When a friendship is slipping away you can feel the loss inside. You’ve invested time with this person, you’ve shared confidences, and you’ve been through good times and bad.
But now your friend doesn’t return your calls. Or he or she doesn’t have time to spend with you. There’s usually some rational reason, but you sense it’s just an excuse. Something is amiss. And you have a nagging suspicion that you’ve done something wrong. But what is it?
Perhaps you haven’t done anything to offend your friend. Before you torture yourself with guilt and regret over some unknown transgression, ask yourself a few questions:
- While you once had similar values, do you think they’ve changed over time?
- Do your lifestyles have less in common than when you first met?
- Has your friend been supportive during recent contacts?
- Have you had a good time recently, or does your friendship seem forced?
- Does your friend ever undermine you or seem to sabotage you?
- Do you have doubts that you can trust your friend?
If your answer is yes to any or all of the above questions, your next step is to decide if the friendship is worth it to you to continue. It doesn’t seem to be a priority to your friend lately. Do you really want to find out why this distancing has occurred and to try to close the gap?
Here are some things to consider: 1) Time and distance can change things: this is life’s natural course. While we may want to hold onto the past, it isn’t always possible, or even recommended; 2) Your friend may be going through some rough times and experiencing difficulty sharing them with you; or 3) Your friend may in fact be hurt or disturbed by something you’ve said or done.
If your soul searching leads you to decide the friendship could be worth saving, then it’s up to you to swallow your pride and ask your friend if something’s wrong. This may not be easy, because you can’t know in advance the outcome of your discussion. Emotions can become heated. But it doesn’t need to be hostile, at least not on your side of things, if you make up your mind to approach matters with fairness. Be ready to listen. And be prepared to apologize if your friend has a valid complaint.
The worst thing that can happen as a result of your confrontation is that you won’t be able to resolve the conflict, and you’ll part estranged. If you try to maintain peace, however, this isn’t likely to happen. You may agree to disagree, and decide to discontinue your relationship on it previous terms. At least you’ll have closure. This is healthier than forever wondering what went wrong.
But here’s the potential reward: If you approach a true friend with genuine care and concern, your conversation just might bring a new level of mutual understanding to your friendship, and make the bond between you stronger than before.
There’s just one caveat: resist the temptation to force a positive outcome. Your dignity and your friend’s are at stake. Respect this and things will be resolved with integrity.
Mary Kathryn “M.K.” Jones
Founder of Women Who Walk the Talk™