We continued to text updates and hang out once in a while. In 2020, I was in her 12-person wedding during Covid. I was surprised she chose me instead of two other friends of hers (they were not even invited to the wedding!). In 2021, I moved abroad. We continued to text sporadic, chatty updates. Barbara had a baby in Winter, 2022. After she gave birth, I texted to ask how she was doing. I texted that I wanted updates from her about the baby, but I didn’t want to overload her. She texted back that yes, it was an overwhelming time. So I messaged less frequently.
When I returned to the US in Summer, 2022, I messaged her to arrange a get-together. The night before our date, she sent several messages: She was disappointed with my level of engagement; I didn’t even seem to know her baby’s name (true, I forgot it); and then she cancelled our date. She said she’d been disappointed for many years about our waning friendship. I didn’t respond to the text. Instead, I called her, but she didn’t answer. She texted me back to say she was “very busy” and it would be difficult for her to find time to talk. I called her again the next day, and we did end up having a heated two-hour discussion. I had no idea she wanted more communication/support from me. On the phone, I did eventually apologize for not messaging her more after she gave birth. She fired back: “But, why weren’t you there? That is not acceptable.” I got defensive/angry. She told me she prefers email communication. I told her that I prefer phone or face-to-face. She hung up and sent me a long email explaining why she is upset. I apologized via email.
We did get together in-person once after this conflict. Neither of us brought up the tiff. We were pleasant and chatty and kept the conversation light. We haven’t seen each other since then. I’ve now been home for almost a year. We still send the odd text message, with chatty updates, and proposed plans, but one of us always cancels.
I don’t want a friendship based solely on email/text… it’s not satisfying. I don’t feel resolved from the previous conflict. Should I email or call to tell her how I feel? — Unsatisfied Friend
You have two things happening here: unmet expectations and a difference in communication style. It would seem that the unmet expectations are a result of the latter, so your biggest issue, really, is your mismatched communication styles. A mismatch of communication styles in friendships and relationships isn’t uncommon, of course. It’s actually very common, but when two people really want to be in each other’s lives and have the skills to do so, they will learn to communicate in the other’s preferred style and they’ll take turns communicating each way – digitally or vocally (whether over the phone or FaceTime or in person). You two already seem well-practiced and adept at communicating in all the ways available to you, you’ve made your preferences known to each other, and you’ve each made some effort to reach out in the most accessible ways to your friend. What you need to decide now is whether the effort is worth it at this point. Do you want Barb in your life? It’s going to take some work to keep her in your life. Do you want this friendship if you have to work a bit at it? Is it important and meaningful to you? If it isn’t now, do you think with some minimal work it could be? Like, do you see potential? And if you do, is it potential you are up to pursuing?
You have to get really honest with yourself. If you feel you’ve outgrown this friendship, you’re already in a great position to very seamlessly kind of fade out. Maybe you exchange brief texts every few months to stay in touch. Maybe no texts at all, since that’s not satisfying for you. Maybe you fade into past memories for each other, and would that be so bad? If the idea makes you sad, maybe you aren’t ready to let this go just yet and you could dedicate yourself to getting on the same page with Barb.
What would it take to get on the same page? Well, if Barb is in the same place as you, where she’s not feeling very satisfied with the state of your friendship and she’s trying to decide for herself whether it’s worth the effort to try to keep it going, it might help persuade her if she knew that this friendship was important and meaningful to you. She may have felt as though she slipped off your radar of importance and so, in return, no longer prioritizes spending time with you. If you aren’t both on the same page, then this friendship has probably run its course and that’s ok. Many friendships from childhood transition into more of a memory in adulthood. It doesn’t mean those memories can’t be fond ones.
If you both are re-committed to getting your friendship back on track, you need to both express what you would like from the friendship moving forward and be honest about whether you can meet each other’s needs. You should try to be as specific as possible. For you, this might mean that you want to see each other X times a year (or month or whatever), you want to take turns doing the initiating, and you want minimal cancellations. For her, that might mean that you text and email each other every week or every few days between seeing each other in person, and she might want you to spend time with her kid, too. I don’t know. You don’t know. So, ask!
If you both want to keep this friendship, are both willing to put in the effort, both share what your needs and expectations are, and both earnestly try to meet them (if you decide you’d like to), then I think this friendship isn’t necessarily past the point of no return. But you have to get something out of it. If pleasant, chatty, infrequent catch-ups are the extent of this friendship, that might not be satisfying to either of you and, ultimately, might not be worth the effort it might take to keep up even that level of friendship. You have a lot to think about (and maybe have already done that thinking and know the answers to some of these questions).