You thought your close friend would always be there for you. So what do you do when she suddenly stops returning calls or arranging get-togethers?
“Life is full of big transitions — a new job, getting married, having kids — so as heartbreaking as it can be, it should be no surprise that some of your friendships will shift over time,” says Liz Pryor, author of What Did I Do Wrong? When Women Don’t Tell Each Other the Friendship Is Over.
Here’s how to hold onto a changing relationship — and how to know when to let it go.
Is a long-distance friend becoming more distant? Before you start feeling resentful, reach out to her, says Pryor. Take a non-confrontational approach, such as, “I really cherish our friendship, and I want to stay close with you. Are you on board?” That may prompt her to make more of an effort to call and visit. If not, send an email explaining that you can’t keep putting yourself out there if she doesn’t reciprocate. Still no response? Move on, knowing you’ve done your best.
Look at Yourself
Maybe it’s time to rethink what kind of friend you’re being, suggests Susan Shapiro Barash, author of Toxic Friends: The Antidote for Women Stuck in Complicated Friendships. Try some soul searching. Your pal might be getting tired of hearing you rant about your job or being asked for favors. If so, come clean: “I’m sorry I keep rehashing office politics. Let’s talk about what’s going on in your life.” Seeing that you’re trying to improve the bond will inspire her to do the same.
Honor Her Schedule
A spate of canceled plans doesn’t necessarily mean your friend is mad at you; she may just be juggling too many responsibilities. Acknowledging her time limitations will show that you respect her — which goes a long way in maintaining a changing friendship, says Shapiro Barash. If she’s too tied up to meet for coffee twice a week, suggest a monthly girls’ night out.
Celebrate What You Have in Common
Even if you’re in different life stages — you’re wrapped up in day care and soccer games while she’s still all about the margarita bar — your shared history can be enough to stick it out, says Pryor. You may not be the party girls or world travelers you used to be, but you know each other to the core and love each other for it.
Reconsider Her Role
Has a close friend stopped confiding her deepest secrets? Time to reconsider her role in your network. “It’s natural — and practical — that different friends fill different needs,” explains Shapiro Barash. So instead of mourning your heart-to-hearts, consider her a more casual connection who’s perfect for shopping, brunch or a good laugh.
Call it Quits
If a so-called friend does something really out of line, ask yourself the tough questions: Do I feel good around her? Would I treat someone else this way? Is this friendship worth salvaging? If not, it’s time to throw in the towel, says Shapiro Barash. Once trust is lost, you don’t have much else left. Beg off on her invitations and she’ll get the message. If you still see her in group settings, avoid giving her any fodder for gossip by being “very careful of what you say around her and to her,” advises Pryor. Save your time and energy for the friends who really care.