Dear Carolyn: Eight years ago, my best friend of 15 years — my maid of honor — basically told me, via e-mail, no less, two months before the wedding, that she had other plans on my wedding day.
Because I got upset by that information, she stopped talking to me.
I was not a bridezilla. There were no bachelorette events or shower, no bridesmaids’ gowns or expectations. This is not a wedding issue. This is a friendship issue. For what it’s worth, she once convinced me to take an Amtrak from D.C. to Seattle for a wedding — it was post-9/11, and no flights were possible — because she argued that weddings were a big life event.
I begged, pleaded, left sobbing voice mails, e-mails, etc., with no response. Cut me off without explanation. It felt like a death.
Unfortunately, our mutual friends continue to be friends with her, go on vacation with her, etc., despite her treatment of me. And this still drives me crazy because I’m a horrible person and I know it’s been eight years and I should move on.
Given that such time has passed, how can I even expect our mutual friends to understand, much less take sides? But how do I move on? I am at the point where I just want to unfriend everyone because they tolerate such behavior. Am I just getting older or am I unreasonable?
Carolyn says: What a terrible story. It’s like a death with the added pain of intent — and without even the scant comfort a simple “why” can provide.
I can also see why you’re pushing (flogging?) yourself to “move on,” yet I don’t believe time has the only say here. An imperative to move on also comes from reaching the end of your options. I’m not sure you’ve done that.
Namely, you can ask a mutual friend what the heck happened. Yes, it’s ancient history, but that also means asking is much less charged.
You’re not guaranteed any answer, of course, much less a satisfying one — but just asking to fill in some blanks? That’s within the bounds of friendship. Plus, knowing you haven’t tried everything to find peace is often what keeps a past event alive in your present.
Some groups do manage to stay intact when two members have a falling-out — when they’re held together by a lattice of strong and true individual friendships, and when the cause of the conflict is either gray enough for decent people to hold different views of what went wrong, or when it’s an oil-and-water issue, where there’s no mistreatment, there’s just incompatibility.
Your ex-best-friend’s actions seem too clear-cut and cruel to justify the continued loyalty of people who call themselves your friend — and even without filling in blanks, it does sound as if it would be therapeutic to unburden yourself of these people altogether.
First, though, at least consider whether any of these friends is one you can count on. Who’s the closest to you, the plainest-spoken, the least likely to run back to the rest with an account of your conversation? Who’s the mensch?
The answer to that question alone might suffice: If no one fits this description, then there’s your relief, your permission to “unfriend everyone,” to say goodbye to people you can’t trust to care when you’re in pain, keep your confidences or tell you the truth.
If you do have a mutual friend sturdy enough to lean on, then just give it a shot.
You might still ultimately cut these ties — or your query might precipitate it — but the missing information has the power to bring a more profound kind of peace: Could anything justify what she did, shunning you without paying any price among people who ostensibly loved you both?
Dear Carolyn: I was given an invite to a wedding, where the bride and groom knew that I definitely could not make it. I am not close to either person, and I really only know the groom’s mother. There was a birthday party for a nephew in the family recently, and I splurged and bought an expensive present. A few days later I got the wedding invitation. It was a last-minute thought as the RSVP date on the invite had already passed, and the wedding was three weeks away. What is the appropriate thing to do here? Should I send a gift knowing that was why I got the invite in the first place?