• Handling Breakups

When Your Friendship Is Downgraded

Published: September 26, 2014 | Last Updated: September 19, 2021 By | 34 Replies Continue Reading
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If a friend is treating you differently and shows less interest and getting together, your friendship may have been downgraded.



Why would someone say his intention is not to make me feel ignored or pushed away, that he has no ill will or animosity towards me, that he still very much considers me a friend, and that he values my friendship when his behavior doesn’t support it?

Meaning—there is no effort to connect or reach out, and that when he does respond to my attempts at conversation/small talk, his response is lukewarm at best and more out of being polite than an actual spontaneous interest in communicating in an engaging way.

And that even if he does say that he misses our conversations (my friend and I have not talked as closely like we used to), he also implies that he won’t initiate any effort and puts it on me to strike up a conversation instead?

Are “friends” like this passive-aggressive? I feel like I am being strung along with hopes for a redefined friendship yet he keeps his guard and distance from me, giving me LESS incentive to keep the friendship relevant.

I miss my friend and the friendship we once had. Despite what he says, he isn’t making it easy for me to believe there is still one.

Should I just let things be? He’s also a work colleague and although we remain collegial and professional, I’m sad that there isn’t the connection we used to have.

Signed, Sloane


Hi Sloane,

Your friend has “downgraded” your friendship and is less interested than he once was in having a close relationship with you. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he feels ill will towards you or dislikes you.

Understandably, people aren’t always comfortable telling someone else they want less of a relationship, especially in the workplace where they don’t want to provoke a contentious discussion or negotiation. Given that you work together, your friend is going to great lengths to keep it “collegial and professional.”

Although he may be uncomfortable telling you how he feels directly, his behavior should speak volumes.

This isn’t passive-aggressive behavior, per se, because it seems to be borne out of kindness: He has decided to skirt around the issue of the changed relationship rather than address it directly–but he isn’t acting in an overtly hostile or abusive (aggressive) manner.

Nonetheless, I can understand how this loss and his one-sided decision would make you would feel hurt. He was someone you cared about, whose friendship you valued.

The only solution and way to assuage your pain is to back off and accept that it takes two people to make a friendship viable. Keep in mind that his decision may have less to do with you than it does with other circumstances (personal or professional) in his life.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

Other posts  on The Friendship Blog about downgraded friendships

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Category: Getting over getting dumped, HANDLING BREAKUPS

Comments (34)

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  1. Rona says:

    I have a classmate on high school. I really don’t know her at all in the past few years. All of a sudden, she was very eager to invite me to participate on a church work. I am a socially guarded person. Only a few people showed an interest in me because I love things that are not very common on normal teenagers. I am used on being alone that sometimes I am very desperate to have friends to share my interest. She became friends with me. At first, she showed all the kindness and interest on me to gain my trust. It probably worked because there’s a time that I considered her as my bestfriend. I was really into her, that I disclose myself to her completely. I told her everything that I never told to my other friends. She loved me I guess. I told her that I considered her as my bestfriend but she was not feeling the same towards me. I am just her close friend and when she introduce me to other people she only says that I am just her simple classmate (not a friend). A few months after highschool, we moved on different cities to start college. When we met again for the first time, she was nice and looks like we really miss each other. But suddenly she became lukewarm in our friendship that she was not that excited to see me again just like she used before. I guess it became a one-sided friendship. Should I continue being friends with her? Please help me, thank you.

  2. Alex says:

    Sloane, I can understand your situation as I’m currently in the same conundrum. To me, there’s nothing else to do but to leave once you feel that the friendship is no longer equal. When you’ve tried again and again to reach out but keep being ignored, what other message you get other than the person wants you to leave them?

    So that’s why I left. My friend has changed about 9 months ago. I’ve tried to reach out to him in the past 6 months to no result. I don’t see the point of flogging a dead horse. If he wants me back, he’d have said something. But he doesn’t, which suggests that he’s either a coward or doesn’t care. Either way, not attractive quality to have as a friend if you think about it.

    • TomatoePl8te says:

      Alex: I am going through the same thing with a friend of mine. He has changed dramatically over the past year. No sense of humour via text like we used to have — keep in mind we have been friends for 5 years. He says his silence is all him and nothing I have done. His mood is cold and I never get a good morning or even a thank u text if u help him with something– which he has time for, asking me to help with something. But he doesn’t have time to hang out and watch a movie anymore. Something has changed but he won’t talk about it. I’m afraid I have exhausted myself to the point of an ulcer over him!

  3. Sloane says:

    Wow. It’s interesting to be reading this thread after nearly year when Irene posted my dilemma.

    I feel that it’s worse now – from a downgraded friendship to non-existent. I have given himself and myself space while maintaining a professionalism to the extent that I am able to manage and uphold but as far as the friendship goes which he claims he values from me, I think he never even tried. Or even if he(!) thought he did, it wasn’t enough to sustain a satisfying relationship. He has been reactionary towards my efforts of conversation; pointed answers only without really any sense of engagement and interest in connecting.

    I’ve made my decision through my behavior that “I’m done” and any semblance of friendship is over…for me. This weekend (Sunday) is his birthday and I don’t plan to even greet him at all, even though I’ve done so in the last six years. I don’t want to set myself up for another hope of a renewed connection where the cycle of disappointment will start again because it’s too one-sided. It may be an unfair assessment but I find him to be a prideful coward.

    Some have told me that he’s probably doing his best given the circumstances, knowing that he can’t give me the connection or friendship we used to have, and the fact that we’re co-workers. The frustrating and disappointing part is, he doesn’t even try, and I don’t want my initiative to be just another ego stroke for him.

    It’s been surreal. He’s a stranger to me now even though pangs of nostalgia (esp. with his upcoming birthday) still haunts me. Yet, I can’t go back, and I don’t know if we’ll ever talk again like we used to. For now, I can’t hope.

    Not all hope is a good thing.

    • annie says:

      I feel your pain and frustration, dealing with the same thing. The actions not matching the words is so frustrating. In my case I feel like I’m being kept in their back pocket as I have been a big support in the past. Anyway, hope things get better, I know it stinks going through these up and down feelings.

      • SaraGillis says:

        I totally get this. I am being pushed away by my best friend of 10 years. It’s all him, not me he says. Since he has no time to see me, or text me back lately, I don’t know what the issue is. It’s amazingly hard to just give up on someone who you have trusted and spent so much time with. I’ve been giving him space in hopes he will finally talk to me and explain what’s going on. Deep down I think he’s pushing me away because he is getting close and that scares him.

  4. Nicki says:

    I think the worst thing about situations like this is not knowing why. At least if you had done something you could try to make amends or if there was something in his life causing him to act like this then you would have some sort of a reason but when the other person pulls away from the friendship and you are left wondering it makes it more difficult to accept and move on.

  5. sara says:

    Hi guys,, My name is Sara. I have been friends with this girl for almost 2( two) years now.she haven’t been working because she in school, she live with her boyfriend. she’s only going to school, because of that I help her out with money, pay her phone bill and sometimes shopping for her. Her boyfriend don’t give her money cause she spent over her limit,I won’t say that am a loyal friend,but I do my best as a friend. I been having some hard time,, with my job and where I use to live.. Her boyfriend took me in to live with them since I wasn’t working. All of a sudden she stop talking to me and was been very mean to me,, will go behind my back to other friends that I don’t talk to and don’t know and talk about me the whole time…my phone got turn off,, ask her for money,she said no,, ask her for her phone to make call,, she told me it was turn off.but later started calling…Need your help

    • Nicki says:

      Hi Sara. I would say you need to find a way out of their home and remove her from your life. It sounds to me like she has been using you for a free ride and now that you have fallen on hard times and can no longer fund her lifestyle she has no more use for you and will try to find someone else she can use for her own gain. Alternatively she may be jealous that her boyfriend took you in to help you out but still refuses to help her financially. Either way she really doesn’t sound like the kind of friend you need in your life. I would try to ignore her as much as possible, don’t listen to her bitching behind your back, especially to people you don’t know and if it is to people you do know then hopefully they have the common sense to see through her nonsense. If they don’t then they are probably too similar to her and shouldn’t be worth your time. Try to focus on getting back on your feet so you can get out and back on track.

  6. etrnhrzn says:

    It’s interesting to be reading the original post months later. No change. It seems that vestiges of social pleasantries have also dissolved. We completely act as strangers toward each other. Any collegiality that exists is very formal and detached. He has never initiated any effort to connect or care – no birthday (I had it last month) or holiday greetings exchanged.

    The only snapshot in time or moment when there was a hint of connection was via text that *I* sent him when his favorite team won the World Series championship game. He replied to acknowledge my message but it was very reactive and not engaging. The following day at work, it was as if the text exchange never happened and as if he never cared that his team won to be excited enough to share it with colleagues even if it wasn’t directly with me.

    Perhaps subconsciously, I sent the text as an opening for a reacquaintance because sports was what we used to share and talk about. I’m a casual fan; he’s like an encyclopedia about it. I thought sports was a neutral subject to slowly begin an interaction; yet he remains detached.

    If grief is non-linear, I definitely have better days. I just miss him and our conversations. I can’t speculate if HE is the one waiting for me to initiate which I have done several times in the past and for which I decided I could no longer do. My sadness persists because of his indifference. He may or may not be going through things (I don’t know) that make him keep his distance and guardedness. It always hurts, though, how he can be conversational with other colleagues (superficial it may be), yet NEVER talks to me.

    It has been a rough year and he hasn’t reached out despite his professing that he values my friendship without the intention to make me feel ignored or pushed away. There hasn’t been any amends and his behavior betrays his words, which I increasingly believe was made out of appeasement and social nicety and not because he really meant it.

    And even if I wanted to reach out to him where he is concerned, it now feels intrusive and irrelevant.

    I won’t see him back at work again until next year. Perhaps that is a bit of comfort to not be reminded about the ongoing exclusion that he’s made me feel even if he doesn’t believe so in his mind.

    I read Irene’s response to Sloane’s post and the others similar to it. I can’t be the only one showing up to have a viable friendship.

    • Emma says:

      Hi, I feel very sad for you, your post actually made me sad. You sound like a lovely and articulate person who values their friendships. It is tempting to say forget about him he doesn’t deserve you as a friend, but you obviously need answers. Are you able to email him and ask him what the deal is, cards on the table so to speak?

      Good luck.

      • etrnhrzn says:

        Hi. I appreciate your thoughts and words.

        I tried, but never replied. And the few times I still reached out to open an opportunity to reconnect, he remains detached. Those snippets of “interaction” felt forced and artificial and felt like something he “had to do” or “get over with.” Of course, only he knows why he behaves the way he does, but it’s disappointing that he’s not brave enough to back up his words claiming that he values my friendship. How could there be one when he’s not in it?

        • SirilogocalSmurf says:

          I know exactlly how you feel. Exactlly. I have gotten to point where I just can’t stand to see him in person because he doesn’t have time for me.. Swaps topics.. And makes excuses for everything. I feel I need an answer and closure to this friendship but I don’t know if I can wait much longer for this. It may just be over … And that hurts. 🙁

  7. EssDee says:

    This seems to be a chronic problem in my life. I’ve been to counselling about it because I tend to make friends with people that seem to be caring, and then after years of effort (mostly on my part) I finally realize that I’m not valued by my “friend”, and when I stop putting in the effort, the friendship is effectively over.

    My mother and daughter have the same problem, and we are all at a loss as to why. We are the social engineers…planning all the get togethers, staying in touch, offering help when needed, and yet when it’s our turn to have any type of need, everyone seems to disappear.

    When our son was hospitalized a while ago, after years of problems, some tests were run that identified many mental and physical health issues with him. Annoying because we had taken him to many different doctors, naturopaths, psychologists, psychiatrists and nothing ever became more clear. During his hospitalization I was off work for two months dealing with specialists, appointments, reading up and learning about his issues, and how to prepare for the long road ahead with him. During this time I realized that I only heard from multiple friends one or two times, generally when they wanted something from me (seriously?) not because they wanted to do anything to help us out. The most painful of these occurrences was with my three sisters and my one close friend.

    Over the years I have been there to emotionally support my sisters through job loss, divorce, work issues, teen children issues and just the day to day struggles of life. My closest sister went through a really heartbreaking divorce, and job loss concurrently, so during this time I called her two to three times a week, my husband and I helped her finish her home renovation, listened to and offered support for countless hours. When the problems with our son came to a head I was too busy dealing with specialists (and personally I was grieving and slightly depressed at what his diagnosis was going to mean for our family) to make my normal checkup calls, and after three months, I realized that not one of my sisters had even bothered calling to see if everything was okay.

    My best friend of nine years that I met through work, was a bit more supportive (she called a couple of times, and offered to bring us some food while we were at the hospital with our son) but considering that I helped her through job loss, her husband’s illnesses, would make the effort to leave work once a week to go pick her up at her new employer so we could go to lunch (to spend and hour with her I had to work an hour of overtime every week to make up for the driving time) and always worked my schedule around when she could do things, it really seemed to be less than whole hearted support.

    All of this caused other issues as well. The stress of our son’s issues caused marital problems, arguing over whose genetic tree the issue was caused by, how to deal with things, guilt over putting so much pressure on our son, guilt over not giving enough attention to our other child. During this time, I started talking about some of these issues with a male friend that I had known for a few years at work. He was extremely supportive, patient, intelligent, and surprisingly, he could ever make me laugh while I was crying, I began to rely on him more and more, to the point where I fell in love with him. Yes, I was pretty stupid because I thought he felt the same, and I figured that my marriage of 20+ years was almost over, and from the sounds of things his was nearly done as well. I let my emotions get the better of me…after all, just talking with him made me feel better, and I had been spending a great deal of time in a pit of despair over my current family life. We started talking about sex, but the friendship changed dramatically as soon as he believed that I was willing to sleep with him. I wouldn’t have slept with him while I was married. I had way too much guilt just talking about sex and I couldn’t have dealt with the emotional fallout of actually cheating on my husbsnd. Even though we were having problems and I wasn’t feeling as much romantic love towards my husband, he was best friend, and I wouldn’t want to hurt him. Also, I have such low self-esteem when it comes to my body that I wouldn’t have been able to talk myself into baring myself physically to this man.

    As it turns out, this man told me has been unfaithful to his wife many times, but only with women that he doesn’t work with, and that he’s not sure why he does what he was doing to me, but he just used me as a challenge? for fun? a diversion? to see whether he could get me, and that he had done this to many women many times. He said it would be too uncomfortable to sleep with someone and then have to work with them…yeah-you think? I can’t believe what a narrow escape I made, and I’m so grateful that I did. I have guilt over this, but I won’t tell my husband what happened. When we were having problems, he knew that I was talking to this man a lot and he said that he would be able to forgive me if I had an affair. I justify not telling him as I think this because it punishes me for this emotional betrayal, and because I want to spare him from more pain. Some people may think this is the cowards way out. Trust me, I think it would be easier to tell him. I would love to be able to tell him (or talk to anyone about this) he already said he could forgive me for sleeping with someone, so what’s the point in causing him pain and making him go through that work?

    It was really difficult, because even though I was in the wrong, I loved this man, and I felt humiliated and betrayed, yet I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. The tough part is that I still have to work with him every day, and his facade is back on. I again only see the nice man and supportive friend, so I have to remind myself to not fall for it again. Even worse, I see him doing this to another woman, and I want to warn her but I can’t. Not because I’m unwilling to, but until she is experiencing some type of crisis in her life, he’ll just be friendly, (that’s what he did with me…was just a nice friendly guy, until I started having problems at home) and she wouldn’t believe me if I told her. Talk about piling it on.

    Although this is somewhat off topic, I do have a point. I know that this is my responsibility, though I wonder: Would this have happened had my friends and family been been more supportive during this time? I’m not sure it would have. I was an easy target for this man because I didn’t have a good support system.

    We have worked through our problems, and that we are mostly happy again. One thing that has helped is focussing more of my energy on my best friend (my husband) and not being the social engineer I was with our friends. It’s sad to realize that The people I placed such a high value on place nearly no value on me but it’s been a good wake up call. Things will never be the same when it comes to our son or our friendships, but we are moving on. Though we still mourn the loss of the future we had envisioned for our son, there is at least a future for him…just a very different one. People that care enough to put in just a bit of effort will be in our lives, and the rest can just float away.

    • Amy F says:

      While reading your post, what jumped out at me is perhaps your expectations are based on what you do or would do, rather than the other person’s, which leaves you feeling disappointed.

      I’m sorry your son has to go through so much, That;s a lot of stress and pain for your whole family. You said during those two months “only heard from multiple friends one or two times” and often when they wanted something. I thought that the frequency of contact (except for wanting things) seemed reasonable, if your friends and sisters knew what you were going through. I don’t know if I would have contacted more, because I would want to respect your time, level of stress, and I’d assume you want to spend any extra energy you had on your family. I might also think that you’d contact me with an update if you had time. People generally treat mental illnesses differently than physical illnesses like cancer, not just with you, but with everyone. The easiest way to get what you want is to ask for what you need and be specific. Saying, “It’d be helpful for me if we could try to have lunch, I really need a break from everything going on in my family.” That way your friends and family know what will help you.

      I have heard many people say during difficult times, friends have been more supportive than family. Depending on the family, that’s often the case. When your best friend worked further away and you had to adjust your work schedule, I assume you wanted to and got pleasure over the time you spent together. Did you ever suggest you and your friend could meet at the half-way point for lunch or did you ask if she could come pick you up? If I started a new job, I wouldn’t want to take any extra lunchtime, so suggesting equal driving effort might be unrealistic or something you already considered when you offered to pick her up. I think her offer to bring food was so considerate. I probably wouldn’t have thought to do that.

      Sometimes when relationships fall into a patters of one person being the initiator more than another, the other person might not think to suggest plans. I’m concerned that you might not stop to take time to appreciate what you do have. If you go above and beyond to help out, that doesn’t mean friends or family should do the same. People do what they can and what they are comfortable doing. That isn’t a reflection of how important you are, but boundaries of their own lives.

      It sounds to me that you had an ’emotional affair’ with your coworker, meaning that you were more emotionally intimate with him than with your husband. Some couples consider emotional “cheating’ is more hurtful that if you had had a one night stand or an affair based only on sex. Men can be wonderful, supportive friends when neither person has romantic interests. One of my closest friends is a man, and I’m also friends with his wife through him. He would NEVER cross that boundary, and I wouldn’t either. I’m not suggesting you did anything wrong by confiding in this man. You were probably so relieved to have someone who was receptive and understanding, you didn’t realize that your emotional connection would grow to an unhealthy level. I wouldn’t vilify this man, who made a difficult time easier. Some people are drawn to those who are suffering and lose interest when the crisis has has passed. In life, That doesn’t make him a predator or that he has a hidden agenda in helping others. He could have low self-esteem and feel like helping is the only way to make friends, but it turns into something more for one or both people. Whether or not you decide to tell your husband shouldn’t be based on your self esteem or punishing yourself. A therapist might help you figure out what would be more helpful to him and to your marriage.

      Asking “what if” people had X or Y, you place responsibility on the other people rather than yourself and feel like a victim. For instance, you are upset that people didn’t call more often when your son was going through difficulties. I bet at least some of your friends purposely didn’t contact you to respect your time and energy. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. You also could have called them and asked for what you needed. Some people think, “I shouldn’t have to ask” or I’m not going to call until they do, without telling them they have changed communication pattern, That’s a bit like playing chicken with friendships which is a risk.

      Communication is an important component of all healthy relationships. Since you said your mother and daughter also have this problem, perhaps your mom never learned to communicate in a healthy way, so she couldn’t be a good role model when you were growing up, and you, understandably, haven’t been able to model healthy communication for your daughter. A lot of people are in the same situation as you are with communication. Fortunately learning how to talk more effectively is a skill that can be learned and improved upon. Therapy can be a great avenue for honing your dialogue.

      With everything you’ve gone through, I think counseling would be a great option. One therapist didn’t help you overcome your relationship issues, but another probably could. The success of therapy often depends on the relationship with the client and therapist. Even the best therapist might not work for some people and even the hardest working client might not work with certain therapists. Group therapist run counseling is an ideal medium to work through relationship difficulties, because the group acts as a microcosm of life. You might be able to get some of that from a self-help group, but therapists can facilitate relationship patterns in a way that doesn’t cause anger or hurt feelings.

      Good luck on your journey.

    • Joelene says:

      Omg. I would love to chat. I can relate to your story 100%. Your not alone in what happened

  8. aliasfriend says:

    I am disappointed and hurt, since a friend of mine (between 12 and 13 years of relations) has recently married, though did not follow through in including me.

    Yes, guarantees were made stating I would be a part of the celebration (though I am not a demanding friend – simply wanted to see her take her next big step in life).

    In-all, her availability turned nonexistent exactly upon her engagement to her now-husband (the wedding may have been a week ago).

    The only explanation I can imagine is in relation to my lack of religious affiliation, and her Christian faith. This had never been a problem, before, but her husband is rather extreme in his faith, and I am quite sure he has been an influence (understandably). I have never had an issue with her faith – nor she my lack — not until the Husband’s entrance (if religion is-so the cause, here).

    I had voiced my worry that her then-fiancee seemed a bit controlling (ex-addict behavior/extremism, distrust, controlling), though she voiced she was confident she could hold-her-own (no doubt in my mind).

    Perhaps she felt I was not in support of them. But, I must not discount my own efforts to get to know her fiancee, and express interest in being some kind of support. We went for one double-date, and that was it. I have met this person once, and they have known one another for one year.

    I would have loved if she had involved me. But, I honestly have a feeling the issue has to do with his distrust of anyone she knows, and he does not. He has proven to be a rather-sensitive/touchy person, and I understand he has to be her priority. I guess I had not realized how little I have meant to her.

    Really sad.

  9. Lucy says:

    Been going through this same scenario for almost a year. It’s painful and confusing. Sometimes I think we are getting on better footing, and it seems to fall away again. Part of my situation is another coworker he became much friendlier with, a coworker that has been unkind to me in the past, and I felt cast aside. As hard as it is, it’s best to back off and let it go, but try and remain polite and cordial when you have to see him. Think of the other friends in your life that you have a more solid relationship and focus on those people.

    • etrnhrzn says:

      I’m learning that it gets easier each day (somewhat) where I don’t feel as affected or pained. And maybe because after I *decided* that he’s gone, based on actions that don’t back up his words, I have also let go of any expectations about him and the friendship, except of my expectations of him as a co-worker. I still feel sad and alone in this ordeal because it doesn’t seem like he cares. Maybe he does in his own way, but not in a way where I can feel *his* friendship. When we see each other, we make eye contact but there aren’t any verbal pleasantries; there is a silence that exists that I think we just honor. And when we do talk or correspond, *I* keep it professional; meaning, brief and detached just as I feel he’s been to me all this time.

      When I hear him being friendly and conversational with other staff, it still hurts to feel excluded because he really doesn’t make the effort to reach out. I stopped reaching out myself because I can’t anymore. It is exhausting when I get into this state as you said: “Sometimes I think we are getting on better footing, and it seems to fall away again.”

      So I’ve backed off. I found that I feel more free. (Madonna had a song with a line, “Freedom comes when you learn to let go.”) And with that, despite my grief, I have found other people who have given me support, appreciation, and joy.

      • Lucy says:

        I decided it was more important to save my friendship for those that value it and don’t bring up so much anxiety in me. I, too, have been very hurt to see and hear my coworker carrying on with his “new best friend”. Now, I just try to laugh at it because they both seem so fake, superficial and immature to me. Qualities they both have in spades that makes me realize WHY they are better friends than we ever were. I know it’s harsh, but I had to focus on his limitations to realize he wasn’t worth the pain I was going through and I had to move on. It’s taken a long time to get over this, but I feel I am getting closer to the end of this dark tunnel and it’s starting to feel almost liberating. I wish you continued healing.

  10. Melia says:

    I feel somewhat lost. My friendship ended due my friends grand daughter who is 10 but insisting acting like a 30 year old. A know it all and always involved on adult conversations. Finally my teenage daughter put this little girl in her place and reminded her of her age and to stop trying to be so grown up
    Needless to say the mom and grand mother did not like this had their say that my daughter was mean. Since this took place we have no contact anymore. No calls No invites No text messages. We have been kicked to the curb. This is mental yet they appear to be just fine and treat us like we are not a loss to them
    Any advice please

  11. krizzyy says:

    My sister in law has stopped talking to me and keep on ignoring me on FB not like the way she used to be, it’s really making me feel sad about that knowing that we’re so close like true sisters. Her coldness was started when I posted my pictures on FB (those pics are like; I was having fun with friends but not totally drinking, they know that I really don’t drink) and I’m pretty sure that she saw those pics because she’s online that time and whenever I post pictures she’s the number one that used to like it. That moment, she posted a message about People change etc..and with something “feeling disappointed#you don’t deserve him” right away and that’s really bugging me.

  12. Kiya says:

    I just found this blog tonight and it has really helped me feel more comfortable with some of my recent decisions and there outcomes.

    Several weeks ago I was in a close friendship with a co-worker. She and I had slowly become friends after I began working at our company. What drew me to her from the beginning was her personality-she is a bit outspoken, quick witted, sarcastic, and funny. The more I got to know her and spent time with her outside of work, I realized that she was quite controlling and lacked boundaries. My personality has always been rather laid back and go-with-the-flow so this isn’t the first time I’ve found myself in a friendship with a controlling person. When I realized it, I figured the friendship could work as long as I made my boundaries known to her and it did actually work for a little while. There was even a time when I had informed her that I was reading a wonderful book on boundaries and she seemed interested in reading it herself. I loaned her the book and months later, she returned it and admitted that she did not read it. She said she started it, but it didn’t keep her interest. Fair enough.

    After months of dealing with her lack of boundaries and controlling behavior. I realized that I started to resent even her sarcasm and witty remarks (that I had once enjoyed about her) and I started noticing other things that had always been there, but hadn’t really stuck out to me in the beginning like her need to gossip about other co-workers or friends, her need to know every little detail about my life (texting at all hours of the day-even while at work) yet never sharing details of her own life unless it was regarding her bowels. I started to feel like we didn’t really have much of a bond.

    The turning point for me happened when I had chosen to work from home (as our job allows) and she IM’d me to see if I was going to go to a dinner for a co-worker or not. I had just started budgeting my finances as I want to pay off some credit card debt and had even mentioned this once before to her earlier in the week. I told her that I would have to get back with her regarding the dinner after I checked my finances. She offered to pay for my meal and I informed her again, that I would check my budget and get back to her about it later that day. Instead of her accepting this and allowing me on own space to do what I needed to do, she insisted that she pay for my meal and that I should consider it an early Christmas gift. Again, (while livid inside) I was polite, but stern via Instant Messenger and informed her that while I understood that she wanted me to go to the dinner, I did not wish for her to pay for my meal and wanted to check my finances. I ended it with “please allow me my boundaries.”

    From there, she immediately backed off and things were a bit tense between us. It was obvious to me that she took what I said the wrong way and I confirmed this when we talked about it over a week later. Sadly, that conversation did not go over well either, but one thing was clear, she was not really hearing what I was saying and she was never going to get or understand where I was coming from no matter how I explained it.

    She and I are “collegial and professional” at work now, but it’s still a bit awkward as some of my co-workers that I was semi friends with before (as was she) have become more “collegial and professional” toward me since our split.

    It hasn’t been easy, but I’m making the best of the situation and don’t regret my decisions.

    • etrnhrzn says:

      I, too, do not regret my decisions. When I look back at moments or series of moments that led to the unraveling of the friendship, it had to do with boundaries and I don’t regret asserting that.

      I think what I am disappointed by were my expectations about his handling of that without creating the strain on the friendship. Whether it’s maturity level or other unconscious dynamic, I think he took/is taking the “easy way out” by being distant and unresponsive and reserving the necessary interaction for business-related matters only.

      That’s the new normal for me. It still hurts because we were friends and to see/hear him maintaining that friendliness with others but not with me is something that I have to tolerate. And perhaps in my grief, it’s hard to recall those past days when things were fun and relaxed between us without wondering if that same person/friend/colleague where he was concerned was indeed me.

      Like what Irene said, a one-sided friendship is not viable. I’m still feeling very sad about the situation. “Collegial and professional” are social niceties. Friendship is a more personal connection of mutuality.

      And friendship is also a choice. His behavior tells me the choice he has made.

  13. Jake says:

    I am living a similar situation at the moment. My so-called best fried who is also a co-worker told me recently that she needed time by herself to ponder her personal and professional life but I should not take it personally.

    Fully noted. But it is personal when she speaks and converses with other colleagues and barely greets me. We are civil but something broke and I do not know why. She also rearranged her lunch schedule so she would not have to deal with me. It feels like I have been shunned and pushed aside like I am garbage. She did not invite me to her birthday party, and I have been going to hers for the past four years. She gave me a bullshit excuse. It sounds like I am a 12 year-old kid who has been rejected from the clique at work. It is lonely at times, it hurts profoundly but I will have to accept this situation and move on in order not to lose my professionalism and my self-respect. One cannot force another to like them if they do not anymore. But the way my friend proceeded to keep her distance from me was sneaky, underhanded, orchestrated and cowardly. Nope, it is not personal…Yeah right. I have learned my lesson, I will not make close friends in the workplace again, it is too gut-wrenching when it ends and one has to face the person who dumped you on a daily basis. This is worse than a love relationship, way worse.

    • etrnhrzn says:

      It is very hurtful, cruel and insensitive indeed. And cowardly, especially if their behavior over time doesn’t back up any apology that it isn’t their intention to make me feel ignored or pushed away. It’s like telling a piece of cloth that it is not their intention to make them feel like a dish rag but in their unconscious mind or cowardly denial, they STILL treat it as a rag.

      And even if it’s a fact that he may be going through a lot with his own issues to not be available as a friend with me or be fully present in the friendship, I KNOW that he shares lighthearted moments with others and not with me. And that hurts a lot.

      So his words are empty especially after some time already passed where he remains distant and guarded. I decided that my interactions with him will be brief and formal as necessary, and will keep on practicing not to care because I can’t afford to.

      Although my underlying emotions are disappointment and sadness, I find myself NEEDING to be angry in order to move on and to keep telling myself that he’s gone. Fortunately, this dynamic with him has not affected my work motivation or performance. In fact, it has made me more focused and vigilant.

      Rejection, exclusion, and being ignored by someone you used to be close to is painful – emotionally and physically. More so if you see/hear them every day. I’ve been taking it moment by moment and mindful about me reaction, doing the best that I can to help me get through without losing myself.

      The anger and acceptance that there is nothing to hold on to about any friendship with him help me grieve and slowly let go.

  14. Maddie says:

    Deep, lasting friendships are rare in the work environment. It is too charged and the responsibility to the job is primary. He is foremost a coworker.

  15. etrnhrzn says:


    “He backed off and honored my request but I’d still hear me talk about them with co-workers.”
    Not me about them but HIM talking about them with co-workers.

    “Where other people seem to don’t being his “audience” about his rants and raves about his dating life, I willfully exclude myself from those.”
    Where other people to don’t MIND being his audience…

    “I do feel shut own despite what he says that it isn’t his intention. ”
    Feel shut OUT…

  16. etrnhrzn says:

    I could have written this myself.

    So to address the comments:
    – he is single from a break-up a year ago with a woman and her child whom he lived with for 3.5 years and known for 5 yrs.
    – he has been transitioning into the single life with stories of going to bars, drinking, dating, women, etc. where he couldn’t filter talking about them (braggingly, desperately?) at work. I have requested him directly that *I* didn’t want to hear those because it makes it difficult and uncomfortable for me, from a personal and professional standpoint. He backed off and honored my request but I’d still hear me talk about them with co-workers.
    – I am fond of him as a friend and colleague and never flirted with him aside from playful banter that many of us in the office do to each other because it is a generally collegial place to work in. I am very discreet about confidences shared to me by people and if I’ve made comments about him, I’ve realized that they’re the same impressions that others have about him just by being who he is. If anything, his own behavior inevitably “invites” people to notice or talk about him in an attention-seeking way. I think he knows that and thrives on it. Where other people seem to don’t being his “audience” about his rants and raves about his dating life, I willfully exclude myself from those.
    – He said that he misses our conversations around the office and open to them but he has never facilitated any form of connection. When I’d initiate, his response feels more out of being polite than being truly interested in communicating so small talk starts feeling more awkward and artificial than something to enjoy and look forward to.
    – I don’t know if this situation is temporary as HE sorts our what’s going on his personal life (primarily, dating/settling with someone). Although there are other things he and I could talk about outside of our respective dating lives (i’m very private about that whereas he’s the opposite), it seems that he has chosen not to, so in that sense, I do feel shut own despite what he says that it isn’t his intention. (What does that even mean?!?)
    – For now, as much as it saddens and hurts me, I let him be, and have decided in my mind that “he’s gone.” We’re still collegial because that’s all we have: common goals at work – but without the trappings of friendship. At least that’s how i have to frame it to cope in my own way. He’s a co-worker only; not a friend. I feel that I can’t continue to care because i’m spent mentally and emotionally in such a one-sided relationship. He hasn’t reached out to me or asked about me at all because he is mired into extreme self-absorption.

    And if he’s indeed in his own hell which he might still be sorting through, I don’t want to be a part of it, because his behavior tells me that he has long checked-out of the friendship, despite what he says.

    It’s hard…VERY hard. And when or if he is ready to “return” to the friendship (I’m not holding my breath), I’ll decide then if I still want to.

    He’s gone. And even though I still see him everyday at work, he’s just a shell of the person and friend I used to know.

  17. Amy F says:

    Must be hard to see your friend every day at work. I’m glad you’re able to be friendly and collegial. The can be any number of reasons why your friend hasn’t had time for you that hasn’t reciprocated your gestures that have nothing to do with you: depression, family problems, illness, stress etc. Regardless, you’ve got to respect his boundaries. If he’s been otherwise emotionally unable to make contact right now and the problem passes, he’ll respect that you listened to him. If he has downgraded you, he will appreciate and respect his adherence.
    Not knowing why is always frustrating, and not something you can control. Unless this is a pattern with relationships, I’d assume this is about him, not you. If you had done something to anger or hurt you, he should have been told you.
    I hope you have other friends who you enjoy and are grateful for your company.

  18. Jen B says:

    This may be totally wrong, but I wanted to throw it out there in case it has a ring of truth to it. Is it possible that you have carelessly told others something that your friend told you during one of your previous close conversations? Or have you done something else that he would dislike, but you thought was harmless and didn’t think he would know about? He may have suddenly realized something that hurt him a lot and made him think he can no longer trust you.

    He may sincerely miss you too, but is afraid to really be himself and speak freely around you, if that is the case. I hope you two can gradually gain that good strong friendship back again!

    • Nick says:

      I have had the exact situation. I overheard my friend tell his buddies about a day he had and wasn’t with his gf, but I knew very well he was. When I saw his gf the next day, she was going on and on about their day. I just casually mentioned that she shouldn’t say all this to his other friends, because that wasn’t what he told them. She took it as me wanting to break them up, when in reality, I was just trying to help her keep from an awkward situation.

      Well, I thogpught everything was fine until two weeks later when I got a text from him saying how upset he was with me for betraying his trust. So my three solid weeks of feeling the best I’ve ever felt in a long time came crashing down, and I’ve now had three of the most miserable weeks since. Naturally, I apologized and gave a peace offering to the two of them. All I got back was a short text a week later saying that they weren’t made and hope we could move on.

      But it made me realize that I was investing too much energy into a one-way friendship with him. I would help him with chores, do big things for him, then later I would watch him run out and play with friends and not even send me a simple thanks.

      This article has been great in making me realize the words and thoughts I’ve been searching for these three weeks. And I’m feeling much better. I felt like I’ve invested enough of my own time and energy, and now it’s time to see if he reciprocates and wants the friendship. I have the feeling in the back of my mind, but I will cautiously wait and see. But even then, I have begun to figure out what my boundaries are going to be.

      Does it hurt? You bet! I see him everyday, or things that remind me of him. But I have to keep reminding myself that it was a case of where I placed our relationship on a pedestal, where he didn’t see it more than sitting on a step.

  19. Sandra says:

    Friendships at work can get complicated, so you’re wise to be careful. At the same time, I’m guessing (from your name) that this is an opposite-sex friendship — which is twice as complex.

    Is it possible, for instance, that your friend’s spouse or significant other is jealous or concerned about your friendship at work? Or that there is some attraction between you that could lead to something more? Again, I am only guessing.

    I would continue to keep a respectful distance, in any event. Generally speaking, whenever I sense that a friend (of either sex) is pulling back, or if I am always the one initiating social events or conversations with a friend, I find it helps to back off and see if the other person values the relationship enough to step in and put forth equal effort.

    • cyndi says:

      I was thinking the same thing Sandra, there is no mention of any relationships aside from your friendship. Is he married, engaged or starting a new relationship? Is the spouse or significant other questioning the closeness that you share? Is there workplace gossip and jealousy? Are either or one of you in a position of authority at the workplace that may make it uncomfortable for him and the other workers? Are you sending signals that may give him an idea that you are more into him than he is into you? He is pulling back for a reason, you may never know the reason but it may be for the best, keep your distance and maintain a level of dignity that tells him that you are moving on and keeping it professional, be the better person and do not attempt to push the issue with him.

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