Someone who used to be close won't talk to me. What do I do?

Question

So I have been friends with this person for 10 years over the internet. We met on one furry site in a group, and our relationship quickly grew. Soon enough we were mates, then he left the fandom, then he came back and we were mates again, only for me to have to go live in the ghetto. When I came back we were best friends, then he stopped coming around as much. It worried me, and with the onset of my anxiety I had a panic attack and told him I loved him. This was a year and a half ago. Since then he barely even talks to me, and has been spending alot of time with others and short changes me whenever we DO talk, with responses like: Yep. Sure. Uh-huh. And quick to get angry. He is like family to me and I would do anything to get him back, and I know he thinks of me as clingy. What should I do? He is tired of my apologies and any attempt at trying to fix it makes him think I am having a breakdown.

Received via email (name withheld)

Answer

So it sounds as if your friend is indirectly asking you for space. While we at Feral Attraction are a fan of direct communication (see our episode on Communication Styles), we understand that for some this does not come easy. 

A conversation requires two parties, and if one party is mentally checked out, unfortunately you're no longer talking with someone, but you're talking to them. It's possible, perhaps, that he just does not have the emotional bandwidth to foster a friendship, or a relationship, with you. You mention that you know that he thinks of you as being clingy -- if that is something that he directly has said then it is quite possible that continued conversation, especially on a constant basis, might cause that sentiment to grow. 

People do move on, regardless of the length of time spent together. It is possible that, for your friend, he has moved on to new friends and new experiences. It is possible that he is just under a lot of stress and is not communicating properly. It is also possible that he finds you clingy and is growing irritated by it. The unfortunate thing is that these are all possibilities and the only way you will ever have any certainty is from what he says to you.

Try to talk to your friend, but preface it accordingly. Ask if he has time to talk for a bit and, if so, maybe the talk could happen on the phone, or Skype, or some other way to communicate verbally. In person is best for these types of conversations, but if that is not possible go for the next best thing. Talk about your thoughts and feelings (again, the Communication Styles episode will be of great service as will our Non-Violent Communication episode). Use "I" Statements and be honest about your feelings, your intentions, and where you want to see your friendship moving to.

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Remember, though, that this is a conversation and you can not make unilateral decisions for your relationship's continuance. Unfortunately, the only unilateral decision that can be made is the termination of a relationship, which you must accept is a potential outcome for every friendship and romantic relationship you engage in. 

Be mindful of your words, be considerate and listen, be direct, and most importantly employ the use of non-violent communication strategies.

Good luck, and if there is anything else we can assist with please let us know via our contact page.

Be Well,
Metriko Oni

Metriko Oni

Metriko Oni is a former government environmental disaster mitigations expert with a focus on outreach, education, and policy writing. He now works with computers. He has been active in the fandom since 2013 and has been an advocate for transparent lines of communication. His interests include philosophy, media, futurism, and speculative fiction.