How to cope with fighting with a friend
February 27, 2020 4:52 PM   Subscribe

The other day my friend made an incredibly insulting "joke" about women. I called him on it, and now he hasn't spoken to me in a week. Now what?

"Mike" and I have been best friends for 25 years. We used to live together and we chat online almost daily (we've been long distance for about a decade). We tell each other absolutely everything. He stood up for me at my wedding and literally rescued me from an abusive relationship. I've always considered us lifelong friends no matter what.

Last week, Mike made a tasteless joke about women's genitals smelling bad. He's always done it - he thinks because he's gay it's fine. I've never loved it but I usually just ignore it. This time, though, it rankled me, and I said "you've never had sex with a woman, how would you know?" He replied, "I know what hot garbage on the side of the street for a week smells like."

That really pissed me off, and I called him on it. I said that it was especially lousy to make such misogynistic "jokes" since he's now the father of a daughter. He said "it was a joke but whatever." I replied that it wasn't funny and that he insulted me and every other woman out there. He never replied and we haven't spoken since.

Now that it's been a week, I don't know where to go from here. I feel like if he hasn't reached out to me by now, he's not going to. So if I want our friendship to be repaired, I have to make the first move. But I'm so angry that he won't just say "hey, you're right, that was out of line, I'm sorry." I don't want to see a decades-long friendship implode from one incident, but I also don't feel like capitulating and making the first move. But every day that goes by without hearing from him is so painful. I've been crying and dreaming about him and I'm just heartbroken that this is the way things are at the moment.

I should say that as much as I love him, he can be difficult and abrasive and judgmental, and I am guessing that maybe he has been holding a grudge against me or something. He has intimated in the past that he resented that I didn't go to his daughter's baby shower. (It was across the country and I couldn't afford it after being the maid of honor for another close friend's destination wedding just a month before. And I'd already committed to her wedding before he scheduled the shower.) Or maybe he's mad that I brought his daughter into it when I called him out.

I know that I didn't do anything wrong in calling him out on what he said, but I feel like I'm being punished for it. I really don't know what the right move is here. I don't want to lose him but am I being too stubborn in not feeling like contacting him first?

I'm seeing my therapist tomorrow and will talk it out with him, but I would love to get some other advice on how to handle it. Do I just suck it up and message him and ask him if he's ignoring me? Keep waiting and hope one day he'll talk to me again? I just hope we can move forward but I don't know the best way to make that happen.
posted by Neely O'Hara to Human Relations (34 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I have zero patience for that kind of talk and you were completely in the right to call him on it. He really does need to reflect on why he’d say that kind of hateful shit towards women if he’s raising a daughter. It’s only been a week, give him some more time.

I suspect he is not trying to cut you out if his life and that you can move past this, but maybe think about what it means if he is. I know he means a lot to you but I wouldn’t be able to maintain a relationship with someone who would be willing to throw away an epic friendship over something like this.
posted by cakelite at 5:26 PM on February 27, 2020 [46 favorites]

Best answer: Try to reframe this so it’s not a situation where one of you wins and one of you loses (like an “upper hand” thing). It sounds like your friendship means a lot to both of you, so keeping it strong means you both win. He might be keeping quiet out of shame or wanting to wait until he’s not so angry because he knows he’s in the wrong. Sometimes being in the right (which you are 100%) means you have the grace/calm/confidence to make the first move.

You could email or text him: “Mike, I really miss you and am sad that we’re not talking. I’m still upset about what you said—it was so ugly and such a personal thing to say. You’re so important to me and I know you don’t hate me or hate women, that was part of the reason I was so shocked and upset. [Offer a concession here if there was anything you said during the fight that you regret.] I’ll never be okay with hearing you say something like that, but I would never want this fight to come between us after all these years. Love you and miss talking to you, Neely.”
posted by sallybrown at 5:36 PM on February 27, 2020 [40 favorites]

"I should say that as much as I love him, he can be difficult and abrasive and judgmental...."

My dude, if he gets a pass on that then he can just suck it up. You get to be honest, too.
Meanwhile, don't wait. Contact him, tell him you miss him. Tell him that you are having none of his bullshit, but you love him anyway. Tell him you want to talk with him about random other topic, when he is ready to talk.
Ball is in his court. You can agree to disagree, but he can't disrespect you. 'Nuff said.
It's a sibling thing.
posted by TrishaU at 5:38 PM on February 27, 2020 [10 favorites]

Best answer: I would not reach out to this person because I could not maintain a friendship with someone who made that remark.

If you have a vulva he is talking about you. He is literally telling you that you personally smell like hot garbage. I obviously don't know any more about your gender than what you've shared here, but if a friend made a remark that insulted me so intimately and bodily our friendship would never recover. I would never be able to forget.

Also, I'll be honest, I hate to see the nicer person in a relationship always making this kind of overture. The other person always views it as vindication/winning, and it's usually a burden put on women and AFAB people.

I've known a lot of cis gay men over the years and the overwhelming majority - even several who were pretty misogynistic - didn't insult women to their faces about their genitals. It's not something that people are unable to help saying.
posted by Frowner at 5:43 PM on February 27, 2020 [89 favorites]

Best answer: Look, it wasn't one incident. He's been doing this for years. There's a lot of casual misogyny in some parts of gay male culture. You finally called it out. It shouldn't matter if he's gay or the father of a daughter: misogyny is bullshit (like, would he laugh if you made casually homophobic comments all the time?).

You don't have to be okay with sexist or racist or homophobic jokes. He was pretty awful. How nasty can he be to you til you start to wonder if he's borderline abusive to you with this language? You called him out. He should apologize and make amends, I think.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:53 PM on February 27, 2020 [25 favorites]

Best answer: This isn't a fight. This is him stonewalling you because you drew a healthy boundary.
posted by bluedaisy at 5:53 PM on February 27, 2020 [103 favorites]

It sounds like four strikes to me:
- he makes degrading comments about women
- he defends those comments
- he doesn't apologize, even after some cooling off time
- he's passive-aggressive about communicating his disappointment about the baby shower.

It's ok to evolve out of a friendship.
posted by cocoagirl at 5:53 PM on February 27, 2020 [24 favorites]

I don't want to see a decades-long friendship implode from one incident
This isn't one incident, though, it's the latest incident in a long string of incidents. And he's the one in the wrong, same as all those other times.

Is Mike partnered, and if so, do you have any relationship with them? I wouldn't contact Mike, no. I would keep up with the rest of the family, if appropriate -- some cute family photo will be shared on social media that you can comment on, his daughter will have birthdays and other milestones, etc. Mike can get over himself on his own schedule. (I mean, how is he going to describe the abrupt falling-out with a lifelong friend? "I likened women's genitals to trash festering in the heat... again... and Neely had the GALL to tell me not only was that not hilarity itself, but that she was INSULTED by my insult." I hope you took screenshots, dang.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:55 PM on February 27, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I can't imagine a scenario in which a man - or a woman, for that matter - that I'd been friends with for decades would say derogatory things about women's genitals more than once. You write that 'he's always done it', and that strikes me as...odd, immature, and just plain mean. Who feels the need to demean woman's genitalia on a regular basis and when called on it doubles down with an over-the-top comment that references 'hot garbage'? Yeah, there's definitely something else going on here. It may actually have nothing to do with you other than your being someone he feels will always love him, no matter what. Hence the freedom to express whatever hateful thought comes to mind.

You're going to get some responses that advise you to DTMF. It's almost an internet reflex thing: shitty behavior = must dump immediately. But, you have decades of love and support underpinning this relationship. I would proceed on the assumption that this rupture is repairable but that maybe it's ok to let some time pass before reaching out. Maybe give it a month and then send an email. I would also proceed on the assumption that something is going on and while it's not your job to figure out what - that's totally on him - you can encourage him to examine his beliefs and his willingness to express them even when clearly told he is hurting someone.

This may not be salvageable and that will be extraordinarily painful. I lost a decades-long friendship when I was essentially abandoned during a terrible time in my life. While she did reach out eventually, it was too little, too late. I knew that we could have resumed our friendship but that I would never trust her again. So, I elected to let the friendship go because, for me, lack of trust in a friendship is a non-starter. You may land here too even if he's willing to express remorse and ask for your forgiveness. You may find that you aren't able to trust him in the same way again because he showed you who he was - really was - and you can't unknow it now.

Take some time to process this. It's still very new. If you rush to try to restore the daily contact, you may avoid asking some tough questions about who this person is and whether you can accept all aspects of him.
posted by MissPitts at 5:57 PM on February 27, 2020 [5 favorites]

Yeah... we're getting a lot of DTMF. But maybe today is the day that Mike gets a wake-up call from his sister from a different mother.
It's worth it, to hear that he hurt your feelings and should not be so insensitive. Just because you let it go in the past does not mean that Older You are letting it go today. Your feelings about that type of treatment have changed, and he needs to change, too.
Grow up, Mikey.

"I've been crying and dreaming about him and I'm just heartbroken...."
I would be banging on his front door at two in the morning so fast (or the digital equivalent). If he's any type of a friend, he'd better have the hot cocoa and the Kleenex ready, because we would be getting it sorted out. Then again, I can be "difficult and abrasive and judgmental," too, and pretty stubborn about expecting the best from the ones I love.
Good luck and signing off now.
posted by TrishaU at 6:13 PM on February 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: He's shocked that you called him out, is probably not accustomed to being called out, and he's prioritizing his own discomfort with that over your friendship.

You're not his mom or his therapist, but this could be a valuable moment for him to to sit with his discomfort and for you not to rush to smooth things over. It's okay for friendships to ebb and wane, and if yours needs to wane for a bit, there is nothing wrong with that.
posted by witchen at 6:17 PM on February 27, 2020 [41 favorites]

Maybe he hasn't had good role models in making apologies. **

If you value this friendship, and it's hard to walk away from a connection of 25 years, try reconnecting casually and resuming the relationship as if nothing happened.

Watch for some gesture, albeit small, that he realized he was not at his best, and take it from there. Also, his daughter might need you around.

** Can't find the original post, but here's one referring to it:
"I ate a LOT of fruit on plates, slowly and suspiciously, while somehow feeling cheated of apologies. I never made this connection until now."
posted by dum spiro spero at 6:31 PM on February 27, 2020 [4 favorites]

It's a gross old strain of gay male culture, one I assume is dying out some. I think I can explain it some though by doing so, I'm not excusing it: when it was harder to come out, gay men who took the leap and did it sometimes kept it on everyone's radar by restating it in lots of ways. Some of them were fine. This one (and its companions like referring to women as "fish") didn't get stomped out maybe because gay men used it mostly among themselves, and nobody felt they had a stake in saying "let's not do this."

So maybe your friend feels stung firstly by someone saying "what you've said isn't ok" which might actually hurt more when you know it's true, and then also if he is of that age, possibly by what feels in a very roundabout way like a denial of his gay self expression.

I've never liked the metafiltrian tradition of people telling strangers to dump their friends immediately. One thing you never get more of is old friends. You have a long history. Don't insist on who breaks the silence first. See if he can ease into acknowledging that this artifact of gay culture needs to go away. I don't know how you told him but hurt gets expressed as anger a lot (god knows I do it) and people don't know how to respond to anger. I hope you get your friend back, minus the stupid expression.
posted by less of course at 7:28 PM on February 27, 2020 [19 favorites]

(FWIW I think one of the million things I value about the long-lived bond between gay men and straight women is that at least in theory it keeps us a little more accountable than if we're in our separate worlds.)
posted by less of course at 7:32 PM on February 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

I like sallybrown's script, though I might be a bit firmer, more like "I would feel bad if this fight came between us." In other words, acknowledging that you are open to making up, but making it clear that it's his responsibility to acknowledge that he did something wrong.

(Always wonder how gay men who talk like this think dick smells!)
posted by praemunire at 7:32 PM on February 27, 2020 [6 favorites]

Thank you for calling him on it. You did the right thing. Now I'd text or email news or a joke
so he has a graceful re-entry point. You aren't apologizing, you're resuming things. If he stays silent, call him.
posted by theora55 at 7:47 PM on February 27, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Before you reach out to Mike I would think very carefully about what you would need to feel better. Mike behaved badly and Mike needs to own his bad behavior, acknowledge the harm he did to you, and make amends.

This is not a "it takes two to tango" situation. It wasn't like you were both cracking wise and then suddenly Mike crossed a line. You weren't even close to the line. The one thing you faulted for is not calling Mike on this earlier and giving him the impression that you were okay with his "jokes."

What would amends look like to you? What would a sincere apology feel like?

Once you know what you want need from Mike, then you can call. I think your script could go something like this.

Mike, I am sad that we are at odd and am reaching out to see if things can be sorted out. The comment you made about vaginas hurt my feelings.

Then be quiet. Give him a chance to respond. Maybe given time he can admit that he was out of line. Maybe he will say he's sorry and ask if you can forgive him. If he does, then you can tell him what you need from him to make things right.

If he remains defensive, then you'll know for certain that Mike didn't just make a jerky comment, he is in fact a jerk and you should mourn the friendship and move on.
posted by brookeb at 8:02 PM on February 27, 2020 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I wouldn't drop someone for this if they'd been there for me in a serious way. I wouldn't apologize or walk anything back, either, though. There's an art to just...letting someone else be wrong, and it's worth learning.

Besides, at some point, cutting someone off is punishing you just as much as it's punishing them. If you felt relieved, I'd say "meh," but you're sick with grief. Regardless of whether it will lead to him being punished or not, don't do this to yourself.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:03 PM on February 27, 2020 [11 favorites]

Oh, also, the next move would be to call him --- don't fight over text! --- and just be like "hey dude I'm really upset that we're fighting. What's the deal?" and respond accordingly.

A lot of these scripts here are great but I would not really do any of the work, I'd just "what's the deal" him and see how it goes.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 8:07 PM on February 27, 2020 [12 favorites]

I agree with reaching out, but, like isdfsn9, advise to not go in with a script. Just open the lines of communication and give him a chance to say something (without also having to be the one to reach out first). Don’t act like nothing had happened, and for sure address it first or second thing in the conversation, but be willing to build the bridge.

Maybe he was defensive for real for a day, then busy/distracted for a day, but then didn’t know how to phrase things, then suddenly a week had passed and confronting the amount of silence on top of the content of the silence became Too Much.

Extend some grace, draw him out a little, but don’t let him get away with the comment. Stay strong in your boundaries of what kind of talk is okay around you.
posted by itesser at 8:48 PM on February 27, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I’ve distanced myself from a fair number of gay male friends who said this kind of utterly hateful and degrading shit. Some of them also said pretty deplorable things about other marginalized groups. One in particular I cut ties with after I saw him grope a mutual female friend — hard enough to leave a mark — and follow it up by explaining to her that it wasn’t assault because he took no pleasure in it. Because her body was disgusting to him.

So I have admittedly zero tolerance for this anymore. I avoid all drag performances now because I don’t want to risk hearing “fishy” out of an AMAB mouth and losing my shit.

Belonging to one marginalized class does not make it OK to spout hate at another.

And in that context, it’s fair to consider the mutuality of this friendship. How would he have respond if you had started spouting Westboro-style vulgar homophobic slurs at him? Would he have given you a chance to apologize? If instead, you gave him the silent treatment, would he have felt obligated to extend the olive branch?

Or is the emotional health of the friendship all your job, because you’re the one who has what he considers, despite relative inexperience, inferior anatomy?
posted by armeowda at 10:12 PM on February 27, 2020 [19 favorites]

Or maybe he's mad that I brought his daughter into it when I called him out.

I agree that his comment was wrong and that his sexism matters even more now that he's a parent, but I think it was wrong to angrily pull his kid into it.

"You'll damage your kid if you keep this up" is WAY higher stakes than "that joke isn't funny" or "you're ticking me off." You may be right, but people don't want to be friends just because someone is right about them. If you're so over his behavior that you're ready to fight in this manner, I think the friendship might be more over than you think it is.

If you truly -- when you're not fired up in anger on your own behalf, when you're considering it with a cool head, when you're thinking specifically about him, her, and their relationship (not yourself and not misogyny overall) -- felt concerned about his daughter and the way he talks about women around and to her, then it would make (would have made) sense to find a gentle, diplomatic way to raise this issue for her sake.

You didn't do that, it sounds like. It sounds like your motivation (not your justification, your motivation -- what brought you to make that statement at that moment) was not really a desire to protect his daughter but your own hurt and anger. You pulled in his daughter as a piece of rhetoric, as part of trying to make a point or win an argument -- an argument started for yourself. Their relationship is more important, personal, private, and complex than that.

Is your point right? Probably. I wouldn't blame you for not wanting to be friends with him. This would offend me. And if he did talk like that to his daughter, it would be very upsetting to watch.

But putting myself in his shoes, I would probably drop someone cold for this as well. It would make me really angry. I mean, I would never make a joke like that much less double down on it when challenged. But I could imagine having a conversation about politics where someone said that I was too progressive and that's why my kids were going to grow up expecting handouts and being failures or something. And if this did happen, I might consider their point and adjust my ways, but I would no longer consider them my friends. By the time the argument reaches the point of telling you that you're so very wrong that you'll mess up your kids, that's not really much of a supportive friendship. And/or if they got so angry that they wanted to scare me by threatening that I'd mess up my relationship with my kids? It's like, "Don't try to scare me like that. In fact, leave my kids out of it entirely. What do you know about how much I love my daughter?" It's all just way too high stakes and personal.

It sounds like maybe you and this guy are not very good friends and I don't blame you.
posted by slidell at 11:37 PM on February 27, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You have five options:

1) Pretend that you were wrong and apologize. Definitely don't that. He has needed to hear that for a long time, you shouldn't walk back a single word of it. It was important that you called him out, not just for your own sake, but also for the sake of all the other women in his life, especially his daughter.

2) Wait for him to apologize. I wouldn't do that either. You might wait in vain for a long time, during which you will be miserable, since you miss him already. I think that this would be the most costly approach for you.

3) Cut your losses and write him off. I think that's definitely an option worth considering - yes, 25 years are not to be taken lightly, and he's proven his merits in other regards. But a real friendship needs a better foundation than habit, nostaligia and a sense of obligation. The question is, does this connection make your life richer right now? If he keeps making these jokes, disrespecting you, if you keep having to bite your tongue because he can't handle honest feedback? Deciding to let the friendships run its course doesn't have to mean devaluing the past and denying his importance in your life. You can be grateful for all he did for you and maintain some fond memories and a certain affection and still decide that you're better off not being around him going forward. I would definitely keep this option in the back of my mind, but it's understandable if you want to try other options first.

4) Clear the air. Tell him that you miss him, but that you still think that comment was awful. If you want to build a bridge you can acknowledge that he might not have realized it would hurt you so much at the moment, so you won't hold it against him for now, but that he won't have that excuse any longer - should he ever make such a comment again, you will take it as a deliberate insult. It's his call to decide whether these "jokes" are more important to him than your friendship. But be prepared that he may well decide that they are. Pros: This is the quickest way to fully restore the friendship - every other approach will either either end it or require some inauthenticty on your part, making things more superficial for a while. Cons: This is also the quickest way to dash all hopes of a reconciliation. There's a high chance of escalating the original argument and burning that bridge for good. But then again, hope can be a slow poison, so maybe that con is a pro in its own way. Tear of the band-aid. Its's the high risik, high reward option, and as far I've read the thread, what most mefites recommend.

5) Pretend like nothing happened. Send him a funny meme and change the topic. Don't apologize and don't demand an apology. Give him a chance to let his actions speak for him. You can still dump him the next time he makes that sort of comment. But maybe he won't. Lots of people are shit at handling criticism, they feel backed in a corner and lash out/withdraw completely. But people who are not willing to admit they made a mistake might still be willing to quietly correct it, as long as they get to save face. I use option 5 maybe more often than I should and it's definitely not ideal, since it requires some degree of pretense, but I think it's not the worst one on this list. As long as the actual behavior improves I can do without getting a spelled-out apology. And sometimes I even got that apology anyway, months or years later, when I gave people the time and space to process the call-out at their own pace.
posted by sohalt at 2:17 AM on February 28, 2020 [17 favorites]

Best answer: I think it was totally appropriate to bring his daughter into the conversation, especially if this is a recurring insult/joke. I would wait for him to reach out. If he doesn't, there you go. Women always do the emotional labor; if he wants to stay friends, he can make the effort.
posted by shoesietart at 4:31 AM on February 28, 2020 [28 favorites]

he literally rescued me from an abusive relationship

...and apparently has been providing you with another. Look, suppose you fall into a pit, and along comes a knight in shining armor, who hauls you out...then claps leg-irons onto you and informs you that you are now their kitchen slave.

Having helped you once, even in an important way, doesn't entitle someone to a free pass forever.

Verbal abuse cumulates. You tolerated his until you got full-up. He got his nose out of joint when some of the overflow came back to him.

From your description, this friendship has been rather asymmetrical. As several other have suggested, a hard look at what you've really been getting out of it would be in order. If he doesn't make good here, I suggest you write yourself a Book of Mourning, and move on.
posted by Weftage at 6:06 AM on February 28, 2020 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I was going to say some version of what less of course said. There are certain behaviors -- e.g., frequent comments about how gross women are, performative displays of attraction towards men, etc. -- that I have tended to observe most among 45+ year-old gay men. They came out during a time when it was quite a difficult thing to do, and had to deal with a lot of awful things just because of who they were. I have tended to view these behaviors as ways to "claim their gayness" by doing a version of stereotypical straight man behaviors (e.g., making comments about how gross gay sex is, performative displays of attraction towards women, etc.). It does seem to be something that is dying out , as more or less says, just as the equivalent straight male behaviors are now viewed with disapprobation. It's still a thing I see from time to time among my 45+ year-old gay male friends -- especially among those who are politically active, for some reason -- along with the notion that they get a pass because they're gay. Some have responded well to suggestions from friends and peers that it's time for a change, and some... really have not. The resistance by the latter group could be due to the fact that no one likes to be rebuked, no matter how mildly, and could be magnified for those whose social circles include many who also continue to think these things are okay. I should hasten to add that similar things are at work among plenty of straight males in this age group whose character and/or social circles incline them to resist responding to changes in societal norms and socially acceptable behaviors and beliefs.

It's hard to say whether your friend is one who will double-down on the behavior and never be open to change, or one who will respond to a gentle explanation that you miss him and value his friendship, and can even understand some piece of where the comments come from, but that you still find it personally hurtful and socially problematic and think it's time to change. The only way to find out the answer is some version of sohalt's fourth suggested approach.
posted by slkinsey at 7:43 AM on February 28, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It might be worth considering whether you would give anyone else an excuse for bad behavior to a marginalized person on the basis of performative identity. [For instance, how would you feel about a white woman's racist comments to a BIPOC friend?] I feel like this is something that cis gay men, usually white cis gay men, get a pass on because they are gay white cis men. Contrast with how queer women are treated if they say anything negative about straight men, never mind anything negative to their faces, never mind "your body is disgusting and smells foul" - and I'd argue that the power balance between straight women and gay men is by no means as unequal as that between queer women and straight men.

And I'd situate this in a culture where women's bodies are presumed to be disgusting and smell foul. This isn't just some kind of performative gayness - it's an instance of a man choosing to express a horrible, misogynist sentiment that is deeply embedded in the culture. The belief that women's bodies are disgusting has all kinds of impacts, from literally how women are treated to how women deal with their own health issues - women with stigmatized bodies can neglect actual treatable conditions out of the belief that being "disgusting" [infected, painful, allergic] is just the natural state of any woman not celebrity beauty.
posted by Frowner at 8:22 AM on February 28, 2020 [15 favorites]

I have tended to view these behaviors as ways to "claim their gayness" by doing a version of stereotypical straight man behaviors

No, it's their way of claiming patriarchal power even though they were technically disqualified for it (under U.S. rules, anyway) at the time they came out. I find gay men who think the big problem with the patriarchy is that they don't/didn't get to be patriarchs to be pretty contemptible. There's no excuse, they know from personal experience just how bad the system is, and they don't care, they just want their power in it. What would life be like if you couldn't just say shitty things about women to women whenever you felt like it???

However, we are all allowed to have character flaws and be given a chance to change and grow, etc., so I'm in the sohalt-option-4 camp.
posted by praemunire at 9:50 AM on February 28, 2020 [6 favorites]

Throwing my weight behind sohalt's answer (what an excellent breakout), and starting hope can be a slow poison needlepoint project.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:47 AM on February 28, 2020 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you to everyone who responded - every single comment was so helpful in helping me process my feelings about this.

I had decided that I was too angry still to make any kind of first gesture (and like Frowner pointed out, it feels lousy to have to be that person), and that I was going to take another week or so to calm down more before reaching out. Then yesterday he unfriended me and my fiance on Facebook. I know Facebook is silly and not always a "real" relationship, but it was one of the major ways we kept in touch and it seemed a very pointed message that he does not want to be in communication with me. So I'm feeling even less inclined to make a first move now. I still hope that we can somehow, someday reconnect again but being shut out like this hurts and I'm not sure I'm seeing how we can move forward just yet. I've been very sad realizing that at least for the moment, doubling down on his right to say such shitty things seems to be more important than our friendship.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 12:59 PM on March 4, 2020 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I hope some time and distance will help, and I'm just so sorry you're going through this.
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:16 PM on March 4, 2020

Best answer: Then yesterday he unfriended me and my fiance on Facebook.

I suspect this was intended to provoke a reaction from you. Facebook isn't silly in this context; it's a communication medium. Certainly it seems intended to send you a message that the friendship is over from his perspective. I'm sorry you are dealing with this. I would not reach out.

For someone who told you you can't take a joke, he sure can't take criticism.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:23 PM on March 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I’m so sorry Neely. Seems to me like even if you had offered the olive branch he would have slapped it down. You deserve better.
posted by sallybrown at 3:33 PM on March 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ugh, I had a 17-year, once-very-close friendship end almost exactly that way. Years later I still have recurring dreams where she apologizes for how she treated me and I suddenly have to decide whether to let her back in my life.

Each time I wake up from that dream, I feel a little less heartache and a little more relief. There were so many things — inside jokes, helping each other through personal tragedies, secrets, trips, playlists... it’s a real loss, and it’s right to mourn it. But by the end that friendship had gone so badly one-sided, it was unrecognizable.

Sometimes a bond just goes sour. Sometimes you just have to trade a drain in the bottom of your heart for a little hole in the back of it.

I’m sorry you’re going through this. I think you’ll find it’s not more lonely than you felt before...just a different kind of lonely.
posted by armeowda at 9:07 PM on March 4, 2020 [2 favorites]

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