Getting Over an Old Grudge: Clearing the air

Published: January 20, 2011 | Last Updated: January 20, 2011 By | 1 Reply Continue Reading


Hi Irene,

I was in my best friend’s wedding 25 years ago and then never heard from her again, no returned calls—nothing. She had been distancing herself from me for a while so it didn’t come as a surprise. But it hurt

Fifteen years ago, she gave my mother her phone number and told her to tell me to call her. I didn’t really count that as an attempt to contact me since the effort had to come from me. I didn’t call her.

Recently, I got together with four high school friends, including her. I arranged the meeting through Facebook. Although she isn’t on Facebook, another friend invited her. She barely spoke to me but when we were alone she brought up contacting my mother and said said, "But I never heard from you." Her tone was accusatory.

I said, "I suppose the alternative was for you to pick up the phone and call me." I deliberately stayed calm and casual. She said, "I didn’t have
your number, I couldn’t call you." I opened my mouth to reply and then I remembered a promise I made to my husband: If anyone is snippy, just be nice and don’t say anything. So I shut my open mouth (probably a little too late).

Now I’m second-guessing myself. Maybe I should have said what I intended. It was my chance to clear the air and I didn’t take it. She didn’t say two words to me the rest of the four hours we were there. She obviously still holds some resentment toward me for not calling her.

At the time, I had finally dealt with her desertion (it took years) and had filled that great big empty hole with other people and other things. I wasn’t interested in extending myself to someone who had chopped my head off in the past.

Now I wouldn’t say I’m indifferent but I’m not exactly chomping at the bit to be friends, either. I’m totally confused about handling this situation because the five of us plan to have get-togethers in the future. Meeting everyone else was great and we all exchanged numbers and emails.

I really loved her but I’m a long way out of high school. I went to this meeting of old high school friends with no expectations and no resentments. It honestly never occurred to me the resentment would go the other way.

My concern is that future get-togethers will feel uncomfortable. I don’t want this to put a damper on things and affect others. Perhaps, I haven’t approached her correctly. My first inclination is to ignore it, be civil, and act like the grownup I am. With three other people there (and soon there will be husbands and children, too), I don’t have to have a lot of interaction with her. Any suggestions on how to make this easier?

Signed, Delia



When your friend cornered you and blamed you for the lapse in your friendship, she probably was feeling uncomfortable and being defensive. Instead of blaming her back, you should have said something more neutral like, "Well, I’m glad we’re all here together now." Obviously, a group reunion isn’t the time or place to clear the air.

I suspect that after such a long period of estrangement, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for you to trust or become close friends again. You have two options for clearing the air, depending on what feels comfortable for you:

1) You could invite her to coffee and reassure her that you don’t hold a grudge and just want to move forward. Remind her and yourself that there’s nothing to be gained by rehashing what happened or didn’t happen 25 or even 15 years ago.


2) Alternatively, you could simply act cordially at get-togethers, not explicitly discussing the past, and resist answering back in kind even if she tries to provoke you. She’ll probably stop once she sees she can’t rattle you.

Just because she’s stuck in the past doesn’t mean that you need to be, too. You can’t change her but you decide this silly grudge is no longer worth your time and emotions. Hope this helps.



Other posts about avoiding collateral damage on The Friendship Blog:

Can collateral damage be avoided after a breakup?

Why breaking up is so hard to do

Unfriend, not a simple term by any means


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  1. Kristin Caproni says:


    It might help you to clear the air in this friendship-for you! Depending on how she responds in the talk you have, and how she behaves moving forward, you can decide on the closeness level in the friendship.

    I would be totally straightforward, but casual as you were at the group event(which btw, was completely appropriate what you said, bare minimum and truthful), but bring the conversation to a conclusion. Call her. Let her know “you know, you expressed that I should have called you” “do you remember how you distanced yourself from me in our friendship? I really cared about you and it felt lousy to be treated that way. I was hurt. I missed you. Then you insist that I be the one to maintain contact in the friendship.When my mother said you asked that I call I suppose I could have but decided that if our friendship is worth keeping, I shouldnt have to be the only one to make an effort.I felt that if I mattered enough to you, you would have made an effort to get my number. I suppose I could have called you one more time and said that then, but given your decision to distance me to begin with, I decided that I didnt want to be the one to make the effort again to have you not reciprocate by trying to contact me at times. Can you understand why I feel this way?”

    If she apologizes and responds positively, then you will both come out better. If not, then you realize that she really lacks other empathy to the point that you should have very low expectations of her and a mutual caring friendship between you, and be grateful for the friends who really do care about you. I have met alot of people like this. We do ourselves or our friends no favor if we are the only ones making an effort in the friendship\.

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