Dear MDS

Dear MammaDontStress,

I have a friend who I care a lot about but don’t often get to see or chat to. We live a big distance apart and both have full lives. Can go months without chatting, nothing bad Facebook interactions. But I felt we were still close.

Anyway I have just discovered a lot has gone on in her life in the past 12 months. Some of which I was aware of, some not. We haven’t spoken properly for a long time and it’s been both sides. But now it seems she is upset with me and feels like our friendship is a lot less than it used to be and, as a result, has less interest in talking to me or making plans to catch up. I only know this because I found out she was going to be visiting our area and reached out to her. I’m not sure I would have heard from her if I hadn’t done that and it hurts me.

I’ve since said in conversation that I’ve been a bad friend for not being more in contact and I’ve apologised, she’s not acknowledged that at all to either agree or refute it and now I have no idea where I stand.

What do I do?

From M.E.

Dear M.E.,

Well I’m sorry you’re upset and firstly good on you for caring.

Next: have you actually asked if this person is upset with you directly? It may be that they are not…our perception of any interaction is at best 50% correct, and we then fill in the blanks with our own guess. That can lead to massively incorrect assumptions. So ask, first. No friend will mind you saying, “Hey is everything ok with us? I feel a bit like I’ve upset you and if I have, I’d like to make it right.” If nothing else, it will open the lines of communication.

Otherwise….

Friendships are a 2 way street, mate. Yes, you could have been more proactive in checking in with her in the last whatever period, for sure. But, reality is, so could she. Did she try to contact you but you were always too busy? Or did she just never think to call or write, too?

Did you fail to contact her because you couldn’t be bothered despite knowing she needed you, because that is a bad friend.

Or did you fail to contact her because you, too, were busy and had things going on? And if she had reached out would you have been there? If so, then you are not a bad friend. You are a human.

In this world we are increasingly hard on ourselves and have expectations and standards that are impossible to meet – on ourselves. We are much kinder to others. Much more accommodating of the reality of life. We need to take a step back and look at the situation we are castigating ourselves for and ask, “If someone else did this, would I think so poorly of them?” And then apply that level of kindness and empathy and understanding to ourselves, as well.

By all means, apologise and ensure your friend knows you are sorry you were not there for her. Make a commitment to touch base with those you care about (all of them, not just this friend) on a more regular basis. Even just set aside half an hour a week, in your diary if you must, to devote to catching up with someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.

And then, let it go. Forgive yourself. You can do no more than that, and then it’s up to your friend to step up and either the friendship gets back on track or it doesn’t.

Good luck, and keep caring x

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