Ask Amy: Wife inspires friends to walk on eggshells

Dear Amy: Over the last three years, my husband and I have enjoyed several camping and mountain biking trips with another couple.

“Ruth,” the woman of the couple, works with my husband.

I thought we had a good time as a foursome. Very few other women will “rough it” in the wilderness like we four do.

A few weeks ago, Ruth approached my husband and explained that they’d been avoiding more trips for the past year, as they didn’t think I enjoyed the trips.

I emailed them to offer reassurance that I do enjoy the trips — and our friendship — and asked them to join me for dinner to discuss this while I was home alone for a week (my husband was traveling).

They shut me down for any in-person interactions, saying that I project my unhappiness onto them, that they walk on eggshells around me, that I caused multiple instances of tension, and because of my “impacts” they would remain intentionally unavailable.

Amy, I was completely shocked! I had no idea they felt this way.

They put on a good mask — for years. These people I thought were close friends shoved me aside — by email. If they had been honest about the tension they felt, I might have been able to change my behavior, or at least understand what was bothering them.

Instead, I am confused, grieving a friendship, and just … really hurt.

They acted like “nice people,” so this came as a shock.

I am now questioning whether many other “friends” dislike spending time with me, and are walking on eggshells.

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I feel social anxiety building in me.

What can I do to move on and feel better about myself?

— Broken Eggshells

Dear Broken: The one person you’ve left out of your narrative is your husband. He is in the best position to gauge your behavior, as well as others’ reactions to you, on these trips.

You might have a blunt communication style that other people interpret as anger or tension. Instead of accepting, adjusting to, or rolling with your bluntness, they try to avoid it (by “walking on eggshells”).

Your choice to contact the couple and attempt to confront this issue personally in order to clear the air is one sign of your approach to problems. While to me this seems honest, forthright and fearless — this other couple seem to see your approach as aggressive, negative, or even hostile.

This current challenge presents opportunities for you to gain insight into your own behavior and its impact on others.

I suggest that you adopt an attitude of open inquiry regarding your own behavior by surveying people who know you best and love you the most.

Your husband and siblings (if you have them) should be able to offer you honest feedback about your interactions.

After taking a clear-eyed look at your own behavior (and making changes, if need be) you then have the right to judge this other couple as being disingenuous.

Dear Amy: I’m a woman working as a nurse in a busy hospital.

I have a younger colleague who at this point has a weekend shift.

Two or three times a month, he asks me to change shifts with him. Sometimes I say yes — but most of the time I say no.

Last weekend, as usual, he asked me to switch shifts with him, but I told him that I had family obligations over the weekend and couldn’t do that.

He got really upset with me and said he was going to go to our supervisor.

He did, and our supervisor sided with me.

He now refuses to speak to me. I feel bad about it and I’m wondering if I’m doing the right thing.

— Tired in the ER

Dear Tired: Your supervisor stood up for your right (and duty) to work the shifts you’ve been assigned. This person likely assigns shifts for specific reasons (aside from availability).

Your co-worker was arrogant enough to take this issue to your supervisor. At this point you might be relieved that he won’t speak to you — but if this avoidance interferes with your ability to provide good patient care, your supervisor should again be told.

Dear Amy: I enjoyed the question from “Tired,” who wondered how to get guests to leave at the end of an evening.

My grandfather had a saying that he would invoke when he got tired.

He would say, “Let’s go to bed now so these nice people can go home.”

— Lisa

Dear Lisa: Beautiful.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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