#1202: “My friend proposed moving into a shared office, I said yes and made all the necessary arrangements, but now she’s suddenly changed her mind. Am I a bad sport if I need some space from spending time with her?”

Dear Captain Awkward,

I am a psychotherapist, and a friendly colleague who is also a psychotherapist said she would like me to take a room in a three-room office she was acquiring. This plan didn’t work out because the sale fell through. She then bought a two-room office and the idea, always an idea in consideration not a formal offer, was that I and another colleague of hers might share the second office. (I never ever asked after or pushed for any of this.) I considered this a viable-if-not-sure plan and accordingly waited many months for sales to go through etc.,while adjusting my practice because this office was in another part of the city (basically not marketing in my area and gearing up for a change). It reached the point that we all met, discussed final furnishings and hours in the room and rental fees, and I and the other colleague stated we were happy to go forward.

Two days later my ‘friendly colleague’ told me that she was separating from her husband and needed the space to herself, that she had felt very ill over sharing it, that she was sorry. She then pressed me to meet her for a coffee. We met, I asked how the other party had taken the news, and she told me that the other person would be using the room as she had made a promise to her. Never in any of this was the disparity in promise level shared with me. ‘Friendly colleague’ (!) then pressed me for an ongoing time we could meet up as friends. I don’t wanna! Thoughts? Am I being a bad sport?, or is it a sensible decision to cut my losses with this colleague and how to say so if pressed?

Hi there, thanks for your question!

How awful and stressful for you!

It seems like your friend’s “let’s meet for a friendly coffee” invitation (and pressure about that) is skipping past an extremely important conversation, the one where you acknowledge that you’re PISSED OFF and DEEPLY INCONVENIENCED by her choices. Your friend apologized, but she wants you to reassure her it’s okay and rush ahead to the part where everything is cool and friendly between you again. It’s okay if you’re not ready to do that skipping, and also okay if you’re not in the mood to reassure and comfort and listen to someone who just did something that throws a massive wrench in your life, even if you can acknowledge her difficult circumstances.

You know yourself and your friend best, so what would happen if you were to say something like this to her?:

“Hey, friend, I’m gonna pass on that coffee for now, and I need to get something off my chest.

I have so much sympathy for you and [spouse] splitting up,  of course you need to do whatever takes care of you during a difficult time, but I have to confess: The abrupt change in the business plans we made together has been extremely disruptive professionally and financially, and the news that you’re moving ahead with our other colleague but not with me has hurt my feelings quite a lot. I’m not sure why it was okay for you to break a promise to me but not to [colleague], but it doesn’t sit well.

I never asked for this “shared office” plan, but I went forward in good faith based on the discussions we had. This sudden reversal is making me wish now that I’d never agreed to any of it. I’m not going to pressure you to reverse your decision, you need to do what’s right for you, but I also need some time to rethink my professional situation and make a plan B for where to take my practice. I’m not in the best place to hang out in a fun way or be a listening ear quite yet.

What I’d like very much to do is to put this whole issue behind us for now so we can each focus on getting ourselves back on track, and I’ll call you in a few months when everything’s more settled and we can catch up then, how does that sound?” 

Would she hear you out and give you some space, and accept a call graciously down the road when and if you’re ready to make it? Does your friendship only work if it’s all at her convenience or all about you supporting what she wants? Has she ever offered you any compensation or help in response to the inconvenience to you in changing plans? Would she read needing some time to yourself as being unforgivably unsupportive of her? Would being able to express how upset you are and ask for some needed space make you feel better, even if it won’t resolve things between you and your friend? Instead of having a big conversation with her is it better for you to say  “I can’t meet up for coffee right now,  I’ll get in touch when I have time” without more explanation (and then let whatever time is the right amount for you go by before getting in touch).

You’re in a field where you help people have hard conversations about their own needs and set boundaries, so this is me encouraging you to do some of that for yourself. This lady is clearly putting herself first, your third friend second, and you dead last, so it’s more than okay to put yourself first in the aftermath of such a big messy crisis. It’s not petty or a failure to be a good friend, especially when it’s clear that no one else will prioritize you! You know already that you can have sympathy for someone dealing with something hard (a sudden divorce would be a battering ram in anybody’s business plans) without taking their problems on as your own or at the expense of your own well-being.

Say no to coffee. If that makes you “a bad sport” then be a bad sport. Take some time if you can and regroup: What will it take to rebuild your practice? Is this the right time to move offices, even if it’s solo or you decide to share with another practitioner? (My physical therapist shares space with a pair of lone-wolf attorneys and a travel agency/event planning firm, it works great for them and together they an afford a more centrally-located address and nicer amenities than any of them could swing alone). Revisit what, if anything, was good about this proposed arrangement for you [the prospect of working more closely with other people, sharing rent and admin costs, a shorter commute & better location for you & your clients, ease of making fluid referrals between your practiceschanging up your schedule to certain part-time hours] and see what could be replicated on your own now that you’ve got momentum to move behind you.

I think when the dust clears, you are going to be relieved not to have your livelihood and professional well-being tied up with the plans of someone who would reverse course on you so abruptly. Also, in the future, you’ll have learned some lessons like: Make a habit of getting any plans that affect your finances and your business in writing ahead of time, put a clear structure for making decisions, a structure for communicating, a set of financial remedies and plans for exactly what to do if things change so you aren’t bearing those costs alone in writing ahead of time. Money stuff goes in writing. Nobody spends money, signs paperwork, breaks leases until everything is in writing. Even with friends. Especially with friends. Especially with this friend, who might suggest revisiting this idea someday in the future, at which time you’ll say, “Thanks for thinking of me, but I don’t want to mix business and our friendship in that way.” 

You can’t go back, so go forward in a way that takes care of you. That’s what your friend did, and I believe that you can do it, too. Very best wishes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

59 comments
  1. Krista said:

    I would also add something like what is in caps, below.

    “The abrupt change in the business plans we made together has been extremely disruptive professionally and financially, and the news that you’re moving ahead with our other colleague but not with me has hurt my feelings quite a lot” BECAUSE YOU MADE A PROMISE TO ME, ALSO.

    But I may have misread this and you had a different arrangement than the other colleague.

    • JenniferP said:

      SOLID EDIT.

  2. Pam Ruatto said:

    This is serious stuff! When I worked as a freelance illustrator/graphic designer, the stress around having a work studio, steady clients and a place to meet them was second only to concerns about the well-being of my immediate family. To have held back on marketing would have scared the pants off of me as a risk of unknown proportions—how many jobs would I not have in the future because agencies/individual clients forgot about me? There is a time to be self-righteous and it’s right here in front of you. All that Captain says about what you might say is right on. I never did mix business with friendship, but that’s because nobody made me the attractive offer/suggestion that was made to you. Had a friend who was also a professional done so, I quite likely would have gone for it and trusted them to follow through. I will echo what the Captain sez here to really evaluate this friendship, and add that it might be powerful to make a very brief, and spare declaration of, “I am not up for that right now.” With no explanation or indication of when you will be. She has jerked you around—not just socially, though she has clearly also hurt you in that way—but in your work life. Let her come to you, let her ask before you explain and let her stew a bit—she has earned it. Her going through a divorce does not excuse this carelessness toward you at all. Not at all. Particularly since she managed to follow through with another party. And her asking you to rush past this betrayal so she feels as little remorse as possible is manipulative and selfish. Make her earn her way back and let her feel it—otherwise you remain the “friend” she can comfortably betray without consequence.

  3. Sydney2000 said:

    LW, you have every right to be upset about this! You made plans for your professional future and your ‘friendly colleague’ has let you down. That sucks and I hope you are able to move forward quickly with new plans.
    I think it’s important to seperate the divorce issue from the rental/office share issue. You can be sympathetic about the divorce and angry about the office share. It seems that your ‘friendly colleague’ wants to make them one and the same, wedging you into a corner where you can’t say that you are upset about the broken promise without looking like an awful person who doesn’t understand that she’s going through a tough time. IMO it’s important for you mentally to frame them as seperate and not get sucked into conversations where she mixes the two.
    Breaks are good and healthy especially in a situation like this.

  4. scrapworks said:

    Having had a number of friends go through divorces (ranging all the way from fairly amicable to all-out warfare), it strikes me as one of those life-altering events that brings out both the best and worst of people. Some people impress you with their self-awareness (i.e. the friend who said to me ‘I realize that my friends are super important right now, but also that I’m kind of a mess, and please know that I appreciate your support and love you even when I’m a wallowing sad-sack’). And some people reveal that they were never really a good friend to begin with (i.e. the former friend I had who told another good pal “your dad suddenly dying has made you selfish and not supportive of what I”M going through” – I kid you not, she said this). I think LW, that your Friendly Colleague is somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, and her unfortunate situation is revealing some flakiness and lack of trustworthiness that would have made her a bad office-mate down the road anyway. You have every right to be pissed off, but hopefully it will help to think of this later on as a bullet dodged.

  5. DeltaDelta said:

    Okay wait. First colleague says she needs the space because of a divorce (was she going to live in the other room?), and then she says she is going to let Other Colleague use the space (is she still going to live in that room?). How, if at all, does the divorce have any impact on the space-sharing between OP and Other Colleague? Is OC FC’s personal therapist? An interesting twist.

    From a larger view, OP may be best off not involved in this, especially if FC’s life is a little upside down right now. The adjoining rooms may make the entire arrangement too close for comfort and could end up creating a giant wedge between everyone. And because FC is amid a big life event, she may not entirely be herself. Perhaps space right now is the best way to preserve what might be a future friendship.

    As someone who was once in a work screw-over situation, the practical advice I can share is this: keep an arm (or two arm) length distance. Be friendly and professionally polite if you see FC but don’t seek out FC and certainly don’t socialize. Don’t refer patients to FC or OC. Put your irritation into energy marketing your own practice. When patients or potential patients ask if OP knows FC, OP can truthfully say, “I know her. She’s a therapist in Birdville” and leave it at that.

  6. LindaJeanneM said:

    My guess is that the other friend had pressured her into an actual promise, while LW applied no such pressure.

    That doesn’t make the situation any less stressful or frustrating, but it might explain the disparity in treatment.

    • shantih said:

      Or the other one got the details in writing, which was then harder to wriggle out of. The good Captain gave solid advice above, LW — always, always get it in writing before you make any changes. I’m sorry! This is a crappy situation for you to be slapped with, but in a way, it’s a gift; you’re not likely to ever be caught out the same way again, and clearly this is not a good person to make business arrangements with. At least you saw her true colors before you got more entangled with her.

      • Jers said:

        Exactly. It is definitely sad and angering on LWs behalf but better now than when she would be tied financially to such a dishonest and selfish person. I feel sorry for the person who is now sharing an office with ‘friendly colleague’ since i’m Guessing ‘colleague’s’ behavior is not unique to LW.

    • Spicy Onion said:

      This actually used to happen to me all the time from my teens and into young adulthood. My (crappy, self-centered) friends would make some kind of plan and then when Things happened, they would always make me odd man out. And this would happen from friendship to friendship and even with people who were not connected. And all of those friendships ended badly. Every single one. That is to say until I realize that it was due to the *type* of people I would choose to be around and how *those* people handled conflict. See, there was always another high strung friend/boyfriend/family member/obsessive object/missing stairs that would Make a Scene when they didn’t get their way. And I just wasn’t like that. It was always that dramatic squeaky wheel that took precedence because of Rocking Boats and “god, why are you creating drama? YOU KNOW I MADE LUCY THE PROMISES!!!!!” And some of that was my inability to create boundaries, but 95% was that these people didn’t know what respect looked like. Because when I would get mad, shocking!

      In this letter, I do see the fact that this woman sort of makes promises and then kinda never delivers WITH OP (story of my life Re: see above), but more of what I see (and in fact is the only important part of this all) is “I don’t mind fucking you over, OP. I don’t mind it SO MUCH that I don’t even notice that given a situation where I put you and another person in the same exact position I only see my choice of the other party as the obvious one” Plain and simple. This person does not see you as even existing with feelings and emotions. You are just the person she is kinda venting to about how she has to fuck you over? If that makes sense? Like “you’re not gonna believe that I’m getting a divorce and now I cannot share … WITH YOU. OH the other person? Obviously she is moving in. Duh. But omg lets get coffee soon so I can keep showing you how your existence as a human being does not register to me.”

      That is not a good person at all. And lets be clear: there isn’t a lot you can do except realize that this person will continue to put you in a bad position – because is the obvious only choice for her.

      I don’t know if that makes sense – but I would keep the relationship light and distant.

      • the815 said:

        **But omg lets get coffee soon so I can keep showing you how your existence as a human being does not register to me.”**

        YUP. Wow, I really feel you on the history of crappy friends who are all, “Well, of COURSE you don’t matter, silly! Now we’re all good, right?” :/

        • Amphelise said:

          Yikes.

          YIKES.

          YIIIIIIIIIKES.

          /me having just seen a 14-year-long toxic former friendship flash before my eyes

      • Jers said:

        This!

      • Britpoptarts said:

        People who consistently break promises cannot be relied on, even if you “should” be able to rely on them. Case in point: my mother. She does not keep her word to me, and then gaslights me about that. It took me a very, very long time to figure out I wasn’t remembering things wrong (I started writing shit down!) and that I wasn’t bad or unreasonable to ask that promises be kept.

        I no longer trust her word on anything, and her POV about other people (and “real life” events that rely on a consensual shared reality based in facts) is definitely suspect as well.

  7. PoeTayToe said:

    I really want to second the Captain’s last paragraph. In my experience, any sort of business venture with a friend usually never works out in your favor. From tabling together at craft conventions to low-stakes just-for-fun project collaborations to jobs involving offices like this. Get it in writing. And also, always have a back-up plan! Maybe I’m a pessimist but I think it’s safer to assume things will fall through with the friend. What’s your back-up plan? For example, you stopped marketing in your area. Next time, don’t stop looking out for #1 – yourself.

  8. Guesty said:

    Maybe I’m just cynical, but the colleague’s explanation here just doesn’t seem to make much sense. She “needed the space to herself” but… is still sharing it with the third colleague? If that office is no longer hers, would it matter THAT much if it’s shared between one or two people? Did her divorce cause her to need exactly 1.5 offices badly enough to inconvenience the LW to this degree?

    My gut feeling is that the divorce is a bit of a red herring and that perhaps these two people decided that they didn’t want to share the office with the LW for other reasons. You can genuinely like a person and still not think that you’re compatible to share space with them (even though it would be better if they could have made that call earlier in the process!).

    I think it’s all the more reason for the LW to take the Captain’s advice and get some space for a little while. The LW has to focus on getting their own business back to where they want it to be. If they want to remain friendly with these two colleagues after a bit, they can reach out with coffee offers of their own.

    • Joielle said:

      This is what I was thinking too. I am definitely cynical, so take this with a grain of salt, but the divorce seems more like a shield of “don’t ask too many questions, I’m going through a hard time already” than an actual reason the colleague can’t go through with the arrangement.

      • Guesty said:

        Agreed. It really could go either way – my gut is not 100% accurate by any means. But the timing seems suspicious and the way FC communicated the change seems a bit shady to me, as it was clearly meant to imply that the space wouldn’t be shared, period.

        Either way, the LW should feel free to prioritize themselves, now. They don’t have to decide at this very moment whether or not to continue these friendships. They should take a little while to focus on other things, and then re-assess what they think think about the situation.

      • Cassandra said:

        Same, Joielle. I don’t doubt that the divorcing colleague is having a rough time but “ugh, divorce” isn’t the same as “hey sorry I kind of callously flaked out and also kind of screwed you over, professionally.” She’s conflating them to dodge responsibility for being crappy to the letter writer.

    • My thought was that Friendly Colleague, suddenly faced with separation, doesn’t want two psychotherapists breathing down her neck all day. She told Other Colleague first, and OC guilted FC into keeping to the arrangement.

      That’s my thought, but FC’s reasons don’t really make a difference. Harm has been done, and the OP is justified in keeping away for a while. Or for good.

      • Guesty said:

        Motivation doesn’t matter in the short term – the advice to take some space would hold either way.

        But I imagine that the reasons will matter to the LW as they’re deciding whether to remain friends with FC in the longer term. I doubt that the LW will ever really get a truly honest accounting of what went into FC’s decision, so they’ll have to just use their best judgement about what scenario they feel is most likely. The LW can rest assured that any choice they make here (to be friends eventually or not) is the right one.

  9. B. said:

    Is it African Violet time, LW? I think you would be justified in dropping her as a friend over this.

  10. Tea Rocket said:

    LW, I had a friend do something similar to me when my husband and I were about to make a big, overseas move. To this day, I question whether I somehow misunderstood her when she volunteered to store my and my husband’s boxes for the moving company to pick up later (and ship once we had found an apartment and could give them a delivery address)—but deep down, I don’t think I did. What I do know is that when I got in touch with her to set a time to drop off said boxes, suddenly it was, “Sorry I can’t do this after all!” Fortunately, my amazing in-laws came to our rescue.

    Sometimes the amount of generosity people want to extend exceeds what they’re able to extend.

    • Nanani said:

      That’s so weird? Storing boxes isn’t even ongoing work.
      Space doesn’t magically disappear; you either have a roomy house/garage/tardis or you don’t, and you don’t volunteer your space for storage if you live in a tiny room. What in the absolute heck went through that friend’s head?

      • At a complete guess: “Oh, I’ve totally got room for those boxes IF I clean out and reorganize my garage, which I’ve been meaning to do, so this is a really good motivation.” And then guess what? The cleaning and reorganizing didn’t actually happen. With a possible side helping of “I can totally get Family Member to help me” where “help me” means “do it all for me” and then, shockingly, Family Member didn’t help because they didn’t have any motivation or resented being voluntold, possibly for the umpteenth time.

      • Tea Rocket said:

        She had a spare bedroom at the front of her house where I imagined the stuff would go until the movers could pick it up. It would have been there about a month (and wouldn’t have filled the room; it just would have been more convenient to get it out the door when the movers came). She also had a garage, which is smaller and was maybe what she was imagining when she offered? I honestly don’t know. Thinking about it now, it’s not out the question that she straight-up forgot offering and then panicked when I got in touch to organize a drop-off time and backed out.

  11. Terri said:

    Whatever motivated her is what motivated her. For you, the effects of her decisions on *you are all you have to deal with. The script is great, and taking time off from the friendship is a stellar move. You may come around in a couple of months a decide your life is better without this person in it and not call and that’s cool. You may come around and decide to call and have coffee now and again and have a careful friendship with this person on *your terms. Cool too. That time away from her is key to figuring out what’s best for you in that relationship and in your (newly messed-up) work life.

    • Thistledown said:

      This is actually a situation where I think the motivation really matters. If the other two just decided to go ahead with the plan to share offices with the LW, and then lied about what was happening, that’s a situation where I would break ties completely. If the office owner was a mess during her, tried to back out with both people, and was successfully guilted into going ahead with the other person, I would be annoyed but it wouldn’t be a friendship-ended for me. I don’t know that the LW will ever truly know what went down, but it would really matter to me.

      • eclecticidler said:

        I agree that motivation is importaint to concider, but even if FC had the best motives, the way she reacted afterwards is a big issue for me. She said she was sorry and then thought everything would be back to normal? But that’s not right, it is? Sure, things happens and plans have to change accordingly (which is why, as many have already pointed out: get everyting in writing), which, while not ideal, is just how things goes sometimes. But if I were in FCs shoes, I would offer my help and try to make things right by actually helping LW and making LWs situation better. Just saying sorry doesn’t seem enough to me, and if I were LW that is why I would reconsider this friendship. I’m a strong believer in action rather than words, and in my experience, the survival of a friendship is not only about what actually happened, but also how the one who did something try to make up for it, and in this situation, it doesn’t seem to be a whole lot.

        • the815 said:

          I’d have a much easier time accepting the situation if FC’s motivations made sense to me (like, moving out of town for a sick relative or to get married and move to their partner’s town). If I got, “Welp, I decided to do this and hey, feel bad for me ‘cuz I’m getting divorced, and oh, btw, let’s get lunch!” I’d tell her to eff off, too.

      • Jers said:

        Agreed that there seems to be more under the surface that FC didn’t divulge. But we already know enough to know that FC wasn’t honest. FC didn’t volunteer until asked, that OC was moving in. FC first said ‘I need to not share space bc i’m Getting a divorce’ but then is sharing space with OC. FC had LW extend her neck in a financial/business venture then treated her professionally shabbily, THEN keeps expecting to be the poor poor me in the situation AND won’t even go away but pressures LW to go to coffee to ‘prove’ FC is still a decent human. FC has already broken the social contract. That’d be more than enough for me. Doesn’t matter what FC’s real reason was, but i agree the reasons given were shady.

  12. thegirlfrommarz said:

    LW – something very similar happened to a close relative of mine (so similar that I read your letter several times to check it wasn’t from her!), so I feel your pain. It can be hard to avoid blurred boundaries when you’re friends with someone in a business situation – you can find yourself accepting things you wouldn’t accept in other circumstances, such as not insisting on a legal commitment. For what it’s worth, my relative no longer sees the friend who did a similar thing to her. She now works out of her home, which has turned out brilliantly for her – looking back, she is relieved that she didn’t end up tied to this “friend” as it probably would have worked out badly in the long run.

    The Captain’s advice is very wise. Your colleague wants to skip past the part where she acknowledges that she hurt you and potentially damaged your business by offering an arrangement that she withdrew at the last minute. She wants to pick up your friendship again without accepting responsibility for the hurt and inconvenience she caused you. If she can’t acknowledge how her actions affected you, how real can the friendship be going forward?

    It is entirely fair to feel angry and upset, especially as your colleague treated the third person sharing the space differently to you. She put your feelings and your welfare not only below her own, but below those of this third person. I’m sure she is going through a lot right now and perhaps this is out of character for her, but you don’t have to bury your feelings and make her feel better – you’re not her therapist. Give yourself permission to step back from this friendship until you want to re-engage. And if you never want to re-engage, that’s fine too!

  13. LW, I have no advice for you, but it is really important to remember that being “left in the lurch” is not the same as being a “bad sport.”

    Technically, the bad sport is the one who chose to leave someone else in the lurch.

    • GreenDoor said:

      A bad sport is someone that pouts when they lose a game of cards. You made business decisions and future plans based on the proposal you three were discussing. This friend may have cost you clients, money, and has likely caused a lot of headaches now that you have to come up with a lot of Plan B’s. A good sport is somone who behaves well when a game is lost. This isn’t a game – this your livlihood. Agree with others be sympathic about her personal struggles, but it’s OK to be candid about how her broken promise affected your business.

    • Right! Can you really be a “bad sport” in a game you did not sign up to play?

      Or, if it helps to reframe the metaphor, how can you be the “bad sport” when someone else literally took the ball and went home? It’s okay to be wary of playing other games, even of the non-ball, coffee variety, with such a person.

  14. Joielle said:

    A few years ago, two friends of mine set up a law firm together and one of them later abruptly pulled out. It was awful! The remaining friend couldn’t afford the office on her own, so she had to close the business, break the lease, sell the furniture… total mess. The one who pulled out would NOT let it go and kept insisting on getting together and rehashing all the issues in a transparent attempt to get the rest of the friend group to tell him it was ok and not his fault. Long story short, he probably would still be friends with everyone if not for his inability to let it rest for a while.

    OP, your colleague needs to get right with the idea that you are upset with her and she has to deal with that – and not try to immediately spackle over it. This is not your fault and you are completely justified to be unhappy!

  15. TootsNYC said:

    I think another takeaway for our LW is that it’s important to not be in a “half this, half that” plan, as this seems to have been:
    I considered this a viable-if-not-sure plan and accordingly waited many months for sales to go through etc.,while adjusting my practice because this office was in another part of the city (basically not marketing in my area and gearing up for a change).

    This sucks, though.

    And even if there were things our LW could have done more self-protectively, or more wisely, it still sucks. And I think the Friend Colleague deserves a bit of a cooling off.

    And frankly, our LW is entitled to take the time she needs to deal with this fallout.

    • caraway said:

      Yeah. LW doesn’t want to be friendly with Colleague so she shouldn’t try, and I can see why not. But also in hindsight you probably don’t risk erosion of your professional practice based on “always an idea in consideration not a formal offer” that the LW “never ever asked after or pushed for”.

      It’s not clear if Colleague knew that the LW was placing reliances on these plans, but the beauty of “put it in writing” is it makes that not an issue. Depending on what precisely you think to put in writing, which can be tricky.

      (I wondered if Other Colleague did ask after and push for this shared situation. But in the end it doesn’t matter, because as other people said what is the divorce consequence that makes you able to share out a whole office with one person but not with two people sharing together.)

  16. Lizards80 said:

    Can y’all please help me understand I the issue better?

    As I understand it, ‘friendly colleague’ wanted a room to herself and a room that LW and another psychotherapist would share.

    Then, ‘friendly colleague’ bought the 2-room space.

    Now ‘friendly colleague’ is going through a divorce and wants the space to herself. Which seems like she always had the space to herself, right?

    What stops the LW and the other psychotherapist from continuing to share the second room as they originally planned?

    If ‘friendly colleague’ wanted the whole space to themselves, wouldn’t they have also kicked out the other psychotherapist in additions to LW?

    What am I missing?

    Thanks!

    • Revieloutionne said:

      You aren’t missing anything that’s in the letter. I could theorize that “friendly” colleague decided to use what would have been solo office space as living space in the wake of the divorce and is now sharing the split office space in the other room with the third party, but you’ve summed up all of the information LW was actually given in your comment. It’s inconsistent, but that inconsistency is likely due to the attempt at skipping over the part where any personal fault would need acknowledged.

    • JenniferP said:

      Uh, that IS the question – the friendly colleague went ahead with the whole plan minus the Letter Writer, gave a crap explanation, but now is like “let’s grab lunch, pal!”

    • the815 said:

      I was also confused. Like, divorces suck and are hard on people, but I didn’t get the “If A, then B” of it. I could understand, “I’m getting divorced, so therefore I have to sell the house/get roommates to help cover the mortgage.” This seems like, “I’m getting divorced and…proceeding with my professional plans yet screwing you over for no reason?” I guess using one of the offices for a living space makes the most sense. Yeah, maybe it’s a bullet dodged that you’re not sharing an office with someone who makes huge, abrupt changes and does a poor job communicating.

      • Oh wait! Maybe FC is going to live in one room and share the office space with OC. Which is also terrible in so many ways.

  17. LW, I know it sounds like a cliche but I wonder how you would look at the situation if a patient was struggling with this in a session with you. Maybe imaging the situation from that point of view will help you decide how to proceed. Or not!

    I like the Captain’s script but I’d avoid talking about your feelings with them, right now, at least. For one, the whole financial/business reality doesn’t seem to register with your colleague and that speaks very poorly of them, to be that insensitive and careless about such important stuff. For another, I’m guessing that they will glom onto any opportunity to turn a conversation around to FEELINGS: ONLY THEIRS EDITION.

    And, yes, I also think the other person got the second office because they have something in writing, in all likelihood. But please take heart – you will fare better, starting very soon, by not being office-mates (shudder) with someone who treats you like this.

  18. Corythosaurus said:

    As bad as the backing-out-last-minute-of-serious-plans part of this letter is…for me the bigger red flag is how your friend does not want to acknowledge your bad situation, your feelings, and how she is the direct cause. Instead she is trying to force you to be ok with circumstances so that she does not have to feel guilty. Regardless of if you go along, or put your foot down about this particular situation, she will consistently put her feelings and needs above yours. I’ve found it extremely hard to maintain friendships with folks like this.
    In my experience, friends like this do not treat everyone in their life this way, but reserve this treatment for the friends who are extremely kind or someone of which their jealous. I don’t think you should feel like a bad friend to a bad friend.

  19. Wow, that’s a hard situation and a crappy way for the other party to handle the aftermath of their decision to cut out LW. It seems rather uninsightful of a psych professional to expect LW to pretend they didn’t screw up LW’s career. Backing out of a career-critical deal is a major professional failure on her part and she’s not owning it.

    Yeah, she’s having a bad divorce. But she doesn’t mind sharing with the other colleague, so that’s not a good reason to screw you. If she had closed her practice and moved in with family, sure. I could see that.

    I relate to this situation because it’s a lot like what happened to me last year.

    I had a proposed partnership with a local art studio to trade use for space on some expensive equipment I was getting a grant for. The Memorandum of Understanding dragged on and on for similar reasons about relocation. Although they were happy to assure my grant agency and lenders we were working together, they basically ghosted me after months of my putting off the equipment purchase until after the new tariffs, not marketing to new clients, etc. so I understand the financial hit LW incurred.

    They still wanted me to share their events on social media after all this. I finally unLiked their page and unfriended the friend they hired as Public Face of Studio so I wouldn’t have to be reminded of this betrayal in the middle of my friends’ cat photos and political posts.

    I’m still friendly with some former interns there who left before the ghosting, and a part-time instructor there who doesn’t expect me to be a cheerleader after they did that. I’ve known him for years.

    I know a few hundred people in the art/maker/craft scene in my metro area, and there’s only two individuals and two companies who have lost my respect over business shenanigans.

    LW, I hope your career can recover quickly. I hear so much about the shortage of mental health providers that you should be able to get as many clients as you want when you have a solid location.

    • MidWesternAccent said:

      I was well into adulthood when I finally figured out it was ok to move ahead with my plans with others didn’t have a clear idea of theirs. Verbally we’d reach an understanding and I’d start working towards it. The next time I’d talk with that person, they were also gung-ho. Slowly they’d remember less and less until I was the only one pulling the weight/putting in time and effort.

      I don’t remember when it finally happened but I made plans with someone and the first shiver of hesitation I moved on with my plans. It was so freeing realizing I had this power in my life that didn’t hinge on other people’s plans.

  20. nnn said:

    I agree with everything the Captain said. I just wanted to add that the answer to “Am I being a bad sport?” is…it doesn’t actually matter.

    Your friend left you in the lurch and, as a result, you need some space from her.

    Even if this did make you a bad sport (which I don’t think it does), your need for some space is real. Faking your way through a “friendly” meet-up when you’re not feeling it lead to either high blood pressure, or snapping and reaming out your friend.

  21. temporaryobsessor said:

    I know I promised I’d help you move but my legs broken.
    Gee I’m dissapointed you can’t help, and if I knew that I could have hired movers but even the thought of holding it against you makes me feel guilty, and I feel like I should comfort you about your leg.
    Of course I helped our mutual friend move I promised I would.
    Wait what were your faking, does my friend have lighter stuff, were you faking, am I jerk being upset that you might be faking when I’m not sure, were you faking, if you were faking couldn’t you have just told me the truth, did my friend pressure you to help them move with a broken leg, was it not so broken that you can’t help people move if you want to, am I a jerk for thinking this, was the promise to me somehow not as real.

  22. Emma9 said:

    Regarding how to talk to FC about this, I would come at it from a position of what you *want*. Probably some combination of:

    A) You want to go back in time and not get entangled in this mess in the first place.
    B) You want her to relent and allow you to share the second office.
    C) You want the catharsis of hearing her actually admit that she was in the wrong and unfair to you.

    You know A is impossible, and, even if you could get B, it would probably just end up as another clusterfuck.

    Whether it’s worth it to push for C, in my opinion, depends on the kind of relationship you have. You specifically call her a ‘friendLY colleague’ rather than ‘friend’ – did you actually hang out with this person socially before? Did you enjoy doing so? If this with the offices had never happened, would you want to spend time with her now?

    If yes, you can either ask for the apology and let her response guide how you want to move forward, OR put her in a box marked ‘fun social friend but don’t depend on her for any commitments’ and let it go.

    If no, it’s African Violet time. Probably stay politely friendly since you’ll still be running in the same professional circles, but when she wants to get coffee/whatever, you’re busy.

  23. Comradde PhysioProffe said:

    Great advice from the Captain & commenters! Only thing I have to add is that just because LW didn’t have a written agreement with the friend, doesn’t mean that necessarily there is no legally enforceable relationship. If friend made a promise & LW reasonably relied on it & that reliance resulted in monetary expenses/losses, it is possible that LW could have legal rights to compensation. Whether such rights would be readily enforceable or whether LW would want to go down that road in terms of costs/benefits is a whole ‘nother question, obvs.

  24. Good point. Was it discussed via email or text, which would document the plans? Verbally would be difficult to prove.

  25. Clarry said:

    I have bad news about getting everything in writing. The same people who lead you on with definites in words will lead you on with definites in writing. You can get the written promises looked at by lawyers; you can spend hundreds in lawyer fees having them write great contracts, but in these roommate type situations, when a flaky person wants to be flaky, they’re gonna flake. They get you to commit in many ways that inconvenience only you, and when they want to pull out, they just do. It becomes a matter of whether you’re going to take them to small claims court, and you probably don’t have a case. If you did somehow force Flaky to follow through on the promise, how hard would it be for them to make you miserable with a thousand other tiny flaky acts? They could lose keys, lose cash, forget appointments, not deliver messages. LW, you dodged a bullet. Be thankful for that.

  26. Sheelzebub said:

    Your professional and financial situation was adversely impacted by this. No, you do not have to continue to meet this person for coffee so they can convince themselves it’s all good.

  27. TyphoidMary said:

    LW, I’m a psychotherapist who is literally in the middle of trying to get my private practice up and running, and I just want to say: I feel you SO HARD right now.

  28. Soadhdtherapist said:

    As a psychologist who was in private practice for several years (until it turned out the practice owner was lying to us about finances and up and closed the practice), I am really, really feeling for you.

    No. You are not being a bad sport, not at all.

    Everyone has addressed the “friend” part of *friendly collegues,” I’m going to add a bit about the” colleague” part.

    How friendly do you feel like you need to keep the relationship on a business level? Like, is she a major source of referrals or do you run into her a lot professionally or do you usually do annual presentations together or anything? Honestly, I don’t know that any of those things would substantially change the advice, other than thinking of possible (bland) scripts for running into her or whatever. But if the business relationship still matters, particularly in terms of referrals, I might be slightly less direct and go the plausible deniability “whoops, I’m just coincidentally so busy right now” route for awhile to avoid her feeling weird about sending you folks. Or, hell, I might grit my teeth, do one coffee for networking purposes, and then go the “whoops, so busy” route. It really depends on whether losing the relationship would cost you professionally, though. If she’s not a valuable referral source, ignore all that.

    The lovely thing about the Captain’s script is that it sounds therapist-y and so, as a therapist, she’ll likely (hopefully) feel obligated to respect it and even validate it, whether she actually wants to or not. (Like you probably did with her announcement. Serve that lingo about personal needs right back to her, it’s one of the weird delights of our field.)

    All the best wishes!

    • borgcube said:

      Excellent point! LW, please consider how your business will be impacted by whatever you say or do. Maybe also think about whether FC is likely to badmouth you if you have the honest conversation about how her actions affected you. It might not be worth it.

  29. zeph said:

    I am curious why a psychotherapist is asking for advice from a website like this. Wouldn’t someone specializing in human interactions and relationships be up on this sort of thing? Would not a psychotherapist have greater accsss to professional counsellors (no offense, Cap)? This sort of issue is right smack dab in the psychoptherapy wheelhouse and yet here they are. Imho, a piscine aroma abounds.

    • JenniferP said:

      I am curious as to why you think a psychotherapist would not be allowed to do a quick “wait, am I the asshole here” reality check outside a tense professional situation, as if psychotherapists are not human beings who sometimes could use reassurance, especially in a situation where fellow psychotherapists specifically are proving themselves to be unreliable. Is it so hard to see that a resource that is specifically outside the usual channels and who has no professional or personal dog in this fight might be valuable?

      I am also curious as to why you think it is your job to suggest that the person is lying about something (which I assume your last sentence about things smelling “piscine” was meant to imply), when your credentials that we would be in a position to evaluate based on this comment alone consist of…what…exactly?

      As for your suggestion that “a website like this” could have nothing to offer an esteemed psychotherapist? Offense, zeph. Offense.

      This ain’t Reddit, fortunately you aren’t the ‘is this person allowed to ask questions and are they doing it right’ decider here.

      Cheers, here’s to a fresh start next time.

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