The Friendship Doctor

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It's Tough to Let Go of Childhood Friends

It's always hard to give up on a friendship.

It's always hard to give up on a friendship but especially one that has a long history with rich childhood memories.

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I'm 26 years old and have known my best friend since kindergarten. She's always been hot and cold—one day we're friends, the next day we aren't.

Last year she was going through a tough time. She accused me of not being there for her and would yell at me over the phone and send nasty emails to me. When I tried to talk to her about it, she just grew defensive and blamed it all on me. I tried my best to help her, but she just pushed me away. So we haven't talked in months now.

She emailed and sent me cards, but I know that she is just being nice for now. Then she will eventually act cold towards me and the whole cycle with start again. I'm sick of this, what should I do?

Thank you for your help.

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Signed, Susan

 

ANSWER

Hi Susan,

It's always hard to give up on a friendship but especially one that has a long history and childhood memories. Friendships like this are irreplaceable so I can understand your reluctance to call it quits.

Given that you've witnessed these cycles over and over, I think you realize that you aren't going to change your friend's personality. So you need to decide whether it's worthwhile to endure her moodiness/volatility to preserve the friendship, give up on the friendship entirely, or take another stab at making things better.

One possibility might be to send your friend a snail mail note or card at this point explaining that you treasure this friendship but there seem to be recurrent conflicts between you. You could suggest that you remain friends but see each other less frequently.

Setting limits and taking a definitive stand like this could make her more aware of her behavior.  It would be a nice surprise if she responds in a conciliatory way and tries to keep her outbursts in check when you're together. If she reacts angrily to your proposition, you may just have to let go for now and take a break from the friendship as disappointing as that may be.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

 

Prior posts on The Friendship Blog that touch upon childhood legacy friendships:

 

P.S. Reminder to my readers from Irene:

Can you take a minute to vote for my blog and my book, which are finalists for the About.com Friendship awards? You can vote once each day—for each of them—through March 21, 2012.

Huge thanks for your support always!

 

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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