Dear Wendy: “Am I An Awful Friend?”
I just recently graduated from university and am on the job hunt, as are a lot of my friends. One friend and I come from similar educational backgrounds, but vary in different life and work experiences. She recently alerted me to an amazing job opportunity that she believes she’s qualified for. I agree that she definitely meets the minimum qualifications but the thing is, so do I! And my work experience would really set me apart from her, in the positive. Being aware of this, I asked my friend if she would be angry if I applied for the job as well. She initially said ‘yes,’ due to the fact that I have more experience. I think I’m going to apply anyway, but I am wondering – does this make me a bad friend? Hypothetically, if I do receive the job, I think it would put stress on our relationship (which I feel is unfair) because that’s the kind of thing my friend causes drama over. She often tries to one up me or make her “situations” the focus of attention. I feel like all we ever discuss is her life, her relationships, and the like. I do love her though and don’t want to lose her as a friend, but in this economy, a job’s a job. Am I making a mountain out of a molehill? Obviously neither of us have been hired yet, but chances are one of us could definitely be. — Piece of Work
Does applying for a job your friend is also pursuing make you a bad pal? That’s debatable in any economy, but certainly given our current state of things, it’s understandable as a recent college grad you’d want to apply for anything you might be qualified for (and find enjoyable, to boot). The problem here is you asked your friend if she’d be angry if you applied and she said “yes.” Asking her implies you care about her feelings, but disregarding her reply because it isn’t the answer you wanted to hear shows a real lack of character on your part. Imagine if instead of talking about a job here, we were talking about a guy. What if your friend introduced you to this awesome guy she was interested in dating. And what if, despite knowing how she felt about him, you decided to pursue him yourself simply because you, too, thought he was great. Kind of effed up, right? Sure, you can say you’re a better match — that you have more in common, that he was obviously more interested in you — but if your friend specifically asked you not to go for this guy and you did anyway, she’d have every right to be angry.
Obviously, we’re not talking about a guy; we’re talking about a job — something that, unlike a boyfriend, you need to survive. If you have your heart set on applying for the position, and you truly care about keeping the friendship, why not have a mature discussion with your friend about how much this job would mean to you and why? Tell her you understand she doesn’t want you to be her competition for the position, but with jobs so few and far between, you’re going to apply anyway and you hope she can understand. I’d even suggest helping each other with cover letters and resume proof-reading, as well as preparing for any potential interviews. Understand, though, that your friend may very well be hurt, resentful and angry — especially if you’re offered the job. And she would certainly be entitled to those emotions. Reacting to a friend’s behavior when it hurts you isn’t necessarily “causing drama”; it’s called being human. Hopefully, in time, she’d move past the hurt and be happy for you. But if she doesn’t? You need to be OK with potentially damaging a friendship over this. Is the job worth it? If so, do what you need to do. Next time, maybe she won’t be so quick to tell others about job opportunities she doesn’t want anyone else to take advantage of.
I’ve been best friends with the same guy for two years now. We met through mutual friends while he was serving on a base here in the states. At first we’d hang out just with our friends and then eventually just the two of us or along with my boyfriend, whom he was also good friends with. Last December, he was shipped out to Korea and the three of us vowed to stay in contact via messenger and emails. My boyfriend isn’t a huge chat kind of guy so eventually I was the only one talking to our friend and our friendship grew. My friend started confiding more about his relationship with his girlfriend that had become extremely strained after he left the states. As always, I was there helping him through it like a good friend would. Then a few months ago, he confessed that he was in love with me and had been for a long time. I kindly explained to him that I am very much in love with my boyfriend and I have no intention of leaving him. Although we promised to remain good friends, we now go long periods without any contact and when we do talk he doesn’t chat much and will just log out at random and never come back. I really want my best friend back. Is our friendship salvageable? — Platonic Friend
What would your advice be to your best friend if he told you he was in love with a girl — not his girlfriend — who not only wasn’t in love with him back, but happened to be in a long-term relationship with someone else? What if that girl had made it very clear to him she had no intention of ever leaving her boyfriend? Would you tell him to continue his friendship with her as if his feelings were meaningless or easy to push to the side? Or might you tell him to move on, figure out where things stand with his own girlfriend and not try to interfere with this girl and the relationship she has with her boyfriend? Hopefully, if you truly cared about this person, you’d advise the latter. And if you truly care for your boyfriend, you’d focus on making him your best friend and top priority, not some other guy who professed to being in love with you. After all, how would you feel about your boyfriend maintaining a very close friendship with another woman who happened to be in love with him?
You all need space. Your friend needs to focus on his own relationship and get over his romantic feelings for you before you can ever have a chance at rekindling a friendship. Even then, it’s unlikely you’ll ever be as close as you were — or thought you were. You have to keep in mind that while you thought you were enjoying a strong platonic connection, for your friend, the relationship represented a fantasy, and fantasy is never a good foundation on which to build something of substance. Maybe in time your friend can embrace the reality of the situation and you can begin to (re)build a friendship, but until then the kindest thing you can give him — and everyone else in this scenario — is space.