What Went Unsaid: How I Made And Lost A Friendship, Step-By-Step

You win some, you lose some.

What Went Unsaid Jacob Lund, Roman Drits | Canva

According to psychologists, what you resist persists. And whatever you avoid eventually comes straight at you in a head-on collision. 

Here’s how I made and lost a friend, step by step:

1. I met a dog.

A few months after my husband and I moved to a sparsely populated town 100 miles west of Boston, I saw a woman and her dog emerge from a woodland trail near our house. I hustled to catch up and tossed her get-to-know-you questions. Like me, she enjoyed hiking and exploring. She scribbled her phone number on a scrap of paper from my pocket, and a few days later, I called her to propose a woodsy ramble.


Outside of work, Amelia rarely went anywhere without her Australian shepherd, Archie. As a child, I’d tested as allergic to dogs. Amidst the trees, I could smile at Archie’s romps, but in Amelia’s pickup with the windows shut, he made my nose twitch. When Archie climbed onto my lap to see out the front, his claws scratched my thighs and sometimes sent me home with bruises. I said nothing about the bother. I wanted this friendship to work.

Woman with dog on couch LightField Studios / Shutterstock


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2. I let her drive.

When we headed away from our shared neighborhood, Amelia drove. She knew the back roads and shortcuts, and we tacitly agreed it would be unreasonable to have her dog claw holes or leave mud on the leather seats of my car.

Amelia worked as an advertising rep for a local media company, and I had a good income from copywriting and coaching. Because fuel prices were climbing, I wondered whether I should chip in for gas. But would the offer offend her? The one time she pulled into a gas station during our wanderings, I hadn’t brought along any cash. Drat! I wanted this friendship to work.

3. We went hiking together.

After fording a cold, slippery stream barefoot and then climbing a long rocky hill to a three-state-view pinnacle, we beamed with the same pride and awe. Amelia quickly taught me to recognize moose, deer and bear poop. When we bushwhacked and meandered off trail, she more easily kept track of where we’d come from. I bought a hand-held GPS and interpreted its directional indicators for us. Together we pored over Geological Survey maps to decide on new unknowns to tackle.


In other ways, we matched less well. Amelia talked more than I did, about problems with her brother, her daughter-in-law, her husband, and her boss. I kept her thread of conversation going whether or not I could relate. Never did I share anything about my dead parents — hers were still alive — or any other topic where I sensed we had a chasm of experiences, such as education, religion, finances, or international travel.

Years into our hiking together, I stumbled on a rock one afternoon and let out a curse. Amelia looked back in surprise. “That’s the first time I’ve ever heard you swear,” she said.  Did she notice the other ways in which I was holding back? I wanted this friendship to work.

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4. I asked her for a favor.

Four years after getting friendly with Amelia, my husband and I took a three-month road trip to and from Alaska. She agreed to check in on our house while we were gone. I gave her our house key and a pass for the lake where we had a membership. “You can bring Lisbeth”  — her three-year-old granddaughter — “to play on the beach and swim if it’s still warm enough,” I suggested. 


When we returned home, she and Lisbeth had used the pass once. My husband and I valued the lake and paid the annual fee because we swam every day we could when we were home. But going there wasn’t much of a perk for Amelia, I realized, nor payback for her outlay on gas. I thanked Amelia and puzzled over how to equalize a seesaw with two disparate ends. Again I kept to myself our possible lack of balance. I wanted this friendship to continue to work.

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5. She brought a new person on the hiking trip. 

During our cross-continent trip, Amelia began hiking with another woman who had a dog that romped with Archie. Our weekend duo now became a trio, plus two dogs instead of one. I found Nancy boring, without Amelia’s energetic spark. Those two talked about dogs so much during our wanderings that I trailed along behind, feeling ignored. It’s a grade-school type of jealousy, I thought. It would be unthinkably childish to urge Amelia to ditch Nancy. So I said nothing. I wanted the old friendship back.

6. I asked her to pay.

Before our trip, we’d had a scary chimney fire. It didn’t consume our house, but afterward, my husband and I stopped heating via woodstove. Beside our driveway we thus had stacks of seasoned, cut logs we no longer needed. I offered them to Amelia, paying little attention to exactly what I said about the deal. 


According to Amelia in an angry note that she left with cash in my mailbox, I said she could have the wood for “next to nothing,” then later asked for the going rate for a cord of wood, $240. 

Maybe I did. I could have apologized and given the money back. But having become an odd woman out, with a precedent of throttling conflicts, I accepted Amelia’s payment and the end of our adventures together. I let the friendship go.

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The author of 17 nonfiction books as well as essays in the New York Times Magazine, Ms., Next Avenue and NPR, Marcia Yudkin advocates for introverts through her newsletter, Introvert UpThink. She lives in Goshen, Massachusetts (population 960).