How to deal with absentee friend now returned?
May 15, 2011 5:18 PM   Subscribe

Make up, let go, or put ball in other person's court: how to deal with absentee friend now returned?

A friend and I were close. I leaned on this friend for emotional support at one point, friend appeared to get uncomfortable and suddenly became too busy to ever hang out. Perhaps I asked a little too much of friend, but regardless I see friend's reaction as unacceptable.

Fast forward 1.5 years, and friend suddenly wants to be super-friendly. We met once a few weeks ago; I subtly alluded to what happened; friend reacted dismissively ("whatever"); I didn't press the issue. I'm still miffed, and I'm skeptical about talking about it more directly with friend because a discussion seems painful and possibly futile. I have doubts about friend's character and maturity. At the same time, at some level I still like some of friend's qualities. We haven't spoken since, though.

Should I let the friendship go, broach the topic deliberately, let friend expend energy to repair relationship if friend wants, or some other option?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Express to your friend that you were hurt by his/her actions, and that you'd like to talk about it. If s/he doesn't want to do that, it's up to you to decide what your interactions will be.

I would be very clear about communicating what you want out of this friendship from the re-start. And also keep your eyes open for signs that your friend is about to bolt again.
posted by xingcat at 5:23 PM on May 15, 2011


suddenly became too busy to ever hang out.

You can't prove that the friend wasn't really busy, all you can do is look crazy when you accuse the friend of pretending to be busy in order to avoid you.
posted by amro at 5:52 PM on May 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


I dunno, but, when I read lines like these...

...but regardless I see friend's reaction as unacceptable.
...I'm still miffed...
...I have doubts about friend's character and maturity.


I have to wonder if you shouldn't re-examine your side of this friendship and seriously consider who, really, caused this rift. I'm getting the sense that you're far too rigid and demanding in what you seem to expect from a friendship and that, in fact, your demands pushed the friend away.

Real friends would simply roll with things and not expect some sort of grand mea culpa for supposed past transgressions before being welcomed back to the fold.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:53 PM on May 15, 2011 [20 favorites]


Friend also may have changed.

Honestly, without more details about the leaning and the pulling away, it's difficult to give advice.

If you're still upset about it though, this may not be the friendship for you. In the past, when I've done friends wrong or been wronged, I was always really eager to fix things - I missed them, I felt sad, I remembered why we liked each other in the first place. I had emotional incentive to sort stuff out. Getting back together was really exciting. If you're not feeling that pull, it might not be worth the turmoil of restarting the friendship.
posted by Frowner at 6:03 PM on May 15, 2011


There is no justice in friendships. There is no penance that your friend can do to make up for past slights (perceived or real).

If you think this is a friendship worth having, then act like you're happy to have friend back in your life.

If you feel that friend needs to make up for what they've done before they can re-achieve "friend" status, do them a favour and just drop the friendship already because *you* aren't ready to be a friend.
posted by auto-correct at 6:13 PM on May 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


Should I let the friendship go, broach the topic deliberately, let friend expend energy to repair relationship if friend wants, or some other option?

If a friend who I haven't seen in 1.5 years approached friendship with a score to be settled first, that would be the last energy I'd spend on that friendship. Who wants to start out with a negative score?

It sounds like your expectations of the previous friendship were different; they were expecting a light friendship, rather that an emotional support system. If you're looking for that kind of light friend who you can hang out with and you're able to get past the notion that the friend owes you something, sure, reach out.

If you're going to carry baggage in and expect redemption, sorry, I think you're going to be disappointed twice.
posted by dflemingecon at 6:23 PM on May 15, 2011


It doesn't seem, or at least you didn't mention, that the lack of this person left a big hole in your life for the last 1.5 years. If I am wrong about that, then sure, find kind ways to put it back to something mutually beneficial. If not, then why buy the same used car twice?
posted by timsteil at 6:33 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are all kinds of levels in friendships. Enjoy this particular friendship as presented, a superficial one but with the possibility of good times, going in with much lower expectations than you had in the past.

Good friendships require efforts, but the superficial ones are almost effortless.
posted by francesca too at 6:41 PM on May 15, 2011


Should I let the friendship go, broach the topic deliberately, let friend expend energy to repair relationship if friend wants, or some other option?

Some other option. Drop the topic and move forward without thinking of this person as the sort of friend you can lean on during tough times. You already tried to bring it up, and Friend didn't want to get into it. Based on what you're saying here (only one very vague side of the story), Friend is uncomfortable with the sort of emotional leaning you were doing before.

It sounds like that person probably liked other things about you, just as you like other things about Friend, and wants to see if you've moved on as well. If you want to have this person as a friend, keep it light and enjoy the good qualities they have. Though keep in mind Friend may have been irritated that you're still holding this grudge about it.
posted by wondermouse at 6:55 PM on May 15, 2011


Should I let the friendship go, broach the topic deliberately, let friend expend energy to repair relationship if friend wants, or some other option?

It depends on how badly you want to have this person around in your life again. I've had friends pull this kind of disappearing act, and if they came back and wanted to pretend like nothing ever happened, I tended to let it go that way... once. Sometimes, people are serial vanishers, and if that's the case, then you let them be peripheral acquaintances, but you don't necessarily let them back into your inner circle.

Do you want this person back? If so, and this is the first time, I'd just let it go. Go back to the way things were for a bit, forgive and forget, all of that jazz. Someday, they may open up and tell you what happened. I've been the disappearer before, but after I came back, I let folks know that it was depression/stress/relationships/shame that drove me away in a more-than-rude manner. If they don't want to tell you why, though, that's fine as well.

If you really do want them back, give them another chance. If this happens again? Well, you have your answer.
posted by SNWidget at 6:59 PM on May 15, 2011


It depends on what you're trying to accomplish with this friendship. It sounds like things were just really busy for your friend. Life happens. If you really want this friendship to continue, be happy that your friend is re-connecting and accept that she's reaching out to you again. To be honest, people have all kinds of shit they have to deal with in their lives and if some day she wants to tell you about it she will. Otherwise let it go and enjoy your new time together. The friendship is worth more than the explanation.
posted by garnetgirl at 7:09 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd just like to point out that for quite a few people, they've never needed emotional support from friends. And thus the idea of providing emotional support to others will freak them out, and if pressed to do so, they would have no idea how to do it anyway. They're not "bad" people, they're just born different, and maybe you encountered one of them.

Is the friendship still worth it to you for their other positive traits? If so go for it!
posted by xdvesper at 7:30 PM on May 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


You still like some of the friend's qualities, but everybody has some qualities that are likable to everybody else. The question is, do you want to be friends with them? From what it sounds like, no, because you say: "I see friend's reaction as unacceptable… I have doubts about friend's character and maturity." Why try to be friends again with this person when that is what you think of them?
posted by foxjacket at 8:19 PM on May 15, 2011


Five reasons why you should let the friendship go and move on:

#1: "I'm still miffed"
#2: "I'm skeptical about talking about it more directly with friend
#3: "a discussion seems painful and possibly futile.
#4: "I have doubts about friend's character and maturity."

And #5: "let friend expend energy to repair relationship if friend wants" <>
Best of luck.
posted by 2oh1 at 8:53 PM on May 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


You can be friends with someone without having them on your short list of people to lean on in times of need. Be friends if that person is a good friend in other ways, but have other friends you can call in a crisis.
posted by Jacqueline at 9:01 PM on May 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


You don't seem to like or respect this person much, nor do you trust them. If I was this friend I wouldnt' be too impressed with you deciding to charitably deign to be friends with me. Quietly let this friendship go; out of anything, you're not going to be a good friend to them.
posted by nerdfish at 2:15 AM on May 16, 2011


Hard to tell, but unless there are exceptional circumstances, there's not much point in staying friends with this person.

Rightly or wrongly, you felt let down, and rightly or wrongly, they felt pressured, and neither of you is willing to reconsider.

Plus, you don't think much of them. Some people disagree about what level of support one can expect from friends. I don't deal in any kind of "we're friends, but I don't care about you" kind of arrangement, other people might. But I also don't deal in any kind of "we're friends, but I have a low opinion of you" kind of arrangement, which is what you're offering here.

Not worth it.
posted by tel3path at 2:30 AM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Was Friend comfortable with being leaned on? For some people, hearing about the problems of others pulls them down as well, Friend might just have protected friendself because it got too much to handle.
posted by Triton at 4:57 AM on May 16, 2011


I'd also suggest that immediately leaning on someone for emotional support after 1.5 years apart is jumping the gun a little.
posted by Xany at 7:14 AM on May 16, 2011


It seems pretty clear to me that this isn't the kind of friend you can lean on in hard times or trust to be conscious of your emotional needs -- both the disappearing and that 'whatever' response when you asked about it point clearly to that.

If they're the kind of friend who is fun to be around when the going hasn't gotten rough, then feel free to continue to have fun with them, assuming you can do so without being all resentful about their past behaviour and can keep in mind that they that they are strictly fair weather material. Also cultivate other friendships with people who haven't demonstrated a lack of regard for you in the past.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:24 AM on May 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The only way to be friends with this person is to start from scratch. The way you wrote your AskMe makes me doubt you will be able to do this. Move on.
posted by 23skidoo at 10:29 AM on May 16, 2011


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