Dear New Shrink,
I had what I thought was a very good friend for over 10 years. We hung out together and did social things either with small groups of other friends or just the two of us. We spoke frequently on the phone and shared personal information.
Suddenly this friend stopped speaking to me and often asks friends of mine to do things without inviting me. It started when I was late to meet her for a movie. We were going to meet 15 minutes early, but I arrived during the trailers because I got stuck with a last-minute work assignment. I apologized profusely.
I am stunned by the mean behavior and don’t understand how anyone could be so angry over this one event. I am not sure that I would want this friendship back at this point, but I would like to know if there is something I am missing or what would make someone act this way.
I am no saint and I do have a tendency to run late, but I have racked my brain to think of anything else I might have done and honestly can think of nothing.
First off, I would imagine that you are feeling hurt as well as shocked, that is unless you have not gotten to that stage yet. This is a loss and sounds like a rejection of you as well.
If you are feeling as if your friend’s behavior is mean, then it probably is designed to be. This would tell me that she is consciously or unconsciously getting even with you. For whatever reason, you must have really hurt her. I have no way of knowing, but I suspect she had some expectations for what that 15 minutes might hold, or at the very least she took your being late very personally.
You did say that you tend to run late and that is something you might want to take a look at because it is not respectful of other people’s time. Maybe in the future, don’t say you will be there unless you are sure. Maybe try saying, “I will do my best to be there by such and such time but it could be 10 to 15 minutes later.” Always call if you are late because it helps the other person prepare and understand. All of us here in L.A. are late from time to time; there is so much that cannot be anticipated. A good rule of thumb is to leave 20 minutes early. It makes for safer driving and a good chance of being on time. I realize that this may be difficult if you are really busy like so many of us but it is a suggestion.
Getting back to your friend, if there truly is no other history to contribute to her getting so angry and now behaving in a mean way, there is a good chance that she has some major emotional issues to resolve. You said you shared personal information, do you know anything about her other relationships? Family relations and histories with other friends is usually a pretty good predictor of what you can expect from someone.
If you step back from it, do you think this friend was someone who had worked out past hurts and resentments? Resentment literally means re-sentiment or feelings sent again … and again. Resentment sends us into a dark place where we cannot see clearly and our emotional reactions are anything but intelligent.
In any relationship, you want to make sure that you have come common goals, good communication and that you like the character of the other person. In takes time to assess this but one way to know is by how well you can work things out when conflict occurs. Also, if the other person is resentful, are they working on it and finally, how do they treat others?
Maybe going forward you might want to assess these things in potential friends. This way you won’t be stunned, you will either have a clue on what to expect and keep some distance or you will decide that this is not a friend worth having.
I wish you the best of luck in all your future relations.
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. You can visit her at www.drbarge.com or send your questions and responses to firstname.lastname@example.org. Got something on your mind? Let us help you with your life matters.