I’m going to do my best to cut it out. I’d like to ask your help/ give you permission to swat me if you notice. Hopefully that will be better than my realizing it days/hours later.” Nothing long and deep conversation about it, but just include the friend on your plan, including possibly the plan to get a life and have to coordinate friendship dates sometimes.

    • dancerdc said:

      Woops, I left out the question: Basically, when would you advocate having that meta-conversation, and why not in this case? I’d think that abruptly becoming really busy doing hobbies she’s never had could seem like she was running away from the friend. I guess I couldn’t ignore the “I’m irritating my best friend but have no idea how” for three months.

  17. Shondra said:

    There’s amazing advice here. But let me add, as someone who’s been in your friend’s shoes, please don’t make her relationship something you don’t talk about. Me and my friend got through it, sort of, but I don’t feel ok talking to her about my relationship at all, and that means we will never be as close as we once were. I totally get that you wouldn’t want to hear all about him, but just ask about him every once in a while. It doesn’t have to be big – ask how his [band, job, hobby] is doing. Even if it’s painful, it’s a deposit on your friendship.

    • *sob*
      That’s where I am right now with a [once upon a time] very close friend of mine. I can’t bear to think or talk about his girlfriend and now there is a ginormous, wide, open, scary chasm that I don’t think can ever be crossed.
      :'(

    • twomoogles said:

      I have also seen this type of thing, and agree. I’ve seen it for lots of reasons, but it always means the friendship will be less close if the partner is just off limits to talk about. I have a friend who can’t mention his girlfriend even casually around his former best friend. Stuff like “Alyssa and I went to the movies the other day” would make things Awkward…so he’d just say “I went to the movies” and kind of excise mention of her to avoid the weirdness. And yeah, they’re much less close now.

      I’ve also been the one who has issues with a friend’s relationship, and I came to terms with it so I can at least talk about them and hang out with them, but there’s this unspoken thing because I’m not the biggest fan of my friend’s partner…and it’s fine, but occasionally weird.

  18. Twitchy said:

    I just want to point out that tumblr is a terrible place to put anything secret. There’s no way to lock anything down, and anyone can reblog anything all over hell and gone. Letting you know the URL and forbidding you to look at it just made it a worse idea. It’s like writing a secret diary on a poster on a wall, and I don’t blame you for looking.

    • Jane Steel said:

      LW, don’t beat yourself up too much for looking at that website. What I got from your letter was a real well of self-loathing. Your guilt about looking at the poem contributed to that, but it seems like you’re in a headspace where everything is fair game to berate yourself over. You’re human, you wanted to know what was going on in your friend’s mind, and the content was a single click away — most people with any shred of curiosity would have found that hard to resist. Anything I put on the Internet that can be generally accessed, I assume could be read by anyone I know and I wouldn’t have the right to get offended if someone did look at it. I think keeping slightly more tabs on people via social media than we’d like to admit is a bit of a universal these days! You were right not to bring it up with her and try not to do it again, but stop beating yourself up generally, and definitely not about this.

      I really felt for you when reading this, LW. I haven’t been through the exact same situation myself, but I know how it feels when things are going very well for a dear friend and badly for you. You love them and want them to be happy but you’re human and you’re jealous and bitter and feeling jealous and bitter of your friend makes you feel even more of a loser than you already did with your crappy job and your singleness and your life angst. Everyone has been there. I think it’s one of those cases where you find somewhere else to process those uglier, if legitimate, feelings, and then down the line, when the allocations of love and luck the universe has decided to bestow on the two of you (so much of it is chance!) have evened out a little more, you can bring it up with your friend in a more neutral way. “Yeah, I was a little jealous when you got together with X. I wanted to be more happy for you, but it was a really tough time for me”. I would never hold it against a friend who confessed up to feelings like that. Good friends who possess a level of emotional maturity can be honest with each other that How You’re Supposed to Feel is often very different to How You Actually Feel. I’ve gone off on a bit of an essay, I know, but this is one of my favourite quotes:

      “Between the experience of living a normal life at this moment on the planet and the public narratives being offered to give a sense to that life, the empty space, the gap, is enormous.” — John Berger

      Fantastic response as ever from the Captain. This hit home, it’s against every cultural narrative re: being single EVER. “Your friend met someone she meshes with because of dumb fucking luck, not because she’s magically better than you in some way. You’re okay.” Wanting a partner isn’t like wanting a new job. Yes, you can meet more people/improve your social skills/work on any glaring personal flaws, but if you haven’t met them yet, you haven’t met them yet, it’s not really something you can fix. They left the party just as you were arriving this time, unfortunately…

      • Ve said:

        This hit home, it’s against every cultural narrative re: being single EVER. “Your friend met someone she meshes with because of dumb fucking luck, not because she’s magically better than you in some way. You’re okay.”

        I LOVED that, because it really is true, especially regarding satisfying, emotionally healthy, long-term relationships, or even a healthy crush. I met the person I’m in love with very literally out of luck: if he didn’t approach me during the 10 – 15 minutes I allocated myself to stop by a get-together before work two years ago in Seville, Spain (I’m from Chicago. I moved to Madrid last fall and went to Seville over Christmas), I would have never started talking to him at all.

        • espritdecorps said:

          Yeah, there’s this idea that if you aren’t partnered up, you’re Doing Something Wrong or not Doing The Right Things.

          But the reality is you can’t control it. The best case scenario is: you do things you enjoy with people you like, and at some point you will bump into someone you’d like to rub bits and share chores with.

    • For sure. It struck me as weird that the roomie would give the LW the URL to her secret tumblr and then forbid LW from reading it-I personally would find it very, very difficult not to read the tumblr under those circumstances. The more I think about it, the more it feels like there could be some disingenuous intentions behind the roomie giving LW the url but forbidding her to read it.

      • Esti said:

        There could be, but it could also be as simple as the roomie reading a poem off the screen to LW one day and LW happening to see the URL.

      • tawg said:

        LW said that they know the URL, not that they were explicitly told it. There are plenty of ways to stumble onto usernames and such when you live with someone/are besties/they’re sharing content with you that they later post online.

    • Jolly said:

      Yeah, the whole “secret Tumblr” thing sounds like a really dumb mistake on Friend’s part. Not that looking was the coolest, but honestly, in my book LW gets a pass on that and Friend needs to reevaluate how she puts material out into the world.

      If I put “private” thoughts out in the public, and then specifically told someone close to me that it was out there for all to see, but that they shouldn’t look… I mean, who the fuck does that? That girl either needs a diary, or to start a truly anonymous Tumblr and then not tell people about it if she doesn’t want them to know what is on there (especially people who she is specifically talking about publicly in said space). That just seems like a fucked thing to do and is asking for so, so much drama.

      I’m not sure there is any good way for LW to communicate that, though, since no way is Friend not going to get defensive at how her completely imaginary privacy was violated.

      • Erin said:

        If you know where your friend’s diary is (physical, in their room), is it your friend’s or your fault for looking? I’m not saying LW did the worst thing in the world ™, I think they shouldn’t beat themself up for looking, but I don’t like the phrase “imaginary privacy”. The Internet can be a little like a shared flat, where you know the others are having sex, but you don’t acknowledge it, for the sake of everyone’s well-being. With the Internet, it can be the same.

      • God, good point, it’s weird how I do that totally imaginary privacy thing of putting my underwear in a drawer. And, like, the fact that one time I showed you a pair of underwear I’d just bought and you saw where I kept them means you can just rifle through them any time you like, AMIRITE?

        ‘The internet’ and ‘real life’ are not two totally distinct things with different rules. If I say ‘keep the fuck out of my underwear drawer/blog’, you keep the fuck out or you are invading my privacy.

        • dancerdc said:

          I don’t see how this compares to storing things in your own room in a shared house. It’s more like you put your underwear in a glass case in the living room and told LW not to look. Posting stuff on the internet (without a password) is like having a soapbox in Times Square. If you put your underwear on a soap box in Times Square, someone’s probably going to see it. if you have totally unique underwear (a poem you wrote, your name attached to your facebook account) and there are search engines that can point people to your underwear, you might take measures to limit exposure. Password protect it, make posts only to friends, etc.

          • It’s not in a glass case in the living room – it’s not on Facebook or a social network that is mutually agreed shared space. It’s in a place where the LW had to make a conscious effort to seek out, and that was already agreed upon as private – like a bedroom.

  19. EP said:

    Hi LW!

    I have definitely been the jealous friend before. I’d moved to a new city, started grad school, and was rooming with my best friend from college, who then got a boyfriend. Since she was about the only person I actually knew well enough to hang out with outside of lab/school stuff, if she was doing relationship things, I had fuck-all to do. On top of that, grad school was seriously stressing me out, and to make matters even worse, I had a massive crush on said friend, so I had I-want-to-date-you jealousy on top of My-friend-has-a-life-outside-of-me jealousy.

    It sucked. Big time. I think I managed not to let it leak out in an angry way at her, although there was one day she came back in the morning, and found ripped up cardboard boxes and FUCK written in the steam in the mirror, and I may have had a bit of a breakdown. (For the record? Attacking empty cardboard boxes with a wooden sword is *fantastic* stress relief.)

    What ended up salvaging things for me was exactly what the Captain recommended: Working on my life. I took a couple of sports classes at school, which at least gave me something to do twice a week, and joined the school’s RPG club, which was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I made a friend through a game, he invited me to a game outside of the club over the summer, and through that I got an awesome, diverse group of friends. It took months before said friend and I were at the “hang out outside of club” stage, but just going somewhere and doing something with people helped a lot. Especially on the nights where I would otherwise be at home, alone, having my brain eat at me while my roommate was out with the boyfriend.

  20. tinyorc said:

    Oh wow. This advice. This advice is just generally great life advice, and a lot of stuff I really needed to hear right now.

    The Captain already emphasised this, but I think it bears repeating: STOP SLEEPING WITH SHITHEAD. I say this because I have gone through periods of my life where I was sleeping with Shitheads. A lot of the time I was fully aware of my reasons. Some of them were healthy (I am emotionally drained from my last relationship but I still enjoy sex and companionship) and others not so healthy (All my friends appear to be falling into serious relationships and anything is better than FOREVER ALONE). I thought that because I was aware of my reasons and aware of the shitheadery, this awareness would somehow act as magic armour against getting hurt. Besides, I’ve always been fine with casual sex, it’s no big deal, I know what I’m doing, I’m not under any illusions about what this is, etc.

    But there is no armour when you’re periodically making yourself vulnerable with someone who has treated you badly or doesn’t care about you. Looking back, I can see how some of these toxic “casual” things were chipping away at my self-esteem and the resulting drama was conveniently distracting me from focusing on any of my real issues.

    Not that this is necessarily your situation of course, but I am someone who frequently falls into the Chill Girl trap and has warped pride in my emotional resilience. I like sex and I tell myself I can handle any Feelings Fallout for the sake of a good sex. And the thing is, I can. But just because I can, doesn’t mean I should. And long-term, it has effected how I see myself and the world. So stop sleeping with Shithead. If sex is an important thing to you, find someone to bang on the semi-regular who is not a Shithead! There are plenty of them out there!

    • charmed.omega said:

      +1000 Spending your time and dopamine spikes on someone who ultimately doesn’t make you feel good and you don’t like being around is not the right plan. Your time really is valuable and there are so many better people on the planet to be spending it with.

    • espritdecorps said:

      “Looking back, I can see how some of these toxic “casual” things were chipping away at my self-esteem and the resulting drama was conveniently distracting me from focusing on any of my real issues.”

      Lots of this!

      My life got so much better when I committed to only sleeping with people I liked who liked me back.
      There were still plenty of people to have sexytimes with, and I didn’t spend the next week obsessing over awful things done/said by shitheads. Which I had kind of enjoyed, but was really terrible for me.

  21. remi said:

    Can I just say I find the Tumblr thing a little strange? It just seems weird and a little childish and manipulative to be all, “this is my TOTALLY SECRET FEELINGS BLOG and here’s the url and here’s the stuff I post there BUT YOU CAN NEVER READ IT” to your friend who you are secretly blogging about. I’ve seen that sort of thing before; but it was in junior high, and it was done with the hopes of manipulating that person into reading what they’d been told not to read, so they’d find the stuff they were saying about them. Either because they wanted to get everything out in the open but were too emotionally immature to know how to do that, or it was intentional and they wanted to be able to shit-talk the other person but still have the defense of “that’s PRIVATE and you were never supposed to read it, now YOU are the bad guy for breaking my trust! Grovel until I forgive you for reading my insults about you!”

    Is that normal for Tumblr? I don’t use the site myself, so I really don’t know if everyone has multiple blogs or a public and a private blog or what, but it really does remind me of a seventh-grader leaving her diary at a friend’s house and making her very aware that it’s there and she’s not at all allowed to read it because it’s got private secrets and don’t read it but here it’s right over there with a bookmark in the latest page now don’t read it. I feel like if you had a private feelings-bombing blog then either you don’t want your dearest friend to read it so you wouldn’t draw attention to it or tell them the url, or else you’d be ok with your closest friend reading it and wouldn’t make a big deal out of them never looking on pain of death.

    • charmed.omega said:

      I feel like the length and roommateship of this relationship makes that more plausible. Like “What are you up to?” “Oh, well, I’m writing on the internet, but it’s actually kind of private. Is it okay if you don’t read it?”
      or
      “I wrote this poem and I want to share it with the internet! Can I read it to you and you can tell me if you think I should?” “Ooh, you’re on the internet? Where??” “Erm, actually, please don’t read it there – some of the things are private. I can read you the ones I want to share.”

    • remi said:

      And dang, I gotta refresh and double check the thread before I leave comments because this exact thing was dealt with a few comments up.

  22. canomia said:

    I’ve been on the other side of this situation and thought that story might be good for you to hear.

    It was a very similar situation actually, we’d spent every moment of everyday together and it was great and then I fell in love with someone else. First time I slept at his place the day started by having his parents(yes, we were like 17) hand me the phone with my extremely worried friend who’d pretty much just moved heaven and earth to find where I was. That was the beginning of a really hard period of our friendship. For the first time there was an imbalance between us. She needed more from me than I had to give and it was suffocating me. I desperately didn’t want her to be sad and the guilt of it all made it impossible for me to talk to her about it and I wrote something on a blog I didn’t think she’d read. She did though, like you did. And she misunderstood and thought I meant it more literally than I did. There was a constant strain but we kept hanging out and it didn’t really get better for a long time, not even when that boyfriend dumped me. Not until she moved away for school for a year and we had more limited contact and, like the captain said, I had a chance to really miss her. After that year was done we had both grown and we rebuilt our friendship in a way that worked for both of us.

    Since then we have lived together for periods of time and she is the only person, other than my family, that I know I’m going to spend my whole life with in one way or another. We’ve been friends now for more than 10 years and sometimes I think back to what happened back then and it freaks me out. I honestly don’t know what might have happened if we didn’t get that time apart. She is probably the most important person in my life and I don’t know what I’d do without her so I’m so incredibly thankful that she did back of for a while there to focus on her stuff so that we could find each other again in a better way.

    I understand how much right now must suck for you but it will get better. I wish you the best of luck and hope you will take the captains advice and take good care of yourself.

    Jedi Hugs!

    • Ella Ella Ay Ay Ay said:

      My situation resolved with time apart, too. In high school, it was just my best friend and me. We spent hours on the phone or on AIM every night, and neither of us really spent any time with any other friends. On the one hand, it was life-saving (I really had very few other friends), but on the other hand, it was sort of codependent and dysfunctional because we were very young and didn’t know how to communicate, set boundaries, etc.

      When I started dating my first boyfriend at 17, shit exploded. We never talked about it and still haven’t in any real depth. The way it resolved was that we both went to college and learned how to have a life outside each other. And since then we haven’t lived remotely close to each other—she actually moved to a different country. We are still best friends in that we get each other in a way no one else can, and we can tell each other anything, and we love spending time with each other on the rare occasion we’re both in the same city. (The only person closer to me is my boyfriend of several years whom I live with.) It’s a much better/healthier relationship now, but very radically different from what it was ten years ago. In any case, “move to a different country” probably isn’t widely practical advice….

  23. Kate said:

    It’s amazing how often the posts that go up directly mirror exactly what I’m going through at that time. I’m literally right there with you LW, I know you can pull yourself through this and salvage an important friendship!

  24. staranise said:

    Hating yourself in an effort to make yourself less hateful is like drinking seawater when you’re thirsty. It feels like it’s working, but it only ends up making the situation worse. Jennifer’s right; even if you feel like you don’t deserve good things or friends, the way to make this better really is to start a change where you love yourself no matter what.

    I used to think that if I wasn’t constantly hard on myself, I wouldn’t work to be a better person. But I started being easier on myself because it was better for myself. What I noticed was that as I became more loving and compassionate towards myself, I actually became better at noticing times when I’d screwed up or was being unkind to someone. Those events stopped being drowned out by the roar of false positives. And then I was better equipped to change, because a) I was more rested than when I’d been anxious and desperate all the time, and b) I had a better idea of what things would look like if they were fixed.

    • I love all your comments on all the threads, staranise. I envy those who get to see you in a professional capacity.

    • “Hating yourself in an effort to make yourself less hateful is like drinking seawater when you’re thirsty.”

      I’m quoting this!

    • Pterinochilus murinus said:

      I actually became better at noticing times when I’d screwed up or was being unkind to someone. Those events stopped being drowned out by the roar of false positives.

      *sound of a penny dropping*

      Oh. I should try that.

      Thank you.

    • espritdecorps said:

      I need to hear this.

      I’m seconding the love for your comments. I find myself turning them over in my mind, and going back to them weeks later.

  25. tawg said:

    I’ve been pretty jealous and gross myself. My ex had a job that ate up a lot of his time, dominated our shared time because he always talked about how he hated his job, and also made my life uncomfortable and inconvenient for various other reasons. One thing that I found that helps during the initial ‘be nice to yourself so you can be genuine and constructive later on’ period was to re-purpose the time that was not being spent with me. I was able to change the weekend daylight hours he spent at work from “I’m feeling neglected, I hate this job and I hate that he’s so tied up with it” into “I can watch porn with the volume right up (without him seeing that as an invitation for sexytimes)” or “I can watch the movies that he hates without his commentary” or “I can soak in the bath with a book without getting interrupted every time he needs to pee”.

    Hopefully you have a better relationship with your friend than I did with my ex at that point :p But I think that changing the meaning of the times where your bestie is hanging with her boyfriend might help some of the jealousy feelings.

  26. espritdecorps said:

    Sixteen years ago my best friend/sister from another mother/woman I would have married if we had any pants feelings for each other ‘Jane’ and I decided to live separately after two years together.

    We did this after a discussion where we agreed that dating people we did have pants feelings for wasn’t working out because we put all our emotional energy into each other. She moved to a different city and I cried for weeks straight. I would come home to my empty place and cry. It was the worst breakup of my life.

    No one I dated compared, and I ended up sliding into a relationship with Vader-ex just to have someone to be with.

    I wish someone had told me to take care of myself.
    I wish someone had told me it was okay to grieve.
    I wish someone had told me that being head over heels in friend love would teach me to trust love itself, and my worthiness of it.

    Because when I met Jane I didn’t believe I was worthy of being loved. I was a mess. I fouled up good relationships, and clung to shitheads. And after she left my world died. It felt like no one would ever love me for me again.

    But what I didn’t realize until many years later, was that being with her was the beginning. Way down the part of me that believed I was a good person, reached out to her, and she reached back.

    When I left Vader-ex, I spent a year in therapy and meeting people/reestablishing old friendships before I started dating again. I only went out with people who liked me, that was a rule. It was scary.

    After year of dating I found Spouse and recognized the sense of family, the intimacy, and fun of my relationship with Jane.
    But this time there were pants feelings. And instead of driving him away because he was too good for me, I let myself trust, just a bit.

    I’m sending you giant jedi hugs LW. I’m going to be thinking of you, and rooting for you to fall in love with you.

    • Erin said:

      Beautifully written *sheds a little tear*

  27. storyranger said:

    This post came at a perfect time for me to preemptively take stock of a friendship, and I couldn’t be more grateful. Basically, me and my friend by virtue of our program and interests have 95% of our classes together and share all the same social activities and work at the same place, and in our limited free time we’ve each made a project of fixing the other up with someone wonderful.
    Long story short, I succeeded, but now I’m worried I’ll turn into a jealousy monster as I watch her happily enjoy the fruits of my plotting. But I have other awesome friends who I’ve probably been neglecting anyways who I can talk to. I’m going to be really nice to myself. And we’re going to be fine.

    LW: I’ve been there before several years ago when the person I was completely dependent on got a guy and left me in the dust. It sucks. Getting upset is a thing that happens. But believe me when I say that you CAN repair the friendship, and meeting new people will really, really help with that.

  28. Bluegirl said:

    Oh boy, did I need this one. When I moved into my current 3-person sharehouse, we were all a bunch of recently-single ladies who did a lot of crying and back-slapping together and took a lot of support from the cameraderie of being newly single. Now one roommate has a girlfriend and the other is living the life of frequent casual sex I think she’s always wanted, and I’m… not. Dating is hard for me and picking up is out of the question, so I’m just not there yet.

    These roommates who used to make me feel great about myself, they’re starting to make me feel not-so-great. Like I’m pathetic and don’t fit in with them anymore, because they’ve moved on and found the relationships (or non-relationships) they want to have, and I just… haven’t. I try to feel happy for them, but a lot of the time I just can’t, or I feel like I’m putting it on.

    (It doesn’t help that I slept with one of them a few times during the early We Are So Single And In Pain days.)

    I worry that it’s fraying the friendships, too, but I’m trying to just take some time out and spend time with people who DO make me feel good about myself, and enjoy the “single buddies hang out and watch movies” kind of a Friday night rather than the “go out clubbing and hook up with strangers” one.

  29. OpheliaDev said:

    I am going to disagree with the Captain a bit here. I am in a somewhat similar situation in my housesharing arrangement. My roommate has done some things that have hurt me deeply. She knows some specific things, but not everything. An apology for even one of those things would be HUGE for me.

    So while you may strive to just not do more damage to the friendship, it may be the case that damage is continuing to be done b/c your friend is thinking, “Why can’t she just apologize for one shitty thing?” That is how I am feeling towards my roommate right now. I am feeling hurt, used and very very raw, so while these big sins lay between us, every small roommate sin is another blow to our relationship. In my case, I am not interested in salvaging our friendship. I am just being pleasant until she moves out. We will probably have a very superficial relationship after this.

    If you were not living together, then you could take a break for a few weeks or months and recover, then reconnect. But you are seeing each other every day, so those wounds don’t really have a chance to scab over.

    Perhaps you could write your friend a letter or email. Something like, “I know I haven’t been the best friend and roommate recently, and I’m sorry. Right now I am feeling very upset about some things in my life, so I’m not ready to talk about it. But I will strive to treat you with the kindness and respect that you deserve going forward. I hope that in a month or two, we can sit down and talk.” I don’t know if that would work for you. But I know in my case that by the time my roommate’s life isn’t stressful and hectic and she’s ready to apologize (if that ever happens), it won’t really matter to me. I will accept it graciously. But I will always view her as the person was happy to let me clean up her dogs’ vomit and urine on a near-weekly basis, but didn’t bother to introduce me to her boyfriend when he flew in for a visit. They were busy having dinner with her friends.

  30. I have an infinite stream of fluffy Jedi hugs, LW, if you would like them.

    Learning how to be your own friend is tough at the best of times, and tougher when things look like they’re coming up roses (or venus fly-traps, or other awesome flora of choice) for everyone else but not you. Especially when they all fit in with society’s roadmap of ‘this is what successful and happy looks like’. Been there, done the mandatory service with Lieutenant Self-Loathing.

    The Captain’s point about not engaging with media that makes you feel like you lose all worth as a human if you dump Shithead and thereby become *oh horror of horrors* single (much less actually ENJOYING being single), is a small but mighty point.

    For example, the past year I’ve lived in a house with a TV that only functions if you’re playing a DVD. So if I want to consume media I need to actively choose it. Which can, oddly, be a small step towards being your own friend. Instead of sitting there and flicking through channels passively, I get to say, ‘Hey me, what do I want to watch?’ and then reply to myself ‘Ooooh! I get to pick! Hooray!’. And it helped big-time with rebuilding self-worth by removing that one extra pressure. Baby steps, but in retrospect I think it was a bigger watershed than I gave it credit for at the time.

  31. Marvel said:

    “Notice I said “Meet more people”, not “make more friends.” Making new friends = pressure! Pressure on you, pressure on the people to be good friend material. Meeting new people = No pressure! You can say “I met & talked to one new person tonight, SUCCESS!” Let making new friends be a happy surprise, not a goal.”

    THANK YOU for this; this happened to be what I needed to hear right now, too. Making friends is one of those things that, for me, falls under the category of Stuff Other People Know How to Do But I Don’t Because I Am a Failure. I’ve grown up in the company of many social butterflies, and watching them do something so easily that was always a nightmare for me was… hard. On top of that, I’m also an extrovert with social anxiety disorder, which means 1) I have an insatiable need to be around people and 2) each time I reach out and talk to someone I don’t know well, it takes an extraordinary amount of energy that I don’t always have to spare. And, inevitably, I set myself up for defeat by thinking of it as “trying to make friends” instead of “meeting and talking to more people”–I end up disappointed when everyone I talk to doesn’t insta-click, instead of being proud of myself for talking to someone.

  32. Dearest LW,
    This was me six months ago. Partner, friend of many years, new best friend, and I all moved in together. And then I went crazy, in ways that I had never imagined I could do. Over the course of a mere three months, I managed to freak out my endlessly patient partner, enrage my old friend and make her feel abandoned and betrayed, and drive away my new best friend – and while I do not own all blame, I certainly helped the disaster along by being jealous and shitty and general awful to be around. Something that helped me think about what was happening was reading this, over on the Pervocracy: http://pervocracy.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-worst-thing-in-world.html. The worst thing in the world I could imagine was losing my new best friend. And then I lost her and my other friend, too, and had to move in less than a month during final exams week (thank any god who is listening for previously mentioned patient partner) and you know what? The next morning, I still had to get up and go to work.
    I hope you can take some of the advice and get through this rough patch and continue being friends with your roommate, because that would be awesome. But from the other side of a similar situation, if the worst happens, it turns out it actually not the end of the world.
    Hugs if you want them.

    • espritdecorps said:

      I’m bookmarking this! Thanks for sharing.

  33. Oh man, I have lost more than one friend because of situations like yours, LW. I know that must be scary to read. I have always been lonely, and for some reason never realized that one person, one friendship or relationship, could never FIX the gaping hole of “PLEASE LOVE ME” lurking in my heart.
    It wasn’t until I made friends with multiple people who had decent-sized friend groups, often had supportive families, and had healthy significant-other relationships that I began to understand that the reason I had been alienating people who actually really liked me was because I was trying to get all my emotional needs met by one person. That is too much, and not healthy.
    Now, I’d say I fulfill 60% of my own emotional needs, by doing all the kinds of self-care stuff that Captain mentioned. I’m gradually building a support network of friends and other people who like me, and I credit that in large part to me finally really realizing that when I feel angry/resentful/sad at someone who cares about me for “not making me feel better,” that is a very good indicator that 1. I am not happy OTHER ASPECTS OF MY LIFE THAT ARE NOT THIS FRIENDSHIP (and therefore relying on the friendship to be The One Good Thing That Gets Me Through), and 2. I am asking too much from that friendship, and the tension I am feeling is the result of me pulling to hard on that rope. The answer to number one is putting more effort towards other aspects of my life (job no longer fulfilling? work on grad school applications/research possible fields of interest! living situation not working out? look at apartments and start planning for a future move! lonely? invest some effort in social stuff, and also take self on solo me-dates and other good things that remind me loneliness is not as terrible as it makes itself seem). The answer to number 2 is to stop pulling, stop trying to make that relationship meet all the needs that you have, because it cannot do that. It is hard not to resent doing this, I know! But you’ve correctly acknowledged that this is your shit to deal with, and that is part of it. In my experience, though, starting on no. 1 generally gives a sense of hopefulness and forward momentum that often leads to new things in your life, including humans who are potential friends, and also a general breath of fresh air.

    I hope all the advice and comments from Captain and commentariat helps. Good luck from someone who knows exactly how hard it is. Sending you good thoughts.

    • Argh, to clarify this paragraph:
      “It wasn’t until I made friends with multiple people who had decent-sized friend groups, often had supportive families, and had healthy significant-other relationships that I began to understand that the reason I had been alienating people who actually really liked me was because I was trying to get all my emotional needs met by one person. That is too much, and not healthy.” – I saw these friends and how their different relationships filled different needs, and also how they would kind of rotate between people to give all the relationships natural breaks and releases. It was quite an education!

      • espritdecorps said:

        It was clear, very well said, and true.

        I lost a lot of good relationships by turning my friends into soul spackle, and being angry when the sad showed through.

        • Sahrafel said:

          Heh, soul spackle. Love it!

        • As Sahrafel said, excellent metaphor!

        • staranise said:

          That is a glorious metaphor.

  34. Ve said:

    As someone else has already mentioned, this is wonderful life advice. So much pain in so many areas of life can be alleviated with “love yourself first.” Between my trying to figure out what relationship — if any — I desire with my family-of-origin (I’ve been reading quite a few “When to cut the ties” articles), contemplating what steps to take regarding my object of affection, and constantly feeling drained and stressed trying to make a life for myself overseas….self-care really is the first thing I need to address. Looking out for your needs is not inherently selfish. Not allowing others to suck the life out of you is not selfish. Spending a little more money for more piece of mind is not always unwise.

  35. atma said:

    This is such a lovely reply, kind and really useful!

  36. the-fisher-queen said:

    I was the other person in a situation exactly like this.
    Except there was an added wrinkle — my version of the LW had a huge secret crush on me, which she never told me about. She ended up living with me and two other people, one of whom is my girlfriend.
    She, like LW, was not so social and didn’t make friends easily.
    We, like LW and friend, had lived together for years — all through college.

    So, I have some experience with this situation.
    LW, your friend/roommate probably feels totally suffocated by you.
    Believe me, she knows that you feel jealous and emotional and clingy.
    She probably resents this.
    She is probably spending more time with her boyfriend/work/schooling than she used to, because she is trying to get away from your FEELINGS.

    From your friend’s perspective, it is very hard to feel this way. Believe me, I ended up crying in the shower because I couldn’t get my version of the LW to leave me alone. I felt totally out of control of my own environment.

    The thing you need to do, to rescue this, is back waaaaaay the hell off.
    I know it’s the hardest thing to do, and something you probably don’t want to do. But if you keep at it the way you are, your friend will run far, far away and probably never come back.
    Do not dump emotionally on your friend. Resist the urge to manipulate her into massaging your feelings. If she asks you to back off, to let an issue drop, to leave her alone, DO IT. If you don’t, what you’re showing her is “My emotional needs are worth more than your comfort, integrity, or opinions.” Not a good way to make or keep a friend.

    The captain’s advice about getting a new hobby or activity that doesn’t involve your friend is spot on. Meet other people who share your interests. Also, this gives a really handy one or two nights a week where you and your friend are apart. You can do something fun, she can hang with your boyfriend, when you’re around each other, you have something new to talk about.

    • Twitchy said:

      It seems like you’re making a few assumptions here. Just because you felt suffocated and resentful with your friend doesn’t mean that LW’s friend does. It’s entirely possible that Friend values the relationship and wants it to work, but doesn’t know how to deal with that now that she has a boyfriend. It seems a little harsh to assume that LW’s friend must hate being around her.

  37. This is beautiful. LW, there’s a lot to absorb here; it might be worth printing this out, keeping it close, and re-reading all or parts of it as you need to.

    I have been in a similar sort of place. I know the kind of friend you’re talking about; my best friend is like that too. We never lived together, but if I’d left my husband when I should have, we would have. I think of her as my platonic partner.

    A decade ago, after living down the street from each other our whole friendship, we both moved cross-country, in opposite directions. She was one of the two friends I stayed in touch with after I left, and I was one of the relatively few people she stayed close with. Both of us had trouble making friends in our new towns. Both of us were in relationships that were tanking, hard, and lost friends and felt isolated. It was a very hard, dark time. We talked on the phone for hours at a time, several times a week. We spent many days in deep intense FEELINGSMAIL exchanges instead of working at our jobs. The deep intimacy we’d had when we were seeing each other every day and raising our kids together in a big loud messy herd was nothing to this fraught, intense crucible of loneliness and ONLY YOU UNDERSTAND.

    And then… things got better. First for her, then for me. We both made local friends. We both got busier as we settled into our new jobs and gained responsibilities. We were in better relationships. We both began having the time and resources to really get our teeth into the Great Meaningful Work Of Our Lives, as avocations, and then, at times, as second jobs, that just kept us even busier. It was genuinely a GOOD thing for us both. It still is.

    But during this period of things getting better (!), I was a horrible, jealous, anxiety-ridden, fickle, uncommunicative beastmonster. I was angry at her and full of hatred for myself, and it all came down to one thing: what would happen when she didn’t need me anymore?

    But the simple thing is – and it took me a long time to learn this, and I almost destroyed this beautiful friendship before I did – it wasn’t and could not be about need, it had to be – and was – about love.

    You know what? We’re still here. Because we want to be. Our relationship is different now. We talk about different things. We cry less; we have other shoulders for the crying, although sometimes, we go back to each other for the crying because it’s the safest place we know. We talk on the phone less, share silly and happy things on Facebook more. We’re not quite as close as we were during the worst of the Dark Time, and THANK GOD, because that kind of desperate clinging need was terrifying in its intensity and not sustainable in the long haul. We’re, right now, not quite where either of us would like to be, and having busy lives and being on opposite ends of the world has a lot to do with that and is unlikely to change any time soon, but we keep working at it.

    Your relationship WILL change, because life is change. Sit with that, chew on it a little, let it hurt, get comfortable with it. If not now, later. If not this boy, some other boy, or some job, or something. It will not always be exactly what it is right now, or what it has been. But love can carry you through change.

    If there is love there – and it sounds like there really, really is – you need to move love back to the center of the picture. Love for her, and for yourself. An intentional practice of kindness, for her and for yourself. Willingness to see things as they really are, not as you would wish them to be, for her, and for yourself. Trust, for her, and for yourself. It’s the only way.

    The Captain offers many excellent, specific, practical, tangible ways to do this, and there are more in the comments, and there will be more over the coming days. This is incredibly valuable stuff. The big-picture thought is this: you don’t WANT to be in this friendship because you need her, or she needs you. Down that road lies manipulation, control, and damage, and you have a good heart and you don’t want that. Be there because it makes you both happier, healthier people. Changes to the shape of the relationship that keep you both happy and healthy are changes to the good. You are not helpless in this. Make an active choice, every day, to be, or move closer to, where you want to be, and trust her to do the same, whatever the outcome.

  38. thekatcameback said:

    Much needed advice for me as well. I’ve recently moved countries (well, continents) to start my PhD, and honestly I am as lonely as fuck. I left behind a MA program that was full of great friends who I hung out with all the time, and siblings that I used to spend hours just chilling out with, and high school friends who I could count on to sit down with me and a pot of tea and just talk about what’s going on. And I know I still have them in some ways, but establishing a distance relationship is difficult (and I’ve learned the hard way, some of my MA friends aren’t great at it.) Beyond that, I’m 7 hours ahead of everyone I love, which leaves long segments of the day where it’s just team Kathleen against the world– and team Kathleen would not be legally allowed to field a soccer game.

    There is one friend that I’ve always had a mutually reliant relationship with based on online stuff. We RP regularly, and have for nearly ten years. We know probably too much about her, and people who meet us kind of consider us a packaged deal– what someone says to her will probably come out to me, because we act as each other’s sounding boards. And now she has a boyfriend.

    One of the problems is that I love this guy, he’s like a bro to me. I enjoy spending time with them together, and I don’t begrudge her happiness (or his.) We talked about him lots when she was nervous about entering a relationship she hadn’t planned on, and then continually as their relationship inches forward into the Seriously Serious, with them planning on moving in together. To rehash, I love him and I love them.

    But I don’t love her and I as much on it. When she’s with him, she’ll forget that she has plans with me. When we used to spend every night talking together, it drops drastically when he’s in town. And the top part of my brain gets it, but the rest of me hurts because I need so badly to have someone there for me, and she can’t fulfill that role any more. And because I’m already wounded and feeling like I’ve been shuffled a bit, times when things don’t work out for us take on sharper significance. If she naps instead of talking to me, I’m hurt. Some night, I wait up until two or three in the morning because she’d said she’d be online, and I fall asleep miserable and sleep the day away.

    I don’t know how to fix that. She has a day job which was originally supposed to be until four, which meant 11 for me. Recently, as I mentioned, she’s been coming online later and later, or not at all. And then I feel like a fucking dependent, miserable little idiot. I used my words and asked, and she admitted that for now she’s going to be later, and I said that in that case we probably couldn’t talk every night because staying up that late means I don’t get work done in the day like I should.

    I know I can text her when I need her, and she does the same, and I am grateful. But what I want is to RP, to escape from the fact that I’ve been here a month and have no friends yet. I want to be someone else, and she’s very happy with who she is and has no interest in leaving that sphere.

    It is time to take your advice. I’ve been trying to do it, throwing myself into as many events here as I can. I do fall for the MAKING FRIENDS problem, which makes me sick and avoidant in the leadup and always works out ok (I don’t have a problem with socializing, in the moment, I just find it exhausting and nervewracking). I’m trying to join committees, I’ve gone to every lecture my department offers. I guess the problem is, what I really need to do to make myself feel better is to let go of the wall and actually tread water on my own.

    I’m awful at letting go.

  39. Starkat said:

    This letter was actually published at a great time for me because I’m having an attack of my friends are making new friends/moving away from the activity we do together WHAT DO I DO feelings. Thanks for the great advice as always!

  40. tessiselated said:

    Something small I wanted to add, when I’ve been the jealous friend I’ve been very bad at recognising that people can change and that’s not necessarily bad.

    “Oh, now she’s got a new boyfriend and now she doesn’t hang out in the scene and looks totally different and betrayed her roots and ideals” But when I got a boyfriend and left the scene? I was deeply unhappy with my friendship group within the scene, I was bored of the music and I wanted to stretch and grow. Cue dawning realisation that she probably wasn’t brainwashed by love or her new partner, but much like me she just changed and that was okay.

    “Oh, now she’s got a girlfriend and she only hangs out at lesbian bars and wears flannel. I’ve dated women and I never turned into a walking stereotype.” Instead of “Hey, she’s finding ways to express herself and experience parts of her identity that she wasn’t able to in our old friendship group.”

    There’s an old Questionable Content strip that I’m not going to find because there’s way too many of them, but two characters start dating, and the one says something like “I always hated the guy who snuggled his girlfriend through the whole show, but now that I have someone who I love to share the music with me, it’s actually pretty great.”

    Just because your friend has a facebook picture of her and her partner and it’s something you’ve previously mocked isn’t a betrayal. It just means that she’s found meaning in something that she hadn’t when she was in a different place in her life.

    It’s like being able to plan a perfect horror movie survival plan from the comfort of the couch, but probably not reacting a quarter sa rationally if actually in that situation.

  41. therufs said:

    Imma just throw this out here in case any other happily-significant-othered people with sad roommates who used to be besties come by: It’s shitty to be upset about the way your friend is acting and not actually say to friend “Hey, what’s your deal, anyway?”

    HARRUMPH.

    • h said:

      I really don’t agree with this… these dynamics involve someone who used to be a friend acting more and more like a jerk, in little ways, over time. Asking “What’s your deal” escalates the conflict and turns it into one big “You are getting on my last nerve” conversation instead of many small ones. The decision to do that is not trivial.

      I ran into this with a co-worker who morphed from friend into jerk. I thought hard about whether or not to have the “What’s your deal” conversation with him. I decided not to. Eventually I found out that he wanted to shift careers, but the night classes he was taking weren’t going well. Then he switched to a different program and became much nicer again. If I had had that conversation? Maybe he would have gotten a handle on himself faster, or then again maybe he would have gotten worse. I had to share space with him regardless of whether or not I liked him – and the same is true of a roommate.

  42. atma said:

    Closure, that thing you give yourself after you take care of yourself

    One way of doing it.

  43. atma said:

    I wanted the image in the post, wrong HTML

    • JenniferP said:

      You’d have to get the url for the image itself (not the site) and use the code img src=”” instead of a href. I think it works better as a link, so don’t worry about fixing it here, but in the future you’ll know.

      • atma said:

        Thanks!

  44. I’ve been in this situation and, more awkwardly, I’ve been in the position of trying to give advice to someone in this situation, and this is AWESOME and amazingly helpful.

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