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Dr. Irene S. Levine Headshot

Legacy Friends: Keeping old friendships alive

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QUESTION

Hi Irene,

My best friend from college (who later was my maid of honor) and I had a fall out three years ago. After 13 years of friendship, she completely shut down and stopped speaking to me. My moving out of state, her moving to another state, my having a baby, and her career taking off all converged into a perfect storm triggering the split.

Six months ago, I felt I was better able to give her the attention she deserved, and sent her an apology/olive branch letter, and a gift (timed with her birthday), and she e-mailed back accepting me into her life, and admitting being less patient with me after I had the baby.

Over the last six months she barely responds to e-mails, including an invitation to talk on the phone for 10 minutes (this was a few weeks ago). She has begun moving in social circles involving high society and quasi-celebrities, and I can kind of see some of the things that broke us apart initially. However, now that I am on her Facebook list, and her fan page, I feel like I will be the evil one now if I don't give HER the same patience I very much needed once upon a time.

How do I continue without getting hurt? I'm visiting her state in a few months, and frankly I don't even want to tell her I'll be around, for fear of rejection or nonresponsiveness.

Signed,
Cissy

ANSWER

Hi Cissy,

Your college friend seems to have morphed into what I call a "legacy friend" (a friend from the past with little currency in the present). While you have a rich history that spanned over 13 years, your lives have taken different directions and this often makes it difficult to keep a friendship going.

The initial fall out may have been the result of a perfect storm but ongoing circumstances, such as geography and lifestyle differences, are still conspiring to maintain social distance between you.

If your friend's unresponsive, back off a little and give her some space. Be more forgiving and take it less personally. Let her know you'll be in town if she's available (and you want to see her) but don't get upset if she has other commitments.

Perhaps, it would be worthwhile to have an explicit conversation about how maintain the friendship so it fits into your current lives in a way that is comfortable for both of you. Even though you're no longer as close as you once were, you've patched up the acute problem, and can still share a long and rich history---hopefully with occasional opportunities to catch up in person, by phone and/or by email.

Hope this helps!
Best,
Irene

Do you have legacy friends? How do you keep the friendship alive?

Prior posts on The Friendship Blog that touch upon legacy friendships:


Is my childhood friendship worth saving?

My best friend exhausts me

RX for longer-lasting friendships