Recently, on Carolyn Hax’s advice column, there was an interesting post.
I was a little disappointed that Ms. Hax didn’t consider an alternative explanation. Such as, perhaps the letter writer’s friend had other reasons to remove herself from the friendship. But I might be reading too much into it because of my own similar experience.
Normally, a friend cancelling on me would not end a friendship. And in my case, it was not the cancellation by itself that ended it.
Three years ago, while my friend was in the midst of her divorce, I invited her to spend Thanksgiving at my home. The day before she was to arrive, she called to say that she decided to visit another (single) friend instead, because seeing me and my happy family would make her feel bad. Basically, she was initially coming to see me because she didn’t have any other plans. But something better came along, so she cancelled on me. She had done this to me many times throughout our friendship. In hindsight, I think we stayed friends for so long mainly because we lived in different states and thus did not make plans to see each other often. But the point is, this was not a standalone, out-of-the-ordinary incident.
I was upset, of course, but wasn’t consciously planning to end the friendship at first. I mean, I really did understand. I wouldn’t have wanted to come either, if I were her.
But my mind kept replaying other times I felt used by her in the past. So I wasn’t quite ready to pick up where we left off, which at that point was her calling and texting me at all hours of the day and night to complain about her ex-husband. I needed some time from her, but I didn’t think it would be fair to stop answering her calls and texts without explanation. So I wrote a letter explaining why I was upset. I purposely did not re-hash her past behavior, but instead focused on this one incident.
It was her response that actually ended the friendship. She completely missed the point, saying that she was “finally standing up for herself.” Which is great, but that had nothing to do with what happened. This is a person that would call me at 2am to cry about her life but wouldn’t do any of the things I suggested. I wasn’t sure what she was standing up to me for, exactly. I think she meant she was standing up for herself in general, but again, that’s neither here nor there. She also kept talking about honesty. Like, “I have been nothing but honest with you.” And, “my therapist said that if I was honest, you would understand.” I didn’t understand this in the context of the situation. I hadn’t accused her of lying or being dishonest. Was she planning to lie to me about why she was flaking, and thought I should have given her props for telling the truth? I really don’t know.
She went on to say that she was allowed to be selfish “for once,” implying that this was just a one-time thing. I believe she has rewritten history in her mind and convinced herself that it was not something she would ever normally do. She claimed that even her therapist said that I should have understood. I am pretty sure her therapist didn’t know that this was already typical behavior for her before the divorce. This is why I feel the letter writer in Carolyn Hax’s column didn’t represent the whole story. It’s so easy to make yourself look like the victim.
I started to draft a reply, but her entire letter was so out of touch with reality that I didn’t know how to answer it. In the end, I decided there was no point and we have not spoken since. I wonder if this is why the letter writer’s friend decided to end their friendship. There are always two sides to every story.