Hax: Re-connecting with lost friends

The Washington PostNovember 7, 2013 

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: Your column (about dropping a friend who twice went years without returning calls) resonated with me. I’ve had much the same thing happen on both ends, where I was going through a rough patch for a few months and not maintaining friendships well, and then had one of my closest friends decide this was grounds for abruptly and completely cutting off communication.

Fast-forward to now, five years later, when I got a surprise voice mail from this friend. I may or may not be interested in resuming the friendship.

If I understand your prior advice correctly, are you saying that the most important thing is to make sure to hash out what happened and set terms before doing so? And if those terms end up not being met, to explain why you appreciated getting back in touch but that it’s not going to be possible to be friends?

PROMOTING BACK TO FRIENDSHIP?

I wouldn’t apply advice from one situation to the other because there’s a distinct difference in the details. The friend in the column dropped off the face of the earth twice, not once as in your situation, and the disappearance in the column lasted for years, whereas you went silent only for a matter of months.

The advice I’d give for any situation like this, where you’re weighing whether to trust someone again — that’s what it’s all about, right, details aside? — is to listen carefully to what your friend says; combine that with what she has done and decide whether your bull meter approves of resuming the friendship.

Re: Friendships: Why can’t people just accept the “It’s not you, it’s me” explanation for friendship interruptions? “I’m sorry, I need to work this through by myself, and I’ll be back in touch when I get my head above water.” What’s so terrible and hurtful about that?

ANONYMOUS

You assume that message was delivered. In cases where the friend just goes silent in a way that sends one checking the obits, and stays silent for years, “terrible and hurtful” fits.

Email tellme@washpost.com. Chat online at 10 a.m. Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.

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