Can a friendship fall apart over a small slight?

November 13, 2009 / Psychology Today

irene_levine

Dr. Irene Levine, the Friendship Doctor

by Irene S. Levine, Ph.D. , the Friendship Doctor

 

QUESTION

Hello Irene,

I recently lost a best friend whom I’ll call “Y.” Another friend, “K,” approached me to organize a Halloween party at my house a few weeks ago. I agreed with one condition: She had to help me with food, drinks, etc. I invited my other friends, including my best friend “Y.”

I didn’t ask my BF or any other guests for help because I felt that I should take care of the planning with “K.” My BF didn’t seem too excited about the party from the beginning. She didn’t want to dress up and I told her she didn’t have to.

As it turned out, my BF felt that I excluded her from the party planning and decided not to go. I talked to her about it on the Monday following the Saturday night party. She was mad and didn’t want to talk. I apologized for making her feel left out and tried to explain why I didn’t ask her for help. I guess an apology wasn’t enough. We work together and we used to take breaks and have lunch together. Since the day I tried to apologize, she’s avoided me. I’ve asked her to take breaks with me and she’s said no. She is taking her lunch at a different time; I think she doesn’t want to see me.

 

I stopped asking her or trying to talk to her. Am I doing the right thing? Should I keep insisting or move on? It’s so hard for me to accept that our friendship is over. Please advise what to do. Thank you.

Sincerely,
Moira

ANSWER

Dear Moira:

What seems like a minor slight to one friend can be blown out of proportion by another. For example, some BFs want exclusive relationships and can’t tolerate the idea of sharing their BF with anyone else. It sounds like “Y” was hurt and jealous that you planned the party with “K” and that she, as your BF, didn’t play a prominent role in the event. Perhaps, “Y” is a one-woman woman.

Some people, especially those who are shy, don’t enjoy dressing up for Halloween or being with large groups. You say that your BF was unenthusiastic about the whole idea of the party from the beginning. Perhaps, she’s not a party animal and felt a disconnect with you because you are more social.

The misunderstanding about the party, by itself, doesn’t carry enough weight to be an automatic “friendship-killer.” You didn’t intentionally try to hurt her and the apology you made was timely and sincere. Could it be that there was something else going on all along between you, prior to this incident? Do you think she may have seized upon this minor slight as an excuse to end the friendship?

It’s always uncomfortable when there is a schism between two close friends, especially if they work together. Call or send your BF an email saying that you miss her friendship and ask her if you can make plans for dinner together so you can talk it through. If she doesn’t respond, it sounds like you’ve gone as far as you can in trying to patch up a slight that became magnified for reasons you can’t fathom.

Regardless of how she responds, try to be cordial and friendly because you both need to maintain a sense of professionalism in the workplace.

Best,
Irene

 

Are you struggling with a friendship problem? Ask The Friendship Doctor for advice: Irene@TheFriendshipBlog.com

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