True Stories

True story: How I saved my friendship when pal told me we couldn't be friends anymore

You can't always expect to be asked out to dinner by your friends. Maintaining your friendships takes more than just texts. Here's what happens when you forget the basics
 

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When my friend Kate* sent me a text saying she didn’t think we could be friends anymore, I felt awful. A former colleague, we were close confidantes who saw each other both in and out of the office.

When we first met in the office, I thought we were extremely different (she was conservative to my spontaneous, rational to my emotional, methodical to my creative). But as we were a two-person team, after multiple lunch breaks and late nights in the office, I realised our differences complemented each other. She was the person I could count on for sound advice, especially through a rough patch where I was dating men I shouldn’t. 

And in the way life often is, when we both left the company, the friendship took a hit. We went from texting daily to infrequent check ins and only seeing each other in groups. At the back of my head, I noticed the difference, but chalked it down to both of us being too busy. After all, some friendships fade.

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So when Kate called me out over text saying she felt excluded, judged and suggesting “we were comrade in arms in the office, but maybe we aren’t a good fit outside of it”, I was shocked, and then ashamed. Because she was right. I had neglected to invite her to our ex-company gatherings, making the excuse that I was the guest and not the host. I had stopped asking about her personal life, to the point of being dismissive when she did share details.

It wasn’t a deliberate snubbing, but it was lazy. Essentially, I had stopped being a real friend in the relatively short span of a year and a half.

I had two options: go with what Kate suggested (that we accept that the friendship is no longer what it was), or try to revive it. I realised that I wouldn’t get a second chance to revive a friendship that saw me through the transition of a new job, and being single after a three year relationship, and I wasn’t ready to see it go six feet under. So I put my pride in my pocket and apologised, acknowledging that she was right.

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As tempting as it was to ask her out immediately for drinks, or start texting frequently, I held back. Going from zero to a hundred would just seem disingenuous and over compensating.

Rather, I texted every week or so, about neutral conversation topics like book recommendations, the computer game she was playing and writing festivals we were thinking of attending. I sent her website links to events she would find interesting. I initiated group outings. She met me halfway by being receptive to my invitations, and eventually, we eased into one on one dinners.

It’s a statement everyone understands in theory, but real friendships are hard work. You’ve got to carve out the time to meet, keep in touch with texting, remembering the little things like birthdays. And if you’re honest with yourself and realise that you don’t have it in you to maintain a particular friendship, then it’s just face value and there’s no point in reconnecting.

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Here's how you can prevent your friendships from fading into dust:

Don’t be a one meet-up wonder
You’ve met up and caught up. What next? Sliding back into months of silence defeats the point of reconnecting. Try these steps to fight the slow fade.

Slide into her DMs

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Genuinely too busy to have lengthy text conversations, much less meet up? Instead of dropping off the face of the earth, you can spare the couple of seconds by liking and commenting on her social media posts and Instagram stories.

Note down important dates
During the first get together, did she mention a big project upcoming at work, an anniversary, or a vacation? Remember the dates (perhaps saving them in your phone) and remember to text to ask how they’re going. It’s a little thing, but it shows you’re paying attention.

Don’t drag your feet in rescheduling
If you both juggle crazy schedules, fix the next date before calling a night. Chances are, if you go back and forth via text to pin down a convenient day, chances are it just ends up not happening. Pin it down, keep that date free, and you don’t have to think about shifting your appointments around.

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