Dealing with middle school drama for grown-ups
July 20, 2019 2:00 PM   Subscribe

A while back a close friend dumped me out of the blue. I’m pretty over it at this point but very occasionally I feel hurt again, usually when I can tell a bunch of my friends are hanging with this person and didn’t invite me. How do I get over my middle school wallowing tendencies?

A while back a close friend dumped me out of the blue. Most days I don’t think about this, occasionally I do and feel a little sad, and very occasionally (once a year?) I feel really hurt about it when I realize some of my friends are hanging with this person and didn’t invite me. How do I get over it?

Couple of notes: I have my suspicions why I got friend dumped and I really don’t think I did anything wrong, but I guess I would say that. Our mutual friends have good manners and don’t rub it in my face that they’re hanging out without me but sometimes it becomes apparent anyway. I do have many friends outside this group but it includes a couple of pretty good friends. Happy to provide other details but I doubt they’d be especially helpful. Thanks.
posted by ferret branca to Human Relations (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It's not middle school wallowing to feel pain and sadness over a close friendship breaking up, even long afterwards. It's a grieving process that has some similarities with a romantic breakup. You didn't specify this but if it was a breakup with silent treatment/sudden abandonment with no explanation, that can be even more hurtful.

How do you know your friends are still hanging out with this former friend? Is this something you're finding out through social media or are they mentioning it to you? Is there a way to restrict consumption of social media and/or request to not hear details about these meetups?
posted by rogerroger at 3:32 PM on July 20, 2019 [4 favorites]

If you very occasionally feel bad about it, I would allow the feelings of hurt, and then go to feelings of acceptance and good will.

I have a very good friend who I rarely see. We live in the same town. She is very busy and does all sorts of fun and interesting things where I'm not included. This friend is bad about reaching out and tends to gravitate to friends in her immediate surroundings -- such as other moms at her kids' school. It's hurtful and sad, because we used to hang out more often. I see her about once a year. I still always project a feeling a good will toward her and think to myself that it's okay if she doesn't want to hang out with me. Also, we've been friends for nearly thirty years and I haven't always been the most wonderful friend. Not everyone wants to hang out with me and that's life.

It's hard. I've dumped friends and I've probably been dumped by others, although I'm also terrible about reaching out or inviting anyone to do anything. I wouldn't know if I was being blown off unless face-to-face.

Have you tried to contact her to ask why the friendship ended?
posted by loveandhappiness at 3:42 PM on July 20, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ugh. This kind of stuff is hard. The only reason we don't go through this pain as often as adults is because the behaviour happens less often, not because we stop feeling hurt when it does.

Without knowing what happened, it sounds like your friends are trying to walk a line in a situation that might be open to interpretation from both sides. The fact that they are not rubbing it in is positive, but it is probably just going to take time before the hurt fades.

In the short term, I'd suggest finding something positive to do when this pain comes up, perhaps something like hanging out with other friends who appreciate you. This relationship was only one of many friendships that you have, and will have, in your life.
posted by rpfields at 5:08 PM on July 20, 2019

This was me in 2012 (here's the AskMe). We still have mutual friends, but we have never reconnected, and I don't think of her that often, except when she leaves a comment on a mutual friend's social media. Most of the time, there's a little twinge of pain or annoyance. And then last night, I had a dream in which our relationship was very prominently featured, so I guess she's still taking up space in my subconscious.

When I really think about it, I am still sad about it. I was a bridesmaid in her wedding; I am in all of her wedding pictures. She has missed all of the big moments in my life - finishing medical school, moving near her in residency, and lots of others. I got married two years ago, and she was (of course) not at our wedding, and that makes me sad, even though we haven't been friends in seven years. But I think that it's natural to grieve these things even years out.

I read this and it helped a little in that moment. I dove into the rest of my life and really made sure that the friends that I made were people worth spending time with. I would have loved to have some closure (I have some suspicions about why our friendship ended), but I had to realize that I really didn't have any control over that.

On an admittedly passive-aggressive note, I do take a modicum of satisfaction knowing that, because I'm in all of her wedding pictures, she can't fully erase me from her life, and that at some point, she might have to explain to her kids who I am.
posted by honeybee413 at 6:33 PM on July 20, 2019 [5 favorites]

I found it helped to read essays about losing friends in the book "The Friend Who Got Away: Twenty Women's True Life Tales of Friendships that Blew Up, Burned Out or Faded Away" by Jenny Offill, Elissa Schappell. Don't miss the two back to back essays from people about the friendship with one another!
posted by salvia at 8:10 PM on July 20, 2019 [2 favorites]

Thanks for all your thoughtful replies! I think I should have phrased my question a little differently: I would also like advice for how to get over feeling like my other friends don't like me when they choose to hang out with this person instead of me. I know objectively it's not the case but it's hard to believe it.
posted by ferret branca at 8:40 PM on July 20, 2019

I'm a middle school teacher (12-13 year olds) and yes, this is a very 'middle school' problem- it's typical at this age group because hormones kick in, people change rapidly, people are finding out who they are, people find new friends to hang out with, and not all their friends are compatible, people they were friends with in primary school don't always carry over; there are also boy dramas and girl dramas and so called 'friend-stealing'. As an adult, there are a few more nuances, and it's good that everyone is dealing with it really maturely, as you would expect!

Here's what I would say to one of my students facing the emotions of a 'friend-dumping': while some of these won't apply or will be things you are already doing as an adult, but as this is a middle school problem, maybe a middle school solution might help.
It's OK to feel sad sometimes.
Identify friends you do have.
Identify ways that you know that your friends don't all hate you.
Reach out and connect with someone- a text message, phone call? (At school: who can you eat lunch with? Sit with in class?)
See who else is lonely: buddy up with them.
Remember you can't control what other people do, just your response.
Not-Your-Friend (NYF) is allowed to hang out with people, and Also-Friend-1 and Also-Friend-2 are able to choose to hang out with who they want. This doesn't mean they don't like you!
Is it possible to rebuild the relationship with Not-Your-Friend?

It's impossible to know what Also-Friend-1 and Also-Friend-2 are thinking, we aren't inside their heads. Maybe they feel bad that they can't hang out with NYF and you at the same time.
Our brains are good at coming up with the worst case scenarios sometimes.

Is there a trusted person you can talk to? (for us this would be a teacher or parent)
posted by freethefeet at 9:43 PM on July 20, 2019 [10 favorites]

Are your other friends choosing to hang out with her instead of you, or do they simply go on outings to which your lost friend has not invited you? There's a big difference.

You might want to come up with a fun activity to do with multiple people, at which whatever it was that you suspect that went wrong with the lost friend cannot occur, and then invite a couple of these friends to join you at it.

Keep in mind that you don't know why this friend dropped you. Speculating why can be terrible for you self esteem. It is perfectly possible that you guys always got together at that cafe near your house and the largest and strongest reason why she dumped you is because the floor cleaner there always gave her a headache and she doesn't want to go to the cafe any more and the week you sorted out that something was wrong she was battling allergies and thinks you don't like her anymore. It's also possible that she thinks you have the wrong accent and no manners and one day made it clear that you didn't worship her for condescending to socialize with you, or that she is paranoid and believes that you are the other person (apart from her) writing anonymous letters with hateful messages in her circle. But unless she comes right out and says "I can't stand being around you because you always get drunk and think you are being funny when you are being mean", or she can't stand being around you because you insist on bringing your little dog, and all the dog every does is yap, you can't know what it is. The trouble is that this speculation makes you bring out all the possible reasons she might now hate you, and thinking about them makes it feel like she said them.

You might want to stand up and scream at her, "Listen, I only brought the dog twice!!" and you keep replaying that scene in your head whereas if you actually run into her on the street and lose control and scream it, after staggering backwards, she will say, "What dog?? When? Where did you bring it?"

So instead of accepting your suspicions as probably correct and that you did something terrible, or ransacking your brain to figure out what you did wrong, come up with a fairly plausible reason for the break-up that looks good on both of you. Maybe you talked about your aunt going through chemo and that triggered her memories of when her mother went through chemo and it failed and now she is just too vulnerable to be around you, because you remind her of that. To be friends with you again she would have to explain and that would be too painful because it would mean talking about it. Come up with something along that line where she has some sensitivity or vulnerability, and repeat it to yourself until you accept that it could be that, or something equally innocuous.

Most friendships break up over little things, like one person not being able to make it until seven pm and the other one wanting to leave before seven thirty because they need to get some work done after they get home. Most friendships do fall apart unless the logistics cooperate. In your case it sounds like you lived in another part of the country and have both gone through some significant life changes, and under those circumstances almost all friendships fall apart. You're not both still in school, and you don't see each other every week, so you don't have the same stuff to talk about. You want to talk about new stuff that she isn't part of, and she wants to talk about new stuff that you are not part of... and so it goes.

Don't blame yourself that she broke contact, unless you know perfectly well that the last time she spoke to you ended with you screaming at her or complaining about her. And don't blame her. Consent to be friends can be withdrawn at any time the same way that consent to have sex can be withdrawn at any time and for any or no reason. And don't blame your mutual friends who now may have things in common with her that you don't.

If you want to retain the mutual friends look for common ground and things that they would now enjoy and see if you can get together with them over that. And if you do get together with those mutual friends and your lost friend comes up, say nothing but positive things about her, express no regrets that she is gone, blame no one for the parting of ways, because that way the mutual friends are not made uncomfortable nor do they have to pick between the pair of you.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:57 AM on July 21, 2019 [3 favorites]

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