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#415: How do I give this person who wanted to be my friend “closure”?

Dear Captain Awkward:

How do you give closure to someone you barely know? IOW, worm can opened, now what?

A few years ago I got to know a woman over a few hours of casual recreational activities. We clicked at first, and discovered through our sharing that we both had experienced several important life milestones, such as ana/bulimia and languishing artistic careers.

Problem is, the more I got to know her the less I liked her, and although we had not negotiated a friendship or even had a tacit relationship of any kind, she began to reach out to me in emotionally-charged ways that made me uncomfortable. 

So I dropped her. Just stopped returning her calls.

Not something I felt good about then or now, but something that I felt was the easiest and healthiest thing for me at the time. 

However, I saw her on the street recently and she had a very strong body/face reaction to seeing me, which is bringing up my guilt for just fading away. Now she wants to get together and talk about it.

Full disclosure: The main reason I just dropped her without saying anything was because, among other things she had started calling me at odd hours saying things like, “I just broke up with XX friend – I told him/her that s/he was unhealthy for me, I was unhappy and I never wanted any more contact. TELL ME I DID THE RIGHT THING. Just say it. Tell me I did the right thing, SAY IT.” It felt both creepy and unbearably ironic to do to her what she’d just done with like 4 people in her own life over the course of a month. 

It was a big breakthrough for me to realise that I could start out liking someone and after a few meetings change my mind, and that just because I was the one choosing not to continue, it didn’t mean that I had to make everything OK for both of us.

But now that I’ve seen how deeply she’s still affected by this years later, I feel like the right thing to do would be to give her closure.

Any suggestions?

This is a truly awkward situation.

I can understand that she was hurt by the loss of what she saw as a growing friendship, and I can understand being taken aback at running into you again and having those feelings momentarily surface in an awkward way.  Sometimes what someone else wants (a friendship) is the opposite of what you want (not a friendship, especially with someone who doesn’t seem to have a good grasp of boundaries) and there’s no way for both people to be happy.

But I don’t think hanging out and talking about it over FEELINGSCOFFEE is a good idea. I think you sit down and work out difficult issues with your actual friends, because you want them in your lives and it’s worth passing discomfort and awkwardness to get to the bottom of things. I don’t think you have to do this with people you broke up with years ago and want to stay broken up with. The whole point is that you DON’T want to spend time with her or be friends with her, so why would you spend more time with her to celebrate how much you don’t want to spend time with her?

You do not have to explain anything if you don’t want to. If you want to give her an explanation, do it in an email or note.

“Dear _______,

I do not want to meet up and talk things over, but since you expressed dismay and the desire to know what happened all those years ago, I hope this explanation will bring you some closure.

I really liked talking with you the few times we hung out, but as we got to know each other better I realized that I was not invested in building a friendship with you, so I pulled back from contact. I wish I’d been able to give you an explanation at the time, but since we hadn’t known each other that long, it didn’t seem like a big deal to just fade out on a new acquaintance. I am sorry if that was hurtful for you, but I know that it was the right decision for me. 

I hope this will lay things to rest for you and that you will have a very happy 2013.”

There’s no need to go into her behavior with the phone calls that made you uncomfortable. One way you can be a mensch about a breakup is to own the feelings and the decision. “My feelings changed.” “I did not want a relationship.” vs. “You did this thing that  upset me.” Yes, your feelings were affected by the things they did, but you don’t have to be their relationship tutor on your way out the door. Your feelings can’t be argued with or justified, but bringing up their behaviors opens everyone up to all kinds of bargaining. “But I won’t do that anymore!” “But why didn’t you tell me, I would have stopped!

For people who have been dropped/dumped, let me just say, IT SUCKS. I KNOW. We feel that we’re owed something. We tell ourselves the lie that the right explanation would make us understand, or would make us feel less rejected. We dig in and ask for explanations, but sometimes what we really want is just a little more time with the person. A little more time when maybe what happened (them rejecting us) might not be completely true. Or to share our pain with them in the hopes that we’ll have less and they’ll have a little more. We just want them to feel SOMETHING. To give us some reaction.

I think you get to ask why. I think you get to ask if there is anything you can do to change their mind. We’re not robots! But once you’ve heard whatever explanation there is, or once your messages/texts/calls have gone unanswered for a certain amount of time, asking why or for more discussion can be really counter-productive to healing and moving on. Truth: I have sent some of the longest, weirdest, most stalkerish, most tearful emails in recorded history. None of them ever fixed the relationship. They only made the other person really uncomfortable and me really ashamed (and worried that they are still out there, lurking. Goddamn infinite internet storage). The only thing that has ever worked for me in surviving a breakup with some grace is to believe the other person when they took the trouble to end it (or cut down on contact) and stop using my own Wishful Thinking Translator on the situation.

Ask yourself, would you rather get a letter like the one above from someone, or would you rather let some time pass and decide “I guess that friend really wasn’t that into being my friend. I wish she’d handled it better and just told me, but all I can do is accept it and move on”? As painful as it can be, other people don’t give you closure. You give it to yourself when you decide to stop staying engaged with someone who doesn’t want to be engaged with you.

So, LW, maybe that note will be the thing she needs in order to lay it to rest. I don’t think anything good can come from meeting up with her. She will be an exposed nerve, you’ll want to be anywhere else. You made the right decision years ago when you ended it. Trust that now, and leave this one in 2012.

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59 comments
  1. Sometimes when we meet people who are too much like us things gets uncomfortable. Kind of like there’s funhouse mirrors all over the place. There may be something off with her, or it may not. It doesn’t really matter now. You don’t have any responsibility to keep in contact. Good on you for breaking things off in the first place.

    She doesn’t seem to respect boundaries and that’s why I’d be wary about meeting up now. If she’s an emotional vampire, she’ll suck onto any attention you give her and won’t let go easily. Especially if she sees you two meeting again as kismet.

    • Sorry, nothing to do with your reply, I just wanted to say that you have the best username. Possibly in all of history.

      • Thank you! Mini pugs for everyone!

  2. Sheelzebub said:

    LW, this is why I get so godsdamned irritated with the WE MUST WORK THIS OUT or WE MUST TALK THIS OUT crap. Yes, these are things to do in long-standing relationships with a history and with both people invested in working stuff out. But you barely knew this woman, who sounds FUCKING CREEPY and she’s now demanding closure. FFS. This sounds manipulative.

    The fact is, there is nothing wrong with not returning calls or continuing an acquaintance. If you were obligated to return calls then manipulative people could keep you emmeshed forever.

    Now, full disclosure: When I was younger, I was one of those people who didn’t get the hint when someone stopped talking to me. I was really socially awkward. I was not easy to be around (time still flies! HAHAHAHAHAHA). But it wasn’t on the other person to give me a seat of fluffy pillows and peel grapes for me.

    It’s okay to distance yourself. It is okay to not return a call from someone you realize you didn’t like all that much. The note was a nice suggestion, go with that if you want but please know that you cannot actually give this woman closure. (And seriously? You didn’t even know each other that well. There is no closure to be had.) We all have to learn that people will fade out of our lives for many different reasons–maybe they just aren’t feeling it for you, maybe their lives are changing, maybe they and you are growing apart.

    While you’re at it, block her on ALL social media, email, your phone, etc.

    • Lilly said:

      The note was a nice suggestion, go with that if you want but please know that you cannot actually give this woman closure.

      Right – and also that there is a significant chance that this woman will write back saying BUT WHYYYYYY or something similar so be prepared (possibly by creating an email filter that automatically deletes her mails?)

      I agree that the note is a nice and very kind and honest suggestion, though, and a great script!

      Pretty much everyone has a horrible rejection story – my worst is a guy I dated a few times who I thought I really clicked with – he was really funny and made me laugh a lot and I was really happy! – then on about the 5th date (OK, after I already slept with him) )(OK, a few times) we went to see a movie and this other woman randomly turned up too! And the guy I thought was my boyfriend was like, OH HI THIS IS [OTHER WOMAN] I SORT OF INVITED HER! And he was really attentive to her and she was oddly cold to me! It was so weird! Then after the AWKWARDMOVIE the guy told me he was tired and was going to call it a night so I walked away as if to go home, but doubled back and saw him and the other woman go into a restaurant together. YES THEY WERE ON A DATE.

      After that he just gave me the FAST FADE (and yes, I sent a FEELINGSMAIL) (or two). Then months later after silence he wrote to me and said “remember [the woman]? We are sort of dating! Hope that’s OK! I feel better about letting you know!”.

      • Sheelzebub said:

        That has got to the the shittiest move a date could pull, I think, EVER. Though I really wonder why the other woman wanted to date him after that. If a guy I was into invited me out and oh yes, there was someone already there, I wouldn’t get cold towards her, I’d get cold towards HIM for being a liner-upper douchenozzle and say to the other woman, “HEY! LET’S GET TAPPAS AND GET DRUNK ON SANGRIA!” And I’d say to the dude, “SEE YA.”

        Though my god, you’ve got a perfect base for a comedy routine. Holy shit I cannot even!

      • M Dubz said:

        That is one of the more horrifying date stories I have ever heard. I think you win in this situation!

      • Flying Machine said:

        A guy did almost the exact same thing to me. He played it completely innocent and clueless like “OH WE’RE ALL JUST FRIENDS GOING OUT TOGETHER, IT’S TOTALLY NORMAL” except this other woman and I had never met one another, were surprised by each others’ sudden appearance, and it was really 100% obvious that he was on a date with both of us at the same time. Like flirting-with-and-touching-both-of-us-more-than-once obvious. The other girl and I were both way too embarrassed and Twilight Zone levels of confused (I had really thought– with A LOT of explicit verbal encouragement from him– that were were in a relationship or on the verge of one) to team up and deliver a resounding “WTF???” at him. And he was just so completely shameless about it like there was nothing remotely weird happening that I think we were both afraid we’d come off as crazy and over-reacting if we said something. To this day I can’t imagine what he was trying to accomplish. Did he really believe we were three good buddies going to the movies? Or did he honestly think he was going to be treated to a spontaneous threesome? If so, dude, you’re doing it wrong. Pretty sure it’s not supposed to be a surprise to the other two participants, at least one of whom you’ve been and making monogamous noises at all summer.

        There was FEELINGSMAIL in abundance after that. It was met with a whole lot of denial and “No, silly lady, you must have imagined that”s and finally silence. The logical choice would have been to completely drop the whole thing immediately, but I was half in love with him at the time that this thing occurred out of nowhere and I wanted ANSWERS for his sudden change in behavior that simply weren’t there.

        Sorry if this is getting off-topic. But, seriously, Lilly, I feel your pain/confusion on that one. o_O

      • manybellsdown said:

        Oh man, that’s worse than my version. I was dating a guy – not exclusive. And he said he was seeing other people. So I’m like “that’s cool, we’re not exclusive.” And then he said “Do you want to meet her?”

        Umm… no because whoever else you’re dating is not my business because we’re NOT exclusive. But then he showed up at a place he knew I’d be, and was all “Hey Bells this is OtherGirl! I thought you two should meet!”

        Dumped his ass flat, because he didn’t listen to me then, why would I think he would over anything more important?

        • Dumped his ass flat, because he didn’t listen to me then, why would I think he would over anything more important?

          And this is why I honestly don’t care if people think I over-react to things because it truly is a red flag when that happens. Sure, they MIGHT only ignore me over things because they ARE unimportant – but they’re the ones deciding what’s unimportant and we might not agree on that!

  3. KT said:

    “I have sent some of the longest, weirdest, most stalkerish, most tearful emails in recorded history. None of them ever fixed the relationship.”

    OH man did that sentence hit home with me. It is why I wish everything I ever wrote on the internet before the age of, say, 25 could be forever burned away. The internet, much like the elephant, never forgets, and I fear I will be haunted by some tearful drunken missive sent back when I was 22 and sad about all boys, all the time.

    • ona555 said:

      It made me squirm, too, and that’s why I am SO glad that the internet wasn’t an everywhere/everyone thing where I lived when I was still in my 20’s. Letters you can burn, 2 AM FEELINGSCALLS you can gloss over with memory juice. Emails are cold, hard forever.

    • Sheelzebub said:

      Yeah, I was gonna say, I could have given the Captain a run for her money if the internet was a thing when I was a teenager or a young twentysomething.

    • Lieutenant Right said:

      That sentence made me a lot less ashamed for past grievances. Although it makes me wonder, even if they didn’t fix the relationship, were those relationships ever healed?

      • In my case… no, not as romantic relationships. But the thing was, it wasn’t about the FEELINGSMAIL, it was about the anxiety that drove me to write FEELINGS and EMAIL it.

        I have a friendship or two that has survived FEELINGSMAIL.

      • Utter East said:

        I have a friendship that survived a horrifyingly ill-considered FEELINGSMAIL, but I think the essential components were A) that person strongly valuing our friendship due to longevity, B) me reforming my behavior to be relentlessly normal and non-dramatic following the incident, and likely a big helping of C) the person didn’t really read the whole thing.

  4. I totally agree with you sending a letter instead of meeting her. Meeting her will only give her the wrong impression and it will send her straight back into fairy world that you truly care for her in the way she wants you to.

  5. duck-billed placelot said:

    Darth Vader wants to be your friend! How about no? Cap’n is totally right, as usual, about no on the coffee. I also will offer up an option of no on the letter, as it seems like that’s about you wanting closure more than anything, and Vaders can be SO wiley when there’s a tiny bit of contact.

    I will point out, however, that you seem to be letting your similar history data points blur your view of the situation. You didn’t do exactly to that lady what she did to those people (and then creepily demanded your approval for); you didn’t call her and say, “You’re unhealthy! Leave me forever!” It would have been weird to do so for a short-term acquaintance. You did a totally reasonable thing, a fade, and lady is getting up in your business about it. DO NOT ENGAGE, I say, and remind yourself that you are a very different person from her. Your actions are not the same as her actions, and your feelings and her feelings are a universe apart. You owe her nothing. She’s the one making it weird by asking for a sit-down breakup; you were not legally contracted as her best friend, and she doesn’t have the right to an exit interview.

    • Sarah T said:

      “…you were not legally contracted as her best friend, and she doesn’t have the right to an exit interview.”

      I absolutely love this (having been on both sides of the situation at various times). Beautifully said.

    • unagi said:

      Yep. That about covers it, duck-billed. All this woman wants is an opportunity for a scene, and why would LW owe her that? She wasn’t a friend ever because she got creepy because she became one. I’d hesitate to offer a scene to a real friend for the sake of closure, but I’d rather be minced into holiday goose stuffing to offer it to a creep I didn’t want to be friends with.

  6. SF said:

    This is some of the best advice I have ever read. Thank you. I’m going through something similar to the LW’s ex-friend. Two friendships have faltered in the past year and I’ve been looking for a “why” and some closure. Reading this has caused me to rethink a lot of that. Something to ponder for 2013. Happy New Year!

    • Remember that it can hurt like heck for a long time but it still doesn’t mean you have to do anything about it.

      • OhMyLanta said:

        god, I needed to read that.

  7. MmMarple said:

    ouch, that hit home. I was on dumping side of friendship though it was a little different from the LW. I had known my two friends (male and female) for years (had gone to high school with one of them) and thought we had a really solid relationship; in fact they were pretty much my only close two friends.
    but then we got into college and things changed and I ended up losing everything in my life; home, money, car, job and my brother enlisted in the army one month before 9/11. My family didn’t know if we would ever see him alive again. Worst. Year.Of. My Life.
    and I paid for it mentally; went into severe depression, started having anxiety and finally crippling panic attacks that made me less and less likely to go out.
    and at first my friends were supportive, then they got a little frustrated, then they pulled away completely which added to the tangled ball of black emotion I was going through.

    For a long time, I honest to God hated them. I pinned all my negative emotion on them; if they had stuck around, if they had talked to me IF, if if. many years of therapy and life-straightening has given me the insight to see that it wasn’t fair of me to do that, that in some ways I was absolutely pushing them away being wrapped up in my own pain and not clearly telling them what was going on.
    That while it wasn’t nice or friend-ish to leave someone they called a friend high n’ dry while going through difficult times it was not on them to save me. Plus entanglements with romantic pantsfeelings my male friend had for me that I didn’t return, resentment and probably jealousy from my female friend as they started dating and I complicated their relationship by just being around, ect. ect.

    I still think about them ten years later. I still wish things were different. I still miss them. but I understand why they did what they did and they had every right to go on with their life without me as I have gone on with mine; got into therapy, straightened everything out, graduated college, currently working on a graduate degree in teaching.

    What would have helped immensely was a letter like the Captain wrote – ‘I’m sorry but I feel our relationship is no longer working’ instead of dead radio silence and my negative thoughts to tell me what a fucking horrible person I must be to drive away my own friends. I hated myself too, a lot.
    But society teaches us, especially women, to smooth things over and not to cause trouble which includes ignoring old friends instead of telling them the truth that the relationship is no longer working.
    Thank you, Captian, for this site; where were you ten years ago :)

    • jenfullmoon said:

      We’ve all been psycho at one point or another. God knows this is why I can’t be friends with exes (ever ever ever). I burned bridges with crazy. And I honestly can’t blame them for cutting me off with the silent treatment. Was I happy about it? No. Do I still miss some people? Yes. But frankly, I was so nuts that telling me why they were cutting me off would not have made me feel better. They needed to get away from my crazy NOW and engaging in it with me further would not have helped.

      Also, sometimes you just have to accept that you burned that bridge forever, and even if you’re saner now, they may not want to have contact with you again and be reminded of that– or keep wondering when you’re going to lose it again. (I say that last bit because I just saw Silver Linings Playbook, where the guy character is trying to improve himself so he can be with the wife who has a restraining order out against him for beating the crap out of her lover. In that case….NO.)

      • mmarple said:

        um… I wouldn’t use the word ‘psycho’. Do we have to do the ‘crazy’ talk? People who have mental illness really don’t appreciate being called crazy. I wasn’t crazy. I wasn’t psycho. As I stated, I lost everything in my life. I did not have a home, I did not know when I would eat again, I did not know if I would see my only brother again alive. I think that entitles me to some depression and panic attacks which unfortunetly meant that as I increasingly spiraled down the depression path I pushed my friends away.

        and the people who I thought were my friends got ‘tired’ of dealing with my shit because when when you’re entire life falls apart you should be happy! or do your best to pretend you are because God forbid you bother people with your homelessness/brother deployed in Iraq/not sure if we have enough money for groceries drama. my guy friend even said to me, ‘i liked you better before, why can’t you just get over it’.

        So while I may have pushed them away without really meaning too it wasn’t exactly nice to dump my ass to the ditch as soon as things got hard. It’s a grey area with them; I screwed up but so did they.

        The friend in from the LW has issues of her own to work through obviously and from experience telling her straight ‘we can’t be together’ will draw a definite line that hopefully will help her realize the need to look within herself for improvement. I wish I had had something like that from my friends instead of just ignoring me, which considering we had known each other for five years was a little cold.

        • Jinian said:

          I’m so sorry you went through that. I’ve gotten the “you were so much more fun before you had problems” breakup too. Great way to find out who your actual friends are, I guess. I am going to disagree with you a little, though — LW’s situation doesn’t have anything like the five-year friendship backing it up that yours had, so while I agree that your friends should’ve been more responsible toward you I am not convinced that LW owes their demonstrated-stalkerish acquaintance a note.

          • mmarple said:

            mmmm, either way works. It’s just if she has something definite that says ‘don’t look for friendship here, move on’ it might help with a clean break. but yes, the actions and words of that woman aren’t friendly, are really quite needy in an unbalanced way and in NO way should the LW ever see her again.

          • mmarple said:

            urgh, and thank you ( I forgot to add). It really helps to know other people have been through what I went through.

        • Sarah B said:

          I would take issue with parts of this.

          Your friends are not required to deal with your shit. It’s /your/ shit. Friendship is not a forever-commitment, and it should never be a ball and chain. And it sounds like friendship with you had pretty much become a ball and chain for those around you.

          I can understand why you’re bitter about losing your friends, especially given the ‘why can’t you just get over it’ comment; that sets my teeth on edge. But it is not a requirement of friendship that you just keep on supporting someone and getting nothing in return. It’s not your fault if you had nothing to give back, if it was just impossible for you to ever be pleasant for them to be around anymore; but it’s similarly a bit unfair to blame them for not choosing to hang around in the Bleak Swamp of Despair all the time and leaving for the beach instead.

          You had a lot of stuff going wrong for you at once, and that pile of stuff REALLY sucks. Absolute props to you for getting through it. All I’m saying is that you seem to have an expectation that people be a bit more self-sacrificing than it is reasonable to expect.

          Of course, if your friends all vanished within the first couple of weeks I take back this entire comment; friendship does involve taking /some/ rough with the smooth! But I’ve seen a number of cases where people have – for entirely legitimate reasons – turned into soul-sucking vortexes of pure woe, and then were surprised when acquaintances declined the umpty-teenth soul-sucking woe session; and they sounded a lot like you. “Why won’t X come to have his soul sucked out?! It is his Duty As A Friend! He signed the contract of friendship right here in his own blood!”

          Personally, I don’t think that when I was a depressive pushing my friends away (“Let me suck out your soul! Why are you running?!”) I would have reacted any better to an official letter of ‘this isn’t working for me’ than I would have to a slow fade. They both mean exactly the same thing; and neither would have been the ‘how to convince you to let me keep draining your life’ explanation that I would, fundamentally, have been looking for.

          • mmarple said:

            yyeeess, which is why I said and I quote, ‘many years of therapy and life-straightening has given me the insight to see that it wasn’t fair of me to do that, that in some ways I was absolutely pushing them away being wrapped up in my own pain and not clearly telling them what was going on’

            and also quoted, ‘I understand why they did what they did and they had every right to go on with their life without me as I have gone on with mine’

            Therapy is a miraculous thing. I am a better person because of it. Really it should be a life requirement to see a life counselor.

            and you are absolutely correct; at that time in my life I was 21 years old, didn’t know crap about the world or myself and every possibly thing that could go wrong went wrong.

            I imagine my desperation was something like a drowning person dragging their would-be rescuer down to the debts which is why now, ten years later, I understand why they cut off all contact. They did what was right for them and I don’t hold it against them.

            Also why I akin it to a grey area, while they couldn’t save me having some support, some kind words, SOMETHING that denotes friendship would have made an unbelievable difference.
            as it was I was completely alone. I had only my parents and my counselor to help me claw my way back to productive member of society. Hard to meet people when you can’t leave the house.

            Anyway, years ago now and there is no easy answer to what would have been right. It’s done and I’ve learned and have grown as a person. I would like to think if something like that ever happens again I have the experience and intelligence to not throw my desperation at my friends but take responsibility for my well-being (which, eventually, is what I did)

          • E.C. said:

            Yes, friendship is not a life sentence. Yes, if you stop being fun, nobody is obligated to continue hanging around you. Yes, no one owes anyone anything, ever, not even a “sorry, this isn’t working anymore” in so many words after a friendship of significant length, though it would be considerate. (Obviously the LW’s situation was a much briefer acquaintance.)

            But you know what? That also means that those of us who got slow-faded on aren’t obligated to spend our time and emotional energy telling ourselves how perfectly understandable it was that people we thought were our friends no longer gave a shit because after all, we’re so horribly broken. We’re not obligated to remain forever understanding and never say a cross word even in general terms about the people who dumped us without bothering to say so. We’re not obligated to feel forever guilty about ever feeling angry that they hurt us as badly as they did. WE DON’T OWE THEM THAT.

            I can understand the POV of the ex-friend who slow-faded while telling me, “Why no, of course you did nothing at all wrong, I’m just really busy!” and then unfriended me on shared social media when I sent them really embarrassing FEELINGSMAIL in a pathetic attempt to clarify the situation instead of just realizing they didn’t want to talk to me anymore and cutting my losses. Yeah, I was stupid, and yeah, I fucked up. But I’m not going to pretend I don’t also think they treated me poorly, and I’m not going to pretend it didn’t hurt, and maybe someday I’ll feel more forgiving, but that day has not yet come. It may or may not be more comfortable for them to think my only remaining feelings around the whole situation are shame, but *shrug*. I spent months steeped in shame and self-hatred and hoping against hope she’d e-mail after all, and just like those emotions aren’t that person’s responsibility, any residual guilt or anger or superiority or whatever they might feel toward me or the general situation isn’t my problem.

            Captain Awkward is absolutely right that we don’t have to LIKE it when someone dumps us, we just have to respect their decision and discontinue further contact. But IMO the “we don’t have to LIKE it” part is just as important. Everyone has the absolutely right to slow fade anyone else. A consequence of that is that the person on the other end may very well feel confused, hurt, humiliated, and possibly hate your guts when they finally realize what’s happened. As long as they don’t come to you about it or otherwise make it your problem, well, “it’s not about fairness” works both ways.

      • Jimmy James said:

        For myself? I don’t know if I could act out of expediency. Thats just me. No judgements of anyone else.

      • Leela said:

        “Also, sometimes you just have to accept that you burned that bridge forever, and even if you’re saner now, they may not want to have contact with you again and be reminded of that– or keep wondering when you’re going to lose it again. ”

        Sigh. I know someone who burned his bridges with his son (death threats towards Son and Son’s kids can do that) and yet, now that he’s a little more stable, he acts like a victim because Son won’t let him have unsupervised kid time all the time/do whatever Dad wants/apologize for everything in life.

        It’s pretty exasperating. I try to avoid those conversations.

        • Gosh, holding grudges over a little old thing like death threats agains Son and Son’s kids? imagine that!

        • AR said:

          Sadly there are people who forgive things like that. My parents forgave my grandmother for letting her boyfriend [of two months at the time] kick me out for what is basically calling to say ‘Hey, I locked myself out of my car, do you think you could bring the spare key* if you’re not busy?’ and him exploding over that. [She claims it was high blood pressure, I don't know or care if that's why. ...And yes, I am admittedly still bitter about this.]

          My parents had forgiven her and started trying to ‘encourage’ me to get over it the next day.

          So, sadly, there are people who’d forgive him for something like that.

          *She had this key by mutual agreement

          • No matter the reason why he exploded (seriously, wtf), you don’t write that he ever apologized for it. So why the fuck should you call it even? (And even if he would, you can decide that this person is much too unsafe for you and you don’t want anything to do with him or with people who excuse him.)

            Sounds like your relatives are trying to live up to their (womanly?) role as peace-makers. You don’t have to join in.

  8. Lurker said:

    Question: what is the difference between “I am sorry if that was hurtful for you, but I know that it was the right decision for me” and the jerky “Sorry if you were offended, but” non-apology we all know and hate? Are they both non-apologies, and the former is simply justified in this case because the LW needs to be firm about not revisiting his/her decision?

    What if the script was revised to say
    “…on a new acquaintance. I know it was the right decision for me.
    However, I am sorry that it was evidently hurtful for you. I hope this will lay things…”

    Is this splitting hairs?

    • “Sorry if you were offended” is a cop-out because it’s usually said by someone who’s said something offensive to get out of responsibility for it. They have said something specifically hurtful and are sidestepping responsibility for it by implying the hurt caused is a random event that they could not reasonably have been expected to avoid.

      They can’t exactly say “I’m sorry if you found me implying that women should be second-class citizens hurtful, but saying that was the right decision for me”, because that would highlight how what they did was out of line. Nor can they outright deny that what they said was offensive (typically because a reasonable case can be made that it was).

      “I’m sorry that being dumped was hurtful for you, but it was the right decision for me” is a statement that “I made this choice, I stand by it, but I am sad that you were hurt by it”. Defriending someone is not out of line. It’s everyone’s right at every time. While the LW can (and clearly does) regret the hurt caused by their choice, to say that they regret the choice itself is a lie.

      That’s the distinction – there’s no wrongdoing here to directly apologise for.

    • goldenpeanut said:

      Remove the “if”.

      “I’m sorry that I was hurtful to you, but I know it was the right decision for me.”

    • atma said:

      Oh yes. The difference is “I am sorry if that was hurtful for you, but I know that it was the right decision for me” is NOT an apology.Saying “I’m sorry” is not apologising, it is simply an acknowledgement of the fact that the other person is hurting. Trying to pass it of as an apology would be dishonest and potentially gas-lighting. Respectfully accepting the awkward nature of the break-up is not, espescially if asked for the reason.

      • JenniferP said:

        I don’t think the LW is actually sorry, so that works for me!

  9. Manatee said:

    First, I want to say that I don’t think you’ve done anything wrong at all and that you’re being kind and considerate to think about her feelings in this way. I think it’s important to remember this as there is the potential for this situation to fall into ‘BUT WHYYYYYY’ territory (more than it has) and for her to paint you as some sort of villain and manipulate you into thinking you were mean to her. You weren’t.

    I sadly had to perform a friendectomy once. She asked me for a bunch of things – explanations, the chance to give her side, access on facebook, the opportunity to catch up once time had passed – and what I gave her of those did not help her get closure at all they just kept her invested and had a lot of messy fall out for me. What did help her was time and me being consistent in not being in contact – with this she came round to it on her own and eventually left me alone.

  10. Bunny said:

    You’ve done nothing wrong here.

    The fact that, several years after you lost contact, when you two had just barely started to get to know each other in the first place, she feels deeply enough about this to want to meet you for closure? That’s kind of creepy.

    Remind yourself that you made the right call, you did what was right for you. You don’t owe this person an in-person meeting. You don’t owe them a chance to argue out your decision. You made it, years ago. It’s done.

    I think the Captain’s advice here is spot on.

  11. staranise said:

    LW, do not interact with this person expecting to feel better or less guilty about fading on her. If you feel bad about it NOW, you will not feel any better when she has done a song and dance about how she feels. In fact, assuaging your guilt will probably involve further contact (or renewed friendship) with her, which you do not want. Just accept that things were what they were, and move on.

  12. Honesty is the best way to go, but should be handled delicately, If this person is lead to believe she could still be a friend, she will end up hurting all the more in the end. I say let it down gently, and move on.

  13. I don’t think you’d agree to meet up with an ex-lover who, after two years, wanted to go over why you broke up. I think the same must apply to an ex-friend. If they’ve not got over it, that’s not only their problem, but it’s quite a big problem.

    This reminds me of two experiences. One is with a casual acquaintance who sent me a Christmas card where, in an accusatory tone, she complained that she hadn’t heard from me and demanded to be told whether or not we were friends. When I saw who the card was from I thought, “Oh, I should maybe send her a Christmas card.” but when I read that, I decided against it and never got in contact again.

    The other was with a close friend who I became deeply entangled with at a very difficult time in both our lives. I was lied to, she was downright mean to my boyfriend when we were just getting together and I came away feeling as if I’d been taken advantage of but I didn’t know how to handle it because all this friends’ other friends had, one way or another, abandoned her.

    It was a bit like the LW’s ex-friend in reverse. There were so many different stories about friends who had either suddenly and bizarrely ceased contact, or else lectured her – always in e-mail or letter, not in person or on the phone – about what a bad friend she was. All these stories were deeply unfair, these lectures always made accusations that were completely and utterly untrue. And I had reassured her, over and over, that she was not a terrible person, that all her ambitions were reasonable, that all she really lacked was confidence.

    So I had no means to sort it out. I couldn’t have a conversation in which I said, “I feel you took advantage of me and we need to sort that out before we can move on.” because then I’d be like all these others who’d laid into her. And I couldn’t fade out or even take time away because that had happened to her (and broken her heart) before too. I had effectively been trained not to confront or dump her.

    In the end, life intervened and made the whole thing much easier – various things happened which seemed to embarrass her, and a mutual drifting occurred.

    However, there is a lesson there about paying attention to people who seem to lose a lot of friends in the same way (lovers too). We’ve all been let down, many of us have been dropped like a hot potato in circumstances we don’t fully understand, some of us have had big fallings out with people and some of us even know that we messed up. A person who has a number of ex-lovers and ex-friends is not necessary a person to avoid. But if they seem to have lost them all the same way, where they were entirely innocent? Maybe not.

    LW’s first instincts seem absolutely sound to me. Not creepy. And whilst the note is an option, having no further contact with this woman seems perfectly reasonable too. Meeting up sounds like a very bad idea.

    • Britt said:

      One of the best bits of relationship advice I’ve ever gotten is that anyone who seems to have nothing but “crazy” exes is best avoided, because THEY are the common denominator. Same goes for friendships, fundamentally.

  14. anomaly said:

    Arg! I think I know the answer to this one, but my situation involves a longer friendship with two people I have an extremely close working proximity to, who seem to have pulled a “Quick Fade With Associated Glaring”, Main One, when I ask her if I’ve done something says “no, I’m fine if you are”, with Christmas break, because of it how hugely it affects my daily functioning, I did make contact with them individually to see if we can clear the air before work restarts. Main One said she was really busy but agreed to coffee first day back. Now I’m thinking aaaaaargh what have I done!!!

    • JenniferP said:

      Differences that I spot right away:

      1) You have an ongoing working relationship with these people, so everyone is at least theoretically invested in making things right.

      2) This is all current business – they didn’t fade out years (PLURAL) ago.

      The thing you can do right now is to keep your expectations very low about what kind of friendship you’ll have going forward. If talking things through clears the air and makes things happier and more comfortable going forward, then great, but it may not actually bring you guys closer together. They get to change their minds about how much they like you, and decide that they don’t want to be close anymore if they don’t want to.

      If you can sort of process that and accept that now, if the talk goes well you can be pleasantly surprised. Try to focus on what would help you all work together and not have it be so fraught, rather than validation of you as their friend.

      And also think carefully about what you might have done to piss them off. The fact that it’s both of them is maybe telling. Hopefully you can get to the bottom of whatever it is.

      • anomaly said:

        Thankyou! And believe me, I’m driving myself in sickening circles trying to work out what it could possibly be that I’ve done, and I’ve asked, so I think I do need to get to the point where I eventually just accept that I might never know! (Is it just me, or does suspecting you are being cut off for something, but not knowing what it is a particular kind of torture?)

        • It is, it’s a harsh one, and I think the best thing you can do (after a good once-over on your behavior) is to shrug and get on with your life. You can apologize and make it right if your fault is ever pointed out to you! If you have made a sincere effort to identify how you may have erred or harmed them and cannot think of it, what else are you supposed to do?

          Be kind to yourself, and if you do hear that you screwed up, be generous with whoever you harmed. If they never tell you and keep giving you the side-eye and so on, you can just walk with grace and know you have done the best you can with the information in your possession.

        • Lilly said:

          Cutting someone off in a working situation where you have to be physically there with them and interact, but not explaining what happened, and waiting for the person you are cold-shouldering to say “but what did I do?” sounds very close to the Silent Treatment to me.

          Actually I would not beat myself up about “what I did wrong” because for me, that would involve a horrible thought cycle of analyzing everything I did and wondering “could it be that” when to be honest it’s up to the other person to say if I did something that upset them. I really, really, dislike that. I had a parent who did that – would suddenly be cold and nasty but would do the “if you can’t guess or don’t know what you did…” game.

          If the two coworkers don’t want to be actual friends with you, fine that’s their call! But unless they say “we were upset about that specific time that you did this specific thing” very soon after it happened so we can sort it out without playing Silent Guessing Blame, I would make it irrelevant and just be polite and professional to them but limit my interactions.

          • anomaly said:

            Thank you :) Regardless of whether I did some monster horrible thing or series of horrible things possible, I can’t actually mentally and emotionally survive playing the guessing game anymore, so my mantra is “they don’t owe me anything but professionalism” and trying to manage my own emotional turmoil over it. I’m only reacting so strongly because we did so much in an out of work, so it has felt like such a massive change!

  15. Lieutenant Right said:

    Ah, I definitely encourage not sending a note. Just let it die.

    I just worked on my own closure over a situation similar to this, where I just. couldn’t. take. a hint. in terms of the other person fading out on me (brief background: we dated briefly and then tried to be friends, even though I still had feelings for them…though I knew I shouldn’t acknowledge that). It sucked, especially when I’d be like “Okay, now you know they are fading out because it’s been [this long] and you’ve sent [a cringeworthy amount of messages], so you know it’s over,” and then they’d finally respond (likely out of guilt), with nary an acknowledgement over my terrible behavior, which I’d then think was…okay? I guess? (NOPE.) It was a terrible cycle and only ended when I sent a somewhat confrontational message (Bomb Words, y’all) asking why they would ignore me for random amounts of time and they said it was because of my cringeworthy amount of messages. Oh.

    I’m still pained by it, because the person in question was sweet and really caring, but I know I was super confused about the situation and had never been faded out by anyone like that. I think I’ve grown as a result, but it still fucking hurts to see all your mistakes laid out like that.

    I don’t think a note would help. In regards to your former acquaintance, people feel an explanation will help them for next time. I think the point of not getting an explanation is that you have to realize it yourself. Do her a favor and let her get over herself.

  16. Tripleexl said:

    I’ve loved reading this and every single comment.

  17. Palliser said:

    LW, I wasn’t sure based on your letter if your ex-friend asked you to talk during your conversation or if she sent a follow up email/call. If it was communicated when you saw each other on the street but she’s taken no further action to make things happen, it might be best to leave things alone. Nothing you can do or say is going to “give” her closure and an email might actually be viewed as a bit agressive. If she did email or phone you requesting to meet up, not getting into it with her _at all_ means you avoid having to spend emotional energy in that direction. So if she’s written, “LW, Can we please get together for coffee to discuss X, Y and Z which I am really still upset about?” you could write back, “Ex-Friend, It was so nice to see you on the last week–it has been ages! Unfortunately, I have tons going on right now and won’t be able to meet you, but I wish you tons of luck and a wonderful 2013. Best, LW”. This way you’re polite but you don’t get re-entangled. Hope this helps!

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