my ex-friends hate me and i can't handle it
April 11, 2022 12:43 PM   Subscribe

I'm a college senior in my early 20s. In my freshman year, I became very close friends with four other women. Then, in my junior year, I systematically destroyed those friendships by being an asshole and a bad friend. I apologized immediately, and tried to apologize again last year, but they've asked me not to contact them. I'm afraid that they hate me now, and I can never do anything to change their opinion of me, and it drives me bonkers.

To elaborate on some of the nuances here:

I didn't have many friends growing up, really only my twin sister - and that was also not an incredibly healthy friendship. So I had basically zero models for healthy friendships, had no idea how to be independent when I came into college, lacked even a single morsel of self-awareness, and on top of it, hated myself so deeply I couldn't even tell that I hated myself. Clearly I was not in the position to be a good friend to anyone.

When I befriended my ex-friends, we quickly formed a close but fragile friend group. I was closer to some friends in the group than others, but simply happy to be part of a group. In Spring 2020, our friendships were growing quite tense, but then we were all kicked off campus. And then I went home to my family, and was honestly, very depressed for a while. I have an anxious attachment style and at the time, I'd developed a massive unrequited crush on the incredibly emotionally unavailable person who I'd been hooking up with (the first person I'd ever kissed/done anything romantic with, who validated that perhaps I wasn't ugly and perhaps it was possible for someone to actually have romantic feelings for me). I'd never experienced the kind of heartbreak I went through trying to get over that crush, and I basically did not think of anything other than my attachment to this person.

In fall 2020, I systematically destroyed three of these friendships because I just didn't have the self-respect and self-awareness to act with any kind of genuine care towards these friends. The short version is: I'd been rooming with Friend A, had been a deeply neglectful friend (bc obsessed with hook-up + schoolwork for the academic validation), and did not show her any care after she had a major health scare. I didn't even message her to see how she was doing. I'd always been distant to Friend B, but then she came out to me as a lesbian, and we started out hanging out more....just as I began flirting with her ex-boyfriend who she'd broken up with earlier that year. The day after she came out to him, her ex-boyfriend and I began dating, without talking to her about it even once. And Friend C, I'd always felt deeply jealous of because she just seemed a million times better than I was (and acted that way sometimes), and I essentially ghosted her even though we were in the same COVID "pod" (though living in separate rooms). All of these friends have completely cut me off now, as is understandable and is completely their right.

I tried to apologize to these friends once they told me how much I had hurt them. My apologies were not deep or meaningful, though. Since then, I have gotten in therapy and have finally started to work on myself and have confronted my insecurities, and I am working on building self-esteem and self-worth and healthy relationship skills. Now, I can't even imagine treating my friends the way I treated my ex-friends. I deeply regret the way that I treated them. I can safely say that I am a completely different person now. Last semester, I tried to reach out to them via a mutual friend to see if I could offer them another apology - a more genuine apology. But they were not open to any kind of apology, not even a letter.

I go through periods where I feel haunted by the fact that they never received a proper apology from me, and in their minds, I am still the shittiest friend alive. I see them around often, and they are still very close friends with one another, and my mind tortures me with the things they've probably said about me to each other -- dissecting all the ways that I was incredibly toxic and an awful friend and an awful person. Some of these friends have a tendency to be judgemental and hold grudges; I was on a team with Friend C once, and at the end of the semester, we were supposed to offer each person on the team one compliment, and Friend C told me that I am a work-horse and that I "have improved as a person" -- which feels like a backhanded compliment, and illustrates how poorly she thinks of me.

I have accepted that I will never be friends with these people again, and I don't want their friendship. But I can't handle the fact that they might be thinking such nasty things about me, even though they have perfectly good reasons to think these things about me. It makes me feel sick to my stomach. I keep wanting to apologize to them again, to clear my name--even though I can see that then my apology still wouldn't be genuine, because it would be more self-serving than anything else. I want to offer them a genuine apology AND I don't want them to see me as this horrible, irredeemable person -- but probably more than anything, I want to stop caring SO MUCH about what they think of me. I can tell that I have started building them up in my heads, as though they have moral authority over me, as though they have never done anything misguided or unkind to anyone, or as though they have never been immature and not known how to treat people with the care that they deserve. I know that I have caused them harm, especially Friend B, who I hurt when she was in an incredibly vulnerable state.

And yet, they still don't want to hear me out. And I feel angry at them for this.

How do I get over the fact that they probably hate me, or at the very least, have a very negative opinion of me? How do I forgive myself for the things that I did to them when I was stupid and immature and simply did not know any better? And how do I make amends when they never want to speak to me again?
posted by cruel summer to Human Relations (38 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Sometimes you can't make amends. I'm getting close to twice your age, and have a couple of similar incidents in my past, from when I was around your age. There are people I was very close to in my teens/early 20s who don't ever want to speak to me again based on unacceptable ways I behaved back then. It doesn't feel great, but also, it's a long time ago now, and with the benefit of hindsight I can see that they are justified in not wanting me in their lives, and respect their decision. Really the only thing you can do here is learn from this and don't make the same mistakes again, the next time you're in a similar situation. This too shall pass.
posted by Alterscape at 12:51 PM on April 11, 2022 [66 favorites]

I'm not a shrink, and I'm definitely not your shrink. This is just my opinion.

Write out your confession, kinda like what you're doing now, but to the specific persons. Record them in video if you like. But the trick is actually do it, say their name, write their name, and say whatever you did not have a chance to do: apologize sincerely.

You don't have to send them, written or video'ed, but you have to *do* them.

You have to grieve in order to move on. You are still bargaining, to borrow Kubler-Ross's 5 stages of grief.

Whether you are willing to send them is up to you.
posted by kschang at 12:52 PM on April 11, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: The only way I have recovered from the friendships I destroyed in my 20s was to leave those people completely - physically I moved away immediately, and I have never tried to be in contact with most of them again. I have not seen them in person since I left town (they all left town too, and I did keep in social media touch with some folks for a while, but no longer do).

As I get older I realize that becoming a better person and friend is its own reward, but there is nothing I can or should do to repair or make amends with those specific people. You show them you respect them by leaving them alone (which is what they have asked for). You treat people better. You treat yourself better.

Stick with therapy! Make plans for after graduation, perhaps involving a move. Avoid putting yourself in painful situations where you see these former friends. Grieve as needed.

Also: every time you catch yourself thinking about how badly they must hate you, stop and redirect. 1) you have no control over them 2) they probably do not think about you as much as you worry they do 3) it's not your problem to make them like you anymore.
posted by Lawn Beaver at 12:55 PM on April 11, 2022 [33 favorites]

Best answer: Not everyone is going to like you. This is not something that is ever promised to any of us. It is an unreasonable expectation in life.

You will have to let them not like you. You live with it because you don't have any other options. You don't make amends, you respect boundaries.

And also you consider that this goes both ways: you are not obligated to like everyone you ever know. You get to not like people too, sometimes because that is necessary to your wellbeing and sometimes just because you don't share their values or an unfortunate set of experiences has poisoned the well, as has happened here. Think of this as personal agency, theirs and yours, that you believe all people have a right to prioritize over being nice or making other people feel better.

Accepting and being okay with this is something you practice. It doesn't just happen.

This happens to everyone, too. We all have moments in our lives that we weren't at our best and it had consequences. It is pretty much inescapable. What you should do with that is absorb them as lessons, but for as long as you're going to be mad about, the anger prevents you from doing that. That you're here writing this does mean you are starting to take on the work of processing it, and I strongly encourage you to get a journal or a google doc or whatever and KEEP writing and processing, and every time you go back through it work on coming closer to a narrative of forgiving yourself for the mistakes you made, forgiving them for their rejection even if it's totally justified because it still hurts, and work toward telling yourself the story of the time you really screwed up but you realize that you were less mature and were having some troubles and you might handle that situation differently when challenged in similar ways in the future.

I had a pretty significant blowout with some friends when I was in college, definitely driven by a bad depressive episode and anxiety I didn't know how to manage. I spent my final year or so pretty lonely and hurt and beating myself up. I later realized that one of those people had been shit-stirring behind the scenes and was not a blameless bystander and some other people made some choices in the whole thing that could have been different and the whole thing was a lot more complicated than I had originally framed it. Many years after that, we're all facebook friends and the shit-stirrer is still honestly super unpleasant in some familiar though toned-down ways (that I ALSO realize now came from some pretty shitty stuff in childhood), and we're not besties but I do like and admire the other friends from that group a lot.

But what I have found along the way is that you are going to move through many major friend groups in your lifetime and a lot of times things fall apart and you will begin to see that sometimes it's the right thing. You may feel bad about your part in it but you will also recognize that there's more than one person involved in the dynamic and you can't control the whole thing.

You will also realize that for the most part, the people you yourself walk away from in dislike don't loom particularly large in your memory. Mostly what those people think of you is: not at all, with occasional moments of distaste. People are too self-absorbed to spend that much time on someone else.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:04 PM on April 11, 2022 [31 favorites]

Best answer: Sometimes the cost of our shitty behavior is that we don't get to make amends, we don't get forgiven, and we have to live our lives knowing that somebody thinks we're crap. It sucks, it really really sucks, because humans naturally want to be the heroes of their own stories and that kind of situation directly flies in the face of that. It is also natural to be angry about it because these people are making your life more difficult by not forgiving you. The thing is (and I'm sure you know this)--you are not owed forgiveness. The anger is born of selfishness. And learning to accept their decision and not be angry at them for it is its own form of growth.

Part of what you do to get over this is what you've already done: therapy, learning to be a better person, learning to recognize your cruelties so you don't repeat them in the future. And the other part is just the passage of time. Continue to live as a kinder, more compassionate person, continue to treat people better than you treated them, and treat the regret as a reminder of the importance of self-reflection and growth.

Also: I think very few people get through life without being shitty to someone else. It is extremely human to be selfish and behave badly because of it. The choice to be self-aware, recognize your mistakes, and grow and improve from them is not one that many people make, so do recognize that this simple act of trying and continuing to try already means you're becoming better.

(If you record or write down confessions I strongly urge you to not send them. They've set their boundaries, at this point further attempts to apologize and try to gain forgiveness would make things worse)
posted by Anonymous at 1:12 PM on April 11, 2022

I guess my question is, why does it matter? If you acknowledge that your apology won't actually change anything, and that you don't even want to be friends with them, who cares? Move on. It's the best thing to do. Twenty years from now, ten years from now, heck - next year, nobody is going to remember or care about any of this.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:12 PM on April 11, 2022 [8 favorites]

1. You're probably not a COMPLETELY different person. Which is fine, you are NOT the first person to be depressed in college/have awkward hookups/clash with a roommate over their attitude. You don't need to prove that you are now all good to your roommates. They have their mixture of good and bad, just like you. They're not God.

2. Hang out with the friends you do have that you actually enjoy hanging out with. I have a sense that you and these friends didn't even like each other that much and perhaps a tenuous housing situation/COVID isolation made you more important to each other than you would have been otherwise.

3. What's this about "academic validation"? You're supposed to want to do well in at least SOME of your college classes. Trying to do well isn't "academic validation," it means that either you have a further professional goal in mind or that you enjoy what you're learning. If you weren't bothering with anything that you were taking, I'd tell you to drop out and get a job before you wasted any more money. Anyway, old person ranting over.
posted by kingdead at 1:12 PM on April 11, 2022 [11 favorites]

You unfortunately earned their bad opinion of you. You made that bed and you will have to lie in it. It's great that you've shaped up and wish you can make amends, and you can use that for future friendships. But you have to accept that some folks think you're awful and you gave them good reason to think that, and you'll have to live with that the rest of your life. We all have several people we feel that way about, it's just life. There's no changing their minds about you now and there's nothing you could say, even if they wanted to listen, that is going to fix that.

If it's any consolation, at least you know why the friendships ended. I've been frienddumped over the years out of nowhere and have racked my brains for years trying to figure out what I did wrong and truly couldn't think of anything offensive. But clearly I must have done something.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:16 PM on April 11, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I have accepted that I will never be friends with these people again, and I don't want their friendship. But I can't handle the fact that they might be thinking such nasty things about me, even though they have perfectly good reasons to think these things about me.

It's good that you have acceptance around the issue that you probably won't be friends. Going forward practice that same acceptance that you can't know what people are thinking and you can't control how they feel. If you don't want their friendship, ask yourself why it matters so much on how they think. Try releasing the desire to control how people see you or perceive you. Their opinions are not up to you. When feelings arise regarding the desire to clear your name, I would notice these feelings, breathe through them, and move on to something positive that you want to do while staying in the present moment. Accept that you will be triggered at times, or remember these times and things like shame or regret may surface. This is normal human stuff, but you don't have to dwell or beat yourself up. Notice, breathe, and move on.

With time, these friends might view you with affection and forgiveness and may regret some of their behavior too. With maturity we realize that we have all behaved badly at times, and we never had bad intentions, and we were all trying to be loved, and when we know better, we do better.

Let this time in your life go and move forward with new relationships and positive life experiences. You're only human. Be gentle with yourself.
posted by loveandhappiness at 1:16 PM on April 11, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Mostly what those people think of you is: not at all, with occasional moments of distaste. People are too self-absorbed to spend that much time on someone else.

quoted for truth.

Leave those women alone, but also: remember that time eventually will blunt all pain. It will heal (probably has already healed) your ex-friends' hurt. That doesn't mean they're going to like you now or in the future, but it does mean that it's very unlikely that they're spending time hating you, or even that you rank highly in whatever is stressing them out in their life these days.

And, if you let it, time will also heal your embarrassment. You'll have other things and other relationships to think about, and this shame will recede into just a thing in your past from which you'll have learned a useful lesson.

And also, keep it in perspective. Did you steal from them, crash their car, plagiarize their work? No, you were just a subpar friend, a disappointment. None of your offenses are going to be the worst thing they're going to experience in their life, and they're the worst thing you do in yours, you'll be batting above average.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:16 PM on April 11, 2022 [17 favorites]

Best answer: The short answer is: more therapy.

Because you can't make these people behave in the way you want them to. All you can do is let go of wanting them to.

You've made some great forward strides in accepting yourself, in improving your behaviour, but there's more room there for you to learn to take the world as it comes and to differentiate between things you can control and things you can't control and learn how not to be devastated by the things you can't control.

I am not a religious person, but I find the serenity prayer actually quite useful when I think about these things.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.

You've started on the path to change the things you can -- your own behaviours and self-acceptance -- but you have not accepted the things you cannot change yet. Keep working.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:22 PM on April 11, 2022 [5 favorites]

Great advice above. I’d just add - take those great new interpersonal skills and insight you’ve gained, and use them to your benefit by making some new friends. Join a club or student (or non-student!) society focussed around something enjoyable and have some fun with new people who know nothing of your past. It almost doesn’t matter what the activity is, and you don’t have to meet any Best Friends for Life. For you, the purpose of being there is just exercising those new social skills you’ve developed, consolidating them, and enjoying the experience of being a good, kind, considerate, companion, enjoying your new self in a low-stakes, pleasant/fun setting.

It’ll make the bad stuff into a smaller percentage of your overall adult life experience, will be great for your self esteem to witness yourself blossoming into such a lovely person, and will also provide some distraction while enough time passes to dull the pain of past events.

It’s the very practical, real-world version of moving on, and can help you also make the internal, mental step of moving on.
posted by penguin pie at 1:31 PM on April 11, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: It's hard because these friends saw a version of you at your worst. Remembering who you were in the past makes you feel ashamed and scared. You don't want to be that person - you have tried very hard to change - but the fact that they remember that version of you makes it hard to leave the shame behind. If you could get them to change their minds - to see you - you would know you were no longer that person. You don't want to be friends with them, necessarily, or make them feel better: what you crave is validation of your new self-concept. You want them to see you for who you are now, because that will help ground you in this new, better version of yourself.

And that is totally okay. It is normal and natural to want this, and the fact that it can be hugely conducive to healing is one of the reasons making amends is a big part of the recovery process. But it is NOT necessary. When we can't make amends to people directly, we make living amends. How would this work in your case?

1. You write out what you would say if they were willing to hear you out. This would be: what you did wrong, why it was wrong, what you'd like to do to make up for it, and what you will do to make sure it doesn't happen again in the future. Share it with your therapist or someone else you trust to make sure there's not anything obvious you missed.

2. Then, you do start doing those things. One aspect of being a better friend is listening to people when they tell you what they want - trusting them when they tell you what they need, and trying to give it. Since your friends are asking you not to reach out right now, you accept that, and act accordingly. Respecting their wishes in this matter - putting their well-being over yours - is making amends. In doing so, even though it's hard, you are making amends to them every day.

3. You look at your life and notice where else you are engaging in those behaviors, and try to fix them. What are you doing differently? Well, there's therapy, of course. Taking care of yourself, trying to be better - that's one way of making amends. In your other personal relationships, how are you behaving? Are you trying to be more honest? Kinder? More loving? Every time you make an effort to act differently, to be the person you want to be rather than the person you are, you are making a living amends to your friends.

4. I think it might be good to do something ceremonial that signifies your love for each of your friends, and your regret for the way things ended, and to take an action to mark it. Maybe could imagine that they accepted your amends, and that you were able to give them some kind of gift - a piece of clothing, or art, or something personal to them. You could buy that object and then donate it somewhere, or wrap it and keep it until the perfect moment presents itself to give it to a new friend. Or donate anonymously to a cause you know they care about. Nothing that actually involves them - it's for you, to demonstrate for yourself that you would make amends if you could.

5. When you have done those things, and the swarm of bad feelings starts to torment you, you have proof that they're wrong. You have demonstrated that you are no longer the person your old friends think you are, so if they carry on hating an old version of you in their heads, that's on them. The fact that they are wrong about you is no longer your problem. You've done your part. If they want to be wrong, and stay stuck in the past, that's their business. Maybe someday they'll reach out to you, and maybe they won't, but that's up to them. You are free to move on.
posted by Merricat Blackwood at 1:39 PM on April 11, 2022 [15 favorites]

Best answer: Yeah, this is tough. But you know whose forgiveness you need? Your own. You need to figure out how to forgive yourself.

Here are the crimes as you’ve presented them:

During a terrible pandemic you:
1. Prioritized school and a romantic relationship and didn’t check in with a friend during her tough time
2. Started dating a friend’s ex and didn’t tell her and neither did he
3. Didn’t respond to a friend who you felt insecure around

So, okay, this isn’t great. But, in the grand scheme of life, this doesn’t sound like “systematically destroying” friendships. This sounds like growing up and getting caught up in a new relationship and learning how to care for others even when we have got things going on with ourself. And it’s okay to prioritize school!

It would have been good probably to give friend two a heads up. But you and the guy are consenting adults, and we aren’t entitled to never have our friends date our exes, and the whole “on the day she came out” sounds like the kind of thing isn’t actually relevant. That’s not the day she broke up with him, right? She’s not the center of that relationship between you and him.

I mean, these are not unforgivable trespasses. But you can’t keep reaching out to your former friends. I think you’re looking for their approval or validation?

The way you will heal this is by making new friends and showing them care; and giving yourself the approval and variation you seek. These things have become HUGE when really, in the middle of a pandemic, none of us were at our best. Be gentle with yourself. Let them go. Give yourself the approval and forgiveness you seek.
posted by bluedaisy at 2:02 PM on April 11, 2022 [37 favorites]

You're a senior, so you're probably graduating soon, and moving into a completely different life phase. I think that some of what you're feeling will work itself out naturally when you're in a new environment, doing new things, and not seeing them anymore.

In other words, while it feels unbearable right now, that feeling isn't likely something you're going to have to live with for the rest of your life.
posted by metasarah at 2:07 PM on April 11, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Unfortunately, we sometimes learn how to be good friends by making bad mistakes. I think you've gotten good advice here; I just want to stress that there's hardly a person on earth--especially at your age, and especially if they're already socially awkward--who hasn't blown up one (or more!) good relationships by behaving badly. The best way to "make amends" is to figure out how not to do it to your next set of friends. And you will have them.

You're not a bad person. You did some bad things. Learn from them.
posted by praemunire at 2:21 PM on April 11, 2022 [13 favorites]

Best answer: This is an opportunity to accept that you will be the villain in someone else's story.

It's possible that in the minds of A, B, and C, you were and continue to be the shittiest friend ever. More likely, over time they will come to a more nuanced understanding of who you all were to each other: friends at a developmentally and globally difficult time, who needed more from each other than any of you had the skill and resources to provide. Most of us do a lot of awkward, messy growing in terms of our self-awareness, social skills, relationship skills, and moral development between the ages of 18-25. It's rare to get through those years without being a shitty friend/partner/kid/employee/student/etc. to at least one person. I'd bet money that years from now, A, B, and C will take stock of some of their own choices around this time and cringe, and when they do, it's likely they'll soften toward you. They might still think of you as a "shitty friend," but I can't think of any shitty friends I had in high school or college who I assume haven't grown up. I look back on those experiences (or times when I was the shitty friend) and think, "Yep. That's what a 19-y.o. with low self-esteem and limited dating experience does. I sure hope they figured themselves out." (Or, if I'm thinking of my own behavior--"I'm so glad I figured myself out, but oof. I wish I'd known better back then.")

Think about something that felt incredibly true and important when you were 15, and compare that to how you feel about it now--chances are, even if it's still important to you, your perspective has changed and matured. You are in an uncomfortable moment where you are acutely aware of what went wrong, without the perspective and self-compassion to be able to say, "I've done all I can to make amends, and now all I can do is put these lessons to use with my current friends." You are in something similar to the state of, "I will literally die if my crush finds out I like them"--you will not feel this way forever, but it feels very true right now. Accepting that you're the villain in their story is one way to get from where you are now to something more like, "Yikes! I was so afraid of my crush finding out I liked them--how stressful!" It's about accepting that your ex-friends aren't interested in your apology right now, and you can't make them change their minds. But you don't have to believe that that says something final about who you are as a person.
posted by theotherdurassister at 3:32 PM on April 11, 2022 [16 favorites]

Friend C told me that I am a work-horse and that I "have improved as a person" -- which feels like a backhanded compliment, and illustrates how poorly she thinks of me.

Um, no. It sounds like she recognizes how you have improved, and is trying to appreciate your academically driven nature.

And yet, they still don't want to hear me out. And I feel angry at them for this.

If you are still angry at them, then any apologies will not be heard properly - the only thing they will feel is your underlying resentment. It sounds like you recognize that they never meant that much to you, and yet you still require their cordiality? ~ Even when you refuse to recognize when Friend C was trying to give you a genuine compliment in a team related obligation? Is this 'making amends' not a therapy related obligation you have determined for yourself? Just move on.
posted by itsflyable at 3:34 PM on April 11, 2022 [4 favorites]

Oh god, please don't send people apology videos. That's Creepy Stalker territory. Take the L and learn and move on. The real work of growing up is internal, not performative.
posted by Ardnamurchan at 3:54 PM on April 11, 2022 [27 favorites]

Please don’t contact them anymore. They’ve set a boundary and your job now is to respect it, no exceptions, no questions asked.

You want to apologize for yourself. This is okay; this is why we all apologize. But you are acting out of your own self-interest here instead of what is best for them. You think that offering a genuine apology will get their genuine forgiveness and then you won’t need to carry around your guilt anymore. But you hurt them, and not long ago at that. You’re not going to get that.

Don’t continue to make this about you and ruminate and obsess. It doesn’t matter what they think of you anymore. You’re doing the hard work of trying to be a better version of yourself, which is so beautiful and worthy. This is exactly what your early 20s should be; in between the heartbreak and crummy jobs and fleeting friendships there will be these incredible moments of self-discovery and growth. Embrace that journey and try to replace that guilt you carry with pride. Pride for learning and becoming a better person. Not everyone will get there but you did.

Please don’t contact them again, though. Please.
posted by Amy93 at 4:03 PM on April 11, 2022 [12 favorites]

Best answer: I think the most important thing here is to forgive yourself. From my much-older, been-there, seen-that perspective, it seems like, yeah, you behaved in some kinda shitty ways but nothing that would be seen as objectively unforgivable (this does not mean these individuals owe you forgiveness, we all get to decide who we forgive and when). It sounds like pretty run-of-the-mill late teens behavior, which is part of growing up. We all have to learn how to be good friends sometime, and if you didn't get those lessons when you were 12, you'll get them when you're 19, or 35.

I think it's good that you are taking ownership of your behavior and respect, at least intellectually, your former friends' decisions. But I think you're still letting yourself feel not that you did something bad, but that you were/are a bad person and I think part of your anger comes from the fact that their shunning of you makes you feel ashamed. I would work in therapy on separating what you did from who you are as a person. It might also help to identify some of the things you could do in the future to make things go better in friendships. For instance, communication is key - having an honest conversation with B about her ex-boyfriend before you started dating probably would have helped. Or either staying in touch better OR if you were struggling with that due to COVID doldrums, letting people know that.

Also, like ... it's not uncommon for a group of freshman to get really really close in their first year and then drift apart as time goes on. I remember when that happened with my little freshman year clique and it was a little bit heartbreaking at the time. I remember feeling personally rejected. Eventually we all found our own place on campus and stayed friendly through the end of college. Many of my other friends had similar experiences. It seems like being off-campus so long really ruptured things for you and kept you from being able to find other people you connected with more. I wonder if continuing to focus on these women is keeping you from making other friends on campus. I know you're a senior but it's never too late.

And then you're going to graduate soon. And I know pop culture puts so much emphasis on college friends, but I honestly made most of my best/truest friends after college. One really important thing for me was learning it's not just about who likes me, and who's fun to hang out with, but what I want in a friend too. What kind of people I want to be around. That's not necessarily going to be the group of people you met when you were 18 and making friends for the first time, and that's ok.

Anyway, just keep trying to learn and be better, but don't be too hard on yourself. You've learned a lot and you've got a lot more time and experience to make more friends.
posted by lunasol at 4:06 PM on April 11, 2022 [8 favorites]

You cannot make anyone feel anything. You can only control yourself. And a true apology is for the person you harmed, not for yourself to feel better. Pushing further to "apologize" would only cause harm for them in an effort to absolve yourself. Even if they were receptive, I doubt there's anything they could say that would make you feel instantly better. It's not their responsibility to make you feel better. This is all work you have to do on yourself, without their involvement.
posted by Crystalinne at 4:16 PM on April 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

Would it help you any to hear from someone who did similar and didn’t figure myself out until much later than you? I think you’re doing the best you can—you have a lot of insight into your behavior, and true remorse. You won’t do this again and that’s HUGE. Many, maybe even most, people repeat their mistakes over and over in million ways.

It’s true. They probably talked negatively about you. They may never forgive/forget. They might have a low opinion of you forever, or they might not, or they might have mixed feelings. That’s the risk of behaving in negative ways (or positive ways, or any ways at all.) You cannot control how you’re received.

I think you take this as one of those lessons that can only be forged in pain and do your best from now on. If you happen to see one of them in 5 or 10 years, tell them how sorry you’ve always been. But don’t pursue opportunities to make amends; that never works and you’ll feel a lot worse.
posted by kapers at 4:26 PM on April 11, 2022 [4 favorites]

The single most important thing you can do to make amends is to respect their stated boundaries and leave them alone. That is the apology and the amends, at least for now. It's how you signal that you're listening and putting their needs above yours.

Beyond that you mostly just need to wait for time to do its healing thing. It would probably also help to find some ways to start incorporating new relationships into your life in which you can practice the things you're learning about showing up for people who matter to you. You could start small with a volunteer gig or joining an activity or doing a small favor for someone. Anything that gives your brain a chance for some positive interaction and distraction and practice at building new connections.
posted by Stacey at 4:45 PM on April 11, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Lots of good advice upthread, I mainly want to affirm that while sure, it sounds like you were a bit self-absorbed, this all happened during a pandemic that then produced a mental health crisis among your age-demographic, so in the grand scheme of things, you're fine. I mean, most teenagers are self-absorbed/selfish at some point, and there is generally a lot of emotional growth between the ages of 18-25. I teach at the college-level, and it is striking how much some students grow up between freshman and senior year. So, yes, you need to just accept that these women don't want to be your friend, but mainly you need to cut yourself some slack - they don't exactly sound perfect themselves, and you've all no doubt been under a lot of stress from the pandemic, adjusting to online learning, etc. Perhaps under better circumstances this all would have played out differently - but you'll never be able to know, such is life.

When I was in undergrad a professor once told me "college is just a blip." I didn't believe them at the time, but they were right. You're about to graduate, focus on becoming the person you want to be, not on mistakes you made freshman/sophomore year.
posted by coffeecat at 5:06 PM on April 11, 2022 [9 favorites]

Best answer: It sounds to me like you made some mistakes, but honestly nothing that I personally, or most of the people I’m friends with, would cut someone off over.

You can recognize that you should act differently in the future without completely buying into this group’s opinion of you, because frankly from my perspective it’s pretty extreme. They’re allowed to cut you off, but it doesn’t make you A Bad Person.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:10 PM on April 11, 2022 [7 favorites]

Your first friend was just a roommate. OK, someone you weren't close to had a medical problem, and you didn't respond, as they had no appreciable relationship with you, to begin with. For this individual to treat you as if you were a bad friend is narcissistic, since you weren't friends to begin with. Maybe you wish there had been a friendship, or there was something you could have done, but there was not.

You spent time with your friend who came out. OK. You dated the guy she had used as a cover, and you got stung by your passion and he abandoned you, maybe because he had just been abandoned by your friend who came out. This hurt you, OK, the lesson here is avoid intimacy with people who are rebounding, the relationship usually has little to do with you, and everything to do with the previous relationship. You become basically a handy pacifier, an eraser, even a whipping post. The last of the friends, let me read up. You weren't friends with friend number three and it is OK. It is no reflection on you that you were focused on what you wanted. Friendship is sort of a mixed bag among immature people. Just remember what you learned and go forward. Don't injure yourself over it. Lots of times we meet friends of a lifetime, in college, but sometimes not. Don't forget, that what you wanted, whatever it was, is important. Learning about what makes you tick is the job of your youth. There are about 8 billion humans on Earth, find some more, if that is what you want.

You can try and find out what people want with you, and find out what can be, with a given individual. You do not have to do the deep dive right off with anyone. Figure out what friendship means to you, be a good participant, or don't participate of it doesn't feel right. You always have the right to pursue academics, or work in the college setting. What other people want is what they want. 8 billion, plenty to go around. You sound independent, maybe having a twin leaves you more whole than most. Over your life time there will be a lot of people who need validation, being polite works, but you do not have to accomodate them all.
posted by Oyéah at 5:21 PM on April 11, 2022 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I really don't think anyone gets through life without doing things at least as "bad" as you did (and as a therapist, I've talked to quite a few people about this kind of thing). And you're taking ownership of it, which is a lot more than some are willing/able to do. Honestly, all people make mistakes throughout their lives but especially in their 20s; it's your friends' right not to want to continue the relationship but I don't think you did anything especially egregious; perhaps just bad timing, being self-absorbed at the time, or the fact that the events came together too close in time.

Unfortunately it's a fact of life that everyone has their own narrative and perspective, and sometimes people may wind up not liking or judging us based on things we did/ways we treated them. But I am betting there are more people that you positively affected. I have a couple friends who no longer speak to me based on things I did; at the same time, I can look at my life and name lots of people i know that benefitted from my help.

my main point is, that you should not beat yourself up about this or consider yourself a bad person. If you were a "bad" person, you wouldn't be thinking or caring about this at all.
posted by bearette at 6:10 PM on April 11, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Aw, peach, I’m sorry you’re going through this. I agree with the above poster that the real forgiveness needs to happen for YOURSELF. You didn’t “systematically” do anything — you are in your early 20s, which means your frontal lobe is still not quite fully formed, which means impulse control and risk taking are not at their full, adult levels.

I will also say I don’t think anything you mentioned is…a life-sentence friendship crime. Is it the greatest behavior in the world? No. But it strikes me as very common and within the bounds of what I would consider normal drama for people your age. The way you feel about this now is not the way you will feel about it forever; that is true for them, too. They may stay mad forever, but that’s hardly a forgone conclusion.

I’m sure you’re heard people — trustworthy, dignified people! — say “god, I was such a dumbass in college.” This is what they often mean. That they were careless with friendships and perhaps emotionally myopic. I am glad you’re in therapy, and I wonder if perhaps Friend C saying that you “improved as a person” is them genuinely recognizing that shift.

As for what to do, I will tell you from experience as the person who was the bad friend a few times and has been forgiven some of them, and been able to offer forgiveness to others: Live a good life!!!! That is actually the best possible path forward. Learn to give and accept love in healthy ways (lol easier said than done, but you know), form meaningful bonds, enjoy your ride on the big blue marble. Your path may cross with these people again; it may not. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if when it did, you had your shit figured out by and large, and you were happy and thriving and doing great, and could speak with understanding and maturity about yourself and others? They can decide they want to get to know this newer version of you, and maybe you will all be friends again, or maybe you've all changed, or maybe you'll decide this chapter is over, or any million other things. Go build yourself a beautiful, beautiful bridge so this can be water under it.
posted by Charity Garfein at 6:25 PM on April 11, 2022 [8 favorites]

Best answer: Just a small thing to add that helps me a lot. Notice when you are making big negative statements about yourself. "I can't get over this." "I can't handle this".
Those things are not true and are preventing you from moving on.
Tell yourself "I can handle this". That is the truth. "I can move on." It's the truth.
It might hurt, and you might be sad, but you can do this. Tell yourself that, and try to stop predicting failure.
That's just another way of trying to control things that can't be controlled. The certainty of failure can feel safer than the possibility of success, but it's hurting you.
Be a good friend to yourself.
This Internet stranger forgives you, and wishes you well.
posted by Zumbador at 8:45 PM on April 11, 2022 [15 favorites]

Someone very wise told me that “what other people think of you is none of your business.” Yes, they may think poorly of you but as y’all are no longer friends it’s none of your business. You can just entirely let it go.
posted by Bottlecap at 10:39 PM on April 11, 2022 [6 favorites]

Best answer: You will get many chances to prove that you did the work and are now a kinder, more self-aware, more considerate person. But probably not from them, and that's fine. They have chosen not to know you anymore - for understandable reasons, maybe, but their reasons actually don't matter; it's their choice and you have to respect it - and since they don't know you anymore, their judgement of you is going to be wrong. Why should you care about the judgement of people who don't know you?

You used to care, and habits are hard to change, but you will succeed once you've successfully replaced them with new habits. Make a new habit of devoting your time and energy to your current friends (and keep seeking that academic validation - honestly, you're probably paying a lot for education; get your money's worth). In time, your focus will have shifted, and you might occasionally wince at the memory of your past fuck-ups, but you won't dwell on it, because your present demands your full attention.

Most people have these sort of stories and scars. It's a part of life. When I was in highschool, the clique I was in ousted the wannabe-queenbee - she was pretty, smart, charismatic and energetic, but too ego-centric, treating us all more like minions rather than friends and had a nasty habit of putting others down to elevate herself, trying to sell it as "affectionate teasing"... I was the easiest target; she really made me quite miserable for a couple of months. I put up with too much shit because I liked the other girls and was afraid of losing them - of course I was nothing but relieved, when we collectively decided that enough was enough and just cut her off.

Years later, she apologized to me, because she wanted to be on our team for the final thesis project. I said "Thank you for your apology. I wish you the best for your future endeavours. Still don't want you on the team though." The others didn't want her on the team either and for a while, everything was hunky-dory. But that year before graduation came with a lot of stress, and I handled it ..... badly, let's put it like that. I kinda lost my mind for a bit and turned into the team-member from hell. (Talk about "too focused on academic validation"...) One friend's parents got divorced, another friend's mum had a health scare, and I was terrorizing everyone about that stupid final project. They didn't talk to me for the rest of the term. I tried to apologize, but they wanted nothing to do me with me anyway. I suffered like a dog. One of the worst years of my life.

I was also keenly aware how much my ousted-queenbee-exfriend, who got to witness all this, must have been enjoying my fall from grace. I didn't want her on the team, and now I was the team member everyone hated, my apologies just as futile as hers. What delicious karma! Weirdly, even then, I couldn't begrudge her the satisfaction. I guess I always had a certain appreciation for poetic justice, even when I'm the victim of it. It was generally a very humbling experience and I just felt it served me right.

And I like to think I learned a lot from it. My friends from high school eventually forgave me - sheer grace, nothing I did to deserve it - but it was a rocky road and took quite a while. I'm now a decent team member; people often ask me to be on their team and usually want to work with me again. My high school friends all invited me to their weddings. Now I might see some of them only once or twice every two years, but we're still in touch, after all these years. One of them also became a teacher, and we're talking weekly. We're often working together and are actually a good team now!

We haven't talked about our ex-friend in years. We obviously had enough of our own drama in the meantime. If I met the ex-friend now, running into her on the street, I would stop and greet her and do a bit of catching up. I assume that she grew and changed just as I did and is now a perfectly agreeable person to spend time with. Most people are a bit of a disaster when they're young and going through it, and most people grow out of it. Still, I have zero interest in reconnecting beyond small talk and I also never regretted cutting her off and not giving her a second chance. I learned a lot about setting boundaries then and it was very important for my personal development to free myself of her. But I also absolutely meant it, when I wished her the best for her future endeavours.

I think the same is quite likely to happen for you. Your friends might forgive you, or they might not. But they will certainly have enough of their own drama sooner or later, and your failings will be put into perspective. It's a learning experience, and I think you're already on a good way to actually learn from it. Keep going to therapy and working on yourself!
posted by sohalt at 12:05 AM on April 12, 2022 [10 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, sweet baby. You have got to move on from this. I hope some of the sublime nuggets of advice that have been offered above will find resonance with you. Your perspective shifts wildly around the age of 25. You are seeing things that you actually could not even see when you were younger. Your early 20s are a wild time of development. Not everything works out great. Let yourself (and these other people) off the hook for all of that. I echo those above that these people do not hold a burning flame in their hearts for you. It's truly bonkers to consider that someone who cannot seem to leave your mind is possibly not even thinking about you. But, it's true! Please forgive yourself for being a shitty friend. I've had so many shitty friends over my lifetime. Just think if I'd had none of them! It would have been lonely and I'd have fewer campfire stories to tell. It's hard to be a perfect friend to someone and especially as it traverses the roiling waters of romance, college life, and growing from a teenager to an adult. Light a candle for that young person that you were, for all the things that just came walloping your way and forgive younger you for not being some kind of world-bending superhero in the face of ALL THAT. You're okay. I think the rumination is your most acute issue to deal with now. Focus on that for a few sessions of therapy. Sending you good vibes.
posted by amanda at 5:13 PM on April 12, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I was the asshole in an imploding friend circle early in college. I spent a lot of time regretting my behavior and wishing I'd acted differently. The feelings you describe are so familiar! And yet, 25 years later, none of it seems very important. Other worries have intervened.

I think as you age you will find the same. You may reconnect with some of the people in this group eventually, but you may not. Nothing you can do right now will make it happen (in fact it's very likely that anything you do beyond giving them a wide berth will only make things worse). You're unlikely to recapture what you had; college is one of those famously unrewindable times. Wherever you land with these people, whether it's Christmas cards or hitting it off again at a ten year reunion or absolutely fuck-all, you are going to be fine. You will love other people and these former friends will sort themselves into the correct place in the history of your heart, a niche that is the correct size and the correct shape, and you will be fine.
posted by eirias at 7:39 PM on April 12, 2022 [6 favorites]

You have to grow past this. You are craving their approval. You have to decide that you don't need it and in fact you're not entitled to it. They have no responsibility to you here and your responsibility to them is to unhook your emotional needs from them. It's not easy but it gets easier. Just stop thinking about them.
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:14 AM on April 13, 2022

Best answer: Maybe it might help to recognize that their forgiveness won't actually make you feel better. Your upset is actually about yourself and that you can't stand the way you've behaved. Person C did try to treat you well but you dismissed it, because you can't forgive yourself therefore you can't believe them.

Really you've got these people all mixed up in your inner dramas, sometimes you hate them, sometimes you crave their approval, etc... It's all really got nothing to do with them. It's a bitter spiral though, because when you are stuck in such a deep pit of slef-hatred, you would do anything for a way out including using other people, but that just makes you hate yourself more and digs the hole deeper.

I really sympathize because i have been this way most of my life. In the end you have to find things to do that feel clean to you, so that you don't need anyone's approval to feel okay about yourself. It's going to be things like leaving people alone to the maximum extent possible, taking care of yourself so that others aren't bothered by you to the maximum extent possible, taking opportunities to help people when they need it on their terms, doing what's right for others without regard for how it makes you feel.
posted by PercussivePaul at 6:59 AM on April 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

Something to keep in mind is that your ex-friends probably don't hate you - they probably have moved on so long ago that they found the second apology slightly creepy and the only kind of contact they can imagine with you now would be if you showed up to apologize again, putting pressure on them to do the emotional labour of reassuring you that it really is okay that that you did whatever it was.

It's more than probable that you were not high on their radar at the time. You were just one of a group and they now think of you as an ex- college roommate, someone one not as significant at the dude that used to annoy them in Greek history class, or the barista they crushed on and embarrassed themself in front of or the girl that borrowed their physics notes and didn't return them. Your relationship with them is still emotionally relevant to them, but it is is highly likely it's not emotionally relevant to them.

Friend A had a major health scare but the reaction of her family, old friends and other friends would have mattered to her as much or more than how you behaved. She may still be running a mental track of I-found-a-lump-and-nobody-I-told-about-it-cared, but what are the odds that after the scare is over she is still obsessing or even remembering that you in particular didn't swoop in to be supportive?

What are the odds that Friend B is obsessing about what her ex-boyfriend did and who he went out with after she figured out he was not the partner for her? She's more likely to be feeling vaguely sorry for anyone who is going out with him now, if she even remembers he exists or went out with you.

And as for the friend you ghosted while living with her - unless she followed you around pathetically trying to reconnect for days and then made the odd resentful comment for the next few weeks, odds are high that she remembers that particular part of her life only because of how hard it was to study for her midterms what with Covid restricting her chances to spend time at the library.

It strikes me that your memories of your social mistakes from that time are likely to be intrusive thoughts, a habitual shame that boils up in your brain and makes you miserable, like so many other thoughts that come to us during the long dark teatime of the soul, usually triggered by low blood sugar or lack of fresh air or lack of sleep, like remembering that time you farted in gym class, or that time you shut someone's finger in a door, or that time someone misheard you and was convinced that you had said something inappropriate. It's just one more of those unbearable shames that recur and that everyone else has forgotten in the mists of time.

Once upon a time those three people were your new and valuable friends, your fresh start after a life without outside friends and you really, really wanted them to like you. You haven't managed to let go of that feeling on some level. And yet, supposing there had been no glitches, odds are ordinary life circumstances would have pulled you apart, as would the reality that the first random friends met at school are very often not a good match at all. Your original loneliness and need for a tribe put an outsized value on them which somehow has not fully lapsed.

You know you don't need them anymore. You know that the friendship didn't work enormously well, that even at the time it wasn't important enough for it to take emotional priority over the crush that you were obsessed with. If it had been going to work, it would have. It didn't because what you got out of the friendship with those three people wasn't that strong. They didn't stage an intervention to bring you back. You drifted away and they let you. It's not that you did anything so bad, it's that you weren't committed to the friendships at that time enough to be eager to pursue them, to be a support to the one with the health scare, to have deep emotional conversations with the one who had broke up with the guy you dated, or to actually spend time with the one in your Covid pod.

They weren't important then, so why are they important now? I don't think they are. I think the feeling about them isn't about them, but something in you. Your shame and sense of loss is real and painful and important, but it's deeper than some friends you stopped connecting with. It's something bigger, and something very hard to look at because of how big it is. It's easier somehow to just look at that one facet of the pain, and only think about the might-have-been.
posted by Jane the Brown at 11:39 AM on April 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Tons of answers here and this is already likely covered, but just -

The way you make amends for not treating them the way they would have preferred is to now treat them the way they they have told you they prefer.

An apology to them would make you feel better. Not having to hear it from you is what will make them feel better.

This urge to apologize to them in spite of their preference is coming from the "old" you, from back when you were taking care of your own needs without regard for theirs. You want to do better now; so what you do is, you do what they have asked of you. And you comfort yourself with the knowledge that you are able to be a better friend to them now than you were back then, even if the only way to express that is by leaving them alone.
posted by invincible summer at 4:09 PM on April 13, 2022 [6 favorites]

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