• Keeping Friends

My flaky friend makes me feel disposable

Published: March 30, 2015 | By | 18 Replies Continue Reading
How do you handle a flaky friend who disappears on you from time to time?



I have been best friends with an elementary school classmate for ten years. Throughout boys, different schools, and different groups of friends, we always remained close.

Upon graduating high school, and moving to different towns and universities, our friendship strengthened. But over the past year and a half, she has become more flaky, the differences between us have become more noticeable, and she’ll make plans but won’t follow through.

About every 2 months she would shut me out of her life for weeks at a time, (not answering phone calls, text messages, anything) leaving me in the dark and wondering what happened. Three to five weeks later, she will start talking to me again like nothing happened! Living in different towns, I made excuses for her, and always blew these random disappearances off, and continued our friendship as normal.

Last winter, we both moved back home and were excited about living in the same town again. A few weeks after being here though, the same behaviors started again! The random disappearing acts make me feel like a disposable friend. Maybe she only keeps me around for her convenience.

What does this behavior mean? Am I wrong for feeling hurt? I am at a loss for how I should confront her about it.

Signed, Pat


Hi Pat,

My first thought, when reading your letter was to assume that she was busy and had less free time and energy with school/work/family/life. Young adulthood is a busy time for growth and change. Some people make the transition to independence more seamlessly than others.

You feel like your friend is shutting you out. Is this about you and your friend, or about your friend and her life?  Don’t know, but you might ask her. You then have to decide if you want to maintain a less frequent relationship.

Long-term friendships like yours often have periods of more of less intensity, of less and more contact because of weddings, work, houses, babies, children, caring for sick parents, grandchildren, health concerns, and deaths. I’m not saying your friend is having any of these stressors, just that you’ll likely encounter these changes when people have less time and energy to devote to their friends. Some people are better multi-taskers than others, too.

I don’t think you’re wrong for feeling hurt. I think the hurt comes from different expectations between you and your friend. Neither of you has communicated about this, so having a talk is probably a good idea. Don’t approach this as a confrontation that comes off as accusatory.

How about something like this:

“Good to hear from you, Lisa. Can we talk about our friendship? I feel confused when we spend time talking every other day, and then we don’t talk for weeks. I know you’ve got a lot going on with XYZ but I hope if I do something that upsets you, you’d tell me.”Sometimes I feel like our friendship isn’t as important to you as it is to me, and that hurts.”

Some other tips:

  • Say what you want to say in a manner that doesn’t sound demanding or needy.
  • Use “I” statements (I feel hurt when you don’t call me back), refraining from too many “YOU” statements.
  •  Be open to what she says. Don’t see it as criticism but as feedback to strengthen your friendship.
  •  Pay attention to your feelings before responding. Take a deep breath and don’t respond defensively.

All important relationships involve a certain amount of negotiation, whether they revolve around school, work, family, friends, or romance. The more you practice your communication skills, the better they become. Nobody gets it right all the time.

I hope you and your friend can come to an understanding about frequency of contact that feels right for you both.

Signed, *Amy Feld

*Amy Feld, PhD, MSW has trained and worked as a child psychologist.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this or any other post is intended to substitute for medical, psychiatric or clinical diagnosis/treatment. Rather, all posts are written as the type of advice that one friend might give to another.

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Comments (18)

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  1. GreenGrapes says:

    I’ve been dealing with a male best friend for about 9 years now. He works long hours and travels quite a bit. He got sick a couple of years ago and began pushing me away. I was always telling him I would be there for him and help him out and it was mostly because his g/f didn’t seem to want to step up. She didn’t want to travel to see him. Anyways he got better but he just didn’t text as much and seemed very distant still. I got sick a few months ago and ended up in the hospital. I texted him from my room and never heard a word. It certainly didn’t make things any easier .:( when I returned home it was like pulling straws to have him come by. He said he did care but always had excuses. Just ridiculous .. all of the time and true fun we had and now he is going A-Wall? Why? I saw him recently and he was so excited to see me. He wants to see me more when he is able to. I looked at him and said ,”come on what’s up? Why r u so distant.. do u have feelings for me, just be honest.” He actually looked embarrassed and admitted he did have feelings . So, what the hell do we do now? Our friendship isn’t getting any better and because he likes me, he’s staying away. 🙁 anyone else deal with this?

  2. joyce says:

    People who make plans with you and then wait to see if there’s something more interesting to do (at the last minute) are not worthy of your time or friendship. Don’t waste energy on flakes. I understand your hurt. That’s not stalking at all……that ‘friend’ is being disrespectful to you. I’ve had a few people in my life who would invite me to do something and then, as the day approaches and I don’t hear anything from them, let me know that they’re doing something else…..when I contact them. There are too many lovely, responsible people around who know how to keep a calendar and won’t let you down. Don’t let the flakes bring your spirits down! Good luck.

  3. IBikeNYC says:

    I am VERY Over everyone’s calling it “needy” or “taking it personally” when a person expects a “friend” to keep the plans they make with them.

    There ARE people in your life with whom you are in regular contact, right?

    Y’all DO get to work every day, don’t you?

    Why don’t you just call or text me if you happen to be nearby AND free, and if I am ALSO nearby and free and not tired and do still feel like it, MAYBE we’ll see one another.

  4. Usha says:

    Hi Pat,

    You have many good advice here. Although all that there is to be said is already said, I couldn’t help but notice one point that you made. That your friend would not return your text or calls for several weeks and then would come and talk to you like nothing happened…

    Well, that is what bothers me. If you are a sincere person (let alone being a sincere friend), you would certainly make a mention of how busy you were that it wasn’t possible to return calls or texts.

    You wouldn’t act like nothing was wrong. That is escapist nature. What would you escape from? A problem/conflict etc… Why do you think that there is going to be a problem/conflict if you have done nothing wrong?

    To me, this case seems like your friend is keeping you as an option.
    Perhaps she has other interests now, and so is not too keen on spending as much time with you as she used to do.

    The fact is, you cannot really blame some one if they don’t reciprocate the same feelings as you do in a relationship. People change and good friendship withstands all change.

    Like some one here said, you cannot take people hostage and expect them to live up to your idea of a good friend. Instead, the best thing to do is “accept”. Accept that situation and people change.

    Please don’t be judge mental about it. No one is perfect.

    And move on. Time for you too to make more interesting friends.

    Hope this helps.


  5. Linda says:

    I have a neighbor friend and we enjoy going shopping and lunch and stuff. We do this once a week. Some times we make plans and then I see her take off in her car and go out without even calling me. A few times she has gone with someone else. It hurts me as I see them pull away. I’m always second guessing the friendship. I don’t want to be pushy and so I usually ignore it and act like nothing’s wrong when I see her in the yard the next day. I would never do this to her infact even when I’ve had out of town company and we went to lunch I called and asked her if she would like to go along . Feeling hurt

    • Lauren says:

      Linda, Remember that she can have other friends as well as you. You should not feel hurt, as it is healthy to have different friends. That is good that you don’t show your hurt feelings when you see her next. She might even wonder why you are watching when she goes out. Relax and enjoy her friendship and don’t expect her to be your only friend. That’s not realistic.

    • Laura says:

      Are you saying you have plans with her and then she leaves with someone else at the time you made plans for?

      If it’s just that she has other friends she does things with, that’s how it should be. Stalking her isn’t healthy. You should have other friends too!

  6. Dionne says:

    My best guess is that she doesn’t feel as much in common with you as she once did. We change a lot from elementary school to post-college age. Sometimes when people “act flaky,” they are giving the message in actions that there is not a socially acceptable way to say, that they want you to back off.

    Both people get a say in how close a friendship is. Either has the right to change that level of closeness. And wishes for more distance always trump since we don’t have the right to demand closeness from anyone.

    I’m not sure if this applies to your situation or not because we only hear a little bit in these posts. I’m thinking you’re just confused by her behavior but I’ll say it anyway because others read these posts. That is, please don’t be one of those women who demand the level of friendship that they want, insist that that is the only correct and legitimate level of closeness, then play the martyr or act like their friend is evil just because the friend’s wishes and interests aren’t as wound up in them as they’d like. That is so common and it comes across to me as really entitled. People move in and out of our lives, only a few stay the whole way. We can’t take hostages, haha.

    Anyway, that’s how I read her behavior, that she is fond of you and DOES want to stay in contact but more loosely than it used to be. Good luck.

  7. andi says:

    Hi there, I think that perhaps your friend’s life has moved on since school. I have noticed that some people seem to stay stuck in the “school zone” for longer. Of course as well, she may have little free time. I had to back off a bit with some of my friends because their e-mails were so descriptive that I didn’t have the time or inclination to read such stuff, ie one friend wrote details describing almost to the hour of when her relatives visited. She wrote, “on our return from the town, Jason popped out to get us all fish and chips”!!! She could of course just view you more as a fair weather friend than a best friend.

  8. Carol says:

    I just found a quote by Eleanor Roosevelt: “Friendship with oneself is all important because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.” It’s my experience in all these 76 years that I am the person I most struggle to be honest with, to be responsible for, to blame, to wonder if I am “good enough” or know I am on the right track to doing the right thing for me. Feeling tenderness towards myself has been a long time coming, but I am quicker to forgive myself and to want to live another day on the planet. I used to think I would find it in another person, that security I wanted, but I see now I am the one I need to know intimately and make decisions for myself. I want to live in peace and accepting of who others are. I can only do that if I treat myself with the same respect.

  9. Bizzy says:

    I had a friend for years who would run hot and cold–either she would talk to me all the time, or would disappear for months at a time and wouldn’t return phone calls. I put up with this for years, until I couldn’t anymore. I came to realize that she was being passive-aggressive and that I shouldn’t take that. I was so hurt about this for such a long time. But I haven’t talked with her in 10 years, and now I don’t miss her, and things are better now without that toxic situation. And has she tried to contact me in 10 years? Of course not.

  10. Lauren says:

    Hi Pat,
    Yes, there are some people who need their down time or alone time or other busy time. This doesn’t mean that they don’t like you anymore. It only means that they are individual and have different style and different take on friendship. It doesn’t mean that she doesn’t like you. Some people feel that calling, texting etc every day is overwhelming and they don’t like it. It’s not personal.

    Does she let you down regarding arrangements, does she stand you up, does she cancel out of arrangements at the last minute, etc; does she insult you, does she insult your family, your style, etc? If not, I’d suggest that you accept her for all her good qualities, realize that not everyone is the same, and not everyone falls into a specific mould. Variety is the spice of life.

    My cousin had a friend who called her up and told her that she wasn’t being the best friend that she should be, as she didn’t return texts quickly enough, she didn’t call often enough, etc, etc. My cousin was surprised and didn’t know what to say.She’s a great person, and I think that is enough. So my cousin felt more comfortable just doing the slow drift away from this demanding friend. I don’t think that we can control ppl and force them to become different. If the friend is basically good, then I say leave it at that. Appreciate differences, and accept others. Life and let live.

  11. Carol says:

    I think all of Amy’s suggestion are good ones. I have been on the planet for a long time now and sometimes I am truly surprised at who I really am. We all live with a certain level of anxiety in our lives. I didn’t really know that mine has been with me a very long time. Now I understand myself and what I truly need from others and don’t need. I know that no one else is responsible for what I feel about anything or anyone. Now I know if I call someone my friend, that will most likely mean different things for each one. Telling someone how you really feel about something they may be doing might scare some, but others will understan my inquiry and try to help me to feel safe with them as just one of my friends. If we have more than one friend, all of them are individuals and as we want to be, honored for who we are. Talking with friend about how you feel may just open up a whole new part of journey together. I wish you great courage to find out what you truly need to know of your friend. It always causes a spurt of growth of yourself and that to me is what is the true treasure in friendship.


  12. that kind of friend says:

    I’m that kind of friend. I don’t always have the need to be around other people and am perfectly happy texting or chatting online. I am a writer and crafter and get involved with projects and time the world out but I make sure to let friends know I am always available to talk if they need to and I don’t surface just at time to emotionally unload and go back into hiding when I feel better. It’s totally my way and not a reflection on ‘friends’. It might be that way with your friend. It can hurt other people so I’m upfront with them. Tell your friend how it makes you feel. They might not even realize the effect it’s having on you. Friendships should be about honesty.

  13. sita says:


    I have the same problem as yours .My friend moved to another country (my hometown only),and the same pattern is there.Days of affectionate messaging and chats and days of total silence.

    I was very confused as well as to her behaviour.I initially confronted her and she got offended at my asking her

    So started adjusting with her routine ,but sometimes it hurts to think that she needs me only when there is a medical issue .

    So once I tried a soft approach explaining to her that I would like to spend more time with her and willing to chat only if she is free.I even told her that I am a little hurt when I dont chat with her.

    all I got in response was flak ,saying that I made her feel so guilty and that she doesnt like being blamed !!!!
    So now i left it at this habit of hers and waiting for a day when she will realize on her own

    So I would suggest that you look for other friends and keep yourself occupied.She will eventually turn around if she misses you



    • Actions speak louder then words says:

      Hi Pat. Thank you for your post. I to have struggled with my friend of 25 years unpredictability and confusing behaviors. Yes she has an ailing mom, yes she has a lot on her plate who dose not?? I am just as busy and I can still manage to find time for heR. She uses her mom as an excuse when I do invite her to stuff, but when I see her having no problem texting and meeting up at the bar with her other newer friends after she has called me up after weeks of never calling then out of the blue there she is out of some kind of pity obligation making plans with me and then never calling me back only to find out she went out with them kind of makes me wonder what kind of game she is running.But worse then that is I KEEP FALLING FOR IT lol when I ask her if there is a problem and to please not keep flaking on me she acts as if I am causing drama and tells me she has so much going on she cant keep WORRYING about every one else,and getting defensive, and not even seeing it from my point. And never once says she is sorry she just continues to complain about her hew friends and talk all about the fun times they had. OMG I have finally just snapped at her after 5 years of this. I still second guess my self and wonder if I have given her time to understand blah blah blah she has wasted enough of my time .SO OK HERES THE THING. Yes there is a lot of benefits to knowing some one a long time. I don’t need to go in to them I am sure you all know . There is also a down side as well. A dark side. If that person is passive aggressive (witch my friend is clearly being) and refuses to take responsibility for any thing and it is always some one else fault then knowing some one a long time sharing all your details of your life while they quietly sit there and play lip service to you making you think and feel that you have a safe place to disclose your feelings and other intimate details about your life until they decide to show who they really are can be very hurtful and emotionally damaging.A black hole .But by then its to late. So it can be wonderful to have a long term friend but it can be hell to. Bottom line, if they can’t see where are coming from, if they act like they don’t have a clue to why you are upset or tell you you are crazy or thinking to much or imagining or that they don’t have time for your feelings or they dismiss your feelings changing the subject or if they expect you to be the perfect friend but have no intention of being one to you and then they go and complain about you they are black hole friends and they are a waste of time. Period. End of story.To me I can handle that, but after I get over the indignation of it all, and start to see the role I played, and my refusal to see it for what it was I am left with the realization that I allowed these behaviors to affect me knowing deep down this was just another round and it is my choice to do so I really have nothing to complain about . If I have not got it by now then unfortunately I need more lessons. I can’t continue to be angry or hurt when I keep going back for more, that is the part I struggle with. The fact I wasted more valuable time. But as long as there is a lesson learned, maybe its not a waste of time. Hopefully. Good luck I hope your friend has a change of heart and chooses to see you for the valuable person you are. As I keep hoping my friend will. But I am to the point that unless she shows me she is worthy of my time and really makes an effort, then she has no more of my time.It’s not complicated. It’s not asking to much. And its not unreasonable to expect friends to treat each other with kindness.But it goes both ways.

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