A fareweather friend apologizes for being a bad friend, should I care?
June 25, 2014 8:40 PM   Subscribe

I'd already stopped caring a few months ago and it's hard to go back to caring again.

I've known my friend for about 5 years. We met during a summer job. She's a really adventurous and fun person so I've had a lot of cool experiences because of being her friend. We click really well for "fun" things, but our relationship isn't really one of those deep friendships where you talk about your feelings much.

We usually come in and out of contact casually, but there's a weird dynamic where every few months I start hearing from her an intense amount and then we fall out of touch. Over the past two years we've been living in the same city.

I've noticed some things about her that I find very rude. I've been out of contact with her for the past couple months for that reason. Some examples:

- Walked down my (quiet, pretty, lots of trees) street and said "this street is so depressing" for no reason.. makes all sorts of similar comments about things related to me without really directing them at me

- Calls me at 9pm on the walk home to vent about her relationship worries. I don't mind so I let her vent. But when I try to share anything about my own life it's like she doesn't hear me. When she's done venting she says she's tired and the conversation is over.

- I tell her I'm interested in learning more about Judaism because it's my background. She says she's interested too (her ex was Jewish). I invite her to go to a Shabbat dinner, looking forward to participating in traditions I never was a part of as a child -- she texts me back "yeah! let's go meet some Jewish cuties!" with apparently no awareness that I actually have a personal interest in this because it's part of my family heritage

- I ask her to go to the movies one weekend, she says she can't go this weekend, but tells me to wait to see that movie because we'll go together on Tuesday. Tuesday night comes and she calls me to say she decided to go to that same movie with her new date from Tinder instead (Tinder! I get blown off for some guy from Tinder!). I called her out on it right away, saying "that is not cool!" but she didn't seem to register

- After that last thing happened (the one above), I told her I needed some space from her ( she had been calling me a lot to vent about her relationship, etc). But she kept texting me, once even at 2am which woke me up. I texted her back "did you have to wake me up at 2am?" and her reply was " Why are you so grumpy?"

- So, I got an email from her about a week ago in which she says she's sorry and she knows she's been unkind and unreliable. Normally I would really appreciate an apology like that but for some reason I haven't been able to bring myself to reply. One reason is that she buried the apology in an email about other things (one of which is that after telling me for weeks that she wanted to sublet my room, that she changed her mind about moving). Another reason is that it took so long... the last hurtful incident (the Tinder thing) happened over two months ago, and she had the chance to apologize right then and there but was too proud to express any regret or feeling sorry.

So I'm not sure. What should my next move be? Should I reply to the email ? Or just take the apology and run? Is the apology "better late than never" or "too little too late"?
posted by winterportage to Human Relations (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Do you still want to be her friend? If yes, take the apology. If no, don't respond.
posted by empath at 8:45 PM on June 25, 2014 [4 favorites]

Based on what you've written, there's really no reason to let this person back into your life. You can have "cool experiences" with people who make you feel good when you're around them; find some of those.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:46 PM on June 25, 2014 [10 favorites]

If you want to keep her as a friend, you should reach out to her. If you don't want to stay in touch, then don't reach out.

It sounds to me like you're done with her, and it all sounds quite one sided, like she takes a lot of your emotional energy without giving anything back. Some people just fade out of our lives, and despite the fact they are good people with whom you've shared interesting and valuable experiences, the friendship doesn't continue.
posted by Admira at 8:47 PM on June 25, 2014 [3 favorites]

You're not a bad person if you decide that you don't want to be her friend any more. And a moment of reflection from her is a good start but there's no guarantee it will turn into a lasting change in her behavior.

But.. friends are good to have and lasting friendships don't come along all that often for most people, and the years will take a toll on those you do have. So -- a friendship that requires a little work and forbearance on your part can still be worth preserving.

The key is that only you can judge whether it is or not.
posted by Nerd of the North at 8:50 PM on June 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

Regardless whether you carry the friendship forward right now, consider explicitly accepting her apology.
posted by cribcage at 8:54 PM on June 25, 2014 [16 favorites]

If you have to ask if you still want to be friends with someone, the answer is no. If it happens consistently throughout your life though, you might want to reflect. Obviously her focus is on her relationship(s) and that seems to bother you so probably let it go.

Also, subnote: if you're not sure whether or not to accept an apology, that means you don't.

It's okay to be honest with yourself about these things.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 8:55 PM on June 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Eh, she sounds insensitive and self-centered, immature. Flaky. I think the high-road is to be gracious and tell her you appreciate the apology or whatever and leave it at that, simple. Then just leave the ball in her court. She may just be feeling guilty and if you let her off the hook you may simply not hear from her anymore.
posted by rhizome at 9:08 PM on June 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have sometimes had to move onward from a friend, or modify the friendship. I don't know if this helps, but these are the questions that I usually ask myself:

• Is this a problem with the friendship, or do I need to expand my friend basket and put more people in there? If you find yourself consistently getting upset because your friend bails on certain activities (you mention movies), then try to work on getting a few more friends, and maybe movie friends, or whatever other activities you enjoy. Then what you can do in the future is go see the movie with other people, or invite a group, but if that friend bails, meh- it probably won't bother you as much.

• Reflect on this friendship right now and ask: Am I happy at the thought of interacting with this person? Sometimes there are too many issues, or water under the bridge, and the best route might be to let the friendship go. Consider investing the time in finding and developing new friendships.

• When thinking about this friendship, ask yourself if you would be okay with seeing this person once in a while, or for shortened events, or since this person sounds flaky, only meet her for events that she is likely to follow through. But ask if you can modify the friendship so that it can still work. For example, maybe you can just meet the friend for a movie (no conversation...) or a run, or lunch once a week. It might not be as stressful. You can also continuously assess if perhaps it is time to move onward from the friendship (as in go back to the previous question, does this friendship make you happy?)

I have a very good friend who told me that he views friendship like passengers on a train. Maybe you get on a train car and ride with the person for a month, a year, years, and have fun during those times. But people will get on and off that train car and go to different destination. So maybe the friend will go in a different direction, come back in your life at a different time, or never get back in your car. But remember the fun times.
posted by Wolfster at 9:42 PM on June 25, 2014 [14 favorites]

Listen to what your inner voice is telling you -- it doesn't like how she treats you.
posted by ravioli at 10:32 PM on June 25, 2014 [6 favorites]

Calls me at 9pm on the walk home to vent about her relationship worries. I don't mind so I let her vent. But when I try to share anything about my own life it's like she doesn't hear me. When she's done venting she says she's tired and the conversation is over.

I would unfriend someone for more than a couple instances of this alone. It's totally narcissistic. Not in the like, clinical sense, just in the tiresome behavior sense. It's something that a total reproductive organ of a person does. Like, imagine a Kevin Spacey character. The people i've known who did this were like, little proto spaceys.

I mean, i skimmed the other things but this one for me is a blows main circuit breaker sort of thing. You know how in your house/apartment there's a circuit breaker for each room, and the washing machine and stuff and then one gigantic one for the entire place? Some things are annoying, or even fairly blatantly awful, but you can work past them and just go reset it. You know, turning on the toaster oven while the microwaves on.

That sort of thing is like some horrible wiring failure in the wall that blows the really big one. If you try and reset it, you can't. There's a huge short somewhere, it's fucked.

I don't know. I've drifted away from people for doing that type of thing though. It's like the opposite of being an emotional sponge. They're like... emotional dish soap, and they don't understand that while just a dab is fine and can even be a bonding experience... squirting the whole bottle on just makes everything foam over and is a combination of a waste and a huge emotional mess to clean up or deal with.

The tinder thing and the 2am thing after it just reinforce my giant human sized gonads theory from above. But the venting thing is really the big red flag.

To be clear, i would accept this persons apology and just quit hanging out with them. Be polite if you see them in person randomly, and just not be bothered with them otherwise.
posted by emptythought at 12:36 AM on June 26, 2014 [7 favorites]

After a week, I'd leave things as they are. Contact will encourage more contact and it sounds like you two are not compatible. It sounds like the good outweighs the bad for you, and that's OK. You don't have to keep being friends with someone just because you know them.

Make some new friends. You tried this shirt on for size, and it didn't fit. It's OK to send it to Goodwill now.
posted by Solomon at 1:33 AM on June 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd let this so-called friendship fade; no need to do anything drastic, just stop making plans or calling her. You don't need this kind of self-centered narcissist in your life; it doesn't really MATTER why she blew you off or why she makes middle-of-the-night calls or texts, she just apparently feels the world is there only for her. Here's a thought: those highs and lows in her contact levels? I'll bet she has several friends she treats just like she treats you. An intense stretch of contact with you followed by a small fade, where she's being intense with Friend B; then she fades from B and moves on to C, eventually cycling back to you.

Fade out for good, or at the very least block her calls and texts every night --- you aren't required to be there every time she feels like venting, whether it's at 9pm or 2am. And if refusing to answer promptly when she demands attention ticks her off? So what!

Extra note: no, you DO NOT want this person living in your home!
posted by easily confused at 2:48 AM on June 26, 2014 [12 favorites]

It sounds like you're torn because she fills a certain role, that of the "fun friend". If you can keep her in that role and not expect her to be someone who understands your desire to connect with your heritage, for example, I say forgive but don't forget to lower your expectations. It sounds like you are struggling with that though... You don't sound like a person who can categorize people and "use them" the way she is using you. Which I applaud. It just makes things trickier.

You didn't mention your age, but this sounds like a 20-something transitional friendship? For what it's worth, I used to hang on to similar friendships... I had my "fun to shop with but narcissistic friends", my "deep and loyal but not very adventurous" friends... etc. Now that I am in my 30's and married, I have cleaned house a bit. I have held onto the deeper bonds and let go of the frivolous ones. You might be at a point in your life where you still want the fun frivolity, and if so, you need to decide whether this girl offers enough of the fun to cancel out the narcissism.

From the perspective of someone who doesn't have to make the choice, I must say that your friend sounds very selfish and immature. Did you become friends in a "there for her" situation, setting the stage for you as the giver, she as the taker? This can be a tough pattern to break, and maybe an impossible one. Even her apology sounds self serving, like she is fishing for you to forgive her and go back to being her therapist. It sounds to me like she is getting a lot more out of the friendship than you are. And as far as her hinting that your life is "depressing"... sounds like a miserable person wanting to bring you down. Maintaining a friendship with her will require a strong filtration system for you.

Bottom line: the fact that you are asking this tells me that you have the burden of being one of those thoughtful, sensitive, caring and authentic types. Your friend hurts you because you want a deeper connection. And you deserve one.
posted by hippychick at 4:44 AM on June 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've always kind of thought of myself as the person that would never really close my door to someone for good. But you know what? That was naive of me to think like that. What it comes down to, I've discovered, is some people will always use you for what they need without any or little thought of returning the favour. These are friends, that you do not need. They will exploit you. They will demand you be there for them but never be there for you in return.

What is a friend? Someone who will be there when you need them and someone you would be there for them when they need you. Of course there are exceptions and mis-timings to this. Your friend might be busy with their own drama when you need them and you'll have to forgive them this offense...at first...but if time after time, they are never there for you, drop them. If it's not a mutual respect, then why respect them? Humans are tribal in nature. We form tribes to help protect and watch out for each other. What is the benefit of supporting someone who doesn't support you back?

What is the point of loving someone who can't love you back?
posted by cicadaverse at 6:30 AM on June 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'd write back a short email. "I've received your email, and I appreciate your apology, that said, I think we're both moving in different directions."

Sign off nicely,

"I wish you the best"

And find someone who's more at your level in life and not so flaky.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:05 PM on June 26, 2014

She sounds very young and immature. You don't have to have a showdown with her telling her what a flaky, thoughtless person she is, just let the friendship drift away.

The very first thing you say about her is that you've known her for five years, which implies to me that you value loyalty very deeply, and that you expect a certain depth due to the length of time you've known her.

When I was in my early to mid twenties it counted for a lot, too, but over time ... well... time per se started to be less important than the connection and support I got from a person. I have some friends I've known for many years who are still really good to me and for me, and vice-versa, and I have other friends I've known for a little while who are equally supportive.

A person who really changed my attitude about this was a work friend who, on her first day of work, had a major health emergency. I can't be sure I would ever keep my cool the same way again, but her boss freaked out. I held her and kept her calm and called her an ambulance, then went to the hospital with her. That kind of experience tends to bond people very closely together, and we knew so much about each other very rapidly. But, when I took a new job - pfft - and moved to a part of LA where I knew no one - she was kind of like your friend. Very flaky towards me. And that happened with a few other friends in Southern Cal - you know, an hour's too far away for them to drive, but I'm supposed to go down and see them. Right.

The important thing is finding people you not only gel with, but who are not just takers. Even if you have a friend you like to gossip or have fun with, rather than have deep talks about deontology, spirituality or family history, that friend still has to be reciprocal.

I have a close friend who maybe, I only spend about a quarter of the time having "deep talks" with, and that's usually about our jobs. We watch TV or go to the movies with my husband, go con hopping, we've gone out to brunch or nightclubs. He's not into reading, there are a lot of things I'm into he could care less about. Everyone has to invite him places. But when I am holding a party or an event, he will run out and grab soda or food for me. He will spot me a drink or meal at the coffee shop or a restaurant, just like I'll do for him. Although he's nervous around animals he will come over and allow my cats to walk on him, or he'll hold the leash for one of my dogs. I give what I can give, but he understands what I can't give - he knows I am not a person to call to do a pub crawl with. But I also understand that what he gives me is giving - even if it's not in a form I might be prone to doing myself.
posted by mitschlag at 12:11 PM on June 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

You could accept the apology and remain agnostic on resuming the friendship for now. By this, I mean don't contact her for awhile or accept any invites, but leave the door open to possibly feeling differently in a few months or a year.

Not that you'd accept bad behavior, but that maybe you could learn not to bank on her to go with you to a movie that you really want to see, learn to diffuse conversations where you're relied on for support, and accept that this could be an acquaintanceship that opens the door to some fun activities but that any emotional investment on your end isn't a good idea.

I had a friend sort of like this in college. She was a good person to meet people through, but not very good on her own terms for reciprocity or anything emotional or deep. But she was still a good person for me to know because I wasn't deluded about her limitations as a person.
posted by alphanerd at 12:38 PM on June 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Next move: Thank her for her apology and go silent. If you have an iPhone (this may exist on other phones) schedule your "do not disturb" time so you're not woken up by random 2am texts (you can create a list that specifies which people can disturb you). Assign a silent ring tone to her number. Send all of her emails to auto archive.
posted by vivzan at 2:41 PM on June 27, 2014

You'b be perfectly within your rights to tell her it's too late and that bridge is already burned.
posted by xenophile at 11:58 AM on June 29, 2014

I always err on the side of kindness. You can accept her apology and then use your words to determine boundaries - even if they are the boundary of not wanting to be friends! It's so rare in this world to see an apology, to see self development; it should be applauded when it is seen. On your death bed I think you would prefer to remember having been kind, assertive and self caring.
posted by Mistress at 4:09 AM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

WOW, this is a post really full of stuff. I know it's old, but I wonder how it turned out? I think this 'friend' is not the kind of friend any of us would want. I wonder if it would be causing you some damage too.
posted by bananaskin at 10:57 PM on June 9, 2015

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