• Handling Breakups

In friends we trust—until they let us down

Published: April 21, 2009 | Last Updated: October 29, 2013 By | 1 Reply Continue Reading


Dear Irene,

About three or four weeks ago, I broke up amicably with a guy I was dating because the relationship just wasn’t growing romantically. We lived about an hour apart and he usually would come to my place. As a result, he met many of my friends, especially one who was with us a lot. She had a difficult year and I tried to include her in things quite often. She became friendly with my ex, but they only knew each other through me.

This week, she called and asked if I would be all right if she went skiing with him. My ex had offered to take her. (We had all wanted to go this winter, but we never did make it together.) I told her she could do whatever she wanted, but I found the whole thing inappropriate. We had quite a long conversation and were okay for the most part. But after thinking about this for several days, I can’t believe she even asked me.

Well, if that had been me (and any other friend of mine, it seems) I wouldn’t have needed to know how my friend felt. I would have simply said thank you to my ex for the invitation, but that his invitation wasn’t appropriate. This isn’t the first trust issue I have had with these two.

As I said, I spent a lot of time with her until my work got busy several months ago and I realized I was neglecting other friends. She texted my boyfriend telling him that she thought I was pulling away from her. Then she followed up with an email. She asked him to keep both confidential, but I found out, asked him, and he flat out lied to me. Big fight, but we resolved it. I chose not to tell her about this.

I have been a good friend and obviously she is still having a hard time but I don’t want to put any more energy into the relationship with her. I don’t think my feelings are unfounded. I distrust both of them and feel hurt. I have been a good friend to both and they have not shown the same respect to me.

Signed, Sue


Dear Sue:

I imagine you were caught you off-guard when your friend initially asked for your “approval” to go skiing with your ex. Then you realized your ex had betrayed you as well, by asking her. The end of a relationship is usually disappointing. Even if we are the ones who decide to end them, we still mourn the ideal relationship that might have been.

This unfortunate incident with your “friends” re-opened a painful wound. We always hope that good friends have the sensitivity to not say or do things that will hurt our feelings, but sometimes this isn’t the case.

The more egregious the lapse in judgment and/or the more often it happens, the less trusting of that person we become. You are right. Your friend should have anticipated how you would feel about being left out of a threesome you helped create. To her credit, at least she did ask before she put on her ski boots. Perhaps, you should have been more frank in expressing your disappointment in her judgment earlier.

Interestingly, your letter didn’t end with a question. Sometimes the passage of time makes a situation-which once seemed murky-crystal clear. You seem to feel like you can no longer trust your friend. If that’s the case, you just need to move on—unless she finds some way to regain your trust.

Have a friendship conundrum that’s causing you distress? Write to me at: [email protected]



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Category: Apologies and forgiveness

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  1. Rebecca says:

    Why would a colleague and friend not inform me of his pre-planned absence on a specific day when it was expected for BOTH of us, especially for him, as the team leader, to be present in a committee that we were both involved in?

    Context: He sent a group email reminder the day before which confirmed the meeting that we anticipated to be busy with cases. I was on rotation in the committee and on a personal note, THAT meeting was also my last day with the group so I thought it would be a nice to conclude my involvement with the full group.

    Five minutes before the meeting the following day, I learned that he called in “sick” and therefore not coming. I didn’t expect him to tell me personally that he was sick but the moment I knew about it, I rushed to prep and cover for him. It was a little hectic but the committee got the job done and we finished reviewing all cases.

    Timeline: Thurs, he called in “sick.” Friday, the office knew that was on vacation.

    Issue: I put sick in quotes because I learned much later that he did NOT plan to come to work on Thursday at all (he revealed this to a co-worker during an office party when I was already gone) for personal reasons; to pick up a girl he knows from the airport to spend the long weekend with as she flew into town. The point is, he did not forewarn me – as a colleague and as friend – not so much about picking up a girl but that he PRE-PLANNED on not showing up at the Thurs meeting all along despite the reminder email to the group. I was very angry, hurt, and disappointed when I found up because I felt dismissed and unimportant. We have been colleagues and friends for nearly five years and I didn’t expect him to not tell me about this absence.

    I wrote him an email about what I felt; a very controlled language but with a very sharp tone that didn’t betray my disappointment. I asked him why I was led to believe he was sick when he really wasn’t which made me feel gullible. I didn’t use loaded words such as “trust” or “friendship” but I certainly conveyed my confusion and hurt.

    I KNOW he read the email but he hasn’t responded at all – no acknowledgment, no apology, nothing. But it is very clear that something has shifted between us that makes me sad because the prior ease and openness in the friendship is no longer there, and that my interactions with him (my decision) are now on a need-to-know-work-only basis. In that regard, he’s been responsive to the extent that he could be but our contact with each other has just been through work email.

    Summary of my questions:
    * Was it a lapse of judgment or intentional about him NOT telling me that he wasn’t coming to the meeting? I realize that only HE can answer this but since it’s not forthcoming (it’s been a month since the incident), could he not at least have informed me beforehand without necessarily giving me details as to why he wasn’t coming? NOTE: I heard that he called in “sick” because he doesn’t want to use two consecutive vacation days. Seriously?!?!!

    * Maybe time will salvage the friendship (the one I am sad about) but who should be the first to break the ice? I sense that it won’t be him, and as much as I miss him, I also can’t make him think that I wasn’t serious in my disappointment and hurt by being the one to reach out first. We’ve had “lulls” and period of silence in the past, and usually it was me backing off for my own reasons and need for space. This is different because I felt that his behavior was to deliberately exclude me as an informed colleague. I also think that because I am a friend, regardless of his reasons, I would readily cover for him.

    I appreciate your feedback.

    Meanwhile, I have never felt this angry towards a friend and colleague that it somehow accelerates my detachment, and perhaps the shattering of my illusion about what I thought our friendship meant. I still miss him on some level but since I still see and hear him every day at work it doesn’t really feel a COMPLETE sense of loss; just the awkwardness of becoming suddenly strangers.

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