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Dr. Irene S. Levine Headshot

Feeling rotten about being left out of happy hour

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QUESTION

Irene,

I was so glad to find this blog. This past year, I've gone through a breakup with a group of work friends and it continues to sting. The problem began when I befriended a new co-worker, whom at first I didn't trust. She came into my department to help me and didn't talk to me much while she cultivated friendships with other people in my department. The effect was immediate polarization and I was on the outs. I suspected she might have been trying to undermine me.

After a while, things settled down and we got along better since we both made attempts to get to know each other. I then introduced her into my group at work and things were okay for a bit. Then I couldn't join them on a couple of occasions due to working my second job, not wanting to drink so much (removing myself from a happy hour now and then so I wouldn't be a wet blanket), or because I needed time to decompress.

Then I accidentally blocked a whole group of people, them included, on Facebook because I didn't understand a setting. They didn't come and ask me what was wrong. When I discovered the error, I immediately apologized. I also called one of the girls in the original work group to talk it out and she said I clearly didn't care about them anymore. Not true! My explanation and apology were rejected and suddenly I wasn't invited to ANYTHING.

I decided to lay low and let things work themselves out. Eventually, two girls invited me out, one-on-one, for certain things but never with both of them together and never with the extended group. Now things are cordial without us being real friends.

I find out about the group fun I'm now missing on Facebook after the fact. Recently, they have begun to be more open about what they're doing, but they don't ask me...and it does hurt. It's horrible to know that I seem to be of no value to people who had once shared so much with me. I realize that I was the first to pull away a bit, but as I said, no one reached out to me when they felt the retreat.

Consequently, I've found a new dedication to the true friends I've had for years and years, the ones who are secure no matter what. We don't get to hang out as much as the others because they have families to tend to and I'm single, but I take what I can get and keep to myself the rest of the time. I'd rather be guest at a family meal than at a happy hour anyway. Still, it stings badly to be discarded. Working with these people, there are daily reminders of my non-status. Every day it takes great patience and self-reassurance to feel okay but I'm determined to not let them drag me down. I hope this story helps other people like their stories have helped me.

Signed,
Nikki

ANSWER

Dear Nikki,

Whenever friendships become strained or fall apart, it's always uncomfortable to be around the people who once were your friends. This happens with once-friends who are neighbors when you bump into them at the post office or supermarket; once-friends who are friends of your friends, when you meet them at parties and such; once-friends whose kids are your kids' friends; and certainly with once-friends who work in the same office as you. I'm sorry this has happened to you but it isn't uncommon.

Your initial mistrust of your co-worker may have been prescient. In fact, it seems like this group of co-workers may simply be a bad fit for you if you're not a happy-hour kind of girl. And the Facebook fiasco should have been long forgotten after you explained what happened. Given the culture of this group, I think you were absolutely correct to give things time to simmer down and to re-establish a more cordial, but distant, relationship with your co-workers.

Don't worry about missing out on the fun. It really wasn't the kind of fun you were into on a regular basis anyway. If one or more of them invites you out on occasion, it may be "just enough" for you. In the meantime, focus on finding friendships outside of work and remember that holding down two jobs never leaves too much time or energy for having fun.

Hope this helps.

Best,
Irene

Other posts on The Friendship Blog about workplace friendships:

Achieving closure after being dumped by a friend at work

From 'just friends' to a workplace nightmare: What happened?

Why breaking up is so hard to do


Are your friendships hurting your career?

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