You secretly hate me, don't you?
December 8, 2005 5:00 PM   Subscribe

How do I get over my shame at not staying in touch?

I was friends with a number of people in college. When I moved to New York after I graduated, a lot of them moved here too. But I'm not friends with any of them anymore, partially because I'm bad at staying in touch with people and partially (I think) because they didn't want to stay in touch anymore. I know the second is the case, because I ran into a few and--it was clear. This was all four or five years ago. I don't really know anyone from growing up, because we moved alot.

I have other friends now, people who I like alot. And I have an SO, and I am very busy, so it isn't that I'm lonely. Plus, I'm pretty different than I was then. But everytime I think of this situation, I feel like I am a bad person. And when I do make friends with people, I feel like I am just waiting for them to discover they really hate me. And I wonder whether I wasted what is the best time to make friends.

Other than this, things in my life are great. But it's driving me nuts. So what would you do, other than go to a therapist which isn't possible for lots of reasons.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Don't feel like a bad person, Anonymous. I'm in a very similar situation to you- a lot of people from my high school have moved up here. But I'm very much in the The Past is The Past camp. It's not that I hate them; it's just that we had that one thing in common, and now we don't have it in common anymore, so why push being friends just because we used to be? I don't know, it's definitely weird, but I wouldn't beat yourself up.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:13 PM on December 8, 2005 [1 favorite]

You are not a bad person. People just drift apart. It happens to everyone.

If you feel ashamed about not keeping in touch with your old friends, why not drop them an email or give them a call? (The first option is much easier and "safer," of course.) I absolutely love it when my old friends contact me out of the blue - few things make me happier, in fact. I try to do this myself, as well, and it's led to a number of rekindled friendships.

The thing is that most people, as they get older, really tend to mellow out. Even if you had an acrimonious split with a friend, chances are that said friend has gotten over it by now. If not, well, too bad for them (you can never have too many friends, I believe), and good for you for making a good-faith effort.

Perhaps, if you tried this, you'd get over some of the bad feelings you associate with friendships that have fallen by the wayside. It's a relatively painless and quite proactive way to deal with this issue.
posted by Dr. Wu at 5:18 PM on December 8, 2005

Wow, that's a pretty complicated question. I, too, have lost touch with a lot of my former friends (mostly because I'm bad at corresponding by email, phone, and letter). I feel a tinge of regret at not being close to them, but I don't feel ashamed or that they don't like me (that's a pretty bold statement that, IMO, indicates the need for professional help).

I personally would exercise some cognitive techniques to replace destructive thoughts ("All of my friends will eventually hate me") with constructive thoughts ("I'll enjoy and cherish the time I spend with everyone on this earth"). These techniques generally involve liquor, so that's probably not the best solution.
posted by muddgirl at 5:22 PM on December 8, 2005

This really does happen to everybody, some time or another. There is no reason you should be feeling so much shame about it at all. Even if you were very diligent about it, with the phone calls or emails or meetups in bars and what not, you'd still shake a few old friends loose through the normal attrition that just happens with life, when you go out into the world. Plus, it takes two to keep in touch. You have not done anything wrong.

I think the only thing you can do is appreciate the friends you have at any given moment, and of course work on your friendships, but don't agonize over the past and beat yourself up over things that are done. If you think you could be better at staying in touch with people, then start now on the friends you still have.
posted by contessa at 5:28 PM on December 8, 2005

Get a livejournal or similar, link them, then it becomes their fault if they're not up to date with your life and in touch. (Ok, this is completely wrong, and in a few years, standards of ettiquete will probably catch up, but for the time being, having a blog of some sort can, in some circles, be a get-out-jail-free card for this problem.

Also, if they blog too, and you link, it really actually does keep you in touch, without any effort on your part. In this instance, it's a surprisingly powerful solution, albeit it seems kinda wrong :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 5:31 PM on December 8, 2005

Christmas Holiday cards, just like everyone else...
posted by mimi at 6:03 PM on December 8, 2005

When you say that you ran into old friends and it was clear they weren't interested in staying in touch, it may not have been anything personal about you. Like previous posters have said, it may just be that the only thing you really had in common with them was that you were in the same place at the same time.

A lot of times when I see people I used to know, it's kind of neat to see them again for about five minutes until I realize I really don't know them anymore. I know who they were, but after a few years of not talking to them, they're not that person anymore and... it can be kind of weird.
posted by clarahamster at 6:03 PM on December 8, 2005

(sorry, hit post instead of preview and i wanted to add this)

Also, for keeping in touch with current friends in the future, is there some method of communication that works better than others for you? For instance, I don't like the telephone and I have a bad habit of intending to reply to emails but forgetting, but instant messaging works like a charm. (There are even some people from college who I know better now after a few years of occasional chatting online than I ever knew back then.)
posted by clarahamster at 6:08 PM on December 8, 2005

everytime I think of this situation, I feel like I am a bad person. And when I do make friends with people, I feel like I am just waiting for them to discover they really hate me. And I wonder whether I wasted what is the best time to make friends.

I would re-examine the obstacles to therapy. You have nothing to feel bad about and all the good things in your life point to you being a likeable person and valuable friend. But nothing you read on a message board from people you don't know is likely to adequately prove that to you.
posted by Marnie at 6:28 PM on December 8, 2005

I use instant messaging to stay in touch with some old friends, but most of them I have lost touch with. Does it matter that much? You've changed a lot; you probably won't have that much to talk about; it'll just be awkward and a chore. Go with the flow, I say.
posted by lpctstr; at 7:35 PM on December 8, 2005

Umm. Why are you bothered by this?

People you don't put the effort into seeing and who don't put the effort into seeing you are not seeing each other much. You saw them and it was awkward.

Relax, don't stress and enjoy the friends you do have and your SO.

And really, maybe even forget why this bothers you. Maybe you're worried about this from some strange feeling of guilt that really just needs to be excised. People grow apart. Friendships are sometimes more the result of geography and time than anything else. There's nothing wrong with you, them or the situation, it just happens. Or, if there are some of them you really do want to see then call them and go get a meal together or something.
posted by sien at 7:44 PM on December 8, 2005

And when I do make friends with people, I feel like I am just waiting for them to discover they really hate me.

This seems like a much more significant problem than awkwardness toward those you've fallen out of touch with. If you genuinely feel this way toward everyone you meet, then there's a more serious problem to address: self esteem.

I believe you when you say that your life is basically good. So you know what? Give yourself a break. I used to worry, too, about the friends I'd let go of (either through negligence or conscious choice). How will I live without them! But as time moves on and you grow older, you realize that your life will continue to provide friendships and relationships of depth and quality. Some you lose, some you keep.

Many interpersonal relationships are meant to end. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end. This doesn't make you a bad person. It makes you alive. You are hurtling forward through volumes of time you never even imagined possible as a child: years that pass in the blink of an eye and decade that slip by in the space it takes to sneeze. You are probably moving around geographically, like everyone does. And you are going through changes.

The fact that some people are no longer actively in your life is as much a sign of your social success as anything. You get around. You've been on the move. Again: you're not evil. That's life.

And I wonder whether I wasted what is the best time to make friends.

The phrasing here is vague so I'm not sure I'm getting you, but you seem to be saying that you feel sometimes you're too old to make friends. This is never true. Period. Making friends is about being available emotionally. If you find it harder to bond with people it's probably because you have folded into yourself, worrying about things like people hating you for not staying in touch. Blossom. Retain an outward motion at all times and you will find friends in the unlikeliest places. It doesn't take years to make a friend. It takes about half an hour. Honestly.

As for how to get back in touch with people... first of all, let the shame go. Get over it, in a few words. Thinking that people hate you for not calling is arrogant: you presume they're thinking about you :) And it's unfair to you. Have THEY called? Not always, no.

My general approach to this kind of thing resembles walking into a room drunk and hugging someone:

"Hey! How the hell are you?! Haven't seen you in FOREVER!!"

This tends to work. It lets people know right off the bat that you still like them. And it puts all blame off the table. Because really, it's just the passage of time and the lonliness of distance.
posted by scarabic at 8:20 PM on December 8, 2005

I have other friends now, people who I like alot. And I have an SO, and I am very busy

Just a gentle reminder: this is a sweet place to be in life.

Go through your soul-search on this issue, wrack your brain, go on a bender or two, spill your guts online. And then get back to your awesome life.
posted by scarabic at 8:24 PM on December 8, 2005


You know, it's a two way street right. They didn't keep in touch either. If you get together/are friend with them have to become friends have the history to make it easier. that's all.
posted by filmgeek at 8:53 PM on December 8, 2005

I have a lot of friends who used to be close who still live in the same city that I don't speak to anymore and I have other friends who have moved 5 states away that I keep in touch with a couple of times a week. When you are young you have a ton of interests and a ton of reasons to keep as many friends as possible. As you age and get into serious relationships your interests tend to narrow and get more focused - all those reasons you needed all those friends (something to do on weekends, someone to relate to about your ennui) all become superfluous and some friends grow with you while others (many others) just stagnate. I just got tire of having the same conversations over and over so I just moved on. They weren't bad people we just grew apart. I see them every once in a while and immediately think to myself that we should rekindle our relationship, but then 30 minutes in we are back in that old rut with the same old same old. Life's just too short for that kind of monotony.
posted by any major dude at 9:36 PM on December 8, 2005

You don't particularly want to see them, and they don't particularly want to see you. Neither side has beaten down the door to keep in touch with the other. Both parties seem to be fine with that. People change, friendships come and go. It's nothing to get worked up over.

Just because the friendship is over doesn't mean the time spent in the past was wasted. It's only wasted if it was not enjoyable then, which it would seem is not the case.

Take a deep breath, relax. Enjoy your current life.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:01 PM on December 8, 2005

As Thomas Jones said "Friends may come and go, but enemies accumulate."

It's natural for many of your friendships to drift apart partially or entirely as you and your life change. It's not bad, it simply is.

Most people I know can count their close, lifelong friends on a single hand, with fingers to spare.
posted by I Love Tacos at 10:43 PM on December 8, 2005


there were times in my life that i didn't stay in touch with people i knew and cared about because i didn't want them to see me so lost.

so really - keep in mind that the fact that someone doesn't want to stay in touch doesn't necessarily mean something about you.
posted by mirileh at 2:54 AM on December 9, 2005

The only person who seems to have grasped why anon posted this is scarabic. This isn't about losing touch with people, which we all do, it's about "when I do make friends with people, I feel like I am just waiting for them to discover they really hate me." I second Marnie's suggestion to "re-examine the obstacles to therapy." When you say it "isn't possible for lots of reasons," what I'm hearing is "I hate the idea of therapy." I know how you feel, but think about whether you really want to go on feeling this way. I'm no great fan of therapy in general, but this seems like the sort of specific problem it might help with. Being told "Just get over it!" by strangers on MeFi isn't going to do the trick.
posted by languagehat at 6:37 AM on December 9, 2005

When you want to stop thinking something, just stop.

When you want to start doing something, just do it.

Don't over think. When you find yourself thinking something you don't want to think, say "Stop" outloud and then stop.

If you want to pick up the phone, just pick it up. What makes it hard is thinking that it is.
posted by ewkpates at 9:51 AM on December 9, 2005

I'm part of the two-way street brigade. Perhaps they're feeling the same "shame" you are.

But really, it doesn't sound like you want to see them more than you care that they think you "abandoned" them - but if they cared, they'd have probably called already.
posted by heartquake at 11:42 AM on December 9, 2005

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