• Handling Breakups

Dropped by a friend of 30 years

Published: August 9, 2014 | By | 14 Replies Continue Reading
A woman’s friend of 30 years makes it clear she wants distance.

QUESTION

Hi,

I have a friend I’ve known for over 30 years. Then, I had a series of illnesses and injuries and hadn’t been in touch for quite awhile. She knew I was having these problems but I never heard from her. Finally, though I still am not well, I contacted her and, through her actions, I know she is not only angry at me but wants nothing to do with me. She SAYS I have done nothing to her.

I got very excited when I heard her daughter was getting married and said I so wished I could come. She said, “It’s private.”

I said, “Oh, a small wedding? How many people, just family?”

She said firmly and angrily, “90.” I got the message.

She’s mad at me but it’s up to me to figure out why. I talked to my husband about it and he said, “Honey, don’t keep knocking on locked doors.” I am 65, in poor health, very shy and my husband is truly my only friend. I wish I could understand but I’m not begging her. I have had several other friends drop me too and it hurts so badly.

Signed, Colleen

ANSWER

Hi Colleen,

The wedding was her daughter’s, not hers, so your friend may not have had control over the guest list. But if that were the case, she probably would have apologized for not being able to invite you.

More telling, she showed no concern about your illnesses/injuries. So I would tend to agree with your husband, that it’s time to re-evaluate whether or not she is truly a friend. It’s understandable that such a long-standing friendship would be important to you and the loss of it would feel painful.

When we reach our sixties, there tend to be fewer opportunities to make new friends “organically”—meeting people in the same place, sharing the same experiences, at the same time (fellow students or co-workers, or parents of kids the same age, etc.). Thus, there is often a tendency to hang on tenaciously to friendships we once had.

Your friend’s decision to distance herself may have nothing to do with you but more to do with the circumstance in her life. Nonetheless, you need to step back and wait (perhaps several months) before you contact her again, should you decide to.

Although health problems and shyness may get in the way of making new friends, this experience should propel you to figure out strategies to make new acquaintances with people around you.

  • Are you able to get out of the house and place yourself in situations with people in your neighborhood?
  • Are there any mutual support groups for people who share your illnesses?
  • Do you have any passions or interests you want to pursue, perhaps by taking an adult education class?
  • Are there senior activities in your community?

At sixty-five, you have many years ahead of you so it’s not too late to make new friends. I’m certain that there are others in similar circumstances who are also seeking new late-life friendships. One other suggestion: You need to be cautious about not coming off too desperate or too demanding of the people you meet. Close friendships develop slowly over time.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Category: HANDLING BREAKUPS

Comments (14)

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  1. Karen says:

    Wow, Colleen,
    I really feel for you. I’m not the same Karen, who’s earlier post is so thoughtful. I too recently lost my best friend of 30 years. I honestly thought it would happen when we went to separate colleges, then when she got engaged, then when we got married, then when my husband and I moved due to the military, and then finally once she had children. We are quite different, she and I. However, I pursued her as a friend even though I’m the shy one. Most of my life, I’ve had maybe one or two friends. She’s always had many friends so I knew I could be replaced at anytime. I put up with a lot because I valued her, needed her since I had so few friends. I 2003 I developed a chronic illness, which got dramatically worse in 2009. She was there for me if in a judgemental sort of way, as though doing things together was a favor. Eventually, however, I developed a couple new friends, even became able to work part time. My illness caused my energy levels to bounce around and I lost weight, we started fighting because I wasn’t always available when she was. Then my husband’s job moved cross country to someplace we’d always wanted to live. The more positive things in my life that happened, the less supportive she became. I suppose that’s normal but it started bringing out her competitive side. I thought she’d be happy for me, that I needed her less, that I was less of a burden? The move was super stressful, and then my mother who’d been battling cancer for several years, died. My friend came to funeral even though I told her many times she didn’t have to do so. Years before, I’d not been able to make it to her mother’s funeral. Later, fours days after my birthday, she called and dumped me.
    People honestly don’t know what to say when best friends breakup. It’s worse than losing my mother. Sorry to ramble so much. You really do sound like a nice person, if you lived closer, I’d happily invite you over for tea. Others offered good advice, I hope you find new friends who feel like you’ve known them forever.

    • Lauren says:

      Hi Colleen,
      You sound like a lovely person, and I am sorry about what happened to you with this friend…You probably always saw her as a better person and a better friend that she really was to you. Perhaps she was always a rather cold and negative friend. Best thing to do now is to learn from it, forgive her in your heart and in your mind and move on. I definitely would not bother in trying to contact her again. Let her go.

  2. sharon says:

    There was a woman in my life for years I thought was a good friend. Then, she told me out of the blue, “You said some hurtful things, don’t ever call me again.” I was shocked. Not so much that I might say something she felt hurt by. she had said and done hurtful things toward me at times too. I would call that being human. But, the “don’t ever call me again was the really baffling part…I immediately said, “What!?! What did I say? You know I would never intentionally hurt you! I’m so sorry!” She hung up the phone in my face. After spending about 24 hours trying to figure out what I said, I decided it really didn’t matter – a true friend and someone with more emotional stability than that, would have been able to talk it out with me. I had apologized before I even knew what I had done… I have been through relationships with men that weren’t so healthy. Apparently, it’s possible to make an unhealthy choice with women friends too. But, as long as I learn and grow from the experiences. I can see improvement in myself. The key, I believe, love myself before other people.

  3. Karen says:

    Hi Colleen,

    It sounds like our circumstances are quite similar. I am a woman, late 50’s, with multiple chronic health problems. As a child, I was “painfully shy”, although I wouldn’t describe myself that way as an adult. But, my disabilities limit my options for socializing and finding new friends.

    You mentioned the hurt of being dropped by several friends. I can relate, because none of my “pre-illness” friendships lasted longer than 10 years past my diagnosis of a severe neuro-immune illness. As a result, with the exception of one very kind neighbour, and one former friend who now lives thousands of miles away, my husband is my only friend.

    Irene’s and other posters’ suggestions (support groups, continuing education courses, volunteering, etc.) are excellent — that is, if your health is good enough to participate. With respect to friendships, I think many of us repeat the same patterns, over and over again. As an introverted (and previously shy) person, almost all of my friendships have been initiated by the other person. As a result, they have been based on the other person’s needs, not mine. And, when their needs change, or I am unable to meet them, the relationship fizzles. This is not my fault, or theirs — just reality. My recurring pattern of friendships is that extroverts choose me because of my attentiveness, and wisdom. But, although they are one of a very few social contacts for me, I am only one of dozens of social contacts for them. My challenge is to match my expectations and behaviour in the friendship to reality. I usually give more than I get. Perhaps this is your situation as well. And, those of us who are ill are especially vulnerable.

    Here’s what I am going to try next . . . With respect to my most recent relationship failure (after 14 years), I realize that had I been the initiator, I wouldn’t have chosen to be friends with the woman. So, next time I’m in a position to meet women on a regular basis (in a knitting group, or yoga class for those with my particular health concerns), I’ll try to identify those women who seem to have qualities most compatible with mine. Perhaps I’ll have the courage to approach them just to chat at first, and see if it appears a friendship might develop.

    I wish you all the best, Colleen. Too bad it is unlikely we live nearby to compare stories and offer support in person.

    Karen

    • lottie says:

      Hi Karen and Colleen,
      Having just read your message to Colleen I can feel a sadness. It would be nice if we all lived nearer.I am in the UK.You are wise and your words about others having lots of contacts and the likes of us not having so many is so right. When I was very young I had no confidence and cried so much. Of course that is another story.
      As I have got older two of my best friends have recently died. In fact I think my only friends left are from when I was very young and they have grand children. However please do not think me mean but it can get boring listening to all the details of what the children do all the time.
      Last Christmas I met someone on the supermarket car park. Well we talked for ages like old friends and then agreed to meet up.I wasn’t allowed to get a word in edgeways.It was like an “Audience with …..”. We met a couple of more times and I thought what the heck she isn’t interested in me she just never stopped.We made another date to meet for coffee and she actually wrote the date down. She never turned up. I texted her and she said she couldn’t make but didn’t think it was definite. How much more definite can you get when she wrote it in her diary.She has contacted me since but I think of it as a lucky miss. Like you Karen I think we should be more selective.Yesterday one of the replies on this site mentioned not to say too much too early in a new friendship,what good advice.Apologises for not remembering the persons name,but it also was a good reply.
      Tomorrow I am off to the Buddha Centre again. It really has done me good just to meet some new friendly people. Take care to you both. Lottie

  4. lottie says:

    Colleen, Lauren and all,
    Try as hard as it must be at the moment, to smile.A great big whopping smile. It might sound ridiculous but if you truly try to smile when you are upset it does seem to lift your spirits.
    Last night I was invited to a Buddha Centre. I didn’t really feel like going but I thought I would give it a try.It was nothing like I imagined.It was very peaceful and relaxing,BUT the people who were there (16)were all so welcoming,and so so friendly.The talk was about the”mind” and training it to be happy.We did some meditating and at one point I thought I was nodding off.Afterwards we were invited into a sitting room for tea/coffee.
    Now here is the interesting bit. My friend who met me there is a regular and as we put our shoes on(you take your shoes off,not sure why)someone tapped my shoulder and asked me where was the sitting room. I said “I don’t know it is my first time here”. She asked if she could sit with me because she had never been before. Of course ,I said.Well have you guessed one new friend made.We chatted and chatted for an hour plus everybody introduced themselves to us. My life long friend sat with somebody else and left me to it.She just smiled.It reminded me of God smiling at us when we are happy. It brings tears of pleasure to me as I write. She allowed me to be myself and left me to it.My “new” friend gave me her email and mob number,so I did the same.We are both going next week.It was a total pleasurable experience.Another lady introduced herself as we were leaving and explained briefly what had brought her there. When I listened to her story my own sadness didn’t warrant all the last six weeks of pure torture I had put myself through. I think I have over indulged myself in self pity. I never thought I would write that sentence.So Colleen, try to go out more and start up conversations or go to church or anything,it will help. Good luck Lottie

    • Lauren says:

      Hi Lottie,
      Glad that you enjoyed the time at the Buddha Center. It sounds really uplifting. And yes, you are right, I have also read that if you smile, it really does uplift your spirits. Great post!
      Best,
      Lauren

      • lottie says:

        Hi Lauren and all,

        Thank you for your reply.
        Yes it is strange how smiling helps yet when upset that is the last thing you feel like doing.Since I went to the Buddha Centre I have tried to focus my mind on more positive things.Prior to the visit I could feel myself sinking into a black hole it was awful.
        The strangest thing has happened today. Guess who has texted to see if I want to meet up tomorrow or Saturday.Yes the “friend” . Not much notice ,almost as if someone has let her down and she is at a loose end.I have not replied and to honest I do not think she deserves a reply, certainly not yet. My husband will say not to bother, but I will probably say I am too busy for the next few weeks.It is funny but I don’t feel that I could look in her face and yet I have not done anything wrong.She PRIDES herself on being thick skinned. That is something I never want to be, but I would like be more aware of users.
        The books I ordered are on the way,so maybe they will help.

        Thank you again Lauren and all for your support.

        A big thank you to ANONYMOUS for writing about TOXIC BUSY BODIES.

        Colleen please read TOXIC BUSY BODIES.
        I hope you are finding some good advice from the replies.Lottie

  5. Lauren says:

    Hi Colleen,

    Sorry that this happened to you. Maybe she was never such a great friend anyways. You mentioned that she didn’t get in touch when you had health problems!

    You sound like a sensitive, caring person so I think, go ahead and follow the caring advice of the other posters, Lottie,Julie, Amy and Irene. All will be well. Just keep your spirits up. I think perhaps going to your place of worship, volunteering at a seniors home, an animal shelter, etc will really help you as those there (including the abandoned animals) will really bolster your spirits by showing you love and appreciation for the good person that you are, Coleen.
    My kindest wishes,
    Lauren

    • Lauren says:

      PS I forgot to say that I also had a similar situation, and I bought Irene’s (Irene Levine’s) book “Best Friends Forever, Surviving the Break up with your Best Friend.” It is very helpful, very practical and very down to earth. Reading it helped me a lot with my situation.

  6. lottie says:

    Colleen,
    I really feel for you.People wear the cloak of friendship until something better comes along. The same is happening to me.I have written on TOXIC BUSY BODIES and the replies are of help. Lottie

  7. Julie says:

    That “friend” is NOT a friend! Trust me! They don’t care… it’s time to move on..and we ALL can do that! I just keep reaching out.. and I have learned that some people are open and some are not..but, you can’t keep staying in the house.. you have to try to say hello to people and just get to know them slowly or however it works with each individual person!! I think that you can do it.. You are still YOUNG!!! Think positive thoughts…and either get involved in senior centers or just greet people in places that you like to go to..even a book store or a coffee shop..I have met people there!! I am fifty two and I don’t have a ton of friends where I live now..but, I NEVER give up! LOL!! It’s nice meeting people everywhere I go!!

  8. Amy F says:

    Colleen, sorry to hear about your friend. Losing a pal you’ve known for 30 years is painful no matter whose choice or the circumstance.
    I agree with Irene about the wedding being her daughter and son-in-law’s. Lots of young people pay for their own weddings and financially limit the guests, or choose only to have their family and friends and not their parents’ friends.
    I’ve had a few serious and not so serious illnesses over the day, and I’ve learned that some people aren’t able to deal with sick friends. I lost one friend whose mom recently died of the same cancer I had. I had to learn to let go of the hurt and focus on myself and other people. With the perspective of over a decade, I can think about those friends without anger or hurt and remember our relationships fondly.

    Aside from Irene’s great suggestions, also check out your library for activities like book clubs, scrabble, cards etc. Meetup.com has group activities for just about every age and interest. You can also try a continuing education course, most school have night classes in everything from learning a foreign language to knitting, or a class at community college. If you’re able to volunteer even a few hrs a week, you can meet others who share your same values. Foster grandparents is a great organization if you like children, and they have some activities for the volunteers too. (You might get a small salary depending on your area) http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/senior-corps/foster-grandparents .

    Most friendship start as acquaintances, so asking someone for coffee could be a good ice breaker. Try to find a few nice women, rather than just one best friend. Being shy is a challenge to making new friends, but you have to put yourself out there if you want to meet people. Try not to take personally anyone who seems uninterested or who says know, because it’s most likely about their availability and obligations rather than anything sbout you.

    Good luck.

    • Nicky says:

      Coleen, you sound like a lovely person and you deserve better treatment than this. If she truly was your friend she should have been there to support you in your illnesses. Please remember it IS NOT YOU, but it is her. You can still make friends; don’t let this put you off. Just keep trying. I am in my 50s and I recently made a new friend! You sound like you would make a lovely friend 🙂

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