Suddenly dumped by a friend--how to move on
January 18, 2017 11:18 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday, a friend explicitly dumped me. It was completely out of the blue, and not over something I'd ever expect to end a friendship. While I can accept losing her, the hard thing is worrying that all of my other friendships are constantly at risk. What's helped you in situations like this?

As I said, there was no warning this friendship was in danger (we weren't all that close, but do have years of casual friendship history). When she made the decision to dump me, there was no discussion or conversation: I was just informed of my new status. Since we weren't super-close, losing her friendship is not the hardest part of this.

What is the hardest part is that since this happened yesterday, I've been nervous during every interaction, both online and in person, that even my most trusted friendships could also end so suddenly and without having a chance to talk about it. It's hard enough for me to make friends based on where I live, and now I worry that I'll carry this baggage into every potential new friendship. Or that I'll make an effort to be a friend, only to be blindsided like this again.

If you've gone through something similar, is there anything (aside from time, which I know will help) that helped you heal and lick your wounds and go on making friends and being a friend? Do you think it permanently damaged your outlook on friendships or your ability to make friends?
posted by mermaidcafe to Human Relations (24 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm sorry that happened to you. I went through something similar-ish a few years ago - I abruptly lost several friends due to something that started as a minor misunderstanding and exploded into, well, extreme hurt feelings and anger. To be honest, I am still struggling with the aftermath because of knowing that it started as a misunderstanding and that nothing I said could have (or possibly would have) reversed that.

The main thing that has helped me through it is talking about it with my remaining close friends and realizing that these lost friendships were so fragile that maybe they weren't meant to last the test of time after all. Maybe it was for the best, even though it still hurts. Maybe they didn't really have my best interests at heart after all. Unfortunately none of these have really made me feel better about my own ability to be a lasting friend, it's just made me realize that nothing is permanent and that I should enjoy what I have while it's good.
posted by joan_holloway at 11:34 AM on January 18, 2017 [10 favorites]

there was no discussion or conversation: I was just informed of my new status

Yeah dude idk about this. No precipitating event, no discussion, just an "FYI we're not friends anymore" sounds to me like either you make a habit of wildly overstepping some boundary of contact or this one particular person likes to stir shit up.

So were I in your shoes, I would consider my level of contact with friends and acquaintances. Am I sending lots of texts/emails/phone calls that don't get reciprocated? Am I liking and commenting on every facebook post? Am I oversharing or emotionally burdening people who don't choose to have that level of intimacy with me? Friendly conversation has give and take, and if you are a heavy contact person with a friend who is a light contact person, that can be a source of friction. As a light contact person, heavy contact people can be a source of stress for me and a reason to take a step back from the friendship.

But if you assess things and decide that no, you are able to read the room and maintain a healthy equilibrium of contact with your friends and acquaintances, then the only thing I would worry about is how many other friends I have with a penchant for drama.
posted by phunniemee at 11:38 AM on January 18, 2017 [41 favorites]

I'm a little unclear from your question whether you actually do know of some reason why this happened, but just disagree with it and wanted to discuss it more, or whether you are really 100% totally and completely in the dark about what is going on here.

If there is some reason here, then I think it's worth doing some thinking (and/or chatting with a trusted close friend or two) about whether this was a weird quirk or personality clash, or whether there is something you did that you could avoid in the future (like overstepping boundaries, not reading social cues, etc.) I've had one pretty painful friend break-up, but if I'm honest with myself looking back on the situation, I can see that my behavior definitely contributed to the situation and I've learned to deal better with conflict since then (part of this has just been growing up a little), etc. So, you might do some thinking about whether there is any learning/growing experience here that you can turn into a positive change moving forward. Or, her reason might be "I really want friends who will listen to me complain about my job for hours at a time, and you're not willing to do that," and you could decide that actually you guys weren't really a good friends match.

If there's absolutely no reason given or that you can think of, then honestly this could just as easily be "Ex-Friend is going through some mental health stuff or has an abusive partner who is trying to isolate her." Like, it might literally be nothing to do with you! So, I think you can't let yourself obsess over it in that case. Like yes, your other friends COULD one day totally randomly and without warning decide they hate you. But also they could all die in a plane crash or get Ebola. Tons of bad things could randomly happen, but since they are a) unlikely and b) not personally preventable, it does not make sense to spend a lot of emotional energy worrying about it.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:51 AM on January 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

I witnessed a similar similar event close-up. Someone very close to me was "dumped" by a friend for not being social enough. The dumpee continued on as friends with almost everyone else in that friend group. I think she reached out to them socially shortly after the event, not to talk about the dumper or the dumping, just to test the waters of friendship. It turned out the dumper did the same to several other people. It seemed very juvenile of the dumper, to me.
posted by Cranialtorque at 11:54 AM on January 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Just to clarify, there was an inciting incident, just not something I'd expect to end a friendship. I didn't include details because my question is not about if the incident was actually big or small or what I did. My question is about how to move on without paranoia. I don't feel that dissecting the thing that has caused my current paranoia has potential to help me.
posted by mermaidcafe at 12:04 PM on January 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

The way you move on without paranoia is by honestly assessing whether or not there's something about your behavior that caused it. If so, you can work on that behavior. If not, you're free and clear.

Refusing to do the honest assessment... I'm really not sure how you move on then, other than (potentially) lying to yourself, about yourself.
posted by danny the boy at 12:17 PM on January 18, 2017 [33 favorites]

I trust that you've thought about what happened but, really, the only way to assuage your paranoia is to determine whether it's warranted.

Was the incident something you'd likely repeat with other friends? If so, change your behavior. If not, you're probably safe calling it a one off.
posted by lydhre at 12:20 PM on January 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Folks, maybe take it that the suggestion to do postmortem has been made, and from here on, stick to more positive "if you've been in this situation, what helped you".
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:24 PM on January 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Your friend did you the favor of letting you know what was up between you. Would it be better if she had decided she was done without letting you know and just stopped responding for no reason? I've had that happen to me and I found the paranoia of that just as horrible. Why isn't she responding? Is she just busy? Is she depressed? Have I been dumped? If she's just depressed or busy I should keep trying but what if she just doesn't like me? Am I being some kind of delusional idiot who's not picking up what I should be picking up? Does anyone actually like me? I don't know?? You don't have to wonder about any of that now - you're free. Free to go forth trusting that your friends like you and people who you don't click with will tell you the truth instead of stringing you along.
Any relationship can come to a sudden end - that's just a part of life. It's better to know the truth about a relationship than be in the dark.
posted by bleep at 12:27 PM on January 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

other than (potentially) lying to yourself, about yourself.

Or you don't move on because you've inappropriately generalized from a very specific scenario/dynamic to all friendships and end up cutting off future ones because of a self-fulfilling prophecy...

I was once very disappointed by a friend who decided to permanently absent herself from our friendship. (I wasn't fired explicitly, but there was a hard fade. It was especially hurtful because I was in a low place at the time - had moved back to town after a very difficult period, and had been sort of counting on her support, which she'd generously and voluntarily offered right up until I said I was moving back.) I did temporarily feel bereft and friendless (as I say, it was a bad time, I was pretty alone).

Until I remembered that this person had herself disappeared from friendships with other people for months or years at a time, and that her reasons for doing so were equally nebulous to everyone this happened to. (And, that many years ago, her bf confessed to a totally fucking weird crush on me (which wasn't reciprocated, like at all, in fact I was perplexed by her [or anyone's] decision to even consider dating him, but this rando attachment was of course still hurtful to her. Maybe she was over it - one would have hoped so after all that time - maybe she wasn't.) And, I figured, maybe she had her own stuff going on and/or felt unable to provide the support I was implicitly but obviously asking for.) So after I got over the sting of it, I decided it was a little bit me, but probably mostly her, and this did not affect other friendships. I reached out to other people, who were able to be there (and weren't put off). Mourned the loss of what I'd thought was a kindred spirit, but figured it might not have been that wonderful for her after all, or if it was, that things had changed enough to make other priorities/people more important to her. And that consequently, I should make other things/people more important to me, too.

I had to really look at the thing, though.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:40 PM on January 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I got friend-dumped at a low point in my life. Former friend exploded about how I obviously didn't respect her, yadda, yadda, and described behaviors that are all symptoms of my depression. Ex-friend had zero interest in hearing what I had to say.

It was me, in that, yes, I was depressed, for Reasons, struggling with Stuff, like having a son in the Army, in combat (Afghanistan, he came home safely), and a sibling who had just died, etc. People who are depressed are less fun and cool. In retrospect, I miss having that person to go to movies with, and other stuff, but fair-weather friends are just that. I was there for her when she was divorcing and depressed. Sucks that she couldn't be there for me.

Healthiest option is to make sure you aren't being a jerk, then recognize that you are a real and wonderful person who doesn't deserve explicit friend-dumpage from a not-close friend, and that people enter and leave your life on their own trajectories, and it's just the way of things.
posted by theora55 at 1:04 PM on January 18, 2017 [12 favorites]

I had a similar thing happen about a year ago; a former friend dumped (actually, ghosted) me without warning over something that was definitely a mistake on my part, but not one I'd consider friendship-ending. This person and I had a bunch of mutual friends, and it definitely made me paranoid for a while. I got through it, and have come out the other end stronger (and with stronger friendships), by doing my best not to make anyone feel like they have to choose between me and the other person. Here are some of the specific steps I took:

1) Being honest with the mutual friends that this had happened, and being open about my confusion and paranoia.

2) Not expecting or asking them to be a conduit of information between me and the other person, and explicitly saying that I did not have that expectation.

3) Reiterating my values of open communication, especially that I appreciate being given an opportunity to own up to / apologize / fix my mistakes.

4) Letting mutual friends know that I understood this situation could make some social gatherings awkward, and that I trusted their judgement in terms of the best approach to take. I said that I would happily attend events where the other person would be present, and would do my best to welcome the other person / not to make them feel uncomfortable, the same way I would for any other guest of the host. I also said that I'd understand if the hosts thought it would be better not to invite me to certain group events, and if that was the case, hoped we could find some one-on-one time to continue our friendships.

5) If I needed to talk through my feelings on any given day, I did it with a person who was NOT part of the mutual friend circle.

Let me tell you, some of these were REALLY HARD, in particular #2 and #4. Of course I wanted to know what had happened and for my friends to take my side! Of course I didn't want to be left out of group events! But I also recognized that would be inappropriately putting the emotional labor burden on my friends. Whatever happened between me and the other person wasn't their fault, or their problem.

In the short term it was incredibly hard, but a year later I'm still friends with everybody from the circle. The other person? At this point they have alienated most / all of our mutual friends, under similar circumstances.

(There have definitely been times when I've wanted to do a little "I WON, YOU SUCK" dance.)

(Which is completely immature but oh-so-satisfying.)

posted by zebra at 1:05 PM on January 18, 2017 [16 favorites]

Are you like all your friends? Do you dump people for the same reasons they do?

I'm betting not. I would remember that each of your friends is a unique individual and it's very unlikely all your friends will dump you for something, even if you did that something to all of them (and I am guessing that is not the case.) The worst case scenario that everyone secretly hates you is really, really unlikely.

Also, I've been a terrible friend and not been dumped. I've been a good friend and lost a person over things I didn't think were rational. A lot of this is where the other person is. Who you are right now is okay as long as you are behaving in a generally ethical manner. It is okay. Deep breaths.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:14 PM on January 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: The way I would look at this to try to make myself less paranoid about it happening again in future is that it is an extremely weird set of circumstances, and as a result says much more about the person who you were not-especially-close friends with than it does about you. I have made a fair number of friends, and I've grown apart from a fair number of friends, but I have never had somebody basically cold-call me to say things were over. I've never had any inkling of trying it myself, either. I would be surprised, based only on what you've told us, if you're the only time they've pulled this on somebody.

If you become friends with this one person again, you might justifiably worry about it happening again, because it's an established character trait. But the vast majority of possible friends out there deal with small slights or perceived differences in a way that doesn't lead to this kind of bolt-from-the-blue ending to things, even when the friendship goes south, and as a result I wouldn't worry about this happening again.
posted by Polycarp at 1:18 PM on January 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

It's really hard that that happened to you. I'm going to take a different perspective on this - I had to dump a friend a few years back because of an incident that I have no doubt seems minor to her but was indicative of ongoing issues she was having coping with her life and mental health condition and what her expectations were of me as a friend. I think other people are making good points about heavy contact vs light contact people, but another option is that one or both of you have mental health issues or possibly she tends toward the dramatic and likes to stir things up. Take an accounting of your mental health and consider talking to a therapist about how to process this.
posted by bile and syntax at 1:30 PM on January 18, 2017 [11 favorites]

I'm a stranger on the internet so it's super possible that your former friend is a crazy person and did this for no reason or just to hurt you but here is my story...

So this exact situation happened with my 3 very good friends a few weeks ago and we are all still living in the aftermath. Very much like what Bile wrote, one friend is a difficult person; Things are never quite good enough, her problems are just a bit bigger than yours, her needs just a bit more important. Her personality is huge and fills the room. She also has a few medium ongoing health issues that somehow are always being discussed (everyone who meets her within 30 mins knows just how many surgeries she's had on her wrists etc..). On the other hand she can be a super fun and caring person. She's always up for hanging out, getting a pedicure etc.

Another friend came to the realization that she found all her interactions with this person draining. There wasn't one big thing that happened, more of "I don't actually enjoy spending time with her"... she tried the slow fade out but the Difficult Friend would have none of it, she kept asking "what's going on? Let's get together etc..." finally the other friend had to write a letter outlining the total friend break up as the difficult friend couldn't hear or read the social cues. The third friend pretty much pulled the mefi beloved "it won't be possible" for almost all interactions with the difficult friend and managed to slightly more successfully slow fade...

I am still very close with all three of these women which is very difficult. But I totally understand that difficult friend is difficult (and likely has some mental health difficulties that add to her being difficult).

Is it possible that perhaps you could be a bit like my difficult friend? Were you the one who reached out the most to get together? Have you been leaning on your friends for support for a while? Months? Do you have a regular therapist or were your friends perhaps filling that role? Do you have continuing health, relationship, work issues that just don't get better?

I'm not sure what it will take to get past this. I'm still friends with my difficult friend. I've had some honest but kind conversations with her. My goal to encourage her to start a therapeutic relationship. She's never experienced the "friend break up" before but I know that she leaves many people in her wake feeling as my other friends do but manage to limit their exposure.
posted by saradarlin at 3:12 PM on January 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

Best answer: What is the hardest part is that since this happened yesterday, I've been nervous during every interaction, both online and in person, that even my most trusted friendships could also end so suddenly and without having a chance to talk about it.

The way you're able to get blindsided like this, 99 times out of 100, is that you really aren't in touch with this person enough to know what's going on and to be aware that things are on unstable footing. Your most trusted friendships? You have that contact. The one big risk factor for this was present in the one case, and is not present in the friendships that you most want to preserve. The way you protect yourself from it happening is just to continue to stay in contact with the people you care about, which shouldn't be a huge challenge. New friends, yes, could go this way--but only at the stage where you're not that close yet. It still kind of sucks at that point, but not the way it'd wound with a close friend.

There's no way to make friendship completely safe, but close friends are never anywhere nearly as risky as people you like but don't actually know that well. More social contact with people is actually the best way to keep yourself safe from this sort of thing happening, or at least keep a good safety net of emotional support so that any individual loss will be felt less keenly.
posted by Sequence at 3:51 PM on January 18, 2017

Best answer: I won't get into the details but this has happened to me as well. Like you, there was "a reason" my friend suddenly decided to end our friendship but I still don't understand why it was serious enough for her to do so.

It's been almost nine years now and I still think about it occasionally. And I still don't get it. Maybe there were other things about me that she didn't like and that final "reason" was just the last straw for her? Or maybe in her mind that "reason" was simply inexcusable? Maybe she was going through a difficult time in her life and was acting like that to everyone around her? I don't know and never will.

I don't have many friends because I'm not very social, but I value the few I have so losing her really hurt at the time and still does in a way. I've drifted away from other friends in the meantime as well, but not nearly as drastically as that one person, so I'd like to think that our breakup was due to something about her and not about me.

But at this age (I'm in my late 40s), and as someone who works from home and doesn't meet new people very often anymore, it's hard to tell if I have some kind of major character flaw that annoy people for some reason. I only have a few longstanding friendships (as in people I've known since university or before) and I'm not sure if that's because of me or because of life in general.

I'm sorry this happened to you. I know it hurts now, but like I said, in my case it's been nine years and none of my other friends or the people I've met since then have done anything remotely like that former friend. I find it's just so much easier to maintain a mindset along the lines of "Well, maybe there's something about me that you don't like but I think you're pretty cool and like you so there!" than to constantly worry about what some other person thinks of me.

I hope you feel better.
posted by misozaki at 4:17 PM on January 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Well, if you're feeling really paranoid then I don't know how you can start to dispel it other than by taking a cold hard look at what happened. I can think of one friend break up where I felt that certain allegations were unjust, but there was no denying that I had made mistakes and been a jerk. Some friend break ups come out of the blue but more often than not there are two things at play:

Did you make a mistake? Maybe whatever happened wouldn't be a big deal to most people but it was a sore spot for your friend because of cultural or personal factors. Maybe she was already going through a tough time and she took things harder than usual.

Were you a jerk? Maybe you don't think whatever happened was a big deal but most people would. Maybe you've been engaging in low level jerk behavior (causing drama, self centered, whatever) and your friend had already decided to distance herself from you. Maybe it was just the straw that broke the camel's back.

When that friend broke up with me I had to face uncomfortable truths about how I was behaving badly in certain situations. I made changes because I never wanted to lose a friend over it again. This might not be warranted in your case at all and I'm certainly not endorsing obsessing over things, but you might as well rule out some factors in what happened. Do you have a trusted friend whom you could get some outside perspective from? I think being open about your paranoia might be the best remedy. If there is something going on then it's an opportunity for them to kindly break it to you, hopefully.
posted by fox problems at 5:01 PM on January 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Look, anyone can dump you at any time. Your friends, your SO, even family members can end up dumping you cold at any second for any reason. Or they die. That's just life. You never know. And god knows I've been friend dumped many a time and oft. Sometimes I deserved it, sometimes I don't think I did and I've racked my brains for years trying to figure out what I did wrong and I'll never know. It all boils down to "shit happens." And sometimes it's not even about you, it's about someone else's issues or their pinning their shit undeservedly on you.

But at the same time, everyone's different. Just because one friend dumps you doesn't mean they all will. Hell, I've had plenty of friend dumpings and I still have a lot of them around and some folks are still talking to me even after moving away. Not everyone is going to pull this shit like your ex-friend did. Most people won't.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:18 PM on January 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

Happened to me, too. I think the one thing you can take from these answers are that it's never easy, you don't always get over it, it hurts for a long time. I just had a dinner conversation with my husband tonight about the friend that dumped me, and the other friend that I dumped.

In order to move forward, I would take a strong look at the friendships you have that are important to you. Try to do some maintenance there, even have some conversations to "check in" and really listen to the feedback you get.
posted by raisingsand at 6:29 PM on January 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think it's easy to blame yourself for being the "needy friend." That is the most likely issue, right?

If the other person couldn't even be bothered to talk it out....

I mean why else, given that they didn't even offer a reason?

(Kind of kidding here. But when suddenly dumped, if the other person doesn't even explain, one's mind fills in the blanks).

So let's pretend you were overbearing - rather than that they were shitty, or have poorish communication skills, or just feel like focusing on their current life style to the detriment of old friends.

Well... both are valid life choices, right?

Clearly there was a mismatch. And being dumped sucks. Always. No matter what.

But I don't think this will hurt as much as you think it will down the road. You used the keyword yourself: CASUAL friend. Nothing wrong with not keeping distant, old friends. People you meet earlier in life aren't necessarily reflective of the person you become. It takes both people to bridge those gaps over time.

Moreover, let's say that even friends you feel close to would dump you. Well, do you think they would? Don't you think they have better taste than that? And if they didn't, would you still want them in your life anyway?

Don't beat yourself up for someone not being your friend. It happens. Trust the friends you have, VALUE what you have to offer as a friend (writing an AskMe? that's some level of care!), and remember, time heals all wounds!
posted by benadryl at 10:43 PM on January 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm sorry this happened to you. As an anxious person, I find that anything traumatic nags at me until I can come to some kind of, not peace, but acceptance of what happened. Usually that involves recognizing some level of responsibility, even if it's only (for instance) having invested too much in a relationship that in hindsight was clearly not a good fit. But, not knowing the full story, I can't advise you to look for ways you might be to blame, especially not this early. Getting over something like this is a process, and right now is a good time to be kind to yourself. Maybe make a note to revisit it a little later and think about things that are in your power that you could do differently in the future. But only when it's a way you can empower yourself rather than a way to beat yourself up when something bad has already happened.

You don't completely get over stuff like this. That can be a good thing if it causes you to re-examine your boundaries. I was sort of traumatically dumped by someone I knew to be a serial dumper, in a sense-- they would periodically go through their friendship list and pare it down, not always in a nice way. I was shocked when it happened to me even though I knew it was something they did. But also, the thing they dumped me for was actually something I do and I've changed some things in response to it.
posted by BibiRose at 6:07 AM on January 19, 2017

Best answer: I'm sorry that this happened to you! When a good friend ghosted on me I found talking with my other friends about it helpful, and reassuring that I was still a good friend. I tried to mourn the friendship a little, because it's worthwhile to acknowledge how important connections can be for us. When another friend got friend-dumped I was willing to give her an ear for quite some time, knowing how this stuff can haunt us. We both were helped some by therapy, and by the knowledge that friend-dumping is more difficult to recover from than significant-other dumping, mostly because SOs are more commonly transient than friends.

So know that what you're feeling is normal, even if it stinks.
posted by ldthomps at 10:53 AM on January 19, 2017

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