Carolyn Hax: Old friend sees losing touch as ‘not on speaking terms’

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Adapted from an online discussion.

Dear Carolyn: Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve lost touch with a friend of about 20 years. We used to see each other about once a month. She texted recently to share some news and said, “I know we’re not on speaking terms right now, but …”

I was pretty surprised. There was no fight or disagreement or anything, just life. I’ve been busy with work, taking care of my dad, who injured himself pretty badly, etc. I probably could have reached out more, but … I didn’t.

Then I realized she has unfriended me on social media. I mentioned this to my husband, and he showed me a text her husband sent to him a few months ago asking what he could do to reconcile my friend and me.

At the time, my husband had casually mentioned this text and the husband reaching out to get together for dinner, which we couldn’t do at the time because of covid. Yes, pretty clueless on my husband’s part.

I’m conflicted as to how to proceed. I don’t want to throw away the friendship, but I’m also annoyed that she unfriended me. Maybe it’s juvenile of me, but I feel as if that’s a pretty punitive step to take without saying to me directly that she felt like our friendship was nearing that cliff.

What do you think? Am I overreacting? Is she? If we do wind up talking again, is there any language I can use to convey my thoughts? Clearly, she’s mad at me, so I don’t imagine this will be a very pleasant conversation.

Unfriended: So, if I read this correctly, you effectively forgot about a friend of 20 years so successfully, for months during pandemania, that she took your absence as giving her the silent treatment on purpose?

And you now want to chastise her for not understanding your months of silence weren’t what she assumed they were?

I’d say everyone’s overreacting, including me. Except your husband, who underreacted.

How about this: Call her, say you’re so sorry for dropping off the face of the earth, you were up to your earholes taking care of your badly injured dad, on top of the usual work and highly unusual covid-ness of it all, and you never meant to give the impression you were upset with her. Say this is not an excuse for vanishing, merely an explanation that you have owed her from the beginning.

Then say you’d love to get back into your old friendship habits, if she’ll still have you.

Think open and honest, not blamey and defensive. Put yourself in her position. And draw no conclusions from social media, because we’ve all seen where that gets us, and it’s not our best look.

Neither was her decision not to bring this to you directly months ago, but in a friendship this long, you’re going to build up a blooper reel.

Anyway. Apologize, explain, see how she responds to your overture, then choose your course accordingly.

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