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Several years ago (twelve or so, now that I think about it), I called up an old friend of mine to whom I had not spoken in a while. Just to say hi, catch up, see how things were going. It became painfully obvious in the first minute or two of the call that she did not want to talk to me, that she wanted, in fact, nothing to do with me. I was shocked. I knew we had grown apart, sure, and I also knew that there was a fair amount of water under our bridge, but I had no idea that we had moved from "fallen out of touch" to "all ties severed."

It took me a decade, more or less, to get over it.

Fortunately, it hasn't happened too often to me, this severing of ties that I didn't especially want severed. But it has happened, and I have been both the sever-er and the sever-ee. I think it is bound to happen to all of us eventually, this active removal that goes beyond the general attrition of time and distance. Someone turns out to be other than who you thought them to be, or they do something with which you cannot reconcile your own beliefs or feelings, and you cut them from your life. Or someone does it to you.

It hasn't happened often, but it has happened enough for me to have developed policies. Policies that allow me to move past it without taking a decade to process the rejection. One of my policies is to never ask why. I have decided that there is usually nothing to be gained from asking, but not knowing drives me nuts. I wonder about it, I replay conversations, I review emails, I try to figure out what it was, what was the last straw, what made this person decide I was no longer worth it? In the long run, I wonder about why far less than I would obsess about the reason, if I knew it, so it works for me to process it in a relative vacuum.

I recently found out why my old friend decided to cut me out of her life. I thought I knew, I was sure I knew, I had accepted it. I was wrong. And her reason was far less acceptable to me than the one I had deduced for myself. I wanted to argue, to present facts and evidence, to show her how wrong she was. I didn't, there was no point, but it made it far harder for me to accept. Far harder to reconcile with my view of myself. Far harder to keep that finally-healed decade or hurt healed. I wish I never knew.

Has this happened to you? What do you do? Do you have any policies?

Comments (32)

Personally, I HATE severing of ties. Mostly because to me, pretty much everything should be worked out, or at least it should be attempted. I let very few people become CLOSE close to me, because even though I'm very social, I'm also very private, and when I have a friend that I truly consider a friend, it's hard for me to not look at it as I do a marriage, for example. You work on it as much as necessary, but really it shouldn't be that hard if you're both trying. I hate falling-outs and friendship endings and because of this I'm much more careful as an adult when I decide to have a friendship with someone. I'm much like you in that, whenever it has happened, I have gone over it a million times, wanting to state my case, etc.. some people aren't as mature and won't see the value in working things out, even if it means just staying in touch, but I feel that if it seemed worthwhile before, there has to be something there worth saving.

It's been done to me, twice. Oddly enough, the reason given to me by both people (from two totally different social circles and several years apart) was the same one. I spent YEARS wondering if it was something seriously lacking in my character, because, dude, really? But I finally got to a place where I was OK with how I acted, because I hadn't acted any better or worse than they had, overall. (i.e., it wasn't just me, as much as they claimed it was.) It sucks, though. With one of them, I lost touch with my best friends from college by association. I wonder how they're doing every now and then and would love to try and get back in touch with them, but I am flat out just scared to. I'm worried that they're still very angry and bitter about it and would prefer not to hear from me at all, and that sort of picking at emotional scabs never does anyone any good, you know?

But yeah, it sucks. I've lost touch with a fair amount of people, and there are people I haven't made as much of an effort to keep in touch with, for sure, but I've never flat out said to anyone, "I'd greatly prefer it if you'd just bugger off permanently, thank you."

Oh, yes. I have dropped and been dropped - I dropped because the person in question decided to have an affair and use me as her alibi - without telling me - then swore and was generally horrible when (in total innocence) I told her partner that I hadn't seen her in months - when she had told him that she was seeing me every week. So, valid I feel - no idea whether she even realised why I was so upset with her. I also dropped because the person was so bitchy and down on everyone else (inferiority complex?) that I got very defensive and depressed when I was with her. She realised about 2 years later, which to me speaks volumes about her self awareness :). I was also dropped by a friend of over 10 years when I was deep in early motherhood - I don't know the true reason but I suspect she couldn't cope with my having a child when she couldn't have a child. Like you, it feels unfair (over 5 years on) and I feel the need to ask "why?" I've also been dropped by someone I flat shared with because I was upset that she decided to move out, found somewhere, gave her notice, then told me 2 days before she moved out and I wasn't whooping with joy at her decision (I was somewhat shocked) and didn't give a forwarding address. To this day I don't know if I did something to herald her decision to move - or if it was just that she was upset that I was so shocked but if she wasn't prepared to discuss it I don't really see what could be done to sort it out. Ultimately, we are human beings and sometimes that isn't enough in common to hold a relationship together - we have to accept that there are locational friendships or ones that only work pre/post children, etc.. But I don't cope well with the rejection, and don't have any strategies as such, but I find that hugs (virtual and real) plus a large glass of wine helps.

Been there. There have been one or two times where I've had to cut people or been cut. It always hurts. But sometimes you have to protect yourself from being hurt further. I find that the people with whom this usually happens are the ones who are INCAPABLE of seeing things from any perspective other than their own and they frequently play the victim. As I get older I'm really trying hard to believe people when they show you who they are (via Maya Angelou). I want to believe the best of my friends. When they hurt me I sometimes give too many chances. I am trying to make better choices for friends so that I don't have to go through the pain of being hurt or hurting others if I feel I have to cut them out. In my opinion, mature relationships don't require "cutting" because you can discuss things calmly like adults and generally give each other the benefit of the doubt. Sorry you have been hurt. That sucks!

Yes, it has happened to me. A woman who was like a sister to me just dropped me and it was painful and hurtful. I tried to justify what had occurred, but never really could.
Then my husband and I were talking because we learned her grandson had been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. Jack felt that perhaps the fact that I had lost a child reminded her that sometimes children die.
Whatever the reason. I miss her.

It hurts, but since I have less chance of changing someone else's mind about something like that than I do winning a gold medal in the next Summer Olympic games, I try to not let it bother me.

Life's too short to dwell on things you can't change, when there's so many good things out there to spend your time appreciating. I try to keep reminding myself that whenever something gets me down, whether it be something like this or even something as "minor" as getting a traffic ticket or repairing the garage door after my mother-in-law ran into it in our car.

I've had it happen to me. Quite a bit, really, and it makes me feel horrendously insecure. Dangit Beth, I was already having a bad day :P

Yes. And since the severing the friend and I have come back together which is a good thing. She was diagnosed with a horrible brain thing and we needed each other so for the most part it has become water under the bridge but she was the sever-er and I am pretty sure I know why but due to the brain stuff she has forgotten why she was so mad to begin with. But I am like you and you wonder why I wasn't worth more of a fight because prior to that severing we were attached at the hip for god sakes I was in the room when she delivered her children we had been friends for a decade and it seemed so effortless for her to walk away. So I guess as much as I am glad we are friends again and back in one anotherís lives a little part of me is always going to fear that one day she'll leave again so I am still a little guarded.

Yes, it has happened to me, and one time it was that someone dropped me when I thought _I_ was the one doing HER a favor by maintaining the friendship, and that was UTTERLY MYSTIFYING. I have no policies as of yet, but yours sound good to me so perhaps I will adopt them.

Yes, but the question to myself is usually why is it so easy to be the sever-er?

And with FB bringing so many people back in to focus with The Reconnecting, we often find ourselves wondering "now WHY did we lose touch or stop talking?".

No seems to be able to remember any of the details any longer. Drama softens with time, it appears.

I have both severed and been severed....twice. They were by two relatively life-long was my best friend of 17 years. It was very painful as it had to do more with the fact that her husband is ultra-controlling and didn't/doesn't want her to have contact with any of her friends she had prior to them being a couple. The other was not so painful as we had grown apart over the years...although her reason, still not entirely clear, is suspect and confusing and if I cared more about my friendship with her would really bother me, but truthfully it was a relief to be rid of her and the toxicity of a relationship with her.

I'm sorry that you are struggling with this again (albeit less now). I've done both. Most recently it was a mom who I met while we both had infants. I went to a bunch of her family events -- she came to none of mine and I literally had to interrupt her when we spoke to get a word in edgewise. It wasn't worth maintaining to me (I also hold serious grudges). I also made the conscious decision to dump a friend who was divorcing and moving around the time I was getting married. I chose the husband because he was staying on this coast. I miss her a lot sometimes. I haven't gotten dumped recently (that I know of) but I also have a problem making close friends since middle school (oh the agony!). I know that I rub a couple in our group of friends the wrong way -- the the point of them not liking me -- but I deal with it. It's almost comical to me. It's just the way people are. Conversely, I have a REALLY hard time letting people go from my mind (exes of all types). I may have to seek hypnosis :)

Oh Beth.

I really really hear you on this. REALLY. I had a good friend- we lost contact after we graduated from college. A year or two goes by. She would email me in big group update emails, but after a couple of years I realized we hadn't properly caught up, and I reached out to her. Nothing in return. So I let it go, and because I'm the way I am, I reached out to her again. Again, silence on the other end.

She was the type to over commit herself to a million people and things, so I figured she was simply busy. So I didn't take it personally, until it because ABUNDANTLY CLEAR that she was pointedly ignoring me.

So fine. I moved on. Because there's not much sense in dwelling, right? If she wanted to discuss, she knew I was open to a dialogue. She clearly did not want to discuss.

Then comes Facebook (oooooo, Facebook, you stinker), and I see that she is friends with roughly 75% of the people I know on Facebook. And stupid Facebook keeps suggesting I add her as my friend. And I start thinking, look, it's been 10 years since we graduated, 7 years since she blew me off, SURELY we've all done a lot of growing since I sent her a friend request, which she accepted.

Progress!! I then decide to send her an email letting her know I think about her often, wish things were different, apologize for anything I may have done to offend, congratulate her on her marriage and her new baby, and let her know I'd love to hear back from her and maybe even reconnect.


So honestly? I feel like I've done what I can and I have to let it go (although I won't pretend I didn't lose sleep over it because I definitely did). In her mind, I must have been the most horrendous person who did the most heinous awful thing (of which I am blissfully unaware) if after TEN YEARS she still believes our friendship, or acquaintanceship at this point, is not worth redeeming. OR she's a bitter petty person who has held onto some small grudge for the past 10 years, in which case, do I WANT someone like that in my life? Probably not. Either way, I don't think I would enjoy, nor find particularly helpful, whatever she thinks about me. So there you have it.

I've also had a friend (actually a bridesmaid at my wedding) tell me to go to hell because she didn't feel as though I was sufficiently "into" her married boyfriend and their pending engagement (once his divorce was finalized and the custody issues worked out with his older children), so you know....maybe I AM terrible.

But in your case? Don't sweat it Beth. People are the way people are. And often people are real assholes. You can only be accountable for yourself.

(can I also mention that we went to high school together, and were roommates in college?)

Yes, been there in all instances and it always sucks. I wonder if boys do this the same way girls do? Whatever the reason, it sucks. The obsessing sucks, but I feel like if I knew the reason then it would be easier for me to either blow them off or apologize or whatever.

She stinks, though, and you're awesome. Definitely. I would be your friend if we lived close by.

Strange you should bring that up - it JUST happened to me and I have no idea why. I asked her, and received no response so have no choice but to just let it go. We weren't super close, but she completely blocked me on Facebook (God, that sounds so twelve) and it still bothers me.

Whoa; this is almost freakish because I thought pretty much ALL DAY yesterday about a formerly close friend who cut a slew of us off last year because she felt left out and that we weren't living up to her expectation of friends. It was bizarre and weird and unsatisfying and sad. And still bothers me today. Her problem? We didn't invite her out enough. When she decided to cut us off? Responding to an e-mail invitation to get together for the first time in over a year. Because NONE of us had seen each other in that long. Even after assurances and explanations we were no longer welcome.

I don't think I have ever officially severed ties with someone. I've allowed a friendship to follow a natural course of drifting apart but not in a harsh/bad-blood type of manner. Last summer, my friend who I have known since the 6th grade and who was my best friend from when we were 16 years old up to, well, up until late June of 2009, severed ties with me in 8 easy sentences. This love note was written on a thank-you-sized card with a chinese symbol on the front. I am thinking the symbol must translate as "F U" because that about sums up her message to me. This person was my very best friend, maid of honor at my wedding, the Godmother of my first child. While I think I know the "why" of it, I still don't see why she needed such a final ending. Oh, am I bitter? No, why do you ask? I guess it's just a part of life but if anyone else doesn't like me, I hope they just let the drifting apart thing happen- that's easier to process. Sorry to write a book but you definitely struck a chord with me

I couldn't help but to hear Ira Glass reading this entry to me. I think this would make an excellent topic on This American Life. I would love to hear the details to this story, but understand that most personal blog stories have limits to disclosure.

Oh, come ON! Don't leave us hanging! Why'd she dump you? I know, I know, I guess it's kind of personal, but I'd like to know what kinds of grievances actually make people decide to cut a person out of their life. (Do tell. Was it the holey jeans?)

I don't feel I've ever had a friendship ~severed~. It usually just happened, with time. In fact, it's happened with nearly all of my friends. We grew apart geographically and/or emotionally, and with the busy-ness of life, just stopped connecting. But I'm an introvert (nice way of saying hermit), so I wonder if people think I'm an asshole. It's entirely possible. But I am pretty sure all of my gradual dissolution of friendships have been mutual. Maybe I'm just oblivious. Wow. This is worrisome now. Sigh.

Yes, it's happened to me, and I agree that for me, knowing the reason makes it worse- eight years later, in one case, I'm still constructing arguments to persuade her that I really do/did care about her friendship...not a good use of time. Sigh.

I was cringing while reading this. It happened to me about 4 years ago. My best friend and I had been friends for 14 years (since we were 12). We were so close, almost like sisters. And then, one day I realized I hadn't talked to her in a few weeks. I'd been emailing and calling with no answer. I found out through my sister-in-law (who was their waitress at a place her and her husband frequented), that my friend was pregnant, I was SO hurt that as her "best friend" I had to find out this way. So I tried the house again. Her husband answered and he said, "She doesn't want to speak to you." I asked him why and he said, "That's not my place to say." I hung up and tried again the next day, she answered the phone and I said, "Hey, I heard you were pregnant! That's so great! Congratulations!" I got a cold, "Thanks." from her her. So I put it out there, I said, "What's going on?" She told me that she couldn't be my friend anymore. I said, "Do I get to know why?" and she said, "No. I'm done." I have obsessed over this for pretty much the last four years, I honestly have NO idea what the hell happened. For the most part, I've come to the conclusion that it's her loss, but it still hurts like hell.

I have a hard time ending friendships. I have one that I should end, since it's pretty toxic for me, but...I just can't bring myself to do it.

I've definitely done this. I went through a period in my twenties when I was pretty harsh about ending friendships. I was really struggling with the fact that I needed to end my relationship with my mother, but I couldn't face that yet, so I took care of the peripheral issues of ending friendships that were either too closely connected to my mother or were unhealthy and controlling. In the past year or two, I've reached out and re-connected with several of these friends, which has been very good because we have all changed and grown with time.

this hasn't happened to me with a friend but it's happened with a lover. they didn't cut me out of their life totally but one day he was madly in love with me and the next day he was not even though he could still DO everything we equated with love, just not say it. i too started in with the WHY WHY WHY. i felt i deserved to know why, even if i could not fix it. he would only say i didn't change at all and it was him who changed. which, that seems like so much bullshit. if you stop loving someone overnight there has GOT to be a reason. unfortunately this is my curse as a logical person-- i don't believe that feelings can just change overnight because i'm logical and there must be a logical reason or logical series of events blah blah blah. of course not everyone is logical. it's been over a year and i still wonder why but have given up asking because i realized hounding him about it only made me look crazy, and he wasn't going to change his mind. one day i just woke up and said, i have to let this go or it will drive me insane -- and it WAS driving me truly insane -- so i did just that. sure, it still sometimes sneaks into my head but i chase it right back out. the (unfortunate) conclusion i have come to is that to protect myself, i mustn't let anyone new in. i realize that is stupid but i don't know how to hold people at arm's length. i'm an all or nothing kind of gal.

secondary thought: it might have actually been easier if he had totally cut me out of his life. at least then i wouldn't have had to deal with wondering why he no longer loved me while he kissed me and told me deep dark secrets no one else knew and spoke our language with me.

I got dropped by a friend while in HS; knew the reason, but then years later we kind of reconciled, and were supposed to get together, and then "something" would always come up on his end at the last minute. In the age of Facebook and MySpace ( happened on both ), we would friend each other, send one message, and then I would get stone cold ignored after that. So I've been in a perpetual state of being quasi dropped for years, and it sucks. So finally decided that I had to let it go and accept that no matter what I did, the hand would not be reached back out.

For coping skills, I remind myself that if I had to be friends with myself, I would probably want to kick my own butt on a regular basis. Also, that at the end of the day, we are all crazy monkeys just one step away from throwing poo, so when someone else does something completely irrational, well, I guess that just makes sense in that context.

But I totally get the not knowing is better, because then you can build up this really logical sense of why, which gets shattered by the ugly truth.

Beth, thanks I feel better knowing I'm not alone. This has happened to me just once, 6 months ago. I'm still dealing with it and trying to process what and when things changed as we were so close. I had a dear old friend that for some unknown reason just quit being my friend in a real sense despite the fact that she lived an hour from me for quite a few years. We saw each other once when she moved here. I called occasionally and emailed. At some point, I realized it wasn't given in return and accepted it on a certain level. We continued to share Christmas cards, but I stopped calling and wasn't involved. The annoying part is over the past few years I started getting mass emails to everyone in her IN box that shared general news and everything. I found it offensive on several levels, one being the privacy aspect and the other, I couldn't understand who keeps in touch like this. I let it go until 6 months ago when I blew up. I asked for an explanation why our friendship had resorted to mass emails. I was told we hadn't been friends for decades. That is all she would say and it still really bothers me. The interesting part is that she was the one that was angry because I blew up at her and I gave her an out and she was pissed.

I had finally reached the point where I needed to sever things for my own sanity. Every email was a reminder of what we lost.

I don't count people that we loose touch with that move and such and just miss reconnecting with. Yes, FB has changed that too. Often, that alone is telling. FB tells you about certain people and you/them often don't decide to connect.

I have never dropped a friend. I'm very loyal, even when they don't deserve it.

I had this happen too. One friend and I had been buddies all through high school, after high school, and she was in my wedding. Out of the blue one day she quit answering my calls. I spoke to her ex-boyfriend, and he told me that she didn't want to talk to me anymore. Then I saw her years later at our 10 year Grad reunion, and she was uber bitchy, so I just gave up and moved on. She then friended me a few weeks ago on FB, calling me her long lost friend. I didn't reply.

The worst one was a blogging/internet friend of 12 years, who dumped me in 2006. That relationship was more complicated-we had never met in real life, but were very close via e-mail and the internet.

This other friend was very insecure, and was into blogging long before I knew what it was. When I discovered blogging, she couldn't stand the fact that I was jumping right into the community and making friends, being a part of something that SHE wanted to do but didn't have the self confidence to do herself. Also, she held against me the fact that I had not commented enough on her blog (I had no idea that I was supposed to). For the last 2 years ANYTHING I did on my blog was enough for her to pick a fight, and our relationship slowly fell apart. When I was asked to have my blog syndicated, she dumped me. For the longest time I felt really horrible and thought it was all me, but as time passed, I realized that I was far better off without her and I learned a lot about myself in the process. I refused to quit blogging for her because blogging was something for ME, and that it was so NOT my job to continually prop up her self esteem.

Took me 3 years to get here. I don't plan to do that again.

Ugh. I rarely sever ties with someone I was close with - random friends maybe but not someone who was truly important in my life. I figure if they mattered that much to me at some point, they can at least hang out on the Christmas card list. But there is a women who was my BFF for a very long time. We were friends from junior high up until our late 20's. Then she cut me out of her life. She said God told her to (okay - a little more complicated than that). It was very hurtful but I accepted it. I was bitter for awhile but eventually moved on. Then she got in contact. Wanted to have lunch. We did. She wanted to get our friendship back. Then I didn't hear from her again. Two years later, she got in touch. Then no word. A couple of years later, she sent gifts for my new child. Then nothing. This pattern has continued. She friended me on facebook. I have chosen to only react to her overtures (if I feel like it at the time) and not to initiate anything.
That long story aside, my basic rule is to not beat my head against a brick wall and just once someone indicates they want to sever ties, I never look back. Ever. They are dead to me. Heh.

This hits very close to home. I have no advice or policies. It hurts like heck.

This has happened to me a few times. Most recently, about a year and a half ago. A good friend, who had stuck by me when others hadn't, just drifted away. There was no rhyme or reason to it. I finally called her on it, asking her point blank what I had done to make her so angry. She had no real answer. Just said that we'd grown apart and should just get over it.

It still hurts to think of it. I'm not one to have a lot of friends, and I usually like guys alot better than girls. It took a lot to get over losing that friendship. I don't think it would have been quite as bad if there were an actual fight, or conflict between us. It was like she was saying that my friendship just wasn't important enough to her to hang on to.

I got in touch with a friend from high school about 10 years later. We emailed back and forth; had pretty good conversation; promised to get together for dinner, never did.

A year later I saw she was on myspace and requested her friendship, to which she never accepted. I found out from another friend that she no longer "liked" me.

To this day I have no idea why. I ran into her about a year ago at a girls' night that some mutual friends put together. We didn't speak. She blurted out at one point that she hated people that she never really knew well in high school who tried to "friend" her on myspace and facebook and thought they were losers. I didn't *think* she was referring to me, since we were friends in high school.

As I was leaving, she pulled me a side and said that she hoped I knew she wasn't referring to me when she said that. I could tell she was embarassed and anxious. It's her problem that she's idiot for not getting the point of social networking sites, so I just walked away.

I confident enough in my skin to not really care, but I never found out why she stopped "liking" me. It bothers me every once in a while. But I'm not bitter.

Hope she chokes on an apple. And luckily I won't have to read about it on facebook since we aren't friends.

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So the Fish Said...

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