• Handling Breakups

When no response is a response

Published: January 5, 2014 | Last Updated: January 5, 2014 By | 10 Replies Continue Reading
Although it can be painful and disappointing, when there’s no response from a friend, you may simply need to let go.

QUESTION

H Irene,

I have been close friends with a woman for many years. More recently, I developed a friendship with her daughter as well. Now, I’m the kind of guy who will do anything for a friend. I would visit her when she was down, send “Thinking of You” cards to the both of them, and gave them a refrigerator when they had none, I would often do little chores around their house for them. I shoveled their sidewalk and driveway on one visit and I comforted her daughter when her boyfriend dumped her. These are just to name a few.

We had made plans to get together around Christmas. Then suddenly, the daughter quit calling and texting me. My friend soon followed suit. I have offered apologies in case I offended them in some way. I have made peace overtures, but there has been no response. I am hurt and confused. What do I do, if anything?

Signed, Jeff

ANSWER

Hi Jeff,

When a friend unceremoniously dumps you without explanation and offers no response, there isn’t much you can do. Friendships are voluntary relationships. Unfortunately, sometimes they become one-sided, which can be extremely disappointing and upsetting.

There are a couple of possibilities that might explain what happened:

1) Unlikely but…you inadvertently did something that upset the mother and/or daughter that was so egregious they are unwilling to discuss it.

2) Unlikely but…unrelated to you, something is wrong with either one of them (mentally or physically) that is consuming their time and making it impossible for them to communicate with you.

3) Something has changed in their lives. Perhaps they are harboring some secret they are embarrassed about, which makes it uncomfortable for them to maintain a relationship with you.

4) The duo decided they don’t need or want your help any more. You sound like a really nice guy, perhaps too nice, and they may have been taking advantage of your kindness.

It’s not too surprising that both mother and daughter, who probably have a strong bond, would react in unison.

What’s missing from your letter is any sense of what you were getting from these friendships. Sustainable friendships need to be reciprocal. One person can’t consistently be the giver and the other the taker.

You have gone the extra mile in apologizing for a sin you aren’t even sure you committed. Your only option now is to let additional time pass, perhaps a month or two, and give it one more try. Unfortunately, if you are met with no response again, you may just have to accept the disappointment, cut your losses, and move on to other friendships. It would also be worthwhile to examine what drew you to these women in the first place.

Hope this helps a little.

My best, Irene

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Category: HANDLING BREAKUPS

Comments (10)

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  1. Marisa says:

    Also you say “more recently I developed a friendship with her daughter as well”. That’s where your problems started. And I wonder, what was your motivation trying so hard to place yourself into their world? It seems odd.

  2. Marisa says:

    This whole situation sounds strange, Jeff. Did you have a romantic interest in this mother or her daughter? How old is the daughter? You sound much too eager to be helpful and this can alarm someone, especially if you start focusing on their kid, no matter the person’s age. If some guy started texting my teenager or my older daughter when they were supposedly around to see me, I’d put an end to that quickly. Let this family be. They have changed their minds about having a relationship with you.

  3. Sabrinna says:

    I doubt this relates to your situation but I’ll relate two stories just in case either resonates; one where I dumped a friend permanently (I’ll call her A) and one where I took a break from a friend (I’ll call her B).

    A never stopped talking about herself. I could barely get a word in edgeways. If something, anything happened in my life she would minimise it and use it as a way to talk about her life again. She would drive to pick me up when we met and drive me home. I would pay the petrol and dinner or coffee or whatever we did. She never percieved any exchange in this and would go on about what a big favour she was doing me. Bottom line, I never got to speak, my input wasn’t of value and I wasn’t enjoying being around her.

    B, I just took a break from. She would try to be helpful constantly. It was like having an overbearing mother after a while. I could never just meet up with her, hang out and enjoy her company. She had to be doing something for me. Oftentimes, her helpfulness was actually a hindrance. For eg. I was moving house and she brought over a boot load of ‘useful’ things for my new place. I was still in my old place, throwing things out, donating stuff to charity and trying to pair down my belongings. The last thing I needed was more stuff. I talked to her about it, saying, ‘I don’t need you to do things for me. Your friendship is enough. I like you for who you are, not what you can do for me.’ I thought it was a positive message. She took insult. I eventually told her that when she was able to just be my friend without constantly doing things for me, unasked, then we can hang out together. I couldn’t continue in this way because her constant ‘helpfulness’ was actually feeling like being treated like a naughty, irresponsible child incapable of taking responsibility for my own life. Yes, friendship involves mutual helpfulness but there is a line between mutual and one-sided and there’s also a line between helpful and taking over.

    B and I have made up now after a 4 year break. I love who she is and our friendship is mutual now, with respect for having different lifestyles. It wasn’t like that before. Her helpfulness came across as not respecting my ability to take care of myself, make my own decisions and live according to my values. It felt like she was trying to make me more like her and disapproved of my lifestyle.

    I don’t know if this relates to you or not. I hope it may be of sime help.

  4. Nicole says:

    Oh Jeff, you sound like me. I have a post “The Friend who used to be a lover” on here, in this section. I have the same problem of apologizing even though I haven’t done anything wrong and of giving too much in certain relationships. I think both of us need to learn to step back and let the other person step into the friendship/relationship before we become over invested.

    Sigh.

  5. Denise says:

    Jeff

    You sound very nice, accommodating and helpful and it’s strange for 2 people you were close to, to suddenly disappear with no word.

    I had a vaguely similar experience and what I did might help you a little. One day I was getting along perfectly with someone and then never heard from him again. I tried connecting, waited several months, then decided to let go with no resentment. I gave the benefit of the doubt and remember the good memories. Since I know 100% it’s nothing I did, my decision now is, if I ever see him again I’ll go with whatever vibe I get from him.

    • Joy says:

      I stumbled across this site by accident, because I recently had a male friend who I would consider close stop contacting me. We were talking like normal and then one day last month, nothing. I texted him a few times and got no response. I think perhaps his girlfriend saw some of our texts (we did flirt a little bit) and she needed him to “quit” me. They have a daughter too, so I could totally respect his decision but it still hurts without an explanation or a goodbye. I let it go for the past month, in agony and talking a lot with another friend of mine. I don’t make friends very well so it has hurt a lot. Sometimes we just have to let people go and if they come back or if we see them again, we take it from there in whatever direction it goes and have peace with our life either way.

  6. Missabi says:

    Hi, how come you apologized. NO! This is so not healthy!! You should only apologize when you feel you did something hurtful to someone. Otherwise you are creating an unhealthy dynamic. You could get hurt or mistreated.

    Someone is acting upset/hurt
    1) Ask them if anything is wrong
    2) Ask them if you upset them
    a) If they say yes, listen to why
    3) Then say sorry or don’t based on your perspective

  7. jacqueline says:

    Very good advice here.

    Their reasons for avoiding you could have nothing to do with you at all. From what you wrote, you sound like a very giving person, maybe too giving. It struck me as odd that you would be so close to a mother and daughter who are not even related to you.

    I would let a few weeks pass and send a message, telling them you hope they are okay. Do not apologize anymore. You have done nothing wrong.

  8. Amy says:

    I’m curious as why your initial response was to apologize, since you don’t even know if they think you did anything wrong.
    You seem like a genuine, caring kind of guy who anticipates what people need even before they know they need it. Perhaps your generosity felt “too much” and they didn’t know how to tell you.
    If they won’t communicate, it’s all speculation.
    The only think you can do is respect their boundaries and back off. Maybe in a month or two, if you want to text to say hi, they might be more communicative, but maybe not.
    Try to focus your energies on reciprocal relationships and go slowly with offering help and assistance.
    Good luck.

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