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Relationships My friend keeps cancelling on me at the last minute and I can’t take it any more. What do I do?

The question

My friend “Susan” and I are in our 60s and have been friends for many years. I’m retired, while she continues to work in a high-pressure environment with lots of travel and long hours. She lives outside the city, while I’m in midtown, so we don’t see one another that often. Here’s the problem: When we make plans to get together, she often cancels at the last minute. Some of this is work-related, which I completely understand. However, the last time it was because she made plans to get together with a new man. They met on a hiking trip and clicked. They made plans to get together this Saturday, a day she had invited me out to visit her. In short, I was dumped. Although I’m happy for her that she may have found someone, I feel resentful that, once again, her plans with me did not seem to matter. She wasn’t apologetic about the change in plans and didn’t offer any alternatives. Am I being childish or am I justified in feeling hurt?

The answer

I love this question because it tells me that even when one gets into one’s 60s, life is still a lot like high school.

“High school with money” as some have described adulthood.

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And we all remember (from high school) the friend who got a boyfriend/girlfriend and henceforward was hardly heard from again.

Me, when I had a girlfriend in high school – oh, wait, I never had a girlfriend in high school.

But when I had a girlfriend in college, I would still remain loyal to my friends.

Mostly. Sometimes, naturally, if, for example, my first love, the incredibly alluring Francesca, were to say: “Why don’t you blow off lunch with your friend Dan and we’ll just stay here, in your dorm room, and see where things go?”

In such a circumstance, true, my response might be: “Dan? Dan? Hmm, who’s Dan again? Oh, yeah, Dan. He’s just an acquaintance, really. I’m sure he won’t mind if I don’t turn up for lunch.”

But hey: I was 19, with all that implies. For the most part, I attempted to be loyal to my friends.

But it’s not even a question of age. One can have one’s head turned at any point.

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And we all know love relationships can outlast friendships. I have been married 26 years, a span of time that has outlasted many friendships.

But the reverse is also true. I have a friendship that has lasted 44 years.

I think (it’s not rocket science but I say it anyway) it’s important to have both.

So bottom line, I’d tell your friend you’re a bit hurt by her neglect and could use a bit more attention. I’m a big believer in getting things out there, giving them a little air and sunshine. That’s how things heal.

But I suppose if I’m being maximally honest, I’d say also get more going on in your own life. I’m not sure if anyone remembers the book The Rules: Time-Tested Secrets for Capturing the Heart of Mr. Right, by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider, but it was a dating guide and at least part of their premise was “be happy and busy.”

I’m a little embarrassed to be quoting such a corny/populist a source, and a dating book no less, but I think they had a point vis-a-vis dating, and one which could also apply to friendship as well: “Be happy and busy.”

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I mentioned my first love, Francesca. Sadly, for me (again: I was 19), there came a time where I was more into her than she was me, and I was busy yearning for her and she was busy flirting with other dudes and being more or less semi-indifferent to me.

So I forced myself to become more “happy and busy” and eventually, she came around and yearned more for me.

(At which point I dumped her, but that’s a story for another day.)

Bottom line: I think you should become more “happy and busy.” I don’t think it matters much what you do, or what you get into. Could be Ping-Pong. Bridge. Crokinole (the excellent Canadian game). Just get yourself involved and interested in something, so you don’t “need” your friend’s attention in quite the same way, and I predict she will come around in time.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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