Dear wise and wonderful Auntie,
My best friend and I have been basically inseparable for five years. We hung out at the pool everyday and did swim team together (which basically ensures friendship via freezing to death). At practice when we would pick teams for water polo, everyone knew we were a package deal because otherwise we would forcibly join together to make our own mini-team and absolutely destroy everyone. She (I'll call her Linda), read the same genres that I do, introduced me to new books, and I did the same. I can't count the amount of times we would call each other at 4AM to tell each other about the great thing we just discovered that the other needed in her life right now. It's one of those friendships where we constantly insult each other, but know we mean 'You are actually the best person in the world, please recognize I love you to death'.
Linda is a sophomore now, and I'm going away to live at college in three months (I'm a few months older, but I skipped a grade, and she's the oldest in her class). I'm going about an hour away, so coming home over breaks will be easy.
Here's my problem: Lately, Linda has been distant.
That's the best way I can think to describe it. We used to talk all the time about anything, and now something's different. I've tried talking to her about it twice, and she brushes me off, says it's nothing, and politely declines a movie invite or whatever. I invited her to my grad party a whole month in advance, and she said she didn't know if she could come or not! When I tried to talk to her I asked if she was okay, if something was going on, and she wouldn't say anything. She's ditched me a couple of times for her friends, and I've never done that to her, ever. We both have different sets of friends in our own grades, but neither of us has flat out picked that group over the other. Auntie, I don't know what's happening. We had plans to have fun again this summer, and party one last time before I go away, but then suddenly she said she didn't want to, even though she was the one who originally suggested it. I don't want to lose my best friend right before I move, but I don't know how to talk to her about how she feels, and how she's making me feel (horrible). Please help!
Oh, I hate letters like this. Not because of you, Sparkler—you're perfectly marvelous, and clearly a caring and thoughtful person—but because it's so awful having to tell a marvelous person that the problem they're hoping to solve is an unsolvable lost cause. And when it comes to your best-friendship, as much as I hate to say this, the writing is more or less on the wall. As much as you don't want to lose her, your friend has clearly decided to get lost.
Why she's doing this, I can't say. Maybe she's trying to soften the blow of your inevitable separation by getting some distance now. Maybe she's feeling insecure and resentful that you're moving on to college when it'll be two years before she does the same, and she lacks the maturity to cope with it. Or maybe it's just that she feels, for whatever nobody's-fault reason, that your relationship has run its course.
And I'm so sorry, truly, because a freeze-out like this from a friend hurts just as badly as any breakup—except worse, because someone ending a romantic relationship usually does you the courtesy of telling you, directly, that it's over. Whereas you're dealing not just with the pain of your friend's sudden distance, but the extra agony of having her gaslight you with blatant denials that anything is wrong. It's enough to make anyone crazy.
That said, here's what you can do: accept that there is no magic way to make Linda validate your feelings—or to make her confide in you about hers. The only recourse you have is in trusting your gut, refusing to take part in the ridiculous illusion that all is as it was, and telling her how this makes you feel. And what you'll say (in your own words, of course), is this:
"I'm not going to ask you again if something is wrong, because it's obvious that things aren't okay between us. All I can tell you is that I miss you, it really hurts to be shut out like this, and if I did something to upset you, I wish you'd be honest with me and give me the chance to make things right."
The hardest part is what comes next, because here's the thing: you'll only do this once. After that, the ball is in her court. And even while you give Linda the chance to tell you the truth, you'll have to assume that she won't—or that even if she does, it likely won't change anything about the status of your friendship. If she's decided that it's over, then it's over.
And that's sad, but it's also something that every person in your position goes through. Many friendships don't survive the transition from high school to college, or college to the real world—and the ones that do survive often aren't the ones you'd expect. So while you let yourself feel sad about what, and whom, is getting left behind, try to let yourself look forward, too. Because as much as it hurts to lose a person you thought you'd have with you for life, there are also so many lifelong friends in your future who you haven't even met yet.
Have you ever been frozen out by a friend? Cry your tears of bitter betrayal in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want more info about how this column works? Check out the Auntie SparkNotes FAQ.