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11 September 2008

The "I never thought I'd post a relationship question" question Though this may be less of a question than just my needing to talk this over...[More:]

My birthday was in mid-August, and two weeks later, on August 28th, I went out to dinner with three friends to celebrate. This dinner had been planned and discussed via group emails a month in advance. And everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves. But there was one drawback. I'd invited four friends to come out, and the fourth one never showed up. Since I've never know this absent friend (let's call her "Grace") to not follow through on plans before, I was worried something had happened.

I emailed both her work and personal addresses that night to say we'd missed her at dinner and I hoped nothing was wrong? No response. I posted to her Facebook wall the next day with much the same kind of comment. No response. Time passed. I was busy and didn't think about it too much, but I was getting more and more concerned that Grace was stricken with some terrible personal tragedy/in traction/dead. She hadn't been on Facebook so far as her news feed registered. I tried emailing her work account again. No response. I tried calling her two nights ago. No answer, no voice mail pick up, the phone just rang. Seriously worried now. Visions of catastrophes and one nightmare (about visiting her place to find it haunted by her wistful, restless ghost who would not even stay corporeal long enough for me to talk to her) went through my mind.

Then yesterday morning I emailed a mutual friend to ask if he'd heard from Grace as I hadn't heard from her in weeks and was worried. Perhaps he said something to her, perhaps not, but in any case when I went on to Facebook again later that afternoon I found an email from her.

The email was a reply to a conversation chain of emails we'd exhanged on August 9. In it, Grace said that she'd been really upset and hurt by my last email. I don't want to post private conversation on the net, so I'll describe the email in question as my having said something to the effect "I hate it when people say X to me, it's bullshit," etc. She had taken this as an attack on her/something she'd said, and said she had needed some time to calm down because she didn't want to respond in anger.

The thing was, I wasn't referring to her or anything she'd said at all!! I was thinking of a co-worker of mine who had said something along those lines to me recently and getting a bit rant-y with him in mind.

So I emailed Grace back and explained it wasn't in reference to her or anything she'd said, and I was terribly sorry to have upset her. She hasn't responded.

I emailed the thread to another friend of mine to get her more objective opinion, and she said she thought the thread and what I said to be "innocuous". I *can* understand how Grace could have construed my comment as an attack on her, but I wish she'd said something about it at the time so I could explain rather than her being upset with me for an entire month. I had no idea she took my comment that way, I can't read minds, and when I don't know there's a problem I can't address it.

And now I'm afraid she won't be able to let this go after nursing her hurt feelings so long and that it'll ruin our friendship. Surely I've done all I can by explaining who my comment was really about and apologizing for upsetting her?
Well, I think you didn't do anything wrong. I would expect anyone that was upset with me to tell why at least.
Your friend's manner of dealing with the situation seems rather immature IMO, and if she couldn't talk to you about it face to face, then I'm afraid there's only so much one can do to make it right.

Perhaps she'll come around eventually. I'd blow it off for now.
posted by black8 11 September | 12:25
You're probably right. But this sucks. I first met Grace at a company we both worked for in 1998 and we've never had a problem before - not so much as a fight. I hate to lose a good friend over what seems like nothing from my perspective.
posted by Orange Swan 11 September | 12:47
it's said so often it's become a cliche, but I've really adopted this as my personal mantra:

You can't control people's reactions to you. You can only control your own response.

and a Zen philosophy concept that's been of great use to me in these situations:

"pain is obligatory, suffering is optional".

By which I mean: Yes, of course you feel bad about this misunderstanding. So would I. But your friend's CHOICE to (seemingly) misconstrue/blow out of proportion/overdramatise it? That's not your concern. Really it isn't.

If she wasn't gracious enough to accept an earnest apology, then it sounds as though the whole matter isn't worth wasting anymore emotion on. I'd probably treat it as a "done deal", as in over. Not the friendship, mind, just the drama. Don't go out of your way to email / explain / whatever, just invite her to the next "do". Her choice of how to handle this is now out of your hands. If she continues to be cold about it, then you may have to just let it drop and un-friend her (or whatever) for as long as it takes for her to get over it.

Good luck, OS.
posted by lonefrontranger 11 September | 13:05
Sometimes people ... even people we're close to ... have a hidden button or whatever that makes them angry. I think all you can do is give her space right now. If you want to preserve the friendship, you might have to be super-apologetic about something that you don't fully understand. But even then, this sounds to me like something that's been building up in her, and your words were just a trigger.
posted by muddgirl 11 September | 13:17
I have started to wonder this morning if maybe Grace is angry with me about other things (again, unbeknownst to me) and if this perhaps set her off. Well, I guess it's something to ask her about if she decides to talk to me again.
posted by Orange Swan 11 September | 13:24
I wonder if she feels embarrassed for having made a big deal about it and so now feels obliged to make a big deal about it.

I am sorry to say I used to do this in order to justify for some earlier overreaction.
posted by small_ruminant 11 September | 13:35
Whew! It's okay, just got an email from her in which she apologized for misreading and for being too sensitive, and that she'd been going through a lot lately, etc.

I think when I get a good opportunity I'm going to ask her to talk to me right away about any problems she might have so we can work them out.
posted by Orange Swan 11 September | 13:39
Thanks for your support, bunnies. A round of freshly squeezed carrot juice on me!
posted by Orange Swan 11 September | 13:41
I would wonder and maybe dig a little deeper. It seems like something else must be out of balance if a misunderstanding like that can snowball into such a serious chain of consequences. Is the relationship strained in some way already? Does this episode fit into any larger pattern? It might be worth investing some thought and discussion into that lest it be too quickly brushed off as a simple error and without real meaning.

Not to be pessimistic, or anything...
posted by scarabic 11 September | 22:16
OMG! Evil kitties! || Sonic Youth return to indie ranks.