One of the Facebook groups I am part of had a member ask yesterday for advice. She wrote the following (my summary):
“I need advice. Seven years ago, I met a guy who lived far away. We clicked but the distance kept us from dating. We agreed instead to be friends. And friends we were. We had a great friendship even as we dated other people – each of us having long-term relationships. About a year ago, I was single – and he was in an unhappy marriage. He admitted to me one night that he looks at his marriage, and it did not even measure up to our friendship. He told me he was ending the marriage and was hoping to pursue something with me. I was flattered as I could not deny our connection either, but told him that nothing between us could start until his divorce was final. I would not be the other woman or put myself where that could be seen as the case. He understood, so when the marriage was ended, we started dating.
Here is the problem: his friends hate me because I’m not his ex. They loved his ex. She was pretty, she was thin, she was not me. Any time we are all together, it is clear they do not want me there. My boyfriend told me to give it time – they don’t know me but will get to know me and like me. Meanwhile, I’m doing everything I can to make sure I am not interfering with his friendships. When he and his friend had a disagreement, I encouraged him to work it out as I did not want him to lose his friend.
What this has led to, however, is me visiting him for the weekend and having his friends dominate all of his time. He and his friend were talking about some things over breakfast – a breakfast that took 6 hours. His friend asked him to go and help him with something with the promise it would take an hour – but it would take 4 hours. When I explained my frustration over his friend taking all of his time, my boyfriend admitted his friend seemed to be dragging things out. It is to a point where I am no longer comfortable with visiting him as I feel like they take his time so he cannot spend it with me.. I am doing everything I can to not be hated by his friends – doing everything I can to allow them to have access to him when they need it. Yet, it’s starting to cause me grief.
What should I do?”
Reading this hit too close to home for me.
I have experience with this issue.
So, I had to reply based on what I learned from my own experience.
Dear What Should I Do,
You do nothing except stop doing what you are doing.
Stop making his friends and his time with his friends the priority.
Stop trying to stay out of their way.
Stop shrinking in the situation in an attempt not to be hated any more.
Stop thinking all of the superficial reasons they don’t like you – think like you are not skinny enough, not pretty enough.
This isn’t about you despite their efforts to make it so.
Your boyfriend decided to end his marriage because he was unhappy. Your boyfriend and his ex-wife could not make it work. If their friends do not like the fact his ex-wife is gone because they liked her, that is between him and them. And it will always be between him and them no matter how much they try to lay this at your feet.
I applaud you – you are trying so very hard to make them not blame you, but until your boyfriend works it out with them – it won’t end. Until he says to his friends, “Look, you may like the ex -wife but she and I did not work – we would never work. You need to accept that fact. Be happy I am now happy”. Until he says that and makes it unacceptable to be mean to you, it will continue…..regardless of what you try to do.
So, stop bowing out to give him the time they want with him. Your sacrifice is doing nothing to make them like you and instead is hurting you. The fact they have caught onto the fact you will bow out for the need of the friendships have resulting in them taking advantage of your kindness by keeping him away from you. That ass-hat behavior is someone taking advantage of your kindness – nothing more.
Brene Brown has a great mantra to adopt. It is this: Don’t Shrink. Don’t Puff Up. Stand your sacred ground.
Right now you are shrinking. Stop.
Right now you are puffing up about it with your boyfriend. Stop.
Your sacred ground is simple. You are in a great relationship with your boyfriend. You love him. He loves you. You take care of each other. Don’t need to rise or shrink from that because others cannot handle your truth.
Instead? Just stay away from them. Explain why to your boyfriend – and stand your ground. This isn’t your problem – but it’s affecting you negatively. You are looking down at yourself because they are being ass-hats towards you. Remove yourself from it because your actions make you a kind-hearted, beautiful person — not the person they are trying to make you out to be.
Remember, do no harm – but take no shit.
That is what I think you should do.
Why am I giving this advice? Because I tried your method….for years. I tried it when I was constantly being told or being made to feel like I was interfering in a relationship that I was not. I went out of my way to do no harm, but the person I was harming was me. The person who was constantly sacrificing in the name of “being nice” and “doing the right thing” was the one who was never the recipient of the same – but instead received the blame when people didn’t like their truth.
Like you, I was giving away my time with the person I cared about – my limited time. I did it because the other person had a bad day. I did it because the other person was sad. I did it because the other person was lonely. I did it because they were having a disagreement they should really get worked out. The reasons were never ending. And it got to the point where it was just expected – there didn’t even need to be a reason anymore. When I said “no more”, I got shit for it because I taught them it was what they should expect from me. They should expect me to shrink back as far as they needed it.
When I realized my truth was that I needed my time. When I realized my truth was that my role wasn’t to continually sacrifice for a relationship that was not mine but their own. When I realized these truths and others, I decided to stop.
Stopping resulted in me being told I was selfish. Stopping resulted in me being told I was uncaring. Stopping resulted in me being tossed aside as the outcast. Stopping was not easy but it was necessary.
The harm all of this did to me over the many years was how I looked at myself. At one point, I believed this was what I deserved because when I allowed it – when I gave away my time – things went better – I got positive feedback even though it upset me or frustrated me or felt wrong to me. The right felt wrong.
Don’t continue to go down that path.
Stop now while you still can.
It is a slippery slope down.
I’ve ridden that path down to the end. And even when you think it’s done, it won’t be done. So stop now – don’t take that ride. Make it your mantra — “This is between my boyfriend and his friends – it is not my problem and not about me.” And focus on the good you have with him.
Hugs to you – Emmy
I realized after I thought more about this whole thing how much this is the universe trying to teach me to take my own advice. And I am still trying, on some level, to “do no harm” even to people who are out of my life. And what I have learned? It won’t matter. All you can do is take the steps you can take to keep it from hitting you in the face – and be happy. As a friend and fellow blogger commented: take care of yourself and own your own truth.