23

Background

This is about me and my ex-best friend Alice. I'm currently living in the UK. Alice and I had been very good friends from about September last year, up until the beginning of this month. I had a huge crush on her since about February.

It all really starts going downhill in April, when we had our last day of school, and we hung out all day which was fantastic. I enjoyed it and still class it as one of my favourite days that I've ever had. I met a lot of her family, and they all seemed to quite like me.

After this, I was extremely concerned about losing her as my best friend. As I got a job and she continued school, I expected there wouldn't be a lot of time to meet up with her. I had a lot of people reassuring me that everything would be fine, and that I wouldn't lose her. I tried to make sure that through summer we hung out as much as we could, in case it was the last time I saw her for a while.

I proposed many times to meet up and have a day out, but she declined for the following reasons:

  • She was busy and she couldn't make plans
  • She'd "check her schedule" and completely avoid further conversations regarding the topic
  • We'd agree to meet up, and she'd either text me on the day that she couldn't come out.
  • We'd agree to meet up and I'd get to the meeting point for her to not show up or reply to my messages.

On any of these occasions, she'd talk to me again the day after and act as if nothing had ever happened.

This was starting to get a bit much and I was becoming depressed. My family was starting to pick up on this and recommended I stop talking to her. I was reluctant to do this, until November when I decided I had to do it to save myself.

I told her very softly that due to my inability to get over her despite nothing ever becoming of us, I had to stop talking to her, at least for a while.

She agreed and we wished each other the best. This is where I might have made a mistake. I did NOT delete her from my social media. I felt there was no need to since I thought what could be so bad about looking every now and again. I still didn't dislike her, I wanted to make sure she was doing well.

Problem

Over the duration of the last month, there have been multiple stories on her SnapChat that were aimed at no-one but made me paranoid that I have hurt her feelings with my reaction to our situation. These are some examples (profanity removed)

  • "Walking away from your problems because you can't handle your own stuff. Why can't you just be different"
  • "If you have ever left me or stopped talking to me for any reason, don't come back without 10 good reasons why I should let you"

I'm not positive that these posts are about me.

Question

How do I ask Alice tactfully about whether these posts are about me without causing distress and conflict? My end aim is to find out if she is hurt because of me, and if she is, try and figure out a way to make it so it won't hurt her. If it's not possible to prevent that pain, I'd like to at least try minimize it. If not, then it's none of my business and I can continue as I was

  • 3
    You make a couple sharp turns in this question. She's treating you badly by standing you up one day, and the next you're letting her talk to you like nothing happened? Didn't you ever express to her your disappointment at how she treated you? And then you're suddenly "breaking up" with her? Had you even told her that you had romantic feelings for her previously? – Mike Dec 3 '17 at 15:57
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    You might want to discuss this with a psychotherapist or a counselor. – michi Dec 16 '17 at 23:12
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    If you find the answer to this question, you solve the XXI century social media puzzle. – xDaizu Mar 15 '18 at 11:24
39

I think you're massively overthinking this.

"Walking away from your problems because you can't handle your own stuff. Why can't you just be different"

If you're worried about her, a simple way to enquire would be to ask her something like:

"Hey, are you okay? You sound like you just had a bad breakup."

You can also ask the same to one of her friends. The best thing about this sentence is that it is true: you are worried about her feelings... and she does sound like she's depressed because of someone. Also this sentence does not make it sound like you think it's about you!

Now, don't go assuming it is because of you. It probably isn't. Maybe she's frustrated about someone else, or some event you don't know about, which is the most likely option. Just because you think about her a lot... doesn't mean everything she does is about you.

A bit more explanation:

I proposed many times to meet up and have a day out, but there were a couple of outcomes.

She was busy / "check her schedule" and completely avoid further conversations regarding the topic / canceled

Either she was interested in you and playing hard to get, or (much more likely) she was not interested in you romantically and you have been cluelessly chasing her, causing much embarrassment for both.

We'd agree to meet up and I'd get to the meeting point for her to not show up or reply to my messages.

Leaving you out in the cold is a rude and disrespectful way to convey her point, so I think we can rule out "playing hard to get" here. Besides, why you would want to date, befriend, or even care about someone who disrespects you like this is beyond me. You did the right thing in cutting contact.

Would you be happy if any of your friends stood you up like that, without even a text to say they were unable to meet? Probably not! Friends are supposed to be people you can count on. Treat her the same.

Additionally, you mention:

On any of these occasions, she'd talk to me again the day after and act as if nothing had ever happened.

Standing you up is already a red flag. However, accidents do happen (phone runs out of batteries, car breaks down...) but any decent person would apologize the next day and certainly not make it a habit.

Not apologizing for this is a massive red flag. Value your time, don't let other people waste it, you can choose not to be a pushover...

This is where I might have made a mistake. I did NOT delete her from my social media.

Well, yeah. So instead of asking her if she's OK, deleting her from your social media and moving on is also a very viable option. The best option IMO.

If you still worry about her, you can ask for closure, then once you have your answer, unfriend her.

  • 4
    I suspect that the "bad breakup" question may not translate very well if he's the intended target for the messages (it also somewhat implies that he's been keeping tabs on her). But in all fairness, if she's indeed upset with the OP, many possible questions are liable to be taken with some offense. – Flater Dec 1 '17 at 13:59
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    @Flater Yeah, "did you have a bad breakup" risks sounding like an ass if OP is indeed the cause of her badfeels... However, considering her immature and entitled behavior (nice answer btw) I would argue that sounding a bit like an ass is absolutely on point! OP is free to substitute for his own choice of words of course... – peufeu Dec 1 '17 at 14:13
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    Fair enough about OP sounding like a bit of an ass being warranted. At least, I agree with you. But she may infer that he's trying to date her again ("so.... last boyfriend didn't work out huh?"), which would needlessly escalate the friction between OP and her. He clearly still cares about her, so it seems better to err on the side of not escalating things between them (even if we both agree that she would deserve it, OP might not agree) – Flater Dec 1 '17 at 14:25
19

"If you have ever left me or stopped talking to me for any reason, don't come back without 10 good reasons why I should let you"

Personally, and I'm aware that this isn't really IPS centered, but comments like that ooze with a sense of self importance and will cause me to not "come back" purely as a point of principle. Expecting people to explicitly justify why they think they're allowed to talk to you is grossly arrogant, in my opinion.

I know this is a personal opinion and not necessarily your opinion, but if you were my friend, I would offer that advice. No one deserves to be treated like that, this is an IPS failure from her.

Feel free to disagree, I'm not pushing this point any further :)


Over the duration of the last month, there have been multiple stories on her SnapChat that were aimed at no-one but made me paranoid that I have hurt her feelings with my reaction to our situation. These are some examples (profanity removed)

You've somewhat answered your own question here:

made me paranoid that I have hurt her feelings with my reaction to our situation

If that is the core of your concern, then address that concern with her.

I'm not sure whether I'd mention having seen the social media posts. I think it's best to omit it, to not distract from your intended topic of conversation:

Thinking back on our last conversation, I think that my reaction may have hurt your feelings. I didn't mean to hurt you, I was trying to avoid a situation that was hurting me. But I suspect that I ended up hurting you in the process. I want to apologize for that.

I've filled in some blanks here, based on what I infer from your question.


How do I ask Alice tactfully about whether these posts are about me without causing distress and conflict?

As a first response, I would say don't ask. She will have likely intended for her messages to be vague and indirect. Posts like that are often made with an underlying "you know who you are" idea behind them.

But that's (technically) not an answer to the question of how to ask it.

If you really want to ask the question, then I would suggest you don't ask the question, but rather talk about how you feel.

I saw your recent posts, and they made me think back on our last conversation. I'm not sure if they were directed at me, but regardless, I do feel [...].

Notice the emphasis not not knowing whether they were directed at you. You are not in any way saying that you know they were directed at you (because you don't actually know that), but you are conveying that you think they might be directed at you.

If you directly ask her to confirm, you're going to run into friction:

  • If she was directing the messages at you, she may not want to explicitly say so (hence the vague messages to begin with)
  • If she expected you to realize that it was about you, asking for confirmation may upset her.
  • If she was directing the messages at someone else, then your question can be inferred to be presumptuous.
  • If she was directing the messages at someone else, and is also actively upset with you, then your question can be inferred to be intrusive.

Don't walk into a minefield if you don't know where the mines are. Talk about the minefield, and let her fill in the blanks. If she wants you to know that the messages were directed at you, she will tell you voluntarily.

I left [...] blank, because I'm not sure what you're trying to achieve here.

  • Are you trying to reconnect?
  • Are you trying to figure out if you were the intended recipient of the messages?
  • Are you trying to re-explain your response, in a way that hurts her less (or not at all), but without the intention of reconnecting?

Assuming you'd want to apologize for having hurt her; you can refer to the earlier example I noted.

  • That's an incredibly detailed response, thanks for your time! My end aim is to find out if she is hurt because of me, and if she is, try and figure out a way to make it so it won't hurt her. If it's not possible to prevent that pain, I'd like to at least try minimalize it. If not, then it's none of my business and I can continue as I was. – CJ1992 Dec 1 '17 at 14:04
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    @CJ1992: Anecdotally (from experience), the amount of hurt is generally always the same (barring extreme behavior from you, e.g. saying things that emotionally damage her deeply); it's just a matter of hurting less (for a longer time) or hurting more (for less time). The softer you let her down, the more likely she is to hope for your eventual return. Cases like these generally require direct (but kind) honesty, because introducing ambiguity born from an intention of not wanting to hurt her may end up hurting her more in the long run (by letting her believe a white lie and not moving on) – Flater Dec 1 '17 at 14:27
  • I think you can (and perhaps should) take the closing paragraph one step further: the OP should figure out what he wants from this lady and then make that request. Contacting her should be about her, about what she can do, not about him. So contacting her just to tell her how he feels or to ask her whether these messages were about him is a bad idea. – reinierpost Apr 13 '18 at 18:50
8

From your extensively detailed question it seems you had very good and well-understood reasons for stopping the interaction with this person, which you had communicated to her as well.

Over the duration of the last month, there have been multiple stories on her SnapChat that were aimed at no-one but made me paranoid that I have hurt her feelings with my reaction to our situation.

There is no way to be sure that her social media comments were even aimed at you. Why couldn't they be aimed at someone else, or simply be her venting her general frustration?

Keeping the social media part aside as inconclusive and ambiguous, not to mention off-topic for this site, there is nothing really stopping you from making an attempt to communicate with her again and see how it goes -- especially since you say you parted ways amicably. You can directly approach her in person or by voice call/ text message/ emails. You can make a sincere effort to be friendly again and drop it if she does not give you an encouraging response.

But I would advise that you go ahead and do it only if you really want to re-establish interaction with this person, I say: not because 'others want' you to attempt it -- and you should be be prepared for cold or unpleasant outcomes.

Moreover, whatever she actually says about it, you can assess her tone of voice, facial expression and body language to know whether she is feeling cold or hostile to you or really wants you back in her life. Depending on which you can take appropriate further steps in this matter.

Again, there is any real use talking with her after this break only if you are seriously interested in re-establishing that friendship.

If you don't really want to do it, there is no sense in making a half-hearted effort.

  • Absolutely could be about anyone, I completely agree, It just makes me feel paranoid that it COULD be about me, and that I've hurt her with my actions. – CJ1992 Dec 1 '17 at 13:18
  • As I said, there is nothing stopping you from asking her directly, as in "were those comments aimed at me, did I hurt your feelings?" @CJ1992 and you can take it from there based on her response. – English Student Dec 1 '17 at 13:22
  • I guess that would make it so there is no reason for me to be paranoid, because I will actually know instead of thinking about it too much. – CJ1992 Dec 1 '17 at 13:26
  • Yes indeed @CJ1992. Moreover, whatever she actually says about it, you can assess her tone of voice, facial expression and body language to know whether she is feeling cold or hostile to you or really wants you back in your life. Depending on which you can take appropriate further steps in this matter. Again, there is any real use in talking with her again only if you are seriously interested in re-establishing that friendship, I think. – English Student Dec 1 '17 at 13:30
4

I've made this mistake in at least one relationship. I think the one thing missing from the other answers is to focus your consideration on the negative outcome.

You are obviously not over her, and I know from personal experience how gut wrenching it is to see stuff like this. The human mind does not do well with dissonance.

Your dissonance here is that you are mourning this person being gone from your life, but they are not really gone. These feelings are natural, the fear of being alone, missing out, heart break, have all served humankind well, as our large organizational groups are a synergy that allow us to thrive as a species.

Did you know that you would go insane by wearing clothes if your nervous system was not able to squelch the constant input of contact from the cloth? Similarly with these feelings, they say time is the most important thing. Your memory will begin to fade, the pain will subside, to be replaced with occasional pleasant memories of past times with her. If you do not squelch the constant input, you will go mad, as I'm sure you can see.

Without this time you are being driven by your emotions, not your intellect. This will cause you trouble. Emotions are fickle and often irrational, it's the ability of our prefrontal cortex to be self-aware that let's us operate above the emotional level.

Think about it. Did you really keep her social media connections because you wanted to ensure her well being? The fact that you've posted this question tends to make me think that you were hoping to get an inside track on if she felt negatively about breaking contact with you.

Also think about this: to use that information as leverage in a conversation is emotionally manipulative, especially if it's not about you.

If you really do care about her, think about what thrusting yourself back into her life will do. If she saw the break off as a bitter but good thing and is trying to heal, your contact will be incredibly painful and insensitive to her (just like her social posts are tearing you up).

If this isn't about you and she's indifferent, this will be incredibly painful and insensitive to yourself.

The only case where this doesn't go badly is if there is mutual desire, which seems pretty unlikely at this point. Either she is not interested, she's emotionally unhealthy/immature, or too unsure about the future to make a decision like you want her to make.

Think of it from this perspective. If she sees you are still her friend, perhaps she is saying something to you. But passive aggressive posts on social media are not a healthy way to communicate.

If you unfriend her, and these messages really were about you, the likelihood that she will use a more direct communication method becomes much higher, and if she doesn't reach out because of spite or pride, then I'd say you are better off.

There is something freeing about being "zen" in situations like this. Realize that you don't have control. Let go of her and wish her well in your thoughts. Indulge in remembering the happiness you felt spending time with her for a few minutes in the morning, then breath deep, smile, and kick the day's ass.

Perhaps in time, when you both mature and learn more about what you want in life, you will connect again, but perhaps not. You need to honestly be ok with either outcome before you ever contemplate contacting her.

IMO you are not at that point.

When you broke contact, you told her how you feel, and why you felt it was important. If she doesn't initiate contact, that all still stands.

Unfriend her, and live your best life. I know it is harder done than said, but do it for your sanity.

3

The problem with these situations is that if you insinuate that you think it's about you, it might just become so. But more likely is that she wrote this in a sudden bout of anger and sadness and didn't wholly mean it. I've found that bringing it up at all is often a mistake, and that you can ascertain if you were meant by it very quickly.

Now, the question only you can answer is if you want to start talking to her again. If you really want to know, the best way to find out is to casually start talking to her again. If she doesn't bring it up on her own, one of two things is true:

  • It was never about you
  • It was about you, but she wasn't serious

Which is functionally equivalent in your case.

So my advice boils down to start talking to her like usual again, and don't bring it up. Bringing it up, no matter how gently, has a real risk of:

  • Causing her to feel as if she hurt you with her posts (From your question and your obvious care about her I can see this is not you goal)
  • Making her think you feel guilty and coming to the sort of foregone conclusion that you did something even though you didn't

From my own very painful experience people often say things on social media they don't mean and assuming that they a) mean every word and b) it's about you when you have very little reason to believe so only serves to make you miserable and maybe even make her miserable.

I'm saying this as someone who has been on both sides of this. I have both accidentally guilt tripped people for no reason when they were just ranting and had a bad day and I've been that person who made unspecified angry social media posts to vent.

  • How does that tie around the "Don't come back unless you have 10 good reasons why I should let you?" Doesn't that just open me up to being told to leave her alone and mind my own business? – CJ1992 Dec 1 '17 at 13:34
  • @CJ1992 You want to find out if it is about you and how you can salvage it if it is. The thing is, if she tells you to sod off, then you might need to do just that and give her space. Unlikely I think, but your best bet in finding out is talking to her like normal without bringing it up – Magisch Dec 1 '17 at 13:38
  • Yeah, if she tells me to leave her alone, it's probably that I've hurt her and I'm not salvaging anything for a while. I think it's probably better that I don't go back just yet, I still do like her and going back right now is going to completely cross out the purpose of doing this in the first place, which was to try get over her. – CJ1992 Dec 1 '17 at 13:40
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    @CJ1992 Well yeah, but if you don't try to talk to her again there is no way for you to find out, save her calling you out by name. – Magisch Dec 1 '17 at 13:43
  • Yeah that's true, and then it would really bug me not knowing. Thanks – CJ1992 Dec 1 '17 at 13:44
1

You can't ask without embarrassing yourself or her. Either she's talking about someone else, or she's subtweeting to provoke you. You made a decision that it would be best for you not to talk to her, and from what you told us about your experience, your intuition is right. But you should have followed through and also unfollowed her on social media to protect you from worries like this.

1

I had to stop talking to her, at least for a while. She agreed and we wished each other the best.

...

multiple stories on her SnapChat ... made me paranoid that I have hurt her feelings

...

My end aim is to ... make it so it won't hurt her ... [or] ... try minimize it.

There's two possibilities here:

  1. She is grieving her loss of your friendship.
  2. She is hurting over some unrelated issue in her life.

First of all, it's worth pointing out that she may have made similar posts prior to the loss of your friendship, but because your relationship changed only now do you suppose they are about you. Vague posts are irritating, but they are vague on purpose, and you should probably respect her desire to remain vague without requesting she clear it up for you. That said, let's look at this from the two possibilities:

If it's #2, then even bringing up that you think it's about you is a poor choice. Asking if it's about you is most likely going to result in causing you both unhappiness - she will now be worried that she can't post her feelings because you will take them wrong and either be forced to censor herself, unfriend you, or live with the idea that she's causing you pain when she makes unrelated posts.

If it's #1, then the best course of action is to let her grieve. You can't end a friendship, then come back and "save" your friend from your loss without repairing the break. Unless you intend to "fix" her pain by re-entering her life (and I suggest you do not) then there is nothing you can do that won't actually make the grief process more painful, lengthy, or worse in some other way.

If you can't bear to see her express her pain and disappointment, then your best course of action is to stop following her, at least for a time. I don't believe that in either case you're in a position to help ease her pain, whether you caused it or not. Allow her the time and space away from you to find comfort from her other relationships, regardless of the source of her pain, and move on with your life.

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