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Winning back a best friend

| Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, 8:57 p.m.

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

I decided to put some distance between me and my best friend after she really let me down over a major life event. Before that we were super close, sharing our days via texts and emails; we've had some cordial enough, brief interactions since. I understand why she did what she did, but miss our closeness and sharing. What can I do to get it back after being the one to say “See ya”?

— Undoing an Estrangement

You eat dirt.

Explain that you took some time you (thought you) needed because you were upset, and now you're not (as) upset, and the distance has also allowed you to see how much bigger the friendship is to you than this one incident, and so you would like to ... meet for coffee? Apologize for reacting the way you did? Have her back in your life like the old days?

You can go a bunch of different ways here, with many different tones. She, too, can have a bunch of different reactions, from feeling sooo happy to be forgiven to furious that you chose distance over trying to talk things out.

So choose your approach with as much thought and integrity as you can muster. That way if things don't go the way you had hoped, you won't be saying to yourself, “I should have apologized myself instead of complaining that she didn't apologize,” or, “I should have started slowly instead of expecting instant reconciliation,” or, “Why was I so cautious, I should have just hugged her like I wanted to,” or whatever else. Be true to yourself and vulnerable despite whatever fear might be holding you back.

Re: Estrangement:

I'm really hoping the “major life event” was in the illness or death categories and not because she wasn't there for you while you were planning a wedding or even baby shower. If not, you might really want to think hard about how you approach her, because there are a thousand and one reasons why a friend might not meet your expectations in that regard.

Having said that, a lot of people find it difficult to support friends during difficult times as well because they don't know what to say or do, so you might want to go in with an open heart and open mind when you approach her for what she did to cause your distance.

— Anonymous

I see your general point. However, I'm not sure I'd make the same distinction you do between happy milestones and sad ones. “Why couldn't you just be happy for me?” and “Why couldn't you just be sad for me?” are deceptively similar questions when it's asked by an erstwhile best friend.

I can't endorse strongly enough, though, the gift of bringing an open mind and heart to the conversation — thank you. A friend's absence causes us pain, yes, but so often a friend's pain is what causes her absence.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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