Question: I have a longtime friend whom I once considered a "best friend." We connect at the heart and have relied on each other a lot over the years.

Several years back, she went through a tough professional transition and completely cut me off. Not because she was angry with me, but because she needed to move through it alone. I was devastated that she would not return my calls, respond to my e-mails, accept my invitations. That went on for nearly two years. Ultimately, we worked it out, and all was well for a few years.

Then she underwent another difficult transition, and again cut me off, again for nearly two years. I tried calling, texting, and e-mailing for months and finally gave up. I grieved the loss of our friendship, because I knew that if she came around again, I wouldn't be willing to rekindle our closeness and set myself up for this again.

She has emerged from her difficult transition and now wants to reconnect. I just don't think I can do it again. Am I being unreasonable? Do I have to tell her this, or can I just keep her at arm's length as a casual acquaintance?

Answer: Demoting her to "casual acquaintance" without explaining yourself would just be a lesser version of the same friendship crime she committed against you.

So, yes, you do have to say you won't get close again to someone who takes unannounced two-year breaks from returning your calls. Whether you're being reasonable is beside the point (though you seem so to me); what matters is that you remain true to yourself and transparent with those you love - just as your ex-best friend unwittingly taught you to be.

E-mail Carolyn Hax at tellme@ washpost.com, or chat at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.