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My friend broke off contact after 20 years

Group Therapy is a relationship advice column to which readers contribute their wisdom.

A reader writes: A close friend of 20 years abruptly told me two years ago (via e-mail!) that she was doing some "deep soul searching" and asked me to stop contacting her. She said she "valued our friendship" and would be in touch. Stunned, I said I'd be here when she was ready – but there's been no contact. Now I learn that she has put our mutual friends in the middle, refusing to attend functions if I'm to be there. Should I contact her before all my friendships are compromised?

Respect boundaries

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It is your former friend's absolute right to decide not to attend functions where you may be present. It sounds like your friend has made some healthy boundary choices. Perhaps your former relationship was based on enablement. Friendships are dynamic and ever-changing. You probably could benefit from doing some soul searching of your own.

Kathleen Schiegl, Toronto

Reach out

Courtesy calls for one attempt to reach out to show you care about the friendship or perhaps open the door to offer an apology if there is reason for one. If nothing happens, close the door. Let your friends in the middle know you are sad at losing your friend and you tried to make amends.

- Annabel Campbell, Castleton, Ont.

Read the writing on the wall

If she is polling mutual friends to determine if you will be present, this clearly says your friendship is over. I wouldn't spend too much time worrying about living your life around her. If your mutual friends ask about the situation, tell them, but stay on the high road.

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- Greg Merritt, Fredericton


Are you at all curious as to what prompted your friend to take a pizza knife to the fragment of her life that had you in it? Because I sure am. I'm assuming she gave you a reason beyond "deep soul searching" and as a result you've spent the past two years, as Kathleen says, doing some soul searching of your own. But if she didn't give you a reason and you didn't ask for a reason and you've spent these past years assuming it's her and not you, that itself may be indicative of why your friend has backed away.

Whatever the case, two years is long enough for you both to be at peace with the obvious fact that the friendship is, as Greg observes, kaput.

I disagree with Annabel that "courtesy" dictates you reach out to your erstwhile friend one final time. You've already granted her single request – that you leave her alone – and since the friendship is over (keep repeating that until it sinks in), you owe her nothing more.

The truth is, your ex-pal isn't putting anyone in the middle of anything, she's simply letting your mutual friends know that if you're at a gathering, she won't be. That's hard for you, but it's not exactly the Gordian Knot of social etiquette.

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Whenever I get letters from folks in similar situations: "We want to invite X, but also Y, and X and Y despise each other," I reply with the old slogan "Let go and let God." That is, invite who you want and let the disputing parties sort it out between themselves. In short, if this woman has a problem with you, that's her problem. Your problem is an inability to accept the fact that – third time's a charm! – the friendship is over.

Lynn Coady's latest novel is The Antagonist .

Next week's question

A reader writes: My husband will have nothing to do with my daughter from my first marriage. She had a baby two years ago and is now a single mum. He says she ruined her life and he is hard on me when I spend time with my grandchild. He won't talk to anyone about it. Advice?

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