Is a longtime friend really a longtime foe?
Dear Annie: I started to gradually notice changes in my friendship with “Marla” while I was having marital trouble. During this time, I had a lot of support from close friends and family. Because Marla and I were extremely close, I was disappointed she wasn’t there for me. Marla started to decline invitations to go to lunch and would not answer my calls. Yet when my good friend from out of town came to visit, Marla suddenly had an urgent issue that had to be dealt with immediately. She was well aware of my friend’s visit because I had invited Marla to join us for dinner that evening. Marla was blowing up my phone with texts, even after I explained that I was spending time with my old friend.
After my friend left, I reached out to Marla and offered to meet for coffee or to talk, expressing that I valued our friendship and telling her how important she was to me. I got no immediate response, but a few days later, I got a “I’m sorry; I’m busy” text. I texted back and repeated that our friendship was important to me and that I wanted to have time to talk with her. No response. Marla has often been passive-aggressive toward me and also publicly revealed things I said to her in confidence.
About two years ago, we went to my vacation house for a weekend. I found out she had told a mutual friend that she felt “obligated” to go. I started to distance myself then. I guess she finally noticed recently or decided to pay attention. She has been texting me, asking, “What is going on?” We decided to meet for lunch, but none of this came up in conversation, and she just acted as if everything is peachy.
In addition to all this, there have been other incidents in which she has tried to involve other people and manipulate them or try to get information from them about me.
She says she will accept our friendship the way it is. I have invested a lot of time in this friendship, but at this point in my life, there are too many games. I want to be surrounded by people who are positive influences on me and value me. The trouble is that we have mutual friends and socialize in the same circle. — Longtime Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe: Though you have tried to talk things out with Marla several times, it doesn’t sound as if there’s been a real conversation yet. You could give that one more try, directly addressing the problems that have come between you. But should she keep playing games, there would be no need for you to play along. You could continue to go to mutual friends’ functions and be cordial toward her, but it would be better to keep your distance emotionally. And keep in mind that just because you’ve invested a lot of time in this fraught friendship does not mean you should invest more. No amount of time spent in a bad situation in the past is reason to stay in it in the future.
Dear Annie is written by Annie Lane, a young, married mother of two. Send questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.