• Keeping Friends
  • Handling Breakups

Looking back to move forward

Published: March 29, 2016 | Last Updated: March 29, 2016 By | 11 Replies Continue Reading
A single woman asks for advice to move forward when she reflects on a lost friendship.


Hi Irene,

I am a 38-year-old single woman and I live a pretty solitary life, which on its own I don’t really mind–I’m a writer. But lately I find myself reflecting on my friendships and relationships. I can move forward pretty easily, and take care of my well-being, so navigating relationships has been okay for me, but I find myself missing someone, quite terribly I’m afraid to admit.

He was my best friend in my youth, from age 14-21, and he ended our friendship abruptly. At the time he dropped me, he was still in the closet, and he came out afterwards (maybe that’s relevant?), and I remember asking him what was wrong, why was he not speaking to me? But he never told me, and I just never heard from him again.

And now I am in a phase of life where I’m more reflective, and I realize I am completely alone. People around me have families and in many ways that constitutes their social life. But I don’t crave a family. I find myself missing my best friend from that time. I’ve never felt more like myself with anyone since him, and I’m realizing that now.

But I’m still hurt as to why he ended our friendship. And actually I feel guilty, like I was too selfish or I wasn’t around for him enough and that’s why he dropped me. For fifteen years I never thought about him, but I recently I came across an old birthday card he sent me and the memories came flooding back, and for the first time I remembered how it was to be understood by someone. I’ve never felt that since.

We live in the same city, we’re both on Facebook, although he’s never friended nor I him so I’m guessing there’s still some ill feelings, but I wonder if I should reach out to him? Is that crazy? This many years later and so out of the blue? Do people actually do this? I’m not sure if I’m looking for friendship, closure, or just to move forward with my life. Any advice you could give would be great.

Thanks. Norma


Hi Norma,

It’s common for people to reflect on their past friendships and wonder what happened. It is also understandable to question yourself and the role you may have played in friendships that drifted apart or suddenly came to an end.

It sounds like this was really a significant friendship in your life and I suspect it was also important to your friend if you both enjoyed such an ease of understanding. However, if your friend was grappling with coming out, at a time when it was far more difficult than it is today, his personal issues may have overtaken his relationship to you. Perhaps, it was just too difficult for him to tell you what he had been keeping secret from you and others.

I suspect that you are yearning for the close relationship you had and how gratifying it was to be understood and accepted by another person. Fifteen years later, both you and your friend are no longer the same individuals. Yet, there is no harm in reaching out and telling your friend that you’ve been thinking of him. Temper your expectations because he may be greatly changed, preoccupied with other life issues, or simply want to forget the past.

At the same time, perhaps you are realizing that even if you aren’t interested in marriage, you’re yearning for a close connection of a different sort.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Category: KEEPING FRIENDS, Relationships with ex-friends

Comments (11)

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  1. Lisa says:

    Hi Norma, wow 15 years and no contact. I would reach out to this person and say, hi just thought I would reach out and say hello. I have thought of you over the years and wanted to see how you are doing. Do this without expectation and if nothing happens you will not be disappointed. Maybe he was ashamed and thought you would see him differently once you fond out he was gay. Because he just stopped speaking to you abruptly, says that he needed space and maybe his life didn’t go as he planned or he figured because he left the relationship so abruptly, that you were angry or hurt. Either way if you are missing him then I say reach out and take a chance. You never know unless you try. Again I wouldn’t hold my breath because if he really wanted to rekindle the friendship, he knows facebook is a great way to reach people, yet he hasn’t done so. I wish you the best, and I hope you get the outcome you are looking for.

  2. Kelly says:

    If you do reach out, don’t expect to be friends. Be grateful if he responds with an update on his life as that may be as far as it goes. sometimes with friends there is a reason and a season. if he is married his wife will likely not allow him to rekindle a female friendship from the past.

  3. Maddie says:

    Find out why you haven’t moved on in 15 years.

  4. Chris says:

    Take the courage to reach out to him. Like a post on his Facebook. You maybe surprise but also be prepared for disappointment. Good luck. Cheers!

  5. ShootingStar says:

    I agree with Salstarat. You don’t want your life filled with “burning bridges”. Life’s too short to wonder and to dwell in my opinion. I have on a few occasions reached out to old friends that were very close friendships. Like Salstarat a friendship consists of TWO ppl who put equal effort. Like a dear friend once told me “a friendship is like a flower. It needs water and care otherwise it’ll welt”. I reached out to a friend that I was very close with from age 12-19yrs old (I’m in my mid 20s now). I messaged her and sent a smiley face. That’s it. She replied immediately and replied with my first name and a question mark. Our friends had a nickname we used for her. So I replied with her nickname, question mark, and a wink face. Facebook says she read it and hasn’t replied. Honestly though it takes a lot to reach out to an old friend. It could go one way or another. So I took the initial first step. Even if it was just a smiley face. We will see if she eventually replies. I don’t feel like I should be the one to reach out and initiate all the questions/conversation. I tried and I know nothing happened that made us distant. It was collage/party life at 18/19. It happens. So my suggestion is to reach our with something small and never expect anything in return. I think that alone will help with closure.

  6. Salstarat says:

    You have nothing to lose by contacting your old friend and everything to gain. However, you must remember that friendship is a TWO WAY STREET and, like all relationships, needs to be reciprocated by regular contact by both parties in order to nurture the friendship. When you don’t keep in regular contact with friends by way of social outings, phone, email or even text messages or facebook contact, eventually, the friendship can “cool” and become alienated. As people go through life, they change, have different priorities (especially if they are married with children) but that should not inhibit a long-standing friendship over time provided you maintain a close bond. Contact your friend and KEEP IN CONTACT. Don’t let your life become one that is filled with burning bridges. Often many people get wrapped up in their own lives and, rather selfishly, exclude others then wonder why those people aren’t around anymore. If you initiate contact with your friend, make sure you ask about his life and spend a lot of time LISTENING to his story which will give him the message that you are, indeed, interested in him and his life and not just reaching out to someone as a sounding board because you are lonely.

  7. Denise says:

    The parts I relate to here are “I realize I am completely alone” and thinking of a youthful friendship.

    During my junior and senior years in high school I was friends with a freshman/sophomore. I don’t know why we didn’t keep in touch. A few months ago I looked for him on FB after hearing a classical piece he played for me on piano. I sent a friend request only expecting a short, happy catch-up. Now, 34 years later, he’s thrilled I came looking for him and said he’s thought of me regularly all his life. He’s read my yearbook message many times.

    Our lives are very different: I’m completely alone; he’s married with kids. I’ve always struggled with work; he’s very successful. I live in a cold climate which I don’t like and don’t have the means to leave; he lives in a year-round warm climate. We are over 2500 miles apart.

    We’ve had so much fun catching up and we’ve been very supportive of each of our struggles. I wish we’d kept in touch and now we have a 2nd chance to do it.

    I hope if you reach out it is successful!

  8. Amy F says:

    I would reach out and contact your old friend. You’ve got nothing to lose.

    He’s never reached out, but neither have you.
    I’ve successfully rekindled several relationships from that time in my life, one woman I’m quite close to, although we don’t see each other often we “get” each other. I could call her at any time and she’d be there for me and vice versa.

    Before doing so, I’d let go of the hurt/anger/resentment and whatever you’re still holding onto from 17 years ago so it doesn’t impede any future relationship. There’s nothing that would make me want to run for the hills quicker than someone saying, “17 years ago you hurt my feelings…” because that screams: baggage, complicated, drama, lots of work etc. To be clear, I would feel bad for hurting someone and want to apologize if I did something wrong, but my concern would be the individual was still holding on to something nearly 2 decades old.

    Have you thought about seeking therapy to address your loneliness and to see whether you may inadvertently be engaging in unhealthy patterns that prevent you from developing and maintaining long term friendships. Insight will take you far in life, and often a neutral third party can help you recognize things you might not pick up on your own.

    A few years ago I reconnected with a friend who moved on in life without me some 20 years ago, by that time, I knew very well why she had and my contribution to the scenario. We haven’t reestablished the same closeness, but we share an affinity for each other, occasional texts, Facebook likes, happy/sad life experiences.

    As the others have said, manage your expectations and make sure you’re okay with every scenario before you contact him, that way you aren’t setting either of you up for angst. If you aren’t okay with a no response or a response asking you not to contact him, you aren’t ready to contact him.

  9. Sandra says:

    I would definitely reach out to him. Ask if he’d like to meet for coffee in town. Tell him you’d like to catch up and see how he’s doing. But first, make peace with the idea that he might not respond at all, or might say “no” to your invitation. And it could be that, even if you do meet him, you’ll find that you won’t feel the wonderful connection you once had. Still, I believe that moving forward sometimes involves taking risks. And no matter what happens, you will feel better about yourself for having the courage to reach out.

  10. Ben says:

    I know exactly what you are feeling because I have the same number of friends you do… I started last year around this time of year not calling the people I used to call to reach out in hopes of someone reaching back. Very few people did.. One call I got six months later from someone who said they hadn’t heard from me. I told him well you have a phone too. The person who is responsible for attracting me to the area I currently live who I’ve known since the mid 90’s and thought was a friend hasn’t called me once in two years. I see him occasionally in public places and he says to me sometimes, “I was thinking about you the other day…..” My happiness is my business. If there is something that is making me unhappy I have to take responsibility for my own feelings and find a way to change me. Yes it’s a very painful process. At the end of this year’s experience I find I like myself more, I am off Facebook because for me Facebook represents comparisons. You get to see others with all their relationships and if yours doesn’t match theirs in your own mind and that’s important to you it makes one feel even more lonely (at least it did for me.)

    I ended a short romantic relationship the other day with someone I felt or observed I was attracted to. She actually offered her phone number. The things I observed before the relationship never indicated that she was truly attracted to me so as I told her I would have never asked for her phone number. Turns out there is a reason why our guts tells us things about how we perceive reality. After spending time with her, our two perceptions of how the world works were totally different. That would have never been revealed had we not spent time together. Whatever you decide to do it will be your choice and you will live with it. Hopefully whatever you choose to do it will bring you peace and piece of mind in the end and you can put the issue to bed. Life is very short indeed.

  11. Jacqueline says:

    If you don’t do it, you’ll never know. But, as Irene wisely said, you have both changed during the last 15 years. He could be thrilled to hear from you, or not.

    Sending him an email that you have been thinking about him, and that you never had a friend like him again….might or might not evoke pleasant feelings for him too.

    I say go for it, and I hope it all works out for you!

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