• Handling Breakups

Dropped by an old friend

Published: August 10, 2016 | By | 8 Replies Continue Reading
A woman laments being dropped by an old friend when she needed her most.


Dear Dr. L,

I was recently dropped by a very old and once dear friend pursuing an exciting life after her divorce. In contrast, I have caregiving responsibilities for aging parents and a learning disabled child. I’ve also been through recent losses of one parent and a sister due to cancer.

I try to be cheerful and always have been supportive and interested in her life. But I think she just finds what has gone on in my life too depressing and boring, and she wants to put me at a distance.

She is doing interesting things that I cannot afford to do (with my other responsibilities). No one wants to hear that you’ve spent the weekend again at the nursing home when they’ve been at a yoga weekend in the country.

Could you please address this issue of discrepancies of life experiences and the damage it does to old friendships? Thank you.

Signed, Maggie


Hi Maggie,

I’m sorry for your recent losses, and that your life is so difficult right now. Like many women, you are part of the sandwich generation simultaneously juggling caregiving responsibilities for children and older parents. (I’ve been there, too.) Experiencing two family deaths on top of that has to make it even more overwhelming.

As you suggest, commonalities do strengthen a friendship. Conversely, when friends’ lives fall out-of-sync, it can pose challenges to the closest of friendships.

In this situation, your friend is newly divorced; seems to have fewer responsibilities and fewer time demands than you; and has more discretionary income.

Do these factors necessarily mark a death knell? No, but they can strain a friendship, even a long-standing one.

It’s unfortunate that your friend doesn’t seem to have the compassion to provide the support you need. Given that her divorce is so recent, she may be in a self-preservation mode, of sorts, too.

Consider whether you want to give up on the friendship entirely. It may be that the timing is off and she isn’t the right friend for you (or you for her) right now. Over time, her circumstances or yours may change. Perhaps, you could maintain a peripheral relationship as a placeholder for a closer one in the future.

None of these suggestions address the disappointment you must feel but I hope it helps explain why it happened.

Best, Irene

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Comments (8)

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  1. Mara says:

    I’m so sorry your friend isn’t there for you right now. I think Irene is right on her suggestion that your friend may be in a self-preservation mode at the moment. While you have the demands and stresses of an aging parent, special child care needs, and grief of loss, your friend may be going through her own hurt and pain of loss and the end of hopes and dreams of her marriage.

    Trust me, what may seem to be her new exciting and glamorous life is probably not as fabulous as she makes it appear. Or, she is just doing her best to embrace the positive of her new reality. It could be her way of moving on from her own pain and taking this time to be selfish and focus on herself, and make the best out of where she is in her own life right now. Or it may also be a pride thing, where instead of letting herself to be defeated by a failed marriage or man, she’s going to show she is not sitting at home crying and sad. There are so many feelings with divorce. What may come off as flaunting may really just be her way of keeping dignity that this is not going to get her down. So yoga weekend in the country it is.

    It would be so much nicer if we could all just be open and real and authentic with our friends, and support each other through our difficult times. But I think in times of hurt and sorrow or transistion, it’s natural to form a tribe of sorts with people who are going through similar situations and can sympathize, relate, and give the support we need. Who make us feel better about our own situations. And when egos are involved, sometimes we also have to protect ourselves and our fragile psyches a bit too.

    I know as a single, childless female, when I have been through hard times, I mostly turn to friends in a similar life stage or my fitness friends for my sanity. I’m sure it comes off as selfish and uncaring to some of my other friends (really good people, but such different life stages than me.) Sometimes I just don’t have it in me to hear about their struggles for a life I don’t have – husband, kids, house, not having to work. It’s not that I don’t care, or that I resent them, but I need my own outlets for grief and my overall sanity.

    I’m certain when they are home with two little kids or a husband who is never home or cheats, and their own very legitimate struggles, they really do not want to hear about my latest fitness adventures or trips. I’m sure to some people it looks like I am having a total carefree, life is grand adventure. The truth is I make a point to keep things on the calendar that fuel my soul and keep me busy. I make a point to practice gratitude for the things I have rather than focus on the things I don’t, but that probably makes me sound to them like I care more about my superficial sounding adventures rather than their problems. Well, those are really the only simple joys I do have in my life. I’m probably not the best friend for someone in other types of situations that would value and need support and compassion. It’s in my heart. But if I don’t take care of myself first, I don’t operate or make a good friend to anyone.

    (I don’t mean to detract from your situation, just trying to convey how what may *appear* to be a selfish, glamorous and fabulous life of freedom may possibly just be positive, sanity-keeping things your friend is doing to ward off loneliness, despair, and grief of her marriage ending.) It would be nice if your friend could also be there as a friend to you, but maybe she truly is not emotionally equipped to do that right now.

    I’m not sure if your friend is just selfish despite her current situation or just going through her own personal reset. Everyone’s journey is so different. But don’t be so certain that what appears to be this new life of fabulous, endless fun is always the case. She may be hurting deeply. Her fab new life may also be needed at the moment for her own ego. It may even be carefully crafted or just an attempt at “fake it until you make it.” She may not be so much as blowing you off or finding you boring or depressing so much as just trying to find her own equilibrium right now. Keep some distance if needed, especially if are feeling slighted or even envy, but if she’s just going through this transition time, maybe give her some space to do her thing. If she’s a selfish person in general, then it’s really not a big loss.

    If you’re just on different paths right now, good friendships often have a way of coming full circle. Hopefully you have some other friends in your life who are there for you for your own chapter and give you the support and compassion and love you deserve. And hopefully you can also find some simple ways to do your own kind of healing and time for yourself to take care of yourself too.

  2. Nofriends says:

    Your friend is on a new ” high” fresh from a divorce spreading her wings and flying off into a glamourous new beginning.

    The only problem with this is she will likely come down from her high once something bad happens to her. I think You’ll hear from her when things start going wrong for her. What goes up must come down.

    Altenatively perhaps we burden friends whether we realize it or not. I dont know what your conversations were like. Sorry life kind of sucks right now I wish you the best

  3. B says:

    Could you do anything to meet some new people or do some interesting activities yourself to help you feel better about things?
    In my experience friends are not really that supportive when we have difficulties in life. I think this is what a lot of people find.
    I personally wouldnt think about her anymore and would be looking to do things and go places without her and keep her as an aquaintance.
    Theres loads of people out there who I’m sure would love your time and friendship.

  4. Lou says:

    Hi Maggie,

    Really sorry to hear what you’re going through. It sounds exceptionally difficult and I feel desperately sad that your friend isn’t there for you, to support you. Although I haven’t experienced the demands of being a care giver, I have experienced friends deserting me due to severe, long-term illness. I am mainly bedbound and not usually able to manage visitors, but I get an awful lot of pleasure out of exchanging emails with friends and seeing photos of what they’re up to – especially photos of things they might deem too ordinary, eg. them and their dog enjoying the local park, or what they look like in the new outfit they bought, or what their new bedroom curtains look like. But, unfortunately, it seems that my friends are way too busy enjoying their non-disabled life to bother emailing me, let alone sending me photos. The emails gradually tailed off, so now my contact with the outside world is minimal – pretty hurtful.

    I think that in both my case and yours, it’s difficult for people to think of what to say to us and generally people don’t want to have to spend ANY time doing things that force them to address the fact that some people’s lives are really quite grindingly, unrelentingly difficult. Having said that, your friend might just be letting her hair down, post-divorce, and once she’s been a bit hedonistic for a while, she may return to being a thoughtful and caring friend. But I do think you need some better support, as she clearly can’t be relied on to be there for you…….. you’re going through such a lot and I’m sure having someone to share a cup of tea with, even if just once a week, would make all the difference. I know it’s a massive cliche, but maybe there are some local support groups for carers? I know it’s not the same, talking to a stranger when what you REALLY want is the comfort of an old friend, but I think talking to someone who understands what you’re going through might be helpful?

    Good luck xx

  5. Amy F says:

    Today, you and your friend are in different orbs. You have certain stressors than some of your friends, as do they you. Perhaps you might have more in common with others who are caretaking for elderly parents, if you have any. If not, a support group might help you find others women eager for friendships with others in similar circumstances. I’m in the age group where many of my friends are caretaking or have taken care of elderly parents. It’s very tough.
    Are you receiving any respite assistance?

  6. Sandra says:

    My heart goes out to you, too, because I’ve been through seven years of caring for an elderly parent with dementia, coupled with my own joint replacement surgeries and other loss/challenges. So I have a sense of what you’re going through.

    During my own challenges and years of caregiving, I found myself reevaluating many of my old friendships. As the old saying goes, you find out who your real friends are when things get rough. You find that some friends are with you only for the good times and what you can give them, while others want you to *their* support system when they need help. Sometimes that’s OK, but it’s very important to make sure you have one or two reliable friends who are in the relationship for MUTUAL support and make an attempt to be there for you.

    One of my longtime “best” friends would conveniently disappear to her family cottage whenever I was recovering from a surgery or when my parent was in the hospital and I was totally drained. And yet she is the type of friend who expects others to bring her soup when she has the flu. She expected friends to throw her a birthday party when she turned 60, but can’t seem to remember to send them birthday cards when it’s their special day.

    I don’t completely cut off friendships like that, but I stop investing myself in them. I am thinking you might be best to let this friendship “drift” awhile, too, and see where it ends up. Keep busy with other good friends who treat you well, and see if your newly divorced friend seeks you out again. Sometimes, taking a vacation from a friendship helps put things in perspective. You might return to it in a different way, with a different attitude, but you won’t burn any bridges.

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