Friday, July 13, 2007

What to do when a friendship is over?

I have a "good" friend that I've known for years. We became friends at camp, re-connected at college, and have been fairly close. The problem is that for a long time, she hasn't been a good friend to me.

When we were in college, she told a number of people (really everyone of our acquaintance) that I'm not friendly. That's not actually true. I'm very friendly, I'll chat with anyone, and I try very hard to be civil on all occasions. However, just because I enjoy someone's company, does not mean that I consider them a friend. At any rate, I found this to be a very unpleasant experience, especially when people began to repeat it back to me. "Oh, I'm so surprised that you're nice, I heard that you weren't friendly."

This woman is also awful at listening. When we have one of our (infrequent) phone conversations, she never wants to listen to what I have to say, instead she insists on talking about her significant other, their problems, etc. She wants me to tell her that she's doing the right thing always, and refuses to hear any other advice. The reason that our phone calls are infrequent is that directly after college she moved to another city; for the first few months I called her regularly, and found that while she was happy to chat, she never called me/inquired about me. So I stopped.

Fast forward a bit, and now she's moving back to NYC. She hasn't really kept in touch with any of her friends, so she feels a bit cut adrift, and is now trying to rely on me for social opportunities. I haven't been so helpful. However, she basically invited herself to one of my Shabbat meals, and I couldn't get out of it.

What do I do? I don't enjoy spending time with her, I find her selfish and immature, and I hate her boyfriend. The upstairs neighbor suggested that I'm being "wenchy" for not just telling her that I don't like her anymore. But that seems unnecessarily cruel, when really I've just outgrown her.

I was phasing her out, but now that she's back in New York she's clinging to me like lichen. Do I just suck it up and see her occasionally? Or do I say something?


Irina Tsukerman said...

You should probably have an honest talk to her and explain how you feel. Maybe she doesn't even realize how her behavior affects other people. Then see how it goes from there.

The Pedant said...

Set her on fire. That's my advice for all interpersonal relationships.

Anonymous said...

Can you tell her that your lives have taken different directions and that you need some space?

There's no reason to hurt her but there's also no reason for you to feign friendship when it has ended.


lovelycake said...

Being that Harley is your bff, I'm sure you know about Carolyn Hax:

rockofgalilee said...

Instead of being a pushover when she invites herself over tell her you are busy.
There's no reason to have a "talk" she will figure it out very quickly. And then if she confronts you about avoiding her just say something like, I think we have grown apart and I'm not comfortable with you.

Annie said...

Irina- that seems to be the general consensus, but she is incredibly sensitive, so it's hard for me to figure out how to phrase things.

Pedant- um, you frighten me.

Irene- I can't imagine that working with this woman.

Lovelycake- thanks, I've read that one, but it is more about asking if you are allowed to dump a friend rather than how to do it.

Rockofgalilee- She isn't really good at picking up on signals.

pentelho real said...

I feel lonely...

Juggling Frogs said...

Can you cheat? Can you set her up with someone else? She might not be your cup of tea, but there might be someone out there who appreciates her.

Ask her to host something for others, like a singles shabbaton, or a learning program. She might blossom in a hostess position. If nothing else, it'll keep her busy.

Do you have a chessed project that needs volunteers? Can she be given a big piece of it to do? If her interpersonal skills are lacking, maybe something that can be done alone, but that is needed and comes with some kavod?

She's at a vulnerable point in her life, and she hasn't demonstrated great emotional restraint. I'd avoid confronting her directly.

There really isn't a nice way to say "I don't like you very much." It's a necessary cruelty (actually a kindness) for dating, but for fading friendships, I think brutal honest is overrated.

If you're always busy with vague but polite excuses (unless totally cornered and trapped), she'll eventually get the idea. If you are trapped, letting her feel included for limited occasions is your chessed to her. Remembering that can help you get through it, with less teeth-gritting.

Alternatively, you could take the initiative and invite her specifically for busy shabbatot where her presence will be diffused across a roomful of people. Since you invite her, her feelings won't be hurt. But it would be dates of your choosing, when you have a crowd that can handle it.

rockofgalilee said...

Even thick people get it when you are busy every time they call you.
Also if you are always busy she'll find other friends and then stop calling.

Tamar said...

I've gotten to the point where I will openly say to someone, "this friendship isn't working out for me." It does feel kind of bitchy at the time, but afterwards I feel so much better not having to stress, or even pretend to stress, about someone else's boyfriend drama, or fashion crisis or whatever. I'd keep up that phasing out for a little while longer and then have a come to Jesus.