DEAR KELLY: I had a group of four girls in middle school who were pretty tight. When we got to high school in the middle of freshman year, we joined up with another group. The problem is that everyone in the other group doesn’t like one of the girls in our group. They think she’s annoying and says stupid things just for attention. To be honest, they’re right, but we’ve just always accepted her as she was.
Recently one girl had a party and didn’t invite our friend. She was the only one left out. Obviously with social media, she saw and texted in our small group, “Why wasn’t I invited?” None of us knew what to say and so no one texted back. I finally couldn’t take it because I felt bad so I texted her and said, “Yes, so-and-so is having a party and I’m sorry you weren’t invited” and I put a sad face emoji.
She texted me back and said, “Why?” I told her I didn’t know why. Then she texted me, “How long have you known about this?” And when I said “a while,” she asked why no one told her. I said I didn’t know and she said my answers weren’t good enough for her. At that point I stopped texting her back because it seemed like she was getting mad at me when I was the nice one who replied.
Ever since then things are icy between all of us and her. She sent one text to all three of us the next day and said, “I guess you have chosen them over me. Moving on.” I feel bad on one hand, but friends change in high school and I was ready to hang out with larger group than just the four of us. I really like the big group we hang out with. I was ready to make new friends and a new group. I feel like if I chose her, I may never have a big group of friends because a lot of people don’t like her.
She started sitting with new people for lunch (and seems happy), but I wish things weren’t awkward between us like it is. I’m not sure if I should call her, wait until she’s become friends with a new group to make peace, text her an apology for how things have changed, etc. I need help.
DEAR CONFUSED: If I’m being honest, the process of changing friendships is one of the hardest parts of high school and yet, it’s part of the growth.
Change happens. Sometimes it’s good. You can share stories with each other for inspiration and the friendship evolves into a more mature one that seems effortless and easy. Other times, this change creates tension, hurt feelings and can push you apart. You drift, you don’t talk like you did, things feel awkward and you’re not in each other’s lives anymore. Not all friendships are meant to last forever – and that’s OK.
There is a lot to learn from what happened. Step back and put yourself in your “old” friend’s shoes. How could things be different if it had been handled different? What if you pulled her aside and told her, “So-and-so is having a party and I just wanted to tell you so you didn’t see it on social media. I’m so sorry but I hope this doesn’t change our friendship.” Or somehow let her know in advance what was happening so she was prepared and dealt with the feelings before seeing it on social media, which somehow makes the pain 10 times worse. Even though telling her would be hard, the situation was worse because it felt like you were in on the exclusion and that hurt her.
Friendships in high school drift and many splinter. That’s a fact. But splintering and shattering are different, and there lies the problem. Your friendship with her didn’t splinter naturally, it shattered because she felt betrayed and left out. You saw the friendship changing; perhaps she didn’t. You wanted to pull away and meet people; perhaps she didn’t. You felt included by the new group; perhaps she didn’t.
Ask her to coffee. If she refuses, she may not be ready to let go of her anger because she is still hurt. Let her know that if things change and she ever does want to meet, you are open. If she agrees to meet, apologize for how things went down and the fact that clearly, her feelings were hurt.
Friendships shouldn’t be a “chose me or chose them” kinda of thing. You should be allowed to be friends with whomever you want as long as you treat everyone with respect and kindness.
As your life changes, your circle of friends will, too. Change can either challenge us or threaten us. Be ready to embrace the changes ahead, but do it in a way that respects yourself, the other person and the history you have had together.