is this friendship recoverable or should I just let it go?
May 28, 2011 8:08 PM   Subscribe

Dramadramadramadingdong. If your friend is pretty much over you, or just doesn’t have bandwidth in her life for you, what do you say when she finally calls?

My best friend since childhood (we are in our 30s now) left me a voice mail today to ask if “we’re ok.” Well, we’re not ok, and haven’t been for a long time. It’s tl;dr even for you patient MeFi folks… Basically, she has gotten so busy with her career (which I am undeniably jealous of) and with her intrafamilial social obligations (and I’m jealous here too – my own sibiings live far away) that I’m off her radar; to the point where she didn’t even call me, much less send a card or gift, when I had my second child. (She called over a month later and explained that she’d been busy with some college friends of her husband’s who had been visiting with them, which I thought was illuminating.) (I couldn’t call her, by the way, to cry and ask for help as I desperately wanted to do in the depths of my PPD, because she refuses to carry a cell phone and I didn’t want to leave a message like that at her office.)

Anyway, I miss my old friend terribly and have for years. But the current version who doesn’t call when I have a baby? – no, I don’t miss her. I’m angry at her for abandoning me, and jealous of her to boot.

(I did tell her, when she announced her own pregnancy some months ago, how devastated I had been by her lack of interest in my wellbeing when I gave birth; she said she was sorry, but that it pretty much was what it was: that she was too busy, and pulled in too many directions by her demanding career (which, did I mention, is in the same field as mine, but far more successful?) and loving, involved family, to not sometimes disappoint the people that wanted her attention.)

The voice mail comes out of nowhere. I did go to visit her some months ago in an effort to try to normalize things (she only lives about an hour away), and I sent an expensive gift for the baby. But I haven’t been to see her and the baby since it was born. I think of her and it always takes me back to the black emotional hole I was in when I gave birth, and how angry and sad I was and still am (I have some ongoing issues from my own births that I am trying to get some help with), and it just doesn’t feel right to go cuddle her baby when I’m not actually happy for her. So I didn’t visit. I called once to say congratulations when she got home from the hospital; she said she was doing fine; and I haven’t talked to her since. I think about her often, but came to realize that it was pretty pointless, since she never calls me anyway. But now she has.

So. Does it matter if I answer this voice mail? Is there any scenario where this friendship is recoverable? The thing is, if it were a question of “forgiving” her for being a terrible friend for years, I could do that, if it were for the sake of having my friend back. But she almost never calls me (it has been years since she called just to see what's up or say hi); I am jealous of her professional success and it makes me miserable; and for the past several years she only functions socially as part of her married unit anyway, which has been awkward.

And yet… I miss my friend so much… and silent treatment is so lame and passive aggressive and childish… and it feels like the years of history demand some sort of response, even if the friendship isn’t really revivable. And there’s always the small chance that she could actually use a friend now, as a new parent. God knows I know how hard that time can be, although I doubt she’s having the difficulties I had.

“Are we okay?” What do I say?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (40 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Boy, if my best friend told me in a half-hearted apology that she was too busy with her own life for a 5 minute congratulatory/how are you doing call when I gave birth, I think I would cut her loose.

I have some very busy friends with very busy lives who MAKE time for important things like this. It sounds like you are sadly not as important to her as she has been to you. It's okay to miss her and to mourn a friendship lost, but if I were you I would put effort into cultivating other much more nurturing friendships outside of her.

So, "are we okay?" I would say we're not, maybe we've just grown apart, but I wish you the best.
posted by cecic at 8:18 PM on May 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Just leave her be. She's told you what kind of friend she is - she cares, but can't give you what you want.
posted by pinky at 8:18 PM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

Not to be flip, but this is one of those times when thinking "What would Mr. Rogers suggest I do in this situation?" might be helpful, and even cathartic.
posted by No-sword at 8:19 PM on May 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

What do I say?

Take the high road with somebody who's mattered to you, and who even if they've hurt you from the sound of it hasn't hurt you on purpose. Give them the benefit of one doubt.

Call her back, tell her how you're doing, ask her if she'd like to get coffee and talk it out, and try to be friends with your friend again. If she doesn't want to have that conversation, or if she just reschedules the coffee and never gets back to you, you'll know for sure. If she doesn't, though, and she really has been that busy and that distracted, it seems like a waste to not give the friendship a chance.
posted by mhoye at 8:26 PM on May 28, 2011 [14 favorites]

"Hey, it's so nice to hear from you! Hope your baby is doing well. I'm pretty busy myself. Perhaps we can talk another time!" Smile as you say it, even if you don't want to.

Then hang up the phone, and don't pick up when she calls. Mentally thank the universe for the good times you had with her in the past, look upon those fondly, then let go so you can make room for your next excellent friend (or friends!) in your heart and your life.

Do not engage. Do not vent. Do not pass go.
You deserve to have friends who will weather all things with you, not just when it's convenient for them.
posted by patronuscharms at 8:29 PM on May 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

I think this says it all:
"Anyway, I miss my old friend terribly and have for years. But the current version who doesn’t call when I have a baby? – no, I don’t miss her."


"I did tell her, when she announced her own pregnancy some months ago, how devastated I had been by her lack of interest in my wellbeing when I gave birth; she said she was sorry, but that it pretty much was what it was"

Sure it would be nice to take the high road as long as you're aware that your old friend isn't coming back and not expect much of anything from her anymore. But if you can't, you can't, just like she couldn't.
posted by bleep at 8:31 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

It doesn't matter if you answer the voicemail. It sounds like you don't want to, so don't.

It sounds like she moved on from the friendship long ago. This was hard on you and makes you mad because you didn't; it was one sided. That's the big thing here-- if you can accept that and want to be friendly acquaintances, call her back and move in that direction. But you don't owe her anything.
posted by J. Wilson at 8:31 PM on May 28, 2011

The "OK?" bit is really her saying, "you're not mad at me, are you?" If you say no, I'm not mad, she'll happily go back to ignoring you, feeling free of guilt forever. That is her motivation in calling. It's the same kind of thinking as most exes still wanting to be "friends" and then they never talk to you again. They just don't want to feel bad about what they did to you, and if you say it's ok...
I do not recommend trying to be friends with her again the way mhoye suggested, thought. Every time I try I'm just getting my hopes up and then they are dashed again. Don't respond to her, it will only make you feel worse to temporarily re-engage with her for 5 minutes. Screw her guilty consciense. She shoild feel bad, but she chose that. It's not your concern to make her feel better about it. She's gone, you gave up, let it stay dead.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:35 PM on May 28, 2011 [33 favorites]

As jenfullmoon astutely interprets, even her concern is self-centered.
posted by rhizome at 9:00 PM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I wonder if she recently saw the movie, Bridesmaids. There's a scene in the movie where a once very close friendship is strained. A best friend asks the other best friend after a series of conflicts, "Are we okay?" This phrase is common I suppose, and my mentioning it is probably silly, but it made me think of the movie.

You know your friend and her personality. It's normal for her to be busy and overwhelmed. She apologized for not calling. It's up to you to decide if she is sincere and if you want to continue the friendship. You had your trials and she didn't know about them. She probably has trials and traumas that you don't know of because you haven't seen her or spoken to her in a while. I have a very close friend that lives an hour away and we never call one another. We do visit and we FB or email occasionally.

Do you call her to say hello or ask what's new?

I'm in the minority here but I think you should make an effort if YOU enjoy her company and if you like her. The fact that you sent her a gift but you don't feel happy for her is odd. It seems like you wanted to feel a wee bit superior when you sent an expensive gift and called. That was the socially acceptable thing to do, the polite thing to do, but it had no heart. You don't really care because you feel she doesn't care and you are hurt and jealous. You feel like she "abandoned" you. It wasn't abandonment.

There are different kinds of friendships and some people nurture friendships better than others. If you want to remain friends and if you miss her, nurture her a little bit. Open up. Ask to see some pictures of her baby. Send some of your kids. Make a date to visit. Maybe accept the fact that you aren't going to see her often and that you may email or Facebook and see one another every few months or twice a year. Find ways to let the jealousy go. If you genuinely don't like who she is, that's a different story but it doesn't sound like that.
posted by Fairchild at 9:04 PM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

The thing is, if it were a question of “forgiving” her for being a terrible friend for years, I could do that, if it were for the sake of having my friend back.

I disagree. I don't think you could forgive her, at least not currently. You're still reeling from a dark and difficult period of depression brought on by many things, including your births, but also including countless other events/situations/issues, one of which is about her not being there for you (for whatever reason) and you being upset and hurt by that. In fact, in reading your post, I get the feeling you really, really want to be justified/validated by everyone saying hell NO you don't owe that BITCH anything and good riddance!

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with wanting to be validated about that. You're definitely hurt and upset, and she totally comes off as insensitive and oblivious.

However, it is soooooo not about her, OP. It's about you.

For many reasons, this woman activates some stuff in you that is dark and upsetting and jealous and drama-y and exhausting and guilt-bringing. She hurt and abandoned you. Or, to put it another way, you were hurt and abandoned. She's become a trigger for you that is restimulating (meaning that just thinking about her brings you back to that stomach-churning, room-closing-in, icky place).

Therefore, I would suggest you work on living in a world that she isn't in for now. I think some kind of ritual to release her might be in order (writing her a letter explaining all your feelings, venting, etc., and then burning it rather than actually sending it). Whether you need to communicate this to her or not isn't clear to me from your post. She may just drop off on her own, or she may need to be told you've moved on. If she needs to be told, I strongly suggest you do not wallow in past hurts when communicating to her. Simply let her know that things have changed in your life and you have moved beyond your relationship, and if that changes, you will let her know, but otherwise please do not contact you.
posted by pupstocks at 9:08 PM on May 28, 2011 [4 favorites]

Okay, I have more to add, but the previous post was written on a phone (hence the typos).

My last week has been like this, with friends that ditched me suddenly wanting to temporarily come back. Because it is apparently very important to establish that nobody's mad, but still, nobody wants to go back to being friends either. I wish I'd left well enough alone, but here I am still being an idiot and getting my hopes up when I know better, eh? Don't be me.

You should probably just delete the voice mail and ignore it for your own sanity, but if you have more ovaries than I do, leave her one back that says, "No, we're not okay. If you actually want to be my friend again, with all that a real friendship requires, call me back. If not, and you're just calling to see if I'm mad so you can get over feeling guilty, then stop calling me and leading me on and don't ever contact me again." That'll probably kill it big time.

Because you want a reciprocated friendship. You don't want to be talking to her once a year and being okay with that, because you're NOT. It makes you feel like shit when she ignores you. So why put yourself in a situation where you are just waiting for her to ignore you because she's sooooooo busy (and puh-leeze, if she wanted to contact you, she could make some time, even 5 minutes once in a while while locked in the can)? You've been there, done that, hated it. Don't go back there.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:08 PM on May 28, 2011 [15 favorites]

She just had a baby. She is not going to get less busy. This is not going to improve. So I think you have two choices:

1) "I understand that the new normal means we'll be in touch a lot less, and I'm OK with that. Call me when you can arrange to get together."

2) "I understand the new normal means we'll be in touch a lot less, and I wish that was OK, but I need to save my emotional energy for the friends who have time and energy for me, too, and I don't think your schedule allows that so probably we should just leave it."

Don't bring up your 2nd baby. You did; she apologised and it didn't make you feel better. It isn't going to feel better when you do it again.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:12 PM on May 28, 2011 [14 favorites]

"No, we're not okay. If you actually want to be my friend again, with all that a real friendship requires, call me back. If not, and you're just calling to see if I'm mad so you can get over feeling guilty, then stop calling me and leading me on and don't ever contact me again."

jenfullmoon, I agree with the other stuff you said, but I think a passive-aggressive message like that will definitely not have the intended effect of making the friend want to leave the OP alone. Most people receiving a message like that will get way defensive and definitely want to speak to the person who left it to have it out. It would be great if the friend would think, "Oh jeez, I really WAS leading her on so I could feel better about myself! I'll never speak to her again, as instructed." But...
posted by pupstocks at 9:21 PM on May 28, 2011

Basically, she has gotten so busy with her career (which I am undeniably jealous of) and with her intrafamilial social obligations (and I’m jealous here too – my own siblings live far away)

...and jealous of her to boot.

I am jealous of her professional success and it makes me miserable


Even if she were to come around and suddenly devote all kinds of time and energy to you right now, how good a friend do you think you could be to *her*? What would it take for you to let go of this?

I think you probably have to let it go and take care of yourself.
posted by treblemaker at 9:28 PM on May 28, 2011 [13 favorites]

You're both adults now with busy lives, and while each might make the effort to talk here and there, both of you are grownups with children. Sometimes a week or more just flies by for me due to work and being super busy and I'm not even a mother, and my job is relatively low key. It's just not uncommon for people to grow apart a bit more when their lives become fuller.

At the root of this, you sound bitter and jealous and dismissive, and that might be the real reason you don't seem to want to be friends with her anymore. She is more successful than you in the same field, busy, things are going well, she had a baby with potentially no post-partum issues. You might be taking out a lot of your own issues on her and this friendship. You might be projecting.

You're dismissing her reasons for doing things but at the same time, also admitting you didn't call her either. So she doesn't carry a cell phone. That is not a negative thing, and nor is it a fault of hers. But you've written it as if it is. Take a step back and consider what you've written here. You're taking a lot of your own issues out on her and that isn't the way a good friend operates either.

Take some time, see a therapist and continue working on your PPD-related issues, but also take time to explore this relationship and why you might be holding so much jealousy and resentment.

As for how to respond to her voicemail, you could say you're not sure but that you've been going through a lot over the past few months and been having a tough time.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:28 PM on May 28, 2011 [16 favorites]

Okay, sure, she's dicked you around.

However - she's also now doing what you wanted her to do - she's made contact with you.

So, you have two paths knowing full well that she's in the past not been quite up to what you expect from a friend. You can:

1) Cut her loose and move on.

2) Give her a second chance.

Sometimes we take people for granted and treat them less than we should. And we wish they'd do what we wanted them to do for so long that when they do it we don't even realize they've done it. We're still back at all the stuff they screwed up and they're like, yeah, I screwed up, but here I am *now*.

I can't tell you what you should do, but she's made contact with you and she's asking if the two of you are ok. If you want to go down path #2, here is your opportunity to tell her what you need from her as a friend. And if she's unable to do that, then you move on. But at least you've discussed your needs with her first and are sure that she knows exactly what needs to happen for you two to be ok.

Your jealousy you're really going to have to sort out though, because it will color all of your interactions with her. If she's really your friend, be happy for her. If not, move on.
posted by mleigh at 9:34 PM on May 28, 2011

I would tell her what you told us - be real with her, if you haven't do so already. Give her the benefit of the doubt one last time, and return her call. Not because you owe it to her, but because you're posting this question in the first place. You really don't know what she is going through, and she did call you out of the blue. All that glitters is not gold, ya know?

What I'm wondering is the extent to which you expressed your frustration with her.
"(I did tell her, when she announced her own pregnancy some months ago, how devastated I had been by her lack of interest in my wellbeing when I gave birth; she said she was sorry, but that it pretty much was what it was: that she was too busy, and pulled in too many directions by her demanding career (which, did I mention, is in the same field as mine, but far more successful?) and loving, involved family, to not sometimes disappoint the people that wanted her attention.)"

Did you really convey how it made you feel when she didn't call about your second child, or did you try to be polite and "nice" when you were telling her, quickly making amends? I'm just asking because I'm potentially the sort of friend your almost-ex friend is, and don't sense when other people are really PO'd at me sometimes. My friends are okay with me not calling them back for months, and we pick up right where we left off. However, if one of my friends called me out on my general flaky friendship style, I'd get my act together and be there for them in a greater capacity. If you haven't "let her have it" and see that you are truly hurt, she may not know what a bad friend she's being from your perspective. Some people really are that oblivious. She could also be the type that feels like she has to talk on the phone for hours with her old best friend, and that thought in itself can be paralyzing when you have a to-do list a mile long. Not making excuses for her behavior, but her lack of interest might not be intentional.

If did tell her all of your concerns sincerely, then you should decide whether you're okay with having a more distant, fair weather friendship with her. If you're not okay with being a talk-to-once-in-a-great-while friend with your former close buddy, then cut her off. If you are open to this new incarnation of friendship with her, then go with it, and call her back at your convenience for a chat. Just don't expect to hear from her again. Only you can gauge whether you can handle that relationship. It sounds like it might not be a wise idea for you at this point, and that's okay.

How do you know anything about her life at all? Are you facebook friends or something? I'd stop casually interacting with her as well, since it sounds like that situation is creating more anxiety for you then it's worth, hearing about her career and baby and whatnot.
posted by sunnychef88 at 9:42 PM on May 28, 2011 [3 favorites]

One thing I didn't notice in any of the above comments: she knows you're not okay. Really, she already knows it. That's why she called.

Do with that what you will, but it's important to keep in mind in determining if and how you want to respond.
posted by J. Wilson at 9:43 PM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have saying. People spend their time/money/energy on the things they want, not necessarily the things they need.

This is obvious in the case of folks who drive a Lexus but whine they 'can't afford' to go to the dentist.

It's less obvious in friendships. What part of this relationship do you want so much that it consumes your thoughts? How can you redirect your energy to get what you want and what you need?

Maybe that's a mommy group near you, maybe it's therapy, maybe it's a different career boost, maybe it's a half hour a day in meditation.

I'm having fits myself this week about how to reach out and rebuild a friend bridge. Taking that first step (as your friend might be doing, stating how she feels here is a total point of view violation - we don't know her intention) for me is really scary.

Ultimately, you only control you. Your actions, and also your feelings. What will you feel best about in ten years?

because I hope my friend calls me back and we can start over, I'd urge you to do the same. But if I'm being honest with myself, she might not be in a place where I 'fit.' The same might be true for you. Big hugs to you, whatever you decide.
posted by bilabial at 9:46 PM on May 28, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree with jenfullmoon, but would put it as an I message: No we're not ok. I think a real friendship requires x and don't want to be around those who cannot do these things.

If she continues to act this way, then I would tell her to stop contacting you.
posted by brujita at 9:53 PM on May 28, 2011

Jealousy and friendship NEVER mix well together. You deserve a friend who can be there for you when you need it; she deserves a friend who can genuinely cheer on her successes. End the friendship. I know it'll hurt, but know that it's the right thing - and the best thing - to do.
posted by estlin at 10:03 PM on May 28, 2011 [6 favorites]

I had a friend from nine years ago, and we are now only connected by Facebook. He drove 1500 miles to the same city I was in, and was legitimately too busy to drop by. He didn't email and say, "Hey, I can't stop by, sorry." So I just got tired of the weird, illusory friendships on Facebook and unfriended him, then decided to be done with Facebook.

He immediately emailed and explained without apologizing, but it occurred to me that it's ok if you're not really friends with someone any more. It doesn't make either of you bad people, you are just apart due to circumstances, and some friendships are functions of time and space, and naturally dissolve over time.
posted by mecran01 at 10:18 PM on May 28, 2011

Yes, I'm threadriding... don't worry, I'll get kicked off the computer soon. It's a sore subject this week, so I keep wondering what others thought.

"Did you really convey how it made you feel when she didn't call about your second child, or did you try to be polite and "nice" when you were telling her, quickly making amends? I'm just asking because I'm potentially the sort of friend your almost-ex friend is, and don't sense when other people are really PO'd at me sometimes. My friends are okay with me not calling them back for months, and we pick up right where we left off. However, if one of my friends called me out on my general flaky friendship style, I'd get my act together and be there for them in a greater capacity. If you haven't "let her have it" and see that you are truly hurt, she may not know what a bad friend she's being from your perspective. Some people really are that oblivious."

Yeah, this is more of what I was thinking of when I said that. I really wish I'd just said when I realized that someone was giving me the dump, that I'd called them out on it or even acknowledged that This Is The Last Time We Will Ever Speak. I "went along," I was polite, I pretended it was okay and not flat out lying, I agreed and lied myself that "oh yeah, we'll speak again" knowing damn well that we weren't going to and it wouldn't be considered good if I tried. Unfortunately it's not polite to say, "Oh, I get it, you're wanting me to get the hint and go away, so I'm not going to believe you when you say you're calling again. It was nice knowing you!" I kind of wish I COULD say "it was nice knowing you" (genuinely, not meant sarcastically like usual), but you can't. The closest I got this week was saying, "Maybe we'll see each other again. Or not," to one of the people in my situation.

I really just felt like, either it'll be a clue bat to say it that bluntly, or she'll be so pissed at being called out that she'll never want to speak to you again. Either way, you don't really have her friendship to lose now, so you might as well be honest. Someone calling up in anger wanting to hash it out never once occurred to me, but if she's that defensive/in denial about her guilt, I guess that could happen too. Most people I know will just stop talking to you rather than call up to yell.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:21 PM on May 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've been in your situation twice, and have done the same thing both times. I sat down and wrote the person in question a really long email. It basically said, both times, Hey, this is what's up. I'm sort of avoiding you, and this is why: [list of reasons here, ranging from "having a hard time dealing with my feelings of X around you" to "really hurt and angry that this friendship is so low on your list of priorities that blah blah"].

The letters were surprisingly helpful to write, and then I did what everyone tells you not to do--I sent them.

Both of them got responses. One response was a Well, fuck you, too style letter. One of them was a sincere apology, explanation of a couple of things, and embarrassment on her part that she'd been unaware of a couple other things. Three years later, I can say without hesitation that the letter I sent not only saved our friendship, but made it a lot stronger. I can't imagine my life without her friendship, and I don't think that I'll have to.

In my opinion, you don't really have a lot to lose here. Call her or write to her one more time, and see what happens. At best, you salvage a friendship; at worst, you realize that you're not losing anything, because she hasn't been a friend to you in a long time. Either way you get more closure than you have now.
posted by MeghanC at 11:04 PM on May 28, 2011 [5 favorites]

I'm in the minority here, but life is long, you do have such grief over losing the old her, people can change, (as you note) the silent treatment is passive aggressive, and it could be that she is perhaps getting a clue about what you went through. I believe that you ought to just be honest in the kindest way you can be, and in a way that leaves the door open. Honesty is a form of humility toward the universe (as oppose to assuming you know what the next 50 years might hold re:her).

Maybe something like, "I really miss the friendship we used to have, and as I mentioned before, I have found recent years to be... hard. I went through some hard stuff, and I wanted to reach out, but you were so busy. I felt hurt and abandoned. I'd like to say we're ok, but I really don't know what this relationship is that we have now, and I'm sad that it's not the one we once had."

You might also confess that you're jealous of her success. I'd be surprised if she didn't sense it, so it could help to put it on the table.
posted by salvia at 12:02 AM on May 29, 2011 [8 favorites]

Agreed with treblemaker: given that you are so jealous of her (which I find concerning and not part of healthy relationships), what kind of friend would you be to her? And with mleigh - your jealousy will colour all your interactions with her.

Here's my perspective on things: she didn't call the day of/after the birth of your second kid, but she did call you in a month. She could have thought that you were so busy with the birth that she didn't want to burden you with a call. After one month (not speaking from experience), that may have been a long enough time to settle in as much as you could with the new baby. If her husband's college friends were visiting, who knows how that was like for her; maybe it wasn't all fun and excitement. She may have had a lot of expectations put upon her to be a hostess; if she didn't get along with one or more of them, that may have been stressful for her. Clearly you were going through your own rough time and wished she could have been there for you, but she wasn't. So maybe you can't rely on her to help you through rough times. Sad, but maybe something you have to accept. And the reason for why that is (busy with successful career, familial obligations) make you jealous.

If you were to be really honest with her, maybe it would go something like this: "I miss you a lot. I hate that we didn't keep in touch over the last few years [if you also never called her, now would be a good time to acknowledge any part you have in the non contact]. I can do my part to change this, but I am wondering what you'd be willing to do. Think about this and get back to me." If she doesn't get back to you, say within a month (trying to factor in her busy-ness and any social obligation she might have to attend to), you'll know how much she values this friendship. If you don't hear from her within a month, I'd still call her and check in. But if you want to have any kind of friendship with her, you're going to have to drop the jealousy. And have you ever asked her about her career? Like how she got to where she was? Asked her for tips to give you? If you're in the same field and she's more successful, why not see her as a resource to you to give you ideas on how you can move forward as well?

And please continue to get help with your PPD.
posted by foxjacket at 12:06 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

I disagree with the idea that 'the silent treatment' is somehow passive aggressive or manipulative. The question is does this relationship need more energy and attention, or should you let it go? It sounds like this friendship causes you more pain and grief than anything else right now. I totally agree with other commenters who note that this pain and grief is compounded by a range of things going on in your life, but in the end it's really hurtful when a friend can't/won't make time for you when you need them.

I was in a similar situation with a friend a while ago. I won't go into detail about our 'break-up,' but one day I realised that I always left any interaction with this friend feeling tense, angry, hurt and upset. It wasn't that she was necessarily a bad person, but she made me feel crappy, and I probably didn't make her feel so good, either. So I let it go. Some might call it the silent treatment, but it was a relationship that I wasn't going to fight to save. There were a few tense moments when she'd corner me at a party or similar and ask where I'd been, but ultimately I'd say it was for the best.

What I'm saying is don't feel guilty about just... not replying. It's a perfectly valid response. Direct your energy towards recovery and towards those people you love and care about, and towards forming new friendships and bonds.
posted by nerdfish at 2:57 AM on May 29, 2011

OK, then I am just going to tl;dr you right back. :D

You two have drifted apart and she hasn't been a very good friend to you for a while. However, I believe that people who have been part of one's life for a long time deserve a chance to redeem themselves. Also, it seems like one of the reasons you drifted apart is that your lives got out-of-sync. Now that both of you are in mommy mode that might put you back in sync enough to make the friendship viable again.

Giving her another chance is basically gambling a little bit of your time and emotional energy. If you win, you've resurrected your best friendship. With the decades of potential friendship you two have ahead of you, that's a pretty big win! Meanwhile, if you lose, you've lost a little more time and experienced a little more heartache. Yes, this will be painful in the short-term, but in the grand scheme of your life all you've lost is a little wasted time and energy that might otherwise have been put toward making new friends a little bit sooner. The potential loss (little bit of wasted time/energy) is pretty small compared to the potential gain (lifelong best friend). So if you think there's a chance that the friendship is salvageable (and you’re willing to make a fresh start and let the past few years be water under the bridge instead of holding a grudge against her) then I think it's +EV to give it a shot.

Regardless of what happens with your old friend, you need some new friendships. That way if you don't get back together with your old friend, well then you'll have your new friends. Even if you do get back together with your old friend, having other friends will broaden your perspective on friendship and mitigate how much your old friend affects you emotionally because you won't be so dependent on her to meet your needs for support and socializing. In general, you need a wider variety of things in your life. Then if one thing starts going bad you'll be emotionally buttressed through the rough patch by the other things that are still going good.

In my experience, people only get this upset/obsessed about ambiguity in an individual friendship after their worlds have recently "shrunk" somehow. If you suddenly have fewer things in your life, well of course you're going to become anxious about losing whatever things you have left. Babies are huge world-shrinkers because they're such huge time sucks that they leave little room for anything else. Add debilitating PPD on top of that and your world contracts even more.

So your root problem isn't really what are you going to do about your friend, it's how are you going to re-expand your world? Re-expanding your world might include reviving your friendship with her, but it should also include making new friends, getting a hobby, investing in something that will advance your career (maybe a class to upgrade your skills or professional association membership), etc.

Pro-tip: I recently discovered that hosting a weekly "Stitch n' Bitch" get-together is an incredibly efficient way to multitask a hobby with simultaneous maintenance of multiple friendships.

A "Stitch n' Bitch" party is a group of women getting together to chit-chat while working on their individual cross stitch, crochet, or knitting projects. Invite any women you'd like to spend time with and get to know better. Leave the kids with their fathers. Or perhaps you could all chip in for a sitter to keep the rugrats occupied in another room while the mommies get their stitching and bitching on. The important thing is for you to get some adults-only time with your girlfriends and achieve tangible progress on something.

My group takes pictures of our projects after each session and posts them on Facebook. It is cool to go back and click through the series of photos later, watching a little time-lapse documentary of your project emerge as something recognizable and then develop into something beautiful.

This is why crafting projects can be so therapeutic for depression. Even if you only get a few stitches in, that's still a few more completed stitches than you had yesterday. Yay! Accomplishment! Visible progress! It's such a stark contrast against clean diapers that are just going to be soiled again soon, dishes that are just going to be dirty again tomorrow, completed tasks that are just going to be followed by more tasks to do, baby that isn't noticeably any less dopey than it was yesterday, answered AskMe posts that are just going to be followed by more AskMe problems :D, etc.

Tangible progress on something provides a much-needed light at the end of the depression tunnel. If your kids don't leave you enough free time to add anything else to your life, then maybe you just periodically weigh your kids, input the dates and their weights into Excel, plot a chart, and congratulate yourself with “I have X more pounds of kids this month than I had last month!”
posted by Jacqueline at 4:06 AM on May 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

I'm going to come at this from a slightly different angle. It's going to be harsh. But before I do, I want to say that I really understand that this hurts, and I'm sorry you're going through this. I hope that whatever you decide to do, you'll be at peace with that decision. I've been on both sides of this situation a time or two, and it sucks for all.

Okay. To be blunt, your friend's perceived neglect when you had your second child didn't come out of left field. You yourself said "Anyway, I miss my old friend terribly and have for years. But the current version who doesn’t call when I have a baby? – no, I don’t miss her. I’m angry at her for abandoning me, and jealous of her to boot." [bold mine] So the friendship had already been deteriorating for years before your second baby and postpartum depression. And OP, you implied or actually stated having feelings of jealousy towards your friend a total of EIGHT TIMES: three times regarding her career, four times about her (nuclear or extended) loving family and once just in general. Yikes.

Of course I'm projecting here, based on my own experiences, but I think your friend is/was probably aware of these feelings. How could she not be, if you were so close? And it is devastating when a close friend, someone who is supposed to be in your corner, isn't happy for you when you achieve milestones. Is in fact actively, maybe even aggressively envious (what you're feeling is envy, not jealousy). On top of the hurt, she would then feel betrayal and then also guilt that her friend isn't doing as well as she is. So every time there's an interaction, she gets to feel hurt, betrayed and guilty. Yay!

Understandably, this makes for a bit of a hurdle which she has to take every time she gets in touch with you. I imagine that the other side of her not keeping up with events in your life is that she doesn't want to relate events in hers that you might then poison with your envy. Add to that her busy life and voilà! neglected relationship.

Give her a bit of credit for getting in touch within a month of the birth. Give her a bit of credit for staying in touch at all. Give her a bit of credit for getting in touch and trying to talk about how your friendship is really doing. Others have mentioned other possibilities: she could be a tad oblivious, she could just not be great friendship material for you, you might be demanding/needing a deeper level of commitment than she's willing or able to give. Hell, maybe it's a combination of all of the above. But I am absolutely sure that allowing this situation to fester in your heart, to color the past, wonderful friendship retroactively, to determine your current state of mind and influence future friendships is lethal.

If you are at all able, please try to gently review your side of the interaction - we're all fallible, and we can't always be as introspective as we need to be. Here comes that word again, but therapy really can help you, here. There are also some great books out there which can help with insights. If you discover that you have been somewhat at fault, try to examine this, work on this, and forgive yourself. Because then you can forgive her for actual and perceived neglect. And then there might be room for a future in this friendship. But if there isn't, you can still honor what once was, wish her well from your heart, and let her go.
posted by likeso at 4:36 AM on May 29, 2011 [13 favorites]

I'd like to offer yet another perspective. I believe lifelong friends play different roles along the way. You are moving through different stages of your lives, career, young families, each with its own needs and perils. She was your friend in your early life, and perhaps notsomuch now. That doesn't mean you can't or won't reconnect later with much more in common.

My mother was disconnected from her best friend for many years while they were both busy with marriages and raising families. They reconnected years later as widows and spent a lot of very happy time together. The point is that what made them friends in the first place was still there, it's just that their contexts had changed and their lives had become compatible again.

My advice is to cultivate your other friendships for now, and decide to be "low maintenance friends" with this woman. If you enjoy spending time or speaking with her, do so with no expectations that it will happen every week, month, or even year. Set your expectations around neither needing her support nor providing support to her if you don't feel like giving it. Call her if she comes to mind, and if you don't reach her leave a message that you were thinking of her, not that she should call back. She may catch on and do the same. Send occasional updates on your life, your kids, and ask what's new with her. Again, once she feels less pressure from you to offer what she can't give right now, she will probably be more inclined to reach out when she can.

Raising kids, especially in the early years, can feel kind of isolating, so please continue to make new friends in your current surroundings. Good luck.
posted by Breav at 6:42 AM on May 29, 2011 [6 favorites]

Likeso has said it with a great deal of compassion. Jealousy kills relationships. If you could take responsibility for this, there might still be a chance for the friendship
posted by uans at 8:17 AM on May 29, 2011

I want to add: any deep relationship is about sharing joys AND sorrows. If you can't be happy for her, you aren't her friend either. You are jealous of the fact that she has her family near her when she needs them--could that be the reason she delayed calling you when you had your second child? Because she knew, from the first time that she would be held implicitly responsible for having "loving involved family" while you don't? Your friend has things you don't have, but she didn't *take* anything from you--your resentment is very human, of course, but try to remember that what you're feeling is envy, not jealousy, and envy will destroy you.
posted by uans at 11:53 AM on May 29, 2011 [3 favorites]

Regardless of what happens with your old friend, you need some new friendships.

Jacqueline is right, and I think this is at the heart of the problem. You're jealous, you're going through a difficult time in your life - your friend would not be able to fix everything about this if she gave it 100%.

I've had a difficult history with getting too invested in friends, and I've generally found that the only thing that really breaks the spell when people have let you down is to get involved with something that puts you in contact with new people.
posted by randomkeystrike at 1:52 PM on May 29, 2011 [2 favorites]

The key here is you just letting go off all the hurts and resentments and jealousy. I honestly don't think she has done anything wrong, but I think you are doing yourself wrong by holding on so tightly to all these negative feelings.

It sounds like you want to "end" the friendship to punish her for not being there for her. I imagine you will feel somewhat self-satisfied in ending the frienship - but you know what? It will still hurt. When YOU are a big part of the problem, eliminating the other person from your life doesn't fix things - you will think about her for a long time.

What if you just decided to understand her, to be forgiving and supportive of her? What if you just said, "Hey, I was hung up on a bunch of stuff, but .. I've thought it over and it's cool. What's up with you?"

You can heal the friendship by healing yourself.
posted by Locochona at 2:34 PM on May 29, 2011

To be honest, my take is that you need to let things go. Yes, we all deserve perfect friends who are perfect to us all the time and perfect relationships that are perfect all the time, but having extremely high expectations of people ends badly most of the time. Accept people, accept their flaws, and accept your own flaws. Have you always been the most perfect friend in the world? Maybe she was suffering from depression or sadness or embarrassment during the times you felt she ought to be around.

People have problems. Accept their limitations and their flaws. She's reaching out to you. You might feel better just lashing out at her or ignoring her, but wouldn't you feel better if you guys tried to be friends again?
posted by anniecat at 3:57 PM on May 29, 2011

Breav's comment is exactly what I meant by "life is long." Finding a way to let people come and go without slamming the door and locking it behind them (hard as that can be) is an approach without much of a downside, I don't think.
posted by salvia at 6:38 PM on May 29, 2011

she was too busy, and pulled in too many directions by her demanding career (which, did I mention, is in the same field as mine, but far more successful?) and loving, involved family, to not sometimes disappoint the people that wanted her attention.)

Is there any scenario where this friendship is recoverable?

I think if you take a step back from her, and double down on getting these things for yourself (more career success, spending more time with family, or making more, closer friends) you will feel 1/10th of the bad feelings you currently have about this.

I also think the only way to really be friends again in this situation, is to lower your expectations of what you'll get from her, and also, lower what you're willing to give to her in return. If you can be cool with getting a phone call every few months, and also only MAKING a phone call every few months, then it could be okay. But expecting what you had in the past, at least right now, will probably only lead to disappointment IMO.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:27 PM on May 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

My oldest friend passed away at age 30. I don't know what our friendship would have been like had she not gotten cancer - maybe down the road we would have had a breakdown in communication like this and gone our separate ways. A friend is just a friend, right? There are plenty of new ones ready to be made.

You could take this opportunity to pass judgment on your old friend's actions and block her out of your life. But don't underestimate what you are losing - she is a touchstone back to your younger self. You may both be healthy now, but that can change. If you found out a week or a month or a year down the line that she had a terminal illness, what would your response be? Would you regret shunning her attempt at communication because you are still picking over the wound she gave you by not making a big enough place for you in her life (to which you responded in kind)? If you can't forgive your oldest friend this misstep and offer her another chance out of kindness, who do you think is deserving of your compassion?

It's possible that she may not have changed, but I think you will feel a lot better for giving her a chance. Forgiveness may do your own heart more good than it will do for her.

As far as jealousy goes, this is a really good thing to read.
posted by griselda at 10:59 AM on May 31, 2011

agreed with the comments regarding envy and your own participation in this dynamic.

Also, I may see her perspective a bit on the level of actually being busy - not trying to blow you off. In my experience I see all of my friends on a much less frequent basis than I did ten years ago. I used to spend so much time with my core group of friends - but now we have real jobs, and relationships, and our lives are just super busy.

I love seeing my old friends and my current friends - and I don't see any of them as much as I would like. I just have other priorities in my life, and unfortunately spending quality time with friends can't happen as often. Weeks and months often go by quickly because my life is fast paced. I rarely talk to any friends on the phone. I am pretty sure (hopefully) my friends are all OK with our lessened interaction and I hope that all of us realize it's not a lessening of affection.
posted by rainydayfilms at 1:23 PM on May 31, 2011

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