Welcome to the fifth installment of Ms. Opinionated, Bitch's advice column in which readers have questions about the pesky day-to-day choices we all face, and I give advice about how to make ones that (hopefully) best reflect our shared commitment to feminist values—as well as advice on what to do when they don't.
Dear Ms. Opinionated,
I'm one of those who needs advice on what to do when a friend disappears into a relationship. Different friends have dumped me during rosy periods in their love lives. In fact it's happened pretty recently, and I don't know what to do.
In life, there's basically one -- and only one -- thing you can do in this (and most) situations: Talk to the person. Assuming you want to stay friends with her, you go to your friend that pulled the disappearing act and say, "Hey, I feel like I never see you anymore! Can we make plans for lunch/coffee/drinks next week to catch up." And then, when you finally see her (it might take two attempts, and if it takes any more, skip down to the third paragraph) you say, "Look, you know you're my friend and I'm really happy that you're in a relationship that makes you happy. But -- and you've sort of done this before, or else I wouldn't say anything -- you've basically ignored me and our friendship for weeks over this guy, and it really hurt my feelings. I miss our friendship, and I miss being able to count on you, and I'd like to get back to that somehow."
She's going to respond one of two ways: either as a friend who's been told she's doing something we all know is shitty in general and now knows is hurtful to you in particular; or as the type of person who finds it "exhausting" to balance friends and a boyfriend right up until the moment she needs bridesmaids (and then people to attend her baby shower).
At that point, the decision is really yours. Do you want to be friends with a woman who thinks you're a useful diversion when she isn't in a Real Relationship, or sees you solely as a bridesmaid's-dress-filler? Or is she -- like buying stock in a typewriter manufacturer or dating an emotionally stunted drummer with obvious mother issues and a burgeoning alcohol problem -- a poor investment in retrospect? Effectively, everyone has at one point put time, emotional energy and trust in someone who's proved themselves not worth of any of the above.
And if your friend views friendship as a way to pass the time between relationships, well, then you know what you are to her, and you won't change that -- you can only respond in the way that makes sense for you. That might mean cutting her out all together, it might mean shrugging your shoulders and letting her call you whenever but not counting on her, or it might mean eventually refusing to be in her wedding. If not being a true friend to you is what's right for her, then you have carte blanche to do what's right for you.
But the other half of your question is about being friend-dumped, which can happen even when you're not friends with a habitual I've-got-a-boyfriend friend-dropper, and it totally sucks. In some ways, it sucks worse that a relationship-dumping, because at least there's a feeling with romantic relationships that you should end them if they are not working for you -- and there's not the same expectation around friendships.
But, why wouldn't there be? People grow and change, and sometimes they do so in ways that aren't compatible with the people in their lives -- friends or significant others -- or which make their relationships less fulfilling, functional or productive. And while there's a script to tell a significant other that it's not you, it's me... there isn't a set way to do that to a friend except to just slowly pull away and never speak of it again.
I mean, I've been friend-dumped, and it was really hard to understand why my best friend went from taking my calls one day to ignoring me the next week. The last thing she said to me before she stopped speaking to me was that she didn't understand why I had to use such crass language all the time, even though my use of crass language wasn't new, or something I'd kept hidden, or even something that had gotten worse. And I did the denial thing, the bargaining thing, I considered trying to rein myself in -- heck, some of the men I'd dated had asked that of me, too -- and I finally accepted that the person who I'd invested my time and energy was somehow not who I'd thought she was, and she wasn't and didn't want to be my friend, and I let myself be sad for that... and then I went and found other friends who loved me for me.
Personally, when I've done a friend-dumping -- which has been rarely, and only when the friend did something not in keeping with my personal ethics (domestic abuse, using someone, and treating a mutual friend with whom they slept rather poorly) -- I tend to be up front about why I'm disappointed in my friend. Obviously, you hope the unethical behavior changes rather than the friendship ends, but I doubt many people made my shit list without knowing precisely why they got there -- which seems more fair than the slow fade.
And while there are some warning signs for the type of person who will disappear into a relationship that you could heed before getting too deep into a friendship -- generally speaking, an obsession with the concept of The One, anyone who claims she hears her biological clock ticking, anyone who turns every girls' night into an opportunity to meet men (or women) and expects you to wing girl and anyone who claims it's just so hard to be friends with women to explain why she doesn't have other female friends -- some people are just going to surprise you in a bad way. And if talking doesn't work, and pointing out her behavior doesn't stop it, then decide based on what you know you're going to get from her, what you are willing to give to her. And then do that -- and focus your own energy on building up your other friendships or on the often time-consuming process of making new friends.