When DENIAL Strikes

In Breakups/Divorce, Drama, Mental Health on September 5, 2010 at 7:10 am

Caution: Blindness is not always involuntary. Photo courtesy of Victor Jeffreys II,

Hey Bubby,

So a close female friend of mine told me a couple of months
ago that a friend of hers had just moved here and suggested we hang
out. I met her friend for drinks and we ended up making out at the end
of the night. I told my friend about it a couple of days later –
expecting her response to be anywhere from ambivalent to supportive –
but instead she responded, “I will tell her not to date you.”

Apparently, she thinks I was an asshole to one or two of my
ex-girlfriends. (I really didn’t do anything that terrible to them.)
I’ve seen her friend a couple of times since and I’m not crazy about
her or anything, but my friend’s threat has really gotten under my
skin. Why would she be friends with me if she thinks like that? I
don’t want my friendship with her to end, but I don’t think I can be
friends with someone who feels like that about me. I don’t know what
to say to her and she’s ignored me when I’ve tried to continue the
conversation. Basically, it seems like she’s done talking about it.
Also, she isn’t jealous like she wants to date me or anything.
That’s not the issue.

-Zadie In Waiting

Dear ZIW,

Might you be in denial? According to, “Denial is the refusal to acknowledge the existence or severity of unpleasant external realities or internal thoughts and feelings.” It seems to me that when a woman tries to protect her friends against the perils of dating a man, it is never in vain or without prompt. What happened with these exes? Did you unwittingly behave in a way unbecoming of yourself?

I don’t think any of this is so weird. You can love your guy friends as buddies, but not want them to go near the hearts of your female friends if you know they can be hurtful. Romantic involvement is not what your relationship with this friend entails, so the judgment of that side of you is null and void to your friendship. If she were IN love with you and thought you were a jerk when it came to dating, then you might want to question the integrity of your interactions.

It sounds like she cares about you, but doesn’t love the idea of you hurting another friend. It also sounds like she is controlling the conversation. But if you are in denial, then that is a pretty typical response. Some people hate going in emotional circles. When they know something and they find their partner in conversation faking like that shit doesn’t exist, well, continuing in that manner can be a sincere waste of time. Try reading The Elephant in the Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life by Eviatar Zerubavel to better understand this phenomenon.

Her girlfriends are going to trump you, because life sucks like that sometimes. So, do some personal gravedigging and yank up those skeletons. Re-visit the endings to those relationships and see if maybe you forgot to see something in the mirror of your ways. I wouldn’t abandon this friendship, I would abandon the self-avoidance.

According to we can confront denial by:

* Asking ourselves honestly why we are in denial.
* Asking ourselves what are the benefits to be gained by our denial.
* Recognizing the negative consequences that result from our denial behavior.
* Allowing ourselves to express negative or embarrassing emotions as we confront our problems (e.g., crying, feeling lost, feeling confused or feeling scared).
* Allowing ourselves to admit to being out of control.
* Trusting others to help us with our problem.
* Admitting our vulnerability and our need for assistance.
* Risking the loss of acceptance or approval by those who may be unable to handle our open, honest admission of our problem.
* Recognizing that denial is a natural stage in the loss/grief response.
* Believing that out of failure comes success; accepting the failure as a chance for personal growth.

Merissa Nathan Gerson is a fan of
Ask Your Yenta
  1. Sorry, but I completely disagree with your response. I think it’s ridiculous to assume that past relationships are good predictors of future ones. In this culture at least, any relationship that ends is considered a failure no matter what transpired while it was working. We fail at them over and over again until we find someone to marry and then that is only considered a success if one of the two people die before they get divorced. So I think it’s unreasonable to hold someone accountable for their past relationships, unless they were physically abusive or something. On the subject of friendship, I think friends should be generally supportive of each other unless there is some self-destructive behavior going on. Friends have a tendency to influence or control one another and when that goes from something beneficial to something harmful or negative, then there’s a problem, which is what I see going on here.

    • Hi, thanks for writing in. While I hear you with this diatribe, I don’t totally agree nor see the connection to this post. The man in question is not being judged for failing at relationships, nor as a failure to relate. His actions, having hurt women in the past, are being addressed and, albeit slightly poorly, his friend is asking him to face his behavior. This is not about not succeeding, it is about protecting the feelings of one’s friends from potential harm.

      Women, in general, are good like this because they are used to an onslaught. They will try to be sure their friends don’t get burned. As for her friendship with the man in question, supporting your male friend might be as simple as being honest with him. If this guy were to admit to his ways, I bet his friend might be more willing to give him a second chance with her girlfriends. This is not control, this is an attempt at truth.

  2. I couldn’t agree with this response more. I have male (and female, for that matter) friends that I love and trust as people in platonic relationships, but that I know damn well treat their romantic partners horribly. It’s not a reflection upon the friendship that these guys aren’t yet capable of trusting their partners the same way that they trust their friends — simply an acknowledgment of that fact. I don’t see how what this guy’s friend said was a “threat”. A threat is what we do when we want to have leverage over someone. It’s a power struggle, and it doesn’t have any place in a friendship. This girl didn’t threaten to tell her girlfriend not to date her guyfriend — she said outright that she would do so. That sounds more like a heads up than anything else. If his friend is frank about this, my guess is that she’s frank about many things. Why, this particular time, did he perceive what his friend said as a threat?

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