Just fade out?
April 13, 2009 1:02 PM   Subscribe

To piggyback on this previous question, should you let the other person know that you are severing ties?

I'm in a similar situation to anon (dated briefly, he wasn't emotionally available, he wanted to be friends, not working out for me), only I've decided resolutely to cut ties. The difference is that we don't talk and hang out quite as much as anon and his friend do (every 2-3 weeks, as opposed to anon's 3-4x a week).

In this situation, do you feel it's necessary to say anything to the other person? Or should I just let things dwindle and fade away? My friends say the latter, but I'd feel bad for doing that. I normally like to be honest and direct about my feelings and he's always been kind and honest to me. However, I hesitate to bring up the matter because I fear another sad, long, drawn-out discussion similar to the one we had when we were breaking up (my ex was uncertain of what he wanted), and I'm thinking we could both do without that drama.

I'm wondering what people would advise is the best way to go about doing this.
posted by blithecatpie to Human Relations (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I think the next time he gets in contact with you to make plans, you should explain how you feel. I don't think you need to preemptively go out of your way to proclaim this but I do agree that a short, succinct explanation about how you need to sever ties and that you would appreciate not hearing from him would be a nice thing to do. It also might help you feel more final about things.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 1:08 PM on April 13, 2009

Best answer: If you like and respect this person, I think it's kind to say something. There are ways to do that which won't lead into a long sad talk, though. For example, if you tend to make plans via email, or facebook, or some such, just respond to his next invite with something along the lines of "I appreciate the invite, but it's still a little too hard for me to hang out with you and just be friends. I need to take a break, and I'll get in touch with you if and when I'm ready to resume a friendship."
posted by amelioration at 1:10 PM on April 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

let things fade out. if he asks you directly, answer him directly. if not, then maybe you're both happy without the other.
posted by nadawi at 1:22 PM on April 13, 2009

It's crueler, IMO, to just slowly start ignoring the other person, dodging their interests and such.

It's a lot harder to say it, and I think a lot of people opt to let things dwindle because they're afraid of doing it. And because of potential drama and confrontation.

But imagine being on the other end of that sort of behavior -- wondering what's going on, feeling frustrated, and giving the person chances ("maybe she's busy/stressed/working hard/etc"), especially if the person is genuinely trying to be a good friend to you.

It's more humane to just be succinct and direct about what you need.
posted by cmgonzalez at 1:26 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: "I wish you all the best, but this 'being friends' thing is just too difficult for me."
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:58 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Is the other party already aware that you are having trouble being "just friends", and insisting on meeting up anyway? Because in my opinion, no explanation is necessary in that case.

It is generally kinder to be up front and say what's going on, however. It also tends to allow for friendship later down the road better than just fading out.

What your friends say, however, is less important than how you feel about it. If you are generally a more direct and succinct person, go that route. You'll feel better about it in the long run.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 2:11 PM on April 13, 2009

This is a harm minimization issue -- letting things croak is lots less painful in the medium and long-run (and often even in the short run) for both you and him than continuing lingering contact.
posted by paultopia at 2:21 PM on April 13, 2009

Seconding otherworldlyglow's comment about waiting for him to contact you. If you send a pre-emptive "GOODBYE" e-mail you risk getting emotional and dramatic. There are plenty of good suggestions upthread about wording your request.

If you say nothing, you risk waffling and giving in when he asks you to hang out. If you say something kind but definitive, you're accountable, which should curb the desire to make plans.

In case you couldn't tell, this advice comes from my own personal experience of socializing with an ex with whom I wasn't ready to be friends because I couldn't resist the invitations. I think an 'agreement,' however informal, would have helped me be stronger.
posted by cranberrymonger at 2:53 PM on April 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think your situation is a bit different from the other one since you did date, however briefly. It won't be totally out of left field for him to hear that you still have feelings, and it's not at all uncommon for people to need a cooling-off period before they can be friends with an ex. So I do agree with most of the other people here that, the next time he asks to hang out, you can just respond with a simple "I really do like spending time with you, and I want to be friends at some point, but right now it's still too fresh and I need some time." Leave the door open to being friends in the future, but make it clear that you can't be friends right now.
posted by wholebroad at 6:02 PM on April 13, 2009

Hmm, what is your ex's stance as of right now? I know you said he'd wanted to be friends, but does that mean he "wants to hang on to any, ANY scrap of interaction with you that he can and thus is pushing for friendship as the next best thing to a romantic relationship," or does it mean he's saying he "just wants to be friends" maybe because he doesn't want to hurt your feelings and thus is trying to pull away in stages? I'm assuming the former, but I think it's worth at least reflecting on what he might have meant - because if it IS the latter, then maybe a "phasing things out" policy on your part would work out well and save face for both of you.

If that's not the case, though, and he really does want to hang onto you in whatever capacity he can, THEN I would agree with the folks above who've said you ought to be up-front and make sure things stop here and now. You mention not wanting a sad, drawn-out affair for the two of you, but I have to say that that is exactly what you'll get if you're vague and he still wants a relationship with you - I've been in that position with erstwhile friends before, and I've got to tell you the staying power of someone who really wishes for continued intimacy can be incredible. Heck, I've also been in the position of being the one who desperately wanted a dying relationship to continue, and it's monstrous - part of you uses every little thing as evidence that the other person is sick of you and wants you to go away and probably wishes you'd never been in their life to begin with, while another part constantly mourns the closeness you once had and cannot stop hoping that the few and far-between points of contact really will rekindle the special connection you once enjoyed so deeply ... it leaves you in a place where you can't get any closer and yet you cannot break free, and in the end I think that's the most damaging aspect for BOTH parties. Without definitive 'closure' the other person really can rationalize things in such a way that it somehow makes sense to continue hanging on for a chance to recapture something that actually can never be, and that in turn keeps them from moving on, finding something that truly works for them and freeing the person of their desire from doing the same.
posted by DingoMutt at 7:27 PM on April 13, 2009

Response by poster: To answer a few questions people have asked, we didn't immediately start hanging out just as friends, it was maybe a month's time between the breakup and the hanging out again. I don't think he's aware of the fact that I now find it hard to be just friends (initially I was fine with everything), and I do believe he was sincere in his request to be friends because he's not the type to say something he doesn't mean.

Thanks a lot for all of the input, everyone. I really appreciate it and I think the general consensus seems to be that I should tell him that I need some time and space (while leaving it open to the possibility of friendship in the future) the next time he contacts me, which I will do. Thanks again!
posted by blithecatpie at 11:03 PM on April 13, 2009

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