“How Can I Resolve This Friendship Conflict?”

Barb and I were childhood BFFs. Since we graduated high school in 2007, we’ve steadily drifted apart. Around 2015, when we were living in the same city again, I tried to revive our friendship. I invited Barb to events and to meet other friends of mine. She seemed disinterested and often declined. I grieved it, but I accepted that our friendship would take a different form.

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).

Follow along on Facebook, and Instagram.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.


  1. Anonymousse says:

    Boy, minus the details this is so similar to something I went through. My best friend since childhood and I have always faded in and out but maintained contact. During Covid, it increased again because of our more solitary existences. She was living in a town with few friends and had just broken up with her girlfriend. I was at home, schooling my kids.

    When things started getting safer (she was in a rural environment which didn’t get Covid for like, 2 years) her life began opening up again just as mine was getting more complicated- serious health issues. What was always a pretty one sided thing just completely fell apart when I got sick. She is not a supportive friend. She’s the friend who needs support. Our last texts were, me telling her that it was worse, and I’d like to talk soon. She told me she’d call me after class and she never did. Months went by. I was so sick. It was really hard for me to take, as someone who was always (to a fault, to my detriment, although I’m not such a doormat now) there for any issue big or small she had. It really, really stung. So…this time I decided that she’d let me down the last time and I wasn’t going to chase a friend. And I stopped my efforts. Maybe like 6-8 months later she texted me asking how I was just as if it was nothing at all and I didn’t answer her question really, or maybe said I was doing fine. And just wished her well. I feel that made my point without the back and forth.

    The funny thing is, I am visiting my hometown, where she lives next week. I may not run into her, but it is a very small town and she may have heard I’m coming. I’ll update you all next week.

    And LW, I feel you. It’s hard, both sides of a friendship when things and lifestyles dramatically change. I think Wendy gave a lot of good options as for what you could do, or not do.

  2. Anonymousse says:

    I don’t know where I saw this recently, maybe it’s a meme, but I saw this thing where when you hit your 30s, your friendships take a back burner and life is busy as people progress in careers and life, so send a nice email or call once in awhile and by your fifties you’re all back in the same place and it’s great to reconnect over happy hour. I don’t know if this is true, but it sounds nice.

  3. Friendships take work and they also ebb and flow. This one sounds like it’s been ebbing on your end, LW, due to your travels, while Barb thought it was in more of a flow after she asked you to be in her wedding. And instead of reaching out to you, she expected you to read her mind, I guess? I’d be pretty frustrated at being unloaded on about “disappointing” a friend with my “unacceptable” levels of engagement without even a head’s up, to be honest. Texting works both ways. Anyway, Wendy’s right. You need to decide whether this friendship is worth keeping and if so, what that would look like.

    I don’t love the idea of an “email or text only” friendship, either, LW. My friends and I text regularly, but we also see each other in person as often as possible – which does vary depending on how busy we are. That said, Barb has a very young child and it’s often hard for parents to make time for friends and in person events can be even more of a hassle. So if you decide that you want to pursue this friendship, then maybe you tolerate it being more text-based for now. And, when you do make plans, don’t be the one to cancel them.

    But if the friendship isn’t really working out for you, you don’t need to officially “break up” with your friend via call or email or any other way. You can simply fade away. Text less often and with less information. Stop making pointless plans. Stay friendly, but at a distance and put your energy into friendships that are rewarding for you right now.

  4. In my opinion, Barb had a postnatal depression and focused her anger on you. It is not so much about you, but about her own problems, her feeling overwhelmed. Sure, you could have called her more often when she told you that she was drowning after the birth. You misunderstood her signals. But for her to cancel your visit the day before and make such a fuss, how passive-aggressive! Frankly, I think this friend has issues. Just see it like this and don’t expect much. Text her for a meeting, perhaps with her child, not in the evening. A walk to the playground, whatever she does anyway. You have to lower your standards if you want to meet her. But don’t expect anything special from her.

  5. So I have a very small circle of friends that I see and talk to regularly, because I also want more than text/email relationships. There are others that we text to catch up and say we should make plans and never do. And then another 3 months goes by and one of us reaches out, and that’s the cycle of that friendship.

    My best friend of 20 years had a baby almost 13 years ago and then had another 6 years ago. I didn’t have my daughter until 21 months ago. That said, when she had her first child, her lifestyle changed a bit. To keep that friendship, my lifestyle changed with hers. It was more important to me to have her friendship, than to continue to go to sports bars, clubs, etc. We did and still do best friend day/nights. Now that her girls are a bit older, and I have a 21 month old my life is in a different place than hers, so her entire family has adapted to my lifestyle. We do not see each other nearly as often as we used to. But we always promise that no matter how busy we get, we will find a way to make it work. And we have.

    Living abroad obviously makes this approach much different. But Barb’s lifestyle is completely different than it was pre-baby. After working all day, and being away having a phone call or text is hard to do when you want to see your baby for 2 hours before its time to start dinner/bed time routine. So it’s likely 9pm before she gets a second to herself…emails might be easier for her with the stage of life she is in because she can sit and get out a lot all at once. As texting can’t be consistent. She texts and then baby cries, she makes baby happy, you responded 30 minutes ago. She reads your text, baby cries she puts phone down and forgets she even read your text….not that you aren’t important to her, as I do this to my friend i mentioned above. And her friendship is in the Top 5 of most important things in my life…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *