Do My Friends Even Like Me?

Asking For It with Sibyl

Dear Sibyl,

I seem to have a penchant for attracting friends who are very ambivalent about me.  Or friendship.  I am not sure, but they are so difficult to be friends with, because they pursue me mightily, but then reschedule our date several times, and say any number of passive aggressive things to me when we finally do get together.  

In between hangouts, I get a lot of "I miss you so much, I really want to invest in our friendship more, you are so amazing" from them.  It's really confusing, and if this were a love relationship, I would obviously just break up with them.  Since it is a friendship, I am so uncomfortable telling them the truth—which is that they are sending me wildly mixed messages and at this point the friendship is not worth all the work it requires.  How do I deal with this friendly mind-fuck?

With Thanks,

Baffled Buddy


Dear BB,

Ambivalence is one of the hardest emotions to hold for another person.  When folks are straight up angry, sad, or in love, even when it's difficult to relate, you can just let them express themselves and move on.  But ambivalence, especially when it is directed at you, leaves a confusing sheen on every interaction, which can linger throughout a relationship.  It is easier when the person knows they are ambivalent, but awareness is rare.  Instead, you get something akin to manipulation, as the person is trying to get you to help them sort through their ambivalence with your reaction.

My advice is to get out of there.  Since it sounds like many of your friends are acting this way, that may leave you a little lonely, but being alone is better than being beset by conflicting emotions that belong to other people.  And here's the thing about ambivalence—whoever is feeling it absolutely has to work it out on their own.  No one can take them by the hand and solve their problem.  So it's best to just leave them to it.

You also seem to be wondering, "Why does this keep happening to me?"  Well, consider the fact that you could be a polarizing person, someone who provokes strong reactions in people.  If that is the case, if you are a bold figure who people either love or love to hate, then folks with ambivalence issues are naturally drawn to you, because they intuit you will help them work through their conflicting feelings just by being yourself.  In fact, by confronting them, drawing their consciousness to their own ambivalence, you would be affixing a target right to your chest for all of their wavering arrows.

Don't fall for it.  Not only is it pretty much impossible for you to solve this problem for them, but your self-worth could get all tied up in confusing relationships.  So, put up kind but firm boundaries with these friends, and don't let flattery sway you.  If they are colleagues, simply see them at work, and enjoy the time you have with them there, but politely rebuff their invitations.  Tell them you are busy, and it is true—you are busy being fabulous, trying to attract new friendships, ones in which you can truly be yourself, rather than some kind of magnet they can attach to or repel themselves from.



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