A friend broke my heart; do I give her another chance?
February 14, 2018 3:45 PM   Subscribe

A dear friend of mine basically disappeared for two years. Stopped responding to texts, calls, and emails. We've been there for one another over the years, so I was surprised that she went MIA. We live across the country from one another, so I grieved the loss of friendship and gradually accepted that she was no longer going to be part of my life. Then, out of the blue, she reappeared. I'm torn.

To provide a bit more detail, she was working on big project, and when I'd reach out, she'd apologize for being busy. I invited her to a few things: radio silence. Texted a quick "thinking of you- hi!": radio silence. A couple times we'd try to schedule a call and then she would disappear. And there were a couple of times when I reached out during a difficult moment (for example, serious illness of a loved one) and again, she wasn't there. Or she'd say, "Hey I miss you and want to catch up" but with no follow through. It was heartbreaking, but I grew to accept it, and I mourned the loss of our friendship. Maybe if she'd said, "Hey, I care about you but I'm too busy to talk to you for two years" I would have accepted it. (But doesn't that sound insane?!)

Several months ago, I reached out one last time and she mentioned she was in a new relationship and wanted to catch up soon. Then disappeared. Now, the sudden reappearance has coincided with the launch of her project: I received a mass email inviting me to comment on the project. (I didn't.) Then I got a text apologizing for the busy-ness and requesting a phone date in two weeks.

(For even more context, there was another time years earlier when she had flaked on something and I told her I'd been hurt. She apologized and expressed that she'd never really learned how to be a good friend. I forgave her and all was well.)

This sudden reappearance has me skittish and cautious. Before she disappeared we'd been good friends for five years, had even traveled together, etc. It's hard to be excited to re-connect because I feel hurt and betrayed. I imagine calling her and having a hard time with my usual energetic greetings and enthusiasm because I just feel... kinda burned. And it's hard to be fully 100% invested in someone who seems unreliable.

At the same time, our friendship was really important to me in the past, and I miss having her in my life. I understand how projects and relationships can take over one's life, but it's hard to feel like someone doesn't even have time for a 10 minute catch up on the phone. I feel a bit like our friendship only exists when she decides she has time for it, and that hurts. I guess that's what this comes down to: feeling hurt and low priority, and not wanting to be hurt again. Am I being an absurdly sensitive snowflake? People are busy, it's not all about me, maybe I need to get over my own damn self? Maybe I should just accept her for who she is (which is a not-always-reliably-there friend)?

What would you do?
posted by Mystical Listicle to Human Relations (31 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have been both the not-great-at-friendship friend and the why-did-my-friend-leave-me friend and man, it sucks from all sides.
I don't think you're wrong to be wary. If it hurts too much to rekindle at any level, even at a more superficial one, then it's not worth your heartache, and I don't think anyone would blame you for making that call.
Personally, I'm not great at boundaries so I'd probably welcome her back and rejoice at the what-was-lost-is-refound and get hurt when it faded all over again, but that's how I'm wired.
You gotta do you, and good for you for trying to be healthy about it.
posted by ApathyGirl at 3:57 PM on February 14, 2018 [9 favorites]


You say that you're hurt, and I don't blame you. I would be hurt too if a person who I thought was a very close friend shut me out in the way you're describing.

However, you also say that you miss having this person in your life.

I think she's done a good job of showing you what you can expect from her. She's not always going to make herself available to you, often for very long periods of time. That availability will be on her terms. Perhaps you were very close in the past, but that's not how it is now.

1. Ask yourself if you want this person in your life under these new terms. This will be a more casual friendship. Maybe she's fun or good to talk to, but you can't count on her. If you want to keep her as a friend, move forward knowing you can't put any expectations on her.

2. Don't take her pulling away personally. People change; life circumstances change. It's most likely not about you.

3. Assume quid pro quo availability. If this person was flaky to me in the way you're describing, I wouldn't be available for her when it wasn't convenient. I also wouldn't do her any huge favors (can I stay at your house for a week? Will you be in my wedding? Can you lend me $1k?) The answer is no. We don't have that sort of friendship.
posted by cleverevans at 4:01 PM on February 14, 2018 [8 favorites]


I'd tell her how I feel, tell her that I am happy to renew the friendship.

Then leave the ball in her court, and not be surprised or too disappointed if she doesn't reciprocate.
posted by adamrice at 4:04 PM on February 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


I've been your friend. I'm not proud of it. Maybe remind yourself that there are lots of reasons why people disappear, and a lot of them have nothing to do with you. For me, it was depression and anxiety, and then compounding anxiety about having been kind of shitty to a friend by losing touch, and then more anxiety about being anxious, and in the end it was just too embarrassing and anxiety-inducing to try to reconnect and explain the years of silence.

I've been on the other end of it too, and I know how much it hurts.

Your friend may have really had to overcome a lot of fear in getting back in touch with you, which may prove that she's ready to recommit. She also might flake on you again; could be that's just who she is.

You're not being overly sensitive, and caution is certainly prudent. Maybe give her one more chance, but resolve not to be hurt if it falls through? (If you can successfully make that vow to yourself?)
posted by mudpuppie at 4:16 PM on February 14, 2018 [35 favorites]


I've had this happen a couple of times, and probably was the flaky friend once or twice myself.

Basically, what it boils down to is deciding whether you can accept a friendship on the terms the person can offer rather than the terms you want. Some people go to grown when busy or stressed, and even a phone call feels too much. If that's part of who they are, then it isn't about you. But that doesn't mean that you need to accept that this is a friendship you keep in your life.

Somehow, for me, much depends on intention. I had a friend flake out on me for reasons which *were* about me. (I had a tragedy and she couldn't handle it.) Her I cut. And cut permanently. I have another friend who I love when she resurfaces, but I don't count on her otherwise. She's like that with everyone, so I don't mind.
posted by frumiousb at 4:22 PM on February 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


This sudden reappearance has me skittish and cautious. Before she disappeared we'd been good friends for five years, had even traveled together, etc. It's hard to be excited to re-connect because I feel hurt and betrayed. . . it's hard to be fully 100% invested in someone who seems unreliable. . . At the same time, our friendship was really important to me in the past, and I miss having her in my life. I understand how projects and relationships can take over one's life, but it's hard to feel like someone doesn't even have time for a 10 minute catch up on the phone. I feel a bit like our friendship only exists when she decides she has time for it, and that hurts.

I might consider expressing all of the above to her.

Honestly, we live in the age of text messaging and Facebook. It's not that hard to connect. It's really not.

I have a friend like this, and I've learned to reach out to her occasionally with the expectation that she won't respond (even to text messages). We've been best friends for years, and I've accepted that this is how she is. I don't call her out on it, because it would turn into a huge fight that, quite frankly, I don't have the mental or physical energy for. It's the price of admission for the friendship, which is good for the most part, when we actually connect.

I don't expect her to change, but I also don't hold back friendships with other folks who have time for me. And I *don't* pick up the phone if I don't have the mental energy to deal with the latest drama or problem that she's got going on at the moment. It's all about boundaries and self-care.

The price of admission for the friendship with your friend is that she's flaky, unreliable, and possesses the self-reflective capacity to admit that she's never learned to be a good friend, but not the motivation to actually change it. Every friendship is different, but know going in that she's not going to change, and the friendship won't change.

Either accept the price of admission for this friendship, and be her friend when the opportunity strikes, or don't and walk. I don't think there's really a middle ground here, because you've expressed your feelings to her and it hasn't made a difference.

What are *you* getting out of this friendship? That might be worth asking. If you have to really stop and think about it, I think you have your answer.
posted by onecircleaday at 4:31 PM on February 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


It's not that hard to connect. It's really not.

Except when it is.

I've had to accept that I can't engage in the kind of friendships that need a constant high connection rate, because my mental health doesn't allow me to do that all the time, I cannot predict when or for how long I will be unavailable, and the nature of the condition makes it very hard to apologize to someone who has taken my disability personally and needs me to assuage their hurt.

I do have good friendships with people who deal with similar situations. We know that sometimes the invitations will go unresponded and we just keep sending them. We drop notes without expectation of reciprocity. We can even sometimes grunt out a response that there's just no spoons right now.

And I think to some extent this is just the nature of adult friendships too; everyone gets overwhelmed sometimes even if they're not dealing with major depressive disorder or whatever. Resources are just a lot more finite the older you get.

You have to decide for yourself what you can and can't handle, but if your heart is going to get broken no matter what the circumstances are on her end, it sounds like it's probably not healthy for you to continue on with this friendship.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:48 PM on February 14, 2018 [27 favorites]


I've had to accept that I can't engage in the kind of friendships that need a constant high connection rate, because my mental health doesn't allow me to do that all the time, I cannot predict when or for how long I will be unavailable, and the nature of the condition makes it very hard to apologize to someone who has taken my disability personally and needs me to assuage their hurt.

Totally valid point, and one that I didn't think of. Since OP didn't mention a disability, I didn't assume one. What OP describes is a friend who is busy with work, which is an entirely different circumstance than a mental health condition.
posted by onecircleaday at 5:00 PM on February 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


Make the phone date. Tell her you missed her and ask her what she's been up to. Making the phone date doesn't have to mean you sign back on for the friendship or that you sign on for the same friendship, just give her a chance to talk about what's been going on her life and see how you feel afterwards.

I have a somewhat similar story. We later rekindled the friendship and at this point she's someone I have a call with or hang out with a few times a year. I love her and at this point I've been able to accept that we're never going to be friends who hang or talk often, but when we do it will be great.
posted by bunderful at 5:03 PM on February 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


If you decide to roll with it again, I suggest being more casual about it, emotionally and in your communication with her. I have never had a "phone date," much less one that was planned weeks in advance. "Sure, give me a call when you're free" is all you need to commit to in response to her request.
posted by headnsouth at 5:18 PM on February 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


What OP describes is a friend who is busy with work, which is an entirely different circumstance than a mental health condition.

Yeah, I have to pay rent even when I'm quite unwell; work is sometimes the only thing I can do, and the absolute necessary self-care to not get fired, but nothing else including providing long careful descriptions of my mental health circumstances to friends who don't understand why I can't reply. OP could easily be describing the outward appearance of my life when I am not well - which often coincides with increased demands at work in the first place.

I'd be much more likely to attempt to bridge the gap with someone who reached out with "hey I worry you're really struggling right now" rather than "why won't you pay attention to me".

(Not even on a good day do I want to have an unplanned phone call with anyone. I schedule calls with my mother. Not everyone wants spontaneity or considers it less stressful than a plan.)
posted by Lyn Never at 5:22 PM on February 14, 2018 [24 favorites]


I agree with everyone else in that now you know what a friendship with this lady will look like, (sporadic at best and on her terms) you need to decide if this is one that you want to pursue. I also agree with headnsouth that if she wants to reconnect, put the ball back in her court and put the onus on phoning back on her. If she really wants to be friends, she needs to at least make a token effort. But I wouldn't invest too much in this until she gives you a reason to. I've been there, it sucks.
posted by Jubey at 5:23 PM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


I have more often found myself in the place of your friend.

From my perspective, it sounds like you and she were actually in touch, reaching out briefly and periodically through text. But you felt like she had cut you out of her life. And the difference between feeling cut-off or still-friends was simply the difference between texting and a 10-min call? Did she know that? Did you tell her? It is so helpful for maintaining a friendship, if you can spell out exactly what you need.

Maybe if she'd said, "Hey, I care about you but I'm too busy to talk to you for two years" I would have accepted it. (But doesn't that sound insane?!)

What if you'd said, "I get that this project is going to last a while and is taking up a lot of your time. How much time will you have for friend stuff with me while it's going on? Will you have 10 mins on Sunday mornings to catch up with me? (discuss other possible timings and formats) Or should we put our friendship on hold and decide later if we're going to pick back up after the project ends?" Then she would have realized that the whole friendship was potentially at stake.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 5:39 PM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


i should add, the main issue with your friend for me would be the lack of concern for you when you needed it the most by completely ignoring you (sickness of a loved one) versus her willingness to pop up in your life when she needs her business launch to appear successful and wanted your comments to make her look popular. It just sounds like it's only a friendship when she needs it. I get that she's busy...we're all busy, she's not special in that regard.

And yes, maybe she's suffering anxiety/depression/alien Stockholm syndrome but until you tell us this is the case (where she would get my sympathy ) I just think she's suffering from selfishness.
posted by Jubey at 6:40 PM on February 14, 2018 [9 favorites]


Whenever I've disappeared on friends like that, it's because I was going through a really bad bout of depression. So she might have been ill instead of snubbing you.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:49 PM on February 14, 2018 [7 favorites]


Unless you had specific agreements with each other, then you are just going on assumed expectations, and you are blaming her for your assumptions. You assumed she’d be exactly like she was in the past. But it sounds like her life changed. People’s lives change so hugely these days. Sounds like she moved on, changed, grew away, yet still tried to maintain some contact.

Nothing wrong with either of your desires, but you need to figure out if you are ok with your new place in the differently structured friendship that exists now.
posted by Vaike at 6:53 PM on February 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


I don’t think you’re over sensitive at all and I think it’s very reasonable to walk away.

I am like your friend though. I have a bunch of reasons for it but none of which change the fact that I do this, I know it’s shitty, I know I’ve changed other shitty things about me, I make resolutions to at least answer text/FB/phone/email never mind, like, initiate. And then...I don’t (with exceptions, see below.) I now know my tribe is people who can handle that, and that I am not as close to some friends as I would like to be. And I know I have hurt spoke and they won’t be my friend and...they shouldn’t. And I am culpable.

It’s also for me not at all about something like not caring about or not valuing my friends. The best I can put it is that it’s about my relationship to the world, where the laundry or the internet discussion is there, and manageable and I feel secure in it. But pulling up Facebook and starting a conversation...quite honestly it’s not even entirely on my radar, I mean thanks to your question I’m aware that I could be texting a friend but normally I wouldn’t have thought of it because I’m lying in bed. I mean...I honestly very rarely think “I am could talk to Lindsay now.” If Lindsay appeared I would get out of bed and have a great talk and I adore her. I think of her most days. But...I don’t think of interrupting her day with mine. I kind of know why; growing up there was no ally in my home that I could rely on and I removed that thought from my processes.

HOWEVER there are two times I will always respond. A direct ask like “I need you, shit is going down.” I will be on a plane with whatever. Or on FaceTime all night. So your friend gets zero credit from me on that.

The second weird one is...if we have a standing appointment. So this is how I manage it now. With my local friends I have monthly get togethers and traditions like tea on Boxing Day. And with my long distance friends I have date nights. I’m reliable and good about those. The structure gives me room to get over myself.

Anyways I hope that gives you fodder to either ask her or work it out.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:33 PM on February 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


People on Metafilter who are more like your friend speak out, a lot. As if having any expectations at all from a close friend is unreasonable, because of "reasons."

In the absence of knowing exactly what and why this friend of yours disappeared, I would say...don't reconnect.

You can't say or do the right things to make her into the friend that you want to have. You will get re-engaged with a person you really like and enjoy and then when she disappears again - and she will - it will be painful.

I don't know how to be friends with people who cannot be relied upon to at least communicate something in some way about their near or total lack of availability. Because to me, someone who doesn't talk to you for months or years at a time and doesn't return communication isn't a friend. They are an idea, a memory, a possibility of a friend - but not there for you in any meaningful way.
posted by 41swans at 7:50 PM on February 14, 2018 [21 favorites]


I wouldn't trust her, myself, until I talked to her (by appointment or not is up to you) because, hurt or no, I would be very curious as to the reason for the abrupt and prolonged silence. Having learned the reason, if it was not due to illness, a family member's illness, an abuser controlling her, or something along those lines, if it was because she just couldn't be bothered, I would say no, thanks. Courteous, but distant, and expecting nothing further from her whatsoever by way of friendship.
posted by Crystal Fox at 8:05 PM on February 14, 2018 [1 favorite]


Am I being an absurdly sensitive snowflake? ...Maybe I should just accept her for who she is (which is a not-always-reliably-there friend)?

1. Nope.

2. Maybe, if that interests you. But this is somebody who disappeared from your life and ignored you when you were going through a bad time, yet had time during her busy project to get into a new relationship. And then she had more time to contact you and a bunch of other people when she wanted to launch her project and appear successful. She's made her priorities pretty clear.

If you are at all interested in reconnecting, I suggest keeping the door open but letting her do the work. She wants to talk on the phone? Tell her something along the lines of, sure, my schedule is pretty open two weeks from now, give me a call when you're free. And then see how you feel when --and if--her number comes up. If you feel like answering, do. But if you don't, don't let it worry you.

After all, you're both busy people.
posted by rpfields at 8:05 PM on February 14, 2018 [7 favorites]


I don’t see any indication she suffers from depression, and even if she does, I’ve been depressed - I’ve been in the hospital depressed - and I can’t imagine not even bothering to let a good friend know that you need time away or you’re too overwhelmed or whatever. She was able to get involved in a new relationship, so I don’t get all this making excuses for her. She wasn’t in a coma for two years. Sadly, you just are not that important to her.

I’ve also tried to reconnect with someone who “just couldn’t deal” with my brother dying, and it just didn’t work. Even if you guys are able to develop some kind of friendship again, it will never be what it was before because you now have this shitty experience between you.

Ultimately, you will have to decide if this behavior is a dealbreaker for you. It would be for me.
posted by FencingGal at 8:12 PM on February 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


I have friends who are like this and it really, really hurts when they disappear or they flake out on life. Especially when I have invested a lot in the friendship.

What would I do? I would probably accept the phone date at a time convenient to ME, and if something comes up, I would drop the phone call and rearrange, without a second thought. Your friend has made it clear that you are not her first priority. You do not need to make her yours. You can enjoy the friendship for what it is, and if it is too hard, don’t worry about it — it seems that she does not.

Metafilter does appear to have an above-average proportion of people who have problems with anxiety and thus assumes that the general population does too. If your friend does have problems with anxiety, then it is her prerogative to make it clear to you, as a good friend, and for you to accommodate their disadvantage. But nothing in this post suggests problems with anxiety. Furthermore, anxiety issues are not get-out-of-jail-free cards.
posted by moiraine at 9:06 PM on February 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


I personally don't maintain long distance relationships in the way you need. I still care deeply about my faraway friends, and if I do see them it's so amazing it brings me to tears. But writing or talking on the phone does absolutely nothing for me. Honestly it makes me feel less connected, because it's such a pale imitation of what I want and I find those methods of communication awkward.

So if you can't feel good in a relationship if it doesn't involve ongoing contact, steer clear. But if you think you might be able to, it might help to know that poor communication doesn't always mean lack of feeling. Expecting it and being hurt by its lack is 100% legitimate, but if you do want to keep this person in your life, recognizing that lack of communication could mean something different than you assume may make it easier.
posted by metasarah at 9:07 PM on February 14, 2018 [4 favorites]


Nope, you're not being a sensitive snowflake. I find it odd that people here are choosing to excuse/defend a person they know nothing about. It sounds like projecting. There are lots of healthy and not-nice people who treat their friends as disposable and resurface only when they need them.
If you do not think you can keep it casual, please walk away. If she does it again (and it does sound like she would do it again), you'd feel worse, with an extra helping of feeling duped twice over. Ask me how I know.
posted by Nieshka at 10:10 PM on February 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


"coincided with the launch of her project" ... "inviting me to comment", "phone date in two weeks" ?!? She's using you.
posted by at at 11:06 PM on February 14, 2018


This exact thing happened to me and I was really mad and tempted to cut off the friendship myself- but then I kind of let it go, and we've been friendly again the last few months and I'm glad I didn't over react and lose the friendship. A great saying is: Friends are there for a reason, a season, or a lifetime...
posted by catspajammies at 3:16 AM on February 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


I would take the phone date, but make it clear you'd like an explanation for what exactly happened the last two years. Depending on the friend's answer, I'd either be interested in keeping the friendship or officially letting them go.
posted by notorious medium at 3:49 AM on February 15, 2018


Uh, you said she's back but I haven't seen that she is actually back. She's sporadically replied to you over the past 2 years then ghosted on you. Don't put too much energy into this (either excitement or concern), she's probably going to do the same thing she's done in the past. I would not bother if it was me but I'd invite her to group events to her attendance (or lack thereof) wouldn't spoil the event.
posted by arnicae at 7:20 AM on February 15, 2018


Something similar happened to me recently (longtime friend, whom I had done a lot for in recent years, made excuse why she couldn't even visit me when I was bedridden for a month, and then she ghosted.) She popped up c 2 years later and asked if we could get together. I said sure, I'm flexible, let me know what would be a good time. That was the last I heard of it, of course. I'm satisfied with the result. I was gracious, the ball is in her court, and I have not had to either misrepresent my feelings about what she did or get into a vent-session.

I think you should put the ball in her court and see what happens, but don't expect much. People here are theorizing all kinds of scenarios for this woman but the simplest explanation is that you were a very low priority when she was busy, and now that she needs to leverage her social network for professional reasons, you're back on the radar. It's ok to have casual friends, but it's going to be hurtful for you to invest a lot in this.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:18 AM on February 15, 2018 [3 favorites]


One of my best friends is a lot like your friend - disappears for months at a time (sometimes even a year), hard to pin down, can be very flaky. We've been friends half my life and there was a point where I did tell her, look, I'm getting really frustrated at your flakiness and am thinking of walking away. She acknowledged it, apologised, said that my feelings were fair because she has been pretty unreliable. We worked through it and I now know that this is the sort of friendship I can expect, but there's no love lost. She's still willing to do what it takes to help me, and vice-versa - we just accept that it's not going to be the everyday chatting thing we used to have. So it is possible to still have a close friendship, just acknowledge that this may be your new normal and consider if that's something you can live with.
posted by divabat at 3:04 PM on February 15, 2018


If you let her back in your life, she'll disappoint you again.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:32 PM on February 16, 2018


« Older Dumb question about the new Queer Eye (spoilers)   |   How to stop overengineering everything Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.