Old friendship coming to an end?
January 30, 2015 6:40 AM   Subscribe

Friend of 22 years out of touch/nonresposive and I feel kind of hurt. Does this seem like a friendship ending, or am I jumping to conclusions and being overly-anxious?

This has been bothering me in the back of my brain for the last month or so. The situation is this:

I have a friend that I have been friends with since elementary school. She is one of the few friends from my pre-college days that I am still in touch with - one out of maybe three at this point. I would say our friendship has never been terribly deep (I never would describe her as having been my best friend, for example), but still, she is a good, and old friend who I value a great deal and admire as a person.

I haven't lived in the town that I am from since high school, except for a period of about ten months once. However, I always see her when I go home, and hung out with her frequently during the ten month period when I did live there. We correspond occasionally/briefly during the times in between that.

Usually, I will shoot her a message a couple weeks before I am going to be home, and she'll respond and tell me if she's going to be around. This year, I did this a couple weeks before Christmas on her facebook wall. She didn't respond herself, but her husband did respond saying they were going to be out of town (out of the country, actually) this year, but would be back a certain number of days after the holiday. I wasn't sure if I was going to be around then, which I said in response.

When I did get home a day or two before the holiday, I sent her a private message to wish her a happy holiday and let her know that I was in fact going to overlap with her being in town by a couple of days. I didn't get a response to that, but the day after she got back, she called my parents' house where I was staying, apparently unaware that I was still there (I guess she hadn't read my message very carefully? She said she was just calling to way hi to my parents . . .). Anyway, I got on the phone with her and she offered to meet for some period that night. I was kind of busy that night so I deferred, but we made plans to meet the next day.

The next day came around, and I called her to solidify the plans. I called numerous times, and sent her a text message at one point. I never got a response. A day or two later, I was feeling kind of hurt and bewildered and I sent her an email to that effect, and asked why she had dropped out of communication. Never got a response to that, and that was about a month ago.

So, I have been feeling kind of hurt and bewildered continuously since then, just in the background of my day to day. I am not sure if this is a signal that she no longer wants to be friends, or if it is just that she was tired that day and maybe wanted to hang with her family (she has a two year old child, which I can believe would be pretty tiring). Our last correspondence before all this was when she sent me a sort of belated Christmas present last spring, and I had sent her a smaller present that I bought while traveling beforehand. We used to exchange gifts during the holidays, but I have been feeling like that would drop off - she made comments once or twice about how she doesn't really like gift giving. So I kind of worry that I was carrying on with that too long, or something.

I guess I find this especially vexing because I kind of dropped out of contact with my former best friend from elementary school a couple of years ago because she started being flakey in responding to my messages the year that I was living at home. I somewhat regret having dropped out of contact with her, just because I miss the friendship, and tried to get back in touch last year, but only had mixed success and decided again not to contact her while I was home this year. (Aside from feeling hurt by her flakiness, it was just getting emotionally tiring to never know if she was going to respond to me.) That whole situation has kind of consistently made me a bit sad, and I have mentioned it to the friend discussed above a couple of times, including when we spoke on the phone this year (she had seen my ex-best friend briefly recently and asked if I saw her this year while home). So I guess I just feel a little hurt that this friend is being flakey/non-responsive when she is aware that this kind of killed my friendship with the other woman.

Anyway, sorry for the long explanation, but I guess my question is: am I over-reacting? Should I just put her non-responsiveness down to her being busy, or should I take it as a signal that she's trying to back down on the friendship? I feel kind of hurt, to the extent that a part of me wants to write another message demanding an explanation (not actually seriously going to do this, just feel like I want to). This doesn't have any huge impact on my day to day, since we weren't close enough to be in contact all the time. But what do I do the next time I go home? Should I try contacting her? What should I say?
posted by thesnowyslaps to Human Relations (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I have a handful I've friends I've known for decades. In my experience those friendships ebb and flow - sometimes I'll see someone every week for a while, then drop off and maybe talk to them every month or two, then something will happen and we'll start hanging out together all the time again. It's not because of any conscious decision or malice on anyone's part, it just sort of happens. These things happen in friendships of that kind of length - times change and situations change, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. I wouldn't worry too much.
posted by Itaxpica at 6:47 AM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. This woman was your friend but now she is busy / doing a slow fade / french ghosting. You're both good people, but you have grown apart. Don't write a message demanding an explanation because tough shit, some life events just do not have neat closure. The next time you're in town don't contact her.
posted by Rob Rockets at 6:49 AM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]

I'd say that it's possible that the holidays and all the travel got to your friend. But it doesn't excuse her falling out of contact with you when you had plans to make plans.

But you're not the same kind of friends now that you were when you were kids. That's okay. You're no longer close. You're more distant. Moving away will do that. Celebrate what you once had, acknowledge it won't be the same, mourn it and move on. If she wants to reconnect, then great. If not, well, you had a good run.
posted by inturnaround at 6:52 AM on January 30, 2015

"I wasn't sure if I was going to be around then, which I said in response. "

"Anyway, I got on the phone with her and she offered to meet for some period that night. I was kind of busy that night so I deferred, but we made plans to meet the next day. "

Well, my reading was that both of you were busy, you were only in town for a couple of days overlapping with her, during a busy Christmas period. No plans were solidified. There was a lot of back and forth. Which is fine because that's just how life is. You are not her no 1 priority (you wouldn't commit to a firm date choosing her over your family), and neither did she put you as her no 1 priority (she messaged you to meet up but when things got kinda busy, she forgot to reply). That's okay. That's normal human behavior to put family over friends, especially over the holiday season aka. The Family Time.

The one thing you may have done wrong here is to do this: " A day or two later, I was feeling kind of hurt and bewildered and I sent her an email to that effect, and asked why she had dropped out of communication. "

Honestly, if I had somewhat close friends whom I only saw a couple of times a year, and who wasn't living in my home town, and who was only around during the holiday season, I'm not going to drop all my current priorities to see her. If I'm free and if we had agreed on a date and time in advance, then, yes, cool. But within the chaos that is Christmas, and a maybe flaky meeting, then, it'll be hard to meet up.

You are placing way too much emphasis on this friendship, and an email like yours would make me very uncomfortable. Too much drama. I can see why she may not want to respond to that. Take several steps back and chill out. Next time maybe commit to a firm date a week in advance - coffee on Saturday afternoon? Do not try to meet up during Christmas.
posted by moiraine at 6:58 AM on January 30, 2015 [14 favorites]

If I had to bail on a short visit with an old friendly acquaintance the day after extended holiday travel with a toddler, and got a big email about how hurtful that behavior was the next day, I might feel like that friend was putting a lot of emotional investment into a very casual friendship, and that might make me withdraw further.

For what it's worth, in similar situations, I haven't met up with a friend about a third of the time. Sometimes it's me, sometimes it's them, and it's rare that it's been part of a slow fade. It doesn't sound like part of a pattern yet. But based on what happened with your other friend, it sounds like this kind of behavior bothers you a lot more than it does me. In which case, it's okay to not initiate contact if lack of response is so hurtful to you.
posted by tchemgrrl at 6:59 AM on January 30, 2015 [8 favorites]

What Itaxpica said. I have friends that I've known for decades who periodically drop out of touch for months or years at a time. It has to do more with whatever is going on in their lives at the time than any kind of rejection. When they eventually reconnect, it's always a pleasant surprise.
posted by tdismukes at 7:03 AM on January 30, 2015

Having kids makes you socially awkward for a while (2-3 years in my experience). It's possible she doesn't want to be friends but more likely she just had a crises or is too exausted to be a good friend right now. Try: "Hey look sorry I missed you over the holdidays, hope everything's ok with you guys. Didn't mean to put too much pressure on you. Let's try again next time I'm in town! Luv ya, You". Don't expect a reply but next time you're in town reach out to both her and husband through email or text like nothing happened and try to see them.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:03 AM on January 30, 2015 [5 favorites]

I think your expectations and her expectations about this friendship are different. I think she saw this as a "nice if it happens, no big deal if not" visit, while you're putting a lot of emotional investment into her responses (or lack thereof).

Next time you guys are in the same town, definitely try to solidify some plans to get together, but do it with enough advance notice to commit to and then don't cancel on the day.
posted by xingcat at 7:06 AM on January 30, 2015

In my experience, this is how it goes with old friends. If it's even a little difficult to coordinate meeting up when someone is in town around the holidays, it's not going to happen. It's a busy time of year and it can be hard to find the energy to meet up with anyone. I personally also find it hard to get excited about meeting up with childhood friends, because we probably don't really have anything in common anymore (your situation might be different, though, given how long you've been in touch).

Having kids makes you socially awkward for a while (2-3 years in my experience). It's possible she doesn't want to be friends but more likely she just had a crises or is too exausted to be a good friend right now. = agreed. I'd give her space at the moment, and try reaching out again in a few months or before the next time you're going to be in town.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:06 AM on January 30, 2015

Let it go for now. Next time you're in town, ping her on Facebook like it never happened. There's a 50/50 chance you'll connect. If not, not.

I agree, that the butt-hurt email was a bit much. An appropriate note would have been, "Sorry we missed each other, I'll let you know the next time I'm in town."

This is not the kind of contact you put a lot of emotional energy into. It just isn't. I have facebook friends from high school, and if I happened to be in Arizona, all or some might want to get together for drinks. But I wouldn't put a bunch of feelings into it and if something came up, it wouldn't be a BFD.

So the big question is...what is REALLY wrong that this is taking over your life in such a big way? Are you putting a bunch of emotions into this because there are other friendships or relationships in your current life and your current location that aren't where you want them to be?
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:17 AM on January 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

As I read your question, I wondered when I was going to get to the part about your friend having young kids. And, sure enough, there it was, buried parenthetically in paragraph 7.

Give it a year or two; things will likely sort themselves out.
posted by Betelgeuse at 7:19 AM on January 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

Is there a reason that you have to decide right now if you're "still friends"? If you're not really in touch in between the times when you reconnect in your home town, why rush to solidify whether you're (a) not talking because the friendship is basically over, or (b) not talking because you only "correspond occasionally/briefly during the times in between" ? Let it rest for now, give it a couple of months, and ping her again.

Note, tell her you missed seeing her last trip home, but only tell her if you can do it without applying a guilt trip.
posted by aimedwander at 7:19 AM on January 30, 2015

She may have a Big Exhausting Problem in her life that she isn't telling you about because you just aren't that close. There's no way to guess if her motivation is anything more than travel and holidays and toddler (which sounds exhausting anyway).

Agreed with Ruthless Bunny that this may be affecting you strongly for other reasons?
posted by travertina at 7:32 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hey - so I wouldn't describe this as something that is "taking over my life." Like I said, it is just something that bothered me and has been in the back of my head now and again, which, I don't know, I feel like is potentially understandable?

Anyway, yeah the email was probably a little much and if I could go back I probably wouldn't have sent it (or would have waited a bit longer and sent something more casual). I think I do tend to be a bit over-sensitive about things sometimes, which is why I wanted some perspective (I do think it's at least a little understandable to feel at least a little hurt about someone flaking on plans and not bothering to follow up at all, though . . .)

Thanks for the feedback. Maybe I'll just contact her casually the next time I'm in town and see how that goes . . .
posted by thesnowyslaps at 8:01 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't think the friendship is over unless you want it to be. I'd step way back for a while, though, and send a friendly hello in a couple months and reassess from there. You may have to adjust your expectations of her. Friendships change, just because you didn't do the same exact things this year as you did last year doesn't mean she's not your friend anymore.

Although it is not the greatest friend-behavior to blow off plans, I can think of a million reasons (tired, depressed, irritable, jetlag, having a toddler, just not feeling it) that have nothing to do with not liking you anymore. And it sounds like you put a lot of pressure on her, which makes me want to hide even more if I'm feeling down.

I was feeling kind of hurt and bewildered and I sent her an email to that effect, and asked why she had dropped out of communication.
I wonder what you said in this email. It may have come off accusatory, scolding, melodramatic if you wrote it when you were hurt.
posted by kapers at 8:03 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've given up on two friends who would do things like this consistently. Similarly to you, over this summer I got in contact with one of my best friends from childhood who I hadn't spoken to in years because I was in town for a few weeks. At first she seemed very excited to catch up, but then on the day we planned to meet.... nothing. I texted her a few times to let her know my availability and ask her what she wanted to do. Nothing, and nothing since. It's frustrating and rude and of course part of you wants to demand an explanation.

If you want to keep this friendship, dial back your expectations and never expect an explanation. I think it's okay to have said, 'Hey I feel bad that I never heard from you yesterday, hope you and your family are okay.' This time. But next year, don't expect any more than you got this year. Depending on how much I was invested in this friend, I might message her to mention when I was going to be in hometown and wish her and her family happy holidays, but not take the initiative to suggest meeting up.
posted by wrabbit at 8:05 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just checking: any chance she's in an abusive relationship? She doesn't reply on FB, he does. She calls and offers that night (maybe he was out of the house), then can't get away from him the next day to cancel? It's a long shot, I know.
posted by salvia at 8:37 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

You don't have enough information on what's going on in her life to say if this has anything to do with you, so... assume it doesn't. If it were a more prolonged pattern of behavior, different story. Shoot her a message next time you're in town, and see what happens.

It's okay to be a little hurt, as long as you remember that for right now, the safest assumption is that it's probably not about you.
posted by deludingmyself at 9:17 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have some friends I've kept in touch with over a span of 40+ years. These are the people I'd call if I needed help moving a body (as the old joke goes). But we all "go dark" sometimes. The nice thing is that, with good long-term friends, we don't really notice the gaps.

The only thing about this situation that is a bit 'off' to me is that, given how infrequently we get to see each other, if there's a chance to meet up in person, we'll tend to treat it as a high priority item, and go to some serious effort just for the chance to sit and shoot the bull at a coffee shop for an hour. Not really sure if that applies here or not, though.

If it was me, I think I'd call her and not make a big deal out of it, but just say "hey, I wanted say hi - am sorry we didn't get to meet up last time". See where it goes from there.

And if that doesn't work - I'd probably just wait and hope. If it takes her a year to surface, well ... That's one of the unique things about long-term friends.
posted by doctor tough love at 9:26 AM on January 30, 2015

If you miss her friendship, no matter how intermittently you both get opportunity to express it, by all means keep reaching out. Make sure she knows you're there when her circumstances let her get back to you. It can be a good thing, just knowing that your friend is there and ready to pick up where you left off.

I don't mean to be dramatic, but I just lost a very good friend of mine from my hometown. He passed away after a surprising, sudden, brief illness. He'd sort of self-isolated with his partner for the last few years and became hard to reach, but he called me a couple months ago out of the blue. It was so good to talk to him. I wish I had taken better advantage of his reawakened interest in talking in the time since. It's trite to remind a person that life is short, but it's not an unwelcome reminder to help put our petty concerns to bed and live in the moment with your ever-evolving relationships.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:49 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Yes, she flaked out, but it sounds like you have little idea what's going on in her life - she might be going through some major life stresses. She might have a really good reason why she missed all your messages and didn't show that day, but then you sent the hurt email and she felt like you didn't give her a chance to explain and now she is hurt too. I don't know but I wouldn't write her off over this without actually speaking to her about it, if you care about her.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:54 AM on January 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

I read somewhere, I think Dr Nerdlove, about the rule of three. Reach out three times, make plans 3 times, etc. If, after the third time, you get no luck and/or response, move on. The "three times" gets altered to "about two hundred times" when the other person has small children. Those things are exhausting and all other priorities get rescinded. it's unpleasant to be the person on the receiving end, but that's life. You being upset at a friend's flakiness doesn't mean that this friend shouldn't be flaky either, especially

The worst thing to do if someone is fading away is to amp up the pressure to connect. It will have the opposite effect, with the pressure pushing the other person away, rather than drawing them closer. If people want to stay in contact, they will, and if they don't, then you can't make them.

Right now, I think you should look into developing some new friendships. Have enough so that one person fading in or out doesn't cause more than a blip on your radar. If you need a particular kind of connection with someone, that's cool. Get out there and make that kind of connection. Don't sit at home wishing things were different. Use that time and energy to meet some new people you gel with. To me, that sounds better than mourning a breakup.
posted by Solomon at 1:01 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

A day or two later, I was feeling kind of hurt and bewildered and I sent her an email to that effect, and asked why she had dropped out of communication. Never got a response to that, and that was about a month ago.

I think she ceased contact because of your dramatic reaction. This is exactly what I do when I feel that someone has too much emotional baggage for me to handle.

You should stop contacting her and if she contacts you someday and even if you manage somehow to rekindle the friendship, don't ever mention what happened during last Christmas.
posted by Kwadeng at 10:23 PM on January 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

I have to disagree with those who are saying she's probably just busy. She's definitely just not interested. Yes, it's possible to be too busy to meet up, but no one is to busy to RESPOND to a message or text for a quick update. People who claim to be too busy to do this just don't want to tell you they're not interested. Her reasons may have something to do with you, but probably not. There are people that I cut off for reasons that had nothing to do with them. For example: If they happened to remind me of a time in my life when I was feeling particularly bad about things.

I wouldn't waste much more time on this one. If she decides to reconnect later on (assuming it's not AFTER she finds out you win the lottery or something) then you can go ahead and reconnect if you like. But relationships are a two way street and it doesn't matter how hard you try to maintain one if the other person won't even bother to write 12 characters and press send.
posted by manderin at 2:02 AM on February 16, 2015

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