Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Don't just skip out on friendship; tell your friend the truth
Q: My friend's husband is obnoxious and offensive, and I'm out of serenity. I just want to leave now, but our lives are entangled. I feel like a heel waiting out mutual obligations to make my exit, but I don't see any good in telling them what's going on.
My friend will just see one more person denigrating her husband. She seems happy and she's repeatedly assured me she's happy with him. Her husband generally gets defensive and is unable to admit fault.
Does waiting a couple of weeks and then pulling a quiet, gradual exit make me a coward? (No, it's not really possible to see the friend without her husband.)
Carolyn: I think the best thing you can do is tell your friend you value her greatly and know this is a sore subject with her, but you'd prefer not to be around her husband due to some things he has said/done lately. (Specific examples required.) Say you'll understand if she can't do this, though you'll miss her.
That is, if you really mean it that you plan to exit regardless: As unkind as it will feel, truth-telling is kinder, because it leaves room for her to respond instead of just wondering where you went. You might not like the response, but taking that chance also allows her to surprise you with a response that works for you both.
Anonymous: I had this happen years ago when a friend's significant other dropped the N-word at a party, in front of my other, heavily pigmented friend, no less.
When I said to my friend, "What the heck?," she attacked me for not trusting her judgment about men, which had never been good, so I backed off.
The problem is, we have a mutual friend who later came to me and said the other friend missed the friendship and did I want to reconcile. I thought about it and realized, no. I didn't feel any anger or animosity over what happened, but whatever bond we'd had was just no longer there and I honestly didn't miss her.
Ever since then, I get sarcastic comments about how judgmental I am; since I don't want to rekindle the friendship, I must still be angry.
But I'm just totally indifferent. I've said the above to the mutual friend but the sarcasm and eye-rolls continue. At what point can I abandon reasonable discourse and tell her to drop it, possibly in a raised voice?
Carolyn: It sounds as if you're at the beginning of a bigger transition, not just out of one friendship but out of a cohort you've outgrown.
Just a theory, not passionately held, but the fact that you're getting "sarcastic comments," accusations, eye-rolls and someone relaying friend-to-friend messages says you've got at least one other friendship you won't miss one wee bit when it's gone.
Anyway. You can explain to the eye-roller one time: "I feel no anger over that past racist comment. I don't want to reconcile with her because I don't miss her friendship. If you're absolutely convinced I'm not being straight with you, then so be it."
Then give some thought to that whole outgrown-cohort thing, seriously.