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Toxic Ex-Friendships

Toxic Ex-Friendships

By Amalah

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).

Fast 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!


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.

Published June 11, 2010. Last updated June 28, 2018.
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


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 Ama...

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 [email protected].

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.

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