My kinda BFF is a flake and I'm kinda over it, or am I?
November 17, 2017 3:09 PM   Subscribe

One of my oldest, dearest friends is a flake and pretty introverted and has been as long as I've known him (20 years). Last week he and his family flaked on my kid's 1st birthday party and I realized that I'm not cool with this anymore. Do I need to just move on or should I try saving this friendship?

For most of our friendship we had reasons to hang out that revolved around shared interests, but now due to kids, familial obligations, and careers that's not really possible. (For background - he was in my wedding and I was in his. That kind of close.) He has kids and I have a kid, so neither of us have a lot of free time. I have texted him about hanging out, meeting up at the park, and doing kid friendly things. The most often response is radio silence, though sometimes he will text me with a "hey! come hangout at the park in 30 minutes", which I usually can't do because I'm deep in errand mode on the weekend and wouldn't be able meet them until a couple hours later. I've tried to schedule something for the following weekend and then get no response.

Even before he met his wife and had kids, he was kind of pin down but over time it's gotten much more difficult. I totally understand that to a degree and am not wondering why things weren't like they were 10 years ago. It's just that I've made the effort to be flexible and accommodating, and I feel like I don't have much more to give. I have thought about going through his wife more (we're friends, but we met through him), but I don't want to push that emotional labour off on her. When my kid was born, I texted him from the hospital and he congratulated me, but then he didn't reply to any texts about meeting up for a month. I'm human and it stung, but I knew I'd have to just shrug it off. Then the rest of the year was just more of the same - I'd text him about something and maybe get a response. Then I'd try to schedule a hang out (with kids), and get no response. The final straw was a couple of weeks ago when I invited his family to my kid's birthday party and they RSVP'd yes, but then didn't come. Turns out stuff came up, which would have been OK if it was communicated before the party and wasn't an apologetic text days later. I haven't responded to it yet because I don't know what to say. "Sorry to have missed you! Hope to see you soon." seems like the simplest way forward, but I kind of want to let him know it's going from annoying territory into hurtful.

I just got an invite for one of his kids' birthday party and I don't know what to do. Help me wise folks of MetaFilter! How should I move forward?
posted by sock potato to Human Relations (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I've got a couple friend exactly like this. They're great, but it's absolutely pointless organising anything that involved them having to get somewhere or be somewhere on time.

If I were you I'd accept and go to birthday parties and the like, and continue to invite him/them over here and there, but only in situations where it doesn't matter when and if they turn up. I invite my friends to watch a game on the big screen, or come and hang by the pool with some other people, or to kids' birthdays. Anywhere that it's really not an issue whether they turn up or not -- I'm going to have a good time with my family and/or others regardless. That way it's just a nice surprise if they do.

They are lovely people. The key is not to take it personally.
posted by tillsbury at 3:29 PM on November 17, 2017 [15 favorites]

His behavior and expectations are fine (except he should have told you he was bailing on your party), your behavior and expectations are fine, but they don't match. A text, for lots of people, is an ephemeral communication which you might answer if you happen to see it when it arrives, but otherwise don't. For other people, a text creates an obligation to respond.

I think the way to move forward depends on whether you actually like spending time with this person. If not: it's fine for a friendship to fade out even if it's been around a long time. If so: go to his kid's birthday party, but don't keep texting him and trying to set up meetups, because that communication style is obviously not working and creating hurt for you; instead, keep it to planned events, ideally events that he plans, and if he doesn't plan anything, well, then you don't see him.
posted by escabeche at 3:34 PM on November 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

The good thing about long friendships (unlike say a romantic exclusive relationship for example) is you don't have to make some big decision about whether to be "done" or "not done." The reality is that your friend is a flake and you can't even depend on him to respond to a text. So stop texting him invitations because not getting a response is annoying and it's likely he won't respond, so why set yourself up to be annoyed. If he invites you to something, go if you want to go and if you aren't doing something else. Don't expect more. If you want to text him or invite him to something, de-invest your emotions first because it's totally not predictable and not about you whether you'll get a reply, so don't wait for one. Give this person a new category: old dear friend who you don't actually see too often. There are friendships like that, and although they aren't going to stand in for ongoing reliable relationships I think it's nice to have all kinds of levels of friendship with people who share a history with you -- not all friends are best friends or even present friends. This guy isn't. But life is richer with lots of kinds and levels of friendships as long as you can see it for what it is now.
posted by velveeta underground at 4:00 PM on November 17, 2017 [27 favorites]

I am like this.

And I hate it.

I have adhd, and I have anxiety. I have anxiety about being late or letting people down because I missed the thing they wanted me to go to. Or arrive really late.

I try, I really really try. I try so hard. The more pressure there is for me to be on time, the more likely I am to stress out, spin in circles, and be hours and hours late. If I don't bail all together because I'm sobbing in the bathroom with my hair half curled and it's 3 hours after I should have been there and I don't even have pants on yet what am I doing with my life?!

Texts aren't much better. I often get overwhelmed. Or I will intend on responding to something in a little bit, and weeks (or months) go by an I still haven't. Or maybe I'm afraid you'll ask me about something that I flaked on or that I owe you or or or.

Or maybe I just forgot to go back to the text.

I have naturally gravitated towards friends with a higher tolerance for my foibles. Many also have adhd, a higher percent than is found in the population. Probably because we tolerate each others idiosyncrasies and have self-selected our friendships based on that.

There is nothing wrong with you deciding not to put the same energy into the friendship. And I can't say that is what's happening with your friend. But I just wanted to share if it gives some perspective.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 4:42 PM on November 17, 2017 [15 favorites]

Have you ever directly brought it up with him? Honestly, that is what I would do, and I'm not the confrontational type but sometimes people don't realize they are being hurtful. And then I wouldn't completely break off the friendship but I would stop expecting him to be non-flakey until he demonstrated otherwise. If no improvement, I'd put that friendship on the backburner. You can't be the only person who cares in any type of relationship.
posted by Aranquis at 4:50 PM on November 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you care about him or need him more than he cares about you or needs to engage with you. That might not be a bad thing, but something you should be aware of.

Put some mental distance between the two of you. You don't have to actually cut him off. Just....stop caring so much. Let HIM reach out to YOU. If he is flaky on meeting commitments that HE invites YOU to, then that is a whole different issue, but it's not clear to me that this is happening. It sounds like you're inviting him out too much given his level of responsiveness, and that he cares about you enough to try to answer often enough, but maybe you're just overwhelming him. If you back off a bit you'll see if this is the case.

Of course maybe I'm just totally misreading the situation; you'll know whether or not this explanation resonates with the circumstances. If it really hurts your feelings, and you don't just laugh off this explanation, then this is a possibility for you to think about.
posted by cacao at 5:33 PM on November 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Agree with the idea of not inviting him to things, and in theory, with the caring less approach. However, I also think that it's ok for you to decide that you have found this pattern of behaviour hurtful and that you need to make a more definitive and conscious break. I wouldn't tell him about this because I don't think you'll get much satisfaction from doing so- it's too dramatic for a platonic friendship to which he hasn't shown much commitment/investment lately anyway. But you can decide to free yourself of it by creating boundaries for yourself, quite strong ones if you need to. I've had friendships where I've tried to just care less and sometimes it works but sometimes it still feels like I'm blowing in the wind/at their beck and call too much and I have felt...disempowered and disrespected by it all. So sometimes choosing to shut the whole thing down does work better.
posted by man down under at 6:41 PM on November 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

With our peeps who are like this we still invite them to things but only things where the emotional stakes are low and we don't care (much) / won't notice (much) if they flake. So like no inviting them to dinner as the only guests. But still inviting them to the get together at the beach / park / bbq, etc.

If you want to be a part of his family's life, go to the events that you think you or your kid would enjoy, but don't rearrange your plans to attend.
posted by vignettist at 8:19 PM on November 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Start doing an amount of work in support of the relationship that feels good to you, given the larger context. Either he will notice and pick up some of the slack, or you'll get more distance and less frustration until you're in better balance with yourself and then possibly be able to find a more sustainable level of effort in your relationship with him (or find that at that point, you're ok letting it go.)
posted by spindrifter at 8:32 PM on November 17, 2017

Twenty years is a long friendship. And the fact that you just got a invitation to his kid's party tells me he's not doing a slow fade on you. So consider some other possibilities:

Maybe he's depressed? I have a friend who gets like this when they're depressed. It annoyed me at first, but I finally realized what was going on and I made the decision that our friendship was valuable enough for me to be understanding about this.

Or maybe he and his partner are having problems, and maybe they keep getting into big fights that cause him to not be able to meet you. In that case, he may be embarrassed and not want to tell you what happened.
posted by MexicanYenta at 5:26 AM on November 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

How do you feel when you're with this person? Do you get the sense that they care about you, your life, your family? Do you and your family enjoy their company when you are together? If so, then try not to take their flakiness personally. That said, you don't have to pretend it didn't happen. I'd text back something along the lines of "Hey, we really did miss you, looking forward to seeing you on [kid's birthday]." That tells them their absence was noticed without making a big deal out of it.

I agree with the idea of keeping the door open but lowering your expectations and decreasing the opportunities for this person to hurt your feelings. Invite them to things where their possible no-shows etc won't bother you too much. There could be all kinds of reasons for this individual's flakiness and things might change at any time. If they've been a good, caring friend, it would be a kindness to both of you to cut them a bit of a break.
posted by rpfields at 8:47 AM on November 18, 2017

I find it curious that no one has suggested calling instead if texting. Weightier issues/debacles aside, real time voice contact, or even a voice mail, has a different emotional impact than a text that can change things. I personally think humans are not really evolved to text .. why do we rely on it so much?

Of course, I'm biased, because I am one of these people who finds texting to be tiring and I often put it off-which I feel terrible about but can't seem to get any better at not doing. Also, Well-this may be totally unrelated to your friend's situation - but I've had times in my life where I don't have time to get together but I do have time for a phone call. These times are challenging for me because a lot of people are enabled to be phone avoiders, given the abundance of other communication options… But I still think it's a pretty cool technology. Well, I have digressed a bit here.. But yeah, Give him a call maybe?
posted by elgee at 10:13 AM on November 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

To be honest, it sounds like he is trying to hang out with you sometimes ("come meet me at the park in 30 minutes") and it's not that he doesn't want to hang out with you, but that he's facing some issues around scheduling things ahead of time, and maybe just doesn't have enough spoons.

I'm like you and sensitive to flakiness. I very much need to feel like my friends are making an effort with me (see my post history about being broken up over a close friendship that had ended maybe for similar reasons).

However, I'm also too familiar with the sheer effort it takes sometimes to coordinate a simple hangout session with a friend, of the "How's Saturday two weekends from now?" variety. Repeated with multiple friends over a long period of time, it can be just exhausting.

Between work, kids, hobbies, other commitments with friends/family, it can be extremely difficult to schedule a meeting with a friend, involving especially if there's a commute involved in geting there, and especially if somebody is depressed on top of all that. It's just easier to hang out with a friend spontanteously with little planning (if you happen to live close to them, and/or frequent the same areas) instead of trying to plan a coffee/lunch/dinner/playdate weeks ahead of time.

That being said, I do think, of course, that he should've come to your kid's birthday party after committing to it, and that's a big offense. In future, I think you should proceed like how other posters have advised by "keeping the door open but lowering your expectations and decreasing the opportunities for this person to hurt your feelings."
posted by spicytunaroll at 1:07 PM on November 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

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