Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Friendship's over but this person can't take a hint
Q: A person whom I've known a long time, and with whom I used to be close, doesn't get that I don't want to rekindle our friendship. I have ignored some contact, delayed in responding, answered that I was busy to multiple invitations. Is there more I can do? I've been pinned down with the "Have I done something wrong?" inquiry, to which I didn't know how to respond (since the answer is "No, I'm just not feeling it anymore").
Let's (Not) Be Friends
Carolyn: When pinned down, you need to tell the truth. "No, you haven't done anything wrong, but I feel as if we've grown apart. I'm sorry."
Anonymous: I'm in the same situation. The problem for me is that my friend did do something wrong. She's one of those incredibly competitive people whose one-upmanship was charming at age 13, but somewhere around the 10th "You take a lot of (expletive) classes for your easy major" comment, I realized I had to cut her out.
If she pins me down, can I be honest about why I don't want to spend time with her anymore?
Carolyn: Sure. It would be a public service. Just don't stoop to her level: Be civil and cite specific examples.
Anonymous 2: I'm facing something similar with someone I thought was a close friend. I haven't seen her in 2 1/2 years despite repeated attempts to do so. Every invite was met with an "I'm busy with X" type of excuse. I gave up.
Then I went through a terrible breakup, recovery, and I'm now at the beginning of a new and happy relationship. Earlier this year, she was in town, but I ignored her because I'm done.
Last month, she wrote me out of the blue to tell me that all those excuses were true but now she realizes that prioritizing other things has cost her a lot of friendships. SURPRISE!
She said she missed me and understood if I never wanted to talk to her again. I'd love to be friends with her, but I know telling her about all the drama and awful things that have happened is only going to make her feel worse about her absenteeism. I just feel like it's not worth it, and I should keep her in the dark and let things go. She wasn't there for me when I needed her most — a friendship-ender I guess.
Carolyn: So, which is it — you're dumping her so she won't feel bad about her absenteeism or because she wasn't there for you? Even though you'd "love to be friends with her"?
Normally I'd advise that you take her apology as sincere, forgive her and enjoy renewing a friendship that you've missed. However, I can use pieces of your letter to support a conclusion that you want to protect her, punish her, write her off and welcome her back. I don't think even you know what you think.
So, figure out how you feel, what you want out of this whole transaction, and then act on it.