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Should I open the door to a friend who dumped me?

February 5, 2017 | By | 12 Replies Continue Reading
A reader asks whether to “open the door” to a long-term friendship after it’s fallen apart.

QUESTION

Hi Dr. Levine,

One of my dear friends abruptly ended our 20+-year friendship via text on my birthday nine months ago. She was hurt because I could not make it to her last minute birthday dinner. At the time we had plans to spend the day together to celebrate our birthdays a few days afterwards.

When I told her I could not make the last-minute dinner she had planned because I had committed to help someone with childcare, my friend made no mention of being upset. And we reconfirmed our plans for two days later.

When she texted me on my birthday, she had many horrible hurtful things to say such as she had better friends who made time to come to her birthday dinner, and she stated that I was always too busy with my career, kids, spouse and animals. She began to personally attack my spouse and me, and was completely out of line.

Now, I know this friend was always in the habit of lashing out at people. It seemed she was in some sort of conflict with someone at any given time. I always looked past this, as she never directed any conflict towards me. My family and other close friends would question why I was friends with “a person like that.” I often had her back, always tried to see past the negative and highlight the wonderful qualities. I loved her like a sister and thought we would get old and wrinkly together.

Nine months ago, on my birthday, I felt as though she had driven a knife into my heart. I was very careful to not personally attack her in retaliation. I remained assertive throughout the text attacks on my birthday and the following days. I drew the line when she was downright disrespectful. I texted her saying I would not allow her to bully me like she often bullies others. This resulted in her telling me never to call her again. It has taken me seven months of mourning to finally be at a place of acceptance. The last two months the thoughts of a lost friendship have been manageable.

Two evenings ago, I received a Facebook message from this friend. She asked if I would be willing to talk. She stated she had been having difficulty accepting her decision to walk out of my life and would like to have a conversation. She mentioned that if she didn’t hear from me that she would understand. She mentioned how sorry she was for hurting me.

I am struggling to process my feelings around this. I know in my heart that I will always love her, however, our friendship can never ever be what it was. She is not a safe person. She attacked me personally, so brutally, I just simply cannot open that door again. I am torn, should I respond to her? Re-open the door? Give her a second chance, although this seems like a foolish decision? Any insight on what the best approach would be from here.

Signed, Melanie

ANSWER

Hi Melanie,

Trust is fundamental to any friendship. If you don’t feel safe and secure with a friend, you can’t have a close, intimate relationship.

Although you witnessed your friend bullying others and weren’t happy about it, you say this was the first time she viciously lashed out at you. I suspect she may have been holding back hostility and simply lost it over the birthday situation. Many people are sensitive about birthday disappointments but it sounds like your friend’s response was out of proportion. Moreover, she should have apologized after her temper cooled down, rather than many months later.

Even when a relationship is imperfect, as most are, it takes a long time to get over being dumped by a long-term friend. I’m not surprised that you were mourning its loss for seven months. But since you made no effort to contact her during this time, you decided you wanted to end the friendship, too.

The decision about whether to re-open it and make yourself vulnerable again is a difficult one. Temperament and personality are tough—if not impossible—to change so it’s likely that your friend’s negatives will remain constants.

I’m quite sure your relationship can never be the same as it once was. You’ll be more wary and less trusting as a result of this conflict and after the long period of estrangement.

Since it will be virtually impossible to resurrect the friendship you once had, your choice now is whether you want to open the door to a more distant relationship with this friend or simply let it go.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene


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Category: HANDLING BREAKUPS, Making up after breaking up

Comments (12)

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  1. Annette says:

    I think many people are either bipolar, drink too much etc., have a lot of stress, sociapaths, post menopausal, have their period, are control freaks and so on. Many people who grew up as an only child don’t know how to be a good friend. It could be many factors. Usually your gut feeling in the beginning tells the whole story. When I don’t listen to my gut I always regret it.

  2. Sharon says:

    Well, I completely disagree because I have been that disrespectful and mean friend. I was horribly rude and mean to my best friend of 20 years and we haven’t talked in 3 years since. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. I feel terrible about my behaviour and I’m sure that your friend does too! Isn’t life about forgiveness? Isn’t that what makes a relationship even stronger? I think so. If the two of you can get through this then just think about how strong your relationship could be in the future. I say give her a chance, start slow, but allow her to demonstrate her pain for hurting you and to show you that she has changed. If you meet for coffee and she doesn’t apologize and show remorse then so be it, it is over. But she misses you and I think that you miss her. You said that this was her first transgression ever in the relationship. Maybe she does have an anger issue and maybe she wants to change that. People lash out when their feelings are hurt, I’m not saying it is right, but it did happen. Deal with it and see what happens, I think it could be a beautiful thing! Anyway, that is my two cents worth.

    [Last name removed by moderator. To protect yourself against possible spammers, please do not use last names on this blog. Thanks!]

  3. Melanie says:

    Thank you to each of you for you opinions!!! I value all the input.
    Much Gratitude to you all!!!

  4. Ariane says:

    Well, I view this differently as I do believe people can change, but that doesn’t mean she has. Is this the only thing she has done? Maybe she sought help for her issues? Maybe she decided to work on her issues? Maybe losing you as a friend because of her blowing up and ending the relationship was a wake up call that she needed to make her realize that she was out of control? Give her a chance from a distance and see what happens. I wouldn’t add her as a friend on FB, but maybe have a one to one talk in person or over the phone. People are so quick to say “just get rid of her”, but I see very few have faith in their fellow man to change. Of course, the relationship will never be the same. Hopefully, it will be one that includes mindfulness in regards to respect from her side. I think if you wanted her completely out of your life and she was a 100% monster you wouldn’t of written this post asking for opinions. There are some relationships that I dumped and I know in hindsight I shouldn’t have or regret doing so. Again, see what she has to say and take it from there.

  5. Susan M. says:

    Each situation is different. In this case, I think you should continue to move forward w/o this friend in your life. Under the best of circumstances, our list of good friends, ebbs and flows. This is not the best of circumstances.

  6. Denise says:

    I agree with everyone. Since you don’t say she’s done similar things before, and it’s a one-time episode, she still overreacted. With her problems with others and the strong words you used about her texts, etc. if there’s little or no trust, it won’t work. Don’t expect a good friendship after this and be polite if you see her. I wouldn’t be comfortable with someone like this.

  7. Amy F says:

    Your friend, or former friend, has poor communication skills and anger management issues. She breached your trust and hurt you deeply when you set boundaries by saying no. It sounds to me like she lacks the necessary social skills to be a good friend to you.

    Does that mean you can’t be less close friends or acquaintances? Maybe. You can keep her at an emotional distance by having emotional boundaries, but that can be a lot of work, stressful and would there be any upside if you always expected her to lash out?

    If you travel in the same social circles, maintaining cordiality will make things easier and won’t make your mutual friends feel awkward.

    I had childhood friend who is bipolar. She was off her meds and among other things, threatened to tell my abuser where I lived. She crossed an unforgivable line. I will forgive her if she offers a sincere apology, but I will never be her friend again or trust her, though I know she her brain chemistry was working against her. She threatened my safety, no excuses will make that okay. If I see her at reunions, I will be cordial and unintimidated.

    In your case, I would acknowledge the apology and tell my former friend that at this time I’m not interested in resuming the friendship, that I harbor no I’ll will and I wish her well. I wouldn’t permanently close the door. Depending on whether I thought she was amenable to changing, I might also suggest, in a kind manner, that therapy could help her with her anger expression issues because she can’t feel good being that reactive toward others.

  8. DCFem says:

    What Jacqueline said, all of it. Plus block her from your phone so you never receive a hurtful text again. She sounds like an emotional vampire and it was just a matter of time before she verbally vomited on you. You have to know that all of the nasty things she said to you are what she’s been saying about you behind your back. Run! Just stay away and enjoy the peace and quiet.

  9. Sandra says:

    Yikes. I’d think twice before getting involved with this friend again. This part really jumped out at me from your letter to Dr. Irene: “She is not a safe person. She attacked me personally, so brutally, I just simply cannot open that door again.”

    The way I see it, if you are still in a place where you are still feeling unsafe, you’re definitely not ready to let her back into your life. Whether or not that will change in the future depends on how you heal over a longer period of time. And even then, I think this friendship is damaged beyond repair, and I wonder how you’d ever trust this friendship again.

    I hope you have other friends who treat you with care and kindness, and that you spend more time nurturing those.

  10. Irene (the other one) says:

    I agree with Jaqueline – let sleeping dogs lie.

    If you should meet by chance just be courteous towards her, but don’t let her into your life again – not in the way that she was before. It seems to me that, it’s not just jealousy that this woman suffers from – it looks more like a severe personality disorder. I’ve never known people like this to change their behaviour, and since you’re not blood related, or obliged in anyway to keep the relationship going, I’d suggest you keep her at arm’s length – keep it cool.

  11. Jacqueline says:

    Hello Melanie:

    I look at it this way; if a friend is always bad-mouthing other people, it is just a question of time before they do the same to ME. She “brutally” attacked you, and included your husband, animals, etc. in her tirade. She has an anger problem, she is very jealous of you, and she crossed the line. You do not feel safe with her, and with good reason.

    Everyone has their qualities, but sometimes the bad outweighs the good.

    If you were looking for closure, you got it, as she finally apologized, all these months later. Only you know if this friendship is worth the pain of re-opening the old wounds, the old hurt. I also believe she will hurt you again, as she is a hothead who does not think before she lashes out.

    Sometimes, it is best to let sleeping dogs lie.

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