Real Simple etiquette expert, Catherine Newman on how to deal with a troubled friendship.

Susie Cushner

Q. What do you do when someone with whom you were friendly decides she no longer wants to be your friend? This happened to me recently, and it's been upsetting and confusing. (She gave no reason for cutting off the relationship.) I am fairly sure I did nothing objectionable, but the whole episode has made me have doubts about myself.

H.G.

A. I'm sorry. It's always painful to feel abandoned by a friend. However, before you despair, ask yourself: Is it possible you're misreading the situation? For example, maybe your friend just hasn't been as communicative lately. If so, you could send an e-mail asking if she's all right. Or, if you're fairly certain there's some conflict between you and her, you could seek clarification: "I miss seeing you. If I did something to hurt you, please tell me."

Reaching out does involve an element of personal risk, though. If you contact her, you should be prepared to hear something upsetting—or, perhaps, to hear nothing at all, if she has decided that the friendship is a bad fit and she doesn't want to explain her reasons to you. In that case, hard as it may be, you're better off moving on.

—Catherine Newman

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