The Daily Telegraph - Saturday

LETTER OF THE WEEK My best friend is rewriting our past

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QI was best friends with “M” for around 20 years. We went through so much together: births, marriages, divorces, and were always there for each other.

Ten years ago, I remarried. “M” had a series of relationsh­ips that didn’t work out. Her last relationsh­ip really hurt her. She went quiet for a while and then she started to behave differentl­y towards me. She seemed angry, cold, unsympathe­tic. I struggled to enjoy her company and started to give her some space. Then we had lunch, and as she’d started to warm towards me again, I’d been looking forward to seeing her.

Things seemed to be going fine, and then all of a sudden she erupted, accused me of being a bad friend, not being there for her. I was bitterly hurt. I had done so much for her. I asked to see her again and tried to explain things from my side. She met me, but didn’t respond at all to what I was saying.

After that, I just didn’t feel the same way about her. I have kept a distance, but we live in the same village and know the same people. She has made a lot of new friends and rewritten her past to a large degree with them. I hear her retelling stories about her life that aren’t as I remember them

I sit there inwardly seething! They all think she’s great but I’ve seen a side I can’t unsee. I’m not someone who loses friends; I have friends still from childhood – but nor am I someone who makes friends easily.

I still care about her but not in the same way. How do I move on from this? —Anon, Dorset

Dear Anon

AI only had to read the first 50 words of this letter to identify your problem. I’m willing to bet most of my readers are saying the same and sagely nodding their heads in agreement. These situations are pretty obvious to an outsider – but to be fair, a lot harder to get into perspectiv­e when you’re up close and tangled inside them.

So. Once upon a time you and your friend were travelling on parallel life-lines. For a decade your experience­s mirrored the other’s – marriage; babies; relationsh­ip problems; separation; divorce.

Naturally you were close – you had genuine empathy for each other because your rollercoas­ter lives were, in many ways, interchang­eable. You were like twin characters in a novel.

Then came the great parting of the ways. You found happiness; she didn’t. Over the next 10 years you establishe­d a new, secure marriage. But she had the opposite experience.

Relationsh­ip after relationsh­ip crashed and burned. Her last one ended especially badly; it sounds like she was emotionall­y paralysed for a good while afterwards.

I’m afraid this string of setbacks, compared with your contentmen­t, has sparked resentment in your former friend and it clearly runs deep. Illogical and unfair, I know. But it doesn’t necessaril­y make her a bad person – simply one with an all-too-common character weakness, a mirror image of schadenfre­ude (taking pleasure from another’s misfortune) – jealousy over another’s happiness. As I say, sadly it’s an unexceptio­nal response.

I’m not surprised she’s rewritten her autobiogra­phy for the benefit of her new village friends. If the failures of the past make her so unhappy, she can be forgiven for editing them into better chapters – possibly even to the extent that she believes the new, revised edition.

I would counsel kindness and understand­ing. Allow her to rebuild her life on her own terms. You just don’t fit into the new narrative.

That’s not your fault, but it’s another reason she’s pushing you away. You’ve simply been lost in the edit.

Remember and celebrate the good times you had together and accept that unfortunat­ely not all friendship­s can last forever.

Who knows? This one may have a renaissanc­e. But if so, it won’t be for a while. Move on with your own life in the meantime, and let your former friend do the same.

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