How to mend a broken 5+ year friendship
December 13, 2013 11:25 AM   Subscribe

Friend and I had a blow out 4 months ago. We've been friends before that for 5+ years. She's ignored my previous initiatives to reach out and try to apologize and talk things out. Is there any hope? Or should I just leave this alone?

Friend and I have been friends for awhile. We got along pretty well, traveled once together, could be open with each other and not pass judgements. Just a really great friendship.

I recently moved back in the area and I knew that when I came back things would be different-- I changed a bit and so did she, but I didn't think it would change the dynamic of our friendship.

Over the course of the first few months I was settling back in I felt she didn't really make an effort to reach out to hang out and things were very one-sided with making an effort. She was busy with her boyfriend, but I always felt that its important to maintain your friendships as well rather than entirely focus on your s.o. especially after the honeymoon phase is over.

In the backdrop, my parents decided they were going to divorce and for me it was very unsettling and a difficult time to get through, and still is. I voiced to her how I wasn't feeling myself, getting upset a lot, frustrated with what was going on between my family. I thought she would have been able to understand especially being she had a similar situation.

I was always feeling that when I needed a friend and I would reach out to her, she wouldn't really make time to hang out or if it was it would have been weeks or months in advance. She did make an effort, but I interpreted it as half-assed.

Finally, 4 months ago, I was fed up with excuses and while she said she was busy, it seemed she was still getting out to be with her boyfriend.

We had a blow out and I will admit some of my arguments were irrational, but I still felt frustrated at the situation that she didn't seem to understand that I felt she wasn't being a supportive friend.

We ceased speaking for a few weeks and then I decided to follow up with a short email mentioning I was sorry for how the conversation ended and if we could meet for coffee somewhere to talk about things. response.

Then after speaking with another friend, they suggested just a short text apologizing again a month or so after. again no response.

Now it's the holidays and it's been 4 months and part of me wants to reach out again, but with a bigger explanation about my behavior and wanting to understand her point of view better. Hopefully through that conversation we can talk and both see each others sides of the argument.

Some have advised me against this saying-- well they haven't responded the other times so that means a closed door, but at the same time-- I really valued their friendship and I feel that we had been such good friends before and for so long that making the extra effort and trying to be more understanding would be worth a shot.

Mefe, what's your take?
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (21 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You reached out twice in two different mediums with decent spacing and nothing happened. The nature of the argument was that she wasn't there when you needed her to be. She continues to not be there. I'd say "give her an actual phone call" but, honestly, I'm pretty sure you'll get her voicemail at best and an angry person telling you to leave them alone at worst. Your friend has done everything properly to indicate the friendship is done, and if you want to be more understanding, then you need to respect that the boundary line has been drawn.
posted by griphus at 11:31 AM on December 13, 2013 [6 favorites]

It sounds to me as if you were very good friends once, but then you moved away, and when you returned you wanted to pick up the friendship where you left off.

You admit that during that time you have both changed, and since your return, your friend has made no effort to keep in touch or maintain the friendship.

Don't take this the wrong way but maybe she just has no interest in remaining friends? People do change, life does move on and many strong friendships can be based solely on proximity - once one of you moves away, the friendship diminishes.

I would say that you've already apologised to her twice to no avail. If it was me, I'd try once more - just for old times sake - and then I'd accept the friendship is over and move on.

I dont think you've done anything wrong in this entire scenario - I just think that you're in different places and she's got other things to keep her occupied right now that are clearly more important to her than you.

Chin up though, it's not the end of the world - this happens all the time in life and I hope you have a Merry Christmas!
posted by JenThePro at 11:34 AM on December 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

I know it's hard when friendships end like that, but sometimes they do. Sometimes you change and the other person doesn't, sometimes vice versa, sometimes when someone's with a new partner they have less time for someone else.

I'd leave her alone.
posted by corb at 11:35 AM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Stop apologizing. You've already apologized. Apologizing again isn't going to do anything: either she will forgive you or she won't, or she doesn't care, and continuing to apologize is going to do fuck all.

My take on this is that she's just tired of being friends with you for no particular reason and so hasn't made an effort to hang out. Search around Ask for a while and you'll see plenty of questions along the lines of "I have a friend who wants to hang out but I don't want to. She didn't do anything wrong, I'm just not interested in the friendship anymore. How do I do this?" The answer is almost always give the slow fade. From what I'm seeing here, you are the recipient of a slow fade.

If you still want to try and hang out with her, give it one more go. Wait until after the holidays, everyone is busy right now and it's a bad time. Send her a text in the middle of January or something and just be all "hi, [friend]! long time no see. I noticed that there's [an event that you think she'd like] happening soon, and I thought you might like to go with me? hope you're doing awesome, let me know!"

Then, whatever response you get (no response, I'm busy, whatever) just drop it. Maybe invite her to something in another several months if you feel like it.

But honestly it looks like you got friend dumped. Sorry. It happens. No big.
posted by phunniemee at 11:36 AM on December 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

She friendship divorced you. It doesn't sound like there is going to be any salvaging the relationship. It sucks but I don't think there is anything to be done. I'm sorry.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:39 AM on December 13, 2013 [8 favorites]

So, you guys were friends and did a lot together. Then you moved away and you were still friend, but I'm assuming more distant friends. You moved back and mentioned you'd both changed - but you clearly came back hoping to pick up where you'd left off.

That is a lot of assuming. If you'd come back after being away for a while, in some ways, I'd view it as starting to develop a new friendship with you from the beginning (I've changed! You've changed! Yay!). And when someone I'm developing a friendship with appears to feel entitled to my time and then actually confronts me about not being supportive enough of her - I would back off, too.

When I'm busy, I still do things with my SO. For me, that doesn't require a great deal of social energy that engaging with friends requires. She may be exhausted, have a lot going on in HER life and feel like you're the one that is not supporting her or understanding what is going on in her life - then on top of all of that, you get upset at her.

At this point, I think you're getting a very strong message that she isn't interested in resuming contact. I think what I'd do is send her a brief email - and then drop it. Give her space. Here would be my script, but only send this if it rings true to you:

Subject: Catching up and CONCERTEVENT

Friend, I'm sorry for what happened this summer. Your friendship has meant a great deal to me. I missed you when I was living in Xtown, and was very excited about resuming our relationship when I came back. I think I put too much pressure on it, and you, and I'm sorry for that. I'd love to hear about what's been going on with you recently. If you'd like to have coffee sometime, I'd really enjoy that. Or, I was thinking about going to CONCERTEVENT if you'd like to go with me?

I don't want to bug you, so I'll just wait to hear back from you if you're interested in getting together either now or in the future.

Sincerely yours,


posted by arnicae at 11:41 AM on December 13, 2013 [6 favorites]

She already knows the door is open. I would leave her be.

She's shown you who she is now -- a person who can't/won't be there for you when you need her. Maybe she would've been there for you in the past, but no longer. Something changed in the friendship dynamic -- who knows what -- but it is now imbalanced, and no longer healthy for you.

In time, she may come back around; if so, you can then re-evaluate if you want to re-connect with her. There's nothing more you need to do at this point.

These things happen, and while it's hard not to take it as reflection of your self-worth, do your best not to take it personally. If you think of it as being an issue with the dynamic, rather than the individuals involved, it might help take away the sting.
posted by nacho fries at 11:59 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

She got exactly what she wanted, the life she had before you moved back.

You didn't understand her slow fade hints until finally there was an eruption. You assumed there could be no reason why she wouldn't want to be friends with you - so you persisted. Until there was an eruption.

She is now making sure you don't undo the new status quo. Respect it and move on.
posted by Kruger5 at 11:59 AM on December 13, 2013 [13 favorites]

It sounds like you thought of her as one of your best friends, and she didn't feel the same way. When one person feels like that, and they start saying stuff like "you're not being a supportive friend, you're not making an effort," the other person is likely to think "you know what, she's got this all wrong, I can't give her what she is asking for and I need to cut ties here."
posted by showbiz_liz at 12:00 PM on December 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

Look, she does not want to be your friend anymore. Bothering her more at this point will not help, and will make the holidays sad for you (when she doesn't respond, yet again) and uncomfortable for her (dealing with more unwanted correspondence from you). Please move on.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 12:41 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

In the backdrop, my parents decided they were going to divorce and for me it was very unsettling and a difficult time to get through, and still is. I voiced to her how I wasn't feeling myself, getting upset a lot, frustrated with what was going on between my family. I thought she would have been able to understand especially being she had a similar situation.

Maybe you're reminding her of a terrible time in her life, and she can't be around you right now. Or maybe she's echoing how you behaved when she was going through this same sort of rough patch. Were you there for her when she was going through this, or did you not yet understand what she needed at that time? Or maybe she's going through a rough patch of her own now and doesn't have a whole lot to give in terms of being supportive toward you.

It sounds to me like you wanted the friendship to change based on your needs/convenience -- you move away so you figure it should now be distant, you go through a rough patch so you figure it should now be close -- and are getting upset when the friendship doesn't necessarily snap into the specific dynamic that you want it to. That does seem one-sided, and as hurtful as I'm sure it is for you, I'm not surprised she dipped out.

But long friendships can go through distant periods and close periods. I wouldn't assume things are over forever just because she's avoiding you now. Give her space and see what happens. I would still send her a holiday and birthday cards/greetings, the kinds of friendly gestures that you make to all your acquaintances. But I wouldn't expect or push for anything more intimate -- in regards to that stuff, the ball is in her court.
posted by rue72 at 12:47 PM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

She's trying to end the friendship with as little drama and/ or effort as possible. Contacting her again likely won't help.
posted by sarcasticah at 12:58 PM on December 13, 2013

Sock puppet because I'm embarrassed that I sometimes draw lines in the sand and drop people. I'm answering from a perspective of someone sometimes on the other side.

If the demands/requests are too emotional (usually this is an acquaintance, not long time friend), I usually can't take it. Some of what you stated appear to be emotional demands or requests, and I have known in the past that I can't do that/so if that is what the person is unhappy with, well, might as well exit the friendship. As in why should everyone be unhappy?

I also left a friendship of about 5 years (and ended it about 2 yrs ago). He still occasionally sends messages to me every few months. The only things that would have brought me back is probably a note like Arnicae's (to help remember the good times). Also, the other thing that would have helped is to hear that situation whatever will not be happening over and over again. Our cases are not similar, but I was the anony poster here(it was anony because I did not want to risk hurting his feelings, it is a few yrs ago and I doubt he reads meta now or would care). But I couldn't/can't go back because I just think it will be a matter of time and the whole loop will start again.

But if I had heard an "I miss you" plus here is why this won' t happen again, then maybe.So you may want to give it a shot with the sorry/miss you type email.

But as a heads up, I also have that friend's stuff go into trash. It was a friend divorce, its painful. So maybe a belated Xmas card? If not, let it go. Good luck.
posted by Dances with sock puppets at 1:01 PM on December 13, 2013 [3 favorites]

People change. You tried, and it didn't work out as expected.

I think you should accept this what it seems to be, and not fixate on it. If she knows you are open to resurrecting the friendship, that is about the best you can do at this point. Maybe keep her on your Christmas card list, at least so she has your current address.

The ball is in her court, time to get on with your life. Remember the good times of old, and find new friends to fill this hole.
posted by GeeEmm at 1:11 PM on December 13, 2013

This person knows your contact details, but is deciding not to use them. That's your answer, right there. Continuing to hassle them to be your friend and hear you out and care about your point of view is unlikely to work. They just don't seem interested in doing that.

It's understandable that you want things to go back to how they were, to explain yourself and sort things out. But it seems that your ex-friend doesn't want that. You can't force someone to be friends with you by any means. If you're consistently ignoring their implicit boundaries, that's going to have the opposite effect and is actually somewhat disrespectful to the other person. You're making this situation all about you and what you want and how you feel, without taking into account that the other person doesn't seem to care any more. You can't make them care by force. You're not owed support from someone simply because you've known them a long time.

If this friend posted here about this situation, we'd be telling them to block your calls and filter your emails to the trash, because apparently hints don't work.

I understand that this is frustrating to you. But as you said yourself, you've both changed. Even if you were still friends with this person, they wouldn't be the same person, and neither would you. I get that it's frustrating that you can't put your point of view across. If you did manage to do that, what do you think it would achieve? Catharsis for you, maybe, but not necessarily a renewed friendship.

Move on and find some new friends. If this person contacts you, then great. If they don't, well, you have all these other new friends now.
posted by Solomon at 1:40 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

How good of friends were you? Were you just hang out and get together friends? I'm getting the sense that you think the relationship was stronger / deeper than it really was. Maybe for her it was just a good-times friend for travel and chats and drinks. So now you've just moved and your parents are divorced and you're pulling on this friendship for support and finding out that their pov wasn't that this is what your relationship was for.

Also how old are you? Adult relationships go at a different pace and you could have expected too much upon your return. As I get older, my closer friends are fewer and fewer.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:43 PM on December 13, 2013

You're not alone. My wife was on the receiving end of a friend divorce, and I never saw her sadder. I can still make her cry by mentioning her ex-friend's name, and it's been nearly 20 years. So please just don't put all your eggs in that basket, and maybe find other friend(s). They're out there waiting for you.

I find myself in the other side of this right now: a person who I was close with nearly *30* years ago is reaching out to me. I touched base with him a couple years back but it just wasn't happening for me. I am here to tell you it doesn't feel awesome not taking or returning his calls but I am really not into doing anything else. So there it is.

Best of luck.
posted by Infinity_8 at 1:44 PM on December 13, 2013 [4 favorites]

Feeling rejected by a best friend is a major loss. @Infinity_8 here gets that pain exactly right. Hang in there, and be extra gentle with yourself at this time, OP.

I favorited some of the answers above that suggested ways you might politely reach out to her one more time. (BTW, this is the exact opposite advice I would've given if this had been a romantic relationship.) That being said, this could also be a case of a "friendship-DTMFA" from your perspective of having reached out twice and been ignored, so I see where all the other commenters are coming from who suggested you move on to help spare yourself any more hurt feelings.

I dunno. The way I see it, you really don't have anything to lose (except your pride, perhaps?) by thanking her for her friendship, wishing her well, making it very clear that you won't bother her again (and sticking to that promise), and welcoming her to contact you at some point in the future if she ever wants to. Life is long, so who knows?

I think this experience will give you even more empathy, and will help to shape you into an excellent best friend for a future someone, who is even more deserving of your friendship down the line. Next time, you'll read the signals more like an expert, with the hard-earned knowledge that real "best friends" should never give you any reason to question the friendship.
posted by hush at 2:04 PM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

I happen to think from her standpoint, the friendship is over, but you never know. I would send the longer email with whatever explanation you wish and finish it with something like, "If I don't hear back from you I will respect your wishes to be left alone, but I would really like to get together again to start to rebuild a friendship with someone I respect and appreciate." Send it and if she responds, great; if not, move on.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 2:08 PM on December 13, 2013

Leave it alone. The only thing that happens when you try to force a reluctant person into something is they grow more stubborn. Drop it, move on, and if they're ever up to it, they know you were the last to reach out, and they'll know the ball is in their court.

I wouldn't send anything, either. Just let it go, be happy you were friends for a time, and concentrate on people who respect you more.
posted by davejay at 4:07 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sounds like she didn't want to hang out with you before the blowout, and I'm sure you know that you can't force someone to be your friend. Time to make other friends!
posted by destructive cactus at 10:34 PM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

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