Kicked out of my tribe
July 26, 2012 8:45 AM   Subscribe

I lost most of my friends. Please help.

Okay, so this happened in 2009 and I'm still incredibly sad about it. I'm 37 years old now, so this happened when I was 34.

In the fall of 2009, I broke off an engagement and ran off with this dude I met through the orchestra I play in. The dude turned out to be an alcoholic with abusive tendencies and I extricated myself from that relationship as soon as I could.

At the time I ran off, my wedding was about three months away.

I'd been unhappy in my relationship with my fiance, but nobody would talk with me about it. When I tried to talk about it with my close friends, one of my friends said "You'll never do better than [fiance]." They pretty much completely shut me down. My mother would not entertain my doubts, either. She told me "you can divorce him later. But at this point you owe us a ceremony."

The only person who would listen to me was the creepy guy I eventually ran off with. (When I say "ran off," that's really what I did. I waited until my fiance was at work, packed my bags, and left the house in the middle of the day to immediately move in with the guy who persuaded me to leave my fiance.)

My fiance (understandably) completely broke down. My friends all sided with him, and disowned me. They unfriended me on Facebook, unfollowed me on Twitter, and broke off all contact with me.

This is a group of people I'd been close to since I was 19. We were all incredibly close (and as far as I know, the rest of them still are). We saw each other constantly -- celebrated birthdays and Christmas together, had parties and dinners at each others' houses, went to concerts together, etc.

I don't want to defend what I did. I acted like a complete asshole and I still feel bad about the way I treated my ex-fiance.

But I don't know what to do about the fact that I don't have my friends anymore. In my past life, before all this happened, I often felt that I was only really myself when I was with them. We had in-jokes, a shared culture. I grew into adulthood with this group of people. They had a strong influence on who I am. We understood each other and we could all reliably make each other laugh. I was so, so lucky to have a set of relationships like that as part of my life.

I still have a few friends, but nothing like the core group I was kicked out of. One thing I miss is the community aspect -- the fact that we were all friends as a group. My remaining friends are people I hang out with in ones and twos.

The worst part of it is that the city I live in is a very small town in some ways. I've gotten invites to some events where I know my old friends will be there, and I haven't gone, because I know they won't want to see me.

I miss them so much and I feel like a ghost in my own city.

I don't see them ever accepting me as a friend again. Ideally, I'd like to move to another city, but that's not feasible right now.

Whenever I think about the situation, I feel really, really awful and I start to cry. I don't think about it now as often as I used to, but the pain of it is still very strong. It's like this whole group of people died, or I did. One day they were part of my life, the next day, they weren't.

Please feel free to ask more questions or give advice. I don't even know what I'm asking. Maybe 1) how to deal with this 2) how to rekindle my old friendships, if that's even possible 3) how to make new friends in a town where everybody knows each other and I feel awkward and out of place among people I used to feel at home with.
posted by spacewaitress to Human Relations (90 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Join a group that already has a large base and has something in common. For me, that was community theater. After a season of productions, onstage, backstage, and ushering/concessions, I made more friends (who all knew one another) than I knew what to do with, and they're still friends to this day, almost 20 years later.
posted by xingcat at 8:50 AM on July 26, 2012 [8 favorites]

well cut some slack on yourself for the guilt- it was wrong of them to tell you that you'll never do better than that guy. when my friends question their engagements I try to help them figure out whether it's the right decision or not...not make them feel like they have to get married.

if you feel really bad you can write an honest apology to your fiance. news of that will get around to the others. then start showing up at those events you're avoiding because they are there...see if anyone approaches you. maybe you'll end up approaching someone.

real friendship forgives on both sides. if this doesn't work, well, then follow xingcat's advice.
posted by saraindc at 9:00 AM on July 26, 2012 [8 favorites]

1. How to deal with this: Own it. That sucks but that's really all you can do. Take a look at your situation and say, okay, I did what I believed was best and I hurt some people and it happened and I'd change it if I could but I can't. Accept yourself and accept what happened. This doesn't mean that you have to defend what happened or rationalize your decisions. Acceptance is not approval. Accept that you are still a person and that you are worthy of love; try very hard to treat yourself with kindness and care.

2. How to rekindle: If these friendships will ever be rekindled, it will not be something you can control. They will decide to talk to you again or they won't. This is completely out of your hands. If they do reach out to you, let them lead. If they want to talk about things, they will.

3. When something like this happened to me, I first took time to be by myself and heal. I then started spending more time and energy on the friendships I had. As a result of this, I started meeting more friends of friends, and some of those I clicked with fairly well. Eventually they weren't just friends of friends - they were my friends, too.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:01 AM on July 26, 2012 [17 favorites]

You need to explicitly take full responsibility for your actions and in some way communicate that to your friends on an individual, private basis...and then hope that some of them will accept your explanation. As for getting them all back, and recapturing that sense of community? Forget about it--you shouldn't even be considering this as a reasonable expectation, at last not at this point. Provide them with context in regards to your former fiance--where you were mentally prior to the wedding; your thought processes during that time; why your relationship with your fiance had been going badly; the various outside pressures you felt and how you dealt with them in an unhealthy manner; etc. And what you've learned from the whole situation.
posted by bennett being thrown at 9:03 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've gotten invites to some events where I know my old friends will be there, and I haven't gone, because I know they won't want to see me.

This seems needlessly harsh to me, and is really the only way you have to 1) potentially rekindle your old friendships or 2) create sustaining new friendships. If you can't go to things because of who might be there and how they might feel, eventually people are going to stop inviting you to things.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:06 AM on July 26, 2012 [13 favorites]

Your former friends are a heterogeneous group of people, not a monolith. Some of them feel differently, or more or less strongly, than others. Some of them will react more favorably if you reach out than others will. Trying to win them all back at once would be a daunting and overwhelming task, so take it slow and try to reestablish contact with one person at a time (starting with people who you think will hear you if you tell them everything you said in your post).
posted by sleevener at 9:06 AM on July 26, 2012 [8 favorites]

I lost custody of a bunch of old college friends to an ex whom I left because he was crazy and abusive (and those friends even agreed with me that he was crazy, and some had even suggested that I leave him, but they still supported him instead of me in the end). Sadly, losing your community can happen as part of a breakup even when you are not the one at fault.

But if I were in your shoes, I would stop avoiding most social events just because you think some people won't want to see you there. Some people are inviting you, so some people must want to see you.

It's been years since this happened. You hurt a member of your group, badly, yes, but you're clearly sorry. Your old lost friends might still be angry at you, but if they're really decent people they ought to at least be able to manage a polite distance at parties. I think the only way for this whole situation to become less awkward (short of you moving at some point, as you suggested) is for you to just suck it up and slog through the awkwardness and pain of seeing people who may still be angry with you in person until people get used to seeing you around again. You've been punished enough already; I don't think it's fair for you to continue exiling yourself from the little bit of social life you still have access to. If your old friends can't handle seeing you around they can always start choosing to be the ones to skip a night out.
posted by BlueJae at 9:08 AM on July 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

When someone does something really horrible, in order to be friends with them again I really, really need to know that the person will make every, EVERY effort to make sure something does not happen again. If someone said to me, "yes, I am now in therapy to make sure that I can spot alcoholic assholes earlier/learn not to run away from whatever is making me unhappy/whatever," I am much more likely to be forgiving to that person. Someone saying "Oh, I'm a bad person, I'm sorry" means nothing unless I see the person making genuine efforts to work on him or herself.
posted by Melismata at 9:08 AM on July 26, 2012 [11 favorites]

Yes, you lost 'your people' all at once, or rather, you threw them all away. You instigated the separation, not they.

If this had happened in your twenties, it would have been relatively easy to replace them with new people that you could get close to and begin a shared history with. In your thrities, it's much, much harder.

You're trying to make excuses about a pretty heinous thing that you did. You have to own that not only were you an asshole, but you hurt many, many people and were very selfish in doing so.

You don't regret not marrying your fiance, you just regret the way you handled the situation. Own that.

I doubt seriously that you'll ever be a part of this group again. Some of the individuals may come to acknowledge you, some may even claim you as a friend outside the group, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

You may also be romanticising these friendships. Clearly there was something lacking since these folks could not help you when you were expressing doubts about your relationship with your fiance.

I recommend hashing this episode in your life over with a counselor. You were a mature adult who acted very precipitously and very immaturely. I think you need to understand what made you do that and recognize some things you fundamentally need to work on.

If you're invited places where some of these people will be, go. Some may shun you, some may not. Don't go to them as a ball of need, let them come to you. Some will.

You'll never get back into the group. If you're lucky one or two of your friends will reconnect with you.

Nurture the friendships you have now. Become involved in other groups. Try not to pine for what was.

You can't step into the same river twice.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:09 AM on July 26, 2012 [27 favorites]

My group of friends had something like this happen, long before I knew them. It is a close-knit group of friends that met in college and were now in their 40's. Two of the friends got married in college (let's call them Jed and Rose) and had a couple of kids. When they were about 32, Rose ran off with some new guy. She broke off all contact with the old friends and, even though they were all still in the same town, completely wrote them off. Jed, understandably, got all of the friends. Some of the friends said "good riddance", some missed her and didn't understand why it had to be so black and white (either she's in or she's out) and some were just sad about the whole situation.

I wonder what Rose could do, so many years later, if she wanted to "come back" to the group of friends. This is where I'm coming from with my advice: what could Rose do?

1. Meet with friends one-on-one. Was there a person that you had a particularly good relationship with? A bestie? Contact them, just them. Ask them to coffee. Be honest and acknowledge that you fucked up, say that you miss her, and ask her forgiveness. Don't make it about the whole group. Make it about you and her. Then let her take the lead.

2. Wait and see how bestie reacts. Don't go canvassing all around town, pleading your case to everyone in the group. Believe me, if they're still tight, everyone will hear that you and bestie had coffee and you apologized.

3. Take it slow. You won't all be besties right away. But if you are sincere and understand that there's a lot of trust to be rebuilt on all sides, I think it could work.

Good luck.
posted by Elly Vortex at 9:10 AM on July 26, 2012 [7 favorites]

Not sure this would work, but maybe the way to rekindle your friendships is to make peace with your ex fiance. Your friends disowned you out of solidarity with him. I'm not sure if he'd be open to that, but maybe he wants to find peace with the situation as much as you do. You could see if he wants to talk and do a bunch of apologizing and talking about what happened over a period of a few months.

If not, I would fully agree with joining a community with a large base and something in common. Those are best found in larger cities.
posted by kellybird at 9:10 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your old friendships are gone. Make moving an option as soon as possible, and then you can a) get a fresh start and b) work on making better decisions.

Provide them with context in regards to your former fiance--where you were mentally prior to the wedding; your thought processes during that time

Don't do this; if they were intersted in hearing your explanations than they wouldn't have uniformly cut off ties. I don't want to pile on, but the way you did what you did was awful and that has consequences.

Does that mean you don't deserve friends? Of course not, but these people have made their decision and it's time to move on. Get your stuff together as quickly as possible and go to a new city. The well is poisoned where you are.
posted by spaltavian at 9:11 AM on July 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

Take a look at your situation and say, okay, I did what I believed was best and I hurt some people and it happened and I'd change it if I could but I can't.

I think this is key. It would have been worse to marry someone wrong for you just so your friends and your mom would be happy. You did the right thing, even if it could have been done in a better way. You had the power of your convictions and you did the right thing. Don't let your guilt add to your pain from the ostracism.

I agree with the suggestions to try to win back a couple of members of the group and let things develop slowly over time with the rest of the group -- but you do need to reset your expectations that things will be the way they were. You will experience some grief. It is painful, but clarifying.
posted by 3491again at 9:12 AM on July 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

You ran away.

Now you avoid seeing them.

Not every one of them thinks you're a bad person. Some of them may just be giving you space to sort out your own shit. Some of them might just think that you never want to see them again because they're still close with your ex. Reach out to people. Own what you did. Try to build a bridge back. It's work and it'll take a lot of time with some people, but it's better than being back at home crying because you feel hopeless. Despair is what got you in the situation to begin that emotion is NOT your friend.

You always have options. Your story continues. Get to writing it.
posted by inturnaround at 9:21 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Wait, what?

Your mother told you you owed everyone a ceremony and could get divorced later? That is not the statement of someone who understands what marriage is supposed to be for. I see your friends' telling you your relationship was great, as part of that same value system, because they weren't in that relationship. You were.

Being listened to was an experience you so desperately craved that you would do anything to get it.

You say you feel that you needed them to fully exist, that losing them means they died, or that you did. While relationships do form part of our identity and losing friends can be a grievous process - I think part of this is that you were in a group of people with bad boundaries. Your friends telling you what your relationship was like, as if you were not in a position to know the truth and they were. Your mother saying you owed it them to enter into a legal and possibly religious arrangement between yourself and another person, with no intention of upholding it.

What you did wrong was break up with your fiancé in an unkind way. You also did it in a manner consistent with a desperate state of mind. You had a right to break up with him, but your community didn't think so. A large part of their objection is that you did it at all, not how you did it. When you defied their control, they shunned you completely in a way that usually isn't inflicted on people who commit crimes, even when it should be.

I think that if these friends took you back you would soon become desperate again. So you need to think carefully about what qualities you want in your new friends, not just where to get them. The book "Controlling People" by Patricia Evans will help you with this. Also... therapy. This sounds very akin to a cult experience, frankly.
posted by tel3path at 9:22 AM on July 26, 2012 [75 favorites]

Best answer: If even your close friends in this group wouldn't talk to you about your impending marriage - a huge, important life decision - without shutting you down and belittling you, they weren't very good friends.

Your tribe was more concerned with maintaining tribal stability than in your needs as a person. They were so close-minded and judgmental that running away with a total unknown felt like a better option than continuing with the status quo.

Was that the best way to handle it? No. But you were under a lot of pressure and weren't getting any support from any person in your life but the one you finally ran toward. I'm really not understanding this apparent consensus here that you're history's greatest monster.

Be open to the idea that you're better off without these people. I'm sure the tribe provided a nice illusion of comfort and security, but how well did that work out when the shit hit the fan? Now you can evaluate your relationships with these friends one on one and figure out what works for you.
posted by zjacreman at 9:24 AM on July 26, 2012 [35 favorites]

Or, yes, what tel3path said.
posted by zjacreman at 9:26 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Consider the possibility that you may be fixated on this because you are lonely. Work on fixing the lonely.

I've gotten invites to some events where I know my old friends will be there, and I haven't gone, because I know they won't want to see me.

Stop that. They do not own public spaces or other people's private events. You have been ejected from their immediate social clan, not all society in which they may engage.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:32 AM on July 26, 2012 [7 favorites]

Don't know if this will work for you, but CBT helps me avoid the kind of 'all or nothing' thinking you seem to be displaying here.
posted by pink_gorilla at 9:33 AM on July 26, 2012

First of all, I want to tell you that I'm incredibly proud of you for doing the right, hard thing and breaking things off with your fiance. You did him an enormous kindness, and for you to do that without the support of your family and your community is incredibly brave.

Also, those things that your family and community said to you before it happened? Abusive, fucked-up shit. If you're not in therapy, you might want to seek it out. This self-flagellation almost undoubtedly comes from them, because you haven't done anything to deserve to be treated this way. Really, you haven't. No status quo is so worth protecting that you should go through with a sham marriage. And frankly, I suspect that when your friends get older and start going through their own divorces and break-ups, some will realize that life isn't as black and white as they previously believed.

Time to seek out new friends--throw a metafilter meet-up, find a meet-up group. Is there anywhere else you've ever wanted to travel or live? Now is your opportunity. You're free; you have nothing tying you down. I know it's hard to see it that way, but this is an opportunity, not a death sentence.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:35 AM on July 26, 2012 [11 favorites]

You will have to find new friends. Contrary to the poster who you marked best answer, I'm going to say things that are going to hurt:

You acted abusively towards your fiancee and broke his trust. That angered him and more importantly all of the people around him who loved the two of you. It is a terrible breach of trust that you will not be able to heal with those people. Your friends did not "control you" and you did not "break free of them." You made these decisions because you did not want to face the consequences of breaking up with him. Unfortunately, life does not work like that because the consequences are always there and avoiding them only makes them stronger.

Now, the good news. You are a human being. You made a human mistake. The fact that you made that mistake doesn't mean you cannot learn from it and it doesn't mean you cannot make new friends.

But first, you will have to acknowledge more fully to yourself the terrible thing that you did, because right now you aren't doing it. And until you do that you will not be able to forgive yourself, which is what you need right now more than anything. But that forgiveness requires a full acknowledgement of what you did.

Your first step is to write a letter of apology to your former fiance and then to yourself. Neither should be mailed or shown to anyone. Then start to forgive yourself. When that happens you will allow yourself to meet new friends and get to know people.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:51 AM on July 26, 2012 [5 favorites]

I have gone through periods where I lost all or most of my so-called friends. I viewed it as much needed closet cleaning. They don't sound like they were ever really your friends.

Try this: Imagine you had caved to pressure and married the guy instead of running away from him. What does that scenario look like to you? Do you really believe that would be better than what you are enduring currently? If not, then take a deep breath and accept that sometimes doing the right thing gets you kicked in the teeth.

My view of this: Yeah, you did something stupid and asinine. But they started it. If any of your so called friends had been real friends and done right by you, you could have found a less radical, desperate solution for dealing with your doubts about the wedding. Real friends listen when you need to talk. Real friends help you sort out your feelings, brainstorm, take a breather, etc. They don't shut you down, shut you out, and insist you whore yourself out to some man you aren't sure of so they can remain comfortable.

The odds are high you cannot rekindle most of these friendships. They will want you to take all blame and be the fall guy and not own their own mistakes and personal shortcomings. Start broadening your life. Start making friends online and pursuing hobbies or other activities that will establish connections to other places. Start laying the groundwork to leave. Start doing that today. Put a note on your bathroom mirror reminding you of this goal. Make it happen.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 9:58 AM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: You made these decisions because you did not want to face the consequences of breaking up with him.

I tried to break up with him and he wore me down for months trying to talk me out of it. I tried a second time and started bellowing at the top of his lungs, picking up the mattress of the bed and slamming it down, and throwing things. I agree with most of the rest of what you said, but I do not think I was unwilling to "face the consequences," unless the consequences mean probable death, which does happen at the hands of partners far more often than it does at the hands of complete strangers.

Running off was stupid and heartless, but I really did try to just break up with him in a normal way, first.

I was in a stupid situation and I didn't know what else to do. I regret doing it the way I did, but I was desperate and not thinking clearly (and blinded by a crush on this person who offered me an out, which I am not proud of).
posted by spacewaitress at 10:01 AM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

If your friends at the time ignored that you were afraid for your life, then yeah, there is no rekindling, and I'm not sure why you would want to.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 10:05 AM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

You acted abusively towards your fiancee

WTF? This is nuts. Hurtful, sure, but abusive?

and broke his trust

This, however is true, and gets at why your friends stayed with him.

Anyway, I think the process here would be to stop thinking of "friends" as monolithic, where it's an all or nothing, totally part of the group or zero contact. Presumably there were a couple of people you were particularly close to and still run into now and then, or who have invited you to things. Rekindle those kinds of contacts, but also accept that there are probably a) people in that group that are still so disgusted with your actions that they won't want to be around you, and b) it will take lots and lots of time and small reconnections to be able to rebuild trust and friendships with the people who do want to be friends with you.

And even more importantly, stop living in the past. Yes, it happened, yes it was shitty all around, but it was years ago and you should have some new friends and a rich life; reconnecting with some of your old friends should be adding to that, not a substitution for it. You are getting therapy, right?
posted by Forktine at 10:07 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I will suggest that the friends probably stayed with him because admitting he is an abusive asshole would require them to admit they were helping endanger your life. Also, anyone who would push you at such a man probably has hidden abusive crap going on elsewhere in their own lives. I concluded long ago that most people do not lie to me to deceive me. They do it so they can try to keep believing the lies,they tell themselves.

Dig up a copy of the Hitchcock film "The Visit". Watch it as many times as you need to until you can make your peace. And leave town as soon as it can be arranged without catastrophe ensuing.
posted by Michele in California at 10:17 AM on July 26, 2012 [7 favorites]

Reading this question, I was struck by the fact that it's extremely rare for a group of friends to stay intact that way from age 19 through one's early 30s. And while it's often things like life circumstances that separate people, friendships usually fade away because people outgrow each other.

And I wonder if it's possible that the point at which your friends tried to get you to stay with your fiance, and you left him anyway, is the point at which you started to grow away from this group. Them trying to get you to stay with him might have been a subtle way of keeping the group together - and when you left him, they felt like you rejected them as well. Which isn't really fair of them

And given what you wrote in your follow-up comment (did your friends know about your fiance's violent behavior?) it really does sound like you might be better off in the end out of this particular friend group, as painful as it might be now.
posted by lunasol at 10:20 AM on July 26, 2012 [9 favorites]

There is a lot of good mature advice here, but I want to add two points:

1. You're doing the same thing with your friend group that you were doing with your fiance--idealizing something you don't have to the point where that's all you can think about. You do have friends. So they're not a giant community who all has Christmas and Birthdays together. Well there's nothing stopping you from hosting a Christmas at your place every year, is there? "But it's not the same". Too bad, that's over now. You have something, something valuable, in the friends that you do have. People who value you and want to spend time with you and invite you to you know how many people don't have even that? Who sit at home alone every night? I say this not to browbeat you, but to hopefully impart some gratitude for how good you have it, friend-wise, so you can start enjoying the friends you have completely without dismissing them as second best. The human condition is loss and suffering and dissatisfaction, but in this situation you're creating more where it doesn't need to be out of a sense of victimhood that, while it might be justified, is not going to be pleasant or helpful for you.

2. Put on your Fuck 'Em pants. These people don't want to be friends with you? Fuck 'em. Doesn't matter what you did. Ultimately, that's between you and God, if you believe in one. If your friends can't stand by you when you do something they think is stupid or mean then they're not friends worth having. If there were one or two who reached out to you or were empathetic to you, reach out to them or just keep them in a pleasant spot in your mind. The people who seemingly relished cutting off a friend and taking sides like this was a football game instead of your life? Fuck. Them.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:21 AM on July 26, 2012 [29 favorites]

Agree with those above who suggest that you may be longing for this group because you are lonely, not because you had an objectively great thing with them. If they did not offer you support or listen respectfully to your qualms when you were doubting your engagement, they weren't good friends. If they ignored or downplayed your concerns when you were doubting your engagement to someone who made you feel physically endangered, then they were actively BAD friends, of the sort you should be glad to be rid of.

-Stop letting their activities dictate your own. You want to go to a party they might be attending? Go.
-Start looking for new friends. If this means you have to move...maybe you should consider that. -Staying in the smallish town where all of this went down might be bad for your mental health. Seriously!
posted by artemisia at 10:24 AM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

I tried to break up with him and he wore me down for months trying to talk me out of it. I tried a second time and started bellowing at the top of his lungs, picking up the mattress of the bed and slamming it down, and throwing things. I agree with most of the rest of what you said, but I do not think I was unwilling to "face the consequences," unless the consequences mean probable death, which does happen at the hands of partners far more often than it does at the hands of complete strangers.

Holy shit! Scary.

Please talk to a therapist if you're not already. You were being emotionally abused and probably felt physically threatened. That shit has lasting, lingering consequences on your psyche.

You did not deserve that, and you certainly did not deserve to have your friends and family abandon you when you turned to them. You deserve friends who will stand by your side. I'm sorry these people sucked.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:27 AM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

1) how to deal with this
You need to make an honest and sincere apology for your actions and how you hurt them. And you need to forgive them completely.

2) how to rekindle my old friendships, if that's even possible
People make mistakes, but people also forgive. So it is possible, absolutely. Is it worth it, you'll have to be the judge of that.

Whenever I think about the situation, I feel really, really awful and I start to cry. I don't think about it now as often as I used to, but the pain of it is still very strong. It's like this whole group of people died, or I did. One day they were part of my life, the next day, they weren't.

Realize that you are not the only one feeling this way.

There is anger, blame, and resentment on both sides of this. You need to apologize, and so do they. And they need to forgive you and you need to forgive them. This will involve screaming and tears, it will take time and it will hurt. If you really want to be friends again you can't skip this. As much as you'd like to drift back into the group as if nothing had ever happen you can't.

Elly Vortex has some good advice. The onus is on you to reach out the them; a face to face one at a time might be easiest (but you know them better than I).

Yes there's the possibility that some members of the group won't want to forgive you nor accept responsibility for their part in all this. That is on them, and there is nothing you can do about it. But this doesn't have to be an all or nothing situation. Reconciling with even one of these friends may be worth the heartache.

3) how to make new friends in a town where everybody knows each other and I feel awkward and out of place among people I used to feel at home with.

Don't fixate on what you've lost. You are not who you were, and neither are they. And this is a good thing. Apologize and forgive. Do this and you won't fell awkward anymore. Let the past become the past.
posted by zinon at 10:43 AM on July 26, 2012

This is from the perspective of someone who has had the same group of friends for about 20 years, some of them even longer. During that time there have been plenty of hurt feelings, relationships gone bad, fights, and other assorted baggage. People have come and gone – one friend in particular dumped all of us for a guy and then came back a few years later.

My question is, how do you know that they still don’t want to be your friend? In the case of my friend above, once she was gone we pretty much wrote her off until she initiated contact with us again. She left, so it was on her to get in touch. My advice would be, get in touch with one of them. You know which one would be most amenable to starting that conversation.
posted by lyssabee at 10:43 AM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Please see a good therapist to work on your codependence issues. You have a history of idealizing abusive people, and then when you get (understandably) fed up with their bullshit, you jump from the frying pan into the fire.

Look how you left your controlling fiancé--you had to get something going with another abusive guy so he could "save you."

You can stop this. And once you start working through this stuff, you will be amazed at how you start connecting with interesting, well-balanced, supportive people. And you will ask yourself, "Where were these cool people all along?" They were always there, but you didn't see them because you were dazzled by the glitter of the people who were ready to treat you like the shit you believed you were.

I'm telling you this because I've been there myself. You don't need your rejecting, judgmental "friends" back; you just feel like you do because that's the sickness talking. Right now, you're like Harry Harlow's baby monkeys going back to cuddle the mommy doll that gives them electric shocks, because that feels like a connection at least.

Please get help. A first step might be reading Facing Codependence by Mellody, Miller, and Miller.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:47 AM on July 26, 2012 [30 favorites]

Oh my God, how awful. The worst friend losses in my life have been when I lost groups of friends, and to you that happened while breaking up with your fiance and moving?? How traumatic.

I understand the urge to fix the friendship, but could you really feel like these people were "real friends" again? ... Maybe? I don't know if I could.

One piece of advice. When once something like this happened to me (a friend shutting me out because of something I did), I was so eager to rekindle the relationship that I let it be rebuilt in a rather inauthentic way. I was desperate to please them and prove I wasn't like they thought. That wasn't sustainable over the long term. I came to resent it (and I should admit that some of this may have been self-imposed). If you do try to reconcile, you might seek to have the reconciliation be on an equal, honest, and nuanced foundation. I'd freely admit your fault and regret, but also, as the conversation allows, let them know in a non-blaming way how painful you found their actions and that you found it hard to reach out to them. It might make early conversations harder, but it could create a more honest and mutually respectful foundation, and really, what have you got to lose? I'm not suggesting you blame them or try to persuade them of your viewpoint, just that you bit approach them in a fake grovelling way but with your whole truth fully in your mind and available to share as the situation allows.
posted by salvia at 10:47 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

It is better to have no friends than to be in an unhappy, abusive marriage.

I don't think you were the jerk here. Look, if you posted a question saying that you were ambivalent about a marriage (which you did) plus the boyfriend was throwing things, must of us would tell you to get out, and to leave while he's gone if you are in danger. None of us would think you were a jerk.

And you shouldn't think that either.

If you were to post a follow-up to that hypothetical question saying but, the plans are made and the tickets are bought, we'd still say don't marry an abusive man. If you followed up again
saying that your friends were angry that you wouldn't marry him, and your mother said you owed it her her, we'd tell you to forget about them.

And that's what I think you should do.

I think you're getting some comments about jerkish behavior because of the way you framed your question. It's clear from the way you put it that you feel guilty. Don't feel guilty about losing "friends" who would rather see you in a bad, abusive marriage. When you ease up on yourself about this, I think you'll find yourself happier and more willing to go out when invited, regardless of who is there.
posted by Houstonian at 10:54 AM on July 26, 2012 [8 favorites]

It's your tribe; they can't kick you out. They haven't kicked you out as much as you ran away.

Just start going to events they'll be at again, let them all tell you how much of an asshole you were a few years back, have a laugh, and move on.

No one gets kicked out of a tribe for doing something stupid; everybody is stupid at some point or another. Especially if that stupid is about a romance. If you were a total fucking psychopath that'd be different, but all you did is break up with someone badly.
posted by goblinbox at 10:54 AM on July 26, 2012

Have you given yourself a chance to mourn -- really mourn -- these relationships? As if they were actual deaths. Like praying about it at church. Doing a little ritual where you release them. Sobbing. Talking to a therapist. Making an album or a memory box and putting it away on a shelf. Writing your best memories. Whatever way you would deal with an actual death. You've got to come to terms with the loss, and it was a major loss.

It sounds like a really messed-up situation all around, and I'm afraid because you haven't had a chance to come to terms with the loss -- which, who can blame you, you escaped two abusive romantic relationships in three years, you've been dealing with a lot! -- you aren't thinking clearly about your old friends and whether you truly want to be friends with them again (and if so, which specific friends).
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:55 AM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: If you were a total fucking psychopath that'd be different

What if I am a total fucking psychopath? I don't think I am, but I've been going around for the past three years thinking that what happened with my friends is What I Deserve for doing what I did.

I've had plenty of opportunity to make new friends, but I keep backing out on the cusp of really solidifying those friendships, because... because I don't know. Because I think I've been stuck in the past and sort of unconsciously expecting my "real" friends to come back, and also because I keep thinking I am a Bad Person and unworthy of being friends with people.

This thread has helped me get a lot of perspective. I'm crying like an idiot but I'm starting to feel better. I went for a walk on my lunchbreak and started to think about my former friends as individuals, more than as a monolithic group. I miss some of the people, but much to my surprise, I realized that there is at least one person that I don't especially like!

(these are just some preliminary thoughts, so I hope it doesn't sound glib)
posted by spacewaitress at 11:00 AM on July 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

What Sidhedevil said, but also, you didn't fool yourself totally on your own with no help from the abusive guy you ran off with. He saw that you wanted something you weren't getting from anyone else and he provided it. Abusers are good at posing as rescuers and they do watch for people who are getting out of bad situations, because they know they can keep you as long as they want by seeming better than the last abuser. It's by no means only a matter of abused people seeking out more punishment because they just can't get enough of it.

Be very careful what information you reveal about yourself when meeting new people. Abusers look for signs that you've had a bad time. People can only see what you allow them to see.
posted by tel3path at 11:02 AM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

I keep thinking I am a Bad Person and unworthy of being friends with people.

You might try forgiving yourself for how you broke up with your ex. It is a much better alternative than punishing yourself forever.
posted by DarlingBri at 11:06 AM on July 26, 2012

I recently saw a card that said, "A friend will calm you down when you are angry, but a BEST friend will skip beside you with a baseball bat singing 'someone's gonna get it'"

Funny, right? Kinda like that one about how a friend will help you move, but a real friend will help you move bodies.

They are both saying something true though -- a friend is there for you, and a really good friend takes your side. So, did you lose friends? Not really.
posted by Houstonian at 11:08 AM on July 26, 2012 [15 favorites]

Wow, I am really surprised at the commenters who are telling you that you need to own up this heinous thing you did and apologize like hell to your old friends. Yeah, that wasn't a great way to handle the situation, but it sounds like you were unsupported and in an abusive relationship.

I'm with tel3path and zjacreman and PhoBWan and Sidhedevil and the young rope-rider (yay for clear-thinking/writing MeFites): your friends were not very good friends, and it would be great for you to get some therapeutic help on working through some of this.

My personal advice? Make moving to a new, bigger town a priority. You really can just pack up and git. (I know, because I did just that after I left my husband and our "friends" were getting shirty. Small town too, it was time to get out.)
posted by Specklet at 11:08 AM on July 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

If you were a psychopath you wouldn't feel remorse nor would you miss your friends. They'd just be numbers, easily replaced. You'd probably have cleaned out their bank accounts and trashed their reputations on the way out, too.

What I think you are doing is what Catholics call excessive scrupulosity, a form of despair and beating yourself up that is not to be confused with repentance. Except I don't think you're really doing that but at the same time you must know that what you did was not evil. The problem is that you 'be internalized your oppressors' judgment which is an affliction, not a sin.

What you need is clarity about abusive versus respectful relationships and what actions to take to step into the light and live there with others. This would also be the work of repentance, if this were primarily a matter of repentance. But I hope you can see how the work of transcendence will take you along a similar path.
posted by tel3path at 11:11 AM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Oh, spacewaitress, my heart is going out to you. There are people who can help you learn to love yourself and like yourself. I promise that once you're a good friend to yourself, you'll find people who will be good friends to you.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:11 AM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think the worst part of this situation is that it's 3 years later, and the guilt/shame is still bringing you to tears. Based on your description of your thoughts on this, I would assume that if you suddenly saw one of these people out in public, such as in a store, you would probably turn tail if it were possible without being noticed, and that your own view of what a horrible person you were (you weren't), and possibly still are (you're not) is eating at you slowly and relentlessly.

I don't know how large this group of friends are, but if you can, you should probably sit down with them individually as it has been discussed above, and not so much explain why you did what you did or make excuses, but that you acknowledge that you did it of your own free-will, it was a really shitty thing to do, and that you realize that you may have caused emotional harm. Speak about the fact that you have felt badly about this every day for 3 years, have learned what you could from it, and then ask what, if anything, you can do to make it up to them. And then go do that thing, provided you're not causing further harm to someone else.

As someone mentioned upthread, people are different. Some may still be angry, others may be sad you're no longer around, and still others may not care one way or another.

Don't let your ego get in the way, however, don't worry about what part they or your ex-fiance played in it, just own your side of the street only.

Lastly, don't assume that they're out there still dwelling on this as much as you are, something I'm reminded every day is how little I actually matter in comparison to how much I'd like to think I matter.

Failing that, have a few parties at your place or at a current friends where you can invite the people you are hanging out with in twos and threes now, to potentially see if more of you will get along as a group and start a new "tribe."

Good luck!
posted by Debaser626 at 11:12 AM on July 26, 2012

And any of those "friends" who denied or downplayed what you told them about your relationship with your fiancé? Not friends. Any of them who told you you'd never do better than him? Not friends.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:15 AM on July 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

In reading the comments further, I think I should clarify that I don't think you should sit down with these people and own your side of the "shitty" thing you did so much to rekindle the friendships, but to handle your own internal guilt and self hate for what you did, and lose the inability to move past this. By attempting to set right the wrongs on the past, you will be able to walk with your head held high, and go to those parties/events where they may be also attending with a clear conscience. If you rekindle any friendships, all the better, but more importantly you will be able to move on.

And please know that I say this from my own experiences handling the crappy things that I have done to some people in the past. We aren't close friends anymore, but I am able to have other close friends and can be happy in life only because I have done all that I could to make up for my past transgressions, mistakes and poor behavior.
posted by Debaser626 at 11:39 AM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Running off was stupid and heartless, but I really did try to just break up with him in a normal way, first.

No one owes a breakup conversation to someone who responds to breakup conversations with violence. Seriously.

Your former friends may not know about the violent behavior, but I wouldn't recommend trying to explain any of it to them. Friends who would respond to "I'm unhappy in my relationship," with, "You'll never do better than [fiance]," are not healthy friends to have. Being flustered, feeling conflicted about having the conversation because they're friends with both of you, saying they don't know how to talk to you about this stuff--fine. But saying you should ignore your unhappiness, saying that you'll "never do better" than an unhappy relationship? That's cold and wrong and you deserve to be treated better.
posted by Meg_Murry at 11:39 AM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Mod note: Constructive replies only, and stick to the current topic. OP & everyone else, quit the topic drift, thanks. If you have issues with this, hit us up on the contact form please.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:42 AM on July 26, 2012

Response by poster: I would assume that if you suddenly saw one of these people out in public, such as in a store, you would probably turn tail if it were possible without being noticed, and that your own view of what a horrible person you were (you weren't), and possibly still are (you're not) is eating at you slowly and relentlessly.

Right on both counts. In fact, I did glimpse one of my friends, from the back, at an art museum, and I dodged into the next room.

I also saw one of my friends on the street recently, (I was walking and he was in a car), and I waved, and he looked surprised and waved back, so that's a thing, hey?
posted by spacewaitress at 11:43 AM on July 26, 2012

Look, you did the right thing even if it wasn't the most graceful execution. You shouldn't get married to someone if it's not right. The people who tell you otherwise aren't the ones who would have to live with the sheer hell that is divorce (especially if there's kids).

I've found during a few times in my life that I've had to reinvent myself. It's lonely at first for sure, but you end up meeting new people and friends you never would have had otherwise. And you end up with new inside jokes. So meetups, new activities, new hobbies. Make it your priority to make new friends. Things will work out if you put the effort in
posted by bananafish at 11:48 AM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

I've been going around for the past three years thinking that what happened with my friends is What I Deserve for doing what I did.

I'm sorry to hear that. That's not true. You were in a tough spot. You didn't handle it in the best way possible (it sounds like an out of the frying pan and into the fire situation), but you have to let go of the guilt and self-loathing. We've all made bad decisions when in a tough spot. You are worthy of love and friendship.

I suggest continuing to cultivate the friends you have now and exploring group activities like xingcat suggests as a way to have those group experiences that you miss. If you are religious, get involved in fellowship groups at your place of worship.

Please consider therapy. I think sometime people on AskMe are a little quick to suggest it, but a good therapist might be able to help with this self-loathing.
posted by Area Man at 11:51 AM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Words like abusive and controlling seem to come out WAY to quickly on this board sometimes. I'd shout too if I were in his shoes when my fiance told me she was unhappy with me but in love with someone else. Kicking a door, or throwing something out of frustration in an extremely emotionally charged situation does not always equal someone who is ready to commit violence on another living being. Trying to change, and pleading to save a relationship to someone you feel is your soul-mate is not indicative of someone who makes a habit of being manipulative or controlling.

I read your old thread, and I read this one + all the comments so far. Even with all the information you've provided I think you handled your fiance very, very roughly; I don't think you made the wrong decision as far as ending your engagement went, I just think you handled it poorly. This doesn't make you a horrible monster and I'm not rehashing this to pick on you, but I see that the only responses you are marking as "best" are the ones that help you frame the narrative of yourself as a victim of abuse. That might help you feel better about what you've done in your past but it absolutely will not be productive if you want your old friendships back. Not saying that they could'nt have done a lot of things differently as well, and "you owe me a ceremony" from your mother, seriously?????

What you did in the past, your reasons for it, and how you executed the split are history. You can't change what's done. Scapegoating your friends/ex won't help you move forward and beating yourself up endlessly over ancient history isn't really productive either. If we were all judged by shitty things we've done, well nobody would think very highly about anybody. We all have things we wish we could do over. Forgive yourself, understand the reactions of those you hurt, and accept that this is in the past where it belongs and focus on moving forward.

On to moving forward... I would suggest that your relationship with your friends, as you knew it, is gone and never coming back. It's natural to look back on those times with nostalgia, but I think focusing on what you had will spoil any new future relationship with these people. If you're interested in reconnecting with these people, go to events you know or suspect they will be at. Say hi, don't avoid them and don't feel the need to try to explain everything ad nauseum. You don't owe them a detailed explanation, if it comes up you could acknowledge that you caused a lot of pain and handled it poorly and regret the WAY it happened immensely and that you have worked very hard to put a difficult time in your life behind you. If that's not enough for them, than that's ok too; you can know that you tried to mend that bridge but they weren't adult enough to work with you. Either a new friendship will naturally arise from the ashes or it won't, and if it doesn't maybe at least you'll have some closure on what sounds like a very stressful and unpleasant chapter of your life.
posted by Beacon Inbound at 12:04 PM on July 26, 2012 [23 favorites]

if i could favorite Beacon Inbound's answer x100, i would. said it, obviously, much nicer than i did.
posted by violetk at 12:08 PM on July 26, 2012

I don't really understand what it is you're supposed to be apologizing for. You didn't do anything to these people. The only thing you did was break of your engagement, which was absolutely the right thing to do, in a way that was maybe less than ideal, but probably the only way you could do it safely. Running off with the other guy was a poor choice, but that didn't hurt anyone except you. And even if you hurt your ex, you certainly didn't do anything to these people who were, after all staggeringly unhelpful when you reached out to them with serious doubts about your engagement. And, by the way, being helpful when someone reaches out with serious doubts about an engagement is pretty basic-level friend stuff. So I think you may consider that these people weren't really enriching your life as much as you thought they were.

I think the only thing you really can do here is take yourself off the rack for what's done, focus on the friends you have, and start putting yourself back in to shared public spaces to give your friends who want to stop acting like jerks an opportunity to do so.
posted by Ragged Richard at 12:15 PM on July 26, 2012 [8 favorites]

I also think you do not need to be quite so critical of how gracefully, or not, you exited a relationship with someone who refused to accept your attempts to break up with him by conventional means, indeed made you fear violence if you did so, and who was supported by a network of friends and family - including your mother, who is expected to support you more than anyone else even in the face of all the evidence - in keeping you there against your will.

Perhaps it would have been better form not to have left him for someone else, and instead gone to a shelter. Perhaps it would have been better form to move out into your own place first rather than into the home of your supposed protector. However we need to get real here. When under threat, most of us will turn first to such friends and allies as we can find, rather than using the system as our first line of defence. A woman fleeing an abusive relationship might feel safer living with her supposed protector than by herself, assuming that living alone is even financially possible.

I don't know how many of us could say with total honesty, hand on heart, that we would have handled this more elegantly in similar circumstances. Yes, Enlightenment makes you wiser to the ways of the wicked and makes you strive harder to avoid being vulnerable but there are times when any of us could trust the wrong person or.not be able to avoid finding ourselves in a one-down position. It's usually through support networks that people handle these things, which is why Abusers make sure to isolate you and abuse-minded groups tend to close ranks against dissenters.
posted by tel3path at 12:17 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

If this had happened in your twenties, it would have been relatively easy to replace them with new people that you could get close to and begin a shared history with. In your thrities, it's much, much harder.

Oh, bullshit. Much of my social network was framed around my kids' activities. My neighbors and their kids did stuff with my kids, pretty much through high school. When my youngest son graduated high school, there really wasn't much to do with them anymore, really. We'd covered all the ground we needed to cover and were ready to move on.

I enjoyed the time without constant commitments to go to this band competition or that football game, then I started to pursue some hobbies and built up friendships with interests that more closely match my own.

Earlier on, someone mentioned "owning" what you did. Part of that is accepting that you're not part of that group anymore. You don't have to hate it or miss it. Look at the things you couldn't do with that group and go out and do them. It seems like there was kind of a groupthink thing going on and dissension was not tolerated, which is why no one would listen to you. You were obviously frustrated with that which is why you ran off. That's probably still the case with the group; why would you want to resume that situation?

You're better off with your freedom. Just enjoy it while it lasts. Learn to be comfortable in your own skin; that's actually a really attractive trait. Eventually a new norm will emerge and you'll be really happy with it and wonder why you put up with the old crowd's BS for so long.
posted by Doohickie at 12:40 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

You discuss your friends like they are a monolith. Did they really all know how unhappy you were in your engagement, and were they really all dismissive of it? In 2009 they all unfriended you on Facebook out of solidarity with your ex, but they couldn't all have the same feelings about you.

I was part of a group of friends where one person cheated on their partner then immediately left the city where we lived and never reached out by email or phone to any of us. He probably thinks we all hate him, and maybe we do, but in some ways he didn't give anyone a chance to think it over. He totally ceded the friend group to his ex.

In your case your friend group made a show of electronically unfriending you, but if you don't ever try to contact them in turn, you don't know what any individual one of them thinks. Also, it has been three years and tempers may have damped down some.

In the meantime, what about hosting gatherings at your house with your new friends? Maybe they won't always be in ones and twos if they can get to know each other.
posted by feets at 12:42 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: You did a really horrible thing and people who do horrible things and don't try to atone for those things simply don't deserve to have friends. Full stop.

Oof. I'm glad there were dozens of responses before yours. You're saying I don't deserve to have friends? At all? That is crazytown.

I did write emails to them, trying to explain and apologize, and was soundly and thoroughly rebuffed by one person I had been close to. I was devastated by this and felt too afraid to reach out to my other friends. I'm not sure what else I should do to atone. I'm not even sure I want to be friends with these people again, but I've been beating myself up over this for the past three years.

Beacon Inbound, I'm not going to argue whether my ex-fiance was abusive. He was mildly controlling, but there are worse flaws to have. But when the moment of crisis came, I was genuninely afraid. Whether that counts as "abusive" or not doesn't really matter.

Online discussions like this can serve as a reality check. What was really helpful in the answers I marked as "best" was the perspective that my friends (and my mother) should have listened to me, and they didn't. My friends felt betrayed after I broke off the engagement because they were surprised by it, but when I tried to talk to them beforehand, I didn't get much help.

I'm not so much trying to blame them or scapegoat them as I'm trying to get over feeling like a horrible person every day of my life. Regardless of whether I am a horrible person or not, feeling that way is no way to live and does no good to me, or to the people who are still in my life who care about me. I've been shutting myself off from the world and just staying at home because of this, and I think I should probably stop wallowing in despair over this whole mess.
posted by spacewaitress at 12:59 PM on July 26, 2012 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: Dig up a copy of the Hitchcock film "The Visit". Watch it as many times as you need to until you can make your peace.

I can't find this movie. Does it have another title?
posted by spacewaitress at 1:04 PM on July 26, 2012

spacewaitress: I think you've got it summed up pretty well, and I kinda advise stepping away from the thread now, because as with any relationship question people will project their own opinions and hurts into it endlessly.

Oh, and they might mean The Visit by Bergman, which would appear to be topical.
posted by Zarkonnen at 1:06 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Folks, seriously, try harder on the constructive thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:06 PM on July 26, 2012

No, you didn't do a horrible thing. Your choice was to either get married to someone you were ambivalent about, or leave. You left - albeit not in the most graceful manner - and this was the right choice. Yes, your friends are entitled to be judgey, just like the people in this thread are entitled to be judgey. You've earned a fresh start.

Time to change things up a bit, find different friends who you click better with in this phase of your life, and seek healthy relationships.
posted by moammargaret at 1:08 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oof. I'm glad there were dozens of responses before yours. You're saying I don't deserve to have friends? At all? That is crazytown.

I did write emails to them, trying to explain and apologize, and was soundly and thoroughly rebuffed by one person I had been close to. I was devastated by this and felt too afraid to reach out to my other friends. I'm not sure what else I should do to atone. I'm not even sure I want to be friends with these people again, but I've been beating myself up over this for the past three years.

OK, I was absolutely wrong here. In your original question you mentioned absolutely nothing about trying to apologize - which is a pretty significant piece of data to omit. If you made a sincere effort to atone for what you did - as opposed to "Well, I'm sorry but you need to understand how I felt..." ("I'm sorry but -" is seldom a sincere apology) then you're OK in my book. Please consider this a full retraction of my earlier advice, and I'd like to offer my apologies for coming down on you so judgementally.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 1:09 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Unless by "friends" you mean "children", you have nothing to apologize for or atone for, because your choice of partner is not something they're entitled to influence just because they're friends with you and have an opinion.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:14 PM on July 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

The new information makes me change my response as well. I agree with the people who say this is a BIG SIGN FROM THE UNIVERSE saying that you should move on to new friends and new adventures. Let this go. Move on.

The happiest people I know are happy because they respond to this kind of rejection with, "Huh. Well, I'm going to go have New Adventure!"

The world is huge, and full of amazing experiences and people. Get to a big city. Travel by yourself to another country. Go back to school. Take up a serious sport.

Move on.
posted by 3491again at 1:20 PM on July 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

Beacon Inbound, I'm not going to argue whether my ex-fiance was abusive. He was mildly controlling, but there are worse flaws to have. But when the moment of crisis came, I was genuninely afraid. Whether that counts as "abusive" or not doesn't really matter.

i guess i am just confused here. in your previous post (which you linked), you only wrote of your fiance and your relationship with him in glowing terms. now he's controlling and possibly abusive? i mean, you needed to leave him—that was obvious—but you needed to leave him because of issues having to do with you and your actions (your discontent, your affair with orchestra guy), not because he was a "controlling abuser." yes, your friends and family were unsupportive; yes, you needed to leave your fiance, but i think that trying to paint him as a controlling abuser in retrospect is more about making you feel better about the manner in which you left him and garner sympathy for yourself, rather than really taking responsibility for your own role in all of it.
posted by violetk at 1:28 PM on July 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

My apologies. It is the correct title but not a Hitchcock film.

The Visit
posted by Michele in California at 1:31 PM on July 26, 2012

I have followed the crowd in looking back at your previous question and it paints a very different picture of what happened. I see now why your mutual friends would have had a problem with the scenario as presented.

I was wondering why you waited until an update to tell us you left because of abuse. Your story of three years ago is not a tale of oppression by a fiancé who refused to listen. On the contrary, it reads like the story of a man who jumped through every hoop of fire you held up for him in an effort to win your hand.

Now you're telling us his reaction to your expressed wish to leave - rather than your expressed desire for another man as your earlier tale recounts - was so rigid and controlling and eventually. so violent, that you feared for your life if you left. Whereas at the time, you simply said you felt "weirdly unable" to leave your fiancé without his consent.

Both of these stories can't be true.

If what your friends saw at the time looked like the first story, I can see how they would have had a problem with it. I might have stepped away from a friend who was treating her partner like this. It would have looked like you were emotionally torturing him with a mutant jealousy plotline from hell. Whatever the truth of the matter, that's what it would have looked like and that's what observers would have responded to.

I don't know what the actual truth is but if your friends saw the same picture you've painted for us it's reasonable for them to want to avoid you.

Mea culpa for not reading your earlier posts, but I trying your first and most urgent task is to try to see the truth of the situation rather than trying to construct a narrative that exonerates you and indicts your entire social circle. I am not happy that I allowed myself to be led into giving advice for an abuse scenario that is not reliable as told.

I hope nobody who is suffering abuse right now, reads all this and finds their self-doubt increased by it.
posted by tel3path at 1:49 PM on July 26, 2012 [6 favorites]

This is probably nasty, but I'm going to proceed...

I reviewed your post, and went back to your 2009 thread. Basically you dumped your fiance for a loser; lost your reputation, your friends, and happiness; and are now plagued with shame, remorse, guilt and loneliness.

It begs the question: what DID you think would happen when you ran off with Orchestra Guy? Did you really not see any of this in advance? For real??

I guess not. Why do you think that was? What does that mean about yourself? And what do you do about it?

These are the real questions you need to ask yourself, not 'how do I rekindle old friendships that I miss'?

And if you want redemption, you can start by seeking forgiveness, if it can be achieved, from the people you hurt by directly seeking it from people you hurt. And yes you are right to avoid them until you make this first step.
posted by thermonuclear.jive.turkey at 1:51 PM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

You say that your friends and family would not listen, would not listen, would not listen. Is it possible that you did not want to hear what they had to say?
posted by Melismata at 1:58 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Funny, I read the earlier post before I posted here. And it didn't really change anything about how I felt.

You were right to leave him. So you might looked for a way out with a crappy guy, but you said even then that you'd tried to break up with him, tried therapy, tried talking to friends and loved ones and it didn't work. You weren't happy and when you finally tried to extricate yourself, the dude got violent--not with you, sure, but breaking items and throwing things and yelling is still scary.

I don't think it matters that people here on metafilter feel they have the "right" read on your situation. The truth is probably more complicated than any two internet posts would reveal. He was a nice, good guy most of the time, and your friends and family wanted you to be with him. They felt they were owed a wedding. You felt pressured to do this even though you knew, in your heart, you didn't want to. That's incredibly hard, and only compounded by knowledge that, when pressed, this guy could get shouty or threatening. Control is often a complex thing, and if abusive jerks were abusive jerks 24/7, then no one would stick around long enough to be abused by them.

I just want to iterate one last time: therapy, please. It's really, really good at addressing these feelings of self-loathing. You deserve someone else in your court, and since you can't even trust yourself to be nice to yourself right now, a paid therapist should do in a pinch.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:16 PM on July 26, 2012 [15 favorites]

I have checked out your previous post. It strikes me as PC bs that doesn't really address what serious issues would drive you to do something that looks realy crazy to other people.

A few observations:

You lived with your fiancee for three years first. People who live together first have higher divorce rates. You cannot "test run" the kind of serious commitment involved in marriage. Playing house does not begin to give you any idea of what real commitment is about. Trying to give a test run first suggests much deeper issues with trusting each other.

Statistically, most people who have an affair and thereby end an existing relationship usually sought out the affair as a means to end it. They typically move on within a year. It almost never becomes True Love.

Your remarks about being interested in polyamory in part because the "honesty" of it appeals to you combined with remarks about your fiancee being more monogamously oriented suggest much deeper unexamined issues than anything you seem to have mentioned in either discussion. It implies the relationship was somehow a fundamentally dishonest situation where your needs and interests were not much addressed.

I am sorry you are getting so much flack. Let me echo what others have said: Get therapy. I think a lot was going on that you have no real means to understand at this time.
posted by Michele in California at 2:29 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Time doesn't move backwards, it only goes forwards. Think of this as a chance at a fresh start, which is largely what running off with orchestra guy seemed to be about. Except, this fresh start will mean that you put the toxic people behind you and find an awesome therapist who will help you make positive changes in your life.
posted by heyjude at 2:34 PM on July 26, 2012

The OP never said she left because of abuse, she never said she feared for her life, and she never said her ex was abusive. She said:

I tried to break up with him and he wore me down for months trying to talk me out of it. I tried a second time and started bellowing at the top of his lungs, picking up the mattress of the bed and slamming it down, and throwing things.

Beacon Inbound, I'm not going to argue whether my ex-fiance was abusive. He was mildly controlling, but there are worse flaws to have. But when the moment of crisis came, I was genuninely afraid. Whether that counts as "abusive" or not doesn't really matter.

I'm just not seeing two opposing stories here. I'm sorry about the flack, too.
posted by Specklet at 2:37 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Folks at this point if you are not specifically addressing the OPs situation with her friends, we need you to take side conversations to MeMail, thanks.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:39 PM on July 26, 2012

OP, I'm sorry the pitchforks are coming out like this. FWIW, I also had read your earlier post before I left my comment. And even if your ex was an absolute saint and you left him heartbroken and devastated, there's nothing morally wrong with breaking up with someone you don't love. Marriage isn't a reward for being a good person. And to the point of this question: you don't owe your old friends an apology because you didn't do anything wrong to them.

I still think that you're better off without this group of friends, at least right now. Sometimes people really just do grow apart. And I agree that therapy is a good move for you. This thing you did 3 years ago absolutely does not make you a horrible person who doesn't deserve friends, and you need to figure out a way to really absorb that fact.
posted by lunasol at 3:01 PM on July 26, 2012 [7 favorites]

Keep this in mind, good friendships are unconditional !
posted by brittaincrowe at 3:19 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah I'm really sorry people are giving you such a hard time here. For what it's worth I don't see the inconsistency either. Seconding that you don't owe anyone an apology. Mistakes were made all around. It happens.

The only thing you can do at this point is forgive yourself and move on. If you're still broken up about this 3 years later, that is where a trained professional therapist comes in to give you the tools to forgive yourself.
posted by bleep at 3:23 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

For the sake of clarity:

The breakup is what therapists call "the presenting problem" in a family or group therapy situation. In other words, it is The Problem that everyone points to as The Reason we need therapy. But there is always something deeper and more complicated going on.

I think in order to sort out your situation with and feelings towards your friends, you will need to first understand what went on in your relationship and what social expectations were happening with regards to your wedding plans, etc. I think those two things cannot be neatly separated. The group dynamic was part of why you did this crazy thing and ran off with a "loser". To resolve any piece of it, you will need to understand it as a whole.

Sorry I did not make that clear earlier. I am trying to say you need to understand what went wrong before you can decide whether to write an apology to everyone or take some other conciliatory action. If you genuinely felt in danger, leaving might still be the best option for this reason: Group dynamics are even more resistent to change than individuals. If this group dynamic did in fact put you in danger, it could easily do so again, even if no individual intends you any harm.

There is substantial research on how people will go along with social expectations even though they think it is wrong, up to and including taking actions which could kill someone. Few people actively resist in such a situation. Most people either don't know how or are afraid of what will happen to them if they resist, and with good reason. An angry lynch mob can easily turn on one of its own members, much to that individual's detriment.

So before you go trying to repair any of these relationships, please first understand what happened. Otherwise you are probably going to find yourself stepping back onto a runaway train that you couldn't control the first time around and probably can't control a second time around either.

Best of luck.
posted by Michele in California at 3:34 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Your mom said you owed them a ceremony???

Your "so-called" friends all sided with him without knowing your side of the story and him acting the drama queen???

(from your other post) Your first fiance said you owed it to him to stick around???

Your gut feeling was that it was better to leave your fiance for an alcoholic with abusive tendencies?? (and I'll bet looking back, you recognize there were some indications when you moved in)

WTF? Honey, you did absolutely NOTHING wrong here. I'm here to say that if this bothers you that much, you may need therapy to get your head on straight. Every around you in this scenerio has acted like total douchbags. Yes, there are better and worse ways of handling a bad situation, and you might have done a slightly better job of it, but we all do the best we can with what we've got at the time. Plus, it sounds like you had little to no support in this. No woman ever has to marry someone she doesn't want to. You didn't just walk out the door one day out of the clear blue sky. You told your fiance you wanted to break up, and he gave you the guilt trip.

Look for new friends. Loyal friends. Find creative outlets like music groups, reading groups, perhaps even join a softball team or volunteer at the animal shelter. There are plenty of AskMe's on how to meet people. You do it one at a time. Some become acquaintances, but there are many possibilities for friends.

Also, are you sure all your old friends don't want to see you? Is this a proven fact, or are you thinking this out of some misplaced guilt? You say you've gotten invites to places and parties where you know they might be. So what? Even if they're there, all you have to do is be polite, after all, you have the people who invited you to socialize with, and you can introduce yourself to others.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:49 PM on July 26, 2012 [11 favorites]

I agree that you broke up with your ex-fiancé in a spectacularly shitty way. He also behaved shittily (which was apparent to me from the "he won't let me go" business in 2009, hence my advising that you two negotiate what was going to happen with your relationship with a couples therapist at the time), but that doesn't excuse your choice.

One of the things that fixing your codependence issues will help is with helping you learn how to stand up for yourself sooner, so that you won't play doormat until you suddenly unleash the nuclear option seemingly out of nowhere.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:33 PM on July 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

You need to make new friends. It really is that simple, although obviously the stuff with your former friends and exes is not.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:46 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Wow, I am amazed/appalled by all the judgment you're getting here. I haven't read your previous question, nor do I wish to. For god's sake, folks, it's been THREE YEARS. That's plenty of time for the OP to have learned a few things.

OP, it's clear to me that your heart is in the right place in terms of recognizing what you did and repenting. Indeed, I believe you have moved beyond repentance into self-flagellation, which is neither healthy nor helpful for you or your situation, and needs to stop.

My dad likes to say that there are certain things in life that you do so rarely that you never have a chance to get any practice or develop any expertise in them. Those are Big Things, like buying a house (really, even getting your house repainted or reroofed is a thing one hopes not to do too often), writing a will, dealing with birth, death, marriage, divorce, major illness, etc. You can study all you want, but you can never learn everything or anticipate every possible circumstance, and your friends will quite likely give you wildly divergent advice based on their unique and rare experiences. This means that you can forgive yourself for not having known all about how to handle this stuff, either the previous situation or the one you're facing now.

About a year ago, I left a job, at a place I had worked for a long time, without notice. I just emailed my resignation letter one Monday morning. (Short story: Regime change, possibly abusive situation with new boss, I tried to wait it out and/or make things work, and I waited too long, finally getting to the point where an emergency exit seemed like my only option. Possibly somewhat analogous to your situation.) Yeah, not a good way to leave, and I still feel bad and guilty and wrong about it; I worry about the people I disappointed, the damage I did to my past reputation and future prospects, etc. Yet, ironically (at least in comparison to your case), it is my FRIENDS who continue to reassure me that that's what I had to do and that it was okay and things will be okay again. Yes, hardly ideal, and yet at the same time, I didn't KILL anyone, for god's sake: I left a crummy situation in an undesirable manner. Perhaps it was inappropriate, but NO, I am not a psychopath, and there were reasons why I got to the point I did. It was an unreasonable situation.

So that makes my friends sound nicer than your friends, and yet I don't doubt that there are at least some in your former circle who would have been (and still may be) sympathetic had they known more of the story. Again, most people are not psychopaths, many have compassion and empathy, and some of these folks, in the ensuing 3 years, have likely experienced catastrophes of their own that have resulted in a change in perspective.

This is what I think you should do: Train your brain to react differently the next time you see one of these people. Visualize – individually – running into these people, either entirely by surprise or when you're somewhat expecting it. Visualize yourself NOT ducking and running. SEE yourself smiling, nodding, waving, saying Hi. If the person doesn't cut you dead, imagine acting "normal," trying to have a pleasant, lite, "catching up"-type of conversation, and seeing what happens. If things go okay, you may want to try to take it further, or you may decide that you have lost interest. I think it is quite likely that not EVERYONE is going to be shitty. (It's also important to remember that this thing that happened, however egregious you feel it is, is not seared into anyone else's mind the way it is burned into yours. Other people have their own shit.) However, let's face it: If there is rebuilding that is going to happen, it is probably going to be incremental and likely will involve some awkwardness at first. Believe me, I understand how uncomfortable that may be, but it may be something you have to live through in order to get past this. Best of luck to you, and please start forgiving yourself.
posted by littlecatfeet at 5:09 PM on July 26, 2012 [14 favorites]

Oh whatever! These weren't your damn friends. I can't think of any better excuse to move out of a city and start over than this. Maybe not now, maybe not for another year even, but I think you'll look back on this and think "what a crock of bullshit that was!" Sometimes you've just got to move on.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:21 PM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

I'm reminded of the line from Moonstruck about Johnny supposedly chewing off his leg (er, hand) in order to get out of a trap. I think running off with the other jerk WAS your way of chewing off your leg to get out of a trap. Yeah, it's not good, but it sounds to me like you weren't finding your way out of the engagement all by yourself (and NOBODY was supporting you), so you grabbed the only way you could to go. Shit happens, but you did what you had to do to get OUT OF THERE.

Don't even bother with these assholes. You didn't do so good, but they are sticking by an abusive ass and wanted you shackled to one for life. Fuck them.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:34 PM on July 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yeah, personally I don't think you did anything wrong and I'm kinda amazed at the initial framing. You never "owe" someone a damn wedding, much less the marriage that comes with. If my friends gave me flack for running away from my own wedding, I'd be asking myself real hard what kind of friends they were in the first place. They only have to stay for the cake; I have to live with the person I marry.

As far as time alone and friendships of one-or-two at a time: that's the only way I ever know who I am in the first place. I read you saying you only felt yourself when you were with this old friend group, and wonder if in fact the opposite is true: that this is the first time you're having the opportunity to find out who you are, and it feels weird because of all the time you spent under your friends' influence.

If so, I say embrace it. Get to know yourself better, figure out how to listen to your gut's signals earlier, so next time you don't have to have such a panic when push finally comes to shove.

(Also: your mom told you to get married to someone wrong for you? What on earth?)
posted by ead at 10:26 PM on July 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would agree with others that having a super stable, pretty much unchanging group of friends over decades that you do everything with is probably the rare exception rather than the rule for most adults, and it may even be that this group was part of the reason you felt so trapped in the original relationship when you knew you should just call it off (guesswork and conjecture!). I think that it's fairly unlikely that you will be able to put that all back together the way it was before no matter what... but also it just seems like something that wouldn't necessarily be so great for your mental or emotional health, either, because, frankly, to me, that seems like a pretty strange group.

None of your dear friends came to you and said, "whoah, what was up with that running away business?" and talked it out, like... friends? Nobody said, "I don't understand why you did what you did, but I'm here for you if you're having a rough time"? The way friends do? They just performed some sort of modern day shunning and collectively turned their backs on you? If so, I might be allowed a tiny bit of hyperbole in saying that that feeling you miss may be a little more like the feeling of an ex-cultist toward their artificially intimate, completely controlling former cult "family."

Most people simply would not shut their friend out because they broke off an engagement or relationship in an ill-advised way. Really and truly. Now, unless there's more to the story... like you stole all his money, destroyed his possessions, and killed his bunny, you need to cease thinking of these folks as your true friends lost forever. They were people you knew and spent a lot of time with who were fine hanging with you as long as you conveniently fit into the apparatus in the proper way, but who weren't actually invested in you as a person and individual.

If you want something a little closer and more family-like than what you have now with your friends whom you see one on one, etc., you can go ahead and start trying to create something like that for yourself, maybe by being the one to host pot lucks or game nights, or whatever you're into, and making your place a relaxing and fun nexus for people to come together. But for your own sake, it would be great if it were a looser, more laid back thing than the sort of group dynamic you were used to before.

Good luck, and don't worry. That thing you miss was a good thing on paper, maybe even better in rose-tinted memory... but not so great at all in reality, and you are almost certainly lucky to be well out of it.
posted by taz at 2:38 AM on July 27, 2012 [3 favorites]

I have lost almost all my friends twice - once at about 17 after an amicable breakup and once at about 30 after an amicable divorce. Both times I thought all the friends were mine too and even met some of them first, but maybe I have more charismatic or fun ex's or something. It happens and I don't think you should beat yourself up about it - it could have been amicable and more timely with the exact same result. You should focus on moving on and finding new friends as best you can.
posted by meepmeow at 6:56 AM on July 27, 2012

You did the right thing... It is just that in some way nearly everyone in the older thread forgot to mention the probable damage you could cause to yourself and others by what you choose. No one honestly can predict and prepare for it anyway. It happened, but that is the past and that is just too bad.

Sure, nobody deserves anything, but you'll just have to start from more or less zero in terms of "friends". Slowly, others will believe you deserve them as a friend. At such time do you begin to earn what you desire currently.

You'll be okay. You have more then enough data to take to the therapist and you'll come out okay.
posted by Bodrik at 1:19 AM on July 29, 2012

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