Friendship breakdowns and fallouts
January 6, 2013 9:22 AM   Subscribe

I am upset at a (once) close friend, how do I work out the anger on my own and get past it?

I was very, very close with this person for well over a decade. She called me her best friend. One day, she started blowing me off. After months of this, I asked her if I had done anything wrong. She said that she had been a bad friend, but that she started to feel like she didn't want to be responsible for me, and that she felt pressure from the "best friend" label (which I never instigated as I don't really understand it). Part of the not wanting to be "responsible" for me thing was due to a tendency I have not to want to miss out on things, which I acknowledge, but that worsened a little after my LTR dissolved. Rather than understanding, or at least a conversation that she was getting frustrated, she blew me off without explanation until I approached her.

Anyway, she apologised and left. I always take a bit of time to process things, and the more I processed, the angrier I got. I am upset because after so many years of friendship, she didn't feel I was worth a conversation instead of blowing me off (particularly as she has done this to others. I guess I was more hurt because I thought I was somehow immune to it). I am upset because when I was a bit of work to her she blew me off, I was completely present when her LTR blew up a year earlier (please note, I was not considered "work" to others, and do have wonderfully loyal friends). I am upset because mutual friends will say "yeah, she does do that sometimes" and I feel on the outer (this pertains to the "missing out" feeling which I am working on pretty successfully and is my own problem I know). I am upset because after she apologised she continued to blow me off just as much as ever.

I know her and her past history well enough to know that if called out on it, she will retreat further. So I resolved to wait for her to come around, and understood she was also dealing with some of her own life drama. But now I realise there's no point in waiting, so I stopped. I do not seek her out anymore, and mutual gatherings are generally so well populated our paths don't cross. Things are mostly fine. But I am left with these feelings of anger I don't know what to do with or how to dispel by myself. I don't want to involve others, and I don't think another conversation will help anyone, unless she approaches me this time or something. I want to know how to let go of this, and perhaps understand why I am so particularly upset by it.

Anon due to mutual pals being on mefi.

Um, please don't pile on me.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You have the right to be upset. The only way I know of to let go of anger is to forgive the transgression and move on. It seems like your friend decided she doesn't want to be friends with you anymore, which is sad, but it happens.

From your description, it seems you spend a not insignificant amount of time thinking about your friend. I'd try to find things to keep you occupied, different people to hang out with, in order to fill up the hole left in your heart by the loss of this friendship.

As you find ways of being good to yourself, you may find that your feelings for your friend (both anger and need to have her around) will fade.

It's cliche to say, but time is what generally heals these kinds of wounds.
posted by xingcat at 9:26 AM on January 6, 2013

I've posted this on the green before, but It I think that it applies to your situation, too. I've had to say goodbye to a friendship and was left with feelings of both "I miss the person" to anger. Like you, I take a while to process information and the anger emerged at a later time point and it was hard to let go. It was far too late for a conversation.

So these were the things that helped me, and I think that it would help you resolve some of the things that you wanted to say to the person and emotionally process, too:

• Write a letter to your fiend and say everything that you never had a chance to say. It may included grar grar stuff. Keep writing until you feel satisfied that you send everything that you wanted to say. Do not send it; it's for you.

• Now write a letter to yourself about the whole situation. Sometimes it includes a list of what you will do differently in the future if there are things that you can recognize and learn from this (maybe for you it can include how you would never treat someone in way X). Refer back to these letters and ...usually by the time that I finished these letter, I had a different emotion that was not anger. There was also usually a list of new things to do and/or new ways to view things.

• Find a way to get this person out of your head by doing new activities and making new friends. Were there things that you never did with this person because the person had no interest or mocked it? Then put the things that you really wanted to do/try on the list...and start doing them, whether it be a class or activity. Slowly you will make new friends, some that may be far more interesting and/or treat you better than the person or people you left behind. There will be little to associate with the old person because they did not do those things with you. The new fun friendships and activities will fill up your head instead.

Good luck.
posted by Wolfster at 9:52 AM on January 6, 2013 [16 favorites]

You probably get past the anger in much the same ways you get past most types of anger. You remind yourself that negativity and dwelling on things are not productive, that the person or situation isn't worth wasting further time and emotion on, and that this person doesn't deserve you and therefore you will focus your energy on finding someone who is more worthy of your time and friendship. The litmus test of a strong friendship is whether they are there for you when you really need them: when you are in the hospital, when you just had a major breakup, etc. If they don't show up in those situations, they are not only not best friends, they are not even true friends.
posted by Dansaman at 10:05 AM on January 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

It might help to work on accepting the friendship being OVER. All caps for emphasis and to convey permanence. Sometimes it's appealing to stay wrapped up in your feelings about a person that has left one's life because it is almost like they are still in your life a little. The act of acceptance is sometimes also an act of release.
posted by amycup at 10:07 AM on January 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

I hate to say it--and let me just say that I have done it myself and BEEN friend dumped similarly before, so I'm not judging you-- but your ex-friend may have been finding you to be a clingy person. When people cut you off suddenly like this, and from the things you said she said upon departure, it sounds like she was feeling overwhelmed and overloaded by you. I'm not really clear what it means by "I don't want to miss out on things," but if you were requiring that she spend a lot of time with you, maybe that's where the problem came in. Especially since you mentioned having a breakup of a relationship and you needed her more then.

I'm glad to hear your other friends don't seem to feel that way, though. But I have had to learn to restrain myself from contacting someone every single time I want to and not overwhelming them with my needy so I stop losing friends like this. I had to learn to monitor myself, even with "best friends." One human can't provide everything for you, best friend or SO or whoever.

As for the anger? takes a long while to die down. I guess I just get used to the idea that they got fed up with me. I'm still off and on mad at the ex-friends I run into a few times a year, but I don't say anything to them because well, there's no point. And the longer you get used to the idea, the more the rage dies down. You learn to live without them, you learn to have other friends. I think the worst of it is just feeling that hole in your life....and it gets less bad once you either fill it with something or someone else or just get used to that hole being there.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:10 AM on January 6, 2013 [9 favorites]

Oh, I'm sorry. Losing a friend can be so painful. And no wonder you're angry; it really sucks when someone just disappears like that. I don't have much advice other than, give it time. It sounds like you're on your way to finding peace with it.

In your question, I hear a lot of sifting of evidence about why and whose fault this is: you fear being left out and that's your fault, but others didn't find you too much work, and she does this with others, etc. Hard as this is there's not much fault to be found. All of that searching is likely to fade into acceptance. She did what she did because of who she is, you did what you did because of who you are, that dynamic just stopped working for her so she decided to break up / fade away the friendship, and that was incredibly painful for you. She's entitled to break up the friendship, and you're entitled to feel as awful as anyone feels about a breakup. :( I'm sorry.
posted by salvia at 10:31 AM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

In case it's not clear though, I DON'T think this is your fault. It's natural to turn to friends, and even if you did turn to her "too often," it was only "too often" for her. All of us can think of times when we hung out with someone more than usual because we or they were going through something hard. If it was too much for her, how were you to know? She could have handled her feelings in a number of ways, like talking to you.

Buuuuuuut, all of this fault finding evokes angst. And it might be more helpful just to find compassion and acceptance. She did what she did because of who she is, you did what you did because of who you are... She obviously doesn't know a better way to handle things, and that's... just who she is right now, but it's also really painful to be on the receiving end of. :(
posted by salvia at 10:44 AM on January 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

You've mentioned repeatedly that she does this to others, but that you assumed that her esteem for you made you immune to this. Well, you were wrong. You need to accept that (1) this is the kind of person that she is, and (2) you are getting the same treatment as anyone else, and that she does not consider you worthy of special or differential treatment.

I'm not saying that this is your fault, just that your perception of this person is not lining up with reality/whom she really is. Considering how long you've known her, that is not easy to accept and of course would cause you anxiety. Accept that both she and your relationship are not quite what you thought they were or that over time evolved into something different.

That stings. I'm sorry.

Standard answer for dealing with any loss: keep busy with new things that bring you joy. Hobbies, exercise, crafts, etc...
posted by Neekee at 11:10 AM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think it might be prudent to listen to "jenfullmoon". Your statements "please don't pile on me" and some of your self descriptors suggest you anticipate rejection and parse information for how it might be critical of you. The facts are--many friends come and go, we change, they change, needs shift, people move. Sometimes it is magical and friends are forever and time and distance dissolves. This is usually not the case.Your posts also suggests that because you extended some kindness/support to her you expected reciprocity. This is understandable and predictable but the fact is a gift (kindness/support) is a gift. No I.O.U. s with a gift. The one friend you need to count on is your friendship, humility and forgiveness with yourself.
posted by rmhsinc at 11:29 AM on January 6, 2013 [7 favorites]

I've found that the way to get past issues like these is to move forward, realizing you may never receive any 100% certain answers about why she did what she did, and just try not to make the same mistakes in the future. I've suggested this book before: Your Perfect Right, which helps you learn how to be assertive instead of passive or aggressive, and have equality in your relationships, personal and otherwise.

How do I get through the anger of being unceremoniously dumped by a friend? I write in my journal, bitch to a couple friends, go boxing, and try to remind myself that it's his loss. I still feel anger, but I do feel much, much better today than I used to, and when you get to that point you'll really appreciate the progress you've made, because you will make progress.
posted by girlmightlive at 11:46 AM on January 6, 2013

I think that at least part of the reason you feel angry is because even though you say she put the "best friend" label on the friendship, you clearly believed her and felt you acted accordingly towards her, which was not reciprocated. You feel let down that she treated you as she had done others who were perceived as perhaps less special than you. It's rather like the breakdown of a romantic relationship in that way, the expectations not met and whatnot.

Then there's this:
I resolved to wait for her to come around

and she didn't. I think it's great that you decided to stop waiting, but it still stings, doesn't it? You want her to hear you. One of the things that you need to work through is that desire to either call her out or for her to approach you "sometime." You don't have to place blame on either side, but the friendship ran its course/needs changed/people changed. Instead of thinking about the ways in which your former friend let you down, focus on nurturing the friendships you still have.

It will take time. I'm not sure how long ago this friend-breakup happened but perhaps it's still fresh.
posted by sm1tten at 12:36 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

It always hurts. I have been rejected as a friend, and have rejected people as friends, and don't enjoy either. It helps me to remind myself that nobody ever has an absolute right or an absolute obligation to be my friend. We get to choose who we spend time with. And, unfortunately, part of the process of growing up is finding you have to make that choice or finding the choice being made for you.

In my case, anger is a mask that being hurt wears. And I find if I acknowledge it as pain, the anger fades, and I can address it as hurt. In my case, hurt seems to be especially effectively addressed by admitting to it and then trying to let it go. Something that hurt me will pop into my mind, and I will say to myself, wow, yeah, that really hurt. And then I try not to dwell on it, and it goes away. It comes back, but the more time that passes, the less it comes back, and the less it hurts.

I also try to forgive people for not doing things in the way I find ideal, in part because if something hurts me, I never find the way somebody did it to be ideal. If they are very honest and pleasant, I find them insensitive, but if they try to be circumspect I find them to be suspicious. And, alas, the way most people pick to end friendships is to just let it fade away. If I have reached out to somebody a number of times and they have put me off, I will generally decide the ball is in their court and let it go at that. Sometimes they get back to me, and it was just a weird moment in their life. Sometimes they don't, and that's their right.

If it helps any, I have been through this enough that sometimes the friendship comes back years later, after both have grown. And sometimes you see the person who hurt you years later and think, wow, dodged a bullet there.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:45 PM on January 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

My advice would actually be to just binge on Human Relations AskMes. Read a ton of them. What you'll be left with, at the end, is the sense that people don't really know what they're doing in their personal relationships. Your friend may have been acting maliciously, but really, most of the time, people are just clumsy.
posted by Ragged Richard at 2:20 PM on January 6, 2013 [11 favorites]

I have no explanation to offer, only sympathy. As salvia pointed out, if indeed you were being too clingy for her (fortunately your other friends reality-check that this isn't a besetting problem they have with you) she could've said something. Instead she chose to handle it the way she apparently handles all her breakups.

It must particularly sting for someone to dub you their "best friend" and then dump you for getting all "best friendy" on them, like ew, needy, cooties. That is literally using your loyalty to her against you. But, again, as others have said, even though it's possible to dump someone in a way that leaves them feeling they've been treated with the maximum respect possible in the circumstances... people usually don't, and there's probably no way to friend-dump someone in a way that convinces them that dumping them was a good idea.

I mean let's face it, people - and yes, I am going to reveal The Top One Piece Of Advice That Never Gets Followed On The Green - no-one actually walks away from a dumping with a triumphant cry of "woohoo! I dodged a bullet!"

Sorry, it sucks.
posted by tel3path at 4:19 PM on January 6, 2013 [3 favorites]

Being an introvert who dislikes conflict in personal relations, my guess is that she is an introvert who dislikes conflict in personal relations, and that you are someone who is more able to express and deal with conflict than she is, generally.

Bear in mind that the explanation she gave you when you confronted her may not be the whole truth, or even at all true. It may indeed have been her best effort at the time of explaining her feelings, but her feelings may have been very complicated. You caught her off guard and she felt badly about the way she made you feel, but she may not really have fully processed and understood why she had backed away from you. It is also possible that she recognized you felt hurt and didn't want to hurt your feelings even more by perhaps giving details that would have made her backing away more defensible but might have made you feel worse about yourself in the long run.

Finally, although she apologized to you, if she is in fact an introvert who doesn't like conflict her apology does not suddenly change her into an extrovert who lets conflict roll off her back. She felt badly that she made you feel badly, but there is still something in your relationship that she can't deal with well, and my guess is it may be something she feels you can't really change, so arguing with you about it would just be alot of uncomfortable drama with no payoff for anyone.

Of course if she's an extrovert then just ignore this whole response! In any case, I hope you don't feel rotten about this anymore and that you can spend time with people who appreciate you more fully.
posted by onlyconnect at 9:34 PM on January 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Accept that you are in different places right now. Give yourself time to heal emotionally and figure out how you feel about this friend. If the indefinable something that held you together is really gone, let her go. Keep in mind that whatever caused her to be so hurtful and so abrupt may have nothing to do with you. We often lash out at whoever is handy.

I have lived long enough to know that relationships that are dead and buried have a habit of being resurrected.
posted by clarkstonian at 6:04 PM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

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