I’m so excited to share this terrific guest post from Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., author of the just-released Best Friends Forever — Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend. Dr. Levine appeared recently on the Today Show to talk about women’s friendships.
On The Friendship Blog, she explores the nature, meaning and depth of female friendships. In reading this Q&A guest post, I felt a bit like I was back in junior high. Does any of this sound familiar?
It’s been two months since I attended a Mom’s group and had a falling
out with two of the mothers. They have pretty much soured my
relationship with most of the other mothers in the group.
Three months ago, I canceled a play date at my house because a predicted snowstorm was announced on the news. One of the mothers, Sandy, tried to make me look bad by sending out an e-mail to the whole group saying that she was shocked that I was canceling. I was mad so I sent another e-mail to everyone explaining that the mayor had asked people not to drive and that all local schools were closed.
Sandy de-friended me on Facebook, I assumed, because I had cancelled the play date. Another mother, Beth (who is good friends with Sandy), told me that she thought that Sandy was overly upset, but that I shouldn’t have sent my e-mail afterward. I was really good friends with Beth whom I trusted. I shared my thoughts and feelings with her when I was unsure of someone in our group and she did the same with me.
Anyhow, she went behind my back and started talking to Sandy about me. I later talked to Sandy, who told be that Beth went back to her telling her all this stuff I had said about her. Beth said I was exhausting her with my worries about who was mad at me and she made me feel terrible. She later told me that she didn’t want to hang out with me any more so I de-friended her on Facebook.
I apologized to Sandy and said I wasn’t serious about most of the stuff I had said about her (that she thought I was a bad mother; that she was overly opinionated for believing that babies should be trained a certain way, etc.). I explained that I was upset when I said those things to Beth and that I needed a break to forget about it.
After that, things seemed good. I ran into Sandy at our babies’ swim lessons and she was friendly and sweet but since the swim class ended, I haven’t heard from anyone in the group. Only two of the eight Moms seem like they still talk to me. Since then, Beth has become friends with the moms who used to annoy her.
I know that my baby and I are better off without most of these people, but I’m still bothered that most of these moms took Beth’s side. It bugs me that things ended so badly with them. I had fun times with this group and I had hoped to watch our babies play together into toddlerhood. I have joined other groups, and this has helped me feel better. I still wonder how I should act if I run into these former
friends around town. One of my friends, who wasn’t in the group, thinks I should give Beth a dirty look if I ever see her again.
I haven’t been through something like this since junior high. A lot of these moms are not true friends. It still hurts to be the one that everyone excluded.
It’s a horrible feeling to be excluded from a group and I’m sure you are reeling from the experience. You chose to respond defensively to Sandy in a very public way. While Sandy shouldn’t have sent the initial email to all the other moms criticizing your decision, you only escalated the conflict by responding with an email that went to all the moms. It might have worked out better if you had called her directly and explained your position. My guess is that someone else would have come to your defense online.
Then you made the mistake of gossiping about Sandy to Beth, whom you knew were both good friends. When Beth got upset about this, you de-friended her on Facebook. Although it’s someone else’s suggestion, now you are considering giving her a dirty look.
This is a mom’s group that came together because you all had kids of similar ages. You probably should have eased yourself into the group and studied the people and their relationships with each other before you treated them as close friends with whom you would share confidences.
You made the mistake of lashing out at Sandy by email and de-friending Beth on Facebook, actions I suspect you would have been hesitant to do face-to-face. Although this commonly happens on the Internet, it’s something you should be careful about in the future.
It does seem like at least some of these moms act like adolescents but you also bear some of the blame. Try to learn from this experience. Next time, take it more slowly when you join a new group. Another suggestion: Always take the high road and treat people the way you would like to be treated — especially if you are going to see them again! As easy and tempting as it may be, don’t respond to a nasty
email with another. Don’t de-friend someone on Facebook when you are likely to encounter her again in your town.
I’m glad that you have found a new group where you can start anew. Since your child is so young, it should be easy for her to adjust to the new kids. Act friendly and open when you bump into these other women. Since they live in your town, you may find yourself on the same committee of the PTA or sharing the duties of class mothers. By then, this upset will be long forgotten by everyone.
Best of luck,