THE BLOG
06/02/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Friendship: The importance of showing up

QUESTION

Dear Irene,

I have been friends with Amy since high school, and we are now mothers in our 30s. I have a 10-year-old and another baby on the way. Last August, I got married and that's when things went weird. My husband and I had a very small intimate wedding: only immediate family, and a couple of good friends were invited. Amy was one of them, and she cancelled at the last minute.

Her birthday is in December, and we got together at my house. I made dinner and also got her a little something for her birthday. Since then, the friendship has gone downhill although I have talked with her about it then. She is a single mom, and I understand because I was one until I got married. She also works a full-time job and lives with her parents.

My birthday was on March 18 and I never even got a phone call, let alone a gift. I spoke with her on the phone two days later, and she never mentioned anything. She asked me what I was doing over the weekend and I said we were celebrating my birthday with the in-laws. She apologized and said she felt so badly, and proceeds to end the conversation saying we should have dinner when I feel better.

I'm 25 weeks pregnant, and have been on bed rest for the last three weeks. I'm really disappointed that she hasn't even stopped by to see how I am doing. I've discussed her behavior with her in the past, but I haven't talked about it recently. Whenever I've told her that I didn't appreciate how she was treating me, she listened to what I have to say, but always had an excuse. She also says that I don't want to do anything unless my husband comes along, which is not true. It seems like she uses my marriage as an excuse all the time.

I should also mention that she has an eating disorder, which I think is part of the reason for her selfishness. She has been battling that since we were 17. I have always been there for her, but I really can't say that she has for me. I guess I'm really wondering how I should end the friendship? Thanks so much for your help.

Signed,
Terri

ANSWER

Dear Terri:

Your friend didn't show up at your wedding, forgot your birthday, and hasn't visited you for three weeks while you are home on bed rest. Her apologies feel empty because they're always accompanied by what seems to be a flimsy excuse.

Perhaps, you were able to depend upon one another when you were both single moms but it sounds like you've been getting the short end of the friendship stick since you married. It may be that Amy has so many problems and responsibilities that she is barely managing taking care of herself. Or she may be envious that your married life appears to be in perfect order while hers is not. Whatever the reason, something is missing from your friendship now.

In my book, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, I quote Woody Allen who once said, "Eighty percent of success in life is just showing up." If your friend can't show up when you are housebound or to celebrate something as special as your wedding day, you need to think about whether the friendship is reciprocal or has become so one-sided that it is no longer satisfying.

Here are two options, if either one feels right to you: 1) You can stop initiating further contact and see if you just drift apart, or 2) You can write her a note saying that the nature of your friendship has changed and you need some time away from it. Don't be accusatory; tell her you wish her well. Either approach leaves the door open in case you decide to reconcile on different terms at some point.

I hope this is helpful.

Best,
Irene