THE BLOG
02/22/2012 03:39 pm ET Updated Apr 22, 2012

Friendship Advice: Getting Over Feeling Dumped When A Friend Says She Need Space

Unfortunately, sometimes the only way to get over the hump is tincture of time ...

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I am struggling with a friend that said she needs "space." I realize she is in a trying time in her life. Her mother is dying of cancer and she's currently finishing up her master's degree. I am trying to give her the space she needs, but at the same time I am totally heartbroken in thinking that maybe she is pulling away from our friendship.

I've experienced the loss of a friendship before because the person "needed space" and only later did I find out that they just wanted to cut off our friendship. To this day, being cut out of someone's life and not fully knowing why has been one of the most painful experiences I have ever gone through.

Anyway, my friend said she no longer has time to text. She and I used to text all of the time. What I don't understand is how someone could have NO time. Couldn't she at least try to set aside one night a week? Texting and talking to her at night was one of the things I've really enjoyed. In one email she wrote me she said her time for all friends was changing, but I am starting to believe this is a lie.

It somehow spilled out in a brief conversation at church that she had gone out with some friends for dinner during the weekend. Clearly she has time for SOME friends. She said the only time that we can see each other is at church. Half the time I can barely make it to church the same days she can and I can hardly justify seeing someone at church as being friends. To add to that, her partner sat between she and I during Saturday church further reinforcing that she wants distance between us.

Words can't describe just how heartbroken I am. Since I feel like she is trying to pull away and slowly cut ties to a friendship I can't stop crying at night thinking about it. She said she would always support me -- and my decisions -- but if I have hardly any contact with her then I don't understand how this can be friendship.

I am also SO hurt because I had helped her with her master's project taking pictures. It involved going to nightly rehearsals and taking many photos of the cast and crew (it was a drama project based thing). What hurts me most is the little thanks I got. I literally spent HOURS and HOURS of my time helping her out. I know she is a friend, but I totally feel used. I got a thank you card, which was a nice gesture, but for all the time I put into helping her out I feel totally used. I thought she'd at least take me for dinner or thank me in some other way,

I want my old friend back - -the friend that enjoyed talking to me, that always seemed excited to see me and that genuinely seemed to care about me. How do I approach this situation? Do I tell her how I feel? Do you think she understands how hurt I feel? I am just very confused and hurt. I spent a year developing an amazing friendship with her only for her to turn around and now say she basically doesn't want to talk except at church. Of all the people in my life I always thought she'd be the last one to try cut the ties to a friendship, yet it feels like it's happening all over again and I am heartbroken.

Signed,

Nicole

ANSWER

Dear Nicole,

I'm so sorry you are feeling this hurt. Your friend is pulling away from you and hasn't been forthcoming in telling you why. Regardless of the reasons (which might have to do with her, with you, or some combination of the two), you have no choice but to give her the distance she's seeking. It sounds like you tried to talk to her to no avail.

You are correct: A cordial relationship at church, with her partner between you, is far different than the relationship you once had. Whether she is spending more time with her mother, her schoolwork, other friends, or her partner, she has decided she has no time for you.

It is understandable that you are mourning the loss of a close friendship. Coming on the heels of another loss, both without any clear explanation, has to make it even more painful.

When someone is dependent on one friend and then is rebuffed unilaterally, the loss can feel devastating. It will take some time to get over. Are there lessons to be learned? Perhaps you need to approach friendships more slowly and really get to know someone before you become so closely enmeshed emotionally. Perhaps you need to find more than one friend, so you aren't so dependent on any one individual.

Hope this helps.

My best,

Irene Some prior posts on The Friendship Blog about getting dumped by a friend:
  • Ditched by a friend
  • Getting over getting dumped
  • Devastated over being dumped: Control what you can
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