• Resolving Problems

How Do You Handle A Friend Becoming Distant?

Published: March 17, 2024 | Last Updated: March 17, 2024 By | Reply Continue Reading
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A co-worker feels her close friend becoming distant and isn’t sure about how to handle it. 

QUESTION

Dear Friendship Doctor:

I am hoping to obtain some of your expert advice about my closest male friend becoming distant.

I’m usually very introverted, so I do not seek out many friendships and tend to connect only with a few select people. 

Almost three years ago, I met Seth (not his real name) in the workplace, and we connected so easily. We can talk to one another for hours and never run out of things to say. I feel as if I’ve known him forever. 

He is also gay, so there is no awkward romantic tension, which, to be honest, makes our friendship more open and easier to maintain than in my experience with straight males.

Although Seth is always supportive and tends to be there for me, recently, he has been closed off and distant. He has told me that, at times, he shuts off to be able to deal with family issues in his private life. He generally bounces back and then our friendship feels back to normal.

We both took around a month off work this past December/January. His birthday is just before Christmas, and I texted him that day. His reply was pretty standard. But after this, I did not hear from him until we were both back in the office. He did not even reply to my New Year’s text. 

I know he had been renovating his house during this time, but I find it difficult to understand and accept that he was too busy to reply to my messages. 

He’s been on leave for around two weeks recently, and I have reached out to see how he is doing. No response, nothing, nada.

Before he went on leave, we discussed how we are both emotional people under pressure 

but react differently to emotions. I prefer to talk to people close to me while he shuts off and goes silent. This has caused disagreements between us in the past, and he has apologized previously, stating he was unaware this behavior had a negative effect on me.

I love him so very much and consider him such a close friend. But I can’t help wondering if he really thinks the same of me or if I am taking the times he’s distant too personally. 

Is there a way to effectively deal with how I handle times when he is distant? I usually ignore it and do not message him while focusing on myself and other relationships outside of work. 

But deep down, I simply struggle without him and can’t understand why someone telling you they value you so much can shut you out.

Thanks for your advice.

Mara

ANSWER

Hi Mara,

It is certainly painful to sense a friend becoming distant, especially when it’s someone with whom you feel so close, and there’s no obvious explanation. 

You said that Seth’s shutting off isn’t coming out of the blue. You’ve seen him shut down in the past when he feels overwhelmed with his private life.

But not responding to you at all has to be perplexing. 

You cannot know why this happened except by asking him directly. You can say something like, “I really value our friendship. I don’t know what is happening in your life, but I miss and care about you.” It would be a way to show your support for him.

If you don’t have the opportunity to see him outside of work, you might send an email or text. Since Seth is a co-worker, you need to be cautious about your workplace relationship and ensure that it doesn’t become too tense for either of you.

If Seth can’t respond or doesn’t want to, you have no choice but to step back and give your friend the space he needs. You can’t change his personality or style of coping. The only thing you can change is your own behavior in response. 

You are right to focus on yourself and your other relationships right now.  

Try not to take this too personally. Given Seth’s recent absences from work, it sounds like it has more to do with him than you. 

I hope this is somewhat helpful.

Best,

Irene

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Category: RESOLVING PROBLEMS

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