Now you want me back?
April 16, 2013 9:14 PM   Subscribe

A group of friends effectively dropped me for the last year and now they are making overtures as if nothing happened. How to react?

I more or less got the cold shoulder from a group of friends after I hooked up with a member of the group who, unbeknownst to me, had started dating another girl who he has now moved in with.

Most of the group doesn't know the whole story (and she certainly doesn't). They know something happened, but don't really know what and honestly, I think they don't want to know. He's a known womanizer and everyone has always had a million excuses for his behavior. A million excuses that I foolishly bought into... but what is done is done.

As a result of this and some other friends moving away, I became the only single person in a group of half a dozen plus couples. Between this and the fact that the guy is childhood best friends with one of the guys in the group, I found myself slowly getting dropped from people's invite list. I'd still get the token invites to big events like birthdays and weddings, but that was about it and sometimes not even that.

I asked one of my closer friends in the group what the deal was and he played dumb saying I was imaging being excluded. When I offered him concrete examples, he got pretty mad and said some fairly hurtful things about us never being very close friends and therefore I shouldn't expect to be invited to most things. For a litany of reasons I won't go into this in no way represented out 7+ year friendship. I was pretty stunned and hurt.

So I moved on. I have plenty of other friends to hang out with and that was that.

Fast forward to now and through a series events involving mutual friends our paths have crossed again almost every weekend for the last month or two. Everyone is being so nice... Why haven't we all hung out in so long (gee can't imagine why...)? We forgot how much fun you are! They are buying me drinks, telling me how great I look, and inviting me to parties and events that I would normally love to attend, yet something doesn't feel right. Part of it is I hate the former friend I hooked up with and having to hang out with him and his girlfriend isn't exactly awesome (she's a very nice person, but it feels awkward and forced). But it's more than that, I feel betrayed by people I considered close friends.

However, part of me just thinks I need to grow up and let it go. That holding a grudge a year after the fact is pathetic and I'm only hurting myself. I'm sympathetic to the fact that they were put in an awkward situation, yet part of me also knows none of them were ever involved and none of the drama between me and the guy really impacted anyone else. Sure few people sensed the chilliness between us, but it was hardly a situation where they couldn't invite both of us to a party without there being a scene. I worked to keep the situation from spiraling out of control and that meant sucking it up and playing nice with a man, who despite being a close friend, lied and manipulated me during a really rough time in my life. I really resent that the thanks I get is being a social pariah for the last year.

I really want to move on from all of it. I've been friends with these people for a very long time and it's hard to just throw that away. Is this something I should let go and just let things drift back to the previous status quo of weekly bbqs and happy hours?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you like these people and you enjoy spending time with them then let sleepiing dogs lie. If you feel put-upon or disrespected or no longer enjoy these peoples' company, don't bother.

You're never going to get them to concede that they treated you badly or wronged you, so if there's a part of you hoping for that, don't hold your breath. If happines spending time with them is contingent on them saying that you are right and they were wrong, you are never going to be happy with them.
posted by windykites at 9:20 PM on April 16, 2013 [17 favorites]

Well, only you can answer that. My opinion about stuff like this is that being friends with someone, or a group of someones, is that it should be easy, and something you do because you want to. It doesn't sound like you're there yet, and from what you've said, I don't blame you at all for that. I'd leave that toxicity well enough alone in your shoes.
posted by supercres at 9:21 PM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

You could always try going to a few events and see how you feel. Is there any reason you need to judge everyone in the aggregate? Hang out with the people you enjoy hanging out with; drop those you don't.
posted by doreur at 9:23 PM on April 16, 2013

Your past is a sunk cost, and you are now starting from scratch. Don't worry about whether they want you, especially since they've been less than kind in the past. Instead, think simply this: "these people are acquaintances, some of whom have been disrespectful to me and some of whom have not. Are these people and these events enjoyable enough for me to accept a few of these invitations?" If you feel that you'd enjoy their company as acquaintances, great, and if not, great. If you choose to hang, keep them at arm's length, and if you don't, remember that you're not throwing anything away, you're just choosing not to start something new.
posted by davejay at 9:25 PM on April 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

I definitely don't think you should hold a "grudge." But, in your shoes, I'd have a hard time trusting these people. I'm reminded of the song about the wise man who built his house upon the rock, and the foolish man who built his house upon the sand. A year, or two years, or 5 years from now, would these people be there for you, if you were in a bad way? What if someone else felt weird or threatened about you, down the line? It sounds like you're in the wave of marriages right now. That's followed in a few years by the wave of babies, but after that, the wave of divorces. What if one of these guys starts getting the 7 year itch and does something really sketchy towards you. Will you be up against the same thing?

If all you want from them is fun at BBQs and happy hours, and you expect nothing more than superficial good times, I don't see anything wrong with that. I would be worried, if I were you (you may not be like me), that if I did that, if I spent enough time hanging out with them, I would kind of play myself into thinking they MUST care about me, that I really could trust them after all.
posted by cairdeas at 9:26 PM on April 16, 2013 [16 favorites]

I sort of wonder if you felt closer to them than they felt to you. It seems awfully strange that they would (apparently) believe something bad about you without asking you for your side of the story. That doesn't sound like the way you'd treat a good friend. And it makes me wonder what kind of behavior to expect from them in the future. If they think you're fun to be with, but not any more than that, then it's possible that this sort of thing could happen again in the future. They didn't seem to have any loyalty to you, and I wonder if that's the kind of group you want to hang out with. That's a call only you can make, I think.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 9:51 PM on April 16, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'd say to heck with them. They screwed you over, and didn't have the guts to admit they were screwing you over. Now they want to pretend everything is fine (and not apologize for the aforementioned screwing over) and you're supposed to just pick up where you left off. But they screwed you over. They are not good friends, and by resuming your friendship you'll be associating with people you know are quite capable of screwing you over.

To heck with them.

Bear in mind that this advice is coming from somebody with a history of horribly dysfunctional friendships... When I was a kid my friends kept screwing me over, and I was so desperate to keep the friendships going that I would just eat shit and take them back over and over again. It was a bad habit to form, and well into adulthood I kept doing it. Finally I stopped giving jerks second (and third, and fourth) chances and I became a lot more solitary and suspicious of people in general, just to protect myself. It sucks, but it beats getting screwed over for the rest of my life.

As you're asking this question it's tripping all of my "bad, untrustworthy friend" alarms. Years ago I would've taken them back, and eventually I would just get screwed over again, and again, and again, until I got so fed up I FINALLY said to heck with them. Don't take years to learn this lesson, like I did.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 10:27 PM on April 16, 2013 [15 favorites]

I asked one of my closer friends in the group what the deal was and he played dumb saying I was imaging being excluded. When I offered him concrete examples, he got pretty mad and said some fairly hurtful things about us never being very close friends and therefore I shouldn't expect to be invited to most things.

Yeaaa fuck this shit. These people are not your friends, and letting them act like this and just shrugging it off makes you look desperate and needy.

Play it entirely cool and just ignore them as much as they ignore you. None of them are worth your time.

I have a feeling he painted you as some kind of ridiculous drama llama to them, and they bought it hook line and sinker. You will probably never escape that idea that's been planted, and anything you'd do at this point will either look like confirmation of that(ie: any sort of attempts at getting them to appologize or acknowledge it) or just desperation. I really think he just successfully poisoned them against you.

Drop this entire group and move on unless you really care that much. Honestly id just try and make some one on one or small group plans with a person or two I really liked from the group if I even did anything.

I just wouldn't be able to deal with the implied "yea, that's right, never happened" of continuing to hang out with them. I really, really regret the instances I did that in the past.
posted by emptythought at 10:44 PM on April 16, 2013 [4 favorites]

From your description of these people, they do not sound very honest, or likeable. In your shoes, I would wonder what they are up to with the suddenly revived friendship. Sounds like you are better off with your new friends.
posted by Cranberry at 11:03 PM on April 16, 2013 [9 favorites]

There's a difference between "holding a grudge" and "knowing that someone hurt you and staying away from them because of that".

These people treated you badly once. You now know that they're capable of doing that, so you also know that they're capable of doing it again. Do you want to be in the situation you were in a year ago, all over again at some point in the future? Obviously there's no guarantee that you will be, but you now know what these people are like.

Make some new friends. It sounds a bit like these people are doing the fake nice thing, where you pretend to like someone because you're in close proximity to them. Let things go, but also let these friends go. These people aren't good TO you or FOR you.
posted by Solomon at 1:07 AM on April 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

We all have limited time in our lives. Cultivating friendship with these people who have shown that you are a low priority means that you are not culivating friendship with people who have your back. If I were you I would keep them as my backup plan but put most of my time towards others who demonstrate the same commitment to me.
posted by zia at 1:10 AM on April 17, 2013 [8 favorites]

I have a very similar situation in my past, so my answer is probably coloured by what happened to me.

When the situation broke, I was heartbroken over the (entirely unacknowledged) freeze-out, especially since I was making every effort to not bring the initial problem (jerkish guy, other woman, lies, gaslighting, my hurt) into the group, and was successful in doing so. What I was not expecting was for the inevitable initial awkwardness (everyone knew a version of what had happened from guy) to trump our common history, our affection for each other, the happy and not so happy times we had gone through together...

The way most people dealt with the cognitive dissonance arising from side-lining a friend (since not doing so would give rise to a few potentially uncomfortable encounters) was by colouring me as villain. A lot of re-writing of history was necessary to do so, and they did it whilst looking me in the eye. God, the impact of looking someone in the eye who is lying, knows they are lying, knows that you know they are lying etc... it absolutely shattered my world. It throw me into deepest, darkest depression for months, and even after that lifted somewhat, I was still reeling inside for years afterwards. Everything that had been my terra firma in the world at large crumbled from right under me, bit by bit. There were times where I was literally gasping for air as though I was drowning. Up to then, I had firmly believed in the fundamental goodness of people, which could be hidden by circumstance, but which was in an essential way unassailable and found a space to blossom in friendships, especially in times of need. No more naivete after this, though...

About a year after events I was contacted by one or the other of my former friends from this group, and as with your group, there was a really jarring "all's good, how have you been, long time no see, forgot how xyz you are " vibe to the interactions. Initially, I felt really happy, I had missed them, but also, now I could let go of the hurt and the distress, because they were showing that all that had happened had been a misunderstanding, right? All that was needed was for them to say something that acknowledged that it had happened, and something by way of explanation, nothing grander than "Hey, that was really messed up last year, I was/ we were just so stunned by events as they were unfolding that we didn't know how to react". But that never came, so I brought it up. Well, don't you know it, nothing HAD happened! Oh, and those conversations during which I tried to explained what had been going on with guy and how it couldn't conceivably have been what they reproached me for (something which was blindingly obvious, and which would have not required any discussion, really), and where they aggressively insisted I was wrong - those hadn't happened either! I was imagining things etc. So I withdrew.

Luckily, I had other friends, truly good friends, who stood by me and supported me in my struggles of that period, and whose actions prevented me from becoming entirely isolated and embittered, though the temptation was overwhelming at times. It was one of these friends who helped me see the light when I was confused about re-kindling things with former friends, like you are now; she said "Sweaty, we have been fighting together, and with friend xyz as well, against the black cloud these people have brought into your life, don't let them do the same thing again". It became obvious to me that I had a duty of respect and care to not be superficial about assessing former friends and their human potential, as it were, and I owed this not just to myself, but also to those people who helped me during that time, friends, family, and even mere acquaintances or work colleagues, for example, all people who in one way or the other had made it possible to reconnect with the world and build a new worldview out of the pieces. I could not carelessly throw it all out again. There were other people hurting alongside me and for me.

So I resisted the temptation to just go back, and I believe in doing so I not only honoured myself, but treated others who cared for me with respect and gratitude for their love and support.
posted by miorita at 2:01 AM on April 17, 2013 [16 favorites]

Ya know, I'd resist the urge to try to somehow resume your old friendships with the group: it's never going to be the same, with their old freeze-out of you in the back of your mind. And too, whatever CAUSED them to freeze you out is still in the back of THEIR minds. It'll be hard for you to ever totally trust them again, and it's unclear if anything has changed whatever caused them to drop you. (Maybe they found out that guy is a bit of a liar? Who knows!)

What I would suggest is, be friendly at whatever events you happen to see them at, but don't go out of your way to make plans with them: basically hold them at arms lenght as polite acquaintances NOT good friends.
posted by easily confused at 2:22 AM on April 17, 2013 [4 favorites]

Here is what I would do:
1. Keep your new friends as your primary, important, dependable friendship group. Those are the people to rely on. Be thankful for the, and really appreicate how lucky you are to have real friends. Make sure your real friends know how much you appreciate them.
2. Disengage from the hope that the old friends will acknowledge/apologize for sidelining you. They won't.
3. IF anyone ever apologizes and acknowledges what happened without your having prompted or pressed for it, I would give them a pass as a potential "real" friend. They may have behaved in a shitty was a part of the group, but they have since owned up to it, admitted it happened, and feel bad for it. But again, I wouldn't hold my breath.
4. Keep in loose contact with them and use them as only very superficial entertainment when you have nothing else to do and you're bored. They are ad hoc friends, not make plans in advance friends. And even then, I wouldn't do that often either.
5. Resist any "maybe they do care!" thoughts because it is a dangerous road. They ditched you in no time flat without any explanation or apology. If they did it once, they very easily could do it again. Don't risk yourself in that way.
6. Go throw a party with your real friends and have a kick ass time.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 4:31 AM on April 17, 2013 [6 favorites]

You can grow up and let it go -- it sounds like you'd done that, until they reappeared.

I don't think either choice is necessarily wrong. If you can hang out with these people casually, knowing full well that none of them can ever be counted on as more than casual acquaintances who will invite you when it's convenient and lie to you or freeze you out when that's more convenient, then go for it.

But if you can't or don't want to do that, it isn't holding a grudge to just not want to hang out with people who clearly don't care about you all that much.
posted by jeather at 4:41 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't see where you were frozen out.

I became the only single person in a group of half a dozen plus couples. Between this and the fact that the guy is childhood best friends with one of the guys in the group, I found myself slowly getting dropped from people's invite list. I'd still get the token invites to big events like birthdays and weddings, but that was about it and sometimes not even that.

A single single in a group of couples is often left out of group things because they're couple-ish things. Or just not thought of because coupled people tend to think in twos. Happens all the time. And you were invited to birthdays and weddings, so this is not frozen out at all, it's just a group changing. Wedding invites aren't "token," they're a big deal as people have to cut their lists down for budget/space reasons.

I asked one of my closer friends in the group what the deal was and he played dumb saying I was imaging being excluded. When I offered him concrete examples, he got pretty mad and said some fairly hurtful things about us never being very close friends and therefore I shouldn't expect to be invited to most things.

This sounds kind of drama-ey on your end. You're keeping tabs on what you're invited to and demanding an explanation. It doesn't sound like you had a one-on-one close relationship with any friend from this group, just that the group was together a lot. That's not the same as being intimate, or true friends. So maybe this guy is right, you weren't really close friends, you were hang-out friends. Even hang-out-a-lot friends who hang out for decades aren't necessarily close friends. (And this might be sexist but in my world, the guys hardly ever do the planning and inviting, so this guy you asked might not have had a clue what you were talking about!)

The drama from your hookup is all over your post ("They know something happened, but don't really know what and honestly, I think they don't want to know. He's a known womanizer and...") You don't like the girlfriend, you "hate the former friend," you're carrying a year's worth of ruminating around with you.

I really resent that the thanks I get is being a social pariah for the last year.

You sound very victim-y and not in charge of your own life. If you want to hang out with someone, hang out with them. If you aren't comfortable or you don't like someone, don't hang out with them. You are the boss of your life.

Broadening your social circle so that this group isn't at the center of it is probably a good idea. More than that, deepening your relationships with a few people that you connect with more personally is probably a very good idea, so that you don't attach more importance to casual friendships than is warranted.
posted by headnsouth at 4:52 AM on April 17, 2013 [7 favorites]

You know, take it one person at a time and one invitation at a time.

If someone asks you to join them for dinner. If you like that person well enough, and you're hungry, then go. If you don't and aren't, then don't.

This doesn't have to be DRAMAZ!

You may not want to go to a party where dude and new chick are, no need to explain, just say that you're not free to attend.

I never put all of my eggs in one basket, and I don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.

In your mind this may have been a concerted effort to freeze you out of this friend group. In their minds, you were the one who absented herself for all that time. You never really know what other people are thinking.

If you're still angry about it, and don't feel like you can be friends with any of these folks, then let them all go.

If anyone contacts you or invites you somewhere, you can say, "I'm sorry, I'm not available."

Unfortunately, nothing is ever enough if we're still hurt by the bad behavior of others. It wasn't a big deal in their mind, so they don't get that it was a big deal to you. Whereas you're still smarting from being excluded, they've forgotten that they ever did it and have no idea why you've been avoiding them.

If seeing these people makes you angry, you're not over it, and getting involved with them will be a mistake.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:37 AM on April 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

It sounds like they have a pretty superficial idea of friendship.

Who knows whether your perception of whether you were dropped was the "correct" one, and when you tried to clarify what was going on, you were told straight out that you weren't that important of a friend. It's easy to say they just weren't that into you and you were too dense to understand it, but your expectations of friendship are just as valid as theirs, and the fact is you felt excluded.

While there are friendships and less close friendships in life, I don't ever deal in any form of "we're friends, but I don't care about you". A lot of people do, and if you make friends with people who have those values you have to assume that you can't count on them for anything, and that they'll interact with you or not based on what feels comfortable or convenient for them at the time, and won't be interested in discussing anything uncomfortable.

I don't know if there's ever a right way to tell your friends that you feel excluded, because if you are being excluded, bringing it up is not going to change that, but it might put the idea in people's heads if the thought had never crossed their minds. Still, rightly or wrongly, you did bring it up, and you were told that you weren't that important to them. Well, they're entitled to their opinion but why should they be the ones to suddenly decide that you're now important enough to start including again? Aren't you reaching the conclusion that they're not that important to you? It sounds like you are.
posted by tel3path at 6:42 AM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh and I would like to add that "they" aren't a monolith. Take each person on a case-by-case basis.
posted by tel3path at 6:43 AM on April 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

Personally, I tend to judge friendships by intensity and reciprocity rather than by time. There are people I've known for years who are nothing to me because they don't enrich my life, and conversely there are people I've known only for several months whom I'm very close to because they've proven themselves through actions rather than words. Similarly, I've dropped "friends" I've known for years simply because I did the math and calculated that they were lifesucks who consistantly took more from me than they gave. My point is that basing the strength of your friendship on the amount of time you've known this people may be a false metric.

I'm not necessarily saying that you take more than you give, but one thing about your AskMe that gave me pause is that you say you were dropped from their invite list, but you don't mention whether you invited your friends to your events (and if so, how they reacted). If you missed them, wouldn't it make sense for you to put in more active effort to hang out? Generally if I invite somebody to lots of fun events and they don't reciprocate, they will inevitably get dropped or relegated to acquaintance status, where I only invite them to events when I need to round out the numbers (in order to ensure a relatively equal ratio of men to women).
posted by wolfdreams01 at 7:38 AM on April 17, 2013 [3 favorites]

We forgot how much fun you are! They are buying me drinks, telling me how great I look, and inviting me to parties and events that I would normally love to attend, yet something doesn't feel right.

Based on this and how out of left field it sounds, the paranoid in me thinks they know some awful single man that they want to hook you up with, so suddenly you're valuable again. But that's just one crazy theory.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:30 AM on April 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't be enthused about hanging out with these people. Either they're acquaintances, or they're the kind of friends who will stop calling you in this kind of situation. Life is short, and I want to spend it with people I love and who love me back.

I would be particularly unenthusiastic about hanging out with the guy who said you weren't a close friend. The way he responded when you asked him about the situation strikes me as either disingenuous or not very kind.

If it seemed fairly fun to see them, I'd do it from time to time, but I'd put their social invitations way, way down on my list of priorities.

If seeing them made me feel a little uncomfortable (in a "now you want me back?" kind of way) -- and I kind of think that's how you feel -- then I'd blow their friendly overtures off altogether. "Gosh, thanks for the invitation, but I am super swamped with work lately -- I'm afraid I'll have to pass."
posted by feets at 10:08 AM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

In my experience, re-engaging with people who have rejected or treated me poorly has never been a good choice. For me, there has always been a second incident and sometimes a third. It's just not worth it to me and in your place, I would not re-engage with this group.
posted by parakeetdog at 10:35 AM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

Sounds like you're at the point now where you can take it or leave it with this group without too much risk to yourself. Not at all a bad place to be if you want to test the waters about how much you can trust the sincerity of their overtures.

Why not just ask a few of them privately "For a long time I picked up on some clear signals that I wasn't welcome. Now it seems I am. I'm really curious, what changed?"

If you get an honest answer or the sense that they're willing to talk it over with you, great - maybe there's room to rebuild. If they're evasive or closed off to the subject, great - you have your answer.

Wanting to be friends with people you can trust and who can openly discuss friction, distance or whatever isn't holding a grudge, it's being deliberate and clear about the people you choose to have in your life.
posted by space_cookie at 12:42 PM on April 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

That's a good script space cookie has there, but I'd use it over some text medium so your rage doesn't seep through.

Seriously. They get a chance to explain and you'll learn something no matter what the answer.
posted by tel3path at 1:37 PM on April 17, 2013

One thing to possibly consider, as well as all of the good advice above, is that being dropped by what seems like a block of friends can sometimes be the work of just one or a few of them - often invitations go out to a group through the same people.
This happened to me some years back - suddenly I was a leper, and only later did one of the old friends mention in passing how sad they were that I'd never been able to make it to any of their events! Turns out that the invitations were being extended via someone who I was in regular contact with, who was telling the organizer that I couldn't come and of course never telling me at all.... so now I have some old friends who are friends again, and some that I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot pole and a crate of anti-venom.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:39 PM on April 17, 2013 [5 favorites]

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