The Friendship Doctor

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Surprise! She's Back...

When we're dumped it's hard not to take it personally

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

Recently discovered your column (it's awesome) and hope you can help me gain some perspective. 

I was introduced to my husband by my good friend. She was dating his best friend at the time. She and her boyfriend broke up, but we continued to be friends until I stopped hearing from her. She has always been bad about keeping in touch but specifically told me that she appreciated that I continued to make the effort because she valued my friendship

With that in mind, I emailed or called to ask about her job search and just say "Hi" every 6 to 8 weeks that autumn despite not getting a response. Finally I left a voicemail asking if something had happened to damage our friendship (for which I'd readily apologize had I done something) and expressing that I was sad to be losing her. 

Two weeks later, I got the kind of formal response you'd send a business colleague explaining she was too busy to be the friend I wanted/needed/deserved. As someone who is also busy, I find that even with my closest friends, months often go by without talking or visiting; I know I was not a time suck for her. Clearly, she had lost interest in being friends. 

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Almost two years later, my husband and I were tallying up the RSVPs for our wedding when his friend told us he was back together with her (and had been for nearly a year; surprise, everyone!) and wanted to know if he could bring her to the wedding. Because of space/money constraints and some late "necessary" invites, we weren't able to accommodate the request. 

However, I cannot avoid seeing her going forward as my husband, his friend, and the rest of the crew (who go back to elementary school) love to get together and-and rightly-would not choose to exclude anyone. My problem is that I have nothing to say to her and don't know how socializing could NOT be awkward, for me, for her, and for the whole group, who know that she dumped me without explanation. However, I don't want to make this everyone else's problem. Please advise.

Signed,
Karen

 

ANSWER

Dear Karen,

You have no idea why your once-friend snubbed you. She may have been depressed or stressed about not having a job, about breaking up with her boyfriend, or had a hundred other problems that had nothing to do with you. When we're dumped it's hard not to take it personally----but please, allow for that possibility. 

If that's the case, why didn't she say something or reach out to you afterwards? Perhaps, she felt awkward, guilty, or ashamed. 

While economic and space constraints are real concerns for any bride, both she and her boyfriend probably felt badly about being turned down. Since he was your husband's best friend, that may have been a faux pas. Even if there was no way to include his girlfriend, it called for a personal apology or explanation. 

Plan A - The only hope of making the situation less awkward is by you making an effort to speak to her in order to clear the air. Be the first to extend the olive branch by saying how sorry you were that she couldn't be at the wedding. Act friendly. See what she has to say. I'm hopeful that you will be able to smooth things over so that the "crew" is comfortable, and you are comfortable being with her and them. 

Plan B - If this doesn't work, you can see if your husband and his friend can smooth things over so everyone is comfortable. Perhaps he can talk to his girlfriend. 

If none of these efforts work, you can hold your head high, because you did the right thing. Any awkwardness should be on her part, not yours.

Hope this helps.

My best,
Irene

 

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Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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