#566: My closest friend broke off our friendship, and now I don’t know how to stop feeling lonely and isolated.

Dear Captain Awkward,

I used to have a really close friend who I’ll call A. A and I went to the same middle school, high school, and college, and for several years we talked online together almost every day. Then, about two years ago, she stopped talking to me. At first, I thought she was busy (since she’d just graduated from college and was looking for a new job), so I tried sending her messages and things, but she never responded. I spent about a year trying to figure out what was going on, but I never really figured anything out until A finally sent me a message completely out of the blue. A had sent that message because, on tumblr, I’d reblogged a post that A’s friend had made about a sensitive subject, and A wanted me to delete it.

I had no problem with deleting the post, so I went ahead and did that, and I also took that as an opportunity to ask her, “Are we still friends? It’s been about a year since we’ve talked, and I don’t know why.” A never directly responded, but she did make a vague tumblr post about how it had been a year since she’d realized she was a lesbian, and she put a lot of emphasis on stating that it had been one year. So my best guess is that A realized that she had a crush on me, and instead of talking to me about it, she decided to cut off communication with me completely. I’m actually not straight either, but I never got a chance to talk to her about that, so I guess A never knew.

At that point, I still would have liked to be friends with her, but I decided that if she wasn’t willing to talk to me, then we really weren’t friends in the first place. So, I deleted the tumblr blog that A knew about and made a new one, and otherwise I just avoid her online. I don’t really check Facebook anymore, because I inevitably see something she’s said to one of my old friends or something like that and I just get upset.

It’s been about a year since I gave up on talking to A. I spent a while being really upset and randomly crying and so on, but after a while I thought I’d gotten over all of this.

Earlier tonight, I randomly found something that A had written. Pretty soon, I just started sobbing.

She was my best friend – at times my only friend – for almost a decade, and then she suddenly shut me out. I don’t really know what to do now. I’ve tried to find new friends, but I’m very socially anxious and I’ve never been good at talking to people, so nothing I’ve tried has worked out at all. After college, I had to move back in with my parents in a very small town, so there aren’t very many people my age in the area. I basically don’t have any friends anymore, and I feel very isolated and alone, and I don’t know what to do about it.

Lost and Lonely

Dear Lost and Lonely,

I’m so sorry you are having to mourn the death of a close friendship at the same time you are navigating isolation. There is no shortcut for dealing with all of this, but there are some steps that with time and effort may work to help you grieve the loss of your friendship with A. and start to make new friends.

As for “A”:

  • Block her on social media. On Facebook, this means that even if she participates in discussions with your friends, you won’t see her comments or their comments on her feed. She won’t see yours. She will stop existing for you there. That means that you can still use the site to connect with your people. Reclaim the social part of social media from this one person!
  • Get the feelings out. Write her a long, long letter pouring out all of your feelings. Don’t send it. Dispose of it ritually by burning it. Or give it to a friend to hold onto for you. Do something to get the feelings out of your head and then get the evidence of those feelings out of your physical and mental space. You are metaphorically holding a funeral for that friendship and its potential.
  • Assign the responsibility for what happened between you where it belongs: with her. Whatever she was going through personally, whatever made her decide to stop being your friend was her right. But it was cruel to just dissolve the friendship by freezing you out. Even just telling you “I need some space from our friendship and do not want to be in contact for a while” would have given you some information you could use and saved both of you the period of time where you reached out and she got (presumably) annoyed by that. And I think it was up to the person whose post you re-blogged (vs. A.) to tell you whether that was okay or not, not A. to reach out only to tell you you messed up and then disappear again. Message: “I’m still sort of paying attention to what you do, just, not enough to want to actually talk to you.” If you want to cut off contact with someone, fine, but you don’t get to pop up at intervals that suit you and tell them how to act. That’s on A., not you.
  • Come up with the briefest possible story for what happened between you. A. was my close friend, but she decided to drop the friendship without telling me why. It really hurt my feelings when she left, and it really bugged me to never get a good explanation for what happened, but ultimately it’s out of my hands.” If anyone who used to know you both asks, you now have an answer. You don’t have to pretend that it didn’t hurt your feelings. You don’t have to offer reasons for why it happened – you’re allowed to say “Who the fuck knows? It wasn’t my decision.” If you start finding yourself cycling through your history together, you have a way to skip to the end without making yourself live through every detail again.

Now, we can’t tell you how to make friends, but we can tell you steps to take to meet new people and hopefully diminish the isolation you are feeling now. Living in a smaller place or more remote area makes it more challenging to meet people, but it can still be done. We’ve covered ways to adjust to living with parents after being away from home, and we’ve also covered a lot of the steps for meeting people before on the blog. They don’t really change, so I’m not going to elaborate on all of them in this post, but I will list them again.

  • Volunteer.
  • If you’re religious at all, and you can find a queer-friendly church, go to church. If churches where you live are unfriendly to LGBTQ folk, avoid church like the plague. Nothing will make you feel more isolated than being surrounded by smiling well-dressed people who believe hateful things about your basic humanity.
  • If you can and you’d like to, take a class in something.
  • If you can and you like to, find a sports league to play in or a regular exercise class to go to.
  • If you have a hobby or interest, see if there are local groups that support that interest.
  • Look for community and interaction with like-minded folks online. You know about our forums, right?
  • Find a local bar or coffee shop or library and become a regular at it, even if all you do for right now is read a book when you go.
  • I mentioned “volunteer”, right? SERIOUSLY, VOLUNTEER. You can’t not meet people that way.
  • Look outside your own age group. Once people are out of school, the artificial warehousing of individuals by age ends. It’s awesome to have friends who are direct peers, for sure, but at 40 my friends are anywhere from 22-60ish and I am glad for it.

It’s easy to grow up in a small town, go off to school and think perpetually of your hometown as a place where there is “nothing to do.” Believe me, my high school best friend and I ceremonially shook the actual dust of our town from our actual feet and pinky-swore never to move back there when we graduated. This was us, more or less:

But actual people live actual awesome lives in our little town. We didn’t see it because we didn’t see beyond our immediate peer groups when we lived there. We weren’t navigating the place as adults, with jobs and our own money and no curfew and a need to look beyond the high school for stuff to do or people to meet.

This is my hometown. It’s not an ethnically or culturally diverse place, to be sure. But there is stuff to do there. A quick search turns up a ton of stuff to do:

  • Play role-playing games at Ye Olde Commons. You guys know if this had existed when I was a kid I would have been there Every. Single. Day.
  • Hike or volunteer at the cool nature sanctuary or help out at an environmental non-profit.
  • Work on preserving and appreciating all the cool historical stuff nearby.
  • Go to and/or work on various arts and crafts events. How did I not know about Open Mic Night?
  • There is a food bank, called CHIP-IN (Charlton Helping Its People In Need) that I went to some of the very first meetings for when I was in high school and my friend’s mom was a Selectwoman. It’s still a thing! So cool!
  • There’s an animal rescue group, a friends-of-seniors group, and a general volunteer group.
  • A community theater group with a hilarious name!
  • An outpost of Toastmasters International.
  • Being queer in a small town where everyone seems old and straight and married is rough. Looks like my town has a LGBTQ* support group and some friendly therapists, though you’ve got to drive 20 minutes for a gay bar scene. Maybe yours has a similar setup?
  • Meetup.com isn’t just for cities. There are a jillion groups active within a 20-30 minute drive.

So, the point of all that is: Somewhere in your town, or in the next town over, there will be nerds doing what nerds always do: Getting together and making awesome nerdy stuff happen. And the people who run these groups are happy to make newcomers feel welcome. Even if you are not an extrovert. Even if you are shy. Even if you are younger than everyone else. If you go to the Nerdy Town Thing, someone at the Thing will say hello to you, be genuinely glad to see you, try to introduce you to other people, remember your name and be psyched when you show up the next time. Because the people who run such things like being the people who host events and introduce people to other people. You don’t have to be good at that stuff, you just have to show up and appreciate what they do.

Making close friends will happen in its own time. Maybe it will happen soon. Maybe it will happen 2 years from now when you’ve moved out of your parents’ house and into an area with more queer folks and more young folks. But decreasing your sense of isolation can be done.

  • Find the nerds who are doing cool stuff near you.
  • Go to their stuff.
  • Try to find something that meets weekly, so it can be a routine.
  • If you don’t immediately love it, try to go back at least 3 times before you make a final decision about whether to keep doing it. Sometimes people suck, or the activity is not fun, but sometimes it’s just nerves/newness and it’s a good life skill to be able to sort out the difference.
  • If someone creeps on you, tell the organizer. If the organizer doesn’t address it, break the above rule, for sure.
  • If you don’t find something you like immediately, go to more/different stuff.
  • Take lots of breaks – if it starts to feel exhausting or like a chore rather than an enjoyable adventure, pull back for a few weeks and give yourself a break. Then try again.
  • Repeat until you find something you like. If it turns out you never like anything, work extra hard on plans to move away. The skills you developed in meeting new people and putting yourself out there will serve you wherever you go.

Moving to a huge city where I didn’t really know anyone, taking my own advice, it took me over one year to make real friends and over two years to have what I’d call a social group. Two years of saying yes to invitations, making myself to places by myself, going to meetings of clubs, volunteering for stuff, creating little adventures for myself by finding cool local events, looking for friendly faces, etc. Sometimes it was as lonely and discouraging as hell.

So, this is big. When you feel lonely and needy and isolated, and you make the effort to go somewhere, and you don’t really find anyone you connect with, it’s very easy to weave it into the story of loneliness and failure that you’re experience, a.k.a. Well I TRIED and it DIDN’T WORK and now there’s PROOF.

You have to actively fight against that mentality. It’s not fair. It’s exhausting. But every time you go to a thing and/or talk to a new person, make sure you congratulate and reward yourself for your efforts. Write it down in a journal somewhere. Give yourself a gold star. Tell yourself a different story, one that goes like this: You are doing good things to take care of yourself! You are learning the skill of meeting new people and building a social life as an adult, and that is something that a lot of people need if the volume of questions I get here is any indication. You are learning to find people you connect with; one part of that is figuring out where you don’t belong. Tell yourself that you put on clean clothes and showered and you tried. You saw a terrible band at the local anarchist collective and ate the worst food of your life at the vegan potluck and you listened to crabby Old Farmer Olsen talk about his hip pains for the 1700th time, and even if he didn’t really appreciate it, his wife had a good time not having to deal with him and getting to talk to some new people for a change. You helped give food to people who really need it. You marked trails for hikers who will appreciate not being lost. You petted kittens and puppies who need homes. You learned a new expansion pack of a board game. You gave your parents some alone time without having their roommate underfoot. You are doing the best you can. You are learning new skills. You are finding new interests and strengths. You are doing your best to take your place among your fellow humans. That’s all you can control, and the rest is up to luck.

Now, let’s circle back to A. When you have one person who has embodied the concept of friendship for you, and you lose that friend, it’s hard not to correlate the whole idea of friendship with A., and subsequently with betrayal and loss. I can’t say that you’ll never lose a friend again. But I can say that A. does not equal everyone. Grieve for A., say goodbye to A., and then try to leave the story of A. at home when you go out to meet new people. If you have intrusive thoughts of A., and the hurt you suffered when she left seems to be always with you, please seek the help of a pro to help you learn strategies for diminishing the power of those memories over your current life. A. is part of your story, but she’s not the whole story. It sounds like you were a true and good friend to her. I think some lucky person in your future will see and appreciate those qualities the way you deserve.






216 thoughts on “#566: My closest friend broke off our friendship, and now I don’t know how to stop feeling lonely and isolated.

  1. I was incredibly lucky when I moved cities. My country is pretty small and I’m active on Twitter, so inevitably anywhere I went there was bound to be someone living there. Here, there turned out to be quite a few, several of them who were specifically excited to meet me. (That was, and still is, kind of confusing to me.) Now I’ve been here for a year and aside from those people from Twitter I have met…. my flatmate, and her friends and family. Eeee! Yeah, I’m not good at meeting people, but my Twitter friends are great and one of them is buying a house just round the corner and I get invited to casual meet ups and things, which is super.

    Moving is really, really hard, but while you’re doing all the things the Captain suggests, if you ever start forming an idea of where you want to go after you move out from this town again (if you don’t decide you want to stay), try researching ahead. Look what groups are there. If they have online components, join and lurk so you get an idea of what they’re like, or introduce yourself ahead of time. Obviously making moving plans in advance can be tricky since it depends on the job market, but having a few contacts when you do can be really useful, and cultivating those relationships is something that could take your mind off A and make things a bit easier.

  2. Hi, as a church resource, http://www.gaychurch.org maintains a list of LGBT friendly churches. I found it when I was moving to Oklahoma, and checking out some of the websites, you find that they’re really REALLY LGBT friendly. The number in my area surprised me, so even if you don’t think there are any, it’s worth a check.

    1. Speaking of churches, if you aren’t particularly spiritual, a Unitarian Universalist church might be better. Mine at least incorporates many belief systems and has a lot of atheists in the congregation. It’s more secular humanist than god-worshiping. I dunno if you have one nearby, but… it could also help you find volunteer opportunities

    2. My old trick is finding the local GLBT rag (if there is one) and looking for churches that advertise there. I’m actually not GLBT myself, but on the rare occasions I darken the door of a church I’d prefer it not be a bigoted one.

  3. I totally agree about going outside of your age group!

    I do social/ballroom dancing, and something I really like about it, actually, is that the average age there is much closer to my parents’ than mine, and it’s kind of freeing for me, like I have less internal pressure to be “cool,” or to fit in in a specific way with specific cultural references and jokes and stuff, because it’s already assumed that we have different reference points.

    1. I want to second social dancing. It’s a great way of meeting a variety of people, because usually there is an expectation that everyone dances with everyone else. And, at least in the swing dance community (which is my style of dance) it’s pretty easy to travel around and have places to stay if you’re traveling to dance.

    2. I’ll put in a plug for Contra dancing, if it’s in your area. At least in my part of the USA (Northeast, broadly construed), it’s a very open and accepting community. Although the majority of people are cis and het, there are a fair number of gender/orientational minorities, too. And (non-pickup) flirting is an established practice.

      1. Agreed! (And I can vouch for it being similar in California, as well, both SoCal and the Bay Area). I don’t go to contra dancing all that often, but everyone’s always so welcoming and friendly when I do! (And it seems that the people who actually do go regularly have social bonds established). Plus, fun and exercise!

      2. Also true for the southeast! Contra has a range from kids to grandparents with a low creep risk factor where I come from.

    3. Thirding the social/ballroom dancing! It’s so much fun and you will meet some great people! If it’s a large community, the skill range of dancers will be broad enough that you will be able to find a group of people who are good matches for you (and it can take a few times; some communities are harder to break into) and if it’s a small community, they will be so excited for someone new and all of the dancers will want to make you fall in love with dancing!

  4. I’m delurking to comment on this. I’m maybe two years further down the line from what you are describing, LW. I’ve had the end of friendships before but this one was the closest friend, and we had been friends for a long time, and through a lot of shit. So we were in the place where I thought that nothing could come between us. I was wrong. Even though I (these days) have quite a lot of friends, losing the person closest to you leaves a big gap. You made space for that person consistently, so when they’re gone, even when you have other things in your life, you’ll still feel that loss, that absence. I had to grieve for the friendship, for a long time.

    As it happened two other major life event happens in or around the same time (all in about 18 months) and these three things resulted in the lowest mental point that I have experienced yet. Some things that really helped me. The first was I went to therapy for a bit. I was able to get some free sessions through work and it helped. It was about a year after the final end of the friendship at this point (the ending dragged on for the guts of a year, where I was mostly confused and felt terribly betrayed). I thought I was really damaged that I hadn’t yet got over this break up. The therapist pointed out to me that I was getting over it, it was taking time, and the reason it was taking time was that I was deep and sincere in my friendships. I realised that I was ok with being that person, and that I liked that person. So give yourself that space and that credit.

    The second thing that really helped was I pushed myself to join more groups and things and while most of them didn’t stick, one of them did (a bookclub). It was a totally random thing and a completely different set of people to my ex-friend or any of our mutual friends. They didn’t know anything about it, and so I felt that at least once a month I went somewhere and had fun (we sometimes talk about the book for up to 20 minutes!) and wasn’t the sad girl. They all just happen to be awesome people and we gelled and ended up having branching out events like movie nights, lunches, a writing club etc. So two years on I have these new friends, many of whom have become close friends.

    In all that it annoyed me that we don’t really (well except here and the African Violet) talk about friend break ups and how hurtful they can be. I remember feeling like if it had been a romantic relationship I’d have been free to say ‘we broke up’ and no one would expect us to be in the same room together for the next year! I really could have done with that little short hand at the time!

    Anyways it gets better, and you will find more of your people, and always remember that other people are looking for new friends too… they’re just trying to play it cool!

    1. I went through a total friendship break down with one of the girls I lived with on my gap year. Trouble was, when we got back and started uni all the people we’d been friends with in high school who were now at uni with us were expecting us to still be friends. I sucked it up and was the bigger person, and six years later she lives in England and it’s all okay, but holy god, that first year when I had to keep explaining what had happened, and why, when I had no idea what the fuck had happened other than I suddenly started irritating the crap out of her, was hell. I wish I’d been able to say we’d broken up. It would gave helped so much.

      1. yeah I think the worst of this was when I was in the period of wondering what the hell was happening and terrified of being stuck in the same place as her at social things with our mutual friends (it was in the phase of ignoring me, cancelling on me and generally being horrible to me when we were in the same place). To the point where I avoided seeing those mutual friends. I later apologised to them saying that while it might have looked like I was avoiding them, I was actually avoiding a situation I hadn’t got a handle on and didn’t know what to expect or ask for.

        It’s still a bit awkward…. like next week I’m interviewing for a job that’s very close to where she works. The progress is that for the last 2 years I haven’t applied for any jobs there due to proximity. It would be so much easier to be able to say ‘oh my ex works there’ or ‘that’s my ex’ to explain any potential awkward encounters in the professional zone!

      2. Oh, I totally get you with the wishing you could say you’d broken up thing. It *is* a sort of break up, even though the relationship was platonic, and there’s a complete lack of a phrase to cover that.

        My ex-best-friend broke up with me, and the fact that it was an unhealthy relationship, and I retaliated with an epic rant about all of her poor behaviour, doesn’t stop me missing her. *sigh*

      1. Falling out to me has always seemed to carry connotations of a fight or argument. Break up conveys the “just didn’t want to be close to me that way” anymore, which falling out doesn’t. For slow or sudden fade outs of friendship, I think the best we’ve got is “grew apart” or something, but that conveys mutuality, unlike breakup, which is usually assumed to be unilateral unless qualified.

        1. Yeah, “falling out” does suggest a fight, but I think it could still apply. It conveys that the friends-breakup was unpleasant or traumatic, and you can provide further clarification if you want. If you tell someone that you had a falling out and they ask what happened (as people might for a romantic breakup), you can say “I honestly don’t know. She just stopped returning my calls. It was hard for me, but I guess that was the way it had to be.” The appropriate response to “we had a falling out” is “oh, I’m so sorry.” It seems like the closest thing that fits bill.

          Meanwhile, I have used the terms “break up” and “dump” to describe the ends of non-romantic relationships, and no one has ever been confused.

          1. Yeah I’ve also used the phrase “friend dumped” to describe the end of one relationship. People understand–it works.

        2. I tend to use “falling out” even when there wasn’t a fight, in the sense that I “fell out” of my friend’s favour.

  5. Oh Lost, I’ve been in your shoes in both situations here. I know that it’s scary and hard and sad sometimes to find new friends and to put old friendships to bed (one of my high school best friends has cut me out of her life twice now – it hurt a lot the first time, but was sort of a relief in case #2).

    I’ve been living in my current city for 7 years now (how did that happen?), and it took a good 3 years of that time for me to find my people. And now, even though I have a group of great friends, I am working on meeting new people because I would like more friends to share my different interests with, and also I could definitely use the practice.

    I hope this doesn’t sound too flip, but What about Bob? is one of my favorite movies, and when I’m anxious about new situations/meeting new people/doing something by myself, I often find myself repeating the “baby steps” mantra in my head. Finding a new group of friends is a big thing, but if I baby step my way through it, it isn’t so bad. I baby step my way through meetup sites, or through the alternative newspaper, looking for things that sound fun. Sometimes it takes a few weeks, or even months, but eventually I baby step my way to a meeting, to a friendly face, through a short conversation. You can do as much or as little as is comfortable for you at any given moment, but you’ll be doing something. It might take you many, many little steps, but you’ll get there.

    1. You’re so right about the baby steps. It’s not a mountain to climb in a minute! And some of the steps can be really enjoyable. Like when you dare the first time to show your oddness to a new person and it turns out that they get it.

      1. harrietvain and MBro, I so feel & appreciate you sharing both your stories, and send you internet-fist-bumps of appreciation from another lady trying to meet new people out here. hells yes to “baby steps to the elevator!” 🙂 🙂

        1. thanks. We had a new member to our club recently and she spoke quite openly about being in a phase of her life where she was actively looking for new friends. She’s a really outgoing, smart, likeable person and it really reiterated to me how this pretty much happens to most people

          1. I read recently that cows have best friends, they tend to stick together while grazing and chewing cud. So I’ve been thinking about that, like what draws cows together, and do they ever have break ups. Or maybe for cows the whole best friend thing is really easy. Maybe they have clubs too.

          2. You know, I think there’s this really pervasive cultural idea that social interactions are / should be easy and shouldn’t. That being popular and well-liked and outgoing is some kind of default state for the majority of people and those of us who aren’t that way are the aberrations. And so when social interactions are hard for us, we look around and think “everyone else can do this, why can’t I?” But the more I learn, the more I realize that they’re challenging for almost everyone in some way or another. There are maybe more of us baby-stepping around than we think there are. 🙂

            Also, I went on a friend-date last night (to a new place! to something I hadn’t done before! with a person I’ve only recently met!) And it was really fun, and I think I might have a new person to do nerd things with, and I was really happy when I came home, and I couldn’t have done it if I hadn’t broken it down in to non-terrifying chunks.

          3. That first sentence should read: social interactions are/should be easy and shouldn’t be work.
            Arrgh. That’s what I get for posting in a hurry.

          4. I don’t think anyone really finds interactions with new people to be really easy. We’re all faking it really, aren’t we? On saying that they can sometimes get easy quicker that you might expect. I’m actually nostalgic for the (relatively recent) conversation I had with new friends where I dared to suggest one of them might be pregnant with an elephant. Obvs I could have been cast out in that moment for my terrible and weird sense of humour, but what actually followed was a group imagining of how an elephant might disguise himself as a man and seduce and impregnate this girl without her ever knowing she was an elephant. It was truly a moment of ‘found my people!’

  6. maybe i am misreading this but it seems like A is the one who wrote about missing her friend and that friend was you! you thought that A had cut off communication and she thought that you had cut it off. and you just learned this. i would call her or post or whatever and tell her…everything. that you thought she didn’t want to be friends so who is she talking about in the post. A if this post is about me please please contact me a.s.a.p. i thought you didn’t want to talk to me, i have always wanted to talk to you. i am so sorry for whatever miscommunication happened please contact me.”

    1. I don’t know about this – it sounds like the LW has been very clear with A – “What happened? Can we still talk?” and gotten zero answer. How many times do you try to kick that particular football before giving up?

      Also, there are more effective communication methods than vague Tumblr posts.

      1. yea that is true too. i just can’t help but think something in life must have gotten in the way or wires crossed somehow. i guess i just hate to think that they are both missing each other.

      2. Yes. I agree with Jen. Look at it from A’s perspective: if you liked and missed someone, and they sent you a message like, “Hey, I get the strong impression that we are not friends anymore?” you would immediately respond with, “WHAAAA?! Of course we are! I like you! Let’s talk!” You would not just let that drop. You would not need to get two messages like, “So since you don’t ever want to speak to me again….”

        A is being a jerk about this, but it sounds very much like she doesn’t want to continue the friendship. If LW ever does decide to reach out or talk to her in any context, it should be with the understanding that A broke things off. If I were A, I would be very annoyed and even a little bit weirded out by a refusal to acknowledge this level of radio silence. And if I were LW, I would feel a lot worse if I tried to pretend it away.

        I actually did get a little bit of self-inflicted closure from sending an email that was like, “Hey, we’re clearly not friends anymore, and the way you communicated this to me was passive-aggressive and jerkish and really not clear at all, and thus bewildering and hurtful and super fucking awkward, and I’m not happy about that so, like, thanks. Ta.”

        And I respect CA’s wisdom on the issue, but I think that feelingsmail in a limited context in these situations is okay, so long as you are drawing a line under the interaction by saying something the other person refuses to say. Succinctly. It can be a way of taking control, and it can help defuse the helpless aggravation. And it does feel better – and different – from unsent letters and asking the other person to please actually tell you that your friendship is dead.

        But you shouldn’t chase after someone who’s made it clear that they want nothing to do with you, and you shouldn’t take emotional responsibility for their cruelty. Because this is a cruel thing to do, ignoring a friend until they figure out that you don’t like them anymore. You’re forcing them to balance the tenure and value of the friendship – and their trust in you – against their emotional health. You shouldn’t force someone to do this work for you.

        1. Hey Piny, interesting to hear your thoughts on this.

          I had a friend, who left me completely in the lurch with regards to our living situation, such that I am out of pocket to the equivalent of a third of my monthly allowance when I am already in a seriously precaious situation (gradschool coming to an end! moving back home after 7 years away! Jobless! Unable to claim benefits until after my viva!).

          I am furious, and heartbroken and confused as fuck. We were friends for three years, we were kinky playmates and she was the closest thing I’ve had to a girlfriend (I’m newly out as bi and maybe poly). We’ve looked out for each other over the time we’ve known each other. I have no explanation for why she now no longer gives a shit – her exact words were “it’s not my concern {that I’ve left you significantly out of pocket}” Which, like, what the actual fuck?!! The only explanation I can come up with is: “turns out she’s a b*tch”.

          So I wrote an absolutely scathing response to her last communication and now I don’t know whether or not to send it or an edited version. I feel like doing so would help me feel better because then I would be the one categorically saying “any friendship we had is over, you are dead to me, here is your African Violet.” I know I will never be able to trust her again, if she ever even comes back to my country, so the friendship is definitely dead.

          But saying it seems so final. I know it’s already over and we are broken up but voicing it in such a way that I cannot take it back feels like a massive loss. It’s saying I’ve given up any hope of our friendship being resurrected. Which I have, but I haven’t because my brain is stuck on “but we were friends! And playpartners! How can you do this to me?!” and hopes that maybe it could be fixed if she apologised and coughed up the money.

          So ugh. Anyone else been in a similar situation and found a final email explaining how they hurt you and how you feel in response, after which you block them on all social media, actually helps?

          1. I don’t think sending the e-mail would help you feel better. It’s good to write your thoughts down and get your emotions out, but actually sending still has some risks even if you think you’re over anyway. For one thing, you might get a response from your former friend that will upset you. From my experience, it’s always better to stay away from expressing bad feeling in writing. If a confrontation is needed, do it in person, and if you’re done anyway, then it’s better to stay silent.

          2. I sent mine, and have no regrets. But it was absolutely nuclear/scorched earth. It was a moment where I was capable of being articulate in my furiousness, and it was in response to an email she had sent completely rewriting our history after several months of not talking to me. My guess it did nothing but knock the wind out of her sails and prevent her from sending me any more emails. (worth it!)

            On saying that I would not have sent it at all if she hadn’t sent me the first email… I prefer the slow fade to explicit hostility when friendships are over (but I rarely manage to achieve it!).

          3. It helped because what I wanted was for someone to say it. And, well, that apparently had to be me. And it did help, eventually, although I also spent several months editing the email in my head.

            This person didn’t just cut me off. They cut me off with no explanation, forced me to eventually figure out that we were no longer friends and then pretended everything was fine the next time I saw them months later. Which…like, at the time I was like ??!?? and also, horridly, Did I totally misunderstand that whole not-friends-anymore-ever thing? Am I having a psychotic break? Is this a bad dream? Did I just drink two beers on an empty stomach? (Nope, nope, nope and yup!)

            So the email was like, “This is a thing that happened! It is a thing you did, and you do not get to pretend you didn’t! Or give me a hug! No freezing me out of your life and then hugging! With zero words in between! NOT COOL. THAT WAS A NOT COOL HUG.” And, like, I feel better having not waited for permission to say words about things.

            But it sounds like you are trying to get something out of her. And it sounds like the most likely response is a verbal or a silent utter lack of accountability, possibly with insults. It sounds like this would not be a fuck you email but a how dare you email. And it sounds like her answer is not something you want to hear.

            You are also saying that you still miss her, a lot, and are not quite willing to end the friendship. This is a bad time to say anything to this person who just fucked you over, I think. You are still vulnerable: don’t expose yourself.

            If I were you, I would gather all your good friends and have some serious fuck-you by proxy sessions with lots of wine and unhealthy foods and long rambling ranty discussions. I would make a project out of caring for yourself in the meantime, and wait until you feel less raw to write (or even draft) any emails. Don’t talk to her. Talk to the people who love you, and let them take care of you.

          4. Ah. That cuts very close to the bone. I think you might be right. I also think I don’t to add any more fuel to the fire until the tenancy contract expires in two months time. I have no idea how the final settling up will go and I don’t want to make that any worse.

            My inner circle are all really far away, which really doesn’t help.

            *oh dammit, I’m crying again*

          5. I’ve sent nuke mail. I got no response. I strongly suspect the person did not even read it and it didn’t matter what I did or said at that point.

          6. I sent one of those. It was a friend from college. We had had a complicated relationship (some romantic feelings, mostly on my side, that had never really gone anywhere), but he got married and I got married, and it seemed like we had become actual friends. Our friendship was mostly emailing and occasionally talking on the phone, but it was a real friendship (at least, I thought it was, and he always talked like it was) and he was important to me. We would sometimes go a long time without communicating, but we were both in grad school, so it was fine. One would email and the other would respond when there was time. Well, I emailed and got no reply for a long time, so I emailed again, and again, and nothing. I sent a Christmas card. Nothing. I snail-mailed a copy of my Master’s thesis for him to read. Nothing. When my son was born, I sent an an announcement and a picture. Nothing. Over a year went by, and nothing. After a while, I thought that maybe something bad had happened to him, so I Googled his name and I found a story of someone with his name and his age having gotten in a horrific car crash near where he lived. I decided to email him one last time so say that I had seen this news story, and that he didn’t have to respond if he didn’t want to, but that I was concerned and wanted to make sure he was okay. This email gets an almost-immediate response to the effect of “Oh, no, that wasn’t me! LOL! I was just super busy with stuff and whatever! Anywho, I’ll write more when I have time–maybe for your birthday! See ya!” I was floored. It’s one thing to decide you don’t have room for someone in your life. I get that. It’s a totally other thing to ignore someone for over a year and then act like everything is normal and fine. I wrote back a very cold and angry email, calling him out on that BS, and I haven’t heard from him since. That was a few years ago. I think I might miss him still. Every year on my birthday I check my email wondering if he’s written, and wondering how I’ll feel if he has.

          7. Oh, ouch. That sounds so unpleasant. People can be so damn ignorant it’s unreal. Fair enough if someone decides they don’t want to be friends but ignoring someone til they get the hint is so childish and hurtful. I’m sorry he was a douchebag to you.

          8. God, yes, that’s rough. And yes, I think you’re doing the mature thing by not giving her an excuse to take more money out of your wallet.

            Is there any way you can get out of the house and distract yourself? Something relatively cheap, like a movie or a museum or just sitting in the park? Cooking something that requires a lot of chopping or stirring?

          9. I’ve been doing things and it’s been helping. Happened to have a work trip abroad this weekend, staying at a very nice hotel with the spa included, so that was nice. 🙂

            Written a very long draft of a blogpost too with ALL THE FEELINGS, which I may or may not post.

            I’ve also decided I am going to treat this like the break-up it is and act accordingly, which sucks but sucks less than framing it otherwise.

          10. I’ve received nukemail, as part of a friendship breakup that was already pretty hurtful on both sides. The person was completely out of control of their feelings, knew exactly where all the fracture lines of my personality were, and used them to do as much emotional damage to me as they could. I’d trusted them, and I didn’t manage to un-trust them in time to discount their “actually, all your insecurities are true” message. I seriously doubted my value as a human being after receiving it.

            It’s been years, and there are still places I’m not OK because of that email. I don’t think sending that message was an ethical thing to do.

            Just a little parallax on the temptation to send nukemail, for what it’s worth,.

          11. since posting I’ve been reflecting and realising my mail was not the mail, but rather the respondent mail. She sent me a message where she tried to absolve herself of any wrong doing in the demise of our relationship, and point out how it was all my fault because I’m crazy (actually one of those mails the captain advises against!) and that’s what made me go nuke. Like Abi I was the recipient, rather than the sender, of a mail that used the vulnerabilities that go along with friendship against me.

            It’s probably that more than anything else that completely soured my memory of what we had. The abuse of that power made me totally unrepentant in my nuke mail. I will say I didn’t reciprocate that abuse of vulnerability in my reply, but merely made some explicit corrections to assertions. I don’t regret that. And it’s a fair bet that I’ll never forgive her for the contents of that mail, even when I’ve totally forgotten about it!

          12. To be fair to the other person, they were replying to an email that probably came across as pretty nuke-ish too. (Portions of it were necessary, but portions were too harsh, too, and I regret those.) And I sent that one because of a long series of denigrations, dismissals, and erosions, which they inflicted on me because…well, let’s just say that we were both well outside of our comfort zones long before the explosion, and the way it fell out left both of us both deeply hurt and deeply compromised.

            So not the same as the OP’s slow-fade situation.

            Were I to do it again, I’d have stopped a couple of steps short of where we did, using one of the Captain’s very excellent, fairly neutral closure scripts. For me at least, some kinds of anger and hurt are better saved for Team Me than fired at ex-Friend. It would have saved us both a lot of grief.

    2. Unless part of the letter was redacted after posting, I don’t really see anything that implies that A is talking about anyone in particular, just about her own sexual identity and the passage of time. Am I missing something?

    3. This is the kind of thinking that leads to endless drawn-out angst. If A is missing the LW it is A’s job to get off her butt and re-establish contact. That’s what the LW tried to do. It’s not that hard.

      Maybe if the LW performed an incantation by moonlight and walked backwards around a tree looking over her shoulder and asked the Fisher King, “Whom does the grail serve?” then A would get over her complicated feels and say hi sometime. But also maybe not, and the cost in time and emotion from trying so hard could be great indeed.

      Like CA keeps saying: people who like you will act like they like you. Right now A isn’t acting like a friend.

      1. Yes, this, too.

        I may be revealing my own bias towards processing everything to death, but this kind of disengagement places a really big relational burden on the other person. I think the natural response is, “If I just do the right thing, they’ll tell me what the hell is going on.” I think it’s natural to try to communicate with the silence, and I think there is a certain amount of good-faith ambiguity in situations like this, particularly when it’s online.

        And, well, there are a ton of alternative explanations for not returning emails, like death by misadventure.

        And the person I mentioned in comments did have a habit of doing this! They would impose these tests on people, e.g. every single significant other, and not tell them what the rules were, and then literally be (secretly) like, “Whoops, you did not do what I tacitly wanted, now you have incurred a one-week Monosyllabic Answers Penalty combined with a Moving in with You Is Mysteriously No Longer on the Table Time Out.” And then there would be all sorts of sub-penalties associated with not responding appropriately to this sort of thing. Which of course is a hugely constructive way to handle conflict in any relationship, right?

        (They were a nice person! They did have redeeming qualities! I am no longer contractually obligated to defend their niceness or flatter their qualities! Or sniping at years-old ex drama, even if it was literally programmed into their google calendar! ANYWAY:)

        Silence is a form of communication: it communicates all kinds of basically negative things that you are of course responsive towards, that you want to talk about. But you need to learn to hear the disengagement also, and take that as a blessing in a very cold disguise: you are dismissed, relieved of the work of this relationship. You do not have to fix this.

        1. I dunno, I think not returning any of someone’s calls or emails for a year is a pretty clear and unambiguous communication. It says ‘I don’t want to speak or email with you.’ It’s about as clear as can be to me.

    4. Are you, perhaps, thinking that “She was my best friend – at times my only friend – for almost a decade, and then she suddenly shut me out. I don’t really know what to do now. I’ve tried to find new friends, but I’m very socially anxious and I’ve never been good at talking to people, so nothing I’ve tried has worked out at all. After college, I had to move back in with my parents in a very small town, so there aren’t very many people my age in the area. I basically don’t have any friends anymore, and I feel very isolated and alone, and I don’t know what to do about it.” is the thing A wrote that OP “randomly found”? I got that impression on first readthrough, which is confusing, but that’s all still OP’s feelings about the situation, not A’s.

  7. Oh, LW. I want to give you ALL the jedi-hugs. I had to break off a very unhealthy friendship of 15+ years, and even though almost a year has passed since I’ve come into (physical) contact with this person, I still feel hurt, sad, and incredibly raw over it.

    I, too, still live in my hometown. I live with my wonderful boyfriend, which helps immensely, but even he can’t fill that “best friend”-shaped hole in my life. Getting over a long, long friendship like that has been weird and gutting in the strangest ways.

    I definitely think Blocking on social media is very good advice. I just recently worked up the courage to de-friend my ex-friend and it was a difficult decision to make, but ultimately a freeing one. I’m currently considering blocking, as ex-friend has taken to commenting on a lot of my close (not mutual) friends’ and family members’ facebook posts…

    I think some of the biggest things that helped me in my mourning were:
    -Acknowledging that the relationship is beyond salvaging and any hope of reconciliation is now gone (ie.(for me) no more day dreams of this person making a grand apology and repairing all past wrong-doings)

    -Remembering that this person hurt and disrespected you and your feelings

    -Also remembering the good times, but in the terms of “that was great and now it’s done” kind of way

    -Getting active online, on twitter, google+, groups, etc.

    Things will get better, LW. I promise they will. Just keep trying to meet people. I have a hard time imagining that I could find a better friend than my ex-friend, but I know I will someday.

    You will too.

  8. LW, I agree that blocking A online is a good idea. You can block people on tumblr, too, though the last I looked into that they can still see your stuff, it’s just that they don’t show up on your dash or in your activity page. So that can be a nice way to filter her out of that space, too. If you’re a twitter user and you two move in similar circles, blocking her on there might help (for a while twitter was recommending that I follow an ex-friend, and that was a little painful every time their name came up). If you feel up to it, it can also be good to clear through your computer and inboxes etc and purge all those files and e-mails and photos and things that accumulate over a friendship.

    I’ve seen a lot of good advice for meeting people in your area, and my only suggestion for widening your social circle is to consider looking into some online groups (if you haven’t done so already). Join a forum or a fandom. I have some very valuable online friendships in my life, and even just having a wider online social group has helped a lot when I’ve felt isolated or gone through hard times. Being able to throw a post about what’s going on with me out there and get support and encouragement back has been very comforting.

    1. Yesyesyes to blocking! I’ve done this recently from some people in my life I’m trying to get some distance from and you just can’t imagine the difference it has made not being reminded of them every single day. So amazing. So worth it. So should have done it weeks/months ago.

  9. This so very similarly happened to me. I just found a stash of letters my friend wrote me during high school (this was 25 years ago, no texting), and in one she swears her eternal love, stating that her boyfriend was fine for the time being, but she would always love me. I depended on her, maybe too much, to be the outgoing one. We went to the same college, and spent two years as roommates. After we graduated I moved back home, but we were still in easy proximity. I would call her and leave a breezy, “hey, what’s up, we should get together, call me” type of message. SHE NEVER CALLED. EVER. I gave up after a few months. We have seen each other maybe 5 times in the last 25 years, at get-togethers of mutual friends, she’s always cordial but distant. I have asked the mutual friends WHY, but they have no answer. When I think back, it would be easy to guess that she had a romantic crush on me, but I guess I’ll never know (she is heterosexual as far as I know currently). I’ll always wonder, it will always hurt.

    1. I hope you will find solace in some of the other excellent and right on comments about passive-agresiveness and the need to control. Clearly the pain of being jettisoned by a friend resonates deeply, and there have been good suggestions for putting it in its place as you leave it behind.

  10. “A. was my close friend, but she decided to drop the friendship without telling me why. It really hurt my feelings when she left, and it really bugged me to never get a good explanation for what happened, but ultimately it’s out of my hands.”

    Thanks for this. I need this one because I’ve had friends drop me out of nowhere with no explanation enough times and no way to explain it when people ask.

    1. You don’t have to pretend it was okay, that you’re okay with it, or tell a story that makes her look good. But it’s good to have something where you don’t have to run through every detail if the topic comes up, or something you can tell yourself when you feel angsty.

      1. Yup. Though in one person’s case, I have a writing piece I’m working on in which they feature incredibly prominently (the person did me a huge, life-altering, years of work favor, basically) and then they bailed very quickly and inexplicably after it was over, and every time I’ve (barely) talked or run into them since has been really awkward and brushing off on her part. I really don’t know how to handle it in the writing piece because I think a reader would be all, “WTF happened to her?!?!” and my explaining that “oh, she dumped me outta nowhere and bailed” would be devastating. I think I’ll just say that so-and-so “moved on” or “dropped out of my life soon after” and leave it super vague because explaining what happened IRL that I can’t explain would utterly derail the piece.

        Oh, the joys of memoir writing.

  11. OP, you seem to have a lot invested in A. I get that she was your good friend but it seems to me as though the friendship has been over for a long time and that happens when people move away and go to college. Also it’s not necessarily – and actually unlikely – that she is sublimating her attraction to you. I think this woman has made it clear she’s not interested in being friends with you and you absolutely should not push it one inch further.

    I feel for you with your isolation and it doesn’t sound as though you have any close friends or Team You – perhaps that’s why you’ve invested so much in this woman? But please find a Team You that is not her because it’s honestly a bit concerning the fact you have been – can we say this, Captain? – stalking this woman?

    I have obsessed with certain women while getting to terms with my sexuality so I do know that this is hard to understand but the object of your affections is an imaginary creation. The real person is someone with whom you’ve had no real contact with for two years except for her telling you not to contact her.

    For your own sake, drop it. Forget A. She’s made it clear you are not friends. Find some friends who value you.

    1. Yes, it bears repeating that while ending a close friendship without some indicator* of what’s going on is cruel, repeatedly contacting someone who isn’t answering you is not cool. And stalker-ish (actual stalking for me has the intent to terrify and control, vs. just being annoying). Even if A. was ambivalent at one time about ending the friendship, repeated contact in the face of silence was obviously not helping knit things back together or figure things out.

      That is water under the bridge – the Letter Writer can’t take it back, and contacting A. to apologize is still…contacting someone who doesn’t want to be contacted. The Letter Writer is not the only one who’s been there, though, and learning boundaries around communication is something we have to learn as we grow. Grieve the end of the friendship and move on, Letter Writer. Closure is something you give yourself.

      *That indicator can be “I’m very sorry but I don’t want to be friends anymore, I don’t have a good explanation but I do need you to stop contacting me,” which is no fun to hear, obviously, but if you are the break-up-ER it’s better than disappearing and you will save yourself some of the stalking you dread so much.

      1. I think the last para- the “moving into a new phase of life” para, is SO TRUE. That’s a problem many many people have. It’s not the same problem as “my best friend African Violeted me.” You can start to solve the first problem while still feeling crappy about learning to cope with the second. The Mystery of the African Violet is a different story from Small Town Diaries: I Survived Graduating And Learned To Like It.

        And I have to say, this sounds less like “you’re obsessed and stalking/stalkerishing” to me, and more like “the slow dawning was really slow… and then you realized.” As long as LW wasn’t calling every day or whatever, but was doing the “HAHAHA, THIS GIF” or “oh hey look at this article that reminds me of our Turkish History class” every now and again. And then… “hey, I wonder what is up?” “Huh… maybe I should just get out that something is really up. It is, oh damn. Man that really sucks… and I have to deal. Yuck. Okay…”

        Going from “business as usual + we are figuring out how to be friends post-college with busy lives and whatever” to “she hates me forever this friendship is done” with no steps in between is the sort of thing my eminently sensible mom would say is potential catastrophizing, until you have a reason to believe otherwise. “So… it’s been a year” is about when I would think “yup, okay, there’s your reason.”

        Aaaand, I am saying this because something really similar happened to me. And once it dawned (slowly) on me that “oh, hey, this person is doing some really serious avoiding of me and not just back in town for the holidays busy can’t meet up stuff” I… moved on. I know I have an easier time with moving on from ended friendships than LW, from what they say here. But still, it took a while because no one ever said “hey… this isn’t working.”

        For what it’s worth, LW, I learned a couple of years ago that African Violeting Friend? Did much the same thing to another person. So whatever it was, it wasn’t just me being a problem. Your former friend isn’t telling, so you can’t really assume, either, just like I can’t.

    2. Personally, I don’t know where you’re getting that OP is stalking A. OP explicitly said that the last time she spoke to A, A had contacted her first (to tell her to delete a tumblr post) and that was over a year ago.

      Also, call me crazy, but IMO if you decide to slow-fade (or fast-fade) someone who you’ve been friends with for over a decade, maybe remember the person you’re dumping isn’t psychic? Probably they’re going to e-mail you at least a few times before they finally stop in bewilderment, because THEY DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU KNOW — i.e., that you’re dumping them. For all they know you’re just busy with work or whatever. It’s not the first conclusion most people jump to if a friend doesn’t return an email.

      1. Yep, I’m deeply uncomfortable characterizing the LW’s behavior as even close to stalking, because as far as I can tell, A has never said or even hinted (except by her silence) that LW should stop contacting her. If A said something along those lines, even once, then LW contacting her again would be over the line. But as it is? There is no line to be over, since A has not set any boundaries, just cut LW off. At this point, LW should take the hint and move on, and it sounds like they have. But since it’s a subtle hint rather than an all out “leave me alone,” well, some of us are slower to take a hint than others.

        Since A cut off contact without setting a boundary, now LW would do well to set their own boundaries by blocking A on social media and trying to get over it. (Did the Captain mention that therapy would be a good idea for LW? Because therapy would be a good idea for LW).

        Also, secretrebel, I think you’re being a bit unfair in characterizing LW as having some sort of unhealthy attachment. Friendships are important to people, especially friendships as long as A and LW’s, and cutting off contact with no explanation is very, very different than just drifting apart because of life changes. And hell, my own A and I were friends for less than a year when she decided she hated me, which led to a few months of superficial friendliness while saying very cruel things behind my back, which eventually turned into increasingly severe silent treatment and passive aggression (all while we were roommates and also in the same social circles). The whole thing ended almost a year ago now, and I’m STILL not over it. And this is someone I only knew for like two years, total, not for years and years like the LW and A. Losing a friend is hard. Losing a friend in a way that also shows you they’re not a very nice person is even harder. Therapy helps, and meeting new people and making new friends helps, but not being totally over it is normal and OK.

        1. “Also, secretrebel, I think you’re being a bit unfair in characterizing LW as having some sort of unhealthy attachment. Friendships are important to people, especially friendships as long as A and LW’s, and cutting off contact with no explanation is very, very different than just drifting apart because of life changes.”

          Yes, this. People who’ve been dumped don’t just turn their emotions and attachments on and off like a spigot, even if that would be more comfortable for the dumper. And if it’s months before the dumpee even figures out they’ve been dumped, that sets the process back a bit.

          1. It’s not only not the first conclusion. In most contexts, it’s the paranoid unhinged conclusion, the Jerk Brain conclusion. “My friend didn’t return some emails – they’re probably just busy or something, and I should not feel neglected,” is usually reasonable. “My friend didn’t return some emails – they probably never want to speak to me again and are trying to end the friendship,” is usually really not reasonable.

            It does occasionally happen, but then again so does a sudden death in the family or a bout of rotavirus.

            And now that we run so many friendships long-distance or via email (or through a social-media network whose settings are designed to make it hard for erstwhile acquaintances to twig the cut direct), this can be extra ambiguous.

          2. Also, when this happens, at least in the early stages the person doing it will also often flat-out SAY that they are just busy with work, or whatever, because either they can’t work up the guts to say to your face that they no longer want you around, or they actually do still want your friendship, or at least, the OPTION of your friendship– they just never want to have to do any work for it. Ever. I’ve seen both happen. I still do not know exactly what was going on in my former friend’s mine, but I saw her “like” some twee FB message that said something like “Friends are like stars, you may not see them for a while but you know they’re there.” And I was all OH. WELL. THAT’S CONVENIENT. You never have to return stars’ calls, or initiate conversations with them, or bother about hurting their feelings, either! They’ll be there however you behave towards them! Bah.

            I too am not happy with the implication that there’s something wrong with having been very “invested” in a friendship. That’s shaming people for caring about a friend — what is up with that?! If she was finding it hard to get over a ten year marriage, even a year after the divorce, she could expect more understanding. Friendship is not — at least not necessarily – less important or a smaller loss than romantic love.

      2. This, totally. Between “It’s been about a year since I gave up on talking to A.” and “I deleted the tumblr blog that A knew about and made a new one, and otherwise I just avoid her online. I don’t really check Facebook anymore, because I inevitably see something she’s said to one of my old friends or something like that and I just get upset.” this letter just sounds like someone who accepted the no contact thing once they figured it out, and is still hurting over it because, you know, ten year close friendship, yeah?

        1. Right? There’s a difference between “girl I chatted with twice on OK Cupid is not responding to email”/”person I went on one date with is never texting me back” and “close friend since forever went from daily chats to radio silence”.

          Like. Repeatedly contacting the first two people is a dick, stalkery move. Repeatedly contacting the third is *completely normal*, and could have a thousand reasons, and “good friend has unilaterally decided We Are Not Friends” is somewhere down around Possible Reason #800, right after “made self sick at a pie-eating contest and cannot respond to messages due to extensive stomach distension”.

          1. It’s really sad how many people not only don’t understand this distinction, but how the conscientious-yet-anxious people don’t see the difference in one direction (and have a horrible time contacting anyone because of it, so there ends up being the lovely “I thought you were mad at me”, “no I was trying not to bother you because I thought you were mad at ME!” thing eventually once someone gets up the nerve – been THERE) and the not very self aware and kind of creepy people don’t see it in the other direction because they’ve already built up this whole closeness in their heads that just isn’t there.

            I’ve had people like that in my life and sometimes it’s my fear of being that person that makes me not reach out to people I am legit friends with.

          2. Yeha, I had someone with whom I had a friendship for years, through several cross country moves. We’d go for long periods of time without contact, then one of us would call or write and we’d resume. So it took me a long time to realize that for whatever reason, she’d ended the friendship.

            I cringe now to recall phoning her and leaving messages after she’d ended things but before I figured it out. I think I probably left about 5 message over a three month period. I guess she didn’t want a confrontation, or maybe didn’t feel like she could justify ending things. She could have sent a postcard though. I wouldn’t have kept calling had I understood the friendship was over. And I wonder for how long after I stopped calling did she jump when the phone rang, or get a sinking feeling when she saw she had a message (this was back in land line days).

            I had sent her things from my city that she couldn’t find in her city (seriously, the sunflower seeds here are so much better than the ones there?), but had just asked her for the first time to send me something from there that I couldn’t find here (pre internet days, too). I don’t think the thing I asked for was expensive or very difficult to get, but all I can think of was that somehow only she could ask for things to be sent to her. I have wondered, though, if she sent the thing I asked for and I didn’t get it and she waited for a thank you. Who knows. I also wondered if something terrible had happened, and she’d pop up again and say she hadn’t called or written because of whatever.

            I wish her well, and I still miss her. And a small part of me hopes she got friend dumped at some point…

  12. For the record, I’m not A. But what I’m about to say makes me sound like I could be A. I SWEAR I AM NOT.

    A couple of years ago, I stopped talking to the woman who had been my best friend for a while, through really hard times for both of us. There were superficial reasons for this: it was a major life upheaval time for me and we’d been drifting apart for a few months, but I am prepared to say that it was 99% me being a coward.

    Because the year before, we’d gone on a roadtrip together and I had realized that I was …I won’t say in love with her, but I had a lot of feelings that was new and scary (I’m happily queer, which she knew and was fine with and she’d made vague references to maybe being not a Kinsey 1 herself, but I have since realized I am also on the demi/ace end of the spectrum). I tried really hard to talk to her about that, but I didn’t really have the words for it, and I chickened out, and I regret that a lot.

    And I really regret letting our relationship taper off into silence. I miss her.

    So, Captain & crew: would it be horrible of me to write to her (paper letter, since I don’t even know if she uses the email address from back then, and I know her family address) to (1) apologize for being a coward, (2) explain I was having feelings I didn’t know how to cope with, (3) say that if she wants to try rebuilding a friendship I would like that very much, but she should not feel obligated, and (4) I will always be thankful for the friendship we did have.

    And LW: from the perspective of someone who could have been A? You can block the shit out of this person without compunction. They have treated you poorly, and you can and should take care of yourself first. Their weird feelings, whatever they may be, are not your fault or your responsibility.

    1. Penelope (great name, btw), do you have any indication this person wants to hear from you? If you do reach out, keep it simple.

      “Friend, I’m very sad and sorry about the way our friendship ended. It was cruel and cowardly to cut you off that way, and I want you to know that it was about my own issues at the time and not because you did anything wrong. There’s absolutely no obligation, but if you ever want to reach me here is my email. Either way I wish you well and will always be grateful for your kindness.”

      Then DROP IT. Do not go into what your issues were. Don’t offer a resumed friendship – that’s too much! It might make her feel better to hear an apology even if she doesn’t respond, or it might open up old wounds, or it might be the beginning of a reconciliation, but it has to be her choice.

      Leaving it totally alone is also a valid choice. Because you have to be ready for whatever comes back your way. If she says “yes, I really would love to be friends” and you really aren’t feeling that, you just wanted to not feel guilty any more, and you reject her again, it will be worse than if you never reached out at all. If you don’t have any mutual friends and no reason to really be in each other’s lives anymore, what is the actual purpose of reaching out?

      This is my own bias, but I will reveal it: When people I’ve made peace with losing from my life reach out and want to apologize for past stuff, it does not mean we become friends again. It means I go “ok thank you, I honestly never think of it anymore” and then block them. Like, why do you think I’m still thinking about that, random childhood bully? Get over yourself. But that is me, and obviously from today’s letter, I am not everyone.

      1. Yes. I respect your lack of interest in people who have treated you poorly, but…if someone got back in touch with me and was like, “Hey, I’m sorry,” I’d be willing to reestablish contact. There are people I don’t ever want to see again, but it’s usually because of their personality or treatment of me in general, not the way things ended.

        I don’t actually agree with this! I would much prefer to have an explanation, especially if it’s better than, “I was a shallow dickish twentysomething, and I did not know how to friend.” I would have a certain level of empathy for someone who cut me off because they panicked over pantsfeelings. I would look askance at someone who cut me off because other people are work.

        And, well, in this situation…it sounds like there might have been some awareness on comment-writer’s friend’s part. And in that scenario, I would so much prefer to have it in the open. Concisely.

        1. That makes total sense, and I am aware that I am an outlier on this. Personally, I accept the apology and say something nice, but I definitely don’t encourage a new friendship to form if it’s not someone I ever liked in the first place or someone I worked very hard to get over.

          1. Which I totally get! I would not have any hope of anything beyond “Thank you for the apology” if it were someone I had treated shabbily without any further friendship-shaped context (school bullies, work acquaintance, whatever). But I would point out that she & I were friends. We knew each other well. We shared a lot of emotions before my goddamn pantsfeelings ambushed me. I don’t think it’s unreasonable of me to think it’s possible she might be interested in reconnecting.

          2. Then you’re good! I just want to prepare you for maybe a weird reaction as all the old weird feelings come up. The people who tend to come apologize to me years later tend to be either exes, straight-up bullies, or people who have found a new religion or a new home business and would like to tell me about it vs. close friends, which colors my experience a bit. It sounds like this whole thing is a good idea for you and might be very healing to your friend. I’m sorry if my weird shit muddied your awkward waters. ❤

          3. :D:D:D:D

            WHY ARE EMOTIONS, JENNIFER, they make everything so much more complicated.

          4. Jen, have you watched Looking? I think you might love it, and there’s a plot line that follows this “new religion” theme exactly.

          5. I need to watch it because my former student works on it behind the scenes. It’s in the queue!

          6. I don’t know if things are ever really the same again, anyway. I’ve only had one official friend breakup in my life, and while we technically reconciled and became friends again after an 18-month break, there was always a whiff of awkwardness in our relationship, like that weird smell in a room that you can’t quite track down. (Is it the garbage disposal? is it the cat box? Is it the lingering knowledge that one of us once told the other one to “have a nice life?”) She ended up cutting me off without a word a few years later, and if she contacted me now and wanted to strike up a new friendship, I’d say no, because I just don’t want to go down that road again.

          7. I started looking at those weird re-connections as an opportunity to practice being gracious. (Well, I suppose, to put into practice being gracious.) Like, okay, they wanted to say “I am sorry I was a twerp.” And I don’t care much one way or another, sooo, I’ll ask What Would Miss Manners Say? and write that. I figure there may come a day when a much more prickly apology scenario will arise, and I will be grateful that I took the time to respond when the response was low-stakes for me and meaningful for them. Because I will be a mess, but at least I know how to write a gracious note.

            Utilitarian? Maybe. But at least it’s utilitarian in a polite way.

        2. I’m more of the Captain’s ilk on this, so take this for what it’s worth, but I’d still want the initial contact to be brief and light touch and not a FeelingsMail of all the Issues, because I would want the chance to think about how I felt about the person and decide whether I cared to hear it or not. I’ve been in both situations, where there was a rapprochement and where I closed the door finally albeit politely after the apology, but I wouldn’t have responded in either situation had the first contact been an emotional outpouring.

      2. Thank you, Captain. (Both for the advice and the compliment on the pseudonym! For which I should give credit to the Steampunk Name Generator.) That was pretty much what I was expecting y’all to say, and I am glad to know I was not missing a screaming red flag in my thinking.

        I haven’t heard from her since we stopped talking and we don’t really have overlapping friend groups, so yes, short and simple will be the way to go. As for your last question, I should maybe explore that more in therapy before I decide, because all I’ve got is, “I miss her. I liked her. I liked talking to her. I liked reading her writing. I think my life was better with her in it.”

        1. Well, speaking just for myself: If a former friend reached out to me in those terms, I would respond positively and I would not be confused. That does sound clear – in other words, you miss knowing this woman and talking with her, and you would like to try doing that again. That’s not conflicted. “I like reading your writing,” and, “I like talking with you,” are also good cues for what kind of contact you might like.

      3. I’m with you on this. Once people exit my life I’m not really up for the re-entry (other than those casual come-and-go semi-friendships where it is the norm for the relationship).
        I did have a veeeery awkward very late apology come my way a few years back. A guy who was my friend in elementary school, dropped me like a hot brick in junior high and then (unknown to me) stole my pencil case in high school… dropped my pencil case off at my mother’s work place and asked her to give it back to me. About 10 years after he stole it.
        How creepy is that?! Where was he keeping it?! Why did he keep it?! Also, thanks for involving my mother (with whom I have complicated issues at the best of times). I tossed that thing in the trash and went on with my life, shaking my head over my weird stolen item incident with my former childhood friend.

        1. True story: A friend from college, T, went to a wedding of someone from that set of people, and stayed with my somewhat stalker-ish ex-boyfriend and his mom at their house/bed & breakfast in NYC.

          T. called me from the bathroom in hysterical giggles, because they still had a giant framed photo of me on their mantlepiece (not me + ex all dressed up for a formal event or something where his mom wanted to hold onto a record of her son’s spiffiness, just, a photo of ME). We broke up in 1995. This wedding was in the mid-2000s. T. stole the photo, smuggled it out of the apartment, and gave it a nice NYC dumpster-funeral. They probably still had it because they forgot they had it, you know? I don’t think they were actually thinking of me at all, it was just inertia. But hey, if that guy is still keeping tabs on me somehow: Now you know what happened to your creepy photo of me! T. got drunk and stole it. 🙂

          1. That’s awful! And also awesome of your friend.
            And oh my god I had completely forgotten. My mom kept a framed photo of my brother’s first girlfriend in our living room for YEARS after they broke up. It was there through two more girlfriends. It was definitely there because she wanted it there and not because it was forgotten, because we had to move it every time we dusted, and she would get all nostalgic over it. She finally had to take it down when my brother got engaged to someone else. I would not be surprised to find it in an album some day.

    2. Well. I’m sure CA will have her own response to this, but speaking as someone who was in that situation too, on your friend’s side:

      I think that if you decide to reach out, you need to think very carefully about what you want out of this. You can have complicated feelings, and want more than one thing, but you need to have some sense of your goal. Do you want to be friends with this woman in a regular way? Do you want to catch up with her/be in contact again? Do you want to explain why you ended the friendship, and reassure her that it was not her fault, and apologize for being unkind to her? Try to separate these desires in your mind.

      In terms of the friendship: It’s been some time at this point; chances are that she has moved on. You have both probably replaced each other. While you probably still like and value each other as people in the world, you probably don’t need or want to become the same kind of friend. This is a good thing: less pressure.

      In terms of the unrequited and embarrassing crush: I had a friend tell me at the time that they could no longer talk to me because they wanted to have sex with me. It was sad, but I wouldn’t be averse if they wanted to get coffee with me now. If someone were to explain this after the fact…I think I could deal with, “I had pantsfeelings for you, and it was embarrassing, and I was too young to really sort that out.” I think, “I was secretly in love with you,” would be harder to leave in the past. So…maybe emphasize the former? It might help you (and her) separate friend-yes from lover-no.

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with quietly, briefly reaching out to an old friend one time. If you write the letter, I would try to keep the self-recrimination and the pants/heartfeelings stuff as concise as possible. I would also try to keep the reconnection as low-effort as possible: here’s my info, let me know.

    3. As someone in your friend’s position, who was cut off abruptly and completely and without explanation for the same basic reasons, I just want to say… in my case, my friend reaching back out to me after a long absence really helped to heal what were still very open wounds, even four years after she’d cut off contact. She followed the template you outline exactly. When I saw her email–even when I saw her name appear in my inbox after so many unanswered emails–I burst into tears. The explanation helped immensely. I had spent four years mourning our friendship and wracking my brain to figure out what I’d done wrong, why I’d been jettisoned.

      She’ll need to think about how much trust to invest in you and what kind of friendship, if any, she wants, but reaching out strikes me as a deeply decent thing to do.

      1. See, I love this story, and I’m glad people do benefit from the whole reaching out/apology thing! I don’t want to discourage anyone from doing this, just, know what your reasons and boundaries are going in.

        1. Yeah, I think that part is very important. The thing is, your friend is the one who lacks clarity on this – not just literally but emotionally. If you’re going to try to change that, change it: make sure that you offer her as much straightforward reassurance as possible.

    4. Until I got to your third paragraph, I was 100% convinced that you are a former friend. I wanted to second the Captain’s advice, particularly the bit about apologizing ONLY and leaving where to take any future friendship up to your friend.

      I miss my former friend (who I strongly suspect stopped talking to me for reasons similar to yours, among other things), but I’ve moved on. The time away from being friends with her also really clarified some toxic behaviors of hers that were a lot more obvious when not obscured by a veil of friendship. I don’t think there’s much chance of our friendship ever being the same again (should she give any indication she wishes to resume it), because I have changed as a person in that time, too. Unfortunately sometimes when friends “break up,” even when they reconcile and there aren’t really any clear hard feelings left, they just don’t have space for each other in their lives anymore.

      I hope you find some closure in your situation.

      1. Heart, meet throat. Throat, meet heart.

        I am 99% sure you are not the person I panicked over, but only because your spelling is American, not Commonwealth. And now I will return to carefully drafting a potential letter with your comments firmly in mind.

    5. I was hurt very badly by a friend pulling a quick fade, and I still find myself second-guessing myself, thinking, “maybe I misread something, maybe I should have tried one more time to contact her, maybe it’s all my fault,” even though I know (for all the excellent reasons already stated on this thread) that this is jerkbrain talking.

      If she were to try to contact me and say, “hey I fucked up and I’m sorry,” it would confirm that yes, that did happen, and it was screwed up, and it wasn’t all in my head.

      1. similarly I don’t think an contact and apology would change anything for me with regard to the actual friendship, but it would help to put the thing to bed in my head. And to know if/when we bumped into one another the non-commital nod would be the appropriate acknowledgement, as opposed to hostile glaring/pointedly ignoring. It might also help if she walked back the email she sent to me which claimed I was crazy and erratic because I would absolutely not be her emotional crutch when she needed it, after several months of not speaking to me!

        I think I would appreciate something that explicitly said ‘I’m sorry. I was shit to you and you didn’t deserve it’. But we would never be friends again either way

      2. It’s amazing how long the friendship-mourning period goes on for.

        I had a seriously cool chosen-family group in my twenties, going on holiday together and hanging out and so on, similar to the friends in Friends. I was part of the core group of five people, and there was an outer circle as well.

        And then it started breaking up as people moved away. But I and two other people – who were a couple – still lived in the city, and it took me SUCH A LONG TIME to realise I was being friend-dumped, because it just never occurred to me that it could come to that. I would ring them up and they would be friendly. I would invite them and they would come. But they never rang me or invited me.

        I told them this was hurting me, and they should ring or invite me, and then stopped inviting them, and I never heard from them again. Two years later I left the city and contacted them to say goodbye, and they just said goodbye as if they’d been seeing me regularly the whole time.

        And then 3 years after that I saw via Facebook that they’d had a daughter, and it hurt me all over again. And for the whole of this five year period I’d been wondering on and off what I’d done wrong.

        I never got any type of closure on it, just passage of time making it easier.

        1. And for the whole of this five year period I’d been wondering on and off what I’d done wrong.

          I wanted to point out that you don’t necessarily have to have done anything wrong to have that happen to you.

          I was part of an online community where I found a circle of friends, one of whom I became especially close to. However, after a real-life meeting, we quickly realised that we didn’t really all get along in real life and thus, the online contact minimalised over time. My relationship with closest friend strengthened briefly after that but with time dissipated, too.

          And if you asked me I honestly couldn’t tell you the reason for it. I just… wasn’t interested in her anymore, without her having done anything to cause that. I was completely fine without her in my life and, as cruel as that may sound, didn’t miss her at all, so I just stopped initiating contact and went on with my life. (A whole ‘nother kettle of fish is that while I thought our distancing ourselves from each other was mutual she apparently didn’t see it that way and a whole year after pretty much no contact sent me a letter that had some pretty shiny red flags in it and made me uncomfortable for days – but what I talk about above is the time before that where she didn’t to anything wrong at all.)

          Granted, friends you didn’t meet online and who you’re physically close to and see all the time are a somewhat different situation, but I wanted to maybe console you a bit – if it’s any consolation – in saying that them losing interest absolutely doesn’t have to mean that you did anything wrong!

        2. Hah, my local friends from my old friend group….yeah, I hear you. When I run into one of them in public it’s as if nothing ever happened (or alternately, “I’d like to link to you on LinkedIn!”), but I’m flat out no longer welcome at the house. What the FUCK.

          I don’t get it. I don’t know if passage of time makes it easier, or if you just get used to the idea. Hell, in some ways it hurts worse than my dad dying because hey, he didn’t voluntarily leave.

          1. I friend-broke up with some people a while back. Just didn’t fit, and felt crappy after hanging out with them. But even though I no longer want to be friends or hang out, I see them and the habit of friendship reasserts itself, and while I am with them, I react to them like friends, because those are the paths our interactions have always followed, even though all my boundaries are up. It’s only when I leave again that I realize that I feel crappy, and didn’t enjoy that at all, because my emotions don’t kick in until later.

          2. I ran into a friend I am currently pulling back from (not a full-on breakup but painful nonetheless because I’ve had to realize they will not ever be really “there” for me in the way I need, which makes me feel defective or not worthy enough and GAH), and a similar thing happened when we ran into each other. I kind of wondered if maybe some of it was because the friend wanted to maybe try to pretend that the recent difficult conversations hadn’t happened and was trying to *make* everything be ok. They are the kind of person who really really hates and avoids conflict at all costs, so I just wonder. But also it’s hard not to fall back into those patterns with people, especially ones where your sense of humor is really similar.

            Ugh it’s all so difficult you guys.

        3. Oh yeah. I find people who are kind and respond positively to invitations but never extend them to be the hardest to let go of. I keep finding myself thinking “are they just this way?” (who cares! because this clearly is hurting me!) and “if i could find the right way to tell them how I feel, would they care and extend invitations?” “do they secretly hate me and hang out for inexplicable, possibly nefarious reasons?”

          I find it easier to stop thinking of people who cut off contact entirely, which is extremely painful and bewildering but final. People who say the friend-things but do the not-friend things (indifferent-things are the fucking WORST) give me all the rope with which to flog myself with the Lash of Doubt and Overthinking.

          I’m going through this right now and my mantras have become: “This person is making a choice, their choice is not to contact me.” “I don’t want to be friends with someone who doesn’t desire my presence in their life enough to put effort towards making it happen” and “You can’t make someone like you by Doin’ It Rite”

          1. Oh hi, are you me? Thanks for the mantra, I shall be stealing it and using it forthwith! Very very glad to know I’m not alone in this.

        4. It is something else, isn’t it?

          I had/have(??) this friend who I met because he was an old high school friend of Darth Ex, back when Darth Ex and I were still dating. I…still have trouble putting it into words or talking much about any of it without crying. We had a horrible epic falling out at one point and I cried myself to sleep over it more nights than not. Not because there was anything pantsfeeling-ish about it, there wasn’t, it was more like “the brother I never had and didn’t realize how much I desperately wanted is dead to me and I cannot bear it.”

          And then one day I was having a bad day and couldn’t stop myself from looking at his old blog and the most recent thing he had up was a long post about how much he missed me and wished he could make things right. And for a while we were really close again…but, fucking cliche, I’ve changed and he hasn’t, and the ways in which he hasn’t changed really bother me a lot. And the friendship has dialed way back and I don’t think I’ve ever made a new friend I was close to on that level since.

          I’m kind of terrified of it, honestly. That falling-out was worse than leaving Darth Ex, and the current state of awkward semi-friendship-in-passing is OK only as long as I don’t think about it too hard, but I can’t do anything stronger right now.

    6. I will just say this: if someone sent me something like this, I would IMMEDIATELY get my hopes up that the friendship could and would resume again.

      If this is not your intention and you just want to apologize and leave again and still not be friends, either make that clear or just don’t write the letter at all. It would be stirring up whopping feelings in me to hear from one of my lost people again and I’d rather not go through that if it’s going to end in the same crap flake-and-bail way again.

      1. Yeah, I did a terrible version of that when a friend & I had parted ways definitively and then I heard she’d been in a car accident & I sent her a card. She immediately took that as We Are Friends Again! with a huge, 2-page email reply and I was all Oops, Oops, Not What I Meant! If I could go back and not send the card, I would. 😦

  13. Wow this is relevant to my interests. I am terrible at making friends.

    LW – have all the Jedi hugs. Here are some thoughts from someone just working this out. After several years of no friends at all, I just realised the other day that I have slowly turned an acquaintance into a close friend! Success! And I have a circle of casual friends I can do stuff with! I would like more than one close friend and a handful of people who I share some interests with, but hey, it’s progress. :-/

    Activity groups are the best for shy people who are afraid of inviting near strangers for coffee. If you regularly go do a thing with other people you can start to pick up acquaintances via osmosis, and some of them can become friends. Some of them might invite you to their big parties. Activity days can drift into drinks at the pub. Even if you make no friends at all at these things you’re getting out of the house and socialising with other humans and it helps with isolation, it really does. Even if you feel like you’re pressed up against the window of the friendship shop, unable to get in, it helps to go out and talk to people.

    It takes time. It takes ages to build closeness with people. Be persistent. Being in a room full of people who you don’t really know and who’s conversations you’re not really included in is hard and tiring, but you have to keep coming back to get closer to people and get connected to them and included by them.

    If you’re invited to things, go. Go to all of them (unless there’s creepy unsafeness of course). You can give yourself permission to leave early when you get exhausted by performing socially for strangers, but put in an appearance. Even if you don’t think it will be your thing.

    Another thing I’ve learnt is that you need to reciprocate invites. This is really really hard for me because I’ve somehow internalised the idea that no one would want to spend time with me so if I invite them to a thing it’s an imposition. Even if they invited me to a thing first. Logic does not play a role here. I’m working on it. Anyway – if you don’t return invites people think you don’t like them and they stop trying to get to know you and include you. Because I still suck at this I’m not sure what the magic answer is, but there are ways to invite people out that are less intimidating than just going to drink coffee with each other and have an awkward conversation. First – invite people to a thing where you don’t have to talk much, and that carries built in conversation (movies! Activities!). Second – you can invite them in small groups of a few people, so it’s less intense. Whatever tricks you can use to return invites, use them.

    Find ways to keep using Facebook. It can be an annoyance, sure, but I have actually made real world casual friends just by accepting their friend request when we met at a thing, and then discovering how much we had in common after a year of reading and commenting on each other’s posts. Get familiar with the blocking and hiding rules so you can controll who sees what (and so you can hide people who it turns out you really don’t like), and then use it to get to know acquaintances better. I literally joined Facebook only because I discovered that all the people in my acquaintance circle were using it to organise events, and I was missing all the general party invites just because I wasn’t on there. Facebook has many downsides, but if you’re trying to build a social network for yourself, it’s a pretty good tool.

    Anyway. I’m so sorry about A, and I know all about the isolation. Making new friends as an adult is hard, but be patient and it will slowly happen.

  14. Hey LW, Captain Awkward covered the feelings of loss and betrayal, but I wanted to talk about something else: feelings of self-loathing and massive insecurity. Normally, you can trust your friends to shore up your self-confidence and make you feel like you’re a good and interesting person when you have a hangover or an existential crisis. This friend is treating you like old shoes.

    And I think it is much worse to go through this after the fact, because then you feel not just betrayed but humiliated.

    It’s very easy to internalize that, and to start worrying if maybe you are an unlovable bundle of sweaty, clingy, socially-inept need whose friends are all secretly sick of the sight of you but can’t tell you because you’re just too stupid to figure it out, you’re a dense friendless loser with no friends, and you should probably just go find a hole in the ground, a dark lonely hole full of dirt, and lie in that hole without friends, because who would want to be friends with you anyway, probably not even gophers, probably not even pinworms, and, like, your ego is sitting in its shiny red car outside the party going, “I’m a fucking idiot, a fucking idiot….”

    You’re not! A is being a jerk! You will meet people who are fun to be around and not jerks!

    Remember that A’s feelings about you are A’s business. Remember that it is unkind to not inform someone that you never want to see them again. Remember that you did not deserve to be treated that way, or do anything to provoke this treatment. Don’t beat yourself up. Go out and find new people to like you. You will meet friends who will stay your friends, because you are likeable. You will find other people to trust, because you deserve good friends.

    1. Ironically, it’s probably quite crowded down there in the dark lonely hole full of dirt. :-/

      It’s a fantastic description though. I have found one of the cures is hanging around with people who act like they like you (and also removing yourself from people who tear you down, hello family and also long term partner through my entire 20s). The trick is finding the energy to propel yourself through all the awkward difficult lonely friend making stages.

      1. Yeah, but who wants to hang out with slugs?

        The other thing…when this happened to me, I was left with a huge amount of diffuse social anxiety. If I had managed to miss the fact that my dear friend was actually not speaking to me ever again, what else was I not seeing? Did all of my friends truly feel sick and tired of me? Was every missed email in fact a tacit indication that we were not friends anymore? Was my beloved college mentor not writing my reference because she secretly believed I was an utter failure in academia? Had an acquaintance not liked some recent facebook comments because they thought I was irritating and presumptuous? DID EVERYONE HATE ME? WAS I ANNOYING THE ENTIRE WORLD? SHOULD I IN FACT GO EAT WORMS?

        I know – and knew at the time! – that this was ridiculous, but these feelings did not help much during the friend-replacement interview process. Don’t listen to them! It’s your jerk brain, allying itself with jerks.

        1. I am very pleased this blog introduced me to the idea of the JerkBrain. Having a name for the phenomenon seems to make it easier to identify and control.

          1. I’ve gotten a lot better at arguing with it. “Really, Jerk Brain? You think it is logical to conclude that everyone thinks I’m boring and stupid? This is a sensible inference? Huh.” I can treat it like that awful coworker. “Wow, Jerk Brain. Wow.”

    2. So much this! Even though I had a fair few friends at the time, and had coped with all sorts of different conflicts in my life, losing the friendship that was long-lived (17 years) and foundational (I thought it was rock-solid) really undermined my belief in my own social understanding. From my POV it came out of nowhere. So I must have no judgement, essentially be a terrible person etc etc. Thankfully I had some good support through this. At one point one of my friends said ‘please be kind to my friend MBro’ and that really helped me with tackling jerkbrain!

    3. A while ago, I went crazy and really was awful to be around. Seriously unpleasant and unhappy about everything and whiny and suspicious and demanding, and I knew it, and could not stop it at the time. So when that was over, and I lost friends because of it and then their own baggage that I triggered, Jerkbrain had ALL KINDS of ammunition to play with. The massive insecurity and feelings of self-loathing were all over the place and all the time. Forgiving myself for being crazy, and learning how to make friends again sucks. Really. But I think I might be getting somewhere, and remembering the Captain’s advice about how just going out to meet people is a success helps. I’m not going out to make friends. I’m going out to meet people, and if I do that and talk to people and eat some food and have a good time, it was a success.

  15. Liz Pryor has a great book called “What did I do wrong: What to do when you don’t know why the friendship is over.” I’m not sure if the 2011 reprint has different stories but I read the original and she tells story after story of women’s friendships when one friend decides they don’t want to be friends and cuts off the friendship. The stories are kind of sad, but it might be comforting to know that it’s not just you and not you’re fault.

    1. I need to check that out, thanks for the recommendation. Does she go into why, overall patterns, etc. or is it mostly an oral history?

      1. I haven’t read it. But can we start a Reasons Why Women Do This speculation game?

        I would say one thing happening is, with American women breaking-up, confrontation and conflict are just not what we get taught to do, for all the reasons brought up here and elsewhere, many times. AND we are taught we are supposed to Be Good At Emotions. So when you deal and deal and deal until you hit a point where you just can’t any more… you walk. Silently.

        For the Break-up-ee, since we are supposed to Be Good At Friends, having that break up happen can hit really hard, because WHAT DID I DO? I FAILED IN MY RESPONSIBILITY AS A PERSONWOMAN.

        (Also, I know a lot of women who, as young adolescents, went through one end or another of Ritual Excising Of Friends Meanness. So the only experience we have with overt break ups with conversation were really not good models for how to do such things as adults.)

        … and now I must read this book because I want to know!

        1. Only women’s stories? My boyfriend and his buddies had another male friend who cut himself out of the group after many years & gave no explanation. I suppose there are gendered patterns in which women may be more likely to blame themselves but it really hurt my boyfriend & his pals. They still talk sadly about the guy who just stopped replying to emails or coming to events.

      2. I read it several years ago and you definitely get a sense of the patterns and some sense of why. I forget if she draws it out explicitly, as there is some of her narrative throughout, or if it’s just easy to pick up on. I remember stories and quotes from women who’ve broken off friendships, too. I think for many of the women causing the break up they just became less into the friendship and in some cases were just moving on with their lives and who they wanted to be in their inner circle. There was no big thing that caused the break which made it all the more confusing for the dumped friend.

        Pryor talks about how we don’t have a ritualized way to end friendships like a break-up. Many people think the slow fade (or fast fade, stop returning all communications) is the kindest way to end things. But all the really hurt and confused dumped friends wondering if they did something wrong is testament to the fact that it isn’t a kind way to break off a close friendship.

        1. But I wonder would an explicit breakup help with that? If a close friend said to me “it’s not you it’s me I’m just not feeling it anymore lets not see each other” I would still endlessly agonise over what I’d done wrong or what had happened. I would still hurt, because rejection sucks.

          I think part of the appeal of the slow fade is that we hope perhaps to downgrade a close friend to a friendly acquaintance we just drifted apart from. We don’t want to necessarily dump them out of our lives never to speak again. And because, unlike a romantic partnership, there’s no explicit commitment to do specific things together that feels possible.

          Or we hope to extract ourselves without ever saying anything hurtful or confrontational. To just politely withdraw from shared events an make excuses for invites and slowly fade out.

          Of course, if the other person is still heavily invested in the relationship and will fight to bring you back closer it doesn’t work.

          I suppose I’ve seen this from the other side. I tried to slowly pull back from a friendship with a person I found extremely toxic and weird and non-fun. She responded to my pulling back by doubling down – say if I said I was too busy to catch up that night she would invent a fake crisis that would turn out to be nothing when we met up. The way I eventually got out of that relationship was by waiting until she did something really offensive and then make that the explicit reason I couldn’t be her friend any more. And she was devastated, and wrote online that she’d just been dropped by a close friend suddenly and that I’d been really cruel to her about it. I hadn’t actually been cruel – just said I wasn’t comfortable with being friends with someone who did [offensive thing], but I can see from her side it was a crushing criticism made with the full force of me withdrawing friendship.

          So I don’t know that avoiding a slow fade is actually any better. It still hurts, it’s full of angst and drama, it might involve answers to “but whyyy?” that you don’t want to hear.

          Sudden radio silence is something I’m less comfortable with – if you need to completely shun someone telling them that you’re leaving their life for good can avoid a lot of pointless confusion and worry.

  16. “Nothing will make you feel more isolated than being surrounded by smiling well-dressed people who believe hateful things about your basic humanity.”

    THIS is exactly why I am very uncomfortable at the church we are attending. This is it. I can’t even listen to the guy at the front talk because I’m so edgy and/or angry. I can’t make conversation with anyone because I know that I can’t go past small talk (and sometimes not even manage small talk) without either lying or biting my tongue.
    Thank you for this. I was trying to figure out if something was wrong with me, my faith, whatever.

    1. I have lots of lovely not-homophobic, not-sexist friends and family who go to church and love church. But when I try to go to church with them, I end up hearing some really hateful stuff. That I know they are not okay with. That they say they are not okay with. But they say that the trade-off is worth it to them, for the community and fellowship and beautiful parts of the belief. Or, they don’t really pay attention to those messages and just try to tune it out. And that’s cool I guess? I understand why religious beliefs are precious to people, and why churches are community hubs, and everyone’s so niiiiiiiiiiice. But I can’t personally handle listening to it. Any of it. And I can’t tune it out as background. I hope you find a place of worship that works for you and can welcome you without those terrible feelings.

      1. I think the Duck Dynasty thing was kind of a watershed for me, personally? Especially since it happened in conjunction with some articles about poor Sally Ride’s extralegal widow? Who is not an animal?

        I went from being able to ignore it to spitting fury every time one of my lovely religious/conservative friends posted anything even a little bit tolerant of the idea that marriage equality is just not in God’s plan. I haven’t attended a service anywhere potentially homophobic since, so I’m not sure how I’d respond, but I don’t think it would be from a state of grace.

        For those of us who are queer, it’s also potentially a problem because closeting stunts the friendship. You can’t be part of a community when you feel like you’re always hedging, and you can’t deepen a friendship with people you can’t trust to be pleased for you.

        1. It’s interesting that the people not-being-hateful just keep quiet and maintain the status quo so they don’t rock the boat, but the people who ARE being hateful don’t feel the need to do that. I wonder, if the not-hateful people spent some time talking about their gay friends (not starting fights, just making conversation about people they know), how quickly would the hateful people start some arguments?

  17. Oh, LW, I am sorry. I am 18 months into this same grieving process.It’s rocked me harder than any romantic break up ever has (probably because I understood what happened with those). I drove all my remaining friends nuts obsessing over the why. But the really important thing is what to do now.

    I have tried (not as hard as I should, but as hard as I seem to be able to–I even went to a CA meetup) to make new friends, but I am horrible at that. Instead, I’ve found a lot of satisfaction digging deeper into the remaining friendships I already had. None of them have quite replaced Z in my life, but I realized that–no matter what else happened between us–I’d put too much weight on her in my life. No one person can be all things to another person. I wouldn’t have described our friendship that way before it ended, but in retrospect, we were too hung up on the idea of being “best friends” and I wasn’t giving other people the chances I should have been.

    “Dating” my already existing friends–even the ones who live far away (people like to be visited if you ask first!) has helped me feel a lot less lonely even when i don’t always have a full social calendar. Also, the internet is an amazing connective tissue.

    I’ve also reinvested in family–not just my parents, but extended family–the cousins i loved when I was 6 but stopped seeing regularly once we all went to college. My aunt who likes hand written letters, etc. If you get along with the parents, is there something you can do together once a week? A movie out? Game night? Watching Mad Men? Make it “special” and it will be special. Relationships gain strength from ritual. There’s a pernicious trend happening right now in reaction to the millennial economic troubles, where it’s somehow “weird” or “pathetic” to enjoy your family. F that. If you are lucky enough to like the people you are related to, enjoy it.

    I know you’re at home, and funds are probably low, but think of the people you were/are “casual” friends with. Do any of them seem like good candidates for an upgrade? I found that being direct and saying, “I’m trying to get myself out and being more social, can you keep me in mind when you do X thing?” has helped. In general, as long as you don’t get clingy, people like getting the impression that you are interested in them and like them. No one has ever responded to my “We should do this more often!” with any kind of meanness. They don’t always follow up on doing more later, but let’s be real. If someone DID react to that meanly, I wouldn’t really want to spend more time with them, would I?

    I still really need to work on the “new” friend part of adult life (all of my friends are from home or school even though I turn 30 this year), but I’ve found that these strategies help me keep the hounds of loneliness at bay. I’m an introvert and even in an ideal world, I still like more alone time than would be possible if I had the social life the media tells me I’m supposed to have. Life isn’t a popularity contest–that perspective helps me.

  18. LW–

    I’m sorry you have had to experience this, but this is obviously “A’s” problem, not yours. Unless you have been through something similar, I think many people wonder (aloud or not) “Well, what did you do to upset/anger/alienate this person.” And unfortunately, when you try to talk it out with other people, you are the one who seems “obsessed.” The sad truth is you may never know what happened, and trying to retro fit a theory, such as maybe she had a crush on you and didn’t know how to handle it, is not going to help, even if it is true. In most cases, when one friend inexplicably dumps another, without a reason, without an obvious instigating event, and without a goodbye, the problem is with the dumper, not the dumpee. You are who you have been and who you are growing into–and so is she. If she is coming to a realization as profound as sexual identity, she may have been afraid of your (and others) reaction at the time, and is just now testing the waters in her friendship pool. If she knew your orientation, she may have wanted to remove herself from what some part of her felt was a bad influence; if she did not, maybe she feared rejection, so struck first. That does not have to mean she was in love with you romantically, but that she cared enough that rather than risk your rejection, she did it first.

    I had a friend dump me and a mutual friend of ours seemingly over night (actually, a weekend). We all worked together and had been very close, and the other woman and I were utterly befuddled. Years later we learned that she had started dating someone she had determined to marry and she was worried our friend or I may let a few skeletons out of her closet. We would not have, and it hurt us a lot, but one day I thought “This is her issue, not mine, and I am not making it about me anymore.” I told her that I hoped she would be happy, and should the day come when she was interested in renewing the friendship, I would be open to talking to her about it. And that was that. She came around a few years later, divorced from that guy, because a family member outed some awful stuff, including what led to the marriage. You can’t control everything. By that time our other friend and I had moved on in our lives, jobs, education, what have you. I accepted her apology, but you know what? All the hurt feeling and wishing I knew what I did and how to fix it, and even “setting her free” were the main things we had in common, and we metaphorically shook hands and parted friends.

    I know right now, you can’t ever see getting to that point with “A”; it is not unlike the ending of a committed romantic relationship. But each day will get easier. If you have been a friend to her, reached out only to be rebuffed, and are sincerely at a los as to what you did to deserve such treatment, the answer is “nothing.” You did not create this, she did. Stow the good memories somewhere safe, maybe even take them out for an airing every few years, but recognize it is over. When your brain believes, your heart will start to accept it.

    As for finding new friend, golly but that is hard as a grown up–but not impossible. CA and the other respondents had some great ideas. If you are feeling too raw to put yourself out there cold, join a chat room/blog/what-have-you that centers on something (or things) you enjoy, and once you have made some cyber friends, see if you can take it to a new level by speaking on the phone, and if that goes well and if they are within a convenient drive, meet up in person. Worst case, you are back where you started; best case, you made a new friend (or more). No, they won’t be “A,” but “A” isn’t “A” any longer either.

    Good luck, be brave, and hold up your head. And don’t be surprised if you hear from “A” in the next year or so. And if you do, remember, you have a choice to renew the acquaintance or not. She won’t be doing you a favor by wanting to be friends, she will be doing it for herself, and that is ok. And if you find she just can’t fit in your life when she does, shake hands and part friends. You owe her nothing other than a fair hearing.

  19. Oh LW, my heart hurts for you. Something similar happened to me a couple years ago, and even though there wasn’t nearly as much history there as there was with between you and A, it really messed me up. When its someone you’ve known literally since middle school and you’ve been the talking-every-day sort of close, that’s a bitter fucking pill. And it DOES make it difficult to get out there and meet new friends, because that shadow is always there.

    Right now, I’m trying to figure out (in my own mind, I’m not stalking anybody) if a long-time friend has dumped me or not. I sent her a birthday gift earlier in the year and didn’t hear from her subsequently. She also hasn’t replied to my last two emails. We didn’t have a fight or anything. There’s basically no way to know. Also complicating this is that she’s got three small kids, one of them less than a year old, which I realize doesn’t allow much time for email. (And she’s said in the past that she expects her friends to work hard to keep in touch when she’s busy with her kids, but that was like 10 years ago, so I honestly have no idea how much weight to put on that anymore.) But the incident of a couple years ago did a number on me and I’m sick of wrestling with ifs and whys and wherefores.

    At this point I’m taking the Captain Awkward-recommended route of just letting the ball fall in her court and not speaking to her again unless and until she speaks to me. I think it’s more likely than not that she’ll pop up in six months to a year and be all, “Oh hey, E, I’ve missed you, I’ve been so busy, what’s going on!?!?” but there’s no way to know, so I’m trying to (provisionally, anyway) forget that she exists. But provisional is hard in these circumstances and I honestly don’t know how perky I’ll feel when/if she pops up again.

    1. Wow, I’m really shocked by the expectation that all the work of the friendship is off her now because of kids. Kids are a stressful, noisy, messy time sink (I speak with experience) that makes it hard to do anything beyond kids… but that doesn’t mean that parents have no more obligations to any relationship outside of said kids.
      I mean, they can choose to have no obligations and let all the other relationships fall apart. But I really don’t think it’s fair to drop all obligations and expect everyone else to pick up the pieces. Espectially for TEN YEARS or more. I can see “hey, we have a newborn so the next few months are going to be sketchy” or “kid just hit a stage of many tantrums, I’m going to vanish but please keep trying and I’ll catch up further down the line!” or something. But not a blanket statement of from-now-until-they-move-out.
      I think it’s not unreasonable to expect some minimum of effort from friends whether or not they have kids. One text once a week is not a lot of effort or time. One email a month is not either. I’d expect more once in a while but a couple “thinking of you, have you seen this movie” type texts a month can sustain a friendship with me for quite a while. Radio silence heavy with expectations will kill it.

      1. This just kind of clarified something for me. I’m at that age where many friends are having kids and I have no interest in kids myself, so we’re not going to join the same mom group in 2 years or something. It’s getting to the point where as someone’s due date approaches, I just kind of want to drop them since they won’t have time for our friendship anyway.

        This comment showed me what a good barometer might be. If a friend with a newborn resurfaces a few times within their baby’s first year, then maybe they do want to maintain the friendship and it’s worth it to keep trying. The ones that still don’t have time even though their kids are 3? Maybe I’ll just consider those friendships over. Not suggesting that parenting isn’t a big job, of course it is, and I’m not pissed at those parents I lose contact with or anything, just trying to find the people that are actually worth the effort from my side.

        1. In my experience, parents can’t really be friends with the non-parents until they’re done having kids and the last kid is about age 5 or so. Seriously. They can “make playdates,” but if you don’t have a kid for theirs to play with, you end up way low on the priority scale, they’re too busy, etc. Even a 3-year-old is still probably just as troublesome and demanding as a baby, plus they’re louder and more mobile. I think you’re kind of right to assume the friendship is over until then. The mom friends I’ve had last were ones I met after their youngest hit school age. The married couple I was friends with who were just poking their heads out to try activities again decided to have another kid and then the clock reset to zero again and I see them once a year, during which the entire visit is them chasing after the kids. Oh well.

          1. This is profoundly not my experience with my friends who are parents. The biggest change has been hanging out at their place more than meeting out. And scheduling stuff more in advance/maybe less frequently. Pregnant friends still like brunch. Commander Logic and I need to collaborate on a piece about this very thing. I am sorry that has been your experience; it didn’t have to be and your friends could have made different choices.

          2. Eh, I’d be fine with hanging out in their territory, I don’t really care. It’s just literally a case of them dropping out of contact, giving no responses, etc. because they are Too Busy. So basically another friend-dump, just one where I know why, I suppose.

          3. “The biggest change has been hanging out at their place more than meeting out.”

            Yes. We have kids, and most of our close friends do not. What this ends up meaning is that most of the time, we are hosting, and if it’s during the day, our friends know our kids will be around & demanding of some of our energy & theirs until bedtime.

            There are parents who make different choices about how to handle that, but it’s not because parents can’t be friends with non-parents; it’s because those particular human beings are making a choice.

          4. My experience is the same as CA’s and J. Preposterice’s. Also I wanted to say that having young kids can be incredibly isolating for new parents, so it may be worthwhile to re-navigate what you do together. I think some of the conflict between parents and non-parents can be that the parents keep getting invited to the same things, which may or may not be kid-friendly. So they keep declining invitations even though they are dying for grownup company, and the childless friends feel resentful, and on and on. Both parties have to be willing to use their words and figure out what their friendship looks like now.

          5. Yes, what Ethyl said.

            I had problems with people not understanding that not only were household funds now covering more people but also if both Spouse and I are to show up to kids-not-invited things, we are going to have to either find and pay an outside babysitter or trade favors with *someone* in addition to paying the costs of whatever it is.

            Also, as I said in another comment, sometimes the dropping out of a circle of friends is not due to kid PER SE but due to the presence of kid clarifying something dodgy about the group. Some things go from “don’t want to expose kid to that!” to “…wait, so do I really want to expose MYSELF to that?”

        2. It’s really easy to lose track of time with kids, but speaking for my own experience with the kid, and my kidless experience with friends with kids, friends who don’t have kids are a godsend when you have kids. Just like single friends are a godsend when you’re married. Sometimes you want to spend time with and talk with someone about something other than kids! Sometimes you want a friend who is just your friend and not a couples-friends situation!
          My best friend is single and child-free and I love LOVE to sit in her basement and talk about whatever supernatural romance she’s into lately, or listen to her latest ridiculous messages from dating sites. You know, the kinds of things I did and loved doing before my home got so crowded and busy.

        3. As someone who shares your disinterest in children, I have had some success (and some failure) in navigating this territory. Here is my advice based on my own personal experience:

          1. you gotta be willing to listen to some kid talk. Their children are very important to them for some unfathomable reason (I’m kidding!) and as a friend you should be willing to hear that and enjoy that on their behalf.

          2. there has to be reciprocity. As the Captain points out, that might look different from non-parent reciprocity in terms of availability or activities, but they should be willing to listen to you talk about your life at least and have some non-kid conversations.

          3. there’s definitely a timeline. New parents, particularly of first kids, are really overwhelmed at first, then things settle into a routine (after about 2-6 months, IME) and they resurface a bit because the child is in what I call Suitcase Phase, where it can be carried around out in public while the parents eat or shop or hang or whatever. Then there’s another crazy moment when the child becomes mobile because that’s a whole new set of parenting skills, which then calms down once the child enters full-on Toddler Phase. So there’s an ebb and flow to contact, I’ve found, based on the developmental stage of the child. And once the kids start school, I’ve found, the friendship settles again, back into something that looks more like pre-kid than not.

          4. there’s no shame in being the non-kid friend. The parents that I have stayed close with through their child-having understand that I am not the one to turn to when they need advice or conversation about kid-stuff, but I am a break from kid stuff. That’s part of what they like about me.

          That’s not to say it’s always sunshine and roses, but it’s totally doable to stay close and good friends with people who have kids, even in the early days, even if you have no interest in kids.

          1. Well put. This is pretty much my experience too. My friends’ children are important to them and by extension I care about the people important to my people! As long as you’re flexible and allow some kid talk and some non-kid talk its been fine. And I’ll admit (grudgingly) that some of the kids are cute and entertaining in their own right (as long as not crying!)

        4. This is profoundly my experience. As a mid 30’s something it’s getting to where I just have to expect my friends to stop speaking to me after the baby has dropped. Or I have to spend all my time at their houses listening to screaming children.

      2. As a parent (obviously, from my handle) I agree with this.

        I dropped off the face of the earth to my major social circle for what probably to most of the circle appeared to be kid-related reasons, but mostly are not, except for one which is a kid-related reason but not the one you might think.

        While I was pregnant with SecondKid, FirstKid was a usually cooperative and charming little girl who could often tag along to mainly-adult gatherings and not cause trouble. We had a circle of friends who were happy to let FirstKid hang out to the extent she liked and do her own thing to the extent she liked, and a bit later to coo over SecondKid.

        Then, a bit after SecondKid entered mobile toddlerhood, we had a catastrophic clusterfuck of situations happen that meant we were basically temporarily homeless for a couple of months, and wound up accepting the offer to crash on air mattresses at the home of the (at the time) one other set of parents in this social circle until our house was safe to live in again. And since it turned out we had very, VERY different parenting standards and ideals, and the adult male in this house had very different ideas from Spouse about what a marriage should be like, this was really difficult and did bad things to that friendship.

        It also did bad things to Spouse’s already-compromised ability to sleep (found out after this that he had severe sleep apnea) – and he’d fall asleep and loudly snore during various get-togethers. AWKWARD FOR EVERYONE, Y/Y? Meanwhile, our then-therapist (the one I’ve called “Dr. Unethical” in other posts) was trying to convince us that his support groups should be our primary social outlet and well, screw these other people unless they wanted to join his groups too. (See why I call him Dr. Unethical??)

        By the time we had cut free of Dr. Unethical…SecondKid was in a difficult phase that made socializing tricky, and I was stretched WAY thin from work and grad school, including being in a mandatory for my program class over the primary social night for this particular friend group, and unavailable for its Saturday get-togethers. I kept telling them and myself this was all temporary and of course we’d be back in some capacity when we could.

        But now I realize that while there are individual people in that group I like very much (and occasionally will do more one-on-one things with), there is also one hell of a Missing Stair (known for doing things like persistently hitting on a lesbian and trying to convince her to change her mind), and the Missing Stair had been caught picking up and tickling FirstKid when she did not want these things. And I’m pretty sure the Missing Stair is still around. And yeah, if it were just me and Spouse, I *might* tolerate Missing Stair by means of much pointed ignoring, but I don’t want Missing Stair around my girls AT ALL. And there are whispers of at least one other Missing Stair in this group, and NO DO NOT WANT.

        Sometimes it’s easier to let the presence of kids in your life take the blame for why you have become Queen Bitch of NoFunLand than it is to try to teach your kids to jump a missing stair or explain why you would want to. But I still miss the friends and the fun things I did as part of that group. 😦

  20. The Captain’s list for investigating potential social circles in your area is pretty awesome; I’d only add one more.

    You might see if your small town has a roller derby league. A shocking number of otherwise tiny towns do, these days. You don’t have to skate to be part of that community- though most leagues will teach you even if you can’t even a little bit- and derby in general tends to be both very queer-friendly and have a strong sense of sisterhood. It also has the advantage of being perpetually hungry for helping hands; nonskating officials and hands to help with pulling off bouts, as well as other jobs.

    Just like small groups everywhere, there are toxic leagues out there, but in my experience (small town derby league, and we go EVERYWHERE interacting with other such leagues anywhere in a ten-hour drive’s radius of us), they are by far the minority.

    1. I continue to be baffled by people’s definition of “small towns.” Freaking roller derby? Where I’m from didn’t even have a regular old roller skating rink – you know, the kind where little kids just skate in a circle? I get the impression y’all take for granted how big your cities actually are.

      1. The confusion might have to do not with how big a single place is, but with surrounding geography. I grew up in a town of 4,000 people in Vermont, but bigger towns with colleges, movie theaters/performing arts venues and, now, yes, roller derby leagues are just a short drive (~30 mins) away. But I imagine that if one is from, say, North Dakota or Wyoming, and the town of 4,000 people is the only actual town of any kind in a couple-hundred-square-mile radius, that’s going to be a different experience.

        1. I came across this documentary about a REALLY small place yesterday, which put our conversation in perspective. It’s 6.5 minutes long and quite eye opening about what happens in a place when all the people die or leave.

  21. Thank you so much for this awesome discussion. I’ve really enjoyed all of your perspectives. While I have nothing to contribute that hasn’t already been said, I can relate to the agony of that not-knowing-why feeling when a dear friend no longer seems to have any place in their life for you.

  22. LW, I am with you on the awkward, isolated, lonely thing. It sucks, and I’m sorry.

    The block function on Facebook is a life-saver. I probably wouldn’t still have an account if I couldn’t block people. My only caveat is that every so often FB will tell me there are 5 comments on someone else’s status but only display 4 and that makes me sad because it reminds me that I’ve had to block people I care about. I also unfollowed anyone who’s likely to mention or post pictures of those people without tagging them – blocking will pick up the tags and not show you those posts, but untagged photos will pop right up on your feed.

    I just started volunteering for a literacy org, as an adult literacy tutor, and so far it’s totally improving my mood and making me feel like I can get through this until I find some new friends. One nice thing about volunteering (assuming it’s any kind of decent organization) is that people will appreciate the hell out of you, often with food. It makes a good conversation topic, too. And it’s structured interaction, which is key for me, what with my rampant social anxiety and all. Blood bank canteens are also good places to volunteer – low emotional output, and you get to give out juice and cookies – or the Humane Society.

    1. Ugh yes I hate the thing where it says “5 comments” and then you click and there are only four and you’re confused for a moment and then you’re like “… Oh. Them.” I’m my case I my blockee, rather than the blocker, but it does the same thing either way. Definitely can bring all the feelings back up.

  23. I just wanted to thank everyone for their comments. My boyfriend broke up with me last month like this (i.e. “ignore her until she goes away”) and it’s been really good for me to read the comments here regarding the not-knowing-why and the feelings of betrayal, even as I still have a lot of love and empathy for him. The ‘if only I say or do the right thing, he will tell me why’? The ‘should I have seen this coming’? The ‘but if I don’t try to get back in touch, maybe he will think I don’t care!’? I so totally feel all of those.

    1. Your boyfriend is an asshole. If you’re in a relationship with someone, barring special circumstances wrt your wellbeing and safety, you owe them a damn exit interview. “Ignore her until she goes away,” is not on for middle-schoolers, let alone grown men.

      1. I know, right? I’m like, dude, apart from everything else do you realize how *childish* this is? You’re in your late twenties, for crying out loud. Mutual friends (unprompted by me) tried to figure out what was going on, but he won’t talk to them about it either so hey, at least he’s consistent?

        Anyway, I know his life is tough right now, and this way of handling things says a lot about him and nothing about me (<—LW! It's definitely all on A! It's not your fault at all!), so I've been letting go of the idea that there was anything I could have done.

        1. “I’ve been letting go of the idea that there was anything I could have done.” A+ MovingOn, well done on seeing his actions as a reflection on him and moving on with class.

    2. Dude! I had a guy do this to me in college and I was like “what the…” and “OH THIS IS WHY ALL HIS EXES KEPT WARNING ME HE WAS AN IMMATURE DICK, I BET”.

      Whatever, people who do this are awful and do not deserve awesome romantic partners. They deserve shin splints.

  24. “If you want to cut off contact with someone, fine, but you don’t get to pop up at intervals that suit you and tell them how to act. That’s on A., not you.” PREACH! Great advice, and LW I really do feel for you. A’s moves have an unpleasant aspect of power-tripping in that she got to make the decision and hold all the cards, but the advice of the captain, to claim your place among humans, places the power back with you. Be gentle with yourself; my counsellor once told me that grief takes an average of 3 years to get over. I think you speed that up by actively forming new friendships, but the 3 year frame helps me whenever I get annoyed that ex friends still occupy my head from time to time. (The advice about summarising the story so you can skip to the end is spot on.)

    Good luck LW

    1. 3 years – that’s so helpful to know. Things obviously change over those 3 years, but seeing it as a whole process that takes that long reassures me, instead of thinking it as something I should be totally over in a few months

      1. Exactly; sometimes thinking about them isn’t that painful, but then you get annoyed with yourself for thinking of them at all and it sets off a cycle. It helps a lot t oknow you’re not at fault for that

  25. I just want to add that being silently dropped by a friend, with no explanation, is such a common thing that for some reason nobody talks about. Since falling out with a friend last year I have been doing a LOT of googling on friend breakups, and there are so many stories out there. Every blog post on the topic has dozens of sad comments saying the same thing happened to them. It’s just a shame you only hear these stories if you seek them out online and that there seems to be no space for them in our daily experience.

    My own friend breakup was different because we did have a final confrontation so, I should probably add that having a reason for the breakup is not always all that comforting. I mean I’m sure it’s better than not knowing, but when your friend is treating you badly, you call them on it, and their response is “Never contact me again”…The explanation boils down to “That friend you used to like is actually kind of mean. Maybe they were always mean.” But you don’t know when or why they changed, so there is still a mystery at the heart of it all.

    One reading recommendation would be “The friend who got away” (ed. Jenny Offill and Elissa Schappell), first person stories about friend breakups of all kinds. There is even one pair of former friends who each tell their side of the story in the book.

    I feel like we should start some kind of support group for the friend-dumped, like the First Wives Club. (Can I be Goldie Hawn?)

    1. Yes, yes you can be Goldie Hawn because this is genius. I’m so reading that book. And you’re right, no one talks about it. It’s like the African Violet thing; we live in a culture that values romantic relationships over platonic ones to the point that when it comes to friend breakups there are no scripts. And I swear there’s an element of shame to it? Like part of the code of silence is that if you’re the one being dumped you must be terrible right, but your gracious friend is doing you a favour by not elaborating on your terribleness, but confronting them would bring that out into the open so best to quiet right? When in reality, as you point out, they’re being mean. I know in my own friend break-up I realised looking back that I’d seen this mean streak before but enacted on other people, and secretly I always thought that was a reflection on what good friends we were because I was safe from it.

      In short Goldie Hawn, excellent points all.

  26. LW, I’ve been dropped a few times, though for the most traumatic ones I was a fair bit younger than you. CA gave some amazing advice already, but I just wanted to say that if you have specific interests you could use to connect with people online, that could be a good bridge out of isolation while you’re figuring out what else to do. I had a few times when I was younger where I literally had 0 friends for awhile because a friend group dropped me and I didn’t find a new one yet. During those times I got close with people online and it really helped me feel less isolated.

  27. The discussion of A’s behavior has got me thinking about a related situation in my life, and I’d love input from the Awkwardeers.

    What is the best way of going about a friend breakup when the former friend has repeatedly said and done insensitive and hurtful things; when gently Using Your Words on several occasions resulted in defensiveness followed by a return to the same behaviors; when attempts to dial down the friendship to low-dose friends didn’t work (in part because you’ve reached B**** Eating Crackers by this point. It doesn’t help that my main issue with her – that she’s incredibly self-absorbed – is the same issue I had with my emotionally abusive mother, so I’m sensitive to it); and – trickiest of all – the former friend works in an HR-type role in your (rather small) office, so while not your boss has some influence on your employment? Given the above, I decided to walk away after one particularly bad Incident, involving being yelled at in public in front of a mutual friend, and downgrade all the way to a professionally cordial relationship. But I’m pretty sure that her story of our friendship ending would be very similar to A’s and others described here: that I suddenly disappeared for no reason, and through no fault of her own (after said Incident, she sent me an email saying what a wonderful time she had that day. Whut??). I didn’t feel totally right about walking away without an explanation, but I also didn’t feel I could offer an explanation again, when my previous attempts didn’t get through to her, and given her role in our office. Is there a better way I could have handled this, for future reference (or anything I should say now, months later)?

    1. Well, I think as long as reaching out (to explain your reasons) either 1) Got you nowhere up until now because the person doesn’t want to listen or 2) Is a risky thing to do because the person holds power over you, you have good reason to leave it as it is. In your case, both points are true and as far as I understood it, you did everything in your power to be cool and responsible about first saving the friendship and then ending things. Especially because of 2, I think that you are not responsible to somehow explain more.

  28. I find it really hilarious that you refer to a city with a population of 12,000 as “small.” Where I’m from is only 5,000: three streetlights, a theater with one new movie per week (one showing per day), and a small bowling alley. There are a few bars (7, if you include the VFW), but they’re all dives full old country (*cough* conservative *cough*) folks. They had a Tea Party “protest” outside the post office once – there were maybe six people. LGBTQ-anything is absolutley out. I moved away and haven’t been in a while because WHY WOULD ANYONE?

    So I can attest that as someone from somewhere with nothing to do, sometimes the best option is to get in the car and drive somewhere more interesting.

    1. Hey, it’s all about perspective, right? When I lived there it had more cows than people. Our high school was 45 minutes away in the next town. It’s grown from 6700 in 1980 to about 9700 in the early 90s when I left due to good schools and Massachusetts actually funding things like infrastructure and people converting their pastures into housing developments. Let’s compare: Your town (5,000 small) to my town (13,000ish) to where I lived next: Washington, D.C. (600,000) , Prague (1.25 million), Chicago (2.75 million), New York (8.7 million).

      I believe you that there is nothing to do where you live and that getting out was the right option, but what if it’s not an option right now for the Letter Writer? This isn’t about who is allowed to call their town small, it’s about how do you try to make a life where you are. Maybe there is something going on that she doesn’t know about. I also know that I thought there was nothing to do where I lived and I was, frankly, wrong. The town was small, but 18 year old me was also pretty small. There’s a reason I haven’t actually moved back there, and one reason is that there are no movie theaters in it. If the Letter Writer moved away from her town at 18 and never really explored the social life there as an adult, there might be stuff going on that she doesn’t know about because she was never looking before. There might not be. But it’s worth a look.

      1. My point is that sometimes there’s REALLY nothing in a town, and not to be dismissive of someone saying so – that being the case, BECAUSE there is nothing, generally people will have cars (if for no other reason than to drive the 20-30 minutes to get to a grocery store), so I wanted to suggest to LW to try other towns they could drive to for fun stuff (by whatever definition of “fun” that means for them).

        1. I don’t think anyone is dismissive at all, but I think you’re reacting in a really hostile way to these suggestions. I’m really genuinely sorry that you are feeling so isolated, but other small towns are not having things to do AT you.

        2. I think we understand each other and don’t actually disagree. I say “look around more than you did when you were in high school.” You say “and if you find nothing, DRIVE.” Cool.

    2. I grew up in a town with only 2500 people (it’s 3000 now since they’ve built a new residential area), do I win something? Anyway, stuff to do:
      – Every national holiday has its own committee and they’re always looking for volunteers, plus there are at least 5 annual events I can think of right now that have similar committees, plus that’s 11 days of activities even if you’re not organizing anything
      – Volunteer at the retirement home
      – More walking/cycling events than you can shake a stick at
      – Two pubs (and three restaurants, I don’t know where they get the money either)
      – A museum that’s actually worth visiting (and one that’s not, I’m not going to count that)
      – Tennis club
      – Judo club
      – Art club
      – Book clubs, plural
      – There are cooking workshops, candle making workshops, wine tastings… and private music teachers etc

      I have never characterised that town as a place where there’s nothing to do, and we’ve never had a theater or a bowling alley or something like that. It’s not so much the size, it’s looking at it from the point of view of ‘I’m going to do something here, so what are my options?’ rather than ‘there’s nothing to do here anyway’.

      1. That’s really impressive where you’re from had all those things in am area with limited resources (by which I mean “people, and therefore people to fund stuff”). We didn’t and don’t. Perhaps my assumption that having Things To Do *requires* a greater population (seriously amazed here), but that’s always been my reasoning as to WHY there wasn’t anything. I gave up on it and spent every free hour driving to/from and spending my time in a different town than the one in which I lived, which may be a route LW ends up taking if they’re really not in the right area.

      2. All of which, depending on demographics, can require being able to put on a smiling face to interact with people who think you’re going to hell and some of whom would welcome the chance to stone you, so. There is that to consider, when deciding whether there’s “nothing (for me) in this town”.

    3. Yeah, I’m sitting between Small-town gal and MovingOn (I think my hometown had 3000 people?) but when I ended up moving back there after college (more due to exhaustion/burnout than lack of opportunities, depressingly enough, sigh) I found many things to do.


    4. GAH pushed post too soon! Sorry, here is more complete comment.

      Yeah, I’m sitting between Small-town gal and MovingOn (I think my hometown had 3000 people?) but when I ended up moving back there after college (more due to exhaustion/burnout than lack of opportunities, depressingly enough, sigh) I found many things to do.

      1. Puppies. I worked in a vet clinic. This is really specific, but can you work in a vet clinic, LW? Or volunteer to walk dogs at your local shelter? Because my Lord, even if you are in a deep blue, hate-yourself funk, dealing with dogs and cats all day is very soothing. You have a split between the ones who are SUPER EXCITED TO SEE YOU OH MY GOD PEEEEEOOPLEEE and the ones who are really frightened and who need a lot of gentleness to be sure you’re not going to do anything awful, and between the life-affirming Jack Russel terrier who thinks you are the BEST FUCKING THING EVER and the humanity-affirming German Shepherd who you win over by being quiet and respecting her space, it’s just good to have a reason to work regularly with animals.

      2. HEARTILY second the “look outside your own age group.” My main social group when I was home was. . . paint group, a group of independent artists led by my best friend’s mom. Most of all of them were 50+ (I was 22-24 then), and it was a fantastic group. Also my watercolor skills improved 900%.

      3. Also . . . you can definitely use church groups as sort of social networking. It sounds kind of mercenary, but look: these people are ostensibly brought together by love of their fellow human beings. If they can’t tolerate being kind and compassionate to someone who is unsure, lost, and in pain, then they fucking fail at Christianity. I am not a churchy person, but I have gone to many a church group because it had good people in it. Also: free donuts are often a perk.

      I am a pretty introverted person and I was not really great at making full use of my time at home. But one of the things I want to put out there is that even in the smallest and most conservative of places (my voting region elected Steve King by a landslide, guys), there are people who are carving out exciting, wonderful, varied lives while being openly queer. I mostly was in contact with the queer families I knew via the vet clinic, actually, and most of them were people my parents’ age (40-50.) But these were people who were collecting degrees like snowglobes and going to Nepal on sabbatical. Don’t despair, LW — there are wonderful people everywhere.

  29. look i’ve BEEN A in certain situations (I’m not entirely convinced i’m not THIS SPECIFIC A, since the events here really closely resemble something that went on between me and someone closely matching the LW?) (seriously E is that you) but all i can say is that I remember getting a message from someone that said “are we even still friends” after not having talked to them for a while and thinking, I don’t have the energy or fortitude to open that can of worms. so it’s weird coming at this from an A perspective.


    but even if by some miracle it isn’t, the captain is right- block A, don’t read into her actions, don’t think they reflect negatively on you, and just accept that some people pick really shitty oblique ways to drift apart.

  30. after reflecting on the sequence of events in this letter!!!! i’m….. pretty sure I’m A here. like i remember these exact things happening, in this exact same order, with the same context?? ten year friendship, talking every day, not really talking anymore after graduating college and she moved back to our small hometown, and never responding to a “hey are we still friends” message after asking her to delete a post by a different friend. (who hey, i also dumped!! that very same year!! in much….. the same way!!)

    and it’s weird, reading all these comments about what a jerk i am, but at the same time, i was a jerk. it wasn’t honest or compassionate, but at the same time, i don’t think i could have done any differently, because events in my life have made it so that i react to breaking up with someone the same way i react to trauma, by going into survive-at-any-cost, take no prisoners mode. i didn’t have the healthy tools i needed. it’s weird, reflecting on that, and recognizing how shitty at was, while acknowledging that i had no way of doing any differently. i was living with unmedicated chronic anxiety, was highly suicidal, and being actively abused. being emotionally open with other people, or good for them at all really, wasn’t an option.

    and even if this isn’t me??? sometimes people are massively shitty, and they treat you really badly, and it’s not remotely on you to win them back or “earn” their shitty friendship back. if i were you, i’d be pissed as hell. but forget A. take driving lessons, go clam digging. visit the local comic book store, join friends of the library. you might not have a lot of people, but concentrate on having people who don’t pull that kind of shit.

    1. Bonesy, I’m really worried about you. I want you to take a deep breath and a step back.

      I’ve been where you are right now. About a decade ago, under the manipulation of a batshit Darth husband, I literally left town in the middle of the night, lying to all of my friends about where I was going and dropping off the face of the earth. I did everything but change my name. (It was COMPLICATED.) I did not even tell my best friend in the world the truth, or get back in touch with her once I settled – for about six months. I reached her, told her I was getting my life in order, and I wasn’t ready to talk to or reconcile with anyone else from my old life.

      Fast forward… years. I got control of the undiagnosed medical problem that, as it turned out, was causing chronic fatigue and disorientation, and facilitating Darth’s ability to gaslight and manipulate me. I got a job that turned into a career. I made some new friends. I got divorced and got therapy. I rejoined a hobby and a nationwide club I’d been part of in the old place, and ran into people with whom I shared mutual friends. I got on Facebook.

      I got a friend request from someone from back then, a mutual friend of Bestie and I. (Her husband’s best friend, as it happened.) I called her up, sobbing and panicking, and we had a long talk about how I assumed that everyone, EVERYONE, in my old hometown hated me for what I’d done and that part of my life was OVER, scorched earth. Turns out that no, a lot of people saw perfectly well what was going on, were sad but not angry and didn’t think they could do anything to help me (they couldn’t) and got on with their fucking lives. And after I got my own life together, I was able to rekindle some of those friendships. It’s been a long, hard, scary, sad process, and there will be friendships that will never recover, but there are also people in my life today who I love and am grateful for, after I mourned their loss forever and was blessed with a second chance. Including Bestie. But sometimes I look at her and know how badly she was hurt during those months of silence. I know that I fucked up hard once and it’s on me to never abandon her like that again, that is the cost of admission to this relationship, and I’m really, truly okay with that.

      I don’t know how it’s going to be for you. I don’t know if your friendship with E, or anyone else, will ever find its way back to a new normal that you can live with. But I can tell you that you survived some horrific shit and came out of it a more self-aware person, and I, Random Internet Stranger, have faith in your ability to own your mistakes without going down the rabbithole of self-loathing, self-flagellation, and self-abuse over them. Go forth in the world with compassion. Pay forward. Best of luck to you.

    2. Hey Bonesy – regardless of whether you’re A or not, I don’t think any of us have enough information to say you/A is a jerk. Like, it’s OK and allowed to end friendships, for any reason. Sometimes there are good reasons why people fall into a deep dark hole and stop talking to their friends. Mental illness and life disasters can cause people to suddenly drop off the face of the earth.

      Is it ideal to drop a friend with a sudden freeze-out rather than an explicit message so they know for sure? No, not really, but life isn’t always ideal and an anxiety disorder is a pretty understandable reason for why that happened.

      I think we focus a lot sometimes on how someone rejected us “the wrong way”. And yes there are some ways of rejecting people that are terrible but if you’re not specifically being cruel and hurting someone (over and above the rejection) the reality is that rejection sucks. Rejection sucks if it’s mysterious silence. It sucks if it’s a run down of all the reasons they don’t like you anymore. It sucks if it’s a kindly worded letter on good paper stock hand delivered by a butler. Because the message is the same “I don’t like you anymore”.

      What I’m saying is, what you describe sounds more like a life-splosion than “being a jerk”. The LW is looking for help in getting over rejection and finding new friends, which is hard! It doesn’t mean however that no one can reject anyone else, even awkwardly and painfully with mysterious silence.

  31. When another person won’t give you answers or closure, look for some way to make them for yourself that does not depend on the other person at all.

    I had a collaborative story going with someone for most of five years, and then he stopped close to the ending. I couldn’t do anything with it without him. (In retrospect we may have written themselves into a hole and wouldn’t have been able to finish it anyway.) He never said why, just stopped responding.

    My spouse eventually said “You’re still hurting over that; DO SOMETHING.” So we printed part of it out and took it down to the ocean and folded it into little boats and let it drift burning into the sea. That seemed to get across to my heart that, for whatever reason, it was over.

    The closure activity works best if it’s flashy and, if possible, fun. We exorcised a roommate whose ghost was still somehow preventing us from using “her” room months after she left with a big ritualized throw-away-and-sweep event. In the nude. I recommend it!

  32. I’ve been where you are. I moved away from my hometown for a long-distance relationship, but kept in touch with a very close friend, who I had been close with since junior high. I broke up with the boyfriend, then a few years passed. Things happened, then things got ugly, then the friend and I broke up too. Then my best friend moved and because I’ve always had a very small circle of very close friends I ended up with pretty much no local friends to do things with. I was lonely and house-bound for several months before finally going to a Meetup group. It ended up being exactly what I needed.

    It wasn’t awesome when I first went. It was awkward and I had to make myself go several times before it stopped being awkward. But now I have friends! They are awesome people! We do stuff! And you know what? They’re BETTER FRIENDS than the breakup friend!

    It’s been about 2 years since the friend-breakup and just over a year since I started going to the Meetup group. It’s totally worth getting over the anxiety and awkwardness of that first (several) event(s) because you will probably meet people who are awesome and even if you don’t, you did something that wasn’t sitting in your house alone. Win!

  33. Like a lot of people in this thread, I also had a super-close-female-friendship-with-lesbian-undertones that faded out. There was a brief period early in college when the crush was mutual (though unspoken), but eventually she got back together with her boyfriend and we became much less close.

    LW, you don’t say if you also had a thing for A, or if you miss her platonically, but honestly, what really helped me was finally telling my friend that I was interested in her romantically, even though by that point it had been years and the timing was awful. By that point, it was less that I wanted something to happen and more that I needed to know I’d done everything I could so I could move on and stop thinking that it was a possibility. Considering that she’s never asked you to stop talking to her, and she’s inconsistent about it herself, I don’t think it could hurt, and it might give you some closure. (Well, it worked for me, anyway.)

  34. I’m amazed that so many people can relate to being on either side of this situation. This seems to be a common experience that isn’t talked about much.

    I was in A’s position, basically, except I she did know the reason. Years ago, I told my friend that I had feelings for her (we’re both women) and she did not reciprocate. I expected her response because by then, it was very clear — but I told her anyway because the heartache had been making me miserable. I told her I wanted a brief period of space before we resumed our friendship… and then I never contacted her again.

    During the “break” I had realized that our friendship had been very bad for me, and that I needed to cut her out of my life. I thought that not contacting her again was right choice, partly because of what I’ve learned on this blog (or how I interpreted the wisdom). Since we already weren’t speaking, it felt like e-mailing her to say “Actually I decided I’m done with you forever” would be like calling her to say that I didn’t want to talk. It seemed like it would be needlessly starting drama, when she already knew that I didn’t want to be friends — that’s what it means when someone never contacts you. So I thought that was the mature thing to do. But it was also because initiating contact would have been painful for me (at the time) — regardless of what I’d clumsily said when we parted, it was so clear that I needed to stay far, far away from this person. And e-mailing her would be the opposite of that. So I thought it was best for us both to simply move on.

  35. Definitely volunteer!

    In particular, I recommend looking for any volunteer gig where you work on a project in a group. The work gives you something to focus on if you are feeling shy, and the group will be fun to talk to.

    Through volunteering, I ended up chairing a gardening committee in my area. Something like that could be perfect – we’re low key, no experience required, and minimal time commitment. Everyone ends up chatting while we garden, which grew into doing purely social happy hours sometimes, too.

    Other good options could be Habitat for Humanity (no building experience required) or meal delivery organizations. I used to pick up a CSA at Open Arms Minnesota, which packs and delivers meals to people with HIV/AIDS, and the volunteers making the meals were always chatting with each other.

  36. This is helpful advice, I’ve been going through a similar friendship break-up recently and it is devastating. Slightly different in that I know the reason – my best mate was a guy, he is getting married, didn’t tell his fiancée that I existed (we never dated, just happen to be a boy and girl whatever) and then she found out I existed, even though there is nothing dodgy about it. I TOLD him he needed to introduce me in context, not just hide me, but he is a pathetic wimp. So about 2 months before their wedding they had a falling out over it, and he limped up to me to say sorry.

    At the time my reaction was completely weird – like I was so concerned for his future with his new wife I told him we had better just stop being mates like we used to be, and he agreed. He wanted to be ‘internet aquaintences’ but actually I wasn’t okay with that, it cheapened what we had been before. Later he removed me from all his social media anyway, and I haven’t heard a peep from him ever since. It didn’t take long for me to feel utterly and completely betrayed and f**ked off, though I have not revealed this to him, nor do I plan to.

    I’m bumbling along, realising I will eventually get over it, and I am clear here who was at fault for the total waste of a 10 year adult friendship (we are in our 30’s).

    I think what I am ultimately struggling with is how, when it took so long to find that true friend in the first place, not through effort or battle as such but as an item of pure luck and circumstance (I never had a proper best friend up to the point I met him and he saved me in many ways), the idea that you can make it happen again by forcing it seems like nonsense. When you have made this thing like a fairy story about meeting this magic person, like the imaginary friend you never had, you can’t meet another one like that. The fairy story turned into a tragedy. You can’t recreate the circumstances and start again with someone else, the story went bad. There is no going back. Your magical tale of triumph against the odds has turned to one about the inherent badness of all humankind. You are now destined to wither away alone with a soul that is much shrunken.

    At least that’s how I’m feeling right now. The ultimate damage done will be my reluctance to enter into any similar relationship level with another human being ever again, to ensure that I avoid further betrayal messing with my already pretty unstable state of mind. I realise it’s an over-reaction.

    1. Gloveslap, let’s talk about fairy stories. About real fairy stories, the ones told by people who know how to suffer, the ones that are about the real shit.

      Here’s Xenophile’s telling of The Ugly Duckling. Most tellings today omit the fact that before finding his parents, the Duckling passes through house after house of people who take him in, then abuse and deride him and force him to move on.

      Psyche tried to glimpse her husband’s face, and was brutally banished from him. She only got him back after wandering the wilderness, performing impossible tasks, and braving the Underworld. She met all kinds of beings who empathized with her and tried to ease her way, but the kindness and help she received did not keep this time from being a terrible trial, and they were not the same as being with her true love.

      The advice fairy tales can give you right now is: Locking yourself away in a tower is the way you turn bitter and twisted. If you don’t have what you need, you have to set out and find it, even if your path is through the perilous wood. It will be hard and it will suck, and you probably not recognize the thing you’re looking for at first when you find it.

      When you are in a dark forest, the rules are: Be kind to those you meet whom you can help; offer no evil you can avoid; and accept help when it is offered to you.

      1. I love this. This is just what I needed to read right now.

        Especially this:

        Locking yourself away in a tower is the way you turn bitter and twisted. If you don’t have what you need, you have to set out and find it, even if your path is through the perilous wood.

        Thank you!

    2. yeah it can feel like that because connections are hard to find and all. What I will say is that you will find new friendships and they will be different but good in their own way. I’ve found that the friends I’m making this decade (30s) are of a different quality. Yes I fumbled a bit trying to find my people, but when I found them the path to friendship was much easier than it had been before. It turns out lots of people have shifts in friend groups as they get older, and so lots of people are looking for new friends. At this age we’re all at a bit of a loss before we don’t have college or school or camp or whatever to throw us together.

      Anyways I’ve found it a better experience making friends now for a couple of reasons. My bullshitmeter is now more attuned (even after the friend breakup that makes you think you can’t trust your own judgement!) – I’ll spot the non-reciprocal people sooner and not sink my emotional energy into them. I’ve also come to accept different types of friendships and enjoy them for what they are.

      There’s a bit of playing it cool, but there’s also a lot of honesty – it is now OK to say ‘I’m looking to make new friends’ 15 years ago I’d have been terrified to say that out loud. Now I feel like I’m saying ‘I’m looking to make new friends, will you be lucky enough to win the friend lottery?!’ (subtext: I’m awesome!)

      I send you jedi hugs, Gloveslap, and the assurance that if you get out there and meet new people you will somewhere find people who believe they are lucky to be your friend!

    3. Aye. Gloveslap, I feel you. I have had the story of holy shit what are the chances I travel halfway around the world and find this amazing kind person who gets me so well coil back around a bite me in the face: connection is illusory, and it only lasts so long as you can delude yourself that it does.

      The world of love, friendship, connection, can be so randomly fucking cruel. And right after you’ve been hurt, it seems both arrogant and yet MORE cruel to have knowledgeable, well-adjusted, lives-sorted folks prattling on about how you have to be emotionally vulnerable to make real friends: Bitch, I TRIED that, and it didn’t fucking work. I’m practically a walking raw wound, I’m so emotionally vulnerable! I SHOULD HAVE FRIENDS FLOCKING TO ME LIKE CARRION FLIES!

      I think the thing to remember is that you were NEVER going to get out of this with your heart intact, unbruised, undented, unscarred. There was no set of rules you could have followed, no set of indicators you could have paid attention to, no proper story you could have believed, no perfect friend you could have found, that would have protected you completely. Sure, there’s stuff you can do to decrease the damage, but by being human in the world you’re stuck with pain. You can choose pain of isolation or pain of connection, but you don’t really get to choose no pain. The girl with

      You are still living the same powerful, magical story you were living when your friend was in your life. Sorrow and bitterness are part of that story. That part of your life was not an illusion because this part of your life is different. It meant as much as it as meant.

      1. The end of the second-to-last paragraph was going to be “the girl with silver hands didn’t get to choose to NOT have her hands cut off, just how to make do with the metal ones,” but then I looked up that fairy tale and it was even more horrific than I remembered so apparently I couldn’t finish that thought.

  37. Oh man, LW. This one hit me right where it hurts.
    I’ve had this happen. A person I thought was my closest friend followed me to university, and once she got there… nothing. It was like I stopped existing. It hurt like hell, and I still don’t know why it happened, and it’s been five years.
    I’d been carrying that hurt with me for a long time, but recently I started talking about it with my therapist (who I consider to be a Very Wise Lady) and she gave me some new perspective.
    She said to envision myself standing on a cloud, surrounded by other clouds. On those other clouds are the people in your life. As you move through life, you change, and your cloud changes it’s position in the sky. Sometimes it moves up, sometimes down. And sometimes, the people around you have clouds that are moving at the same rate, in the same path. But more often they aren’t. Their weather patterns are moving them in a different way, and it’s not Bad or Good it just is.
    She said that the cloud movements sometimes cause hurt. Sometimes they make it rain or hurricane or hail and it screws things up. But then your cloud moves again, and you get back to calmer weather, and you are still floating. And there will be new people that are moving in the same path. And some of those people will never leave it, but in order to find those people you have to accept that your cloud moved, rather than focusing on the path you were on before and why you aren’t on it anymore.
    I’m still working on it, but having that to hold on to has really helped me.

  38. Hijacking this to ask a tangential question: What do you do if you are accidentally A (only not really) and don’t know how to fix it?

    I have a friend was a friend for a long time, starting when we were kids (our families were friends, which helped). I’ve sort of fallen out of contact with her. She got married; I meant to send her a handwritten note, but handwriting stuff is very awkward (because disability) and then it got to the point where responding at all would be awkward and embarrassing and I would feel the need to explain why it was late but I didn’t have a good reason. She sent me an Amazon gift card for my birthday; same thing happened, where I meant to send a handwritten thank-you because it was an awesome gesture on her part, and it never happened, and now I have to explain why I’m months late, and, just, /flail/.

    It’s gotten to the point where I can’t just e.g. drop a “hey how are you” email, because there’s been so much fail on my end that I need to acknowledge and apologise for, but I have no idea how to go about doing that. And I’m worried that she might think I hate her (see also the Captain’s general advice about how if someone doesn’t respond to your overtures that’s message of lack of interest), only I don’t, not at all. And if she *does* think that, I want to say “hey this was totally my fault and has nothing to do with you and I still want to be friends”, but if she *doesn’t* then that is a weird message to get, and I just … don’t know what to do. Because it’s way too late for me to do the Right Thing, since I don’t have a TARDIS, and I don’t know what a Semi Okay Thing would look like.


    1. Maybe a typed letter that says something like “Dear Friend, thank you for the birthday present. I’m sorry I didn’t get in touch with you sooner, but I thought I should send you a hand-written note for your wedding, and then I wanted to hand write this thank you note, and wanting to do it Just Right turned into not doing it at all. I miss you, and I’m sorry I didn’t realize sooner that the important thing is our friendship, not whether I can hand-write a note. ” and then ask how she’s doing and give her any important or amusing news from your own life.

    2. I think this is not confusing at all.

      And while there are people like A (and people who need to recover from them and move on), there are also a lot of missed connections like this. People do benignly fall out of touch all the time and wish they hadn’t.

      If I were you, I’d send an email or typed note and just say, “Hey, I was really busy and didn’t respond to some letters from you – I’m sorry. I’m also sorry I didn’t get in touch about your wedding. I meant to send you a note, but I have trouble writing things by hand and was embarrassed. I am very happy for you, and I hope you’re doing well. I would love to reconnect. Let me know if you’d like to [specific low-key suggestion].”

      And in future…I don’t think you should beat yourself up about needing to send typed notes and emails. That’s a totally reasonable accommodation, and not so gauche for someone who can write by hand easily. If you want it to seem personal, you can tuck it into a nice card.

  39. Gloveslap said: I think what I am ultimately struggling with is how, when it took so long to find that true friend in the first place, not through effort or battle as such but as an item of pure luck and circumstance (I never had a proper best friend up to the point I met him and he saved me in many ways), the idea that you can make it happen again by forcing it seems like nonsense. When you have made this thing like a fairy story about meeting this magic person, like the imaginary friend you never had, you can’t meet another one like that.

    This makes perfect sense to me.

    I have thought for a while that women (and possibly men? I can’t really speak to it, but it would take a slightly different form) have a second Romance Myth. The first Romance Myth we all know: you will find The One and that love will Complete You Forever, and it will be Easy and Happily Ever After. The second one is the Best-Friendship Myth: you will find your Best Friend and that friendship will never leave you, you’ll do everything together and tell each other all your secrets, and whatever else happens in life, you’ll have that rock to build on and that shoulder to cry on.

    Of course we think that. Fiction issues best-friend sidekicks to heroines with careless abandon, and allows those friendships to be largely uncomplicated and reliable while heroines are angsting their way through romance problems. And in my case, I had it modeled for me: sure, I’m sure my big sister’s friendship had more ups and downs than I was aware of, but all I saw was: hilarious meet-cute, 3rd grade (they hated each other!) followed by friendship, trading books, braiding hair. Marching band, commiserating over boys, emailing each other through the same major at different colleges. Ended up in the same city. Went to movies together constantly. Talked on the phone every few days.

    I wanted that. Oh, I wanted that. I even had a theory, in college: I thought I was a three-legged stool. When I could gab with my sister, when I had a good best friend, and a sweet boyfriend, I wouldn’t wobble. Very official, the three-legged-stool theory. That’s how my heart would feel full enough of love.

    And I think my longest ‘best friendship’, childhood to womanhood, was…four or five years. Fade-outs, painful breakups, having to hear secondhand why I’m no longer hearing back. Elementary school drama (Betsy, Tacy and Tibb? LIES!) and college angst and real, grown-up sorrow. Somewhere in there I admitted to myself (probably about the time I tried to cut the Romance Myth out of me) that this was obviously a story that wasn’t helping me, and “not being able to keep a best female friend” is not something wrong that needs to be fixed (or, god help me, written to CA about. Sometimes a draft shows you all you need to hear.) But the idea keeps popping up, all these years later, and I keep having to drown it all over again.

    I don’t have a single, unitary Best Friend who came flapping down from the sky with Willow’s jokes and Diana Barry’s smile and a halo of hours-long phone calls gleaming in her hair. I have a sister, who is hectic and wonderful and wise; I have a quasi-brother, who is acerbic and unsparing and insightful; I have a friend who talks with me about people who don’t exist in exhaustive and loving detail forever and loves me more the nerdier I am; and a friend who reminds me she is technically old enough to be my mother while we trade writing stories; I have a co-protagonist who never loves me more than when I aptly apply some obscure pop-culture quote; and I have ghosts. The friends I have lost, to cancer, to religion, to divorce, to distance. The friends who know what I did and the friends I never had the energy to tell what they did in my turn. Life is messy, too messy to say ‘this is how many legs I need to my stool’. God, don’t say that. You’ll stop counting, like the computer in Jurassic Park. Keep counting, keep making friends!

    It’s hard, so hard, to admit to yourself that you used to have an Official Best Friend, and lost it. Even harder is admitting that you may never have one again. But if you can, you may find that that myth was only hurting you, and your friendships. Putting too much pressure on them to be everything you needed, putting too much pressure on you to be perfect and perfectly matched. You’ll lose friends, and gain friends, and it will be a mess. But a mess of friends is a REALLY good thing to have.

    Sorry for writing a memoir!

    1. I was so lonely as a kid, now I think about it. I had friends – but they never conformed to the Best Friend Myth. How awful, to feel that people aren’t good enough to fulfil a weird fantasy, only the ones that were inaccessible or seemed to reject me were the ones I really wanted. The ones who came willing I felt were not up to scratch. I was also painfully shy, so this running inner monologue and fantasy world really ruled my life. I’m surprised anyone at all wanted to be my friend, when I think about it. It’s almost like I was being difficult to know on purpose, so the one who finally made it through the thorny shrubbery of my personality really deserved to be mine. Blimey.

      I remember going to college and someone saying to me late at night “Gloveslap, you are actually really cool!” and it UTTERLY BLEW MY TINY MIND. Acceptance! From people I find worthy to be my friend!

      Whatever, you freak.

      I am being hard on myself because I am feeling particularly bitter and cynical due to recent events. I probably don’t mean it.

      You are right though, that I have put too much pressure on everyone to be perfect. I had a think about everyone in my acquaintance – gone and still around. I am lucky to have known any of them. They are all great in their own unique ways. Just because right now exactly zero of them are people I (feel I) could randomly call up and just waffle at, or ask for some sensitive advice – what’s the big deal? Maybe I’ll find that again, maybe not. Maybe that’s what strangers on the Internet are for.

  40. Sending you all kinds of jedi hugs and virtual hot beverages, Letter Writer. In addition to all the excellent advice above, I found it helpful to remember that even if new friends don’t stick, you often meet people through them. My close friends right now are people that are friends of friends of people I don’t even talk to anymore. It all starts somewhere.
    Also, when this happened to me a few years ago, I remember feeling exhausted by the prospect of opening myself up all over again to someone new. Being really close friends with someone (for me, anyway) entails some vulnerability. It can be overwhelming to feel like you’re “starting from the beginning” again- but you’re not. You as a person have changed and grown and evolved as a result of your friendship with A; that relationship wasn’t just a waste of emotions. Better things are in store for you, dear. Brene Browne did this super TedTalk on seeing vulnerability as a strength, which has basically become my Life Philosophy. In case it would be helpful for you as well, I’ve included it here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iCvmsMzlF7o
    And also this one: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AO6n9HmG0qM

  41. Hey, Captain Awkward and Awkwardeers – what do you do if you’re the person needing to execute a major change in a friendship – basically backing off because of feeling too responsible for someone else? I obviously (based on reading comments here) need to explain myself at least a bit but it’s really complicated and I’m going to upset someone whatever I do. Is there somewhere to talk about that?

    1. Look for posts tagged “African violet of broken friendship” – this is covered A LOT on the blog to date.

      Short version:

      Do you want to stay somewhat in contact with this person down the road, or do you want to end the friendship permanently?

      One way to get at this is to tell the person you need a break from contact. Keep it brief and don’t necessarily get into whys. And it’s ok to do it by letter or email. Script:

      Friend, I need a break from spending time together/hanging out/chatting/being your go-to person (or whatever it is you do that you need to do less of), so I’m stepping back from social media/email/phone communication/making social plans/answering texts (again, whatever you need to do less of). I’d prefer to be the one to reach out when I’m ready to talk again. I wanted to let you know what’s up, so you don’t worry if I don’t respond to communications for a while. Thank you for your understanding.”

      They will be upset, probably, especially if they are depending on you a lot for something. There is no magic way to say “Not you!” that people enjoy. So be brief and own the decision entirely:

      I need a break
      I will be stepping back from communications
      I will be the one to reach out

      Things you want to communicate:

      It’s not a negotiable decision – you’re informing them of how things will be.
      You want to be the one to re-open contact, so they shouldn’t contact you unless you contact them.

      Things you want to stay away from:

      Reasons, especially if you aren’t up for hashing things out.
      Telling them how to feel, cheerleading – “A break will be good for both of us!”

      Some people will get this and respect what you asked for by not contacting you until you contact them. Some people will be really mad and say “Oh yeah? Well me too!” If that happens, let them go! They get to be pissed off at you if they want, they get to be hurt, as long as they give you what you need, which is a break. Some people will ask you why, what’s wrong and try to fix it, or really want to pin you down on when you’ll get back in touch.

      It’s up to you whether you answer at all. If you want to keep the possibility of friendship open, maybe write back and say “I don’t have the energy to talk through all of this now, which is why I asked for a break. I’ll reach out to you in ____ time frame. That’s the best I can do.” If you’re cutting off communication altogether, maybe don’t answer at all (a break can be permanent).

      If you need to talk about that more, I suggest the forums (friendsofcaptainawkward.com) – I’m sure others are in your shoes and a discussion would be fruitful.

    2. I agree with the good Captain about brevity and I-statements, but I’m going to disagree about giving reasons. For me, “I’m going to stop talking to you for an indefinite amount of time, and I won’t tell you why,” would be maddening and heartbreaking. There would be pretty much no chance of resuming a friendship with someone who did that. “I’m going to stop talking to you because I feel too responsible for you, and I need to take care of myself right now,” would be upsetting, but understandable. And it would help underline that my friend had their own reasons for needing space that weren’t necessarily me being unloveable. It’d be much easier to give that person the space they needed and resume friendship later if they wanted to.

      You know yourself and your friend best, so you probably have an intuition about which approach would work better. I’m just chiming in to let you know it varies from person to person.

      1. I really like your scripts because they keep the onus on owning one’s feelings – “I need a break because I need to focus on myself.” The only reason I hesitate to advise giving reasons for the break is that it’s easy to get sucked into arguing about the reasons if you do. “What do you mean you feel responsible for me? You’re not responsible for me!” and if what you want to do is get some space from the person that argument can suck you in to staying right where they want you.

        1. That’s definitely true. It probably depends on the friend, on how much you can trust them to respect your boundaries.

    3. I think actually it’s maybe better to go into such a thing with the mindset that the break will be permanent and act accordingly.

      One, I think it’s kind of easy to slip back into trying to maintain that person’s feelings if you are in the mindset that the break is temporary — which totally undermines the reason for the break and may make your attitude toward them worse.

      Two, I think it’s important to see the other person as someone with agency and power in this relationship — which is to say, it’s possible that this person will not want to be your friend after this.

      Saying to yourself, “This is done,” is a sudden, brutal blow, but I would argue it’s better than having the pressure of when-this-might-be-real-again hanging over you for months.

      [And, weirdly enough, I am now in the “don’t give reasons” camp. Just repeat, “I need this” ad nauseum. Because virtually any reason you can give is going to be the Wrong Reason for the person you are talking to, and there are a lot of reasons you can give that might be true but are ridiculously hurtful to hear, and I think it’s often hard to guess which things those might be.]

  42. Hey LW,

    I just wanted to touch on this really quick:

    “If you go to the Nerdy Town Thing, someone at the Thing will say hello to you, be genuinely glad to see you, try to introduce you to other people, remember your name and be psyched when you show up the next time. Because the people who run such things like being the people who host events and introduce people to other people. You don’t have to be good at that stuff, you just have to show up and appreciate what they do.”

    I am one of those people, and I love it when I meet new people and the interesting things they like and do. You might not think what you like and do is terribly interesting, but trust me, other people will. Plus, if you show up again, I will remember your amazing website which tracks every elected government official from the founding of Michigan through the present day for all state and local offices, and be pleased as punch when I can introduce you to the person who writes about Deism as Expressed through the Federal Papers of the Madison Presidency, and her partner who has an interest in finding a way to unite all of the hodgepodge local government databases into one system for easy crosschecking of local property laws.

    So, definitely go out to some events, wherever they are. Someone there will remember you, and be glad to see you.

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