• Resolving Problems

My long time friend won’t talk to me: What can I do?

Published: December 18, 2016 | Last Updated: February 10, 2017 By | 7 Replies Continue Reading
A woman is upset when her friend of 35 years won’t talk to her.


Dear Friendship Doctor,

My friend for over 35 years won’t talk to me. She said she hates me and doesn’t want to see me anymore and won’t tell me what’s wrong. What can I do?

Signed, Alicia


Hi Alicia,

It’s always upsetting when someone shuts you out without explanation, especially when that person has been a close friend.

First, give your friend and yourself a chance to recover by stepping back and letting some time elapse. Your friend is probably as upset as you are. If you approach her now before she is ready, she may respond out of anger. Also, you probably are reeling, and have to feel hurt and disappointed. You don’t want to make things worse by inadvertently lashing out at your friend.

Second, take some time to try to analyze what happened—if that’s possible. Your note is quite short and devoid of details. Are you aware of anything that might have precipitated this problem? Did you do or say something wrong? Did you have a misunderstanding? Did you disappoint or undermine your friend in some way? Was the friendship slowly eroding before this? Were you having frequent arguments?

Is there someone you can talk to in confidence (perhaps a family member or someone who doesn’t know your friend) who can help you talk it through and figure out what happened?

After you’ve allowed some time for your friend’s anger and upset to diffuse (at least a week), write your friend an email and say something like this:

“I’m so sorry that there is some misunderstanding between us. Your friendship is so important to me and I want to do anything we can to repair it. I hope you’ll give me that opportunity.”

Of course, it you are aware that you said or did something wrong, offer your friend a sincere apology in that note.

Then, give your friend some time to respond–at least a week. If she doesn’t respond, you can try reaching out again by phone or email a second time several days later.

If she still doesn’t respond, you really have no choice but to leave the ball in her court. Friendships are voluntary relationships that take two people to make it work.

I hope this helps.

Best, Irene

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Comments (7)

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  1. James R. says:

    This is gonna be one of hardest ones for you to read. I met this older woman co-worker in 2017 at a hotel. After first few days of meeting we hit it off greeting each other, helping her in business needs etc. after a while we talked in a more personal level. I had a feeling that maybe she liked me more than a friend. Later on she mentioned to me she had a boyfriend, for me I was little bit disappointed but I still liked her and cared for her so I continue our conversations. Even one day we talked for up to 4 hours at work at slowest day. My old job called me back and put my 2 weeks notice. Once I told her that I was leaving she even ask for my number and too keep in touch. Fast forward to last year Sept 2020 I saw her again at local store I said her name she immediately had that happy smile like hadn’t been seen in forever. We briefly talked she gave me her new number then went our ways later that night I texted her that it was so good to hear from you etc. She replied back with same words and was gonna go see this movie premiered that Saturday and invited me to come I gladly accepted. We went to see that movie and had lunch afterwards it was wonderful. We continue to talk thru text and went out to eat a few times even invited me to her church so I did. All this time she NEVER mentioned to me she was still with her partner until she texted me that I only saw you as a friend and that I been with my partner for 4 years. I am sorry for the confusion. I replied back with a simple words how I liked her and had a crush on her and I will stop communicating with you far less. Lastly, 3 months later I called her just to apologize for any miscommunication she hung up on me!!!!! Then final message saying “I’m sorry if you took my kindness and took it to other direction. I’m sorry I am not interested in a personal relationship with you now or ever!!!!!! Please NOT call me or text anymore. Good luck on your endeavors”… Ever since then I have been heartbroken and very depressed for months even to this day.. Luckily I still work. Still I was trying to repair the damage and save our friendship, but she won’t listen to what I had to say…

  2. jk90210 says:

    I have a best friend and recently we’ve been arguing but this past day we had a really bad argument which ended up with her threatening to Take this VIP concert away from me that a paid for, she said I will have the money back however this isn’t what I want nor do l want this friendship to end

  3. Ben says:

    It’s probably no comfort at all to you to know that others experience the same thing. It’s a strange double-edged sword that exists when one gains more self-esteem. Starting out life as a people pleaser then realizing the folly of that emotional whirlpool really smacks of reality when you starting putting in boundaries. I don’t think there is any great answer. You either decide to kiss butt to people who you know don’t give a rip or you take a stand and have good self-esteem and few “friends.” All I can say is like me better today. I’m not living in “magical thinking mode.” Here’s a helpful saying….

    “20 percent of the people will like you no matter what…. 20 percent of the people will not like you no matter what… The other 60 percent just don’t give a #$%^…….

    Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah. Finding ways to bless others this time of year works for me to get out of the doldrums. Just being kind to others works. Being kind to people who really don’t deserve it works the best….. 😉

  4. Amy F says:

    Respect your friend’s boundaries. Give her the space she requested. If this is out of character for her, send her a birthday card if her birthday is at least 6 months away. If not, send her a holiday card next December wishing her well.

    If this is part of a pattern for her, moving on from the drama is probably your best option.

    When a friendship ends, doing a metaphoric autopsy on the relationship and it’s ending will help you understand your role in the dynamics between the two of you. Be brutally honest with yourself, but in a kind manner. Beating yourself up won’t be of service. Acknowledge your feelings and hurt. Take time to grieve your loss and seek solace in your other friends without becoming obsessed discussing your other friend. If necessary, see a therapist.

  5. Sandra says:

    Losing a friend of 35 years would be very hard, especially if it’s a friendship you enjoyed and valued. I can imagine you are going through a grieving process, which is twice as hard and sad if you don’t know what you’ve done to hurt your friend, and if you don’t know why she is angry with you.

    It’s impossible to “make amends” with anyone who won’t tell you what is wrong. In that way, your friend is being unfair and sort of childish, and she is wronging you. It’s one thing to be “ghosted” by a casual acquaintance, but a friend of 35 years deserves better treatment.

    I agree with Irene’s comment about friendship being a “voluntary relationship.” You can’t force people to be friends; friendship takes mutual effort, caring, and commitment. When both friends don’t want to put the effort into the friendship, then it’s not a real friendship anymore.

    If you feel you’ve made a couple of sincere attempts to talk to your friend, there’s nothing more you can do.

    I’ve had a similar experience with a friend who pulled back and gave me the cold shoulder without explanation. I sent her a couple of emails to ask how she was, and also left her a couple of phone messages. She didn’t return the calls and left the emails unanswered. I let some time pass, and when she still didn’t get back to me, I decided the only thing I could do was honor her apparent need to end our friendship. When a friend clearly sends a signal that “it’s over,” I think we have to respect that choice and move on.

    This is why it’s so important to have more than one or two good friends to count on, as Irene has said before. Over time, friendships change for many different reasons, so we need to build a support system of many healthy friendships.

  6. Irene (the other one) :) says:

    If you are not aware of having done or said anything that could’ve upset your friend, it might be that someone has told a lie about you that she is believing. It could be someone jealous of your friendship, trying to shut you out.

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