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When Your Friend Pulls Away From You

Friends That Leave Without Another Word

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Woman alone in cafe looking disappointed
Cultura/Maiwolf Photography/Riser/Getty Images

Have you noticed that a friend suddenly won’t answer your calls or emails? Or just seems to be pulling away from you? The first sign that something may be wrong with your friendship is often when you just don’t hear from your pal. Some people are not good at initiating conversation when something is wrong, so you have to watch for the subtle signs that your friendship may be in trouble.

Emails and Phone Messages Go Unanswered

When your friend just doesn’t return your messages, it’s a sign that something is amiss. Now, your friend could just be busy. Or, it could mean that something is wrong. If your casual (“Hey, how’s it going?”) emails aren’t getting a response, try sending a more direct note indicating that you are worried about your friend. Don’t send a message that is angry or assuming, however.

Avoid saying:

  • “Why haven’t you emailed me? How come I always have to email you a couple times to get a response?”
  • “What’s going on with you? I haven’t heard from you in ages?”
  • “Aren’t you getting my messages? Why are you ignoring me?”

These types of responses are worded to start an email fight rather than show concern about your friendship.

Instead, say:

  • “I haven’t heard back from you in a while and I’m concerned about you. Is everything okay?”

If your friend doesn’t respond back after that, try calling with the same message. If you still do not get a response, there are several possible reasons as to what could be wrong.

Your Friend Is Going Through a Rough Time

If your friend doesn’t get back to you, it can be very easy to assume that they are upset with you, but in fact, it may have nothing to do with you at all. Perhaps your friend is going through a rough time and for whatever reason (embarrassment, shame, shyness) they do not want to share with you. As a friend, you naturally want to help, but if your pal doesn’t want assistance, there is not much you can do besides let them know you are there for them.

If you try contacting your friend and they do not respond, send an email or handwritten note saying that you hope everything is okay and if they want to talk, you will be there. Your friend will come back to you when they are ready.

When Your Friend Is Angry With You

It’d be great if all our friends could calmly tell us when we have done something to upset them. In reality, everyone is different, and they process anger and hurt in unique ways. Some people can recognize and address a situation right away. With these people, it is easy to work through a falling out.

Other friends, however, will pull away in reaction to something we did. If that's the case, it's time to examine how you've been handling the situation. Did you snap at your friend one too many times? Has your friend repeatedly told you something that bothered them, but you kept doing it anyway? If you did cross the line, did you give them a proper apology? Or just assume that everything would be better in time?

Not everyone will end a friendship dramatically. Sometimes, when there has been a repeated issue, one friend will simply walk away because they've talked about everything they could. In these cases, when you send an “Is everything okay?” type of email, you’ll probably be ignored.

Perhaps there has been an issue where your friend’s resentment has been building for a while and they just never expressed it before. Some people say nothing the first few times they feel slighted, only to “erupt” later on. In these cases, their habit may be to pull away and then become angry when you don’t automatically know what happened.

To work through a situation like this, allow your friend to vent. Then, repeat back the points your friend made by saying, “Let me see if I’m hearing you correctly. You are upset at X, Y, and Z. Is that correct?” In these cases, just having you “hear them out” will help diffuse the situation.

When you and your friend have identified the problem, you can work through it. Then, make sure that you come up with a different way to communicate from that point forward, so that your friend will feel comfortable talking to you right away when there is an issue, rather than pulling away.

 

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