putting the end in friend

In ALL, BREAKUPS & BREAKTHROUGHS, FRIENDSHIP by Stephanie Klein49 Comments

I’m quitting an inherited friend.  I received her back when I was a plump pre-pubescent priss.  No one wanted to befriend her because she was an irritating jap, but I took pity on her, certain there was more to this label-conscious “Oh my gawd, I had the most a-maze-ing weekend!” girl.  Mommy bought her a Lexus, new boobs, and Japanese hair straightening sessions.  Electrolysis.  She tanned her body in beds throughout Philadelphia, then spent her afternoons with Koreans who layered her in Ballet Slippers and Marshmallow. She’s still ugly, the inside kind.

Her shit always seems to smell like a bridal bouquet

When she visited me in Manhattan, I always made time for her.  I mean, had I gone to Philadelphia, she’d certainly extend her home and time to me.  And, on lazy afternoons, I did enjoy her shopping company.  She was great at telling me what suited my figure.  “No no, you must get these.  They’re perfect for you.”  So I took her in doses.  Though each time she’d return to Philly, I’d renounce our friendship to another friend of mine.  “Promise me, if you ever again hear even a scant word about my having plans with her again, tie me up.  I’ve got rope in my closet.”  Without fail, after each interaction, I felt frustrated and disgusted by her. 

She’d really be a very sweet girl if she weren’t so repellent.  When I’d gone through my divorce, she was there for me.  “Whenever you need me.  Maybe you want to get out of Manhattan for a while.  Come play with me here.”  She understands dating and my anxiety, so she always offers seasoned, rational, advice.  I thought this made her a good friend.  Bbbzt.  You just hit a whammy!  I’m through pressing my luck.

She is there for me when I feel like shite.  But when I’m happy, she doesn’t have any real interest in my life unless she’ll get something out of it.  “Oooh, does this mean more parties?”  When she speaks, I actually have to bite down.  She laughs at herself constantly, especially when telling stories of the wealthy men she somehow finds to treat her to steak dinners.  I genuinely can’t get through a meal with her anymore.  I actually wrap the rest to go.  “Oh my Gawd, Stephanie, I mean he is load-ed.  Oh, waiter, yes you.  I don’t want this.  Take it away.”  Holy motherfcuker.  “Please,” she’ll tack on after she sees that my mouth is now agape.  There’s a thing called tone. She throws on a “please” thinking it will catapult her into Klass. She’s tone deaf by way of class.  And don’t worry, she doesn’t read my blog.  She doesn’t care enough to.

Bottom line, I had a friend but could not keep her.  Now it’s time to quit or beat her.  So I’m giving my two weeks notice.  Nobody likes a quitter; well then don’t like me because it’s time to quit-her.  But here’s the thing.  There are ways of doing things when it comes to quitting. 

Dumping a friend takes the same skill as quitting a job or a romantic relationship.  It takes grace, honesty, and courage.  The difference, of course, is you have to quit a job because you’re taking a new one.  You’ve got to desert the guy to curry favor with someone more promising.  But you don’t NEED to terminate a friendship. 

I need to terminate this one.  It’s not that she’s a bad person.  She’s not even that negative.  It’s just whenever I spend time with her, I want to gouge something.  And that makes it a need.  Life is too short to accommodate these feelings when you know the source. 
So how do you dump a friend?  Do you just stop returning her phone calls?  Ignore her IMs?  Or do you confront the friendship with a direct and honest approach, delivering the news as swift as a guillotine?  “I’m sorry but this just isn’t working for me anymore.  We’ve had a lovely run at it, and I wish you the best.  If things change, I hope you’ll be open to hearing from me again.”  It’s nearly a business exchange with a closed door, a desk, and an exit interview.  Sure throw in some flattering adjectives to blunt the blade.  “I think you’re really great, though.  Really.” 

This method shows respect for her time and for her feelings.  It seems like it’s hard to do because you worry how she’ll respond, and you worry she’ll be hurt.  You worry you might be, just maybe, making a mistake.  And since there’s no real reason, you might as well just do the phase out.  You can’t very well be honest, “I don’t like spending time with you because you’re shallow, your voice is annoying, and any time I bring you around my real friends, they roll their eyes and duck out of plans if they hear you might be coming.”  That’s not nice.  So what do you do? Tell her you’ve been paying close attention to your own body language lately, and you’ve noticed your time with her leaves you enervated and gagging?  I mean, she’s not a bad person; she’s just bad for me.  I’m certain Hallmark handles this, but I’m not certain how I should… only that I will.

Or won’t.  I’m such a wimp who can talk a good game.

Comments

  1. This entry couldn't have come at a better time…for me. This is a struggle I've been going through recently. Just wanted to say thanks on the coincidence…

  2. Actually, I believe that honesty is the best policy… especially in an instance like this… You are not responsible for how she feels, just like nobody else can be responsible for how YOU feel… Think about it; if someone tells YOU that they don't like spending time with you because you come across as shallow, you can either take it as an insult, or treat it as valuable feedback that might help you choose to be something other than shallow… either way it's YOUR choice how to take it. Just like it is your soon-to-be-ex-friend… How she takes it is HER responsibility. If you are honest with her, then at least YOUR conscience is clean. And the problem is solved. Who knows… if she's as shallow as you intimate, she won't hear what you say anyway! But at least you'll have givven her the gift of honest, direct feedback. Isn't THAT what friends are for, anyway?

    Just my $0.02

  3. The most significant form of generosity is spending time with someone who doesn't deserve it. Why? Because time, especially for successful (or semi-successful) Manhattan urbanites, is the most truly limited resource we have. Use you precious time on the things which matter most. There is limited need for confrontation, unless your former friend recognizes the phase-out pattern and requests the honesty. Otherwise, its unnecessarily cruel.

    I have found the need to clean house on friends ever 10 years or so. People grow together and apart. If you grow apart, remember the good things the relationship brought you, and, importantly, don't ruin those memories by carrying the relationship too far forward.

  4. I see three real options: 1) stop calling/talking to her – sooner or later she will get the hint I would think; 2) Dump her hard. Honesty is important, but if she isn't your friend anymore that may not matter; 3) Pull a Seinfeld and try to breakup with her. It didn't work so well for him, but it might work for you.

  5. I had a friend that made me feel this way. I used to make excuses for her to other people, telling them she wasn't so bad. I finally just told her, straight up, that I couldn't do it anymore, that she took too much out of me and I was done. I wished her well and that was that. I felt such relief, that I knew I'd done the right thing. Take a moment and close your eyes and imagine you've ended the friendship…if you feel sad or sorry, don't do it. If you feel relieved, you know what to do.

  6. I know this sounds terrible, but that is what spending time with my mother does to me.

    However, since that is one of those non-optional relationships, it gives me the chance to become a better and more patient person.

  7. What about offering her your friendship with honesty. Make it known how she makes you and others feel, and make it known that you care about her. Perhaps, she'll listen; otherwise, she won't, and she'll probably exit the friendship on her own.

  8. think about how you would want to hear it. you wouldn't, even if put nicely because girlfriends are so much different than boyfriends. girlfriends last no matter what and when a relationship ends it's about ALL of you not being compatible. when friendships end, it's about one person sucking the life out of you. so, let it die and let her think you are a bitch for not responding and letting it fizzle. that way her feelings aren't hurt and she can think that you are the culprit and not her own sucky attitude. it's a win/win or really a lose/lose.

  9. A little different, but similar. Have known this man for 5 years now…..even through his marriage, I was supposedly his dream girl. Saw him a few time while he was married. Last weekend I was in Raleigh, just a few minutes from him, and he could not find time after his bike ride for charity to come see me……..BULL SHIT! So now I am chicken-shitting out of it, not answering emails, ims or phone calls. Don't know what else to do! Go home to your wife!

  10. Method I used:

    –Don't contact her. Let her contact you.
    –Once she contacts you, just avoid hanging out with her using obviously lame excuses.
    "Can you come down to Philly?" "I just don't feel like it."
    "Can I come to that party with you in New York?" "I just don't think it's a good idea. I need to spend time talking with X, Y, and Z (more important friends)."
    –She will get the point. If not, e-mail is cowardly but nonconfrontational in a way that I'm sure both of you would appreciate. E.g. "We have had a lot of fun over the years, but I feel like we're heading in different directions right now. I hope if we run into each other through mutual friends that we can catch up and be cordial, but I don't want to be one of your close friends anymore. I'm sorry."

    That's it! It worked for me. I see know reason to point out any flaws to her, or to flatter her insincerely. Good luck.

  11. This blog entry comes at a perfect time – I have also made the decision to end a friendship. The friend I am "dumping" is frustratingly hot/cold and I am tired of it.

    Friends should be those people can count on – there is no doubt how they feel about you (love) and what they want for you (the best) and what they think about you (highly).

    As for my friend…I decided to stop contacting him – no calls or emails. He actually called yesterday (something he hardly ever does) and I asked "what do you need?" and after a few minutes of forced conversation (I behaved in a civil fashion but not with my normal sass) I said "well, I have to let you go"

    I hope he realizes I am letting him go, period.

    However we end our relationships, we should attempt to do so with grace and class, as you've written of.

  12. Rock the phase out girl! There is no reason to not be diplomatic in this situation. Pretend you are just too busy to return her phone calls…you've got a book coming out after all! And if you ever leave away messages on IM, stop it for a while…that way you can just say you weren't there.

    Another reason the phase out works…you listed a few things you sort of dig about this chick….and one day, you'll randomly think of something funny she said or did and miss her a little bit. If you officially "break up" with her to her face, you won't be able to send her an e-mail in a year and apologize for losing touch…and then once you hang out again, be reminded of why you quit her in the first place. I'm just saying keep your options open….

  13. Hey Stephanie honey old Chris Moore he's got an idea for you. How about set her upwith one of the many guys you dated where the relationship ended up a train wreck. They deserve each other perhaps sweetie pie!!!!

  14. Perhaps you ought to kiss her on the mouth when she's peeing in the bushes?

    Sometimes you've really got to dig in deeper, in order to get out.

    Or, I know some guys….we could simply "make her go away".

  15. BB, no she doesn't, and clearly neither do you. "And don’t worry, she doesn’t read my blog. She doesn’t care enough to."

  16. tk and Jessica have nailed down! Do the phase out, she will contact you, you don't her, maybe when you are lonesome sometime, you might want to talk to her, so don't burn the bridge, just don't talk to her unless she contact's you, and lame excuses is better than heartbreak ANYDAY.

  17. Oh gosh, I skipped a few words. I'm terribly sorry. Don't worry, I won't interrupt the class again.

  18. This sounds terrible, Steph: "If things change, I hope you’ll be open to hearing from me again." She isn't allowed to call you but you are when you feel like it?! That's the way she'd put it.

    Much better (by tk): "[…] I hope if we run into each other through mutual friends that we can catch up and be cordial, but I don't want to be one of your close friends anymore. I'm sorry."

  19. As if I didn't have a big enough secret crush on you, the Press Your Luck reference sealed the deal for all time.

    If you haven't seen it, here is a great Press Your Luck anectdote from snopes. Apparently, luck didn't necessarily have to be involved.

    http://www.snopes.com/radiotv/tv/whammy.htm

  20. this is great. so universal. we definitely all have these toxic friends. i have tried to rationalize their behavior by saying things like, we all love our friends but there are some things about them that irk us. but really, sometimes those irksome things are just too important, they violate who we are and who we know we deserve to be around. good luck dealing with her.

  21. I'm with the "avoid her and she'll get the message" group.
    Flat-out dumping her isn't really necessary, and I think will cause more harm. That way, she'll have "Oh, she's a bitch, let me tell you about it…."

    Whereas if you just avoid her and wait for her to get the message, there's always the "Well, we just drifted apart…"

    Go for the driftage, sis.

  22. I vote for the 'phase out'!

    This friendship runs too deep. She will not be understanding if you tell her. This way there aren't any hurt feelings, she'll think you both have grown apart and gotten caught up in your own lives. You may have to put in a 'catch up phone call' every year or so. I don't think there's any need to totally cut her off, just keep her at bay.

    If you were her, what would you want?

  23. Isn't it funny to hear Stephanie Klein describe someone as "shallow"?

  24. Now I just need to know how we can get rid of the friend's BOYFRIEND who may as well be an annoying, ugly bitch.

  25. However this person appears to your readers who will only know her through your descriptions, it is only you who can truly judge the impact, or lack thereof, that she has in your life. A toxic influence is not only the person who is blatantly repellant, but who brings out characteristics of our own personalities that we find repellant also. I am sure, having read the majority of your posts, that you do not enjoy feeling these things. Some of your readers judge you unfairly, but then again some of your readers are shaygetz goyim wer kennst nichts. There is nothing wrong with editing. The better product usually emerges from the other side of the process.

  26. I don't know about getting rid of a friend, but here's how you get rid of a woman. This is a true story that happened to a guy I know from Boston twenty or so years ago. He met a married women in that reprehensible American Joe's on Dartmouth Street. Does everyone know that place? Back in the 80s your older brothers and sisters–and probably parents–were getting coked up in the downstairs bar. Anyway, this married woman who my friend met was lonely or bored or both seeing as her husband was away on business. One thing soon leads to another and my friend goes back to this woman's place. They spend the night together. The next morning my friend wakes up and starts to get dress. Only problem is his undershorts are, shall we say, rather unbecoming. My friend decides he doesn't want to wear them home. So what does he do? He takes them and puts them in the pocket of one of the suit jackets of this woman's husband hanging in the closet. Needless to say my friend never saw that woman again. By the way this guy is now a semi-retired millionaire financial advisor living on Nantucket.

  27. Don't you just hate those "friends" that are there during the bad times? I know I do. Give me a fair weather friend any day. I especially like those friends who only want to be around me during the good times and when I have extra tickets for them or those pals who love me when I buy them dinner. :(

  28. here's a thought..visit http://www.arrivistepress.com and have them write you a 'virtual breakup'. simply fill out the form.
    (incidentally, it's also great for the 'virtual wingman', when you haven't the stones to ask someone on a date yourself)

  29. 2 Words: TOXIC FRIEND!

    (or another new-ish one I heart: "FRIEND LITE").

    I made the conscious decision (OK, with a smidge of help from my therapist) in mid '02 to rid myself of them as well as a lingering ex and my life could not be better without them. It WILL set you free:)

  30. Hi Stephanie Honey. I see some are recommending the "phase out" of this troublesome pal. Along those lines I recommend the old WASP goodbye which you might not be familiar with as you arent that I know of of the WASPy-world such as it still exists (and it does).

    WASPs(and I mean real ones with old money or better yet money or not Social Status) never say "we're through" and/or get emotional when they decide someone's behavior has led to the end of a friendship/acquaintence. Oh no, too common. Instead they say at a parting "nice to see you" and that's it!

  31. I WOULD NOT go with the polite "I’m sorry but this just isn’t working for me anymore." You aren't talking to a telemarketer here- this is a friend that has stayed in your home. I think that's incredibly cold and icey- and it was done to me under diff't circumstances (my best friend didn't want me to join a vacation w/ her and another friend because she didn't think we'd get along cause the other girl is difficult…and maybe I can be a bit as well when I'm around difficult people :)) So she said no in a similar way "I just don't think it's going to work out"…and I haven't talked to her in a year. I don't care how much you like or dislike the person- you owe them more than that. Offer her well-versed advice on how to improve herself. If she's not open to it…phase her out without saying anything further. Life is too short and no point being around someone who is not open to change and who currently drives you nuts

  32. Uh, just a question…if she reads your blog, didn't your post just do what you wanted it to? and in a particularly public (and ugly) way?

  33. …so I'll say I agree with this guy:

    What about offering her your friendship with honesty. Make it known how she makes you and others feel, and make it known that you care about her. Perhaps, she'll listen; otherwise, she won't, and she'll probably exit the friendship on her own.

    friends means, "you let them know if you think they are screw up; and if they are ur friend, they will tell u, whether u are rit or wrong"

    Cause: you said "She is there for me when I feel like shiteee."
    Cause: No one should dump a friend that has been there for you, when you are in need.

  34. I'm amazed at the number of people who appear to be supportive and the very few who left the snarky comments you deserved over this post.

    This should be made into a sticky post, so that it's always right at the top for people like me who arrive here from NYT. It saved me a lot of time knowing there's one less "must-read" blog I'll be reading.

    At least you didn't keep the ugliness on the inside. ;)

  35. Just what is really wrong with this friend that you would dump her? If you don't see each other that often, there really is no reason to dump her. Sure she sounds a tad shallow … but … (shrugs)

  36. I agree, dumping a friend who hasn't really betrayed you in any way is particularly cruel. And shallow.

  37. I had a friend like that many years ago. She would come to town every so often and ask to crash on my couch and I beling the nice one (i.e. doormat) would let her stay even though she annoyed the hell out of me. Her stay would inevitably end with me saying "Cindy, get the hell out of my car." We would grumble at each other, and not talk for six months but then we would invariably do it all over again.

    Eventually they invented caller-ID and I had a way to avoid her.

  38. This is obviously fiction. Just like so many of these "personal" blogs that try to make their lives more interesting by writing crap (… I am posting this mean stuff about Jane, but she does not read blogs, nor do any of her friends or any of my friends who also know Jane read blogs, so I am not worried about her finding our what I posted…. bull shit, Jane does not exist).

    This is the Jayson Blair of blogs… maybe you can get a screen play job, but don't pretend it is real…

    the alternative is that you are the one who is ugly inside for writing such cruel things about someone, but you seem nice to me, so my guess is that your a beautiful fraud, not an ugly truth teller… either way Hollywood awaits your talent.

  39. This is a tough one. I hate when girls are nasty to one another. I had a girlfriend break up with me over a simple misunderstanding the week before New Year's Eve. Months later she apologized. Then she asked me to be a bridesmaid. Today she told me I had been promoted to MOH. Was I ridiculous to take her back? Perhaps, but I just can't see the point in writing off a female who was important in my life at some point. Instead I am more cautious with the friendship; I have seen her true colors and know how to protect myself from further shock and awe. I would recommend that you not break up with her, but rather change your expectations. We all have friends who fulfill different roles in our lives. Perhaps she is a shopping friend with whom you don't stop for snacks? Be kind to ladies. We need all the good female support we can get…

  40. Friendships and relationships take many forms and turns. As you have been concerned about how you will treat a friend who has fallen out of favor, you obviously care about treating people fairly and well. Many have posted responses conveying that "honesty is the best policy." In this case maybe your honesty can have a positive impact on Phillygirl and her relationships. If you feel this way about her, others do too.

    You say "She’d really be a very sweet girl if she weren’t so repellent," which means she has some good qualities. Start with those, and then get to the annoying ones. And as delivery matters in situations like this, always remember that 'honesty without compassion is brutality.'

    (You may have already handled this, and written the next chapter. I clicked onto your site for the first time, and was attracted to this particular piece.)

  41. what ever you do, DON'T do the Chandler Bing:

    "This isn't working between us. Bye. I'll call you"

  42. Just ended a relationship that left me feeling hi and dry almost every day. One can only take so much memememememememeemmememememem before they question where do I come in in this relationship?!

  43. I recently broke the ties of a friendship. I have struggled with it for 2 years. It was toxic. I was not a good person when I was around her, she was not a good person to me. I realized that I had grown up when I had kids and no longer needed a “drinking” buddy, although she has older kids, she never stopped. I liked to have a good time, but with her it comes at a price (my dignity). Instead of having some big drama infused showdown. I simply just disappeared off her radar. When I see her, I will be friendly. But, I do not seek her out and will not call upon her for anything. I downgraded our status to acquaintances and though I struggled to come to that decision. I feel like a million bucks for finally doing it.

  44. SK, funny, I love the ones who don’t read your blog (in its entirety), but want to opine. Then I love those who opine as if it’s a break up. I guess in some way it is, but at the end of the day, I’d rather not waste her time (or my own) on insignificant relationships. Not as we grow old. Another reality is, sometimes, it’s okay to just “not” like someone, or what they stand for. Happens every day in society. Like my mother used to say when I was younger, “not everyone is your friend” and as simple as that was, I get it now. I’m 43. I had (operative word) a couple of friends like that, one that actually said she was high maintenance and had to “have” a man with money; then treated wait staff at a restaurant like they were beneath her, and that in and of itself, was a pure turn off, not to mention, embarrassing. There is nothing wrong with ending a friendship and who says there has to be some ‘grand’ way of doing it. I’ve noticed my circle has gotten smaller over the years and not for lack of friends, just in the process of growing. You weed out those who are unhealthy, whether that means you or them, and I disagree with anyone (above) who thinks SK is “shallow”. Is your skin really that thin? I think it’s a great idea to be honest, but at this point, what does it matter. There’s nothing wrong with just quietly ‘moving on’ with life, because it happens to everyone at some time or another. It’s all in how we handle ourselves. She hasn’t been mean to this person, she’s just decided that that friendship “isn’t” for her. I would guarantee this woman isn’t even aware of how SK feels, much less would she care because she appears to be pretty self-centered, unless of course like SK said, she (SK) wasn’t “happy”, then she’s front and center. Misery loves company.

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