Opposites Attract: Deal with It and Please Curb your (Facebook) Enthusiasm
Dear Dr. Hurd,
Now that we are semi-retired and have moved to Delaware, my partner and I are starting to see a pattern. When we make friends with other couples, invariably we like one member of the pair more than the other. To make it worse, we often disagree over which member of the couple we like better. This has resulted in some conflict. What to do?
Dr. Hurd replies,
I don’t quite understand the problem. When you’re friends with a couple, you get the package. That’s just how it is. You don’t expect people to break up for you, right? If you like one person more than the other, then you have two choices: One option is to drop the couple, because the one partner ruins it for you. Another option is to be glad you are friends with the spouse you prefer, and accept the partner as part of the cost of doing personal business.
It’s interesting that you find this to be a pattern. Part of that pattern appears to be that you two are the common denominator. Is there a reason you gravitate toward couples where you like one partner and dislike the other? If it’s happening all or most of the time, you might want to examine why. I’m sure it’s not deliberate or conscious, but maybe when you find one person who meets all your needs or presses all your positive buttons, you expect the other person to do the same. That level of perfectionism is not realistic.
Keep in mind that opposites attract for a reason. When we select a mate, we often subconsciously (or even consciously) choose someone to provide balance. For this reason, introverts tend to select extroverts, funny people tend to select serious people, light-reading types tend to select more intellectual types, and so forth. Of course this isn’t always true and I don’t mean to oversimplify, but because of that fact you might dislike one spouse for the very reason you like the other. In romantic partners, we tend to go for differences, while in friendship we tend to go for similarity. That’s just the way it works. Get over it and enjoy your retirement.
Dear Dr. Hurd,
I have an employee who posts all sorts of crazy stuff on Facebook. Almost every day she is either depressed, ready to “give up,” looking for a ride, asking somebody to run an errand for her, or trying to sound pitiful enough to get something for free. It’s beginning to reflect on my business, and I believe that people are interpreting her whining as some sort of commentary on me as a boss. She is good at what she does, but the fallout from her desperate need to share every last thought is starting to irritate me. I’m not sure how to handle this.
Dr. Hurd replies,
This reminds me of people advocating censorship on television or the Internet because they feel “forced” to watch or read or see things they don’t like. Nobody is forcing you! You’re free to turn off what you don’t like. Facebook has a wonderful little option called “unfollow” where you can stop seeing what Facebook friends post, but not unfriend them— unless you want to. Yes, it sends a message, but if the message is one you want to send, then so be it. You don’t have to be everyone’s friend, and not everyone has to be your friend. It’s really OK not to like everyone, and to not be liked by everyone. Indeed, the old saying is true: You’re doing something wrong if everyone likes you.
From the boss/employee angle, it’s a slightly different story. I’m not a lawyer, but in my view, a boss or business owner has a right not to permit an employee to discuss work matters on social media. If setting these limits does not harm your business interests, then consider some restrictions on what your employee may or may not post about you and your business. A slightly more subtle way would be to simply unfriend her. When she asks you why you did that, calmly and nicely tell her you just don’t like her posts as they pertain to work. Maybe she’ll get the hint.
Be careful here. Maybe you have the perception that others see her complaints as a reflection on you, but are you absolutely sure of that? In cognitive therapy we call that “mind reading” or “fortune telling.” Remember that you don’t really know what others are thinking or perceiving, outside of your whiny employee. Stick to the facts.
A lot of people use social media as a way to make their personal suffering visible. I wrote about this in the last issue of Letters. It’s called exhibitionism. And social media has made it a widespread issue—or problem, depending on how you view it. So keep some perspective. You wrote that this employee is good at what she does. Do everything you can to reinforce those competent qualities you need. Try not to listen too hard to her online venting. It’s just not that important.
Michael J. Hurd, Ph.D., LCSW is a psychotherapist and author. His office can be reached at 302-227-2829. Email questions or comments to Dr. Hurd.