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Carolyn Hax: Recently married friend abandons the group

Dear Carolyn: Friend recently got married and seems TOTALLY uninterested in spending time with friends, what’s going on in our lives, etc. (We are a mid-30s mix of married/single/otherwise coupled, kids/no kids.) Friend will give reasons she is busy before we’ve even suggested something, or, when we finally do something, comment how it’s “been forever” despite our invitations on an almost weekly basis. It started prewedding but we chalked it up to the time it takes to wedding-plan.

How do we approach Friend about this without sounding defensive? We’d feel bad if she’s going through something and is not ready to talk about it, but it feels like it’s assumed we are friends even though Friend is not really acting like one, or like the friend we’ve known for 10 years.

– How to Approach?

Here’s how not to approach: As a “we.”

I doubt many antelopes say to hyenas, “I totally get why you picked me – I was lagging behind the herd.”

You miss your friend, yes? And her “been forevers” sound hollow? And you’re at least somewhat concerned she’s in trouble?

So you approach her, and you be her friend. Ask her how she’s doing as opposed to jumping straight to accusations of no-showing her friendships, and be just as prepared to hear good news, like happy immersion in her new marriage, as you are to hear bad. Your state of mind alone can pre-empt – or trigger – a defensive response.

I think I see your points in mentioning the mixed demographics of your crowd: that you don’t all come from the same place, and that you all manage to find time to be together. If so, fair enough.

But mixed isn’t just about paired or not and parents or not. There’s also a natural range in how people handle change in their inner lives. One person can be married and employed and welcome a fifth child without yielding any ground as social and community fixture, while a different person could be knocked completely off schedule just by starting a new relationship.

That’s why presence is flawed as the sole measure of a friend, and why also weighing history, intent, transparency and temperament makes sense.

With that in mind: “Hey – I may be wrong to butt in, but I miss you, and it’s unlike you to step away for so long. Is everything OK?” The friend who doesn’t judge is the friend who hears the truth.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon each Friday at washingtonpost.com.