advert

Toxic Ex-Friendships

Jun11

by

Hi Amy,

First of all, I love your blog. And you. Despite the fact that we’ve never actually met. Anyway, I have a little dilemma. First, some background. My friend “H” and I had been close friends for many years; we were in the same close circle of friends, our families were friends, etc. Two years ago, we seemed to have a little falling out. Actually, my friend just stopped talking to me and avoided me at all costs. Obviously I was hurt, and as a people-pleaser I asked a few of our friends if they knew why H was upset. They told me that she had been feeling left out lately by many of our friends and seemed to be placing the blame on me. There were no specific incidents leading up to this falling out that seemed to trigger it, but I still feel really guilty about this ruined friendship. I reached out to her a lot immediately following our falling out, to no avail. H actually transferred schools a few months after this happened, so we drifted even further apart (She did not switch schools to avoid me).

Advice Smackdown ArchivesFast forward to the present, I have tried to keep in contact with H, with emails, texting, etc. even though she often plans get-togethers with our old group of friends and excludes me from them. I am having  a large graduation party, and I decided to invite her to the party, in part because so many of our mutual friends will be there and she was such a big part of my life for so long, and also because I thought it would be a good idea to reach out and try to reconcile, because we will be living in separate cities soon. She has not called, emailed, RSVP’d, or even spoken to any of our friends about the invite. The party hasn’t happened yet so I am asking you, what do I do if she comes to the party? Obviously I will not turn her away or be rude to her, but (idealistically, I admit) I had hoped for us to talk before the party so that I could greet her kindly and not ignore my other guests while having a heart-to-heart with her. I don’t want to ignore her if she comes, but I also can’t see myself pretending that this rift never happened, when we need to talk about it. And if she doesn’t come, do I give up? Should I extend a more personal invitation to a lunch for the two of us, as I have done in the past, or just let it go? I’m sure this seems petty in comparison to your amazing baby/mom/life advice, but I am so confused as to handling this situation, and I’d really like H and I to be cordial, if not friendly, in the future. Thanks Amy!

M

Okay. M. Sweetie. This is going to be short and to-the-point:

She’s not going to come to your party.  I am a good 99.9% sure of this.

BUT. AND. It’s okay. More than okay. Because this person is NOT YOUR FRIEND.

Seriously, I don’t care what actually happened to cause the “falling-out,” but the fact that you still, years later, don’t even KNOW fully what caused the falling out, yet continue to be ignored and excluded by this person? The fact that this person continues twist and drag your heart around like a kicked puppy because you just want to know what you did and how to make it right? NOT YOUR FRIEND.

Repeat after me, right now: NOT MY FRIEND.

This “friendship” or whatever the hell you can call it, is straight-up toxic. I can’t honestly see a single good thing going on here. She just stopped talking to you one day because…other people were maybe kind of excluding her? Or…something? She refused to explain her behavior and has since responded to your many attempts at making up and repairing the friendship with…organizing get-togethers that specifically exclude you? This has been going on for…two years? And now she can’t even muster up the manners to RSVP to a party invitation, even if it’s just to decline?

I’m actually at a loss as to why you would even invite such a awful person to your party in the first place, regardless of her “being a big part” of your life for so long. She’s obviously not the person, the FRIEND, you remember her to be. Maybe she never was, or maybe something has shifted her into Mean Girl status only recently.

Her treatment of you is unjustified, since you do genuinely seem clueless as to what caused the initial rift — I’m guessing if it was something truly unforgivable like sleeping with her boyfriend or stealing from her or spreading lies behind her back that she’s a mannerless, petty bitch on a friendship power bender, that you would REMEMBER a little detail like that. As it sounds from your letter, her reasons and reaction are blown completely out of proportion. She clearly doesn’t value your past together the way you do. So…why would you even want to continue a friendship with someone who can callously drop people like hot potatoes like that?

I can’t quite tell from your email whether you guys are in high school or college — I’d guess the former, honestly, based on her behavior and the fact that many, many people go through similar friendship growing pains at that age.

But here’s the thing: I went through an eerily similar situation just a few years ago, with two completely grown-up adult women who just…stopped talking to me, ignoring my emails, my calls, my apologies. In my case, I knew what I had done wrong to my one friend and was desperate to make it right, and instead the two of them kind of…ganged together and decided to dump me as a pair, even though I hadn’t done anything to the one friend, and honestly there was a lot of extenuating circumstances and stuff going on so technically even the “wronged” friend was being awfully overly hard on me (this was all happening when Noah was all of three days old, so…you know. Kind of not the BEST TIME). Years later, the wronged friend still hasn’t forgiven me — I occasionally get emails from her …when her email account gets hacked and spams her address book. It makes me sad to see her name, but you know? I tried. I apologized. I begged. I explained. It wasn’t good enough. I’ve since come to peace with the fact that even though I did mess up, I really did deserve a second chance and some forgiveness. She obviously disagreed. Okay then! Moving on.

The other friend eventually grew apart from her too, it seems, and she later reached out to me, out of the blue, with zero mention of ANY OF IT. The last time I’d heard from HER, she’d accidentally included me on an email forward, which I desperately responded to within SECONDS, begging her to please tell me why SHE wasn’t speaking to me and to pass a message to our other friend and just: HI HI HI I’M HERE AND I’M SORRY AND I WANT TO FIX THIS!

She never wrote back! And then there she was, years later, messaging me on Facebook like wow, I’ve missed you! It’d be so great to hear from you!

We talked a bit and she never brought the past up. And you know? That pissed me off. Like, she thought she could treat me like that for all that time and then just…waltz back in and act like it never happened? No. You know what? NO.

Friendships are HARD. They will be hard for probably your whole life, unfortunately. But I want you to take this experience with H and learn from it. I want you to learn to stand up for yourself — because you AND your friendship are valuable, precious, fragile things that do not deserve to be treated like this. I want you to absolve yourself from any guilt you might have over what you might have done to “cause” the rift. I want you to let this toxic relationship go — no more emails or texts or invites or offers to have lunch and sort things out. You’ve offered enough times, and she’s stepped all over you and your offers way too many times. I want you to promise that even if she does suddenly seem like she wants to talk and be friends again, that you will protect yourself and keep her at arms’ length and thoroughly examine her reasons. (Is she trying simply because she realizes she’s lost her “power” over you? Because she’s gone and alienated pretty much everybody else with her petty behavior?)

I want you to take every bit of mental energy you’ve spent worrying about her and spend it on the friends you have who treat you like a friend, and on finding a fresh start in your new city and new life…complete with new friends.

About the author

Amalah

http://www.amalah.com
Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy's daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it's pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.


Subscribe to posts by Amalah

20 Responses to “Toxic Ex-Friendships”

  1. Kelly Jun 11 at 3:46 pm Reply Reply

    Thank you for this post. I’ve had the same struggle with a “friend” this past year. I had been feeling quite pathetic actually, sending emails and leaving voice messages that are not returned. You are right. Direct that energy to people who treat you like a friend. The world is full of wonderful people.

  2. Denise Jun 11 at 3:54 pm Reply Reply

    As always, very nice Amy. Your personal experience is relateable–thanks for sharing. I’ve also been amazed by some people on facebook who were horrible to me and then wanted to “friend me” — seriously? no way.

  3. Julie Jun 11 at 4:23 pm Reply Reply

    Ha! I’m a 32 year old grown woman, and needed to read this to reassure myself that letting the toxic friendship “go” was the right thing to do, even though my personality type is to please, please, please and try to make it work again. Thanks for reminding me that I’m better off without the drama.

  4. Claudia Jun 11 at 5:17 pm Reply Reply

    amen to this…. sadly, this doesnt end, even after high school, or college…or graduate school, or marriage, kids, etc. Im 33, and just made the decision to end the friendship with what had been my best friend for 16 years. The past four of those she has been treating me like crap – constantly canceling plans, never honest with me, keeping me at arms length, for whatever reason, I have no idea. Its hard, but I know its the right thing.

  5. Margot Jun 11 at 5:41 pm Reply Reply

    I’m just happy to be reminded of the fact that you point out so clearly: friendships ARE hard. Like I guess I forgot? Or I assumed because I’m an adult that my friendships should be perfect? Sort of an unrealistic expectation. Not that I’m suggesting that friendships are disposable, but sometimes it’s just not worth putting energy into. It sucks, but it is still ok and there will be new friends to make. 

  6. Stephanie Jun 11 at 6:45 pm Reply Reply

    Excellent advice. I’ve gone through similar situations and what you say is right on — life is too short trying to be friends with unpleasant people.

    And yes, it doesn’t end with high school. You will experience this again from time to time. I wish someone like Amy had warned me!

    And you deserve the right to mourn your friendship, but you don’t deserve to let someone else continue to bring you down.

  7. Laura Jun 11 at 11:45 pm Reply Reply

    Amy, topics like this always make me want to be, like, “Hey! Amy! WE can be friends! I’m a good friend! You seem like a good friend! My kid is about Ezra’s age. We should hang out!” And then I remember that that sounds a little scary stalker like and besides, I live in CA instead of VA and so it’ll never happen. Then I sigh. Cause we could totally be friends.

  8. Linda Jun 12 at 1:19 pm Reply Reply

    Thanks, Amy. This was hard to read because the “friend” is both my sister and my mother, but it’s time. They blame me for events related to my parents divorce (WTH?) and I need to let them go.

  9. Bethany Jun 12 at 7:49 pm Reply Reply

    I think that the acknowledging is key. A former best friend and I didn’t talk for a year and while I kind of knew the reasons, it wasn’t anything I’d done and it had been really hurtful.

    A year after we’d stopped talking he emailed and started with “I’m sorry” and went on to talk about what had been going on in his head at that time and how sorry he felt for what he’d done and that he knew he didn’t deserve another chance but missed hearing my opinions, jokes, and questions. We stumbled a little restarting our friendship and we’re not quite best friends anymore (we’re both in serious relationships with other people who take priority) but we’re close again and I’m happy about it. I’ve had other former friends who have tried to start things out of the blue without any sort of explanation and those, while I’ve been polite if it’s in person, have never gone anywhere because there was no acknowledgment that any worthwhile friendship is tough and takes real work.

  10. Melissa Jun 12 at 9:15 pm Reply Reply

    Amen. Perfect answer. Could not have said it better myself.

  11. val Jun 14 at 9:10 am Reply Reply

    what a wonderful response. At 50 years old, I am one of those who used to ‘wait in the wings’ when friendships fell off a cliff.
    I still have that tendency but at my age, people tend to just say what they want and get it off their chest, then move on. Life is short and good friends are like 4 leaf clovers….truly hard to find.

  12. Dawn Jun 14 at 12:32 pm Reply Reply

    Thank you for this. I feel like I could have written M’s letter and this very heartache has been weighing on me for days now. Your response is exactly what I needed to read

  13. EB Jun 14 at 2:49 pm Reply Reply

    Why do we think that friendships are always going to be easy, straight-forward, and fun? And also long-lasting?
    I had to dump a friend in a similar situation. We were BBF’s in middle school and high school. I am the classic people pleaser, but I always thought she thought of me as an equal, and that she also thought we had something special. We ended up at the same college. Things had gotten sort of rocky that last year of HS, and worse in college. She pulled some extremely rude behavior, never returned calls, was embarrassed to be seen with me, and once called another friend, mid lunch date, to make plans to meet in half an hour.. She tried to apologize and get us back on track a year after that, and I totally fell for it. She immediatley snubbed me on a dinner date, and I realized I had spent years and lots of energy being walked all over, when I had perfectly good friends who wanted to be friends.
    Saw her once in a restaurant, super-awkward-cake: I didn’t get up to give her a hug. Just said, “Oh how are you?” Pleasantries. That’s it. Was hard, but I was tired of getting hurt.
    Wasn’t invited to her wedding, didn’t invite her to mine.
    Life is too short!

  14. Laurski Jun 14 at 4:17 pm Reply Reply

    A great answer, Amy!

    Friendship break-ups are hard, even when you know it’s the best thing to do. I once had a very good friend, a girl I was friends with from 2nd grade to freshman year of college, who lived on the same street as me growing up, suddenly decide we were no longer friends. What made it worse was that we were at the same college together, and she started turning mutual “friends” against me by spreading lies about things I had said and done. The worst part of it for me was that there was never any closure–she refused to meet with me to discuss what had caused her change in behavior and never gave any specifics as to what I had done to cause her to suddenly drop me.

    Some 14 years later, it still bothers me sometimes that I never had a chance to say my piece, but in retrospect I realized that she had actually been a crappy friend for a really, really long time and I had just ignored them in the interest of trying to stay friends. I also doubt, given the way she was back then, and what I’ve heard of her sporadically since, we never would have lasted as adult friends anyway!

    So, all that’s to say to M that although it may seem hard, and may rankle you for awhile that you didn’t get to have the closure you’d like, you’ll be much happier in the long run with a “friend” who’s anything but. Best of luck!

  15. MLE Jun 15 at 12:28 pm Reply Reply

    I just (as in, just a few days ago) had a friend essentially tell me she didn’t want to be friends anymore, but wouldn’t give me any sort of reason why. She deleted my blog and my husband’s blog from her blogroll, the works. We’d been friends for ten years, and I know I’m going to be upset about it for a while, but it was helpful to read this and remember that there are so many more awesome people in my life that I don’t need to devote a lot of energy trying to figure out what, if anything, I did wrong. And I’m 31.

  16. Lori Jun 15 at 6:34 pm Reply Reply

    I could just copy and paste Julie’s answer here! I’ve had 2 ‘friendships’ like this, as well as the friend I didn’t “do” anything to scenario like Amy.

    Thanks for the reminder that it’s okay not to stalk them to find out why they dropped me! :) I have more and better people in my life to deal with!

  17. The gold digger Jun 16 at 7:51 pm Reply Reply

    the “friend” is both my sister and my mother

    I had to laugh at that line. It made me think of the scene from Chinatown.

    Yep, the same thing happens when you’re in your 20s, 30s, and 40s. I just recently sent a facebook message to a high school friend (and adult friend for many years) via her son. She has not responded to my phone calls, emails or letters for the past several years. I have no idea what happened. I know she was mad when she visited me in Miami and we didn’t go to the beach until 5 p.m. and she couldn’t get sunburned, but the friendship endured for years after that. (And I apologized for not taking her to the beach to fry.)

    But she hasn’t responded to this latest request, so I think I will have to give up. I hate that. I miss her. I was a military brat and there are so few people in my life who share my memories. Losing her feels like losing a part of my history. Plus she was just a fabulous friend.

  18. gizella Jun 17 at 12:06 am Reply Reply

    this is an important lesson…god…i’ve had a few of these. One of them actually called me after 5 years, we spoke, and we’re good internet friends again. the two others…dunno, don’t care. It hurts for longer than you think it will…but you’ll get over it.

  19. Tina Feb 06 at 10:49 am Reply Reply

    Thank you so much for this message. I am in a very similar situation and I did nothing wrong to my ex friend. Its been about 2 years now and I still feel hurt that she can just end our friendship so quickly. Something I realised was that I was always the one there for her, I was at her beck and call. During our friendship, common friends told me she really wasn’t my friend and I ignored this and tagged it as there were jealous. Now I see their point.

    I wonder why this still hurts because am not one to dwell on people and how they’ve hurt me. I guess this friend meant so much to me and I never imagined our friendship ending this way. Thanks again for your message. I can start the healing process now.

  20. Suppy Jul 21 at 12:09 pm Reply Reply

    I an currently experiencing the same thing.I have known this person for about 5months.As much as I liked her I felt like the friendship was too much about and it was annoying but I still tolerated it.Until recently when I told her I was not pleased that I was going through a breakup yet she dint show any concerm and she told me we should meet and talk only for her to go quiet on me at work.Thing is, it is difficult to completely brush her off since we live in the same neighbourhood and work together.Its such an awful feel.How do I deal with this situation?

Follow us on Pinterest

Close