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Dr. Irene S. Levine Headshot

Friendship Advice: When Problems Fester Too Long

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QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I've been struggling about what to do about my friend Jennifer, whom I've known for 14 years. She really took me aback with a letter she wrote me almost a year ago. It included everything I had done that had upset her, all the way back to 2005, when she was my maid of honor.

In 2010, she and her husband were coming to my city. Her husband has a best friend in a city two hours from me so we weren't the only reason they were coming to visit. But we ended up not seeing each other because she said her husband got sick after they visited her husband's friend.

I was three months pregnant with my second child (and really excited for her to see my belly) and I was planning on driving to her with my four-year-old. On the day of the visit, she left a message saying her husband was sick and it wouldn't be a good idea to see each other.

I was really upset because I only see her once a year, and I made the mistake of jumping to the conclusion that her husband wasn't really sick -- rather, that he didn't like me because this was the second time something like this had happened.

Something like this had happened once before so it seemed like a pattern. I also had accused him of not wanting me in their wedding party but I was wrong, and sent him an apology letter. He forgave me but she hasn't.

I was in tears when she refused to have me come see me. That is when I realized it had to be something more. The next month I got a handwritten letter from her. It seemed like the purpose of her letter was to deliberately get back at me for things that I did but didn't know about. More than once, it said how selfish I am.

I sent her an apology letter, I've posted on her wall wishing her a Happy Birthday, Happy Veteran's Day, mentioning how sorry to hear that her cat had passed, etc. with no response. What hurt me the most was to not receive a message from her or congratulations on the birth of my son in 2010. If she is that angry, I'm at a loss as to why she hasn't blocked me on Facebook.

I had no idea she was so angry all this time. When I told her I was upset because I wasn't in her wedding (the day after the wedding in 2007) all she said was, "I have to make this up to you." Now, in the letter, she wrote that I "dashed her wedding experience to the floor".

A person can't fix anything if they don't know about it. But to let me know now has just boggled my mind. I guess I've been holding on to hope that we would be okay because I've known her for over 14 years. Ever since my life turned around for the better our friendship has not been the same.

I'm at the point I want to completely end it. Block her from FB but it's tricky. It's really difficult to see posts from her to her other friends and not response to any of my posts. I've reached out more than once to try and mend our relationship. I'm still at a loss about this.

When we go to CA (where I'm from) for vacation I always make sure to have time to visit her. For our upcoming trip in April I won't be doing that. I want to send her one last letter to tell her how I feel and to end our friendship. But I'm really not sure how to go about it. What I really need to do is burn the letter. I'm just not ready to do that yet. Not sure why.

Would love to hear your ideas.

Signed,

Rebecca,

ANSWER

Dear Rebecca,

It's hard to know exactly what is going on with you and your friend -- or with your friend and her husband. It seems like most of the difficulties in your friendship cropped up after you both got married. For a variety of reasons, sometimes the close friends we have as singles aren't the same ones that work for us as wives, partners, and/or mothers.

By the time Jennifer sent the letter, it sounds like she had been accumulating a litany of complaints against you for years or else was reaching back more recently to re-write history. In any relationship, it's never fair fighting to bring up grudges from the past. It's always a mistake, too, to let little problems in a relationship continue to fester. This can lead to a buildup of anger and can be crushing to the person to whom they are suddenly delivered all at once.

Fourteen years is a long friendship and I suspect it was one that was very important to you and Jennifer. At this point, I don't think Facebook is a good mechanism for you to use to stay connected with her. Just block her from your Facebook page if you are irritated seeing her interact with other friends.

At this point, my suggestion is to simply let go of the friendship. You have so little contact with your ex-friend now that a letter isn't necessary nor do I think it would achieve anything. It seems like Jennifer isn't very good at resolving conflicts -- so I'm not too hopeful you can repair things.

Hope this helps.

Best,

Irene