DEAR CAROLYN: I recently traveled with a woman who has been one of my best friends for eight years. On the trip, we barely spoke because she hooked up with a guy on our tour the first day and spent the rest of the tour with him.
This wouldn’t have bothered me so much if I hadn’t left my serious boyfriend behind because she has expressed for years how uncomfortable she is around couples. (It makes her wonder what she’s doing wrong and why she can’t find a serious boyfriend.) I also spent a lot of money for a “girls’ trip” with her.
I’ve spoken to her about it three times since, and her reaction has just made me feel worse. She has said several times that she “didn’t even think about” how her actions could’ve made me feel. Her defense has been, “Well, you were getting along with the other people on the tour, so it’s not like you were alone with nobody to talk to.” I was already feeling hurt and ignored, but her not even thinking about my feelings when I had taken active steps to be considerate of hers makes me feel that she’s a bit selfish.
Is there anything you can suggest to help mend the fence? I want our friendship to stay intact, but I can feel myself wanting distance from her.
Conflicted On Friendship
DEAR CONFLICTED: Bummer, I’m sorry.
There are a few possible answers here – that her ditching you sans apology of course will affect your friendship; that her longtime romantic self-doubt gave her a forgivable blind spot; that if you value the eight years, you write off the one trip; I could go on.
But the answer I keep coming back to starts with a question: Why talk since the trip versus during? And why three times versus resolving this in one pass? Example:
You: “When you spent the tour with Guy, I felt hurt and ignored.”
She: “Well, you were getting along with the other people on the tour.”
You: “That’s not the point. I spent big money for a ‘girls’ trip,' your preference, and you ditched me! I’m still angry.”
She: “Why didn’t you say something then?!”
You: “You’re right – I’m sorry I didn’t speak up sooner.”
She: “Thank you. I am not sorry about Guy. You know I’ve been lonely, I thought you’d understand.”
You: “Maybe, if you had talked to me. We apparently both need to speak up next time. Please at least see why I’m angry.”
She: “I do, and we do.”
And thus my answer, that the main (aptly, unspoken) theme of your story is lousy communication. You apparently stayed mum on the trip, and later weren’t clear about wanting her to acknowledge your feelings – and she, for her part, didn’t ever ask, “Hey, do you mind?” on the tour, and since then has been only defensive.
Any decision on the future of this friendship will be premature if you two first don’t figure out how to talk. Eight years is a long time without a real conflict of interest, but I suspect this is your first, and you were both caught unprepared.
So communicate now, and keep it simple: I’m your friend, I’m still upset, I’d just like that acknowledged. Dukes down. Good luck.
Email Carolyn Hax at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.