Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: 'My old university friend seems to have gone off me'

Dear Virginia, I'm sure you'll think I'm paranoid, but I have an old university friend who seems to have gone off me – and I don't know why. We've always been close and often lunched together. I'd always drop in on them when visiting friends in the country, where they live. But for the last year I've heard nothing. Every time I suggest popping in on them, they say they're busy. I know something's wrong but they assure me it's nothing. What can I do? Best wishes, Margie

I'm sure you're not paranoid. But even if you are, it doesn't mean to say they're not out to get you, as they say. It's so hard to distinguish strong feelings of paranoia, or, sometimes, just intuition, from complete fantasy. But I've learned that although instincts are tremendously uncertain guides – I'd never suggest anyone trusted their instincts (they're as fickle as an alcoholic's promise) – I would say it's always worth at least bearing them in mind when dragging in the rational bit of your brain to make practical decisions. In other words, don't rely on them completely, but do, at least, offer these unreliable tormentors a short spell in the witness box before making your judgement.

It seems to me, however, that in this case your instincts are actually endorsing the facts. Let's look at what the prosecuting council has to say. One, you've heard nothing from them for yonks. Two, they're always busy when you call. And three, despite many attempts, you haven't met for ages. On the defence side, however, they're saying that there's nothing wrong.

Well, if you want my verdict, as a member of the jury, there is something wrong. Any normal friend, the moment you asked, worriedly, if anything were wrong, would say: "Of course not! I've missed you! Let's make a date right now!" But these friends don't say that. They haven't contacted you, when normally they were always in touch.

If I were you I'd make a last-ditch attempt at contact. Put them on the spot. Ring them up and say you're dying to see them, so when would suit them? You're free any time. If they get out their diaries and make a date, you're okay. If, however, they fudge it and say they're going away and they have a sick mother and can they ring you at the end of the month, I think you can say with certainty that in this instance your instinct is right.

In which case, how do you find out what's bugging them? They're clearly not going to tell you. So you have to enlist a mutual friend to work as a mole on your behalf. It sounds to me as if someone's repeated something you've said that's upset them or, even more likely, has repeated something you didn't say. There's clearly a misunderstanding going on somewhere and because they're such cowardy-custards and daren't face you man to man, as it were, you'll have to do all the work instead.

Failing the friendly mole, write to them and say that you know something's upsetting them and you are in torment and could they please let you know so you can clear the air? Don't say you suspect. Say you know. If they still stay schtum, then you've lost them, sadly. But let's hope they crack, and you can finally find out what's behind their cold behaviour. And start to make things right.

Friendships do fade

You say you always drop in on them when visiting other friends. Why? You make it sound as though you always put them second. Maybe they're fed up with always playing second fiddle to these others? Maybe you should put them first and drop in on the others?

Or maybe it's simply time to realise that they've moved on and left you behind. Friendships are funny old things and have always been a bit of a puzzle to me; for example, why is it that one friend can be out of touch for ages and then when you do resume a conversation it's like you never stopped talking, and yet another one you might send a text and then worry if you don't get an instant reply!

Here's a helpful little phrase someone once told me: "Some friends are for a reason, some friends are for a season, and some friends are for life." Maybe these belong to the first or second group?

Rachel Hill, Southampton

Find some new friends

There's a saying in the dating game: "He's just not that into you." If your friend wanted to stay in touch with you, she would. There's no point in speculating about what has gone wrong. The blunt fact is that your friend isn't as dedicated to maintaining the friendship as you are. Why not? Who knows. In the dating game, you rarely discover why the other person isn't into you. It's not something you should expect to be told, and perhaps you don't want to hear the answer anyway. It's a shame that old friendships fade away, but that's the way it goes. Move on. Find new friends.

Mike Hockney, Newcastle upon Tyne

Only time will tell

I hope my personal experience might help you. I, too, was close to a couple – I was even Godfather to one of their children – who at one point began to make me feel that they did not want to see me again.

I wrote them a letter asking them if I had done anything to upset them, and if I had would they please tell me as they were special friends to me. I got a brief postcard back, which did not seem to say anything, so I decided to leave it, as I felt I had tried everything I could.

About a year later I got a postcard from them asking me to go and see them when I was next in their part of England. When I next was, I contacted them and they gave me a wonderful dinner and we had a very happy evening as if nothing had ever been wrong. I still don't know what had been the problem, and I certainly won't ask

Ronnie, By email

Next Week's Dilemma

Dear Virginia, I'm really worried because my wife, whom I love very much, doesn't seem to want to spend any time with our two children. She works all the time, often going away for days at a time and rarely giving them a call. I work, too, but try always to get back as early as I can, and make a point of spending all the time I can with them at weekends, but she doesn't seem to be interested. She just says she's exhausted. I feel the children are suffering without a mother's presence and, let's be honest, love. But she just says they're fine. Is there anything I can do? Yours sincerely, David

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

    £70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

    Day In a Page

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments