Ask Steve is a new advice column from Steven Spohn. Drawing from personal experience and years of giving advice, Steve hopes to blend humor, positivity, and heartfelt opinions to guide you through the tough times in life.
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I’ve been close to my friend “Grace” since early elementary school over 35 years ago. We did everything together from double dating to clubs to vacations. I felt like we were inseparable. There was rarely a week when we didn’t do something.
About six months ago I noticed that it was becoming more difficult to get together. I figured our lives were just getting busier as happens when you get older. We kept in touch on Facebook but our schedules never seemed to match.
Last week, we agreed to go catch dinner and catch up. She never showed up. She hasn’t called, texted, or messaged me about missing the dinner. It’s like it never happened.
I know she’s been going through some things, but I’m so hurt that someone I care about that much would completely blow me off without so much as an apology. Should I forgive “Grace”?
Hi Lucky Ducky,
The difficulty of this situation comes down to the value you place on your friendship with Grace. Not as it was; as it is this very second. Ask yourself: Do I miss the friend who has been in my life for the last year? Or do I miss the old Grace?
We’ll get to that in a second, but either way, you may want to at least have a conversation. Yes. It will be an awkward conversation. But sometimes confrontation can lead to better understanding.
Maybe something happened between the two of you that you aren’t aware of. You mentioned that Grace has “been going through some things” – What if those things are causing her to pull away from everybody, not just you? It’s a good policy to always assume people are dealing with the battles in their lives as best they can. Sometimes that involves shutting down and pushing people away who cause us to see ourselves in a way that makes us uncomfortable. Or because we’re afraid of judgment from the people we care about the most.
A simple message might be all you need to determine if your friendship can be saved: “Hey Grace, I miss hanging out like we used to… It really hurt my feelings when you didn’t show up for dinner. Did I do something to make you upset?”
By doing this, you’re putting the ball in her court and forcing her to decide what happens next. If she answers, you’ll get an apology or an excuse.
If you get a sincere apology, it will open the door to continue the conversation that will put you back on the road to a solid friendship. I’d suggest letting her take the lead. She’s going through some things and might need some space. Or she might have needed to be reminded that you are there for her, no matter what.
If you get an excuse, it’s safe to assume that something has happened which may have put your relationship with Grace beyond repair, at least temporarily. With no apology, an empty apology, or an obvious excuse, you have a solid indication that she doesn’t value you the way that a good friend should.
To continue to hold onto someone who puts such a little value on your time is not healthy, mentally or emotionally. You could still have a conversation, but there’s a good chance you’ll be putting her in a corner and she may lash out at you. Even worse, you could be enabling the cycle to continue. I know it’s difficult but if you get an excuse, it’s time to reassess the situation.
During our lives, people will come and go. Science says that we change friends, on average, every seven years. Furthermore, we will be in different groups of friends multiple times throughout our lives. While there are several reasons your group of friends will change, the most likely reason is that you yourself are changing.
Because our life experiences make us who we are and as we continually experience more life has to offer, we’re bound to change who we are. After all, we don’t hit 21 and put our personalities on lockdown. Suffice it to say you might not feel like you’ve changed, but you’re not the same person at 24, 34, or 44.
Those cherished memories you have of you and Grace together are echoes of people who don’t exist anymore. You are not the same person that you were in those memories, neither is she. As cliché as it is, life is the thing that happens while we’re not looking. Your ambitions change. What you find humorous changes. How you mesh with other people changes.
And while those versions of yourselves may have been as compatible as peanut butter and jelly, the newer versions of who you both are may be closer to peanut butter and an aardvark.
Ask yourself: Is it fair to be pouring all of that energy into a person who isn’t putting the same amount of effort into you?
1. It’s not fair to you. Especially when you could be using that energy to find new friends, the kind of people that mesh with who you are now.
2. In some situations, it’s better to cherish the memory of a loved one as they were rather than force a friendship and breed resentment.
If you’re like me when it comes to friendships–and I think you are–you’ll do anything to make a friend happy. You want to figure out how to save the friendship and it is noble that you’re even willing to consider forgiving her for ditching you without a call. But the only thing that you can be sure of is that your friendship with Grace in its current form is not benefiting either one of you in the way that a friendship should be.
You deserve better.
Right now you’re paying a high price to remain friends with her and you’re paying in pain. You’ll have to judge for yourself at what point the cost of struggling to maintain that friendship is higher than the value she is giving you.
Friendships are worth fighting for, but you have to know at what point you have fought long and hard enough. It sounds to me like you’ve tried as hard as you can.
There are so many people in this world who can and will love you for the kind of person you are, rather than who you used to be. Walking away will hurt, even if it is only temporary. But I promise you, you’ll be so much happier pouring your life’s energy into someone who will not only appreciate the value of your friendship but reciprocate it in return.