Something good happened to you but your friend is having a rough time. Maybe you’re engaged, getting married, having a baby, getting a new job. Whom should you tell? I have read many opinions on how to classify people as friends, family, acquaintances, etc., and the protocols of communicating what with whom, when, and how. Here are my thoughts on the matter.
First of all, I believe each woman has a good idea of how well she knows others. Any given person that she considers herself acquainted with should fit easily into a category of communication, personal closeness, etc. If it isn’t clear, or if there is a lot of drama, conflicting allegiances, or constantly changing friendship protocols, it may be a toxic relationship. Whom a woman is close to varies among each of us. A stereotypical woman might be very close to her mother, best friends with her sisters, have college mates she still keeps in touch with, not be so chatty with the grocery store cashier, etc. But no one fits a stereotype exactly and the first thing to remember when trying to figure out how one should interact with others is to let go of expectations. For whatever reason, a woman may not be close to her mother or best friends with her sister. She may not have or be in contact with close family members or classmates. She should still develop an understanding of how close she is with the acquaintances she has; that will guide her in knowing how much to confide and share.
Second, announcements such as pregnancy, miscarriage / child loss, extreme financial or physical hardship, and relationship changes should not be announced on Facebook. I understand the ritual of “updating one’s status” means a lot to some people. Trust me, your mom is not amused to hear of your engagement by reading your relationship update on Facebook. Likewise with any other major announcement; for most people on Facebook, I would assume you are not as close to some as to others. That does not mean that the event doesn’t need to ever be discussed on Facebook; it is just that proper manners dictate your telling personally, not necessarily “in person,” those closest to you, such as best friends and close family members. If you are not sure how close someone is to you, here are some questions to ask yourself:
Does this friend tell me her major announcements? If yes, put her on the tell personally list.
Do I have at least some form of regular, albeit sparse, communication and interaction with this family member (i.e. a mom, a sister, aunt)? If yes, put them on the tell personally list.
Do not ever ask yourself how you expect the other person would take it when considering whether or not to tell them. I have seen this idea discussed on the web lately by a few self-pitying people who have experienced tragedy; however, a well bred woman should not hesitate to share her pregnancy with a best friend or family member who has had a miscarriage or lost a child. You can do it tactfully and kindly, and you cannot hold yourself responsible for any pain they may feel due to circumstances outside your control as long as you know you have behaved kindly and properly. You should not hesitate to share an upcoming wedding or engagement with your dear friends even if you cannot afford to invite them to the wedding. It is far more offensive to exclude someone with whom you are in contact and who has shared their life with you, based on your opinion that they won’t like what you have to say, than to share your good news out of respect for the depth and length of the relationship. Believe me, the excluded people are not going to be happy hearing about your pregnancy or marriage from someone else or through Facebook.
Finally, you have the right to tell whatever you want to whomever you want. So if you want to cut out your sister, (former) best friend, aunt, grandmother, or whomever from your announcements, that’s completely within your right. You shouldn’t feel pressured to be close to someone just because you once were or because you’re family. I understand many toxic relationships exist, especially among family members, and I sympathize with those who are in them or have left such relationships. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. What does not make sense, however, and is rather rude and uncivil, is women who do not ostensibly cut off relations with a particular friend or family member but treat them as if they have. For example, women who show up to all the family events they’re invited to but don’t invite anyone back to their place; women who accept wedding and birthday gifts but don’t share their pregnancy announcement with the same family members who have extended courtesy to them; or, women who only interact with the family when the family reaches out to them and don’t reach back. I believe that at some point, a woman needs to decide where she stands with her family and act consistently. If for whatever reason she decides that she does not wish to share her important news with certain family members or friends, she needs to show them the courtesy of mostly or completely refraining from interacting with them and taking advantage of their generosity. You’re either close to someone or you aren’t. You can’t have it both ways. I have heard from many women over the last few years who are finding out they’re the last to know a big announcement from someone they thought was a best friend or a close family member. It’s hurtful to women who don’t understand how or why the relationship has changed, and it’s confusing especially when their supposed friend or family member acts as if they want this women to be their friend, but then they don’t return the same level of closeness in the relationship.
It’s time we all grew up. I am specifically speaking to my generation of millennials; some of us are passing 30, many of us are married and most are running our own households and are women within our own right. We’re no longer children. We can be mature by giving equal treatment in a relationship. If your family and friends confide in you, confide in them. If you’re not comfortable being close, distance yourself. Don’t stay close and act aloof. If you have good news, don’t think you’re doing someone else a favor by not telling them, even if they have had bad news. Give them the opportunity to be mature about handling your news. If they’re not mature about it, it isn’t your fault. Excluding them because you don’t think they are able to handle it isn’t your decision to make, and you risk losing more friends that way.
What are your thoughts about sharing important news and reciprocating equal treatment in a relationship? Do you find this issue harder to deal with as you get older? Have you lost or distanced yourself from any friends who did not exhibit equal trust and confidence in a relationship? I enjoy hearing the perspectives of my readers, and thank you for reading The Well Bred Woman in Progress.