• Keeping Friends

Guest Post: That’s Not the Train I’m Waiting For

Published: September 5, 2011 | Last Updated: May 14, 2020 By | 16 Replies Continue Reading

By Sheila Callahan


I’ll admit to being a little obsessed with the concept of
friendship, and I probably spend an undue amount of time thinking about
several in particular that apparently had an expiration date.


How did I not see that train coming?


My pal and colleague Irene Levine, Ph.D. blogs on the Huffington Post and Psychology Today as The Friendship Doctor. She authored the book  Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend. Irene’s writings on the topic bring to light a misconception that some of us grew up believing: Friendship is forever.


When it comes to people, I’m a connector. Even though I’m an
introvert, I like talking to and thinking about those I’ve stumbled
across in life.


Irene tells me that I’m a great networker. Somehow that term strikes
me as predatory, which I hope I’m not.  I love building bridges to
people. It can be through social networking sites like Facebook or
Linked In, or in person. I reach out because I’ve enjoyed meeting people
or feel we share something in common-work, background, interests,
family ….


Chances are, if my path has crossed with people, I’ve probably spent
more than a passing moment thinking about them. It’s just how I’m wired.


If people grew up in the same town, attended the same schools, went
to the same camp, worked at the same company or lived in the same
building, they’ve become a figure in the landscape of my life. Odds are,
at some point something will trigger a recollection and I’ll recall
their name, face, or the circumstances that bind our personal history
together, however briefly.


Forgive my navel-gazing ways. People matter to me. If I see one of my
mother’s elderly friends standing in the soup aisle at my hometown
grocery store, I take five minutes to chat. Any seconds of shyness get
wiped away the moment the connection is rekindled.


I don’t even have to know their names. If they served me coffee at
the bodega or smiled at me as they walked through Central Park each day,
chances are, they’ll cross my mind again. I’ll think of them if I see a
film that reminds me of when I first rented it from them at the shop on
Broadway and West 94th St. Or I might be walking on a beach at night
and have a strong memory of what it was like to tag turtles with other
friends on the Pacific coast of Mexico 20 years ago.


It could be any number of reasons.


It might be once a decade, but the seconds or moments spent recalling those people I once knew, matter to me.


Given my predilection to dwell on even the most casual of
acquaintances decades later, it’s hardly strange that I focus the lens
of my memory sharply on people who have been actual close friends.


If I’ve spent time with their children; attended their wedding; and
can name the town they grew up in, what their father did for a living
and who their siblings are, chances are, I consider them friends for
life, and I think and care about them.


If I’ve socialized not only with them and their spouses and children,
but their parents and siblings, I’m not exactly expecting them to walk
out of my life anytime soon.


Yet people do walk out of our lives. Every day.


It’s often very difficult for those of us who feel left behind, who
weren’t ready for the divorce that sucks us into the vacuum roaring,
"Why? What happened? What did I do?"


Nothing says "failed friendship" more than people considered to be
close local friends who came to the tiny wedding to which only a
fraction of the people  loved could be invited, yet who didn’t manage to
acknowledge the occasion with even a token gift. (I know, it’s not
about the gift.)


You know your friendship is in trouble when emails go unacknowledged.
When your former pal can’t even manage one line from a Blackberry a few
times a year. My husband says that sometimes the friendship train gets
delayed and sometimes goes express, not stopping at your station
anymore. He thinks that’s the time to start looking at the others
waiting on the platform to realize who’s new in your life.


How do you cope when that runaway friendship train strikes you?


Copyright 2011 Sheila Callahan


Thanks to my friend and colleague, Sheila Callahan for allowing me to
reprint her post. Sheila is a talented freelance journalist, writer and educator who was born
in New Jersey, became a New Yorker, and now lives in Warsaw, Poland.
You can read more of Sheila’s writing at Help! I’m Blogging.

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Comments (16)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Also, with funerals. I have stopped by wakes of most people who experienced a significan loss who I had bonds with. But a couple of times I did not attend because i knew I would encounter people who seriously betrayed and hurt me and whom I disliked. At these occasions I had no idea what the setting would be, and had no group to hang out with to ease my anxiety. The people were frauds and essentially were workplace bullies for a consultant type job I had. I almost wanted to sue them for that and defamation. I never told the family member and other colleauges of this, I took the higher road and just quit my job to get away from these immature,back stabbing, extremely petty women, and never told the family member who suffered the loss that these women were the reaason, so probably some people were offended that I didnt attend, but I feel my reasons were enough. Having that much anxiety about attending something for someone I had casual/aquaintance type relationship was too much for me.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Also, with funerals. I have stopped by wakes of most people who experienced a significant loss who I had bonds with. But a couple of times I did not attend because i knew I would encounter people who seriously betrayed and hurt me and whom I disliked. At these occasions I had no idea what the setting would be, and had no group to hang out with to ease my anxiety. The people were frauds and essentially were workplace bullies for a consultant type job I had. I almost wanted to sue them for that and defamation. I never told the family member and other colleauges of this, I took the higher road and just quit my job to get away from these immature, back stabbing, extremely petty women, and never told the family member who suffered the loss that these women were the reaason, so probably some people were offended that I didn’t attend, but I feel my reasons were enough. Having that much anxiety about attending something for someone I had casual/aquaintance type relationship was too much for me.

  3. Anonymous says:

    and pay more attention to what happens in between.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I disagree with the wedding metaphor. Because I know I am a really good, trustworthy and loyal friend, but I am not a wedding person. I didn’t attend a wedding of someone that I wasn’t really, really, close friends with but we had a bond.I was invited because I meant alot to the person due to my work role in her life during a trying time. I represented her getting through it to her and pivotal to where she was, in a good place, with a new husband.
    It meant alot to be invited but I was living paycheck to paycheck, my wardrobe wasnt amenable to fidning something to wear and I was super, super, busy. Attending stuff like that is not my love language. If she was a very close or best friend or family member I certainly would have attended. There were no hard feelings, and we are since casual friends!
    We should stop measuring caring by attendance at weddings and funerals and pay more attention between what happens in between them 🙂

  5. Anonymous says:

    Yes, a card is an offering, a indirect/direct way to say your friend is still thought about and regarded. It doesn’t have to be a card, but small gestures can be considered attempts, which means effort in the friendship.

  6. Anonymous says:

    You make a good point, Anonymous: people can go ‘back and forth’ sometimes forgiving, sometimes mad. It is a big adjustment to get used to a new level of a friendship. I think that’s why people want to still send cards to friends they’ve had a disagreement with. There have been lots of comments about sending a card (at other places on this blog) and some pepole think it’s strange to want to send a card if you’ve had a falling out. I don’t think it’s so easy and clear cut for all of us. Mixed emotions about downgrading friendships are normal.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Sometimes when friends have a falling out it takes time to get over it. Maybe she goes back and forth to forgiving you and being mad. She came to your party. Maybe she is having difficulty easing in to a new level of relating after the fall out andmakeup. That’s normal. They way you feel is normal too. Maybe you need to have a talk with her or if the drift seems mutual, let it happen.

  8. Anonymous says:

    HI there,

    It does sometimes take going through alot of hurt in relationshiops to understand what a healthy one is. Of course, you should have never experienced the abuse you had with your husband.

    It is true that many people are quick to judge the thoughts and feelings of others. Some of your friendships, like the guy who insisted on only communicating by email were clearly worth losing, even if painful-to say you are needy because you want to talk is wrong, and the one who said you were negative after needing support following supporting her-how ridiculous people can be.

    But you seem to be a bit overly judgmental about the people who tell you how you think and feel, even though as you say, the TRUTH is, they don’t know. YOu yourself admilt that you had to learn that others behavior made you feel a certain way and that you may have been quick to assume thoughts and feelings. Do you have to place these people on the same scale as the trully bad friends? Is assuming your thoughts and feelings, which might be understandable conclusions based on your behavior, however wrong those assumptions are, to be reduced to the label of megalomaniacal lies? Maybe those friends could use a cue from you, such as “sounds like you are feeling_____” instead of you just calling them toxic.

    Again, great for you that you are shedding and discernining truly toxic peopel from your life. But you seem stuck on this issue of people assuming your thoughts and feelings, when again, we should learn to not do and ask, BUT it is a pretty common human foible that people make when they feel vulnerable in friendship. It is true that it is better to look at oneself rather than point fingers. Your friends should have asked you what you were thinking and feeling. UNless these friends were cruel about it,maybe some of them dont deserve to be put on the same level as the truly bad ones, and you can meet them half way by communicating in a way that they can recognize it is their projections, not the truth, that is influencing their ideas of you.

  9. Ellen says:

    Hard to cope for those of us who have always believed friendships should last forever. It is good to know there are other introverts who are devastated by finding out friends have moved on. The wedding example in this article really hit home for me as well – asking an old friend to a small wedding and finding out that she couldn’t be bothered.

    At 60 and nearing retirement it is hard to meet new people and friends. Lately many of my oldest friends have moved on for many reasons. But I still wish to continue the friendship and need their friendship but they have no interest. I am deeply saddened by these losses.

    So how to cope? I have met a few new friends, spend a lot of time alone or with my husband ( the friends who moved on included couple friends which is hard for the social life), exercise, work extra hours,have decided to move far from our current city closer to family and have plans to start joining groups and work part time when we do. My grandchildren are a joy of course ! I try not to think about it but it is lonely – and am still not sure what happened. It is comforting to know that others have had this happen as well and that it is not always my fault – one thing I have learned from my newer friends is that I am likeable! I had forgotten that.

    I also coped by finding this blog and several others that really help me put it all in perspective.

    Many thanks to Sheila Callahan and to Irene for giving us this guest post to ponder and get comfort from.

  10. Liz says:

    I loved this way of thinking about friendships that have moved on without me. It is so hard when you realize that this is happening and yet there isn’t much of anything that you can do. For most of my life I’ve been the one to introduce newcomers to my friends or acquaintances and then almost always watch as the newcomer is welcomed into deep friendships while I’m still left on the sidelines. And yet, I still do this & will continue to as it just comes naturally to me it seems. Every year I seem to lose a friend that drifts off but there is usually someone else on the platform with me that steps in eventually. It is hard not to be disillusioned with that new friendship and to wonder how long they will be around. Over the years I have become better at just letting them know that I care, but then just letting them go. Maybe I should try harder – but it usually leads to embarrassment for me and they squirm away all the harder. One friend seemed to be distancing herself & I just let go – and then she came back. Weird. This idea of thinking of them as just no longer stopping at my station is less hurtful to me.

  11. Anonymous says:

    It is hard…on one hand, you want to attempt to be nice, polite and thoughtful of the other…I too, always tried to look at the bigger picture and do what was best for the friendship..but by doing so, I lost respect for myself and Im sure my ex-bff lost respect for me…I became the doormat…she would treat me well one day and then ignore me the next..I NEVER knew what to expect from one day to the next…In hind sight, I should have held my ground more and spoke up for myself…I walked on eggshells with her…it all became too much work…along with alot of hurt…I blame myself to a degree for maybe creating patterns that were unhealthy, but just didnt see it all happening at the time.

  12. Anonymous says:

    thank you, I appreciate and love the advice, manipulative behavior and one sided friendship.

    Its a shame. I’ve had my share of friendships fall apart and this is another one. Just because of my niceness, support and patience and inability to speak up. Gee…..

  13. Anonymous says:

    Like Sheila, I love connecting with people. It’s how I’m wired. I also tend to get very hurt when the friendship train doesn’t stop for me anymore. Perhaps I’ve got to look at the platform and see who else is there, waiting…

  14. Anonymous says:

    I’ve had 7 friends *leave* in the last two years, and I’ve spent some time wondering if there are any parallels. I mean, the common denominator is *me*, so could I be the problem? They say we “create our own reality”, right? Forget the grandmother raped on the streetcorner and how she probably did NOT create her own reality…. Could the problem be me? I was willing to look….

    The catalyst for these abandonments was that I woke up to my boyfriend’s verbal abuse. I had thought that our “conflicts” were normal, but I had also increasingly felt a need to walk on eggshells and I didn’t understand that it was a warning signal. When he finally erupted one day, yelling and browbeating me mercilessly, then complaining because *I* had a problem with intimacy…. It became crystal clear to me that lies were being used as “justification” and the “role” I was ACTUALLY being invited to play in his inner movie was that of whipping dog. Drawing a boundary made the aggression worse… long story, but I finally left. However, what’s interesting is that 7 OTHER so-called “friends” abandoned me shortly thereafter.

    One erupted one day because I wasn’t automatically doing something the way she wanted. Note, she didn’t simply ask, she went from 0-60 with unleashed accusations, basically long list of what she said I thought and felt…. Ummm, hello? Only God can see into the head or heart of another human and see what’s there… Statements like “you don’t care about my feelings” are a complete LIE because nobody can TELL you what you care about. I’ve learned that she attacked me rather than expressing her own feelings, as hers. But I no longer accept being a target, so the foundation of trust was destroyed and that friendship was ruptured.

    Another friend who doesn’t feel comfortable being “negative” nevertheless had some problems and sought my support because I am a safe, accepting listener. Silly me, I thought after that that we were getting closer, but when I reached out in return one time, she accused me of being a “downer” — which was certainly untrue when I was “uplifting” enough to help her!

    With two other friends, it dawned on me that I was always calling them — sometimes to check in and just listen to their latest concerns, other times to seek support myself — but they almost never called me. When one started becoming highly controlling with her husband, I didn’t say anything but I began to doubt the reciprocity of our “friendships”. So I hung back and waited to see if they would call me. Neither one has done so. So I’ve chosen to continue the distance because I don’t want to be the only person caring to keep a friendship alive.

    Two other friends also erupted with judgment, because I wasn’t fulfilling expectations that I still don’t understand. I keep wondering why so many meltdowns??? Is it really all about me???? Am I soooo powerful??? Why can’t people just express their own feelings? Why does emotional expression so often occur as a meltdown where judgments and lies are hurled, not the least of which are the megalomaniacal lies that claim to know the other person’s interior thoughts, feelings, motivations and intentions???

    The last friend to leave was a simple liar. We were close, then he moved away to another city. But we would still have these long phone conversations, and he would always encourage me saying call anytime, it’s okay, I’ll always be there for you, etc — until I actually did it one time. I got voicemail, asked him to call me back and he didn’t. He wrote an email telling me I could say what I wanted to in email. I wrote back saying I didn’t want to talk in email. He wrote back pissed off (because I asked for voice and declined email), saying I was too demanding, and he still never called back. Poof! Gone. No explanation, anything.

    On the surface, it seems like some of these issues could have been “worked through”. But I confess: I don’t understand how pushing back the accusations and labels these friends put on me would lead to better friendships. Their presumed ABILITY to judge and label me would still exist, so we would never be equal.

    I believe now that my upbringing made me ignorant about power struggles and how toxic they are. When I finally learned and woke up (thanks to my abusive boyfriend), I then saw toxicity everywhere. Honestly, I also saw it in myself, and I also had to become accountable. I too had learned to say things like:

    “You don’t care about my feelings”

    “You’re just trying to get attention”, and

    “You’re just mad because xyz…”

    when the TRUTH is I don’t know ANY of those things! And when I use those statements I’m actually avoiding expressing my own feelings, as mine. In other words:

    “I FEEL hurt and unheard.” –or–

    “I FEEL anxious and like I will be overlooked when everyone pays attention to you.” –or–

    “I FEEL undermined when you question my judgment.”

    I don’t think I could have avoided the awakening I had. As the commenter above says, the train moves forward…. I simply woke up! What’s notable is that I had no clue before that anything was amiss. I just carried chronic pain, disappointment, and confusion in my relationships constantly but didn’t know why. I just thought it was the way things were, the way things were supposed to be….

    Now that I’m awake, it makes sense that my road is different, and that there are far fewer people on it. I’m in a completely new world — a 55 year-old “baby” in this new place, without a clue about how to make new, healthy friendships — only a clear vision of how power struggles can appear to be “good friendships” when they are in fact not.

    My heart’s sincerest longing now is to find other people on this new road who might be in a similar situation, desiring to both give and receive support, equal to equal. I wonder if they exist….. In the meantime I really have no choice. Once you know something it’s hard to un-know it. So I hope I won’t be alone on this road now until the end of my days but I can’t go back to ignorance. If I remain alone I can only thank God for opening my eyes.

  15. lacole says:

    imo…your friendship has strayed. I think your friend was annoyed or upset that you were unable to go with her to karaoke and decided to cancel the lunch in return. She sounds abit controlling…wants your friendship, but on her terms right now, even if that means its one sided. I think you let her know again that you are there if she ever wants to chat or talk, but step back abit and dont get caught up in what appears to be manipulative behaviors.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I just read this blog and I like what you said. ‘

    I have a friend of mine who we’ve been straying for the past few months.

    We had a bit of a fall out and it was my fault, however, I have always been there for her, hearing her problems and hanging out.

    Her mother died this year and it has been very hard for her. I do understand completely which is why I have been understanding. Although , at times she tends to correct me, at times boss me around or doesn’t care about the problems I have. Lately I have felt that this friendship has been one sided.
    I sent her a text stating that I have noticed our friendship has had some tension to take her time and when she is ready we can talk.

    Last week was my birthday, I sent out an invite and she did not reply.

    Although she came at the last minute and only stayed for an hour.

    She offered to take me out to lunch for my birthday. We set a time. She asked me if I wanted to go out with her to Karaoke. But I told her that I was doing something else and was feeling tired.

    Then yesterday I get a text from her cancelling the lunch. I’m really upset now.

    I just feel that this friendship has strayed. Is that normal?

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