"My flabber was completely gasted." - Rating Pending
Question #91946 posted on 01/28/2019 7:52 a.m.
Q:

Dear 100 Hour Board,

There are a few people I have a complicated past with (basically they are ex-friends), who I have intentionally ghosted for the foreseeable future, to varying degrees (from "I don't hate you, but you hurt me" to "yeah I honestly think you are a bad person"). Given our overlapping social circles and locations, however, it's a reasonable possibility that I will run into one of them.

I really need to come up with a strategy of how to appropriately react if this happens, and I don't want to run away or freeze up because I do not want to let my fear of them have power over my life. (The fear being that they will continue to hurt me in some way) Even if it is more uncomfortable for me to stay than to run away I would honestly rather suffer through it out of sheer spite.

That said, for the most part these people are *extremely* non-confrontational in-person, to a fault--they are most likely to smile, ask me how I'm doing, etc. which not only hurts me (because it doesn't attempt to acknowledge the past) but puts me in an awkward position to do the same back at them. (This happened once or twice already and I did not initiate the interaction.)

I have a few ideas on possible "scripts" I could practice so that I'm not scared and caught unprepared in the moment, but am highly interested to know the Board's own thoughts and experiences on navigating ex-friends. (And yes, I am seeing a therapist as well.)

sincerely,
the ex-friend trying to move on from the pain

P.S. just to clarify, I am not looking for advice about how to forgive, I know that is the goal spiritually speaking but "practical" forgiveness (aka putting on a happy face and pretending like the past didn't happen and that I'm not still recovering from it) is not really helpful and it caused some of the original problems in the first place.

A:

Dear you,

I actually have a very similar situation to yours. In fact, I mentioned it in several of my early answers. 

What I did? Developed emotional distance. Emotionally divorcing myself from this friend enabled me to no longer care about interactions with her. And that takes time. It took a long time for mere mentions of her name to not cause a stab of pain. To be completely honest, it still hurts to think of her sometimes, and it's been three years. But I smile when I see her, because she's no longer a part of my emotional life. I don't have any emotional connections with her, and so it doesn't hurt to be civil. 

Even if you can't totally divorce yourself from these people, they don't have to have emotional sway over you. 

Good luck, my friend.

~Anathema

A:

Dear you,

What I've found is the easiest thing for me to do is to plan out what I'm going to say if I run into them. I plan out a few small talk topics (work, school, the weather etc.) and then I plan out a reason to end a conversation (I have to go to class, I actually need to go make a phone call, etc.). I've had the misfortune of running into several exes and this has worked pretty good. I like to start the conversation when bumping into them is inevitable because it not only looks better, but it also allows me to control the conversation.

Also, I know you don't want to avoid them, but that's actually my #1 go to strategy and avoiding people is nothing to be ashamed of. Don't feel too bad if things don't go as well as you would hope. We all have awkward moments and emotions are powerful things. Good luck dealing with this situation. I'm sure things will get better even if it is a bit slow and painful. Hope this helps.

Peace,

Tipperary

A:

Dear Ex-Friend,

I don't feel like I'm the kind of person who makes enemies easily, but there's one dude I know that I kind of consider my arch-nemesis. About a year ago he was engaged to my best friend and broke it off in a very dramatic way, saying a lot of hurtful things to her in the process. She has moved, but I still live in the same ward as this guy and am friends with one of his friends. 

Look, this isn't very nice, but I can't stand the guy. I didn't really like him before he and my friend dated, and any kind impulses I might have had toward him have gone into the toilet. If this sounds familiar, read on. 

The way I deal with this guy is to just treat him like he is a literal ghost. I don't look at him or talk to him, and he has gotten the message. We pass like ships in the night, never acknowledging each other's presence. It's truly the ideal situation until one of us moves. 

You may be thinking, "Quixotic Kid, that doesn't sound very Christlike." That's fair. But is it more Christlike for me to ignore him or to open my mouth and say something unkind? Until I know for sure that I can do the latter, I'll stick to the former.

-Quixotic Kid

A:

Dear you,

My ex-friend lives next door, with my brothers, and is completely accepted in my friend group. So he is around a lot. He does not understand that we're not friends. Like, I've told him, but he doesn't get it and the boundaries I set are very short-lived. 

My goal is to be as free from his influence as I can. I don't want him to have any of my time or emotions. This allows him to interact with mutual friends, come to my roommate's parties, and try to talk to me without me having to invest my resources. 

I have to make up a lot of excuses to avoid hanging out with him one on one (because he doesn't understand when I tell him the truth). I am often very bad at hiding my negative feelings when he talks to me. Because of that he says unkind things to me. 

Honestly it's not something I have figured out. It doesn't feel like me to dislike someone like this. But I do whatever I can to get the reality I need. I've been thinking about asking him to be nice to me. That feels like part of the reality I need. 

Don't:

Talk trash about them whether they're there or not.

Make fun of them, even if it is normal for the old friendship

Engage in meaningful conversation of any kind. 

Accept any invitation that creates a reality you don't want.

I do much better when I've had some time to mentally prepare. Part of not letting ex-friends affect you is knowing who you are without him or her. Then you have to hold on to who you are throughout every interaction. 

It sounds counterintuitive that you have to work so hard to prevent someone from influencing your life. But I've found, at least for me, the force must be exerted to protect your world and who you want to be. I don't want to let him make me something I'm not. I can't let him make me unkind but I also can't give him my time and peace of mind. 

So I set boundaries. Then fake it until he approaches those boundaries. Then I say no.

"I can't hang out with you, I'm busy with something I'd rather do."

"I need you to leave now, thanks for coming!"

Basically "I'm nice to you, but only in the ways I can afford to be."

It sounds like we have pretty different situations, but there might be something here you can use.

Best wishes, and legitimate condolences. It's really hard to do this. I'm sorry you have to.

Babalugats