Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Refusal to travel to funeral may sound death knell for friendship
Q: Recently, the husband of a woman in our friend group died. We are in our 20s and the death was a huge shock, especially to the wife, my friend. The funeral was held about four hours away from where my group went to school, and where many of us now live. Many of us coordinated the drive to the funeral.
One of my closest friends, who was also close to the wife, refused to go. Her reasoning was that she didn't want to sit in a car for that long on a Saturday, and that she would just call our friend later. Her reaction seems so callous to me that I'm still upset by it.
Now I'm seeing that it fits into a larger pattern of her actions. She complains when friends' needs go contrary to her own; she complains if weddings are out of town or if a family throws a bridal shower and invites her because that means she has to bring a gift and give up one of her Saturday nights to attend.
I have considered this person one of my closest friends. Should I be rethinking this? Is my reaction to her reaction justified? And if yes, what do I do?
A: This is a self-answering question, really. You are rethinking her, whether you should be or not, and it's an emotional reaction to her choices; thinking and feeling don't need justification.
"What do I do?" will answer itself, too. Either you will continue to feel close to and interested in her as a friend, or you will feel annoyed, angered or disgusted by her. I don't think it's really an option for you to decide you're overreacting and talk yourself into liking her again — not because it's wrong, but because it's not possible.
You're saying wow, it's all about her, and her heart is routinely in the wrong place. Will your opinion of her recover from that? Can it? I don't know, but if it doesn't, then the only real decision you're facing is whether to explain why you're not friends anymore.
This is easy for me to say, but I hope you do explain: "I have considered you one of my closest friends. You complain when weddings are out of town or when bridal showers ruin your Saturday night, and I've gotten used to that. Now that our friend's husband is dead and you don't even bother to go to the funeral, though, I feel as if I'm seeing who you really are: a deeply self-centered person. I hope I'm wrong, but it looks as if you care only when it's convenient to you." Brutal to say and hear, but if she's as self-centered as you suspect, then the truth could save her life; the emotional part of it, at least, arguably the only part that counts.
Anonymous: Not that this is a justification, but the friend may be mildly agoraphobic, or have social anxiety. She may shy away from large gatherings, and complain that things are inconvenient because she's ashamed to admit her fears. Just something to consider.
Carolyn: Interesting, thanks. And easy to disprove, if she's a social butterfly when the party suits her idea of fun.