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My Friend Cut Me off, and I Have No Idea Why!

It's very likely their boundary was a calculated choice. Respecting it is the right thing to do.

by Gretchen Brown
February 4, 2021 | Love
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Dear Ask Me Instead,

My friend and I have shared info about our relationships for all these years. My friend has suddenly decided she doesn't want to discuss anything personal, out of the blue. 

I will respect her wishes and comply, but not being allowed to discuss what has happened is so weird. But why did this happen? 

Sometimes I think it's because perhaps I have grown and she may not be able to or doesn't even want to for her own reasons, and perhaps she has no insight into that. 

The thing is, I can respect that too, but not discussing it whatsoever is the issue. I respect her wishes and only discuss superficial things. I support that is what she wants, that is OK and her right. It's just not finished for me and that part I don't like. I have been faithful and I deserve more than that.

Dear Faithful Friend,

I have always maintained that friend breakups are just as hard as — if not harder than — relationship breakups.

After all, we can love our friends. We often share our deepest secrets with them. Breaking that bond feels like a betrayal of trust.

This isn't quite a friend breakup, but it might as well be, right? Close, vulnerable relationships take two, and you've always been honest with this person. For them to suddenly be close-lipped feels like the rug has been pulled out from under you. 

It makes sense that you'd be hurt and confused. But at the same time, you're doing the right thing by respecting your friend's boundary.

It's very likely their boundary was a calculated choice.

Drawing a line is self-protective. It prevents you from hearing something you don't want to hear. It is not cognizant of the other party's intentions. It is simply focused on self-preservation.

Sometimes drawing a line is natural after a bunch of growth. Friends do grow at different speeds, and never the same exact way (like eyebrows — sisters, not twins!)

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Credit: Ben Malley // TPT and Katia // Adobe

Sometimes those different people are able to find some common ground. But clashing views feel threatening.

This isn't about whether your friend was correct in drawing the boundary. Personal feelings aren't right or wrong. They made a boundary, and you can't change that. 

There is a point in many close friendships where the lines become blurred between a supportive friendship and the kind of emotional offloading that might be more appropriate for therapy. Did your friendship wade into that territory?

I interviewed a few mental health professionals about that thin line in 2019. They told me friends are there to listen, but when a relationship becomes overwhelming and draining, one or both of you may benefit from some outside support.

It could be that your friend is feeling overwhelmed by your friendship dynamic. Maybe they decided their relationship problems were best served by venting to someone else, whether that's a different friend or a therapist. 

Or, maybe your friend felt hurt or misunderstood when they opened up to you in the past, and they drew that boundary in order to protect themselves. Maybe they didn't like some advice you'd given them.

In recent years, I've realized that friends don't always want my advice when they're spilling their relationship problems to me. (And I'm a gosh darn advice columnist!!!!) Sometimes they just want someone to listen and support them without judgement. I don't give advice anymore unless explicitly asked for it.

That's because people who vent aren't usually thinking about solutions. It's an emotional surge. It's the opposite of logical.

We are all imperfect and we have imperfect friendships. This isn't about blaming yourself for making some mistake to turn your friend icy — I don't think anyone is really at fault here.

But if you're searching for answers, a bit of light introspection always helps, knowing you can't change the other person.

I'd encourage you not to press your friend for answers. Instead, continue to give them the space they're asking for. 

And give this friendship some time. You don't say how long this has been going on for, but I don't think this phase necessarily spells doom for this longtime friendship. Friendships ebb and flow, just like romantic relationships do.

Maybe, with time and space, your friend will feel ready to open up. Until then, you may just have to feel a bit of discomfort, without all the answers.

After some time has gone by, it may be appropriate to open up a discussion, if the cold feeling continues.

You could say, "I don't feel as close to you as I used to. How can I support you better?"

If you continue to feel ice in response, it may be time to accept that this friendship has changed, to no fault of your own, and embrace it in its current iteration. 

It could be a chance for you to deepen other friendships. 

You're a faithful friend, and that's a quality you can be proud of. 

You deserve to have people in your life you can both support and be supported by.

Have a life dilemma?

Email Ask Me Instead at [email protected] or send us a note using this form. All submissions are anonymous.

For more good advice, visit the Ask Me Instead collection.

Gretchen Brown
Gretchen Brown is an editor for Rewire. She’s into public media, music and really good coffee. Email her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @gretch_brown.
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