Ending friendship like a grown-up
July 21, 2014 9:54 AM Subscribe
I’d like to get some outside opinions on managing the probable end of a friendship with a formerly very close friend, without (any more) melodrama or middle-school emotional antics. I will definitely see her at a mutual friend’s birthday in a couple of months, and I may see her infrequently (e.g. a few times a year) on an ongoing basis.
We’re both about-40 women. She’s been married for nearly 15 years and has two young kids. I’m partnered with no children (my relatively new, not live-in, partner has two young kids who live with their mother).
The short version is: I have a friend, H, who I was very close to for several years. She & I have been drifting apart for a while, mostly due to normal life divergence (she has small kids and I do not, etc). H did not approve of some of my choices during and after a significant series of major life upheavals last year, and she and I have not spoken for nearly a year. I made an effort to reconnect a few months ago, but H cancelled and had not been in touch since then.
Recently, H and I were both at a big social event connected to a hobby/lifestyle group we’re both part of. This is an annual event, and I assume she expected to see me there—this is something we’ve both attended for ten years—and I certainly knew I’d see her. At the event, I approached H in what I intended to be just a friendly way—I really was not looking for a confrontation or a dramatic scene, just a hello and a brief “hey I’m good!” friendly party-chat.
This did not go as I expected. H said (this is not verbatim, but it’s as close as I can recall) “Don’t do this to me right now. I can’t be the friend you want and need”. I was sincerely astonished and really upset, said “okay” and left the room and ultimately the event. There were some tears on the way out of the event venue, and I probably could have done a better job of keeping my upset to myself, but I was genuinely shocked and hurt, and… well, it went how it went.
H did not tell me specifically why she feels this way, but I suspect that it’s largely because she did not/does not approve of my relationship with my partner. However, she hasn’t gotten any information about my life (aside from Twitter and Facebook feeds) for nearly a year, so if that is the primary issue she’s coming to this conclusion based almost entirely on her own assumptions.
I don’t plan to confront H or try to get more details out of her—she’s made it pretty clear that she doesn’t want to interact. That’s her choice and I can respect that, even though I feel really sad that she feel this way. However, she and I will both be at a minimum of two more social events in September, to celebrate another friend’s 40th birthday. The hosting friend is aware that I am bringing my partner, and has expressed excitement that we’ll attend. I don’t know if the hosting friend is aware that H apparently feels like H and I can’t be friends right now. I think that H knows we will be at these events, but it’s possible that she has missed that information.
I have considered mailing H a note—a handwritten card or similar—basically saying “I’m sorry you feel this way, but I respect your choice. My partner and I will be at (birthday events), and I will leave it to you to indicate if you’re comfortable with more than a hello. If your feelings change in the future, you’re welcome to contact me. I have really valued your friendship, and I’m sorry to have that end”. I’m hoping to reduce the likelihood of massive awkwardness, make sure she knows she’ll see us, and let her know that I’m leaving it to her to initiate any further contact. Does this seem like a reasonable approach, or could this cause more drama?
And bonus question: specific or general advice for dealing with a lost friendship. I’ve lost touch with people before, but I haven’t really had a friend breakup like this previously, and I’m finding this one kind of distressing even though H & I haven’t interacted super-often for a few years.
I’m not sure if other details are relevant, but I can add them if folks think it would be helpful.