"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
September 17, 2015
My Friend Cancels Our Plans
by Cyndie Swindlehurst


I have a friend, and I thought we were close. But lately, every time she invites me to do something, and I accept, she cancels at the last minute with no explanation. This hurts, especially because I know she does things with her other friends, sometimes on the same day that she cancels her plans with me.

I've also noticed that she never accepts my invitations any more. I know she enjoys the things I invite her to do, because in the past we have done them together.

This person is in my ward, we have lots of mutual friends, and I see her all the time. We've never had a fight or a falling out, so I'm not sure what happened. All I know is that there is a big hole where she used to be, and I'm really sad about it.

What should I do now?


Friendship is one of life's joys. But not every friendship is forever. Many friendships, for example, are based more in convenience and temporary commonalities (ward, ages of children, callings) than in an emotional connection between two people. It is natural for such friendships to wane as life's circumstances change.

But some friendships--even close friendships--end under stormier conditions. People become offended, or hurt beyond what they can bear. People think they are moving up the social ladder and refuse to associate with those on the lower rungs. Jealousy, selfishness, gossip or constant negativity might suck up too much emotional energy. Disagreements about life's many choices might drive a wedge between friends. Or, one person simply doesn't want to spend time with the other anymore.

Ending a friendship that is causing you turmoil can be a relief. But when you are on the other side, when you are the person being left behind, the experience is usually one of loss and rejection. And when the rejection is subtle--canceled plans, rejected invitations, social cuts--you experience the additional discomfort of feeling that something is wrong, but wondering if it is just your imagination.

In your case, you are feeling rejected and left behind. This person was not just your friend, but your close friend. You have spent a lot of time together. She knows you. But now, by all outward indications, she does not want to be your friend any more.

Adding to the sting are this person's disgraceful manners. Showing up when you have made plans with someone is entry-level etiquette. It is a basic way you show respect for another person. Cancelling those plans because you just don't feel like going is insulting. And cancelling because you got a better offer is appalling.

In fact, her behavior is so rude that I wonder if something else is happening here. Is it possible that she is experiencing some kind of family or health difficulty? Is she avoiding you in order to conceal financial or marital problems? Is she having a personal crisis? Her behavior might be a symptom of a serious problem.

You might, therefore, decide to talk to her. You could tell her that you care about her and are concerned. You could ask if everything is okay and if you did something to cause a rift or a misunderstanding. Be careful to focus on your concern for her, and not on your hurt feelings. Your goal is to open a door, not to elicit an apology.

This conversation could lead to reconciliation. But it could also lead to more hurt feelings and even embarrassment. For example, this person might ream you for something you didn't know you did. She might tell you that you're a downer (or selfish or shallow or boring) and she'd rather spend time with other people. She might say that she never thought you were that close. She might lie. Or be offended. Or tell you that you're too sensitive. In other words, this conversation could make you feel even worse than you did before.

If talking to this person seems too difficult, too draining, or just not worth it, it is perfectly reasonable to let things lie and to let the friendship peter out. You are under no moral or social obligation to continue a friendship with a person who repeatedly cancels her plans with you, rejects your invitations and makes you feel bad. It is perfectly reasonable for you to conclude that she does not want to be your friend, and to decide that you, too, wish to end the friendship.

I have four suggestions for how you might proceed.

One, don't be angry. You are understandably hurt and upset. Still, you can choose to proceed without anger. Anger will only consume your emotional energy and make you feel worse. Anger will give this person more presence in your life instead of less. So, when you have angry thoughts about her, put on some music or think of something else. If you want to gossip about or snap at her, avoid the topic or treat her with detached civility instead.

Two, disengage. You are accustomed to treating this person like a friend. It is now time to think of her in a different way. She is not your friend, she is a person you know whose company you choose not to keep. You are not angry with her; you simply prefer to separate yourself completely from her and to spend time with other people.

So, the next time she invites you to do something, say no. The next time you want to invite a friend to get together, invite someone else. If both of you are at a party, seek out other people. Do not ask her for favors, do not confide in her, and do not become involved in her personal business. Never rearrange your schedule to accommodate her.

Remember that you are not acting out of huffiness or to show her how it feels to be slighted; you are simply moving her to a status where she cannot continue to hurt your feelings.

Three, cultivate new friendships. Surely there are other people in your ward or neighborhood whose company your enjoy. Invite them to get together and see what clicks. It may seem daunting to build a social life without this person, but in time you will find new friends who share your ideas about books, hobbies and considerate behavior. Do not neglect people who are older or younger than you are. You may have a lot in common with people who are at a different stage of life.

Four, be open to reconciliation. This person could be going through personal turmoil or trials that will pass. She may want to rekindle your friendship at some future time. In the meantime, even as you disengage from her, treat her civilly. Do not spurn her friendly gestures, even if you do not accept them. But if she tries to renew your friendship, remember how she behaved before and proceed with caution. Do not get your hopes up. Do not build your social life around her. And do not ever expect her to change.

Do you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life? Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!

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About Cyndie Swindlehurst

Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from Duke University with a law degree.

She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.

Cyndie serves as the Sunbeams teacher in her ward.

Visit Cyndie at Dear Cyndie
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