How are you today, friends?
I received an email the other day from an individual who was asking me how they should handle the situation when a friend just stops communicating with them. No rhyme or reason. A complete cease fire.
That's a toughy. I've been in that situation a good few times. What do you do? It depends. If you think that your friend is just going through a tough stint and needs time to sort things through, let them have their space. Make a reasonable amount of gestures, but learn to let go. I do not say these words lightly. Trust me. It is one of the most difficult things to do. I struggle with it. In fact, if I make frequent attempts to communicate with those whom I love, and if they fail to remotely give something back, it P's me off! Not right away, but if the communication ceases for months upon months, after numerous attempts of phone calls and emails, I get charged. I have a mean streak; not so much directly belligerent, but more torturous, more subtly annoying; mono as opposed to pneumonia; an aching back as opposed to a fractured skull; dripping faucet as opposed to finger nails on chalkboard; stink bomb as opposed to hand grenade. I'm much more innocuous, than vicious. Yet, I am well skilled at getting under someone's skin. In another life, I must have been one of those "special" agents trained to relieve individuals of information. I truly believe this, but I digress.
What should be done? For starters, be above their behavior and reach out to that individual, if they say that nothing is wrong, accept it . . . at first. If this condition of ignoring you persists, challenge them on that theory. If they still refuse to be honest with you, begin that slow process of letting them go or at least giving them enough space. Hopefully, if you give them their space, they will start to recognize their behavior as being dysfunctional for healthy relationships, and at the very least, give you an honest response to your inquiries. Or maybe they won't. Or maybe your friendship or love relationship has come to a transitional period. Adapt.
There have been friends with whom I was much closer at one time, but because of life we have gone separate paths. At times, it was my choice to separate, and at times, it was the other individual's choice. What frustrates me is when the other person assumes that I'm an idiot and gives me garbled answers of, "I'm doing well. Everything is o.k." or "Nothing's wrong. I'm just busy." or "I'm fine." And I do not need to tell you what F.I.N.E. stands for. At least, I won't say it on my public blog.
My response to people's evasion becomes very calculated when I feel unsafe. I do not take life very lightly. I think most people do. I think we divide ourselves over stupidity and nonsense, then when death hits us, it's "I wish. I wish. I wish." I can't take my relationships with that level of flippancy. It irks me to no end. I understand that people are busy. I do, but please don't insult me when I call you on something and I'm correct. Ugggh!!!!! I don't have much respect for that.
As I write this response, I realize that there are four individuals who swirl in my head. They withdraw without warning. They leave me clueless. I can confront, but if they don't respond truthfully, what am I supposed to do? Aah, we're back at the question.
Here's are a couple of successful stories. My darling kindred friend, Jennifer has been disconnected from me for quite some time. About a year ago, she had a daughter. I knew that this would create flux within her core, and it did. I must have called and emailed her more than a dozen times. No response. The only response I got was mass emails. (This action, by the way, for all my friends who think about doing this in the future, is NOT the best direction to go with me. It doesn't count as a response. In fact, it counts as a negative for me.) I figured, if you can write a mass email, could you not write a line to me? No such luck for months upon months. Then I had an epiphany -- let Jennifer go. Contact her no more. Withdraw. Create safety within yourself again. And I did. I withdrew. I refused to call or write, then one day (very recently) she wrote to me and explained. She's been struggling with adapting motherhood into the other pieces of herself. I wasn't surprised by this response -- like I said, we are kindred souls. I've struggled with the same issue. We just handle it differently. I need to write it out or talk it out, not always, but certainly more often than not. Today, I sent her a copy of my blog reflecting on fatherhood. I told her that I still have deep love for her. I can't wait for her to emerge. I miss her.
The other success story comes in slight reverse. It involves me less frequently touching base with this dear soulful, kindred friend; a true d-girly for sure. We would communicate through email almost everyday at one point, then my schedule got more hectic, and the email exchange cut back to couple times a week, then to once every other week, mostly because of me. The communication has picked up lately, which is beautiful, especially since much of the disconnect was due to me. She continued to pop emails over to me, and I would at times leave a message on her work machine. The success of this story is what I did. I did not totally disconnect with her and I let her in to what was happening in my life. I refused to totally disconnect. Being busy or my personal life problems were not enough to disengage completely. Not good enough as an excuse for me. D-girly let me know that she understood, but I know that she understood in part because I did not shut off completely, and I made her feel safe to know that it was not her or my rejection of her as a friend. Very critical.
So, I understand this struggle my friends about what to do in these situations. I live it. Every day. Jennifer is a success story -- relatively speaking, of course, but there are others who still perplex me and withdrawing is the only avenue I know. Ultimately, I don't feel safe with them, though I have a lot of love for them. And it makes me wonder from whom do I withdraw? Have I made those people feel unsafe because of my conscious or unconscious withdrawal?
Hmmm . . . I need to call my older friend today. He's a good soul and sensitive like me.