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Context:

L and I have been friends since junior high. Starting college, we both left our home town and went our separate ways in life. Over the last 20 years we still kept in touch and would meet up when we visited home town for holidays. Back in 2013 I flew to her wedding and was one of her bridesmaid.

End of 2018 my life hit a low point, where I lost my job and had to move internationally while taking care of my mom who was suffering a fatal illness. I discussed with L my situation over the phone a few times. One day I was sick and didn’t pick up her phone early morning, and she never texted again. Even when I reached out multiple times, her reply was cold and brief. She didn’t reach out until early 2020 during holidays.

Problem: I was very hurt by this and even felt betrayed. Even now she approached to resume contact, I still have all the feelings linger in my heart.

I spent some time today to reflect on her perspectives and how I’d lien to do. I think the possible reasons she was acting cold back then were:

1) I didn’t help her new business when she asked me to during that time. I‘m not sure now whether I conveyed clearly enough how difficult that time was for me in our phone calls. But it was just not possible for me to help her back then

2) she had a pretty busy life and was upset that I didn’t make time for the call when she did. But I’d told her the day before that I caught a cold and might not be able to get up that early (7:30am) to chat.

What I want: I also realized that I still cherish the friendship and would want to help her succeed in pursuing her dreams. I’m in a better place now to provide the help that I could.

Meanwhile, I also need to understand her better to further evaluate if this friendship is worth it. I couldn’t understand how my best friend could not check in with me for an entire year knowing my mom is dying. I can’t have this type of “fake” friendship unless she has good reasons or unless there is some misunderstanding. I’m still in pain now in contact with her and feel a bit stuck. I need to know to decide whether to further invest in this friendship or not. At least, I need her to know that this is not acceptable.

Question: How do I communicate with her to achieve what I want clearly yet properly? I feel weird about just asking “hey you know one thing’s been bothering me. Why didn’t you check in on my mom?“ but what other ways could I open up this topic?

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You ask a lot of really good questions and have obviously thought deeply on the pros and cons of this friendship. It is not clear to me exactly what happened but the hurts have gone both ways. Both of you feel deeply hurt and betrayed by the other. Both of you expected much more from the other in your time of need than you received. Your time of need was when your mother was terminally ill. Her time of need was getting her business off the ground. Well, we don't really know what all was going on in her life, do we? Basically, she was out of contact and never told you, though we can deduce that the seven-thirty telephone call was somehow critical.

Seven-thirty is not an ungodly hour to answer the telephone if a friend is in need. However, you had given advance notice that you were sick and could not be up that early. I am not sure why she did not respect that.

To go forward, I think this is key:

I also need to understand her better to further evaluate if this friendship is worth it. I couldn’t understand how my best friend could not check in with me for an entire year knowing my mom is dying....At least, I need her to know that this is not acceptable.

What I hear you saying is that you find it unacceptable to call a person a "best friend" who cannot be bothered to check in when she knows your mother is dying. I think a lot of people would feel the same.

A huge question remains: Why did she fail to contact you then? Why did she contact you now?

You definitely have to "understand her better to further evaluate if this friendship is worth it."

To answer your question at the end, you might propose a face-to-face meeting to "get reacquainted." People do this sometimes when they have been out of contact for a long time. Since this is so important to you, you might want to inform her about your need to understand what happened that the two of you lost contact. Give this as part of the reason for the meeting; don't mention your mother's death at this point or her cold responses. Keep those items for the face-to-face meeting. My thinking is that if she values your friendship for the same reasons you do, she will be willing to attend this meeting, and if she is not willing to attend this meeting she may not be the friend you want going forward.

This is not saying that, even if she agrees to meet with you, things will painlessly turn out exactly as you wish. You asked for an alternative to just asking “hey you know one thing’s been bothering me. Why didn’t you check in on my mom?“ The meeting is the alternative I suggest. Others may have better suggestions. I'm so sorry about your mom and I wish you well going forward.

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Given the circumstances you describe, I often wonder if these situations can be more gently resolved via written, rather than verbal, communication. Have you considered formulating an email or letter to express your current feelings and to try and clear the air?

Written communication has some advantages over verbal in these situations:

  1. It allows you to choose your words carefully, drafting and refining your message until you are happy with its tone and content. When speaking verbally, it's easy to let emotion interfere or just simply use sub-optimal phrasing that can cause friction.

  2. She can read your message in its entirety before deciding how to respond. Again, with verbal communication, the conversation tends to back-and-forth quickly and often before you've had the chance to fully express yourself.

  3. Regardless of when - or even if - she replies, putting your feelings into words can be very cathartic and helpful to your own mental state.

Nobody can tell you what to write, but I might suggest starting by saying how glad you are to be back in contact and how much you have always appreciated her close friendship. Then do your best to explain that you had been hurt by her lack of contact and would like to understand her reasons for this so that you can clear the air and hopefully move forward on a positive footing.

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