Legacy Friends: Keeping old friendships alive

April 5, 2011 | By | 6 Replies Continue Reading

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

My best friend from college (who later was my maid of honor) and I had a fall out three years ago. After 13 years of friendship, she completely shut down and stopped speaking to me. My moving out of state, her moving to another state, my having a baby, and her career taking off all converged into a perfect storm triggering the split.

 

Six months ago, I felt I was better able to give her the attention she deserved, and sent her an apology/olive branch letter, and a gift (timed with her birthday), and she e-mailed back accepting me into her life, and admitting being less patient with me after I had the baby.

 

Over the last six months she barely responds to e-mails, including an invitation to talk on the phone for 10 minutes (this was a few weeks ago). She has begun moving in social circles involving high society and quasi-celebrities, and I can kind of see some of the things that broke us apart initially. However, now that I am on her Facebook list, and her fan page, I feel like I will be the evil one now if I don’t give HER the same patience I very much needed once upon a time.

 

How do I continue without getting hurt? I’m visiting her state in a few months, and frankly I don’t even want to tell her I’ll be around, for fear of rejection or nonresponsiveness.

Signed,
Cissy

 

ANSWER

Hi Cissy,

Your college friend seems to have morphed into what I call a "legacy friend" (a friend from the past with little currency in the present). While you have a rich history that spanned over 13 years, your lives have taken different directions and this often makes it difficult to keep a friendship going.

 

The initial fall out may have been the result of a perfect storm but ongoing circumstances, such as geography and lifestyle differences, are still conspiring to maintain social distance between you.

 

If your friend’s unresponsive, back off a little and give her some space. Be more forgiving and take it less personally. Let her know you’ll be in town if she’s available (and you want to see her) but don’t get upset if she has other commitments.

 

Perhaps, it would be worthwhile to have an explicit conversation about
how maintain the friendship so it fits into your current lives in a way
that is comfortable for both of you. Even though you’re no longer as close as you once were, you’ve patched up the acute problem, and can still share a long and rich history—hopefully with occasional opportunities to catch up in person, by phone and/or by email.

Hope this helps!
Best,
Irene

 

Do you have legacy friends? How do you keep the friendship alive?


Prior posts on The Friendship Blog that touch upon legacy friendships:

Is my childhood friendship worth saving?

My best friend exhausts me

RX for longer-lasting friendships

 

 

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Comments (6)

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  1. ANONYMOUS says:

    It is not unreasonable to expect simple common curtsy and respect from a long term friend. I do not believe it is asking to much or having to high expectations to want or need understanding from some one you have shared so much. If the friendship has been a authentic one that is, Then asking your friend to respect your busy changed life as she might expect of you should not be a problem if your history has been based on a solid give and take ground, it should not matter if one or both has changed. The inner feeling of both people have not changed and good real friends know how to adjust their life’s with out giving the impression that they are to busy for their friend, or at least that’s how it should be. In fact I think it might be even more so to let each other know whats going on in their life’s
    if they are long term friends. They should be just as important as the new friends, if not more. If a simple phone call is to difficult then there is your answer. It’s not expecting to much.

  2. Anonymous says:

    As other posters have suggested, make it a casual invitation that you will be in town but you have other engagements, but would be open to the suggestion of meeting up for a drink or a bite to eat.If she responds all well and good. If she doesnt then ignore her request to rekindle the friendship.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I’m sorry to break it to you, but many people are cold. They just aren’t that loyal or kind. They are self-serving and act on whims. One day a person can just up and decide to just break off ties with another person for any or no reason. It can be as sophisticated as “She sort of gets on my nerves sometimes” or “She won’t help my career.” Or it can just be a random kneejerk whim.
    It’s the sort of thing that happens all the time and people who do this feel totally justified in their behavior.
    They feel no remorse – meanwhile the person they rejected is wondering what happened, how they could have done things differently, and how they can salvage the relationship…

    Truth is, you can’t. People just randomly stop caring and unfortunately it’s something we all have to accept. It’s happened to me before and it’s heartbreaking. Your “friend” has disappeared to be replaced by this new version of herself who is basically a stranger.

    Time to move on to new people who value kindness – and who really value others…..

  4. Irene says:

    Thanks again for your post!
    Warm regards,
    Irene

  5. Camilla says:

    If you have a way of doing it, you could notify her that you’ll be in town in a way that’s generic enough that she could pretend she hasn’t seen it, if she’s too busy for you.

    For example, a bulk email, or facebook status, that just says “I’ll be in x city on y dates, doing such and such, let me know if you want to meet for lunch downtown.” That way, if you get no reply, you can assume that she hasn’t seen it, and she’s not being put on the spot to make an excuse.

    Another other option is to be very specific with your invitation. If you invite her to lunch on a specific date, she can be “busy” if she doesn’t want to see you, “busy” if she’s busy, or she can ask “how long will you be in town?” if she’s busy and still wants to make time for you. That’s easier on her than making her try to explain why she can’t make time for you at any point during a longish time span.

  6. Laura says:

    I think one thing we have to get over in society is that we have these fantasies of friendships based on things never changing (like romantic relationships). I think a healthier way to look at the situation is to not have the same expectations of the friendship you had when both your lives were so different. Having too many expectations is also a recipe for disappointment. So the best thing is to not have so many expectations. High-minded career women, socialites and mothers don’t have much time to dedicate to friendships when they were single and without obligations; therefore, the expectations of the friendship must change. And gear the conversation towards remembering those good times and how grateful you were for her friendship and that you cherish those memories and that you are glad that she has responded to your offer to mend the rough spot.

    But another point: you also have to be prepared to really honest and see the person she has become. Reality is that some good people turn bad, some bad people turn good, and others never really improve beyond their inclinations in terms of personal relationships. If she was vain before, for example, being around the sheeshy-pooh-pooh people (my term for uppity high society rich people) isn’t going to make her more humble. Studies have shown that being around the rich and contemplating luxury items doesn’t make people more empathetic but less so. Are those the values you want in a friend? It’s painful but more painful to be around someone whose values you despise.

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