QUESTION 

Dear Irene,

Please forgive my English as it is a second language for me. I'm Spanish, 30 years old, and male. My best friend and I were very close friends from an early age. We were born the same year, were neighbors, attended the same high school, and were even in the same class one year. Our parents were also friends.

When my friend turned 18, his family moved to another country. Nonetheless, we remained very close, called each other weekly, went to vacations together, and met each other once a year either in my country or his.

During the past ten years, we have both had very different lives: I attended university, met a girlfriend who ultimately became my wife, and found a job that pleases me (It may look "great" but things are a bit more complex, though fine, but that's another story!).

On my friend's side, things appeared to be fine, though much more complicated. He had a hard time completing university, and struggled to find a lasting love relationship. But even though we lived thousand of miles apart, we kept discussing everything -- from girlfriends, to jobs, to very personal feelings, and opinions.  Everything was perfect, at least that what I thought.

Last year, an exceptional event happened as my wife became pregnant with our first child. During the first months of pregnancy, business was as usual with my friend (calls, occasional vacations, etc.). I know he had a hard time passing one of his last exams.

Then, all of a sudden, in July of last year everything stopped. No emails, no text messages, no calls, no Facebook messages. Nothing. He never return my calls and never answered my messages - after begging him to tell me what was wrong, whether he was fine, and had I did something wrong.

Because I was worried about him and didn't understand what was happening, I asked other friends if they had news of him. They said he was perfectly fine. I learned that he moved to the capital city (he used to live in the suburbs), and changed his lifestyle. He has started nightclubbing a lot, was living with a roommate, had met many new people, etc. He has opened up and changed a lot - positively. I could see on his Facebook page that he appeared to be very happy. At the same time he has "closed down" to me, and only to me.

After many more attempts to get in touch with him, he finally send me a message where he barely said that he was ok, and that the "breakup" had nothing to do with me. I'm afraid that our friendship is now completely over and never thought that it would be such a hard experience.

I feel deeply saddened by this situation. I don't really understand what has happened and why it was so sudden. His situation is not enviable yet, as I believe that an uncontrollable feeling prevents him from remaining friends with me. Maybe it's because I am married and have a child, and as he is still single, he no longer enjoys being with me. I don't know. I still miss our sincere relationship.

Irene, I would be very grateful if you could give me your insight on this situation. 

Many thanks,

Javier

ANSWER

Dear Javier, 

Although most of the posts here are from women, men have friendship problems, too. Thanks for writing and being one of the trailblazers!  

Anyone would feel as pained as you do when another person - without any communication or opportunity for input - summarily ends a close friendship with a long shared history. You have to feel like the rug was pulled out from under you. This is especially so since you worked hard to sustain the friendship in spite of distance and because you value friendships the way you do.  

When a friend "dumps" you like this, it's hard not to take it personally. By saying it "has nothing to do with you," I think your friend means that the growing distance between you, in terms of lifestyles, was what caused him to shut down. One possibility is that he may not feel comfortable communicating about the changes he has made because they are discrepant with your values and lifestyle. Or he may harbor a secret he doesn't want to share.  

At this point, you have reached out to him several times and he hasn't been responsive so you need to accept the boundaries he's set. I agree with him that you should try not to take it personally; it has more to do with him than you. Perhaps, over time, your friend will realize what he has given up and feel more comfortable talking to you. In the meantime, concentrate on all the positives in your life (including your own ability to be a good friend.)

Yo espero que mi Espanol fue tan bueno como su Ingles!  

I hope this help!

My best,

Irene

Some prior posts on The Friendship Blog about male friendships: 

About the Author

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D.

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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