Teen Talk

Best friend changes after summer trip. Can relationship be saved?

Kelly Richardson
Kelly Richardson Bee staff photo

DEAR KELLY: My best friend went to spend the summer with her dad in Bozeman, and everything is so different. I was supposed to go spend the last week and a half with her, like I have done the past five years. But she texted me and said that her dad was going to be out of town on business and her stepmom didn’t think it was a good idea, so we canceled my ticket to go there.

I know her stepmom and dad love me. She would never say no. I know it was my friend lying. Even if her dad was gone, there’s no way her stepmom would say I couldn’t come. The weekend I was supposed to go, my friend didn’t post anything on Snapchat, which I thought was kind of weird. So I texted her stepmom, “So sad I didn’t get to see you this summer” and she wrote back that she was so sad I couldn’t make it and that she had been looking forward to seeing me. Then we texted a bit and she mentioned that because I couldn’t come, Kelsey had decided to go camping with her Bozeman friends. Right then, I knew why Kelsey had lied about the whole thing. She wanted to go camping and knew I wouldn’t want to smoke or drink, which is what all her Bozeman friends do. I was really hurt and texted, “How was camping?” Two days later she just wrote back, “Good.” I asked why she had lied and all she said is, “Plans change and you can’t get mad at that.”

I know she’s doing some things we would never do because she posts it on Snapchat. I just figured once she got home she’d go back to normal, but that’s not the case. We’ve gone to the same church and youth group for the past two years and when I texted about a trip we were going to go on in November, she texted back, “I’m kinda questioning the whole God thing. Not sure I’m going to do youth group anymore.”

When I asked her what was going on, she just said she was figuring out her life and wasn’t sure God fit in to what she believes anymore. This is different from the Kelsey who loved being a Christian and loved going to service every weekend and doing things with youth group.

I’m stuck and don’t know what to do. Do I approach her as a fellow Christian and talk about my concerns about the changes in her? I talked with my youth pastor and he sent her two or three texts to see if she wanted to go to coffee or just to see how she was doing. She didn’t text him back, and they used to be really close. When I ask her about Bozeman, she’s really vague and says, “Best summer of my life.” Do I stop talking to her until she realizes how wrong she’s been or do I speak up?

I’m so sad because our friendship is different, or maybe ending. Please help me know what to do from here besides just pray that she realizes she was wrong and changes back to the old Kelsey, who would have never done any of this.

Want Things To Be The Same

DEAR SAME: Change is a natural part of life. Some changes are good and others bad. As we grow up, change is inevitable and feeling hurt or pain around the change is very normal. Change teaches us that the only thing we really have control over is our thoughts, how we treat others and how we live our life.

Kelsey sounds lost. She left one person and came back two months later questioning the foundation of what she used to believe. As conflicted as she seems, now is not the time for you to turn your back on her. Quite the contrary – it’s time to dig in, reach out and let her know that you love her regardless of who she is right now and what she is questioning in her life. Friends may come and go, but you have to decide which ones are worth going through the fire for. If she’s worth it, give the friendship a chance before you cut her out.

When people are searching to find themselves or make different decisions than they might have before, approaching them with criticism and judgment is the fastest way to alienate them and ruin the friendship. Without meaning to, I think Kelsey fears your opinion of her now and is avoiding your judgment of her. You don’t even have to tell Kelsey how you feel about her or her choices because my guess is she’s in self-protection mode and putting up her walls. Telling her she is or was wrong will push her away and she might feel like you are shaming her.

Try approaching Kelsey as a friend. Nothing more. Let her know that you don’t judge her or what she does and that you miss connecting with her like before. Tell her you missed her this summer and would love to get together to just chat. If she tells you things she did you don’t agree with, be careful you don’t react in a way that makes her feel you are casting any judgments on her. Try to re-engage her in small things she liked to do before. Invite her back to youth group.

If she says she’s questioning the whole God thing, let her know that it’s normal to do that and that no one at youth group will look down on her for trying to figure things out. Be supportive and understanding of where she’s at and hopefully she will explore her feelings in a positive and supporting environment. Tell her people care about her and she added a lot to the group. Let her know she’s been missed.

Watching our friendships change is so hard, especially ones you care about. And sometimes there is nothing we can do but take care of ourselves and do what works for us. Once you reach out to Kelsey, it’s up to her to reach back. It might take her a while or she might be on a new path now that you choose not to go on. Be OK with stepping back if she continues to make poor choices or ones you don’t agree with. All you do is stay true to who you are, do what makes you happy and follow your own journey.