READER’S QUESTION: "Is there any way to communicate to someone that you don't want to be friends anymore? I used to be really close friends with a girl since we were little, but once we hit our 20s, I've realized we are too different, and I dread spending time with her. She can't seem to pick up on hints. I haven't instigated getting together with her in years and never text her, but she still tries to plan something every 3-6 months. She's always been clingy, narcissistic, and pessimistic, hence why I backed off years ago. I should've backed off when I was younger but didn't want to hurt her feelings (which I now recognize was a problem). Now, we have different values, and when we do get together it's shallow and uninteresting. Is there any end in sight?"
EVIE’S ADVICE: You say you realize that caving to prevent hurting her feelings in the past was a problem, yet you are still continuing this habit as evidenced by the fact that you say you still do get together even though you dread it. It may be tempting to continue to push aside your feelings and get together since it’s only once every 3-6 months, but you shouldn’t feel forced to continue a friendship you’re not happy with, even if that means letting her down. She may be consistently reaching out to you because she doesn’t have a lot of other girl friends to lean on (probably due to her narcissism and pessimism) and feels comfortable with you since you grew up together, or she doesn’t have experience with friendships that naturally drift apart yet. She may think that since you’ve known each other for so long that you should continue to keep in touch no matter what. Although it’s likely that she’s noticed you are intentionally distancing yourself, she may be clinging to the relationship for either of these reasons.
Friendships are supposed to be mutually beneficial and life-giving; if only one person is enjoying it, it’s not a friendship.
You can go about ending this relationship by continuing the radio silence on your end, and every time she reaches out to get together, you can just say, "Thanks for the invite, but I can't." Don't say, "I'm busy" or "I have other plans" – sending mixed messages won’t work here. You’re not required to offer the true explanation why at this point. She will likely get the hint if her attempts to connect are consistently rejected, and you will naturally lose touch altogether.
If she asks why you always say no, then you can offer the level of explanation you think is prudent or charitable. If you feel that she might be receptive to constructive criticism, it could be a kindness to tell her the truth with love. There’s no need to list every negative quality about her if you choose to have an honest conversation about why you don’t want to spend time with her anymore. Instead, you can focus on the fact that your lives and values are no longer aligned and that every time you get together you feel like you leave the outing in a negative headspace. Friendships are supposed to be mutually beneficial and life-giving; if only one person is enjoying it, it’s not a friendship. Even though cutting off communication – no matter how gently – will likely hurt her feelings right now, it may help her reflect on her behavior and grow in her future friendships.
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