Reader Q & A: The sadness of letting go

Published: December 3, 2008 | Last Updated: December 3, 2008 By | 2 Replies Continue Reading


Dear Irene,


I’m so glad that I happened upon this website. I’ve been struggling with my relationship with my long-time, former-best-friend Linda. It’s been a gradual deterioration over the last couple of years and a long grieving process. I’m trying to figure out if this friendship is worth salvaging or if I just need to talk to her to gain some closure.


Linda and I had been thick as thieves since our sophomore year of high school 11 years ago. Along the way, there have been times of distance, which generally occurred when she was in a relationship. The biggest difference between us is that she always bemoaned the fact that she didn’t have a huge group of friends, while I’ve always been content to have a few close ones. Our friendship was probably its healthiest in high school. I don’t know when it changed exactly, but within the last few years since exiting university and entering the working world, I have become the one who listens, without being heard.


Linda had a particularly unhealthy romantic relationship a couple of years ago. I tried to be supportive of her feelings and not be judgmental. But our almost daily conversations, which often lasted for hours upon hours, were completely focused on the current drama in that relationship. It became exhausting and as someone who unfortunately likes feeling helpful, I didn’t curb her excessive and repetitive discussions. Eventually things ended badly with that guy, but the phone calls remained the same.


Shortly aftert, Linda reconnected with a classmate, Ann, from college and the three of us started to hang out. Ann is very outgoing, has a huge social circle (which is slightly overwhelming to me as I am somewhat shy) and is very active in the Catholic youth ministry in our city. Linda used to be incredibly uncomfortable with overt religiosity, but she found Ann fun to hang out with, despite her focus on faith. Eventually, Linda hung out more and more with the group, especially when she fell for Ann’s brother, who is also very religious. Linda started to become more religious herself. While, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, it did seem out of character. Then she became further involved by becoming a youth minister herself.


While she would still call to complain and vent, she was not calling to hang out on the weekends like we used to. She only called for what felt like a therapy session. Our friendship had become taxing and one-sided. I missed doing things with Linda like shopping, and going to movies and bars, etc., getting out and laughing instead of just wallowing and worrying. I’m a fairly independent person and I do enjoy time alone but I get depressed when I have no social outlet whatsoever. And that’s how it ended up. From the summer of 2006, she has been steadily less available to hang out, but always, at least until recently, ready to call me when she’s needed a sympathetic ear.


I have a few other great friends that I would say are just as close and important to me as Linda has been, but unfortunately, they live in various spots across the country. I talk to them and email them frequently, but due to the distance we aren’t able to be together. ike I can be more open about how I feel with them than I can with Linda. Somewhere along the line, I stopped trying to communicate my feelings or frustrations because she would give me a one-line response that inevitably brought her back to herself.


About a year ago, I finally decided to go after my dream of teaching ESL abroad and this past February, I moved to Chile for about 6 months. It was a great experience which cemented the direction I want to take my life at least for now. I’ve been home a few months and am planning to go off on the next adventure in spring. But the professional motivation aside, I also thought it would be good to have some space from Linda. We still wrote each other emails, but she’s not big on writing, preferring phone conversation, so she wasn’t venting nearly as much. I felt good with that distance and thought it might help how I’d feel about it all when coming home.


However, in June she started dating another youth minister. I’ve seen her only three times since I came home in August and she doesn’t call me much. We haven’t spoken for 3 weeks, which would have previously been unheard of. Two months ago, she apologized for not calling, saying she’s been busy with her boyfriend but that I need to call her on it, keep things up because she’s just so distracted with him. But I am being stubborn and not calling very much. I did initiate our last get together after she sent me a one line note via Facebook asking me what I was up to. Coming from her, who has always been so resistant to online communication, I was hurt that she didn’t just call me.


I’ve felt pretty depressed about my social life since coming home. It’s been fairly non-existent aside from spending a lot of time helping a friend with her wedding. I feel like I need to find new friends here, but I’m not sure where to begin. In some ways it’s more difficult at home than when I lived in a foreign country to forge new friendships and though I’m working on my shyness, I don’t know how to approach this. I never felt very comfortable in the youth ministry circle because I cannot match their devotion. I am still questioning and searching for my spirituality. I know that Linda spends all her time with her boyfriend and that circle and they are the only ones I used to hang out with here.


Part of me feels like I need to let this friendship go, but with so much history, I don’t know how to find closure. I want to talk to Linda about how I’ve been feeling, but I don’t know how to do it or how receptive she will be to hearing it. Should I try or if not, how do I end this grieving process? Thanks for listening.




Dear Saddened:


Circumstances may change but personality endures. Linda has been self-centered since high school and ditches you whenever she has the opportunity to be with a guy. When her relationship implodes, she wants you to be around to listen and provide support. You have been loyal, supportive and willing to accept a fractured friendship in the hope that it will improve. How likely do you really think it is that she will change?


You mentioned that you are shy so it’s not surprising that you prefer intimate friendships rather than socializing in groups—and I suspect that it takes some effort for you to make new friends but you know you can do it. While moving to Chile was positive in pointing you in a satisfying career direction and was also good for you socially (everyone likes to befriend a new visitor), the move may have compounded your loneliness when you got back home.


Much of Linda’s life (and that of her friends) revolves around the youth ministry and religion/spirituality. If that doesn’t feel like a good fit for you, there is no reason to try to squeeze a square peg into a round hole. Try to find people in other places who share your common interests, not hers. Perhaps you can find new friends in your workplace or else by joining various community or civic organizations.


It may take a while but I think you are better off spending your time looking for a healthy relationship than going back to one that isn’t satisfying. It’s great that you had a close friendship while it lasted and it sounds like you have already reached some closure. Whether or not you want to convey your thinking to Linda, and whether she will listen, is up to you but I don’t think it’s necessary. You can decide to say nothing and keep the relationship more distant because Linda is likely to be more tolerable in small doses. My suggestion: Move forward and you will soon find that you are no longer looking back.


My best,


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Comments (2)

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  1. Irene says:

    Hi Sarah:

    I’m glad you found me and thanks for leaving you nice comment.

    What a trove of treadmill information you have on your blog!

    All best wishes for the New Year.


  2. sarah says:

    I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

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