Help me get over being dumped by a close friend.
January 11, 2014 8:53 AM   Subscribe

A good friend of mine has gone several months not speaking to me with no explanation, I finally reached out asking what was wrong and she replied with a passive-aggressive email ending our friendship.

I've been "friend-dumped" before several times, though it hadn't happened since senior year of high school. Sadly, it's made me highly rejection sensitive (I always think people are going to leave/reject me for no reason), something I've been working through with a therapist.

However, I recently had a friend slowly stop talking to me. This was a good friend -- we hosted our birthday parties together last year, used to hang out all the time less than a year ago. We met in college about 8 years ago. I kept texting her/emailing as per usual, but suddenly she started ignoring me. I made a lot of internal excuses -- maybe she was busy, she'd just started a new job. Finally reached out via email after a few months and she told me she was sorry, she'd been depressed, her new job was awful but she was quitting, etc. Emailed back saying how proud I was of her for quitting, and asking if she wanted to grab coffee and talk about it. Nothing.

Now, a year rolls around, and it's her birthday again. No invite. She invited 90 friends to a bar on Facebook, but didn't include me. Her friends, who I also used to be close with, have also totally stopped talking to me. I finally reached out after becoming really upset/down about it, asking her if I did something terrible that I didn't realize, and apologizing for whatever it was. She wrote me back the next day apologizing for ignoring me but finally telling me "we were two different people, and had nothing in common now." It basically felt like the worst breakup conversation ever, and total bullshit.

I have casual friends and close friends from college I now have nothing in common with that I still check in with, though I don't hang out with them. I've never flat-out ignored someone who I used to be super close with. This is a girl who once called me "one of her best friends in the city," and we actually do have a lot in common (similar interests, similar temperaments.) Am I wrong for being upset with how she's acted? I have no desire to be her friend now, as I'm incredibly hurt and have been treated pretty poorly by people over the past year. But I want to work past this and trust people to be my friends again and I don't know how.

Anyone else gone through this? We're both 27, if it matters.
posted by shotinthedark to Society & Culture (29 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Speaking from experience on both ends, maybe your very existence reminds her of a rough time in her life that she doesn't want to revisit. (In addition to growing apart, etc.) You may have done absolutely nothing wrong, may have been totally uninvolved with the roughness, may not even KNOW about the bad time...but nonetheless.

I am so sorry, though. It sucks.
posted by skbw at 9:01 AM on January 11, 2014 [9 favorites]

It's not you.

People grow older, they change, their friends sometimes change. She may have changed dramatically in ways you have no knowledge of.

I'm sorry, this has to be incredibly painful for you. But there are people out there who will be a better fit, and who will be better friends. I promise!
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:06 AM on January 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

I get friend dumped out of nowhere by someone, for no fathomable reason, probably on an average of every other year. Which is really fun when that happens with the people who still live in my town and they literally ignore me on the street. I can't tell you why she did it beyond "she's just not that into you any more, apparently." You'll always wonder if you did something horrible to her you can't think of and will rack your brains and want to ask.... but you'll never know. Believe me, I really wonder about one girl because apparently she hates me so much that the ex-friends of mine who still like me when we're alone all stick their noses up in the air and move away from me like I have the cooties when I run into them all as a group. WHAT THE HELL DID I DO THAT WAS SO AWFUL, rape her gerbil? The best explanation I've gotten from her SO is that she's "done" with our old social group, but apparently that meant "just ME." Argh.

I'm sorry. I hate when it happens too.

Thing is, trusting people....well, it lasts as long as it lasts. Anyone, including your best friends, can dump you at any time for no reason. That is, unfortunately, humans and life. You just have to trust them for as long as they seem to be worth trusting and are behaving well, and once they stop, you don't.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:07 AM on January 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Am I wrong for being upset with how she's acted?

Of course not. You just lost a friend. You don't even know why. There's no way that's not going to suck, and it's okay to acknowledge and deal with that.

But I want to work past this and trust people to be my friends again and I don't know how.

Recognizing that this is something that happens.* It just does. You're not the first person this has happened to, you won't be the last. It's not even the first time it's happened to you, and though obviously it's not something to look forward to, there's a decent chance it will happen to you again, simply because This Is Something That Happens. Particularly around this time of life, I tend to think.

If you don't let people be in a position where they can do this sort of thing to you, you'll never be friends with anyone ever again. It just goes with the territory. Most people don't do this kind of thing, at least not very often, but nobody's perfect. Including you. So you just keep at it.

Reach out to other people with common interests and/or in communities of which you're a part. If you're not really a part of any communities, join some. Hobby clubs. Meetup groups. Maker faires. Hiking groups. Whatever. Identify something that catches your interest and find other people who like that too.

If you don't have anyone to reach out to right now and think you could use some help processing this setback, consider seeking some kind of professional counseling/therapy. Counselors are happy to serve as a kind of temporary support system enabling their clients to get back on their feet.

*If you've seen Magnolia, you'll know exactly what I mean. If you haven't, watch it.
posted by valkyryn at 9:13 AM on January 11, 2014

Her email doesn't seem passive-aggressive, unless there's something you left out here. (Like... did she vaguely imply you did something wrong? Did she insinuate you weren't good enough for her?) Take it at face value. She went through a rough patch, did some introspection, and she's now decided your friendship doesn't fit in what she sees her life as now.

I think everyone has gone through this. I'm your age and there are people I fade out (and sometimes back in!) of friendships with for a wide, wide range of reasons. Maybe some of these will resonate with you?
- Person from my past who lives in the past and only talks about the good old days instead of growing with me
- Wants a closer friendship than I do. Expects too much intimacy
- Had been in honeymoon stage with their significant other and dropped out of life for a year, and is now back wanting my time out of nowhere. Or wants me to befriend their significant other that I simply don't dig
- Has a hot new job or hobby and only talks about it
- I'm depressed and don't have enough energy to deal with anyone other than my cat, and they take it personally...
posted by thirdletter at 9:16 AM on January 11, 2014 [31 favorites]

The way she handled this indicates to me that you wouldn't want her as a friend anymore. Whatever changes she feels she has gone through without you, one of them is total negligence of a friend's or ex-friend's feelings. I would count yourself well out of the relationship as she is now. You haven't done anything wrong and even if you had, this was no way for someone who had been a close friend to handle it. This sounds like it is more about her (how she is now) than you.

Although you may not feel it, you are still very young. This has happened to me with a mature very close friend when I leaned on her too much during a time of need. I had been there for her a lot, but she obviously didn't have the inner resources to cope beyond a certain point with my troubles. She withdrew. I accepted it and over time, we have remained friends. But it's not the same. She doesn't trust me as much and I feel the same. But we are still friends so there's that. It is a more superficial relationship but still fun and I can accept that. I learned something from that. And I have trust issues for other reasons.

Friends come and go in our lives for reasons we can't always analyze. I try to be grateful when they are there and let go when they are not.
posted by claptrap at 9:26 AM on January 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm sorry to hear you're upset and I totally know how you feel... same thing is happening to me right now (only a lot more slowly and gradually).

The important thing you need to know is that there are so many reasons why friendships can die, and most of those reasons have nothing to do with anything wrong you are doing. You sound like a very conscientious person, and I'm sure you would know it if you had done something to offend her.

What's more likely is that it's dying off for one of those many no-fault reasons. Here are a few I can think of off the top of my head.
  • Fewer things in common... the more you branch off, the harder it is to come back and share things with each other.
  • Unequal life situations... when one person is doing well, and the other is struggling, that can make things awfully challenging or awkward.
  • Unequal needs... when one person is just someone who is naturally happy with seeing a friend every month or two, and the other would rather see a friend every week. Or, when one person needs "friend time" to be a friendly, upbeat experience, while the other needs "friend time" to vent and unload about problems.
I'm kind of experiencing this right now myself. My wife and I have been friends with another couple for many years. We all met when we were in college, but over the last two years or so, things have been slowly dying off. It's not that anyone has done anything wrong, here. It's just a combination of those no-fault factors.

When we first met, all of us were in the same boat in terms of life situations and job situations... scraping by, not making much money, and being young.

Fast-forward about ten years. My wife and I both finished college, and we both did graduate work. We now have jobs that pay us well in careers we enjoy. We're not rich, but we can live comfortably while saving lots of money, exploring new restaurants and places to see in our city, going on vacations several times a year, and having the money for anything we need. We're fairly healthy, too, thanks to having the time and the money to exercise, eat well, and see our doctors regularly.

My friend dropped out of college after a couple of years, and his wife left after one. They got caught up in service jobs and have never been able to get out of the cycle... to get better jobs, they need to go back to school, and to go back to school, they need to cut back on their service jobs, or miraculously find better-paying ones that probably don't exist. It's a challenging situation for them and every month is a struggle to get by. Their health is pretty awful, and thanks to poor insurance (or no insurance), they both have some serious challenges that have not been treated properly.

Because of these changes, we don't have a lot in common, and when we do talk about our lives, it gets awkward fast. The big questions in my life and my wife's life at the moment are "where should we go on vacation this year, can we bump up the percentage we're saving, where should we buy our new house, what new car should we get, which half-marathons should we run this summer." The big questions for the other couple, based on what I hear from them, are "can we make rent this month, am I going to be able to get a full-time job, what can I do to get my back to stop killing me, how am I going to find the money to fix the car so I can stop taking the bus." It's awkward to talk to them about a cool new restaurant I found that is something they probably can't afford. It feels awful talking to them about the new TV I just bought after our old one died, and that I paid cash for as I was fortunate enough to have plenty of money saved.

And what's more, there's not really anything my wife or I can do to help our friends. They've made it clear that they don't want our money, or anyone else's money. We've tried to help in other ways... I've tried connecting them with new job opportunities to no avail, I've tried to keep an eye out for transportation they could afford, we've given them advice or have been there for them to talk to, and when we go out for dinner (or more likely, pick up food and take it over to their place so we can leave them with the leftovers), we pay for it about 90% of the time.

Despite our efforts, there is just not that much we can talk about or share with each other without it being challenging, though. I know I feel it, I can tell they feel it, and so things have kind of died a slow death over the last year or two.

It sucks, because they are good people and good friends. It's dying, even though I haven't done anything wrong to cause it to die. And that sounds like it's just like your situation.

It's not easy to deal with this. I just want you to know that it's not your fault, and we understand!
posted by Old Man McKay at 9:49 AM on January 11, 2014 [16 favorites]

I've gone through things in life when I had to either temporariliy or permanently let go of people, even someone who was a friend for a while.

There was a time that I lost a friend to suicide and after dealing with that, I let some friendships subside and even let go of a few. It was not because they did something. It was because I saw death everywhere and had an emptiness and I needed to deal with it.

I have also seen friends let go of me temporarily and for some of them, it is/was depression. The way that I look at it, they are dealing with something, and may or may not come back to you. Instead of focusing on the "why not now", "why did they let me down" remember the fun from the past and the friendship that you had.

There are also reasons that I have let go of people.Maybe I didn't view it as healthy/feel safe/and at the end of the day, it wasn't fun. Even though I may have let go of someone, though, it was also painful to me. But I am bringing this last example up because at the end of the day, I had to deal with the same issues that you bring up in your question, and you don't have the other person to help you (all you have is silence).

So this is an exercise that I have done (underneath your question). I only have used it if something bothers me a lot, and usually for the loss of someone (a friend, a partner, whatever).

But I want to work past this and trust people to be my friends again and I don't know how.

So this is the exercise that I do. I write it in a place that only I can find it and edit it and reflect on it.

• I write a letter (not to be sent) to the friend and say all things that could not be said and were not said. Although it may start with anger, I also add why I appreciated the friendship and why I missed them (and in the end, why things will have to be the way they are now).

• I also write a letter to myself. I apologize to myself: Did I let myself get treated a certain way? Did I behave in the best way? If not, how can I behave differently in the future? (The part that may help you here, OP, is that I include things that may have been warning signs/things that I may not let happen in the future/and how I will try to treat people more compassionately in the future (so I don't do what I experienced to someone else if I was on the receiving end, or if I could have behaved in a different way, I write that out).

I continue writing both parts until I feel at peace (peace = not being grar grar with the person, peace= I think that I learned what I need to so that it won't be an infinite loop in my head).

• Write an action plan. If you lost a friend who used to do X with you, what is your need now? More friends? Different type of friends? Where will you meet these friends? So I usually wrote out a list of activities, things that I wanted to do with fictional new friend. In an odd way, this last step has always worked for me. A few months later I meet a person who fills that niche. With time, the pain from the other person is gone because you have other friends and activities that fill up your world.

So for your need to learn to trust, part of what you could focus on if you do the writing exercise is include 1) any warning signs that you think you saw 2) in your letter to yourself, how you won't do X (if that is important to you).

When writing your action plan and later carry parts of it out, remember that people are individuals. If person X did something, the likelihood of new friend A, B, and C doing it is phenomenally small.

Last bit. A very good friend of mine uses this analogy for friends. Think of it like trains going different directions.Maybe you will ride along on a train with someone for a while. Then they will get off and go on a different train to a different destination. New people get on and you may ride with some of them for a while. You may ride with a few people forever. But they are all going to their own destinations. Just enjoy them while they are on the ride with you in the same compartment.

OP, as humans, we have all been on all sides of this. Take care. I try to treat people more gently after experiencing something like you did.

posted by Wolfster at 9:54 AM on January 11, 2014 [20 favorites]

I've been on both sides of this, though neither case led to the explicit breakup letter. I had a good friend who did the passive-aggressive fade-away thing out of the blue, and it hurt like hell. I also have an old high school friendship that ran its course years ago, but this friend will periodically insist on getting together, and it makes me feel lousy because I no longer feel any bond with her but don't want to hurt her with an "official" friend-dump. But that's a matter for a different AskMe.

The problem is that some friendships just end, yet there's no graceful way to end a friendship. When both friends drift apart at the same time, it's no big deal: we just chalk it up to time, there's no ill will, maybe we'll pick it back up in a few years but maybe not. But when one friend drifts and the other wants to continue the friendship in exactly the same way, things get hairy and awkward. The only real options are to fade and hope the other friend isn't too bothered by it, or to rip the band-aid off in one go, which always hurts.

And we're taught from early childhood to believe that friendship is forever, so we assume that any friendship that ends has somehow failed. This is untrue.

You're absolutely not wrong to feel upset by this. It doesn't mean either of you were a bad friend or that the friendship wasn't real when it was there. It's just that she considers it over for some reason, and you didn't, and there was no good way for her to communicate that. There will be other friends, some of whom will be in your life longer than others. Keep working on this with your therapist, and definitely bring up this specific incident. In the meantime, keep meeting new people, and allow friendships to slowly grow, but remember that it does take a lot of time and patience, and nothing's wrong with you.

(Something else to consider: In both my dumper and dumpee situations, there was a sort of imbalance: the dumpee seemed to need the friendship a lot more than the dumper. When I was friend-dumped, I almost certainly had undiagnosed and untreated depression, plus I had a terrible soul-sucking job and was having trouble getting over a breakup, and my friend circle at the time was really small - all of which led to my leaning on this one friend a lot more than I should have, and he just couldn't take it anymore. Which might make him seem like a terrible person, but I can empathize: we're not equipped to be one person's entire support system. This may not apply to you, and if it does, it still doesn't make either of you a bad friend. But it never hurts to take stock of a relationship (of any sort) and figure out if you're giving as much as you're taking, or vice versa. I didn't realize how excessively I depended on my friend until he was gone.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:57 AM on January 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I feel her email is passive-aggressive somewhat, because of the distancing/icing out that your mutual friends are doing. It obviously goes deeper than 'we're just different people' -- because nothing prevents them from still being your friend or even knowing what's up between you two-- unless she's told them and they view it as a loyalty thing. Otherwise, why would they be distant too?

It sucks but unfortunately, people are judgmental sometimes and friendship doesn't make someone immune to that. I find that people often think they have others all figured out and understand their motivations. Sometimes, it's actually knowing someone well that cements erroneous opinions. Because you know them so long, you start to assume you understand them completely -- and suddenly it's really easy to judge someone for that. "She's so lazy, I know all she does is x," when the reality may be debilitating depression, etc. Because you feel you know them, you actually start lacking compassion for them, and such.

Occasionally, you meet 'friends' who are good at faking it. They hide all their animosity inside, acting like they're your best friend, when they're at odds with you. These are the friends that badmouth you, and they're the most toxic of all. I can't tell you what makes people dislike other people. Sometimes it's secret jealousy. Sometimes it's insecurity. Some people have an instinct to attack those they deem lesser or deferent. Those people don't do well with people who are weak or vulnerable, and they often treat them shabbily instead of being kind to them. I have a feeling it might be something like that with you.

I come across as flaky and hermit-like-- I am bad at keeping in touch, but it's not because I don't care or like my friends. Unfortunately, some of my past friends have taken my introversion personally, and though I admit there are times I am a bad friend, my absences aren't about them. Partly because of this, my best friend since I was 8 ditched me as a friend recently. I won't get into it, suffice to say I didn't really deserve it. I can understand what she thought was happening, but, it wasn't reality. I also believe her opinion was swayed by someone she vented to about me-- I got the feeling people were chiming in with, 'if she was your friend, she'd be around more,' talk.

In my case, I found it important to remind myself that I hadn't really done anything wrong. That I had nothing to feel guilty about. That I didn't have to analyze what I did or didn't do because that she should have talked to me if she was hurt and felt I was making excuses (I wasn't). Instead of saying 'don't bother!' -- because that's what friends do. I apologized and expressed my regret, and she didn't even reply to me. I deserved that reply.

I concluded that a real friend wouldn't faze me out like that, chalked it up to 'the more you know,' and went on my way. It hurts sometimes, but, I figure I don't need someone like that in my life anyway.

It's the same for you. You really are much better off. You sound lovely, and you shouldn't take it personally. Yes, I don't think she's telling you the whole story. But it doesn't matter. People are weird. They're weird and their motivations are weird. They're human and fallible and their opinion of you shouldn't get to you. Ultimately it's meaningless and arbitrary.

You're not wrong to be upset -- you deserve more than this. But life isn't a neat little package full of closure and such. Be glad at least you found out sooner rather than later who this person is -- I knew my friend over 15 years.

Lastly, don't despair. Good friends, true friends-- are really hard to find. It's difficult for everyone, believe me. Be a little more guarded if it helps, but if you cover your heart in cotton wool, sure you'll feel safer, you'll never be hurt like this again. You're also guaranteed never to make a good, deep friendship again. That's the rub of trying not to feel. I don't think that's the answer. Ultimately, all good things come from letting yourself be vulnerable again.

Things will be better soon.
posted by Dimes at 10:20 AM on January 11, 2014 [5 favorites]

There is no one answer to why this happens but it does happen to lots of us.

I've been friend dumped three times myself.

Once, it was by a person who said "It's just too hard with you," when I asked her why she didn't return my telephone calls or want to hang out anymore. We were both in our early twenties. Haven't seen or spoken to her for years.

Once, it was by a person who felt I'd been insensitive to a very private part of their life and couldn't forgive me for it. Her, late twenties, me, early thirties. Haven't seen or spoken in years.

And lastly it was by a person who retaliated by friend-dumping me in a particularly public way after I had smacked her down for some rank selfishness during a pretty dark time in my life. Her, late twenties, me early thirties. Have seen and spoken with her in social situations several times in the last few years because our husbands are still very close.

Here's what I've learned:

- Sometimes it IS you. Sometimes, for whatever reason, you are not getting what the other person is asking for from you or telling you they need. I ran into trouble in some friendships when I got stuck playing the caretaker/tell me all your problems/I'm here for you role. This was a tough nut to crack for me because of my warped family dynamics and because a lot of my self-worth was wrapped up in being a "good" person and being "there" for people. I didn't realize that assuming this role with some folks is actually really self-serving and drama crave-y, and they respond by setting what is actually a healthy boundary. This doesn't make me a shitty person; I know my strengths and can still pride myself on them. It just means that now I focus on meeting my own needs within any relationship and attempting to be sensitive and supportive to other people without taking on their pain. Enlightened self-interest is honestly a better stance than Atlas-like self-sacrifice. This, actually, is what I believe my friend meant when she said it was too hard with me. She wanted to hang out and have salad and watch movies rather than talk about problems and whatnot. She was right and I'm actually grateful she gave me that kick in the pants.

- People's priorities change all the time and relationships can wither as a result. People find grooves that don't include you and into which you don't easily fit. Now, mature, adult people can usually find the grace to still be kind and somewhat attentive to the basic humanity of people they've outgrown or who can't really relate to anymore. But sometimes people feel guilty about not having the same feelings toward a friend they used to really care for and enjoy and so they throw up a big wall of hostility. This is just a deflection and really only has to do with them and their inability to accept responsibility for their true feelings. I think this accounts for your ex-friend's inviting 90 people to her party on Facebook and not inviting you. This is shitty, she's shitty for doing it and she should feel bad about doing it. Unfortunately, she's not at a place where she can be gracious right now and that's not your fault. I can relate - friend who publicly dumped me did so in a similar way and, to this day, takes no responsibility for her part in how things ended up. I still see her and we are "friendly" for our husbands' sake. This is just how it goes.

- You, too, can also stop liking and/or relating well to friends and choose to friend dump them. The issue is the "dumping" part. Most of the time, you can still be cordial and friendly and occasionally see people socially without the requisite level of closeness you once experienced. Most people get the hint and back off when they feel this happening and both parties exit the close relationship and save face. Sometimes this isn't the case. Sometimes you have no choice but to cut them off because their presence in your life is actually toxic and bad for you. You have this prerogative. So does everyone else.

I'm sorry this happened and that it's been painful for you. The best thing to do is to take the high road, back way off, and focus on meeting your own needs through your interests and other relationships.

Good luck.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 10:40 AM on January 11, 2014 [17 favorites]

Is there any chance there are political differences afoot...? Facebook is good at bringing that sort of thing to the forefront. If one of you is posting OMG love Duck Dynasty those dudes speak the truth LOL and the other is posting Sign this petition for marriage equality in Latvia! it may be too wide a gap for her. Just, obviously, a guess, though.
posted by kmennie at 11:04 AM on January 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have a friend - well, 'friend', she is currently not speaking to me - who does this every couple of years, with all her friends. Let's call her 'Mary'. Sometimes Mary will break up with a wide swath of her friends at once, sometimes just one or two. Sometimes she does it in a very hostile way that comes totally out of the blue, sometimes it's just "we've drifted apart and we have different interests now". Usually she gets back in touch a few months/years later and the whole cycle starts again. We are in our 30s and she's been doing the same thing since we were very little kids - it's just how she works.

Anyway, I'm not saying that your friend is doing the same thing as Mary. What I am saying is that having been repeatedly friend-dumped by Mary in a variety of ways over the years, I've learnt ways of coping with it that make it a lot easier to deal with. These include:

- Not taking it personally. Her not wanting to be friends any more does not mean that I've been a bad friend to her, or that she's somehow rejecting me as a human being. That's not to say that I don't analyse my own behaviour in case something I did upset her, but I don't obsess over it.

- Not trying to talk her out of it, including in conversations with her that only happen inside my own head. That can be difficult, because we've known each other for decades and been very close friends (albeit on and off), and it seems such a shame to throw all that away - but, she gets to make that call if she wants to. It doesn't detract from the friendship we've had or the times we've shared, and it doesn't mean I can't value those times.

- Accepting that she has a right to handle her friendships in this way, even if I think it's a bad way to do it. And in Mary's case I often do think she's handling things badly, in a way that's unhealthy for her and/or unfair to whichever friend(s) she's breaking up with. But, that's still her choice to make.

- Reminding myself that this is a Mary thing, not an everyone-I-will-ever-meet thing. I mean, Mary once spent weeks talking excitedly to me about what a great day we were going to have on a day when I visited the town where she lived, planning out drinks and dinner and everything - then on the day itself, when I called from the place we'd arranged to meet to ask where she was, she told me she had a lot of washing up to do so wasn't coming out that day and anyway, she saw us as more acquaintances than friends these days. But this doesn't mean I can't rely on people - it means I can't rely on Mary, which, well, I already knew.
posted by Catseye at 11:08 AM on January 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

Am I wrong for being upset with how she's acted?
Absolutely not. Don't second-guess your feelings.

Anyone else gone through this?
I think almost everyone has. I've been on both sides of it. For my part, I'm not good at confrontation. So when someone hurts me or crosses a boundary, I brush it off and tell myself it's not that important. Until all of a sudden it IS important and I either have to have a conversation about "This thing that you've been doing since we met is making me crazy and after two years of friendship I need you to stop" or just fade away.

On the flip side, I've been slow to recognize people's signals that I was asking too much or being too needy, or being difficult to be around - and that resulted in being friend-dumped by people who also weren't good at confrontation. I eventually learned to be a little more aware - I'm still working on it.

But I want to work past this and trust people to be my friends again and I don't know how.

I think a lot of relationship questions boil down to "I feel bad because of something that happened, and I want to feel better again." Which is a perfectly natural question because feeling bad sucks. And the ultimate answer is really "give it time." It's ok to be hurt and angry. It's ok if you are a bit cautious with making new friends and you keep new people at an acquaintance level for longer. Be patient with yourself.

And when you're ready, be patient in your memory of your ex-friend. She hasn't behaved particularly well here, but you will feel better if you are able to give her the benefit of a doubt.
posted by bunderful at 11:15 AM on January 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

"Being two people who were very different and who now have nothing in common despite years of friendship" is basically the reason I friend dumped someone once. We'd known each other for 10 years, got along really well, knew lots about each other, etc. Then a few years before the dumping, the character traits that didn't bother me so much when she was young (and that also weren't so pronounced), started to bother me much more and started to stick out more.

I'll spare you all of the gory details. They're not relevant. I just wanted to point out that people do change, especially over the course of eight years. If you were both 19 when you met, you both did a lot of growing up and maturing during that time. It's quite possible that either you or she became incompatible with one another. It's not much comfort, but at least it might be the truth.

I did perform a slow fade with my friend. I wanted to lessen the drama that would ensue from a breakup. Friend is a self described drama queen. She hooked up with a guy once, unilaterally declared herself his girlfriend and then sat outside his house for three hours, despite my worries for her personal safety. I didn't want that to happen to me. I thought she might take the fact that I hadn't contacted her in several months as a hint and just let sleeping dogs lie, but apparently not even saying I wasn't going to her wedding was enough. In the end, we had to have a conversation about something that to me, was blindingly obvious - we just weren't compatible any more. That conversation took 3 minutes where I was expressly clear with her about how things were (mainly because I ran out of patience) and then the boil was lanced. Next time someone performs a slow fade or doesn't keep in touch or simply doesn't put the effort in to the relationship, don't keep fighting for it.

You're not wrong for feeling how you feel. Ever. Anyone who invalidates your emotions is a shitbag who you should run away from. You feel how you feel, and that's OK. If it's any comfort, people don't do things for "no reason". There has to be a motivator, even if you can't see what it is. My friend would likely tell you a very different version of events that lead to us going our separate ways, and that would be her truth. It's quite possible that she thinks I'm The Bad Guy and that everything was roses and unicorns. On my side of the equation, though, it really wasn't. Trust that your friend had a good reason to do what they did that might not even be about you. You might not have done anything objectively wrong. It might be that she just didn't like you that much any more for something that you can't control.

You might think she has a terrible reason for cutting you out of her life. Or no reason at all. You're viewing that reason through the lens of your own standards, though. You might make one choice in a given situation, but she might make another. Both of you might be "right", but you're both right for yourself. What someone else decides as the right choice might not even be a conceivable option for you. But put yourself in that other person's place and you might find that what they chose was the only option (for them).

There's not really a way to avoid a relationship ending. People die, they cut you off, they leave the place you work at, etc. Build some resilience into your life, so that you have other people to turn to if someone vanishes, and build some into yourself too, so you can weather the internal storm better.
posted by Solomon at 11:42 AM on January 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

If I felt obliged to send something, here's how I'd handle it. I'd send something non-emotional like this:

You've thrown me out of your life. And if that's how it's got to be, I'll accept it. But the thing is, one of us is clearly awful.

If I've done something to hurt you, or said something inappropriate (I can't think of anything, but it's certainly possible), and you fill me in, then I'd be the awful one, and you can feel entirely satisfied in how you handled things. And I can make amends - if that's even possible (if not, I'd try to improve my behavior in the future with others, and take my lumps).

But by wordlessly slamming the door, you're someone who capriciously throws friends away like Kleenex - and does so without consideration - i.e. in the most painful, embarrassing, long-lingering way just to avoid the social friction of accounting for yourself in a grown-up way. If thats what happened, then I'm relieved to be clear of you, and will warn others about you, as I would any other awful person.

Again, I'd be glad to be the awful one. Given that you never struck me as awful or capricious in the past, it may well be true! But your radio silence leaves it completely on you, because it gives me no chance to make amends. Same if there was miscommunication or misunderstanding. By refusing to bring it to light and give me (a person you once referred to as one of your best friends) an opportunity to address it, that leaves you quite awful.

That's what I'd send if I sent anything. But I probably wouldn't send anything. Per my couple of postings in this thread, I have a strict policy of not engaging with anyone who's intentionally and gratuitously caused me pain. Because I've found over many years that doing so greatly increases my chance of experiencing more pain.

I don't, of course, want to be like your friend and shut out everyone who seems to have done me wrong! But if a person's thrown me out of their life....well, that's just easy, then. I don't want to go back for more. I write off the time and consideration I wasted on them, and move on to people more deserving of my time and consideration. The last thing I want is more interaction (positive, negative, or sideways) from someone awful.
posted by Quisp Lover at 12:12 PM on January 11, 2014 [10 favorites]

I'll echo what some others have said: It's possible that you were asking for more than she wanted to give and she's no good at confrontation, so she did the slow fade. Your past comments about anxiety and your statements about being worried about rejection suggest that you might have been in her perception a little anxious-clingy and she didn't have the skills to bring that up, so she eventually shut you out.

I've slow-faded a few friends and every time it was because they wanted more energy from me than I had to give -- they wanted lots emotional and practical help and attention when I needed that energy for my own life, which they couldn't help me with.

I first tried to back away a bit and maintain the friendship in smaller doses, but I found that once they got their foot in the door they wanted a lot more again or (in my perception) tried to make me feel guilty about setting limits, so I quietly but firmly shut the door.
posted by ceiba at 1:24 PM on January 11, 2014 [7 favorites]

OP, my guess is that if you thought it through carefully enough, you would find out the answer. It may be answer which is unflattering, in one way or another, to one or both of you, but there you go.

(1) you lost out to her other friends, either because they made a "her or us" ultimatum, or she decided that you were crimping her style in one way or another relative to them, or she simply decided that she had the luxury to complete her upgrade (or downgrade) and leave you behind, or she was never that into you to begin with.

(2) something dramatically changed in your relative status (wealth, looks, success, romantic partnering, etc.) to destabilize the situation, or something changed in your or her conduct.

(3) you got a boyfriend she can't stand.
posted by MattD at 1:31 PM on January 11, 2014

Response by poster: I'm guessing it had a lot to do with what Ceibia mentioned, because at the time, I was incredibly lonely in a new city and was relying on her for a lot of support. However, I, too have friends who can be emotionally needy/anxious and I would never cut them out entirely with no explanation. That, to me, would be too hurtful.

MattD, not really sure. She's very much about appearances and being cool, maybe I wasn't "good enough for her" (which, if that's the case, good riddance.)

ThirdLetter, her actual email wasn't passive-aggressive, just incredibly vague, which felt worse. What IS, passive-aggressive, however, is ignoring me for months on end (I would text her every 2 months or so to see how she was doing, nothing crazy) when I was going through a lot of turmoil she was aware of (my grandmother passed away, my brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and I lost my job.) I had no one to talk to in my city who knew me well, and it made me feel incredibly isolated.

re: anyone saying she didn't like my sig. other, that's also not the case -- she met him once, we dated briefly, and we broke up a few months ago.

Who knows. I am working past it. But thank you for the amazing advice here.
posted by shotinthedark at 2:05 PM on January 11, 2014

Sounds like she wanted to help you get a social leg up in a new city and perhaps felt that she was doing you a favor by introducing you to her friends and by including you and you weren't a good match with her socializing style or group of friends. Possibly you wanted too much emotional intimacy from her and she was more interested in possibly folding you into her big party group. Some people are friendly and extroverted but don't really want close one-on-one friendships with people like what you describe, where you support each other through hard times--they primarily want friends for fun socializing.

Someone who invites 90 people to their birthday party is good at making friends but that might not mean she wants to be close friends, and if she felt that demand from you she may have pulled away to avoid it.

Additionally, as someone who tends to have a lot of friends who are more introverted or shy, they tend to feel closer to me than I am to them, if that makes sense. That can be a problem when I feel that they're really demanding more in an unbalanced way.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:25 PM on January 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

in this life, the only unreserved love you can find comes from a good dog. a cat will love you at feeding time. i've heard good things about horses, and i know babies and toddlers who depend on you for survival will love you.

i've only had one friend-dump in my adult life, about three years ago, and of course it was painful for a very short time. after i returned to my home (five and a half hours of driving) there was an email exchange of measured sadness, resolution and unanswered questions. then i went outside (3:00 A.M.) and experienced a miracle. three inches of snow had fallen all around me when i wasn't paying attention, rare in my location, and it was beautiful, and it was god's way of telling me that everything was going to be just fine.
posted by bruce at 2:48 PM on January 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

This type of thing hurts and yes, you are entitled to feel that way. But I would vote against the suggestion above of sending a note assessing the other person's character traits, that's not gonna do anything but add to the total net bad feelings.
posted by steinsaltz at 4:23 PM on January 11, 2014

Response by poster: Agreed -- as much as I'd like to send a scathing, sad letter, it won't make things any better.

I wrote back saying I was sorry to hear that and I wished her the best; I wish I knew when things had been different and it had been very hurtful for her to ignore me. That's really all there is to say, I'm just trying to process this emotionally (which is why I posted about it, for advice on how to do that.)
posted by shotinthedark at 4:49 PM on January 11, 2014

Here's the thing: I was upset with some friends earlier in my life. I tried to work it out with them.

I'm going to say it did not go well, but... Actually, in hindsight it did eventually get through to them in two cases out of three.

In one of those two cases, we weren't compatible anyway and the damage was done, so we worked it out and then drifted our separate ways.

In the third case, however, they just didn't want to know and couldn't understand why I was being so utterly, devastatingly mean to them. At all costs, they wouldn't let me get a word out about what they'd done that had actually upset me. THEY were upset that I was picking a fight, what about THEIR feelings??

Here's another thing. In the second case, the one that did work, it was a long process and the improvement has unfolded across the lifespan, not over weeks or months.

In all three cases, it was an emotional bloodbath lasting months and months. It was agonizing for me figuring out whether to say anything, it was agonizing for me to say it, it was agonizing for me to deal with the overwhelmingly negative reaction to my having said anything.

I'm not saying you are this way, OP. I am saying that most people don't want to confront their friends when there's a problem because they don't want to go through the emotional equivalent of being torn to pieces by a pack of wild dogs. It might not happen every time, but it does happen sometimes.

Nowadays I deal with conflict by being very selective about who I engage with and by being prepared to walk away and forget the friendship the moment there's a significant problem. My guess is that if I'd done this before, in two out of three cases they wouldn't have even noticed my absence. There might even have been the chance to rebuild bridges as we grew and matured.

Mostly I look back on those episodes with intense embarrassment and shame, because nobody is supposed to be so attached to a friend that they'd want to do anything so needy and aggressive as fight with them. If you don't like one friend you're supposed to forget about them and get a new one, since one friend is much like another and it doesn't do to get attached to one particular person. Right or wrong, it's what a well-adjusted person is supposed to do. Confronting friends is the sign of the bunny-boiler, the toxic person, the waver of red flags that we as well-adjusted mefites are supposed to run from, to go no contact with, to cut out of our lives.

Here's what I know to be both true and polite. Miss Manners said that if you have a problem with something your friend does, confront them, but if you have a problem with something your friend is, say nothing, just fade. Above all do not friend-dump them explicitly and give them an exit letter explaining why you're doing so, because that is unbelievably cruel.

Actually, it is. As much as people think they want that - they don't. Or maybe some people do genuinely want that, but since the risk of inficting cruelty is so high, many people just don't want to take it.

You definitely have a right to be upset, nobody likes to be friend-dumped. I don't think there's anything further you can usefully say about it. And there are right ways and wrong ways to friend-dump somebody but however wrong someone is, you're still dumped and that is what you have to accept.

And what Solomon said.
posted by tel3path at 6:31 PM on January 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

I'm sorry this happened to you. First things first: don't contact her again, especially not to pre-emptively apologize for existing or whatever other unforgivable thing you did. As with a romantic breakup, nothing she can say will give you closure. Remove/block her on social media so you won't learn of her huge Facebook birthday bashes. Tell yourself you are done with her. That is, you will not be eager and ready to take her back if she decides one day that you might be of use to her again

Now for the postmortem: Was your friendship somehow unequal? Were you gushing about her to other friends who, though well-meaning, didn't quite see just what was so great about her? When she said you were "one of her best friends in the city," did you feel you had gained entrance to some kind of exclusive club instead of just being a couple of ordinary friends sharing a moment? Did she have a lot of bad moments that you wrote off as not being "the real her" or have a lot of questionable friends that you told yourself didn't reflect on her as a person? Could she be incredibly charming one minute and then, well, not? Would she withdraw for a while just when you were beginning to feel particularly close to her, then find that she'd reappear right when you were starting to get frustrated? Did she hint or brag about dropping friends or romantic partners, or about being selfish, or that she didn't get attached to people? Did you ever have a sneaking suspicion that this was going to happen somewhere down the road, or find yourself thinking it should have ended already and you were surprised the friendship was still going?

Yeah, some friendships do just end or drift apart, but the way you phrased your question makes me think it wasn't necessarily a healthy friendship with a kind, healthy person. Especially in "the city," as I've noticed a lot of people prioritize experiences over people and think of friendship as entertainment that you can change the channel on whenever it gets boring or inconvenient. Again, I'm sorry this happened to you, but I think watching out for the warning signs I listed above may help you filter out less trustworthy people in the future.

Also, since you mentioned age: people do seem to have rather spectacular freak-outs in their late 20s. It's a volatile time that sometimes results in friend-shuffling.
posted by ziggly at 10:19 PM on January 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

But I want to work past this and trust people to be my friends again and I don't know how.

You're nearing the age when most folks stop changing their personalities and values so much. While I personally don't think much of who your friend has turned into, it sounds like the two of you really did just grow apart. That's not surprising, because you were both in your late teens when you met. That's not going to be the case as often with new friends that you're making now and in the future, if they're your own age or older.

And...if you and another friend do start growing apart, you'll both be older and wiser and will probably deal with it in a healthier manner.
posted by sam_harms at 12:40 AM on January 12, 2014

Another thing that might be going on with the vagueness of her letter is that she is avoiding discussing the issue(s) that caused her to pull away. Perhaps she's doing that to spare you both a painful argument, one loaded with uncomfortable opinions about how she views you and your friendship. Personally, I would be grateful to be spared such a conversation.
posted by yellowcandy at 12:40 AM on January 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you were a good friend to her. That being said, if this has happened to you a few times before, I would suggest taking a good look at your behavior during these friendships. Did you monopolize too many conversations, or talk way too much about yourself? Did you nag? Were you too clingy? Were you always complaining? Don't tear yourself up, but ask yourself some tough questions.

If you can truly say that you did your best to be a good friend (and really, it sounds like you did), then dumping you was their loss. I suspect you're not a bad friend, but you may have a habit of picking bad friends.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:48 AM on January 12, 2014

in this life, the only unreserved love you can find comes from a good dog. a cat will love you at feeding time. i've heard good things about horses, and i know babies and toddlers who depend on you for survival will love you.

I can say with much confidence and happiness and gratitude, with great kids and relatives and pets and friends from every stage of life (and yes, some who've fallen by the wayside, of course!) that this is not my experience at all. And it doesn't have to be yours, OP.
posted by thinkpiece at 8:15 AM on January 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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