Did I screw up my friendship breakup?
July 24, 2009 1:13 PM   Subscribe

Yet another friendship breakup question. A very, very dear friend has disappeared from my life during the past three years. We had this amazing chemistry, which we both acknowledged... until she cut me off her life with no explanation. I have three actual questions on friendship breakups.

During the last three years, she's been more and more difficult to get in touch with. During the last year and a half, there has been no contact from her end. She's also behaved in a strangely rude manner towards many people: failing to keep any promises, simply disappearing and refusing all contact when needed, etc. Some of these incidents have been work-related or important in other ways.

Before all communications ceased, she emailed me a couple of times, profusely telling how much she liked me and missed my company. After these, nothing.

I replied one of the emails saying I missed her company too, and how rare it was for me to have a friend like her. I didn't want to act too mushy or demanding. I said it'd be cool if she could just let me know she was OK every now and then; I'd be fine with that if she was being very busy. I never got a reply.

Fast-forward a year and a half, during which nothing much has happened. I tried to call her a few times, maybe once every two or three months. I texted her a couple of times, just nice and short stuff you could've answered with ":)" or whatever. (I hate to be harassed by some of my socially hyperactive friends and enjoy my privacy, so I tried to be as non-invasive as possible while also telling her, in a short and unmushy way, that I was thinking of her.) I don't want to be a clingy friend-cum-stalker who can't take a hint, so every time I called or texted or emailed her, I made sure I kept it sincere but casual.

She never called or texted me back. Finally I heard she was giving the silent treatment to some of our mutual friends - but not all of them. From what people told, she was clearly capable of maintaining close friendships with other people.

I've slowly accepted the fact that she doesn't want to continue our friendship, and that perhaps it never meant as much to her as it did to me. I'm getting over the friendship breakup, but it's been surprisingly hard. It feels as if I've lost a part of myself along with the friendship, and have to grow something new in its place to fill the gap.

I have three questions:

1) Have you ever been that person? Can you shed any light on why a person would behave like this? People sometimes fade out of each other's lives, but it's hard to understand why someone first tells you she likes you and misses you a lot, and then behaves like a complete arse. You're not her, I know, but knowing other points of view may help. A lot.

2) We may bump into each other in the future. I don't know how I'd react at the moment. Have you been in that situation? What happened? I sort of dread bumping into her, which feels totally absurd!

3) Is there anything I could've done to save the friendship? I've tried very hard to respect her privacy while making clear how much she meant to me. Have I somehow managed to screw things up?

(Posting anonymously as her Google-fu is top notch.)
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (43 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I've cut people out of my life before (some permanently, some temporarily), but never without a good reason.

You don't say if there was any romantic element to this friendship other than "chemistry"-- was that a factor? If so, she might have gotten freaked out, especially if her "I miss you" emails were written while drunk, as they often are.

If not, then then there probably wasn't anything else you could have done. She sounds like a handful; maybe you're better off.
posted by oinopaponton at 1:19 PM on July 24, 2009

I disappeared on my friends when I was in a controlling, abusive relationship.
posted by Pax at 1:23 PM on July 24, 2009 [7 favorites]

I disappeared on my friends when I was suffering from horrible depression.
posted by ersatzkat at 1:26 PM on July 24, 2009 [41 favorites]

Depression can look like this from the outside.
posted by crickets at 1:26 PM on July 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Where are you located? This is a situation I'm kinda going through also...down to small details. Weird. Do we know the same person?

Anyways, what I decided to do was based on this question:

What would you do if this person came back into your life?

2 options.

A. All forgiven for total ditchage?

B. Issues to work through because of ditchage before we can be friends again?
1. Is it worth it or...
2. Is it easier to make new friends?

For me...its easier to make new friends. MeMail me if you're in the so-cal area...as I REALLY think we know the same person.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:28 PM on July 24, 2009

Maybe she had a crush on you, knew you thought it was just a friendship, and decided her best option to deal was to stop all contact with you.
posted by Perplexity at 1:28 PM on July 24, 2009

She might have a problem with intimacy that leads her to cut the people out of her life with whom she feels most intimate and vulnerable. Essentially a fear of failure, a fear of somehow ruining your friendship, and embarrassment at having expressed loving feelings towards you leads her to avoid you, and then once she avoids you she feels guilt and shame piled on top of all those other feelings and...
posted by kathrineg at 1:30 PM on July 24, 2009 [10 favorites]

Depression on her part, controlling relationship she might be in, a drug problem, or there is something about you personally that you are not telling us that has to do with her disappearance. We have no way of knowing.

The only times I have ever completely cut anyone out of my life have been specifically for lying and being beyond the pale jerky. You don't sound like a jerk, and there is no way for any of us to know that you are or are not a liar.

The only time it's ever happened to me, it was about drugs. We're friends again now, because I knew it wasn't my friend doing the things he did.
posted by Medieval Maven at 1:36 PM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

the only question I can answer for sure is:

3) Is there anything I could've done to save the friendship?

No. It takes two people to be friends and she, for whatever reason, doesn't want to be. There's nothing you could do that would change things.

I have known a person like this. I'm not saying this about your friend necessarily, but in the case of the girl i knew, she was just deeply selfish and troubled. She would dump people on whims if they committed the slightest perceived offense. She was dishonest, manipulative, and disappeared from the lives of even her lifelong friends for months on end. But she was extremely charming and good at putting up a front. Even when I had firsthand evidence of what she was really like, it took me a long time before I could really accept it.

We can have the discussion about how much it is fair to "blame" someone when they are probably pretty seriously mentally ill. But in my case i decided that was irrelevant. There was no way i could help her because she didn't want help. She wanted to act the way she did. My only choices were to stay in the whirlwind of drama or run away as far as I could. In retrospect, running away was one of the better decisions of my life.
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:46 PM on July 24, 2009 [5 favorites]

1) Have you ever been that person? Can you shed any light on why a person would behave like this? People sometimes fade out of each other's lives, but it's hard to understand why someone first tells you she likes you and misses you a lot, and then behaves like a complete arse. You're not her, I know, but knowing other points of view may help. A lot.

I've done this with a couple friends. In both cases, they were just too darn clingy. One had too much drama in her life and I was getting tired of the freak show. I really liked both of these people, but the thought of talking to them started giving me anxiety attacks - especially since both of them were hyper sensitive and a bit pushy, and neither had a problem with asking me "why haven't you called me in so long?" Which is why I don't even respond to their emails - because of the guilt trips. I just pretty much developed an aversion to their company. I've had the occasion of seeing one of them after some time - I enjoyed talking to her - really don't want to hang out.

Oh, and by the way...they aren't behaving like a "complete arse" they're just not talking to you. There's a difference - and the fact that you view their lack of communication this way isn't going to increase their desire to talk to you.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 1:46 PM on July 24, 2009

I have disappeared on friendships when I was overwhelmed by draining life experiences (my own illness, nursing my elderly dad or in-laws during their illness). Some of my friends understood and cut me lots of slack; other friends just let me go.

If one of the friends who had let me go contacted me now, I'd be thrilled. But that's me.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:59 PM on July 24, 2009

That's me.

When I don't feel like talking to someone... I don't. Maybe I am busy and stressed out or maybe I am just not in the mood, and I tell myself that I'll call later. Later becomes *much* later, the person calls again, and I find that I am still not in the mood to talk to him or her. I feel guilty but I do want to be left alone. At some point I realize that I am probably never going to be in the mood to talk to that person, and apparently I don't want to be friends with him or her. Then, looking back, I'm able to see where the tipping point was between BFF and DO.NOT.WANT, and why -- but I pretty much lack the self-knowledge to see it happening as it's happening, and when I could have just spoken up and maybe worked it out. Well, now I know that I no longer consider the person a friend, and so I am a little annoyed if they keep calling me. Eventually, they stop calling. If I run into the person after that, I hope to have a "Methyl! How are you! Long time no see! Great, great! Let's get together real soon! Buh-bye!" interaction.

Yes, I agree this is a shitty way to treat people.
posted by Methylviolet at 2:11 PM on July 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've been this person and it has been depression for me as well. My friends call it my "dropping off the face of the earth" episodes. From the outside, I seem okay: I manage to limp my way through relationships with those I'm not particularly close to but have to see frequently, such as coworkers or classmates. But the more meaningful the relationship, the harder it is for me to reach out to them.

While I know they would mostly understand, or at least try to, it is still too hard, too embarrassing, and too much the perception that I would be burdening them with my frozen misery for me to attempt to make the connection all that often. I love and have great affection for my good friends and feel lucky to have them in my life. That love alone isn't enough to break past the mess in my head, but therapy and meds and generally taking care of myself helps me climb my way through it a bit. If your friend's situation is anything like mine, I hope they are getting help and will be better equipped to reach out to you again soon.
posted by vespertine at 2:17 PM on July 24, 2009 [9 favorites]

I'm with many above. The very first thing I thought was she's suffering from depression or other emotionally-draining problems like Sidhedevil mentions.

She may be "afraid" to spend time with you because she's embarrassed by her problems or doesn't want to burden you, and that gets twisted into avoiding you, ignoring your calls etc.

(Speaking red-facedly from a little experience here.)
posted by rokusan at 2:40 PM on July 24, 2009

To your first question, I've been this person, but not because of depression, I don't think. I'm just not very social sometimes. Some friendships can weather that, others can't.

I find that liking someone and having our friendship fade out sometimes don't seem to be directly related. I can think of a few friends I genuinely like, who like me, and still the relationships have faded and correspondence stopped. Some were my fault, some were the other person's. I think it has a lot less to do with likability or chemistry, and much more to do with each person's expectations within friendship, reactions to stress and life changes, and home/work/family situation. Not that that makes it hurt less when you don't want the friendship to end or fade, but I do think it's key to understanding how people with awesome chemistry sometimes just don't stay friends.
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:43 PM on July 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

I have dropped friends like this, and I have been dropped by friends like this. Sometimes I am upset by the latter, and sometimes not. I have dropped people because, for whatever reason(s), I started actively disliking or dreading spending time with them. Not because they are bad people, just because our personalities did not mesh. I do not know why I have been dropped, usually; I assume it's something much the same.

I also have isolated myself when depressed, which may be what your friend is doing because it's about more than just one or two people.

If it's the first, I wonder if maybe it's the ask/hint cultural difference.[1] Your friend is telling you that she doesn't want to be friends anymore, and that she is unwilling to discuss why (perhaps because she feels it would end in a huge, unpleasant fight: I don't want to tell people I dread seeing them), and this is what she considers polite yet clear.

If you see her again, you be pleasant, casual, and leave the conversation quickly.

[1] I call it ask/hint due in part to some conversations here.
posted by jeather at 2:51 PM on July 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

I've got a terrible habit of doing this. I disappear on friends, and then get ashamed of doing so, and avoid them so as to avoid imagined awkwardness. If external pressures keep me from having to do anything with them, then they usually try contacting me, either through phone (I do not pick up), or email (I write and rewrite a response for a week then toss it.) Or they meet me in person, in which case, I am supremely uncomfortable and think they are thinking all sorts of things, and I try for the nearest socially graceful exit. This usually snowballs until I am great big ball of anxiety about the whole situation. I, then, actively try to forget about the whole thing, and call it a lost cause, and sour grapes. I'm... I'm not quite sure how this translates into useful advice. Though, to offer something, those that have successfully broken this pattern of mine have done so by just repeatedly intruding back into my life, and acted like nothing happened. But that tactic has not worked for everyone, I am sorry to say.
posted by TwelveTwo at 2:53 PM on July 24, 2009 [5 favorites]

It occured to me that perhaps those last few emails from her saying how much she liked you were maybe just there to soften the blow? Meaning, she sent them having no intention of ever really seeing/talking to you again, but didn't want to hurt you in the process. Sort of a cousin to "it's not you it's me." Admittedly that's a pretty jarring thing to do, but I don't really know you or your friend.
posted by axiom at 2:56 PM on July 24, 2009

Oh, the immediate reason for disappearing is usually because I am in one of my down moods that make social interaction emotionally and mentally draining. I cannot think of a time when it was because of any of them.
posted by TwelveTwo at 2:56 PM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Life gets busy. I've got friends I go months, sometimes years, without seeing. Sometimes they get in relationships that are intense, sometimes they have kids, sometimes they go away for work, sometimes they're working so hard chasing a promotion or an MBA they don't have time to sleep, never mind respond to my nonsense. Sometimes I'm the guy doing those things. I hope my friends don't attribute it to me suddenly becoming rude or strange or listen to rumors that I'm giving mutual friends the silent treatment.

If you're interested in trying to maintain this friendship I would say keep reaching out until you hear different from her. Invite her far a drink and a catch up, or shoot her an e-mail telling her what you've been up to and asking her how she is. You've lost nothing but 2 minutes if she doesn't reply. You're not responsible for her actions, only yours, and as far as you know the friendship is still on.
posted by IanMorr at 3:15 PM on July 24, 2009

Have you ever heard of Borderline Personality disorder?

These people usually have very intense-- and unfortunately, not very long lasting relationships and friendships... They blow hot and then very cold. Seeings you're not the only one getting the "frosty mitten" from her, I'd say the problem is not yours.

You're just not the flavor of the month anymore...Don't waste another minute on it.
posted by AuntieRuth at 3:23 PM on July 24, 2009 [3 favorites]

You sound a bit co-dependent, or perhaps you have a crush on this person. That would be enough to scare me off. Do you have your mutual friends badgering this person for information on your behalf? That would annoy me greatly.

I had a good friend that I lost contact with over the years. I looked them up and we chatted a few times via e-mail, then lost contact for two more years (I am social leper, and this is not unusual for me). Then when I contacted them again to see how they were doing, they went into this long, whiney rant about how I don't communicate with them for long stretches at a time and demanding an explanation. At that moment I determined that they were simply too high maintenance and ceased further contact.
posted by momzilla at 3:31 PM on July 24, 2009

My experience is very much like that of Meg_Murry and TwoTwelve. I go through periods where it feels like everything in my life is crap and/or I'm just not up to being social at all. In the meantime, unreturned calls or texts pile up and I feel incredibly guilty, yet unable to do anything about it. Calling them back at this point seems out of the question because I don't feel like I have a good reason for being AWOL and I imagine that the call is going to be hugely awkward. Fortunately, most friends cut me a lot of slack and for that I am extremely grateful. The difficulty of being a friend of a person like this, of course, is that you have no idea whether this is just one of their antisocial phases they need to work through, or if they're actively trying to ditch you.

A year and a half is a lot time to be completely incommunicado, though, so I agree with the posters upthread that there's likely something much bigger going on here that likely has nothing at all to do with you. My phases never last more than a few weeks or maybe a month at most.

I once let go of a friend with whom I had pretty amazing chemistry. It didn't feel like anything had changed between us, but gradually I began to notice that we had a lot of silences in our conversations and seemed to be struggling to find things to say to one another. I began to dodge her phone calls because of this. She kept calling and texting me for awhile, but when I quit responding, she got the hint and stopped as well. Now when we do see each other (which is rare, and always in a big group context), it's like we're mere acquaintances...polite and friendly, just with no depth. I still like her a lot; she's a great person. It's just that at some point, the extreme awkwardness of the situation overshadowed all the other good stuff that we once had.

You didn't screw up, though. You sound like a pretty considerate person, and I don't think there was anything you could have done differently.
posted by anderjen at 3:39 PM on July 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

1) Nthing depression (although you say she has kept up close friendships with some people - I dunno - could still be depression).

I have failed to maintain contact/respond to emails, calls, etc. owing to my depression. I intend to contact everyone I need to contact and apologise, with an explanation, Maybe your erstwhile friend will do the same some day.

2) Just be natural if you bump into her. She'll be a friend you haven't seen for ages. Be aware of her reaction, but take it from there.

3) I think you have done everything you can do. It's not like you just tried to call once and then left it at that, and your attempting to contact her once every couple of months or so is at the level of a respectful friend, not over-eager or intrusive at all.
posted by idiomatika at 3:55 PM on July 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

I can answer #2 to this question: Every time I run into those who coldly friend-dumped me, they ignore me and act like I don't exist. I feel like I should do the same.

(And I'm talking thinking we were on good terms and waving at them and then they turned their back on me.)
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:09 PM on July 24, 2009

Nthing depression. Especially since she sent you e-mails saying specifically how much she likes you; that's rather unusual for someone who doesn't want to be your friend.

I had a very close friend act similarly toward me years ago. I knew she was depressed but I didn't really piece it together and I assumed I must have done something wrong. When she got back in touch she apologized and explained that it was the depression.
posted by Nattie at 4:14 PM on July 24, 2009

Here are my pain points:

People who comment on things that are none of their business.
People who read medical information on the web and insist I follow it.
People who treat me rudely - you should always treat your friends and lovers as well as you treat co-workers.
People who want to talk to (really "at") me incessantly.

I admit when I was younger I was guilty of all these things myself. I know I would not have liked the younger me.
posted by andreap at 4:17 PM on July 24, 2009

I've known several girls, some of whom I've been very close to, who have acted very positively and friendily towards the people they're around and made them feel that they are close friends when they really aren't--it keeps those people as friends and doesn't let them down.

failing to keep any promises, simply disappearing and refusing all contact when needed

profusely telling how much she liked me and missed my company

silent treatment to some of our mutual friends - but not all of them

Some people find it easier to make a promise to someone and then avoid them than to keep the promise or to turn down the commitment in the first place--or to tell someone how great of a friend they are and then act busy to not lose that person's friendship.

A related possibility is that this is passive-aggressive behavior? I've met girls who the descriptions on the Wiki page fit perfectly and some who don't at all, but plenty who exhibit the behavior you've described.

Eventually it became clear to me that some of the people I took as close friends were friend-whores more than anything--their enjoyment seemed to come from everyone liking them and wanting to be their friend, even if this required presenting a rather fake persona to many of them.
posted by jgunsch at 4:34 PM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm doing this to friends right now, actually. It took everything I had in me to email ONE of the many people I've been avoiding to tell her that it wasn't her fault and that I'm was just going through a rough patch. She's being very understanding, given that she's had some mental health issues as well.

There are some friends that I'm embarrassed to tell, or that I worry will tell other people and I don't want them to know that I'm depressed.

There are some friends that just fall by the wayside accidentally, no matter how much I like them and like being around them. It's not their fault, I just can't deal.

And then there are a few friends that I still have because I need them. Although I feel like I'm a burden on them because they're the only ones I can stand to be around right now.

Anyway. Your friend could just be depressed or *insert other personal issue here* and it's not your fault.
posted by elsietheeel at 5:23 PM on July 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

Much like Pax, I acted this way toward most of my friends, especially all of my male friends, when I was in an abusive and controlling relationship. It started with my ex cutting me off from my friends, and then progressed to the rest of the world. It of course was not my wish to break off contact with any of them, but I was told by my ex-SO to do so. I feared the consequences otherwise. This included text messaging, instant messaging, e-mails and phone calls. It also included simply conversing with those of the opposite sex, which affected work and school. He knew how to check on me and I was too weak to fight back. Many of my former friends knew "something" was going on, but didn't think it was as bad as it was. Only a few people tried to keep in contact with me, including my current boyfriend.

Do you know if she's in a relationship? If she is and it seemed normal at one point in time, it may not be now - mine was normal in the beginning too. If you have any reason at all to suspect that a relationship is the cause (and the type of behavior she is exhibiting is a reason), please continue to reach out every once in awhile in the manner you have been already, even if you feel like you're not getting through. Oftentimes a random text message from one of my former friends wondering how I was doing was my only link back to reality and my former life (even if I never reciprocated the contact). I can't stress enough how much those fragmented bits of communication were my life preserver in a hurricane. They let me know there was somebody out there thinking about me, and that meant a lot when I felt like I was worth less than the shit on someone's shoe.

I eventually broke up with the loser because my former best friend reached out to me and the lightbulb went off that I wouldn't be alone if I tossed him. You sound a lot like my friend Brennan. He was one of three people who never really gave up trying to contact me, and we are the best of friends again now.

I urge you to discuss this with some of your mutual friends - both those who she is still in contact with and those who she is not. Ask if they've seen anything to indicate that something is wrong.

All I really wanted or needed at that time was for people to reach out - so many of my friends just accepted it and moved on when I broke up with them or cut off contact (remember, I did this against my will) that I felt more obligated to stay with someone who "cared" about me.
posted by Gonestarfishing at 6:03 PM on July 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

Copying this from a journal post of mine from long ago, mainly because I'm lazy and also because it says it as well as can be:
One of the most frustrating things I’ve had to deal with through the years, friends-wise, is trying to explain to friends that my wanting to be alone, or not being in the mood to talk (sometimes for months at a time), has absolutely nothing at all to do with them or the state of our friendship or how interesting I find them, but is just me. Stealing the words of my friend Mel, who knows exactly what I’m talking about: All I can say is… my frequent need to withdraw from people is an inescapable part of me, and if you want to put up with me you have to put up with that, too.”
This is me. I've come to terms with it, although I still deal with embarrassment and anxiety whenever I'm back to a more social state of mind and have to then deal with having been absent for long periods. Methylviolet's comment rang pretty true--although for me it's rarely a matter of not wanting to be around specific people and more a case of wanting to not be around anyone.

The worst part, for me, is always on the other end when I want to reconnect with people. I feel awkward just popping back up into social groups I'd abandoned, often with no warning, months before, and I never know whether to address my absence or ignore it. The former seems too Drama Llama-esque, but the latter doesn't seem the right tact either. This has led me to have a very small, very understanding group of good friends who know this is what I'm like, and a lot of brief acquaintances who often disappear from one "quiet period" to another.
posted by elfgirl at 6:05 PM on July 24, 2009

TwelveTwo wrote pretty much what I would've. For friends that do give up trying to "intrude", (which too is exactly how I imagine my friends must feel), I completely understand. It does get very tiring for them.
posted by lmm at 6:21 PM on July 24, 2009

Also forgot to add, the part of your question that made me think of my own situation was this:

Before all communications ceased, she emailed me a couple of times, profusely telling how much she liked me and missed my company. After these, nothing.

I did the same thing to my then-former-friend-now-boyfriend during the abusive relationship. I had always and was still crushing on him and couldn't take it any more since I didn't have a friend to talk to about it, so I contacted him and had a very impassioned conversation about how much I missed him, cared about him, missed our friendship. Ex sniffed out that something was going on and I promptly cut off contact for fear of Consequences. I only contacted him again when I finally grew the balls to break up with my ex.

and we are now living happily ever after
posted by Gonestarfishing at 6:21 PM on July 24, 2009

Thats me. I've cut people out of my life abruptly. In retrospect sometimes there were not good reasons, though sometimes there were. In either case I'm quite sure they were as bewildered as you are right now, but sorry to say at the time I genuinely didnt care.

My reasons were various --
-going thru huge changes in my personal situation, economically and with family and with career, relocating and etc. I really just dropped some pretty decent friends overnight when all that hit. Some of that I regret now but at the time it was like doing emergency triage on my life, had to prioritize quickly.
-got into a heavy and difficult relationship which took all my time. I regret losing contact with friends in retrospect, but at the time I didnt know how to handle both.
-other times I've dropped friends just because we were going towards different paths (like if they got married and I hadnt yet). In retrospect I suppose I could have navigated that better, but at the time I didnt know how.

etc. Every now and then I've dropped contact with someone just because I really didnt care about them as much as they thought I did. I'm sure they were bewildered by that.

When I was going thru my rough patch a lot of friends gave me slack and later on I reconnected successfully (and was grateful that they were still there). I'm more aware now of how my behaviour affected my friends (the ones I did care about anyway) and I wouldnt make a lot of those mistakes again.
posted by jak68 at 11:45 PM on July 24, 2009

As far as "is there anything you could have done to save it", I think the answer is probably "no". Friendship, like a conversation, takes two. If one doesnt want to talk, it doesnt happen.

That said, don't be afraid to bump into her. If you do, just smile and nod and move on unless she wants to stop you and talk. The burden of effort has shifted to her at this point, I think.
posted by jak68 at 11:48 PM on July 24, 2009

I dropped a friend like this one. In this instance, the friendship was very intense, and it also focused alot around our mutual dislike of our location at the time. A year later, I had made new friends and started to enjoy our location. Hanging out with my old friend reminded me of that terrible first year, and I began to dislike how our friendship was based on shared negativity--in short, it kind of bummed me out. Not because of anything she had done, but because I associated her friendship with a really bad time in my life. I guess we just couldn't make the transition from 'friends in need' to 'friends anytime.' I have always felt bad about taking the coward's way and not talking about it, but it's kind of an awkward conversation to have.
posted by Bella Sebastian at 12:10 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

It could be her. It could be you. We can't tell.

But you know the answer already- she is, for whatever reason, not interested in this friendship now. If you are genuinely concerned, consider asking one of the friends she is keeping up with to make sure it's not a depression/abusive relationship/other bad thing on her end kind of problem. If it isn't, let it go. Make new friends; she isn't being a friend to you anyhow.

When you see her, be friendly, allow the possibility of reopening the friendship if you like, but do not complain about how long she was out of touch; it won't get you anywhere and may sour the social occasion for everyone.

As for reasons, we can only speculate, but as I have been the friend-dumper before, let me share a few reasons I've done it:
- when a male friend is clearly hoping for more-than-friendship, and can't cut out the flirting even after I ask
- one friendship I ended because the person complained constantly, about his supposed inability to do every activity: "oh I'm not good at x", where x is absolutely anything, regardless of his actual ability.
- One kept making my nerdspace unsafe (I am a nerd. I'm ok with this. Not being ok with it means you are not my friend; even more so, announcing to my nerd friends that you aren't ok with it means you are not at all my friend.)
- one friend made consistent poor financial and personal decisions, and insisted on trying to get my approval for them/drag me in too. Eventually I could no longer deal with the drama and needed to get some distance.

Of course like everyone else sometimes I'm incommunicado because I'm just crappy at communication, or super busy, or away for several weeks, or.... who knows. We certainly don't, and you're not going to either, at least not for some time yet.
posted by nat at 12:16 AM on July 25, 2009

You say she's still friends with some others, but seems to not be reciprocating with you. Well, are those friends older friends? If she is going through some stuff, she may be more comfortable with only certain people for any number of reasons.

I've dropped contact with very close friends before. I had a shit-ton of heavy, heavy stuff hit after I finished school, and no one in my close circle of friends could relate. They could empathize, but they hadn't experienced any of it. Frankly I felt embarrassed to bring any of it up....so I became a hermit. When I got myself together, I contacted people....most understood why I dropped off the planet for a while.

I feel anxious when seeing a friend I haven't talked to in a while...this tends to go away after we get to laughing about the stupid shit we used to do.

Don't force contact....seeing as you have mutual friends, she'll hear what you're up to at some point. It's up to her, you can't really do much.
posted by shinyshiny at 3:09 AM on July 25, 2009

follow-up from the OP
Thanks for all the answers, they're an immense help!

A personality disorder or something to do with her own relationship (if there is one; at this point I really don't know) has crossed my mind many times.

I disappear from time to time too and can see why many people need to do it. More than 1,5 years just seems a bit on the long side. We've known each other for over a decade, and she's never dropped off the face of the earth before, not even for short periods of time. It's a drastic change in her behaviour.

@The Light Fantastic: you're absolutely right, not talking to me doesn't make anyone a total arse. But repeatedly leaving some other people in real trouble with their important business sort of does. I must've been unclear in the original post, sorry! Suppose I meant to say I'm not the only one who's baffled by the situation. Some other people are angry and fed up with her. I'm mostly baffled, surprised and sad, but I can see why others are getting really fed up.

Re: codependency, I'm quite allergic to codependent behaviour and try my best not to act that way. What may feel non-invasive and respectful to me might not be the same for other people, though, so perhaps now would be a good time to revise my actions.

Re: crushes, I'd say it's unlikely. No crush from my part, and my friend isn't interested in my gender at all. It isn't a guarantee, of course.

Re: continuing to reach out, this is an interesting point. Reaching out for a couple of years has made it harder for me to move on, but perhaps I will try again, one day. Some of the things Gonestarfishing writes somehow ring true.
posted by jessamyn at 6:14 AM on July 25, 2009

I'd swear we know the same person but I don't think it's possible. I've had our mutual friends ask me if the friend in question is doing drugs. But we don't have any real evidence. We just wonder because she's hanging out with a set of completely new people at new clubs and her new life is a mystery to us and she has become too thin. She still calls us from time to time. We figure she's going through a phase and hope for the best.

I've had two other friends do this before, one was bi-polar and she got a "new best friend" and threw it in my face. Six months later she did the same to her new BFF and that girl and I became friends because we bonded over the shared experience. The other friend who did this to me had started doing drugs heavily. She became depressed and paranoid. When she stopped using she mended our friendship.
posted by i_love_squirrels at 8:27 AM on July 25, 2009

If it's new behavior it's unlikely to be a personality disorder. They are ongoing and pervasive.
posted by kathrineg at 9:41 AM on July 25, 2009

I once asked a similar question, the answers to which might be of use.
posted by WCityMike at 10:15 AM on July 25, 2009

You didn't ask what to do, but I'll offer this: Assume something weird happened. For a while, send cheery, bland, no-reply-required emails. Start with that wedding youtube that was on the front page. Just "Hi, thinking of you; loved this so I'm sharing" emails. After 4 - 5 of those, call and check in with a "Gee, haven't seen you in ages. Hope things are okay. If you need a pal, give me a call" and no stress, no expectation. Leave the door open so that if it's depression, jail, herpes, whatever, the friendship can be resumed easily. At some point, give up, assuming that there are some unexplainable events in life.

I have a friend who occasionally gets deeply depressed, and then has a hard time re-establishing contact, because she feels so awkward. Life is complicated. Don't make yourself feel bad over this thing you can't control or explain.
posted by theora55 at 9:57 AM on July 26, 2009

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