THE BLOG
01/17/2011 11:53 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Desperate for friendship at college

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I'm 18 and a freshman in college. At the end of my senior year, my best friends started dropping like flies. My two best friends were total opposites. The first, who shared every interest and activity I was passionate about, faded away after our first disputes. She was the gentle person I always wished I could be. But, she changed. I changed. I apologized later for my transgressions but that was that.

My second best friend (to whom I was closer) was manipulative, outspoken, and hyper-opinionated. I didn't get much attention from guys but when I did she would swoop in claiming the guy had always been hers. She even hooked up with someone I was interested in the very day I told her about my interest. She cried victim saying she couldn't say no in a moment of weakness.

Months after I had forgiven her, all our friends spent a week at the beach with our respective boyfriends (hers being the one she "stole"). As the week continued, she became increasingly angry, erratic, and moody, and would curse unnecessarily. She announced that another girl and me were obnoxious and annoying. When I confronted her, she rationalized it by saying she meant it more about the other girl than me.

After the vacation, she left for college several hours away. I hounded her constantly to get Skype so we could rekindle our friendship. She finally did but her boyfriend was ALWAYS there and would interrupt and make rude comments. When she was due to come home, I texted her constantly trying to get the latest info on her whereabouts, (none of which she gave freely or easily.) We hung out once (which was positive). But then I didn't hear from her for days. So I gave up and the silence began.

Well into my freshmen year, I got the nastiest email from her that I've ever read. She'd heard I confided my concerns about losing my virginity to one of our mutual friends. I come from a religious family, and have a history of serious relationships so it was a big deal for me. She posted a Facebook status saying I was a coward. Apparently my confidant had told her my secret.

Then she sent me a lengthy and incredibly insulting email outlining every petty thing I had ever done. It was hard for me to let something so preposterous go unanswered so we sparred back and forth. Each time she insisted that she was totally justified, totally the victim, and being a good friend. I tried to defend myself and she sent one final email that literally said "I don't care if I'm being mean. You're a f***ing piece of sh**. Go f*** your boyfriend." etc.

I can't even describe how I felt. Now none of my old friends contact me and my high school experience has been entirely erased. How could she say those things? After all this time, how could she honestly not apologize for the horrific things she said? After all our history, how could I end up the one being cut apart? I'm the one that's alone and have lost all my friends.

I've been trying to make friends. But every one I meet and click with HAS friends already. I don't. I NEED friends and therefore, when I meet people it's not casual, it's survival. How do I know it's genuine or if I'm just desperate to fill the hole? How do I stop comparing them to her good qualities? This experience has socially crippled me.

Signed,
Amy



ANSWER

Dear Amy,

The freshman year is a difficult one because students need to make so many adjustments at the same time: It's a new place, with new people, with a more challenging curriculum. It sounds like your contentious relationship with your second once-best friend has been so disturbing that it's interfered with your ability to make new friendships at college.

You haven't convinced me that she actually was a good friend. In fact, it sounds like your relationship with her wasn't healthy from the start. She was mean and abusive to you, and bad-mouthed you to mutual friends. You didn't handle the relationship very well either. Although it may not feel that way now, losing that friendship is probably a blessing. Let go!

Now that you're in college, take advantage of opportunities to get involved with on-campus groups and organizations that interest you. It's a great way to meet new people and expand your world. Most students are eager to make friends with people with similar interests. When you return home for summer vacation, you may be surprised to find that both you and some of your old friends, who are really true friends, will have matured and will be eager to reconnect. If your once-friend acted like that to you, others will begin to see her in a similar vein.

But it's important to realize that when someone feels and acts like she's desperate, it can drive friends way. I would suggest that you speak to someone in the college counseling office about the lessons you can take away from these two disappointing experiences and engage in some self-reflection. There may be some common threads that are making it difficult for you to make the kind of friends at school that you want and deserve to have.

Hope this helps.

Irene