There’s no set answer as to when to let go of a friend; sometimes, we aren’t given the choice. Often, communication can help avoid that painful juncture.
Last year, one of my friends became ill suddenly. She is single and was unemployed at the time. She ended up moving away and is currently living with her parents to recuperate. We still speak occasionally but the distance is a challenge, as you can imagine.
This situation prompted me to re-evaluate my relationship with a couple of other friends. I dumped another one as she never paid me back for a concert ticket I bought for her two years ago.
The other one was harder to ditch because I thought she was a decent person and I had believed we were good friends. Last year, her two cats died within six months of each other and she was sad. She canceled several outings we had planned, attributing it to the cats’ deaths. Last Christmas, I decided to give her some space so that she could better process these deaths and I didn’t contact her for six months.
Well, the summer comes around and I email her to ask when she wanted to get together in order to catch up. No reply. I emailed her again around two weeks later. Still, no reply. Then about a month after that, I invited her to get some drinks with me for my birthday along with a few other friends of mine. Still crickets. I was angry at this point because for the past few months, I’d see her post updates on Facebook saying that she was at the beach with so and so, at a concert with somebody else, etc. So I knew she was no longer distressed about her cats. For some reason, she had an issue with me. So I defriended her.
I’m still not completely over it, because I don’t have a large circle of friends, unlike her, with her 600 Facebook friends. I am introverted and in the past, I was shy and was socially anxious. I never did have a large circle of friends so losing friends like this is a huge deal to me. Actually, I tend to hang on to friends that aren’t good for me for longer than I should because it isn’t always easy for me to make new ones. A small part of me feels like a loser for being unable to hang on to these people even though intellectually, I know that I did the right thing in dumping them as they either used me or did not have the same expectations.
Sometimes we need to decide when to let go of a friend and sometimes the decision is made for us, either implicitly or explicitly. Your letter discusses different situations with three friends. I assume you have grouped them together because they all occurred around the same time and, in each case you lost someone you once considered a friend. Given your difficulty in making new friends, I understand how this can feel like one big loss and lead you to question your own behavior and involvement.
It’s sad that your first friend is sick and unemployed but she is fortunate to be able to count on family to help her through this difficult period. It’s understandable that these circumstances and distance would change the nature of your friendship. Hopefully, you can still stay in touch and help support her recovery. This setback may even draw you closer.
In the case of the friend who didn’t pay you back for the concert ticket, I suspect that there must have been a combination of factors that led you to let go of this one. (I hope you didn’t wait two years before reminding her of her unpaid debt.)
It seems like the loss of the third friendship you described was the one that left the most questions in your mind, understandably. This was a case where you have no explanation of what happened. While it is normal to be sad about the loss of a pet, your friend’s non-responsiveness to you many months later suggests that this friend dropped you and has little interest in resurrecting the friendship. Not every friendship lasts forever.
While the circumstances in each of these situations are different, one common thread may be lapses in communication. Rather than waiting six months after a non-response, you probably should have checked in sooner with your Facebook friend. Given what happened, it probably made sense to stop following her life on Facebook.
When you are upset with a friend or don’t understand her behavior, as was the case with the friend who lost her cats or the friend who didn’t repay you, it’s important to check in and talk about things before anger or distance builds up on one or both sides.
Losing three friends over a short period of time can be rattling to anyone and doing “post-mortems” like these can be helpful in moving forward and easing self-doubts.
My best, Irene