• Handling Breakups

Friendship takes two whether it’s an old friend or new

Published: August 7, 2015 | By | 36 Replies Continue Reading
A woman reaches out to an old friend and is rebuffed.


Hi Irene,

A while ago when I reached 40, I made contact with old friends from work, college, and even school. Everyone got back which was lovely, except for one of my best friends who simply didn’t say anything at all. We went through school and college together and were best pals, and he even had a thing for me back then although I was shy and so we never went out together as a couple.

I contacted him by email on several occasions, even leaving a couple of years after the first contact, and about nine months between the second and the third attempt, but each time I heard nothing. But seeing as he has an online business, it was very clear that he was active online and would have received my messages. I’m at a loss as to why I was completely blanked.

I believe he’s married, might have kids, and I’m married with a daughter. I’m not sure if this might have any bearing or not…perhaps it might have stirred up old feelings for him? It just doesn’t feel right at all to be completely and totally ignored. I asked him why in my messages but no response, but he then took many weeks away from his online business as if to tell me to go away. Never blocked my emails directly or anything but seemed to run away. I really don’t think I did anything wrong. Plus what’s weird, too, that one of our other friends from school was acknowledged by him on Facebook whilst I was ignored…same year too! Very strange.

All I wanted to do was have a catch up for old time sake. It’s very sad and I know I have to move on but it’s really affected me quite deeply. It’s like he’s died in a way even though he’s still alive. I wish he’d talk to me and tell me why but I can see that he doesn’t want to so there’s nothing I can do about it but try and move on. It’s hard as I feel like I’ve lost a part of myself as he’s woven in to so many of my memories.

Am I being unfair to want a reason for his silence? It seems rather cowardly to me for him to say nothing at all. I thanked him for our friendship, said some lovely things, and then in the end he took his business offline rather than face me. I’ll let him be, but it’s still upsetting. Do you have any advice?

Signed, Marilyn


Hi Marilyn,

It sounds like it’s been more than a decade since you had a relationship with this old friend, maybe two. You both have led your lives apart for many years and he simply may not have the same sense of nostalgia or connectedness with old friends that you do. It is very common for friends, even best friends, to drift apart over time.

You reached out several times and have been rebuffed. You simply have to let go, leave him alone and not take it personally. His reluctance to engage likely has more to do with him and what’s going on (or has been going on) in his life than it has to do with you. A friendship takes two people and he hasn’t given you any suggestion that he wants to rekindle your relationship, either romantically or platonically.

I’m not clear why you would continue to follow him online and be so interested in his life and social ties given his non-response. You just need to let go and focus on relationships that are more reciprocal and satisfying.

Hope this helps.

My best, Irene

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Comments (36)

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  1. Anna says:

    I’m a person who has always made an effort to remain connected with people. I’m in my late 30s, have already lived for years on 3 different continents, imagine the efforts involved in watering and keeping long-distance relationships of any kind, alive! But I do it, I did it before the internet and VoIp age, with snail mail and huge phone bills and I’ll still will do it… with people who are from now on, worth the time.

    I met a girl when I started college. She was 4 years older than me but we clicked and were very close. During the course of our relationship, she deeply hurt me twice, we didn’t speak for a year but she ended up apologizing and I forgave her. Then, in my junior year, she moved back to her home country. She promised to keep in touch but then radio silence. No answers to my emails, snail mails too. She cut off all communication with all her college friends, including the ones from the same tiny country she was from. Even when those people went back to their home country, they could get a hold of her and I’m talking one of the smallest country in the world. We only knew that she got married and apparently, had trouble conceiving. Whatever, at the risk of sounding insensitive, we all went through very trying times (money problems, abusive partners, toxic parents, harassment, etc) and guess what? No matter the distance, those of us who make the efforts of keeping in touch, despite living now on different continents, we found some comfort in these relationships we took time to nurture. No: “Oh, I now have my family, my husband, my kids so I don’t have time”, none of this lame and insulting excuses!

    A few weeks ago, more than 15 years later, that old friend sent me an email out of nowhere and as if, we left each other the day before. She got my email address through a mutual friend she tracked down on the internet. I wasn’t excited to read from her, I waited before sending her a very neutral reply. I was trying to let her down nicely. I think she sensed my distance but still answered, telling me a little bit about where she’s at now. Her messages irked me because she had the audacity of wanting to pick things up as if nothing happened: no apologies, no nothing while she’s fully aware of the fact that she kept in touch with no one.

    A while ago, I’d have done the so-called Christian thing by welcoming her , arms wide open, while trying to ignore the part of me who’s mad at her for her behavior. Besides, I think that it’s a huge disrespect to someone to just pop up back into their lives, after you deliberately pushed them aside as an inconvenience, without even having the decency to acknowledge your past actions. So I decided to respect my feelings and wrote her a straightforward but polite message, letting her know that I couldn’t get past her being AWOL for 17 years. I added that friendship is very important for me and I am at point in my life, where I need someone who has the same understanding of the concept and above all, people I could trust. I can’t trust her, even as an acquaintance. She answered that she admitted not making efforts to keep in touch, that she could say the same about me but won’t play the blaming game; if I didn’t want to reconnect, she’ll respect my decision.

    I bit her head off in my reply and basically told her “Good riddance!”. Why?
    1. Her reaction is exactly one of the reason I don’t want her back in my life: self-righteous, holier than thou attitude;
    2. I can’t stand people who reach 40, 50 or 60 and all of a sudden, long for their long-lost friends. Well, I happily manage to live without you all of these years (and did you), so why would I invite you back in my life? Besides, I have all the old friends I wanted to keep around or wanted me to be around them, so what is/will be your added value to my current life?
    3. I want, need reliable people in my life.

    So to the person who asked the question: do some soul-searching, revisit your memories and ask yourself, if you didn’t deeply hurt that person. Just like you, a few years ago, I reconnected online with some guys I was very very very close to and who had feelings for me, including my first love. I always started, in almost all of these situations, by apologizing for the ways things ended. It didn’t matter if I did something wrong but I apologized if it were the case, among other things, for maintaining contact.

  2. Anonon says:

    I have also considered this because I’ve been ostrasized and everyone took my ex friends side, without even hearing me out.

  3. Maddie says:

    Quit obsessing on this person who wants nothing to do with you. Continuing to contact him is stalkerish behavior as is your outlandish assumption that you stirred up old feelings in him. Quite the opposite. Get mental health help. Your behavior is way out there.

    • tanja says:

      Your comments are out of line girl! It was three times over a time period that she tried. No harm in that. But, I always go in three’s. She tried three times, no response, so let it go. But, I don’t think that constitutes mental help. I also don’t think you meant it in a concerned sort of way but more as an insult. Don’t like that passive aggressiveness at all. My mother used to do that to me. I was 18 or younger and she would say “you need mental help, get yourself some” meanwhile as a parent it is her job to seek that for me but not make me feel alone and it was not out of concern but the intent was to “hurt” with words. I think that is what you were doing now. So, I think it is uncalled for.

      • Dionne says:

        Perhaps you missed the point where this MARRIED woman feels she is OWED contact by some MARRIED guy who had a CRUSH on her twenty years ago, and continues to tell him her feelings and memories about the TWO OF THEM in spite of his clear lack of WANTING such contact. She is trying to cause BIG TROUBLE and seems to feel ENTITLED to do so, and has DELUSIONAL thoughts that his lack of reply means he WANTS her. Maddie is right, sorry. If this situation were reversed and a man was bothering a married woman and thought “I’m not interested” secretly meant “I am interested,” no one would be shocked if the POLICE were brought into it. I think Maddie is right, sorry.

        Now if you are in any similar position as the above with your mother, well, that would be WAY beyond the scope of this forum!

        • Ben says:

          I definitely see the situation in the exact same light that you very well described.

          • Dionne says:

            Well the difference to me is all of the romantic/sexual overtones here. If it wasn’t for that, I’d probably still think three attempts to contact someone was a little pushy, but not that big of a deal.

        • Mona says:

          Totally agree with you Dionne!!! I realize that this post is from last year, but what brought me to this site is that some woman my husband used to work with tried following us on IG…yes, I said “us”…it is our shared account, says both of our names, and has our picture. I realize that people follow everyone on IG and most people don’t think it’s a big deal. What bothers me is that this woman found him which means she was looking for him, because he has no other mutual friends on IG. And I don’t know this woman, have never met or heard of her. His last contact with her was about 8 yrs ago. I can’t understand why some women think this is appropriate behavior!!

      • Maddie says:

        I’m exactly on target. This is pathological behavior.

      • Ben says:

        Sorry you had to endure that abuse. Parent’s should never attack the character of a child. There is a line from the movie “Talk Radio” that really fits, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words do terminal damage.” I was never treated that way by my parents but married a woman from an abusive alcoholic home and she was definitely “damaged.”

  4. Dionne says:

    To be honest, I found your assumption that he was so overwhelmed by you that he ran away from his online business, and your guess that he didn’t answer because you stirred up old romantic feelings in him rather self-flattering. Perhaps that’s why some of the other posters replied to you the way they did.

    Anyway, I do not see any indication that you hold any such place of importance in his life. I think when someone receives a message (let alone several messages) from someone and doesn’t answer them, the most obvious reason by far is simple lack of interest.

    I might understand your feelings of being hurt and believing you deserved an explanation if a friend suddenly stopped answering you. But this friendship has been over for many years. Why would it hurt your feelings so much now when you, too, were fine with forgetting he existed for a couple of decades before now? Just because you suddenly feel an urge to reconnect doesn’t mean he does.

    He may have had a little crush on you years ago, but that does not mean he still does. Most likely, he now reserves those feelings for his wife and doesn’t care about women from his past, whether as friends or otherwise. And many spouses would really not appreciate continued female efforts to contact their husband, especially considering he did have that little unrequited crush on you (if that is more an an accurate assessment on your part than your current assessments seem to be). But rather than wondering if his wife is jealous, I’m wondering if you are trying to compete with her since you mention this crush and pursued him anyway when he didn’t reply, though you seem confident that he received the message.

    I think you should have left it at one contact attempt, then accepted his answer (silence = no), not sent more messages telling him about your feelings. You do not seem very respectful of his family situation. Are you trying to revive his romantic attention?

    When you ask to reconnect, you need to accept the answer that person gives you (and no answer is definitely an answer), not push to get what you want regardless or believe that just wanting it makes you entitled to it. Enjoy those who also want to re-connect and respect the rights of those who don’t.

  5. Bizzy says:


    I am someone who likes to keep up with people, even old boyfriends. I am friends with most of my old boyfriends, either through facebook or linkedin. There were two guys, however, that I dated back to back many years ago, and neither relationship was satisfactory to me. I won’t go into details, but over the years, that period of time stuck in my craw and made me feel like a loser, and affected my later dating success.

    I posted about this before on this forum, but now have an update. A business trip took me to the part of the country where I used to lived and knew these guys. It brought back some need for closure, and I thought I needed to reach out to them in order to heal. I sent a friend request to one on linkedin and the other on facebook. The one on linkedin looked at my profile but did not accept my invitation. The one on facebook deleted my friend request. Until—–a few months later when he sent me a friend request and a long wonderful message about how seeing my earlier message (I had sent him a message in addition to the friend request) brought up all kinds of wonderful feeings for him. We reconnected on facebook, we spent many nights messaging back and forth and might even see each other when he comes to my area.

    Was it a good idea to reach out to both? Yes, I think so. Yes it hurt me when they didn’t respond. But one eventually did. And yes, it has helped me heal.

    I can understand why you reached out to him, and I don’t think it is weird at all. But like with me and the linkedin guy, he may never respond But don’t blame yourself. Like the others said, maybe it’s just his circumstances.

  6. Ben says:

    “None of us has ever seen a motive. Therefore, we don’t know we can’t do anything more than suspect what inspires the action of another. For this good and valid reason, we’re told not to judge.

    Tragedy is that our attention centers on what people are not, rather than on what they are and who they might become.”
    ― Brennan Manning, The Wisdom of Tenderness: What Happens When God’s Fierce Mercy Transforms Our Lives

  7. QueenNeferiti says:

    Hi There,

    I don’t mean to be rude but I could tell that you been overpowered by your ego. Why would you think you did something wrong to him? This guy got something going on for him. You are married with kids right? You should see your family as a big deal and blessings rather than putting nose on other people’s life. This guy owes you nothing; not even friendship, not even explanation.

  8. Lucy says:

    I have been contacted by old friends from high school and It makes me very uneasy. I never respond and I never go to reunions. High school was not a happy memory for me. I want it to stay in the past. I have no interest in revisiting these relationships. They probably don’t know how unhappy I was. I also struggled in early adult hood and only now in mid life, am I finally feeling better about life. I have always struggled with anxiety and depression, so that had a lot to do with my insecurity over these old relationships. It’s frankly not worth the stress for me. I also went to a small town high school where most people married and had children at a young age. That was never in the cards for me, and I fear their judgement. its really my issues, not theirs. Hope that might give you another perspective.

    • Laura says:

      Lucy, you really make a good point “from the other side” as Irene often says it can be more about the other person than you. We really never know what’s going on inside someone else’s head. Thanks for sharing!

    • Sandra says:

      I can’t think of many people — at least people I know — who loved high school. Not many of us liked ourselves in high school, probably because we were still trying to figure it all out. We were all growing and changing, and that’s ultimately what life is about. Years later, I find I have less in common with my high school friends, and while I enjoy seeing them once in a while, I’m happier and have more in common with friends I’ve met in adulthood. I am at peace with that — and I don’t mind missing my high school reunions either. 🙂

  9. tanja says:

    Personally, I think Lottie is being very harsh. I get how you feel because I told you my story. However, I do think it is him and not you. Something you need to move on with. It sucks, take a deep breath, let it go and move forward. Some people would love to reconnect and would have loved to get that email, but not everyone. Ah well…..

    • Laura says:

      I agree completely. Seem that some people feel the need to come on here and give others a *hit kicking. If you think someone is incorrect in their thinking or actions, there’s always a way to say it constructively without being so mean!

  10. lottie says:

    Apart from old times sake,why after all these years are you drawn to someone from you no longer know.
    Like previously mentioned he might be married,have several employees doing his online business and then you decide to be soooooo unprofessional sending daft emails. For goodness sake pull yourself together and get a life instead acting like a love sick 14 year old. His staff might even just delete your emails thinking it is rubbish.
    He had the hots for you twenty years ago but if he ever did read your emails whilst working they cooled years ago.You have hit a mid life crisis.
    I feel embarrassed for you. Lottie

  11. blgrn8 says:

    I am certain that you are confused and hurting by his indifference and avoidance, esp. if you thought that there was a connection in the past, all those years ago. But there’s a reason why they’re in “the past.” People and circumstances change, for better or worse, based on what we want or hope at any given moment.

    I also have to say that while reading your post, I find that your behavior is disturbing if I were at the receiving end of it. It is obsessive and harassing, and more of a reason to distance myself further from your attempts of connection.

    I would heed Irene’s advice. Specifically, “You just need to let go and focus on relationships that are more reciprocal and satisfying.”

    It will take time, and maybe more internal work (by yourself or with a professional) to really let this go.

    Best wishes.

  12. Laura says:

    I understand how you feel. I’ve reconnected with a couple people I used to know 20+ years ago on FB. I could tell they were not as excited about the reconnection as I was. I have plenty of friends but these 2 were very special to me back in the day. I’m not losing any sleep over it, but I just wanted you to know I understand how you feel, especially since some of the other responses are unnecessarily harsh and looking too deep.

  13. Sandra says:

    I think Jacqueline makes some interesting points about your issue, Marilyn. I don’t want to invalidate your sadness over losing touch with an old friend. But it seems you might be allowing yourself to obsess about it and turn this whole thing into something bigger than it is.

    The guy might have a wife who wouldn’t be comfortable with the sudden appearance of a girl pal from his past. Maybe he has other reasons for moving on that have little or nothing to do with you. Given that you’ve been out of touch for so long, I’m thinking it really isn’t about you. Period.

    If you have a family and a life of your own, count your blessings and focus on the good people you have in your life now. Don’t allow your mind to obsess over something from the past, and don’t resort to stalking this man. Treasure your memories, put them away, and move on.

  14. tanja says:

    I had to respond as this has happened to me. It leaves a sense of confusion and a bit of hurt when it does. Through an old friend I was talking to on facebook, he told me he still kept in contact with one of my first boyfriends in high school. We were 15 when we went out. I went out with him for a year. My family loved him. We never slept together because of my age and I was not ready, but it was an alright relationship. But, I broke up with him because he was often jealous of other guy friends. But, to me, it was all just platonic. I liked having friends and physically and sexually, I felt I was not mature enough for all of that stuff at that time. So, in the end I broke up with him because the relationship was too intense and I was too young for that. Well, now, almost 40, our mutual friend was talking about him and so I asked that friend if I should say hi to him through facebook. I mean I am married with kids and he is married with kids. My friend encouraged me to do so and said go through my facebook and do it. “I am sure he’ll be happy and surprised and curious to hear from you”. So, I did. Well, I got no response. In fact, he either took himself off facebook or blocked me completely. When I look, I can’t find him anymore and I can’t find him on my friends facebook. When I told my friend that encouraged me to say hi, my friends was surprised and his response was “oh wow, I thought he would be interested to say hi, maybe things in his life are not going well and you hurt him more than you realize that when he looked through your pictures and family, he felt jealous and did not want to talk again. He may not be happy in his marriage and you look like you are….so, he decided not to reach back and he doesn’t want you to look through his pictures”. I was shocked but I did not take it personally. My friend then told me that he has three kids, but kids from different woman, so he isn’t with his kids the way I am, he is a week end dad, but my friend thought he had a girlfriend now, who knows. So, he may thought our lives were too different…..Alas, things happen but all I can say is that IT IS NOT YOU! IT IS HIM.

  15. Ben says:

    How about a moment of honesty…..

    We all have been in that position of wondering why someone in our past (or present) doesn’t want to be friends or is less than a good friend or is downright inexplicably nasty to us. No one on here is “holier than thou.” To take a line from an old commercial “why ask way?” The truth is right in front of us all the time. We just don’t want to accept it at times, some of the time or all of the time.

    None of us have the “right” to anyone’s affections. We don’t have the “right” for anyone else’s explaining their behavior to us. We don’t have the “right” to get our expectations met. This is a painful reality sure. We have been conditioned by modern day electronic media to assume that “Facebook” friends are “friends.” Are they? We have been fed a line that electronic connections bring us closer together. Do they? Remember the days growing up where one actually had to meet face-to-face to make a friend?

    True friends require a couple of ingredients (or more) to survive.
    1. Both people have to be of like mind. Have you been friends with someone you can’t stand????
    2. Both people need understanding of the other. How many friends do you have where after you talk to them you scratch your head and wonder, wow that was so very odd.
    3. Friends need dialogue. As this post illustrates, long pauses between communications does not a closeness make.

    We’ve all been where this poster has been. We all wonder why????????
    A question I ask myself over and over again, what is my part? Am I expecting too much from the other person or too much from myself when my expectations are not met. Other people are just like us because they are people too. That other person in the post is doing exactly what makes sense to him.

    A question to ask myself when in similar situations is why am I upset? What did I do? Did I do anything? Am I good friend to others? Do I treat people they way I want to be treated? Am I happy with me? If I can answer those questions to my own satisfactions then life goes on happy, joyous and free.

    It’s not all those other people that need changing, it’s me… I need to change and evolve and learn from painful experiences.

    Know this poster, I like many have been in your shoes. It’s not fun. When we go through pain its an opportunity to recognize what we are doing to cause ourselves pain. Pain can be an opportunity to grow. I have grown a lot because of many painful situations in my life. Thank you universe for pain because without it I would not be motivated to change!!!

  16. jacqueline says:

    Yes, you are over-reacting, and yes, you are being unfair. He does not have to answer to you. He does not owe you anything, and I think he is being rather nice about the whole thing. You are stalking him, and he has not blocked you or sent you an email, asking you to please leave him alone. His silence speaks volumes. For you to be so deeply affected by this, to the point it is like a death, is not a normal reaction. This has become an obsession.

    You have a husband and a daughter, and that is what you should be concentrating on.

    Is there perhaps another reason for your sudden “nostalgia” after so long with this man? Are you looking for some excitement in your life, as you yourself said that this has stirred some old feelings for him.

    If you cannot move on, it would be a good idea for you to seek professional help in order for you to understand why you are so focused on this person after so many years of no contact? There are other underlying reasons here, and therapy will definitely help you get to the bottom of it.

    I apologize if I seem harsh, but the truth of the matter is, you have to realize you are living in a fantasy here, and I am sure your husband would not like it if he knew what you were doing and feeling.

  17. jacqueline says:

    Yes, you are definitely being unfair. You are definitely over-reacting. He obviously does not want to be in contact with you. He does not have to answer to you. In fact, I feel he is actually being quite nice about it. He could have blocked you, or sent you an email, asking you to please leave him alone. His silence is your answer. You need to let it go and stop being so focused on him. You have a husband and a daughter, and that is what you should be concentrating on. You wrote that you are “deeply affected by all this…..like part of you has died”…this is not a normal reaction to someone you have not seen or had any contact with in so many years. Are there other reasons for your sudden “nostalgia” with this man since turning 40? Are you looking for some excitement in your life? Is your husband aware of what you are doing?

    If you cannot stop obsessing over him, perhaps you should speak to a professional to help you through this and whatever else is going on in your life.

    Sorry if this post is a little harsh, but I am just trying to wake you up and make you realize you are totally off base here.

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