Hi Captain Awkward,
You are a great resource, and I’ve referred a lot of friends to your blog.
My problem is something I think I should totally not be having, but I am. I have a friend who I’ve known for years who will be getting married soon. Suzanne and I used to live together, and were quite close when I lived in a different city. Since I moved away a few years ago, we’ve still been in touch, but have been in less touch the past couple of years. Because of our past friendship, and how much I value her, she was a bridesmaid in my wedding when I got married a year ago.
Suzanne is now getting married. She’s asked a few people to be a bridesmaid, but when I flew in to attend some pre-wedding festivities a few weeks ago, I realized that she wouldn’t be asking me. I’m not planning to talk to Suzanne about this. I know that it’s OK for people to choose whoever they want to be in their bridal party. But it still really hurts. I find myself comparing myself against some of the other people she’s asked. I also find myself questioning our friendship, and feeling like I may have misinterpreted how close we are, or have been in the past. I also then start to go down the road of thinking of other people with whom I’d like to be closer, but who don’t seem to return the feelings of strong friendship.
The logical part of me realizes that people move on, and recognizes that it’s natural that we’ve grown apart, since I’ve lived a way for a few years, and we now no longer talk on the phone regularly. The illogical part of me is upset and hurt that she didn’t pick me, and wonders if I should just let this friendship die completely.
Do you have any advice for moving on, and being mature about this? I’d like to reach out after the wedding to rekindle our phone call check-ins, but I don’t want to impose if she really has moved on.
Thanks for the kind words, Former Friend, and wow…”former” friend?
To me, the wedding party thing is a side issue, and you’ve already handled it/are in the process of handling it. You’ll let your weird hurt feelings be what they are, you’ll acknowledge to yourself that being asked to be in her wedding was something you were counting on and it’s more important to you than you initially thought, you’ll most likely go the wedding, you’ll say nice things to your friend and have a good time, and maybe after the wedding you’ll continue to drift or you’ll find a way to rekindle your friendship. I hope you rekindle the friendship. There’s “I would have been in your wedding if you’d asked me, you know! Is there a reason you didn’t?” and then there’s “I am so happy for you, and so happy to see you!” You know and I know which one is the right thing to say to someone you love who is in the middle of a big life event.
To me, this is a question about loneliness. Your friendship landscape doesn’t look like you thought it did or like you want it to. You’re a newlywed, still settling into being part of a couple and coming off a pretty busy year or so if you just got married, so this seems like a perfect time to take stock of where your other relationships stand and make sure you’re nurturing your own social connections. It takes more effort, or a different kind of effort, to maintain friendships when you don’t have proximity & being in the same life circumstances to connect you and to make friends as an adult. So what can you do about that?
Can I make a plug for the annual weekend away with a few close friends?
I have a friend group who does this as much as possible, at least once a year, often 2 or 3 times/year. Not everyone comes every time, but everyone in the group is always invited, and here’s what it involves: You, them, snacks (cheese!), wine, an inexpensive vacation-rental-by-owner somewhere that’s near a major airport hub and also maybe on a lake, pants with no waistband, laughing until stuff comes out your nose, the anticipation of planning the trip, the 10,000 jokes and stories and inside jokes that come afterwards, trading books & nail polish colors, telephone pictionary, side trips to local tourist attractions/wineries/cider mills but lots of down-time with no real agenda, the prospect of karaoke & a spaghetti dinner at the local Legion post that we never actually make it to, no spouses. IT IS THE BEST THING. DO IT.
There are other ways to foster community and closeness with people near and far:
- The monthly or weekly casual dinner.
- Join a choir. (No, really!)
- Write paper letters. (No, really!) What if you wrote a letter to Suzanne that laid out how happy you are for her and how glad you are to know her? What if you wrote one letter to someone in your life – friends near and far, family, former teachers & mentors – every week or every month? It can just be a card, if you’re not a writer. If you don’t know what to say, start with: Thank you. I’m proud of you. I’m thinking about you and wishing you well. I’m so glad to know you. I’m so sorry that (bad thing) is happening, is there anything I can do? I’m so glad that (good thing) is happening to you, that’s the best news!
- Do some social stuff without your spouse, like a weekly class or workout group, a weekly breakfast or coffee with a friend or friends. You just got married, so I suspect a lot of the last year or so has involved a lot of “We…,” so what can you do that’s just for you and about you?
- Get a subscription to a local theater company or concert series or museum membership for you and a friend. Built in friend-dates + seeing new stuff = nice!
- If you can, take the older people in your family out to lunch or invite them over one by one and ask them all the things you’ve ever wanted to know. What was it like when they were young? Who was their first crush? What kind of stuff did they used to get in trouble for when they were kids? What was their wedding like? What’s their favorite place they’ve ever been? (This is a good Home for the Holidays strategy, too – seeing relatives separately from The Big Day of Celebration & Whatnot can be way more relaxing).
- If you can, take the teenagers in your family out or invite them over for dinner one by one and let them talk at you about everything that’s on their minds. My godmother used to do this for me when I was a kid and it was seriously the best to have the company of adult who treated me like a person and not a student or offspring to be molded for a bright future.
- Take up a cause. Help people register to vote, canvas for a political candidate, read to old people and kids, see if the library needs help sorting anything, work at the food bank, pet & walk shelter puppies. If it heals the world a little bit and you can and want to do it, do it.
That’s a giant list, so don’t do all of it! Pick one thing and try it. In a few months, try something else. You might not get exact reciprocity, and some of your friendships might remain not quite what you want them to be, and you might feel sometimes like “what am I doing this for” and that’s okay. It’s okay to be hungry, it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to be lonely and think “but isn’t there something else that’s supposed to be happening?” The only way I know to deal with that hungry feeling is to put some love into yourself and into the world and see what comes back. It won’t come back exactly how you planned it or in a way that you can even predict, but it will come back.
112 thoughts on “#791: Feeling slighted and unmoored in a friendship and looking for ways to connect.”
Your summary of the friends weekend is the best.
“…and sometimes your friends will do their Bullwinkle impression and wow you with their knowledge of easy listening songs and the physical attributes of baseball players.”
It occurs to me that your friend may have not asked you to be in the wedding party for reasons that have nothing to do with how close you are. There may have been pressures on her that you don’t know about. Or, she may have felt that a long-distance participation in a wedding party was difficult and she didn’t want to burden you with it, since you are still a newlywed yourself.
Picking bridesmaids can be as much of a political exercise as picking cabinet ministers. Who knows – maybe you can find a way to ask – maybe family obligations or peace-keeping efforts trumped friendships?
Yes, definitely. For instance, I’m pretty sure that when I get married I’ll be under a lot of pressure to pick the cousins my age for bridesmaids, because that’s just What We Do. It makes a certain amount of sense, I grew up with them, I love them, they’re wonderful, and they’re always going to be in my life. But they’re not actually as close to me as some friends I met in high school, college, and grad school, and I’m probably going to feel a little bit weird about that. I hope that when the time comes my good friends, who would absolutely be included if I could have ALL THE BRIDESMAIDS, don’t count beans and measure themselves against my cousins to figure out how much I care about them.
Not wanting to deal with a mess in my family, I just went with my sister as MOH and left it at that
My brother was my best man (and my husband’s brother was his). It was a small wedding, and I am terrible at being asked to pick favorite anythings – the quickest way to put me in a tizzy is to use small talk like “what’s your favorite x” – so the thought of having to choose one friend over all the others was just too much stress.
Similar here – both of us walked down with both of our parents and nobody else.
On top of the long distance issues, not everyone necessarily gets strictly warm fuzzy feels when it comes to being a bridesmaid. Yes, there’s all the “yeah for my friend!” emotion – but it can also end up feeling like a time, money, emotional drain. I recently had a friend get married who had lots of friends coming from overseas and was very proactive in inviting people to show up in the week before the wedding. What ended up happening for some of us was we ended up helping with loads of different “wedding things” – and as much as I still care for my friend and was happy to help – it was not fun. And I would personally not be inclined put myself or someone else in that position.
No reflection on you or your friendship, but the job of being a long distance bridesmaid may not have been fun and something she wanted to spare you. Or she knew she would need a lot of help and so asked people financially and/or physically with more capacity to help.
The reality that the experience of my friend’s wedding being stressful for me isn’t something that I hold against her. But it’s also an experience I would work to avoid placing on someone else.
I was thinking this. My best friend and I grew up together, literally from the cradle, and have known each other well over 30 years now. As kids growing up, we always used to talk about how we’d be each other’s maid of honour.
Then she got married and gave me absolutely no involvement whatsoever in her wedding. Her sister was MoH and I didn’t even make bridesmaid. At first I was a bit put out, but then thought “huh, I guess her family made that decision. And if they didn’t, well maybe she just wanted me to relax and enjoy the day. Either way, it was never my decision to make.” I went, had a great time and it never stopped me making her my chief bridesmaid when I got married a couple of years later.
Similarly, a guy I consider one of my three best friends had a fairly big wedding but only invited me to the reception and not the wedding itself. Again, at first I thought “that’s a bit off” but quickly realised he had his reasons for inviting or not inviting each and every one of his friends. I invited him and his new wife to my own wedding and it never had to be discussed.
LW, I’m not telling these boring stories to try and tell you how I think you ought to feel or to say I’m coping with it better than you are. It’s just that…I think there’s something else going on here. This isn’t about the wedding really, is it? Which is why I think the captain’s answer is perfect and I don’t feel the need to add anything, just to back it up.
Sometimes it’s political, and sometimes it’s practical. In theory, wedding party members have traditional duties, but in practice, the main duties are “help the bride in this massive high-pressure social undertaking.” The more stressed out a bride is about the wedding planning, the more likely she is to need in-person, local help from her bridesmaids. When I was planning my first wedding, I was living in a town where I had no family living closer than a 4-hour drive, and most of my closest friends friends lived even farther away. My groom was from the “tell me where I stand” school of thought when it came to wedding planning. I was working full time and attending school part time. My MoH was a gal I had known since I was in elementary school. My other bridesmaids were local friends I had only known for about a year. I had emotionally closer friends I probably would have asked if we had lived closer, but sometimes you have to go with boots on the ground.
I agree with this; I have one biological sister and one sistafriend. My bio sister was not my MOH. She is a lot younger than I am and was going through some mental health issues as well as trying to finish college, and we were having a small wedding where we were making most of the favors, decorations, etc. The sistafriend and I own a business together and we also live together. It made sense to have her as my MOH. I think my sister was a little hurt at first, but she couldn’t have done the things I needed, and since I will be in my 40s if she ever gets married, i have told her I don’t even expect to be in her wedding and that i would prefer she have one of her friends as her MOH. My sister and I love each other very much, but there are also other practical issues that are at hand.
Agreed. I went through the weird hurt feelings when I was a bridesmaid in a good friend’s wedding, but not the MOH. Then I realized that the MOH had her role because my friend had already been in her wedding, plus….she was a lot better at handling wedding logistics stuff than I would ever be (most of which was dealing with friend’s difficult mom). Plus at the time my father was dying, so in retrospect my friend was really trying to be sensitive to my feelings, which were more about an idea of being MOH than actually being MOH.
Getting a close look at wedding planning chaos helped me with those feelings, since I had to separate the idea of the friendship from the real job of being in a wedding – which it was.
True. I’ve actually only been to one wedding in my life, and it was when I was the MOH for a friend getting married in her very early 20s. I was going to college across the country, and her family attended a really conservative church I knew nothing about (they didn’t allow alcohol or music at the wedding for some reason?)… so I literally did nothing but show up for the ceremony. I was clearly the token MOH and her cousins, family, and church members were the ones helping (or rather, dictating) the wedding. Let’s just say that a cash-poor, atheist, ultra-feminist, introverted asexual with no concept of tradition makes for a lousy MOH. Oh well….
I would absolutely give serious thought to the idea that you’re not a bridesmaid because she thought she’d be doing you a small favor there. Your personal values are “because of our past friendship, and how much I value her, she was a bridesmaid in my wedding” but a lot of people don’t see them that way, or their feelings are more ambivalent. I never turned down a groomsman gig but I wish half of those invitations hadn’t been extended.
When my wife and I married we opted for no attendants at all, in part because we didn’t want a lot of them and picking one almost necessitated picking several or doing prioritizing of personal relationships and balancing that against familial ones. In a perfect world my wife would have liked one attendant each, I leaned marginally towards none. In our “after-action report” we decided we were both very happy with the way we’d gone.
Your friend may have made similar sorts of decisions and might have thought that sparing a newlywed the hassle and expense was a kind gesture.
It’s also good to remember that these things don’t always mean the same thing to other people as they do to you. When I chose bridesmaids, it had less to do with the closeness and specialness of the relationship than it did who was around and likely to be in for stuff like picking out dresses and planning bachelorette parties and such. In fact, I pretty much thought of who I’d like to go wedding dress shopping with and went from there. I mostly picked people I’d been hanging out with during the time I was dating my husband and in the lead-up to the event, because they felt more immediately a part of everything. It wasn’t a symbolic gesture of friendship; it was a celebration of the people who knew us as a couple and were fun to hang out with in the context of my wedding. It sounds like LW chose her bridesmaids for entirely different reasons, and if she were my friend she might have been really hurt if she thought my reasoning was the same as hers.
In addition to all the things mentioned above, there can also be the issue of the group dynamic. If I have three attendants and two are people I’ve known since high school and one is a work friend, does the work friend feel left out? Or, if I take my group of wacky boho artist friends, I know they all get along, but can I rely on the one who’s a regular drama factory? Maybe I go with one high school friend, one coworker and one artist – then the former classmates, fellow teachers, and general free spirits, respectively, want to know if this is a referendum on who I like best from each group. Then there may be people I think are awesome but my fiance/e cares not for and really doesn’t want them in their wedding.
I’m not married or engaged, by the way, and this sort of word problem is part of the reason why the thought of having a wedding makes me turn slightly green.
YES. Picking bridesmaids is a giant exercise in politics, and there is probably pressure – family (x2) or friends – that you aren’t aware of. The wedding is one day in the YEARS of your friendship. Please don’t let it hold so much sway.
Also, being someone’s bridesmaid is not a guarantee that you will be friends for life. Friendships expand and contract over time as each person’s life circumstances change, like a sine wave. If you like her and want to be friends, then keep being friends! Call her after the wedding and you can talk about all the great and funny things that happened.
I dunno, the friend weekend seems like a thing to maintain close friendships, rather than develop them? Like when the problem is “I don’t feel close to the people I’d like to be close to,” friend weekend sounds sadly unimaginable.
Maybe so. Though in my own experience, I didn’t know every single person in our group well or sometimes at all when we started these things, what, 12 or 13 years ago? We were members of an online community who had mostly met each other or liked each other online and then started doing these trips as a way to get to know each other and spend more time together. We didn’t know at the time of the first one or two that we’d be hanging out together until death do us part, or that so many of us would be local to each other and build strong local social ties. And not all of us hung in – people have drifted over time.
If you are sure it won’t work out for you, then it certainly won’t. Just remember, established traditions feel inevitable, but there was always a first time and some trial and error.
This. I used to run an internet forum based on my (somewhat niche) main interest, and every year there was a forum weekend at a music/art/beer festival that had absolutely nothing to do with our interest, in a beautiful town not connected with any of us but pretty much in the middle of the country so not hundreds and hundreds of miles from anyone (this is easy when you all live in England). Different people came along every year, there would always be a mixture of people I had known personally for years, Online Friends I knew fairly well but had only met in person a few times and generally someone I’d never actually met IRL. We’d stay in a cheap and cheerful guest house, get drunk, listen to loads of live music and eat good food.
It was ace. Every year.
I think that’s it– I read the “try this” paragraph as “try this–it will be [fabulous description],” when it’s more like, “it might be awesome, and you might get closer to people you aren’t close to now, or wouldn’t expect to be, and maybe other people will drift away, and maybe this group of people you try it with *aren’t* the ones you really meld with and develop inside jokes with, but you had an adventurous weekend and you can try again with different people later, and after a while it might become like this [fabulous description].” What I initially read sounded like “try taking up jogging– [describes running a marathon]”
Well, the last thing I want to do is encourage “It will be perfect or else you have FAILED” black and white thinking on the LW’s part or anyone’s part, so thanks for the reality check.
Your experience is like mine. I have worked in a couple of different countries (yeah PhD in parasites) and for my 30th birthday I invited all of my far flung friends to meet me in a cheap, but beautiful, location. They did not know each other, but it worked out because it was 5 groups of 2-3 who had themselves and me in common. We all did our own things with a few common activities. There ended up being cross group friendships and now we meet up somewhere on everyone’s 5 or 0 birthday, which works out to roughly every other year. It is great because I am a poor Skype and email communicator and therefore need to have the face-to-face periodicalky to renew ties, BUT can’t take 5-6 international trips a year (would that I could!).
But, I can see how this might have turned out disastrously and can imagine circumstances where it might end up more alienating than bonding.
Some friends and I do friend weekends like this. There’s a core group of people, and then others that may or may not get invited. I’ve had people along that I’ve never met before, but it was always great! Our bunch does a lot of boardgaming and drinking and perhaps partaking of weed on these weekends, but also walks and maybe a museum and always at least one dinner out. It is a blast!
I think you might possibly be me. Aren’t those long weekends just the best? We do ours in the Poconos Mountains, where one of the group members has a family cabin that’s about a 15 minute drive from the most horrifically amazing flea market I’ve ever seen. We’ve also had so much friend turnover (aside from the core group) that we joke that the Poconos are our trial by fire. If you want to come back the next year and are invited back, well then congrats, you’re pretty much Core Group already.
I guess I’ve gone on quite a few different weekend trips with people I didn’t know so well, without really knowing whether or not we were deepening the friendship or just having a nice experinece together because the opportunity presented itself.
I’m particularly thinking of a group of three other women who I camped with once. We drove to a canton where we hadn’t visited, saw some sites, ate out, etc. It was fun enough, and I am super happy to have taken that trip! But I am also totally cool with the fact that taking this sort of vacation has become a tradition for the three of them now that does not include me. You go on these kind of trips to learn about yourself and other people! Sometimes you learn “Hey, this person is SUPER COOL and I would like to spend more time regularly with them!” Sometimes you learn, “Hey, this person is SUPER FUCKING ANNOYING, I am really glad I DON’T have to regularly spend time with them!” (For at least one of the women in that group, my response was more toward the latter.)
I mean, this is probably a good argument for choosing a place you’d like to be anyway and activities you’d like to try anyway, and maybe having an escape route via a book or a movie on your laptop in case these peeps turn out to not be your jam. But if you’re feeling kind of dislocated and insulated from the human race, even a weekend small-doses people can be galvanizing, in my experience.
*a weekend WITH small-doses people, pardon me (also ” experinece” is supposed to be “experience,” what)
Travel tends to be galvanizing either way, in both friendships and romantic relationships. It can bring you much closer together or it can make it clear that the relationship is either done or should be. But both ways provide useful information to get you out of the “is this working? I dunno, maybe?” rut.
I agree. It can also highlight the “here is what’s not working” so you can make changes. I went on a week-long international trip with one of my best friends last year. I had some misgivings before we left, but the tickets were already bought.
Well, it was horrible in the way that only sharing a hotel room with someone you’ve realized you hate with every fiber of your being can be, and when we came back we didn’t talk for a month (and we live together, so that’s saying something). That trip was really the crux of realizing all the unspoken things we had been letting slide.
BUT. While it’s been a rough patch turning the ship around, and it took time to remember all the reasons why I really, truly, deeply love this person, our friendship now feels stronger from having to rebuild a friendship based on where we are actually at, not who we used to be.
I just wanted to throw this out there if it was helpful for anyone else. I used to be someone who was always afraid of any sort of (romantic or platonic) relationship “test” because, you know, if you don’t pass then you fail and you’re doomed and it’s all over—but that’s not actually always true. There can be a middle ground where you can learn from the test and conflict and create a new, more honest love.
I kind of feel the same about the weekend. I’ve just come from a weekend with not-so-close friends, hoping it would make us closer (I’m not great at friends) but spent quite a lot of the weekend feeling outside of the in-jokes already there (all the “oh remember when…”) instead of creating new ones. But I think the issue there is that they all know each other a lot better than they know me. Or want to know each other better than they want to know me (though the last one might just be insecurity talking…. I’m not sure).
I have friends traditions, but they’re not weekends, so maybe that’s a thing you can try. (We live within a bit of a drive, so we don’t hang out a lot, but at least it’s not fly-distance, so day-things are doable.) For instance, every year we go apple picking together. It’s a whole day of produce, and then tea, and then antiquing or winery-ing, and then dinner. And we catch up, and tell well-worn stories just to hear them again, and vent our endless (and ridiculous) pet peeves, and fun-argue about musical theater (do not get in the middle of our epic Julie Andrews v. Mary Martin slugfests — very few survive, except to have them again next year). We also do a New Year’s day thing, which is low key and filled with comic books.
Holy wow, this letter could not have been more timely for me, Captain.
LW, I also am wrestling with Feelings over a long-distance friendship that seems not to be what I thought it was (the details are different, the phase of life is different, but the feeling, I think, is the same). My strategies so far have been:
1) reduce contact with Friend so I am not fretting about this all the time – if I’m not actually being African violetted, she will presumably find some way of letting me know, and either way at least one of us will feel better.
2) This Friendship is a Stub – reaching out to the people in my town who I only sort of know but like and trying to turn it into something more. I’ve had some no’s and some yeses. It’s early yet.
I’ve had some difficulty in getting past the cultural framing of “weddings indicate how close you are to a person and what they think of your friendship.” I know, intellectually, that it doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but at this point in my life (nearly 30) it seems that every two weeks or so I hear about a different friend who has gotten married – and not only have I not been invited, but I didn’t even know it was happening.
Obviously, in most of these cases, it’s not a big deal – they’re usually people I know from college and they only invited *some* of our mutual friends, rather than *all* of them. But there have been a small number – in the range of 1-3 – where not only did I not hear that the wedding was happening until afterwards, but I felt like I had specifically been excluded. And yes, I know that’s not how wedding invitations usually work, and people can invite whoever they want, and friendship is not a guarantee of invites, and also invites don’t necessarily reflect if you’re friends. I understand all that even if I can’t internalize it.
But it still hurts like hell.
The last time this happened I cried on and off for a couple of weeks when I thought about it. Extreme reaction? Maybe. But I have a lot of issues surrounding friendship and feeling expendable, and having a hard time reaching out to people. Most of the time I do try to reach out, I get radio silence, and my jerkbrain interprets that as me just not being important to the people that are important to me.
So being excluded from a wedding of a friend that I expected to be invited to when practically everyone else I know was there can be tough to get past.
I guess there’s no real point to this post other than that I hate how weddings are seen as a relationship barometer, where if you meet certain criteria you should get a certain level of participation. I don’t want to see them that way and yet it is so deep in my brain that I can’t seem to get it out. Any suggestions on countering this indoctrination are welcome.
On a related note, my partner and I have been contemplating having my own commitment party of some kind, and I get somewhat trapped by the thought that I might make someone else feel awful for being excluded. For those of you who have had your own weddings/marriage parties/commitment ceremonies/etc, how did you get past that fear? I think it would become all-consuming if I were to get to the planning stages, given how overwhelming it already is without having even made a decision to do it yet.
On your related note, Offbeat Bride is your friend. (You don’t have to be a bride).
On your main note, I can understand that sadness of thinking, hey, I thought I was a core part of this group but it appears I am not. Do you want to be friends with these people now? Like, actual friends, not, “we hung out way back in college” friends? Are these people currently a part of your life? When was the last time you had a meaningful exchange with them that went beyond the “like” button? Are you grieving for a time when you were more connected to these people? Who are you most connected to, now?
It doesn’t fix the hurt, but if you do want to be friends, sending “Hey, I saw you got married, that’s amazing! Congratulations! What’s new? Here’s what’s new with me” letter or card might be a good move. If you want to let it go, find someone you’d like to be closer now and reach out in some way, or reach out to someone you are close to and let them know you appreciate them.
We didn’t have people to stand up with us at our wedding. It was just us, in front of all the people we’d invited. No parents to walk us down the isle, even though all parents were in attendance, no friends to stand up with us. There were some people who’d been asked to do specific things, like the dance teacher who agreed to run to (specific) dancing that we wanted and take care of the music, but that was about it. Also, we invited everyone, including a group of people who got told a week before at a gathering, ‘if you didn’t get a specific invite but want to come, here’s the info!’
What I do remember is the people who helped clean up. A frequently over-looked way of being helpful and involved is sticking around afterward to sweep the floor, wash dishes, and put away chairs (if that’s the kind of wedding/party you or your friends throw). Those are the people I remember most clearly from a lovely but busy day, and those are the people who I make an extra effort to reach out to and talk to regularly.
My partner and I had a party at a local science museum where we invited a lot of people, and the next day we had a small ceremony at his parents’ house. At the time we were thinking about having kid(s), and we only invited to the ceremony people we wanted to be part of our kid-raising community (our local relatives and sweeties). I think having a category more specific than “friend” to decide whom to invite to the ceremony helped. Also having the party and ceremony on separate days helped.
LW, I’m just guessing if you flew in to attend some pre-wedding festivities a few weeks ago, you were invited, right? If this friend is actively inviting you to celebrate big events in your life, I don’t think she’s pulling back on the friendship at all. Try not to see the fact that she didn’t invite you to be a bridesmaid as an indictment of your friendship and instead focus on the ways she is reaching out to and including you. From a stranger reading this it definitely seems like your friend still wants to remain friends with you.
My bridesmaid moved away about 12 months after our wedding. Another six months later she got engaged to a lovely guy I had met a number of times through her.
I didn’t get an invite to her hens do, and nor did we get an invite to the wedding.
Given she still lives a chunk of distance away and I dont hear that she is in town now until she’s already gone, I think its fair to say that friendship has run its course.
This one? I think it still has hope.
I so want to do this Friday Night Meatball thing, except probably not Fridays and probably not meatballs. But I’ve been craving friend-time lately and I’d love to set up a weekly or every-other-weekly get-together. Thanks for this post, CA!
I think that I’m going to be a pessimist here – and this is not you LW! – but I have a friend, call her Ethyl, that I WISH would move away. Right now, Ethyl thinks we’re very close, and for over a decade we were! But…
To me, the relationship ended when she reduced my pre-schooler (and then me) to tears over breaking a toy, one she had played with at Ethyl’s many times before. (Protip: children break and/or loose things, if this isn’t OK, then don’t give them the thing.)
Today Ethyl denies this – among other things – ever happened.
I’m working on the african violet, but her internal narrative seems to be “I’m so helpful, and I love your kid! See my helping helpful friendship! Sparkly! I love you! Love me!” so I’ve dialed back as much as I can. We have a lot of mutual friends, which she sees more as a single person than I do (because, kid), and has been free with badmouthing her ‘former’ friends to in the past. So I really, really, don’t want to confront her about it.
If Ethyl moved across the country, yeah, we would talk on the phone for a while (I’d be giving her the broadest responses that still felt personal enough she’d feel we were close) and then … not so much. so much easier than the dance I’m doing now. But I could still see her inviting me to be a bridesmaid because! we’re! so! close!
And so, LW, or Former Friend (as you call yourself) – If you think this relationship is really over, don’t press for a why. (Why wasn’t I a bridesmaid? Why don’t you ever call me/have time to talk? WHY?) I don’t think it is – you got a wedding invite! – but I would be so tempted to go off on Ethyl for the countless self-centered, thoughtless, and at times cruel things she’s done. (In the name of our friendship I’ve let a lot of these things go when it was just me, because she needed caring/understanding/love … but do not mess with my kid)
“Ethyl thinks we’re very close, and for over a decade we were! But…to me, the relationship ended when…”
If you can’t stand someone, it doesn’t make sense to remain friends, of course. But…if your perceptions are so totally mismatched, maybe there’s a case to be made that this is a time for using your words? For you, Ethyl’s incident with your preschooler is a defining moment, and you feel like your frustration should have been obvious. But it sounds like Ethyl not only doesn’t remember that it happened but also probably has no clue that you see it as part of this bigger narrative of things that you resent about her. From your description, for her, your overall long history as friends outweighs individual moments.
Mind-reading is a tricky business. If a long-time friend with young children had less and less time for me, I wouldn’t assume that she loathed me.
I’d assume she was under the time pressure of being a parent. Is it really a huge confrontation to say: “Hey, this thing that happened has actually bothered me much more than you probably realize. Resolving it would look like X to me”?
And also….if no apology I could offer would ever repair the damage, I’d want to know and end it. I’d be horrified to realize that someone had been maintaining the facade of friendship while secretly considering every interaction with me to be a chore. Sure, receiving an African violet sucks, but who considers a pseudo-friendship to be preferable?
I completely agree. As a childless single person, I find the effort required to maintain friendships with people with kids can be exhausting and completely one-sided. If one of those people didn’t want me to continue making the effort, for what ever reason, I’d rather know and, honestly, would probably be relieved.
That implies Ethyl is making an effort. In the more than two years since this incident, she’s had a standing invitation to #weekly_low_key_social_thing at my house, and I’ve tried to meet up with her if I’m in her area for lunch/coffee/anything where kid won’t interact with her stuff. I think that she’d say se was coming to about 25% of the invites, and show up for less than 10%.
If it wasn’t for her telling mutual friends how close we are, I’d assume she was doing a slow fade. As is, I’m confused. Since I stopped putting in the effort to organize things about a year ago he’s invited me out _twice_. Once because her date cancelled and she had a last-minute extra ticket (I had no sitter), and once on Monday to a Tuesday event (also no sitter). I was ‘selfish’ because I couldn’t drop everything to go with her.
We did manage a only-us coffee after an awkward series of texts – that’s where I learned that she remembered the broken toy incident totally differently (me: Ethyl met us two hours late, kid was tired and hangry, toy got broken, she yelled, kid cried, and then we didn’t eat together because she had to go to see another friend and taking the time to see us had ‘made her late’ … of which I got through the opening of do you remember … and she went “oh yeah, you always want to use my stuff (We needed ~1tsp of glitter*, and Ethyl + lunch seemed way nicer than driving to the mall for it), and I’m so tired of getting taken advantage of like that”)
So yeah; I’d like her to move away. I have other friends – single friends, married friends, friends with kids much older or younger – and it works out. We meet for lunch. Or at a place where their kids can watch mine, or where they can go at a baby’s pace while kid orbits us. Or even at their houses (gasp!). We work hard to accommodate each other – as much as we can – because we’re friends.
It’s just that Ethyl wants to be close friends with doing little to no ’emotional work’ to do so. And 10, 15 years ago I could do all the lifting and arraigning and making everything work so she could just show up and have an awesome time. Now? Not so much.
Agreed. I would not want to be an obligation to tolerate, someone who is resented, that would wreck me when I inevitably found out. And as someone without children, I would not necessarily know what was a deal breaker, especially if the parents carry on as normal and still treat me as a friend. If it’s truly unforgivable, and there’s no way she could regain your friendship and trust, let her go now while you still have enough patience and forethought to control what you say, rather than one day having that straw finally break and everything come out.
As above, I worked really hard to find a time for coffee that fit in both our schedules, and I tried to bring it up, but … we’re just working from completely different scripts. And I’d be fine if we were in agreement that as people who only see each other once or twice a year we’re not super close anymore (we don’t talk on the phone because I’m local, and I’m not much into social media usually, and if I was it would be the came closeness for her as for all of my high-school FB friends, and husband’s cousins, etc. etc.)
And none of this is a problem unless there’s a #big_event where closeness is declared via bridesmaids, or shared rooming during that weekend away, or something, and I have to _publically_ note that we’re not that close. Because not being close doesn’t seem to be a problem Ethyl want’s to fix, but having our mutual friends know that I’m not 100% Yay Ethyl all the time is a _BIG DEAL_.
So I wish she would move far, far, away so we wouldn’t have these awkward situations where she’s “Besties!” and I’m uncomfortably inching away, because we were growing apart before she hurt my kid (and there were smaller hurts aimed at kid before that, that I told kid to ignore/let go/etc. because auntie Ethyl is just like that, or some other BS. But this was a big hurt. I thought about ordering a replica of #toy on e-by and mailing it to her with a note of “since the toy is more inportant to you than the feelings of your friend or ‘niece’ here’s a new one. Never call us again.” But since I don’t want to deal with the shit she’d say about me (including childhood secrets) to mutual friends I haven’t.
I’ve seen how Ethyl acts towards others when they ‘turn on her’ and I don’t want to be in that firing line. So I’d be fine with being casual friends, or if she actually wanted to make me a priority – I could work to be friends again. But for now it’s only awkward when I clear my schedule/get a sitter/barter a night out with the husband and encounter her at a mutual friend’s.
I would think that if you’re a safe person to be around – if you can meet past friends/acquaintences/exes and have civil conversation – then they can tell you these things, instead of having them come out at #big_event.
Ugh. I feel like the suggestions made above while well-meaning assume that Ethyl is a reasonable person who simply doesn’t know you’re upset. From what you say though she is clearly unreasonable and rather narcissistic. I would def recommend slow fade and practicing boundary setting around her. And I would also guess that other people in your friendship group are likely aware that she’s a missing stair and would hopeflly take anything she said about you with a pinch of salt.
I was MoH this summer. Bride is my best friend, and I was thrilled and honoured, but holy crap is it a lot of work. By the end of the day I would’ve *loved* to have been just a guest, to kick back, chill and drink!
One of my best friends’ little sister, who I’ve known since she was but a wee thing, moved overseas last year because of fiance-then-husband’s job. She landed in a town where she knew next to no one (one or two other ‘company wives’ she’d met socially) and barely spoke the language, so I started writing Actual Paper Letters to her. She’d been getting exactly zero mail of any sort – not even bills – and was OVER THE MOON. We still email, and when she’s back we meet up if pos, but the letters continue regardless.
I’m old enough to remember regularly writing Actual Letters to all my school friends over the summer holidays but in this day and age do not underestimate the absolute joy of something personal in the letter box.
I second this! I’m in my early twenties, and for people my age I feel like there’s an extra thrill of novelty to getting actual paper mail from a friend. It’s not an efficient way to communicate, but it’s a fun one. I spent the last two summers extremely off-grid on an island, and I sent a *lot* of postcards to handle the sense of isolation I felt. You don’t have to be on an island with no phone lines to take advantage of that tool for connection, LW.
Captain, your friendship/”how to not lonely” posts always make me tear up a little. Thank you for recognizing the beauty and importance of relationships outside the usual “birth family and romantic partners” category.
Seriously. I struggle with loneliness/”how to friend as an adult” issues so much.
My version of the LW’s post that been ruminating a bit in my mind is, “Certain friends didn’t really make an effort to see me when I was back in the states for a couple months. Do they care that they haven’t seen me in 2+ years?” And on a related note, “Can I make significant friendships while living overseas? Is it even worth it to try?”
Oh man, solidarity fist bumps on this one. I’ve lived o’seas for 6 years in multiple countries – it is hard work making friends when you don’t know anyone! And then your US friends seem to forget about you. I’ve gotten through by these three things:
1. Reminding myself that it takes 1-2 years to feel settled in a new place and find “my people”. This takes the pressure off making friends RIGHT NOW.
2. I’ve had the most success meeting people through community-centred stuff: coaching kids’ sports teams after work, joining the local permaculture gardening group, helping with trail maintenance at the local park, etc. Often, I don’t meet any new friends from this stuff, but at least I’ve spent my time outside doing something I love.
3. Remember that people are busy and have a million things going on, so it’s not a reflection on you if they don’t want to be friends. They might have a new baby, a mental or physical health issue, or a really emotionally taxing job. I tell myself “that person is just living their life and might be too busy for a new friend right now” instead of “they don’t like me”.
This is hard emotional work, so be kind to yourself! Good luck 🙂
I absolutely understand this as well. I live in a country very far away from my home country, but fly back to visit about once a year for a few weeks. Some friends ALWAYS make the effort to visit me, and it means so much to me. Others tell me repeatedly that I’m free to travel another two hours or so to see them during my visit, but after a 12+ hour flight and a limited number of days to stay with my family, I’m not always eager to go rushing off to another city for part of that visit, and that’s not even taking into account my lack of transportation. It hurts when they won’t come the two hour drive to see me when I flew across the world, but… then I remember that I’ve had other friends who were vacationing in my current country, whom I theoretically could have met up with, but I didn’t have the time (too much work!) or funds (not enough work!) to make it one or several cities away to meet them along their itinerary. And it’s not because I no longer like those friends! So it still hurts, but I try to tell myself there are probably other factors as well.
I assume you have ruled this out, LW, but there is somewhere a tradition that bridesmaids must be unmarried. I have only ever heard of it as a passing comment in Anne of the Island (if I am not mis-remembering the title) and from a person who tsk’d at tying a child’s shoelaces in plain sight because that is adjusting one’s clothing in public, but it is apparently a thing.
Yes, you’re right; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bridesmaid
Traditionally the bridesmaid were unmarried women of marriageable age. I don’t think this tradition is in much use today, but I know that some people still follow it – my grandma for instance, she was livid over the fact that my cousin chose her best friend – married since a couple of years, with 2 children – as bridesmaid, since the bridesmaid traditionally should be a virgin… Thankfully I don’t think people nowadays follow that “rule “either.
I think that’s why sometimes there is a matron of honor – that’s the title if they’re married. But I’ve seen plenty of married bridesmaids standing up with brides or grooms so that may not be relevant.
Yes, think of the implications of that – if you have a social circle of friends who are already married or once were, you would have to “trade them in,” so to speak, for a group of unmarried friends, just so you could be the first among them to get married. That’s an awfully disposable view of human relationships.
Though I’m old enough to remember when visibly pregnant bridesmaids or matrons of honor were still a big deal.
The narrowness of this, plus the weird way it exempts the matron of honor, plus the fact of my UK friends not being aware of it, makes me wonder if it is not like “do not end a sentence with a preposition, ” started by one cranky guy speaking as if he had authority. Then again, I am old enough to remember when my mother’s pregnancy/ baby book warning her that some people think that being visibly pregnant in public was vulgar and to be prepared for a little slut-shaming if, for some reason, you were forced to pass outside your door. I kind of wonder how the mothers of Boomers managed…
In my 1980s UK childhood, bridesmaids were unmarried, and any matron of honour was married. But by the time my generation was getting married, everyone was a bridesmaid. A chief bridesmaid is the one who does the main running about/best man equivalent.
I just thought along the lines of what Emmy Rae said, that if you’re single you’re “bridesmaid” and if you’re married you’re “matron of honor”. Of course I have never heard of such a division for best man. I guess it’s like Miss/Mrs. vs. just one Mr. — women’s marital status is sooo much more relevant
My husband and I tried to organize a friends weekend and invited both groups of our high school friends (actually his are friends since grade school, many of mine since middle school). A few people made noises about wanting to come, but in the end no one committed, citing lack of funds, busyness, or just not responding at all. We ending up going with two couples we are friends with in our current city, which was awesome and very fun but we were sad that no one else came. Two different friends from my high school group got married last month, the last ones in the group, and at the second wedding I realized I might not see this group again, all together, for… years? Ever? I’d like to try the friends weekend again but I’m afraid it will fizzle again after we’ve already committed our own time and money.
If you are doing a vacation rental, try looking for one within your core travel group’s budget that has a little bit more space than what you need. Then you can send out an announcement to the friends you would like to join and say, “I’ve got a group going to X place on Y dates, and we have room for 2 more! Let me know if you are interested. I’ll need a commitment by Z date.”
If your older friends come along, great! You can adjust your accommodation-sharing math. If they can’t, all of the committed travelers are still within their budget.
I just wanted to say to the LW that last year I also was not asked to be a bridesmaid at a close friend’s wedding and yeah…. it hurt. A lot. I googled for other people who were dealing with the same weird feelings about it and people were really dismissive, or it was the whole “well it would have been expensive anyway, haha, lucky you” thing – that only made me feel worse – I’d have happily paid any amount of money to stand up next to my friend, if she wanted me there.
But she didn’t. But they did want my boyfriend to be a groomsman. So I sat through all the pre-wedding events and the speeches and social media posts about how amaaaaazing her “best girls!” were. It’s a hard thing to feel excluded and lonely and not-good-enough next to someone who love who is basking in all the opposite feelings of being loved and celebrated.
After a lot of soul searching I realized that I was putting more effort into the relationship with that person than I was getting back, even before the wedding, and that’s part of why I felt so bad. So I dialed my efforts in the friendship back to match hers, not spitefully (I really really didn’t want to be spiteful), but just to free up my time to pursue new friendships or deepen other existing ones. I channeled my bad feelings into motivation to schedule hangouts with other people and stuff like that. Because feeling sorry for yourself is only fun for so long. By the time the wedding rolled around, I was able to attend and celebrate them genuinely without my weird feelings getting in the way.
Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I hear you and I know how bad this can feel, but those feelings will eventually go away, if you let them, and things will get better. -hugs-
LW, I’m so sorry you are hurting not knowing what the actual state of your friendship might be (how you view it compared with how your friend views it), and having the issue unresolved as you set off to attend and celebrate with her. That’s not a great feeling.
I wish it were considered appropriate for people to be more open talking about things like how a wedding party was selected. It would clear up a lot of uncertainty and probably a lot of hurt feelings. And I can see just from reading the comments here that people really *do* have varying ideas about how wedding party decisions should be made and what they mean, if anything. What would have positive significance for one person might actually mean quite the opposite for another. And vice versa. Without being a mind reader, we can’t possibly know.
As Lizz wrote, above, what can really hurt is being there enough to see the gifts being given to the wedding party and all the fanfare around the “girls,” yet not to be included in that select group (to be on the outside looking in).
If you flew in for pre-wedding festivities, that suggests you have a significant commitment to this friendship, as you will also have to fly for the actual wedding itself. You are going out of your way and spending a lot of money to be present and supportive.
As someone who lives far away from all of my family and friends from school years, I find that many people don’t think twice about what it took for you to be so available, and can often take it for granted. For me, I’ve become more sensitive to things that involve specific roles or honorary designations among family events and time spent with friends in a way that my family members who live close to each other don’t necessarily feel are a big deal.
Whether or not you are dealing with the issue of loneliness, I still believe that whether or not someone who was your bridesmaid and close friend for a long time includes you in her wedding party has significance. What it actually means (whether it is a barometer of the level of closeness between you and your friend, or whether it reflects other criteria entirely unrelated thereto) is unclear, but it does matter.
Wishing you the best, and hoping you will get a better idea of where this friendship is now and what the future potential might be very soon. Take care!
Ooof. I had nearly the same situation occur this past summer.
The bride in question was under a lot of pressure from shitty family members and in-laws about who would be in the wedding party, I get that. And I would have been a weird-ass bridesmaid anyway, what with being not traditionally feminine and not a fan of the groom. It still hurt like hell that she apparently didn’t even consider including me.
And yup, she was also insistent that my boyfriend be included in the wedding party, even in spite of his ongoing feud with the groom.
In addition to that whole… thing, I had the fun of keeping a lid on a simmering mass of repressed feelings for the friend getting married. Protip: immediately after a friend makes her wedding announcement is NOT the best time to realize that you’ve been in love with her for years. Especially if she isn’t into girls.
A significant amount of whiskey was consumed at that wedding.
Here’s hoping your tactic of pulling back from a fading friendship and being present in more rewarding areas of life works.
I would like to echo the “join a choir” comment. It sounds like you have moved and gotten married within the last two to three years. That means there is a chance you haven’t developed a strong network of friends in your new place, including friends that are mostly you-friends instead of couple-friends. I recently joined a handbell choir. After about a month, I explained to my husband why it felt so good. I love making music in groups. When you’re working singly on your part but it combines together with everyone else’s part to make beauty, that is magic. And you have this instant camaraderie with everyone in the group. (That does not mean instant friends, but a good opening to beginning friends if you have other things in common.) My husband gets it because he plays in/manages an adult soccer team. That has the same working individually but together for joint goals. Both of these are low key affairs. My choir won’t play Carnegie hall and we have several members who didn’t read music when they joined us. My husband’s team loses as often as they win. But the losses are fun to rail about. The mistakes we make while playing create laughs and good natured teasing. Even if you don’t create a BESTEST FRIEND EVER from this, the act of being in this group, being a part of a team/choir/joint effort is a balm to the soul. Humans were meant to be hunting and gathering together in groups.
(Alternate to music and sports – I used to be a member of a habitat team and built every weekend, same feelings.)
Is it possible that the friend didn’t choose LW to be in the bridal party because LW is now married and traditionally bridesmaids are unmarried? I didn’t actually have bridesmaids at all (tiniest wedding ever) but if I had I would have chosen unmarried friends for this reason. Is that just me who has this particular understanding of tradition?
I took great joy in calling my sister the “matron of honor” for this reason!!! All my other bridesmaids were unmarried but that was just happenstance.
It’s certainly *possible*, but that strikes me as extremely old-fashioned and therefore unlikely. These days many wedding traditions are eschewed by people who don’t think they apply to their own lives. You don’t need to have an equal number of ‘maids and groomsmen, and you don’t even need to only have ladies standing up for the bride. Bridesmen are definitely a thing. To limit your party to just unmarried/virgin friends seems unnecessarily stringent and . . . well, pointless. At least the symmetrical parties make for more symmetrical photos, I’m not sure how the marriage status of your friends would affect your wedding at all . . .
The idea of trying to find a bridal party’s worth of virgins in my social circles is kind of making me smile though. (I’m 40, widowed, my best friends are 30-ish.)
Nevertheless, you never know if the bride and/or groom are trying to make concessions to traditional family members by applying these old-fashioned criteria, or if your friend/their spouse-to-be is just more into these things than you realised, or any number of things that *aren’t about you* and are hard to know from outside.
That didn’t apply here, but I’m also smiling at the idea of finding a gaggle of 30ish year old virgins to fill a bridal party.
Ah, this letter is timely for me, minus the weddings. As such this comment might be a little more “let’s hope my experience rings a bell” than “direct advice.”
I go through valleys every so often where I feel starved of connection that I can’t look anyone in the eye; I feel lonely and bored; I listen to Rivers And Roads by The Head and the Heart and cry; and this can happen for any reason, whether the loss of a specific friendship or a general downturn in my social calendar. All I want is someone to come up to me and say, hey, let’s be friends, let’s hang out, let’s be friends exactly like we used to.
That’s happened to me, to some extent? I get invited to go somewhere, or be better friends with someone–but then I say no, or I go and I don’t have a good time. Someone’s thrown me a line and I don’t take it. I just sit there watching that strand of connection hoping it’ll be enough for me to feel better, and it never is.
Every time I get out of one of these valleys, it’s always because I reach out. Or I consciously accept the overture that someone makes, or text someone to say, “hey! how’s it going?” Or write a postcard, or smile at a barista, or join a new thing.
I think that we have an image: the lonely person sits in a dark room, and a knock comes at the door. They open it and the room is flooded with golden light, and their entire family is there, smiling with gifts, and the lonely person cries at finally eating their fill. You know, I’ve imagined this fantasy and its sisters. I think the mistake of the fantasy is that it stops at that image, when the truly healing thing is to reach out your hands and accept the gifts, or to visit another person to let your golden light through their door.
LW, I agree with the Captain: you seem like a Generally Bummed Friend, not a Former Friend. This isn’t easy, but please believe me, an anonymous internet stranger, when I say that the opposite of loneliness isn’t “I have connections and friendships,” but “I make connections and do friendships.” And it can be slow, or it can be revelatory, when you realize you’re not saying, “I’ve been texted only twice today” but “I texted someone and called someone today, and tomorrow I think I’ll call that old friend who didn’t have me as a bridesmaid and whom I miss.”
I think I love you and your comment. Thanks.
So true! Sometimes I fall into that trap of wondering why I make the effort instead of remembering that is part of what makes me awesome! It is better now that I have cultivated the kind of friends who appreciate it (and tell me so!) and try to reciprocate. Its something I constantly have two remind myself- that when I want something, it’s on me to go get it!
I agree wholeheartedly that it’s much more productive to be proactive about building connections. And it’s also hard. It’s really hard to do this as an adult for various reasons. Many of which are out of our control like, city planning, mental health issues, isolation, location etc. Which is why it can be particularly hard when good and close friendships fade, which sounds like the case here. We have to grieve those losses because they are losses and life is full of losses and it just never gets easier with each loss. And that’s OK. I think some of this ‘get out there and make friends’ commentary is rubbing me the wrong way because it mostly is coming off (to me) as kind of blame-y and reductive. I think most of us tend to judge ourselves very harshly when we feel lonely – like there’s something wrong with us. And I just want to reiterate to the LW, that if loneliness is what’s going on here, that it’s OK. It’s not your fault, per se. And sometimes loneliness is much deeper than needing to make connections with people. Sometimes it’s about our own mental state. It could be self-abandonment, for example. It could be related to a neglectful upbringing. It could be that you’re surrounded with people that are takers and not givers and you’re feeling drained. There are several variables and I don’t think it’s just a matter of ‘get out there and make friends.’
Also, as the Captain has noted previously, sometimes we find ourselves in a desert in our lives. Or sometimes there are valleys as dr_silverware described. And that’s OK. We actually control very little in life and I think it can be misleading to suggest that doing more is the answer. It may or may not be. And that’s not our fault. Of course it doesn’t mean we don’t try. We still try. But if we don’t get the results we want, it’s not our fault. And it’s OK to regroup and take a break or pull back from our efforts if they’re not bearing fruit.
The Captain has addressed the importance of reciprocity in her other responses about relationships, and I just want to make sure that gets mention here. In addition to being proactive, I think it’s also important to pay attention to reciprocity and boundaries in both new and existing relationships. Maybe I’m in the minority here but I’m not about making a whole lot of effort to build a connection, stay in touch, maintain a friendship etc while the other person(s) is making very minimal or zero effort for whatever reason. Nope. Not going to do that.
And in that vein, LW, I wouldn’t encourage you to continue to try to maintain a close friendship with this particular friend if she has lost interest or is not reciprocating (not saying that’s what’s happening but if it is). That in itself can bring about lonely feelings. For whatever reason you’re not as close as you once were; things have changed. It’s sad. You’re allowed to grieve that. And you’re allowed to move on too.
koffee82, you put into words a few things I was struggling with – thank you! Especially about the disappointment of previous friendships seeming to fade, even after just a year. Yes, you can (and should) go out and try to maximize your new city or location, investigate new opportunities to become involved in the community and so forth.
But one of the hopes (at least speaking of my own experience, fwiw) with being in someone’s wedding is that the *process* gives you more of a reason to spend time, do things together and create new memories. It’s “important” and gets priority over other stuff. Space is made for this and nobody can question it. Thus anchoring an “old but close” friendship. I know many here have expressed that they would prefer *not* to be in the wedding party, which is absolutely fine. However, as a guest, you tend to spend very little time with the bride – perhaps five minutes and a few smiles and parting gestures. If you are the wedding party, you will likely spend the evening before together, the whole day of the wedding (including makeup, hair and all that stuff), you will travel together in the limo, wait together, do photos…there is much more of an opportunity to just simply spend time with each other. The conversation is often more intimate – it’s a great time to become closer friends, to laugh, cry and to create another bond. For some this equals work and tedium, and every bride is different. But several of the weddings I’ve been in have been really fun. And a precious time if you are far away and rarely get to see your friend. This is why, in my limited understanding, people often have wedding parties with their siblings and friends…because it does provide an opportunity for those closest to you to meet each other and get to know you better as the bride through them. It can be a very fun, positive, rewarding experience – one that would be very sad to miss if perceived this way.
When my husband was the Best Man and I was an ordinary guest at his brother’s wedding, we didn’t see each other very much or talk much the whole three days. And I felt disappointed because not only was I on my own, but I had hoped to get to know the bride a bit more, as we would be “family.” I know that’s not my right, nor do I have any reason to expect that she would offer us equal positions, but I was hurt. I realized after that weekend that I’m actually not viewed by husband’s family as “family” – in a way that was helpful because it frees me to make choices about the family members I see during the rare occasions I can visit any of them. I now have permission to play favorites. The matter of reciprocity and level of commitment to each other was made very clear. This is not the exact same situation as the LW, of course, but it can happen even in a family.
@ D. – You’re welcome and, I’m glad I’m not the only one thinking along these lines.
“I think it can be misleading to suggest that doing more is the answer. It may or may not be.”
I agree with you in general, and I think this part is especially wise. Sometimes being pro-active turns things around. Sometimes you do all things things, and it’s still hard and lonely for a while because life is complicated.
We actually control very little in life and I think it can be misleading to suggest that doing more is the answer. It may or may not be.
What I learned from those valleys was that doing more felt good even when it didn’t get results.
Years ago a friend of mine moved away, leaving me with few friends left in town. When this kind of thing happened before, I tended to mope about all the people I wasn’t meeting or hanging out with. I decided that wouldn’t happen this time—one way or another, I would meet people.
Then I thought, how? If I knew the secret to meeting people, I would’ve just done that all those other times.
And it came to me: Okay, I have no control over whether I meet anyone, but if I feel like going out and doing something? I’m going to do it on my own. Maybe I’ll encounter people and talk to them and become their friends or go on dates. And if I don’t, at least I won’t be stuck at home, staring at the walls.
It worked. I did meet a few people, though nobody lasting. When I didn’t, the outings still made me feel better because I’d opened myself up to the possibility. And I wasn’t staring at the walls.
(Not to disparage hanging out at home when that’s what you want to do. Funnily enough, the NEXT time I found myself socially isolated, I didn’t care. I’d check in with myself sometimes: “Hey, maybe let’s go out?” And I’d go, no, I’m good here listening to music by myself. I didn’t worry about being alone because now I felt like I was in control of it.)
This isn’t going to work for everybody in every situation, but it saved me.
koffee82 and dr_silverware:
Your comments are beautiful and, speaking as someone who has been in a lot of lonely deserts and valleys in recent years, thank you both for your thoughts.
This is so beautifully said. Thank you for articulating what I’m sure a lot of us feel. I know I do.
‘I think that we have an image: the lonely person sits in a dark room, and a knock comes at the door. They open it and the room is flooded with golden light, and their entire family is there, smiling with gifts, and the lonely person cries at finally eating their fill.’
-This is so familiar to me. As someone who had some very dysfunctional friendships as I grew up, who at the same time read tonnes of teen books about girls being best friends ever who love each other and are always there for one another, I guess I was always waiting for the day when I had loads of friends who would take me into that golden light that I always desired. It’s hard for me to tell when I’m having unrealistic expectations of someone. It can be anything from ‘why aren’t they texting/emalling me back, I need them so much right now!!!’ (when I know full well anyone can not notice a text or not check their emails for a while) to ‘she moved to the other side of the world without warning and when I realised she just said ‘oh you can come and visit!’ Am I too upset about this?’
I still don’t know how to manage my emotions in any of these situations. I don’t dare tell anyone how I feel about anything because I’m always worried a huge FEELINGSMAIL will come out if I start typing an email, and that if I did confess how I felt it would be brushed aside. I want to get in touch with people I’ve drifted apart from in a meaningful way, not just a quick ‘how are you?’ chain of messages that last for a couple of days. I want to meet up with people without having to do all the travelling and planning (they all live some kind of distance away and I’m on a budget and get anxiety travelling) but I don’t think I could ever say ‘come and see me!’ I can’t even invite people to my home because its tiny and the communal living space doesn’t even have a table and chairs. Adult friendships are not much easier than teenage friendships for me. I hope I learn and become wiser with age.
You definitely aren’t the only person to have those thoughts.
I was a junior in college when I took stock of my social connections and realized that all of these people I called friends (and that was a lot of people) weren’t really friends, just a whole lot of friendly acquaintances. These were pretty shallow connections that were largely due to just hanging out in groups and not much effort on anyone’s part. So I spent the remainder of my time in college working to build more meaningful connections: inviting people to do activity, sending postcards over the summer, having more intimate conversations, whatever. And I am still friends with many of those people 20+ years on. It doesn’t necessarily take a lot of work, or very frequent, but it does take some effort on your part to reach out and maintain those connections.
As a corollary, I moved around a lot before and after college. For a while there, I moved every 6 months because of the seasonal employment of my industry. So the vast majority of my relationships were long distance. I maintained those connections via phone calls and letters and emails and occasional visits as my seasonal work took me on long loops around the country. It was painful to realize that 95% of the time, the burden was entirely on me to do that work. And eventually I settled into one place and stopped doing that work, so most of those connections have faded (but not all!).
Many people are comfortable in their routines and are perfectly willing to be friends as long as you are within the orbit of their routines. But once you no longer fit into their routines because you move away, or your circumstances change (children! school! marriage or divorce! career!), many people are fine with you dropping out of their lives. They’ll be perfectly happy to spend time with you and catch up when your comet passes through their orbit, but they just won’t, won’t won’t reach out to you and put the work into following your trajectory. Can you make your peace with that and be sometimes friends with such people?
The advice to arrange a trip to hang out with friends is excellent. One of the people I remain connected to over many decades is someone who I knew fairly casually in college as part of a general friends group. She came to visit me for 2 weeks.while I was living abroad. That was a bonding experience that lasts us to this day, I think. And we would send each other care packages occasionally.
Also seconding the advice to send a postcard, card, letter. People love to get personal mail, particularly since it is so rare these days. It’s like a hug on paper.
I agree, but if you’ve gotten a signal that they don’t think you’re that close, I can understand how it’s hard to take that tack afterwards.
It’s the difference between “we are close enough” and “I thought we were close enough, was I stupid to believe that? how did I not see it change?”
As someone who has been a bridesmaid six times I can safely say that picking bridesmaids for my own wedding was easily the most stressful experience of my life in recent years (yes – I realise I probably am quite sheltered). In hindsight I wish I had just chosen my sister. My choices were eventually made on practicality as well as longevity and I had to leave out at least three people who I love very dearly and definitely as much as those I have picked as bridesmaids. I would feel terrible if I had hurt someone in the way you appear to be hurt (which I probably have). My choices had nothing to do with how much I valued that person’s friendship.
The wonderful thing is, you can talk to these three people and make sure they do know how much you love and value them. You don’t need to feel terrible if you clarify (if indeed your friends are/were hurt). True friends will listen, understand and forgive you if there is any question of your loyalty to them.
Yes, I had one of my very closest friends explain to me why she didn’t have me as a bridesmaid. I was still sad about it (I love bridesmaid-ing), but I understood and it didn’t cause any distance between us like it could have if she hadn’t explained things to me.
This made me feel somewhat better. I remember the angst of picking bridesmaids for my own wedding. I opted for a large bridal party to be inclusive, but even then there were people I left out. I know my friend probably realized I was a little disappointed, and I’m sure if she does she feels bad about it. I know it’s not meant in ill. Thanks for this.
This may have been covered in an earlier comment; forgive me if so.
One thing that is important in friendship (any friendship, really) is vulnerability. There’s this thing in our culture sometimes where we feel like we have to be Strong and Independent, Doing All the Things All the Time – but if your friends don’t feel like you need them, they may not feel like you need their friendship at all.
It makes you feel good to be able to do nice things for the people you love, so if there’s something you need, you should let the people that love you know about it.
There are SO many reasons not to pick someone as a bridesmaid that don’t have anything to do with your relationship.
Some of them are superficial, some of them are about convenience, or not wanting to inconvenience people, especially recently weddinged people. There is also wanting to give friends the chance when they might not have any others, or having other roles in mind. (I was recently invited to sing at a wedding instead of bridesmaiding. Which I preferred. Until I didn’t get the music until the week before that is.) There’s also just having a lot of close friends and not enough groomsmen, or not enough short friends or too many female family members.
Try to give your friend the benefit of the doubt, and maybe plan some ways to reconnect with her AFTER her wedding. The time after a wedding can be a little sad because you are no longer anticipating a big event and reconnecting with old friends. She’ll have down time, and she’ll probably be glad of a friend reaching out.
Being a bridesmaid is a big honor, but honestly the times I’ve appreciated the most were when someone said “I thought about asking you to be a bridesmaid, but I realized I’d rather just have you come have fun at my wedding!” (But then I’ve been officially a bridesmaid 6 times and unofficially several more, and I was never exactly a wedding person.)
I’m wondering if part of the reason you’re feeling a bit adrift might not be because of the very same post wedding listlessness. I think the Captain’s advice about reinvigorating your own life is spot on.
Yes to join a choir! I was spending my evenings at the gym (which makes me feel good, but is not very social) or watching TV on my own. I was starting to feel very isolated. In September, I joined a choir to do something a bit more social, and it’s been so much fun.
There are no auditions for my choir, and, although I am pretty musical, you don’t even have to be able to read music or sing in tune – lots of people can’t and they still have a great time. Someone said to me at choir last night, “I love how you always look so happy!” – and it made me think about how much I enjoy standing up and singing with other people and how glad I am that I gave it a go!
LW, I totally get your dilemma, albeit I’m still struggling with how to manage my feelings.
When my twin got married a few years ago she had me as a bridesmaid, but not a maid of honor. I’m still a bit flabbergasted about it, as we shared a womb! But, I know those are my weird feelings so I kept them to myself plus a few close friends, and even prevented mutual friends from confronting her about that decision.
But, now I wonder what should I do when I do get married. (Small side-note, I’m two months out of a breakup so a bit cynical I’ll ever get married. Yay complicated feelings.) I always understood I would have her as my maid of honor, because womb sharing, but now? If I choose not to give her that title it would purely be out of spite. If I do it’ll feel weird and unfair.
So, I really don’t have much to add to what the Captain says, as I’m a bit lonely for different reasons and have weird bridesmaid related feelings, but fist bump of solidarity.
I dunno if I have much to add besides some commiseration. My sister told me to my face that of COURSE I’d be a bridesmaid in her wedding, and I was happy to do whatever she needed from me. Then she started picking out dresses and going shopping and… I wasn’t invited to any of it. Dates were set and plans were made and she never once followed up with me, or told me that she had changed her mind. At one point she asked me to be the flower girl (I’m older than her, for the record), because the 5-year-old niece couldn’t make it anymore, which I declined. I think I was a little hurt about it at first, esp since our other sister was a bridesmaid, but I’m not really sure if I was or not anymore. I do remember telling myself that her wedding was about HER*, and I’d told myself before that I was going to do whatever she needed me to do. If that was “show up and be happy for (her)”, then that’s what it would be, and that’s what it was.
I swear she threw the bouquet straight at me, though.
As to the friends’ weekend, this sounds wonderful! Sadly, I was recently in a situation with a friend where I THOUGHT we were building this kind of tradition, but on the second attempt, she laid into me about what a terrible person I was (paraphrased, but more or less a direct quote) and how mad she’d been at me since the last event a year previously, all of which was news to me. So if you do go that route, I wish you the best!
*The wedding was really more for us, the guests, because they had a small civil ceremony a few days previously, and then on the day of the “wedding” everyone got dressed up and there was a mini-ceremony, and we had food and drinks and speeches and fireworks and danced the night away and it was awesome.
Omg, this is so similar to a problem I had, and I didn’t (still don’t) know how to handle it. My best friend got married and pretty much right after she got married and finally got the family she wanted (their relationship was secret for years due to racial/stupid reasons) she. Just. Dropped. Me. I was even maid of honor at her wedding. She stopped talking to me, never answered my texts, didn’t answer my phone calls. I gave her space (she’s a newlywed! She needs family time); I tried reaching out, nothing. There was no drama, nothing bad happened, it was like she just stopped caring and didn’t need me anymore because she had a husband now. Part of me still feels so hurt because it feels like once she got a family, she didn’t need me anymore because she wasn’t lonely. But from my side, my friendship with her was real and she was so, so important to me. It’s been like 2 years and besides giving me a FB “happy birthday” she hasn’t talked to me at all. There’s nothing I can do, but it makes me really, really sad and like a huge hole in my heart. We were friends for 10 years before this.
The captain has so many good suggestions here.
The other thing I want to add is that I have found great success by courting friends in a way almost similar to dating. But part of that was strategy and part of it was knowing what works best for ME. I am someone who does best in very close 1:1 friendships (so in some ways, a lot like dating) with predictable (recurring) schedules. So I have pursued that.
Right now I have like 5 best friends, and many other people I am fond of. But I used to have almost no friends. Then I found one local best friend who I live with (perhaps not unlike having a spouse) and that helped me set the bar – I don’t try to pursue friendships that don’t seem like good candidates for the kind of friendship I want because I never feel like I have to settle. Conversely, it leaves me feeling very open to experiment, and I take failed friendships attempts less personally. Being solid in my home life helped me a LOT.
What I have found is a lot of what is true on here – ask a once or twice, drop it if they don’t get back. Attend activity groups until you make some friends at least. (For me, I used to always attend until I had enough friends to keep a social life going without groups, because I hate large groups, mostly, I’m an introvert.)
Don’t be afraid to have frank conversations with your friends about your friendship and your friendship expectations. There is a woman I love to death and have a great time with, but realized that she can only schedule last minute lately and I can really only schedule in advance. So we had this chat where we were like “I love you, sorry this isn’t working out right now” and we both knew it wasn’t personal. Trying to force things with her in the name of Real Friendship would have backfired. We chatted, and were able to accept “the love is there, but now is not our time.” Sometimes, if have rare free time I’ll text her, and we will get wasted and laugh and cry and revel and then we might go dark for months.
Other friends, I can’t comfortably do that with. It’s like “I need to know that you are around.” and I will say that, and ask “is this a thing you feel too? does this sound okay?” and we’ll chat. To me, nothing reassures me that a friendship is real like reviewing the shared hopes and expectations. (Though I am of a poly-people.)
Something that has helped me a lot is taking the pressure off myself of what I thought friendship SHOULD be like and allowing myself to enjoy what it IS like. What I mean is – I grew up in a very socially isolated and depressing atmosphere, and I used to dream of large, tight knit friend circles where we would get the “whole gang” together and Friend It Up. I used to think if I could extrovert hard enough, maybe it’d come through.
But I am introvert who does poorly with large groups and niche subcultures and there will never be a “gang”. I was so miserable until I realized – I don’t need a “gang.” I had this vision that did not match the reality. Once I saw that the way my friendships always go are “intense 1:1, followed up by integration into circle of other intense 1:1, followed up maybe by small groups of 2-4” I was able to be true to myself, study my life, ask myself what I needed socially to be happy, pursue it, and now I have most of what I want, and I see the things I have that I don’t, and even if I can’t manifest them right now I can keep my eye out.
None of this may be how you are like. but – have you studied how you are like? Under what conditions do you “friend” best. What does a fulfilling best friendship look like to you? What would make you happy in reality? Do you have fake visions that you are stacking your life up against, possibly fed by media depictions? I’d say, take stock of it all, and really study who you are. That is how you can best set yourself up for success.
I recently participated in a wedding with a total of thirty-one bridesmaids and groomsmen, because the bride has “so many best friends!” and refused to leave anyone out. She’s a sweetheart and I do get the sentiment, but was utter chaos and there were almost more people in the wedding party than other attendees at the wedding. I do not recommend this practice.
It sucks, but most people can’t have everyone close to them as bridesmaids/groomsmen. Most people have to pick and choose. Not being chosen doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you or that there’s anything wrong with your friendship. It’s okay to be disappointed, but I’m pretty sure it’s not an African Violet situation.
I think commenters are all meaning well by it, but there have been several comments with a flavor of “you shouldn’t be sad to not be bridesmaid, you should be happy to not have to do all the work!” and I don’t think that’s all that helpful. She is sad. Feeling sad about missing out on this thing is not the problem. It’s kind of like, “I’m lactose intolerant,” “oh well at least you don’t have to worry about weight gain from too much ice cream!” Or, “I wish I had a dating partner,” “Ugh, dating is so much work and expense, it must be great to be able to do whatever you want on the weekends!”
If someone expresses sadness over missing a thing it’s not really the best expression of empathy to tell them that the thing isn’t all that great anyway.
Yes, you hit the nail on the head! I am sad. There’s not really much to make it better, other than time. But it helps to name it!
Dear LW, I definitely know this feeling, especially since I moved fairly recently and some friendships have suffered from it, so solidarity. What I do when I feel that a friendship isn’t as close as before is I reach out with fairly low stakes suggestions. For example, I have one friend in my old city with whom I’ve barely communicated since I’ve moved away – we never really talked on the phone before I moved and it seems that our style of friendship just doesn’t work well across the distance. I’ve tried calling and she doesn’t call me back, or she says she’ll call and then does not. Still, I suggested we meet up for coffee or beer over Christmas when I’m visiting home and it looks like that’s working out. I figure that either we’ll reconnect easily in person or it’s time to accept that the friendship has become for of an acquaintanceship.
I also know the feeling of not being as important to a friend than vice versa. I had that for years with one particular friend, and definitely used to be jealous of another friend who is her “bestie”. If she had had bridesmaids at her wedding, I’d likely have been in your situation. At some point I realized that, even though I might not have the same importance to her than vice versa, she is a really good friend (who also keeps trying now that I live far away from her) and I can either value what I have with her or continue to make myself miserable by comparing our friendship to her even closer friendships with other people. Somehow this worked for me (even though I was lacking friendships at the time I had this insight) – I’m now truly happy for the amazing friendships she’s cultivating and also satisfied with our friendship, which is very stable and always a source of happiness for me. If I were ever getting married and chose to have bridesmaids (not going to happen), I’d totally ask her. Of course, I may have gotten to that point because I developed some other friendships and while doing so, got more insight into why I was clicking even more with these other people. So I think the Captain’s advice of trying to connect with other people is absolutely on point.
Okay, so, I am very disconnected from, like, “wedding culture” because I don’t plan to ever get married (though I’m in a happy long-term relationship) and I’ve never been part of a wedding party (and haven’t expected to, since none of my siblings or super-close friends have gotten married). I haven’t been to very many weddings either, only of family members, not friends.
Question: Is there not established etiquette about explaining your choices for your bridal party?!
I mean, not that you owe an explanation to every semi-close friend or college buddy or whatever if you don’t choose them, but the LW’s friend was a bridesmaid in the LW’s wedding, and some of the comments here mention sisters not choosing each other as maids of honor. Those are 100% valid choices and not out of the ordinary, but they also seem to me like situations where a person would expect to be “in the running,” so to speak, and total silence seems bizarre. But clearly it’s not, given how common this situation apparently is! With all the formalized etiquette surrounding weddings, I can’t believe there’s not a standardized way to say, “I love you and value our relationship even though you won’t be in the wedding party.”
I think generally reaffirming the importance of the relationship would be a good idea in this situation, but explaining why someone wasn’t chosen to be a bridesmaid could easily go wrong. It’s one of those situations where the person who was not chosen (but wanted to be) is unlikely to find your reasons for not including them convincing.
Pretty much every piece of “formalized etiquette” around weddings is culturally disputed, unless you live in a very constrained subculture (like “Belgian expatriates” or “remote Arizona mining town”) without access to the Internet and no one ever marries outside your group. That is why weddings are and always have been an enduring source of drama and entertainment (and novels!).
The comment suggesting a more formalized etiquette around explaining to others how the wedding attendants were selected (in a more open manner) *would* be the cultural dispute of the original taboo prohibiting any discussion of feelings or reasoning. It’s kind of funny that there are now perfectly acceptable pregnant brides, inclusion of parents and step-parents together where before one or the other would have been chosen to walk the bride down the aisle or give permission to marry, having bridesmaids who are pregnant, much older, much younger, married, or even the offspring of the bride or groom from a previous relationship, using two officiants representing different religions instead of one, having asymmetrical wedding parties, having “Men of Honor” for the bride and “Best Woman” for the groom, and a hundred other ways that once very rigid traditions have successfully evolved to make weddings more authentic, inclusive and satisfying to each unique family and group of friends of the bride and groom (or bride and bride or groom and groom). One thing that has not seemed to change is the taboo against talking about why some people are chosen to hold various special positions and others not. I wonder what a cultural anthropologist might make of that. It’s a curious thing.
I want to wave a flag supporting the weekly/monthly dinner! My friend group has been going to dinner once a month, every month, for the last five years. It’s not always the same group, sometimes some people can’t or don’t feel up to coming or they come and bring guests (who usually start coming as well), but everyone knows that Madb and Beth are going to be at (restaurant) from 6-9pm on the day in question and people are welcome to join us. We’ve actually been going to the same restaurant every month so they know us there and having waitstaff and hosts that know us really contributes to our casual this-is-for-fun atmosphere. Obviously it takes a while to build up a relationship with a restaurant (just like it does with people) but I’m going to say it’s worth it.
Our monthly dinner is the high point of my month because no matter what else is going on (family/job/cats/weather/August) I know that come the day I’ll be having good food with good people.
Thank you so much for this post, LW, Captain, and everyone who has written about painful friendship changes and breakups. It is really timely. I am going through a distressing friend-driftage situation at the moment. I tried drafting a few comments but it’s a bit too raw and unwieldy. But it really helps to know other people are navigating similar situations. Thank you.
I have only skimmed the comments so forgive me if I’m repeating, but perhaps it bears repeating anyway.
LW, you ask about “letting this friendship die completely” and sign it as “former friend” and that really confuses me. I’m not seeing any warning signs here that your friend is trying to friend-dump you at all. It’s possible, but unless there’s a whole lot of other stuff going on that you haven’t mentioned here, I don’t think it’s likely.
My best friend from college and I were so close that people thought we were lovers. It was uncanny how perfectly we meshed. Then after college I moved 3,000 miles away. And then, life happened. She got engaged. I got engaged. She got married. I got married. And like the Captain says, when you start building a marriage relationship other things tend to get neglected. She and I wrote each other long letters and talked on the phone frequently for the first year or so. Now (20 years later), we see each other once a year when I visit my parents and occasionally chat on IM or Facebook. I still consider her my best friend. I still trust her completely. But friendships change. I suspect when our kids are grown up we will increase the frequency of our contact a lot more again. But for now, we just enjoy what we’re able to have.
My friend DID ask me to be her MoH at her wedding. And while I was honored, I also did a sucky job. I was 3,000 miles away and flat broke and I just wasn’t there for her the way I wanted to be, the way she deserved. I don’t know what your situation is or that of the other bridesmaids, but sometimes these choices are made for reasons that have nothing to do with how much you like each other.
Another thing to consider is, are you making overtures to your friend that are being rebuffed? Or has the contact just kind of naturally dwindled? Is it possible that your friend thinks YOU are the one doing the slow fade? Sometimes inertia is the only culprit. I would have no social life at all if my friend didn’t set up a monthly restaurant group. I’m so grateful to her for making that effort, because I love every minute of it but planning things is just difficult for me right now (job, mental health, etc.).
It’s a shame I’m seeing this a few days after the fact, because this actually happened to me, of a sort: I was actually invited to be the maid of honour, and then cut from the bridal party entirely! She chalked it up to that I was living a long way away at the time and so it’d be hard to do bridal things (which is plausible), though I did always suspect it might have been because her in-laws were and are horrible bigots.
But that story had a happy ending: our friendship long outlived the actual marriage, and we’re more like sisters than we ever were, years after the fact, even though it was a huge slight that was really hard to forgive.
Maybe you have grown apart, in which case there’s other fish in the sea. But if it’s – as mine apparently was – a case of distance, for example – then what I did was just sit and work through the hurt on my own, take it as a setback but stay in touch, and if the reciprocity is still there (which it was) let it grow again. I never really confronted her about it because there wasn’t any answer that she could have given that would have made it better, and I’m glad I didn’t – I suspect it’s the reason she’s still an incredibly important person in my life.
The Captain’s advice is great for getting out there and having broader networks so you’re less dependent on specific people, but it seems like you still value your relationship with this friend, and I just wanted to say that it really can go either way given time.
Just wanted to second the idea of sending paper mail – I recently started sending postcards to the people I miss from college, and it’s been really useful for me. People love getting mail that isn’t bills, and it’s a way for me to reach out in a place where I don’t have a huge amount of ways to socialize. It’s also pretty easy to find or make a postcard that ties in with something you know they like or an inside joke (I’ve found making them is a calming activity for me).
I find postcards really useful because if you’re not sure what to say or how to start a conversation, you can just start with a couple sentences and then ask them what’s going on in their lives, and then your postcard is pretty much done!! (I have a tendency for rambling and entirely too-long letters, so postcards force me to keep it short and simple). I’ve used this tactic not just for friends, but also for family I have a hard time talking to (I’m not feeling up to visiting you or talking to you on the phone, but here’s a postcard with a picture of some Saskatchewan geese* ! Isn’t that neat?).
*My postcard-sending all started because my roommate was former-VP of our campus’ Canada Club. The club deteriorated, but she still had STACKS of postcards from the Saskatchewan Tourism Board.
This letter and the responses made me cry and I’ve never even been involved in a wedding. I don’t have any real advice since I am still dealing with that feeling of profound loneliness every day, feeling like no one will “pick me” (unrelated to weddings, but I can’t really think of any friend that would chose me as a bridesmaid except out of pity or a sense of fairness maybe). In your shoes I would tell all my hurt feelings to my partner and have a long cleansing ugly cry…then try to just let it go and enjoy how ever much of her wedding she chooses to involve you in.
Thanks, Captain. You’re right, I have been feeling unmoored and lonely. Your suggestion to write letters resonated, along with inviting folks over, and finding something to do without my spouse. Thanks for getting to the root of things. You’re right, my question was partly about feeling hurt, but the loneliness piece hits home. Thanks
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