Dear friend, I have found that I am no longer in need of your friendship.
June 17, 2010 5:51 PM   Subscribe

When is it time to say goodbye to your friends?

I recently graduated from college and I am living at home. I have friends from high school that I still keep in touch with and see on a pretty regular basis whenever I at home. However, I feel that in some sense, they are holding me back. I have changed a LOT since high school (thank god for that) and I am really trying to let go of my pessimistic attitude, anxiety and judgmental nature.

Unfortunately, my friends seem to be holding onto many of those negative traits without seemingly any desire to change. For example, after mentioning that I am thinking of moving across the country (which is an understandably risky move for me), they pretty much said, "That's cool BUT you need a car. And it's so expensive. How will you support yourself and get around" and generally not being excited or supportive. An example of one friend's pessimistic attitude: they are traveling in another country right now. And they have nothing positive to say about their travels. Another friend constantly asks questions like "Where are we going in our lives" "What kind of jobs are we going to get" almost every time we see each other. Those conversations inevitably stress me out.

Am I being too harsh? Are my standards just too damn high? I would feel somewhat guilty for ending our friendship. After all, these are traits that I possess to an extent, but am actively trying to change. I guess I'd also feel like I'm coldly discarding of people which is not what I want to do. If I do need to cut it off, how do I do that? Just do the casual drift thing?
posted by joeyjoejoejr to Human Relations (24 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Well, if you move across the country, that would probably cut down on how much you hang out with them.
posted by jacalata at 5:59 PM on June 17, 2010

Joey, I used to be like your friends. More than likely they were raised in a very controlled environment for their pessimism to grow. It took one good friend in conversation to let me know I was being very pessimistic when I asked "do you really want to drive long hours for a daily commute?" In that instant, I changed my views and became supportive of not their decisions, but of their happiness. It's like smoking... how can you quit, if you're surrounded by a bunch of smokers? Trust you are doing the right thing for yourself.
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 6:03 PM on June 17, 2010

"That's cool BUT you need a car. And it's so expensive. How will you support yourself and get around"

Having moved across the country without considering these things, I have to say that it sounds very much like your friends are being supportive. Excited is another matter, but these are things you need to be able to answer. As the questions seem to annoy you, I assume that means you can't just yet.

Your other friend? He's asking what everyone our age is asking. Again, are you sure these questions aren't stressing you out because you're insecure/unsure about these things and you are not just projecting that onto your friends? You mention them being judgmental and pessimistic, but it sounds like they are going through the exact same thing you are, just differently.
posted by griphus at 6:03 PM on June 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

You don't have to formally announce, "You're bad attitude is stressing me out: we can't be friends anymore"--just fade away. Stop accepting and extending invitations to hang out; when you do see these friends, practice changing the subject--"Oh, you don't think I should move cross-country? OK. I'm hungry, let's get lunch." Don't engage the negative comments, just brush them off or change the subject. It's no fun to complain about "Where are we going in our lives?" when the other person says, "I'm sorry you're feeling lost; I'm totally excited about my plans for grad school! Blah blah grad school blah blah awesome."

Your friends may grow up a little and drop the negative, pessimistic attitude. So don't write them off entirely, but if you're not having fun hanging out with them, don't. It's ok to let a friendship fade away when it needs to, and not having a formal "breakup" conversation leaves room to reconnect later, when you're all older and wiser.
posted by Meg_Murry at 6:05 PM on June 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

There's a really tough balance with close friends. Close friends are supposed to be the people you can bitch to, even though you put on a happy face with everyone else. And yet a close friend who complains constantly can poison your own attitude.

It's tough now because post-college-graduation is a period of stress for a lot of kids. "Where are we going in our lives" and "What kind of jobs are we going to get" are two huge uncertainties, and I don't think you're going to find close friends who aren't wondering the same thing.

That doesn't mean those discussions have to be depressing and negative. But if they are, is that worth ending an otherwise great friendship over? You don't mention any discussions you've had with your friends about being less negative--it's odd to me that you view your choices as "silently put up with it" or "leave."

It sounds like you've been waiting for a reason that feels more concrete than "I don't like you that much anymore." You don't need one.
posted by sallybrown at 6:06 PM on June 17, 2010

I hope you don't discard your friends. Sometimes it's the right thing to let a friendship go, but given that you suddenly feel that all of your friends are bad it probably has more to do with your state of mind then their weirdly coincidental awfulness. By "recently graduated", do you mean, like, last month? The summer after college is absolutely awful for pretty much everybody and I think it's really perceptive of you to notice that you share a lot of traits with your friends and that the things that are stressing them out are, actually, the things that are stressing you out as well. Which makes sense - you're in the same weird boat and I don't envy kids graduating into this economy - it was tough enough ten years ago! I suggest that you give your friends a chance. For example - if you start talking about moving across the country, and a friend starts pointing out (perfectly sensible and objectively true) obstacles - say to them, "Hey. Believe me, I know all of the reason's it'll be hard and all of the things I'd have to do to make this happen - just let me be excited about the idea, ok? It'd be so cool, right?" See what happens. Same with your stressed out, same-boat friend - say, "Hey, I have no fucking idea what's going to happen to us. Let's talk about something else, ok? Did you see that movie / OMG the funniest thing happened / Remember the time when...?" And see if they'll get on board. You have my permission to distance yourself from people whose negativity negatively impacts your life. But try to sort yourself out first and try to work on those relationships. The older you get the more you'll learn that lasting adult friendships with people who knew and loved you when you were a dickhead teenager are absolutely precious and unlike any other friendships you'll form from now on. Don't throw that away because of a (completely predictable) post-graduation freak out.
posted by moxiedoll at 6:14 PM on June 17, 2010 [5 favorites]

A different perspective might be, My friend is talking about moving across the country, but I really like spending time with him. Maybe I can talk him out of it by pointing out the down sides? I would hate if he moved away and I never saw him again.

Maybe they feel like you are leaving them behind, or they might be jealous? Or, maybe they really are just concerned about the practical aspects of if (it IS hard not having a car when you need one).
posted by Menthol at 6:19 PM on June 17, 2010 [4 favorites]

Oh, and the friends-not-being-excited thing? This is a stressful time for all of you. No matter how you see them, they see you as a friend. Having a friend, a good friend, move away for ever is very rough. It may be hard for them to seem genuinely excited about it because they're losing a buddy. That doesn't mean they're not excited for you, but it is a time of mixed feelings and if they're the more negative kinda folks -- the sort you're trying not to be -- it is hard to show that excitement.
posted by griphus at 6:20 PM on June 17, 2010

You are not going to find people who are going to get excited about everything you want them to be excited about.
posted by delmoi at 6:34 PM on June 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

moxiedoll is right. Remember this: the only person in this situation capable of holding you back is you.

It's completely normal to grow apart from some high school friends as you get older, but make sure it's for the right reasons.
posted by wondermouse at 6:53 PM on June 17, 2010

Don't cut it off completely. Don't tell them you don't want to be friends. Just... see them less. Fill your life with other things, things that excite you, things that interest you (and PEOPLE that interest you). Don't cause needless pain and drama for people who were your close friends... you'll start to drift further from them gradually, and naturally, as you start to become the person you really want to be.

Aaaand... you never know. They might move along with you. Many people pick up cues over time. And if they don't, the relationship will transition into a casual "hey, how's it going?" type of relationship, and if you ever do decide to reconnect later, there won't be awkwardness or bad feelings between you.
posted by eleyna at 7:09 PM on June 17, 2010

Never say goodbye to friends. If you live to any great age (>50) you will regret it. This is not to say that you need to be intimate, or let them hold you back. But you should realize that they, like you, will change -- hopefully for the better. And that you might be able at a later stage to appreciate, or at least sympathize with, what seem like shortcomings now. Don't be the one to make the break. And if they try, make them try a little harder. Each person can enrich your life in some way (and you theirs).
posted by feelinggood at 7:28 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Just to clarify...

Maybe the example with moving was not the best. The flaws of my ideas/plans/wishes are frequently pointed out. For instance, the same friend began to challenge my desire to go into Asian American studies because "well it doesn't seem like Asian Americans are struggling that much" And I'm growing resentful of the fact that I have to defend myself when really just a casual "Oh, that's cool" would suffice. Also, the post-graduation questions devolve into depressing conversations like "Oh my god! We're all going to work soul-sucking 9 to 5 jobs FOREVER!!!" Although I try to remain optimistic, it's hard to battle that kind of thinking over and over again.

And um, maybe the fact that I have to defend how "bad" my friends are leads me to believe that I really just need some space from them. Like some of you said, I don't need to burn all my bridges.
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 8:40 PM on June 17, 2010

"Oh my god! We're all going to work soul-sucking 9 to 5 jobs FOREVER!!!" Although I try to remain optimistic, it's hard to battle that kind of thinking over and over again.

Well, yeah. Welcome to adult life. :) You all will eventually find some sort of path for yourselves, even if it's a vague one that changes every year or so for a while. For most people, the general complaining like that subsides as they become engrossed in whatever it is they're doing. If you follow what you want to do and don't let any negative comments from them discourage you, you might even end up inspiring them to finally get serious about going somewhere from here.
posted by wondermouse at 9:14 PM on June 17, 2010

Let yourself off the hook. Simply because you have to do you own thing for awhile doesn't equate to being against those friendships. You have to go your own way for awhile. Accept this and leave things on good terms with your friends. It doesn't mean that you stop being friends. It means that your friendship with them has changed.

By the way, it's very common for those closest to us to discourage our risk taking. They do it out of love because they don't want to see us get hurt. Let them know everything will be fine and then do your thing.
posted by quadog at 9:19 PM on June 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

This is when you keep hanging around them but find activities that don't involve serious business talking, like

Tripping on LSD
Makin' Out
Talking about people you want to make out with

Or just say "oh my god, no more of that, you're depressing me, talk about something else". Better to insult them for a minute than get so pissed that you go nuclear and dump them forever.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 10:04 PM on June 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm going to have to side with your friends.

They don't seem to be holding you back.
posted by mhuckaba at 10:12 PM on June 17, 2010

To clarify, while they may be a buzz kill, if they're responsible adults, your expectations of them do not mesh with reality, because they'll see you as irresponsible/illogical.
posted by mhuckaba at 10:15 PM on June 17, 2010

I ditched a whole bunch of my school friends post highschool, like, all the people I had gone through highschool with up until my last 2 years when I changed schools. I realised I was different to them and I needed to get the hell away from them to "be who I was".

I found a bunch of exciting, inspiring new friends and who lead me on a whole new path, from which I have NEVER. LOOKED. BACK. If I had stayed hanging around the old friends I would not have led the life I have led. and I'm pretty happy with the life I've led... (lead/led?)

If your friends are pissing you off, get the hell away from them, high school is over, find some new peeps who excite and inspire you and don't look back. That's my advice!!
posted by saturn~jupiter at 2:46 AM on June 18, 2010

Hmm seems like you are blaming your friends for you not being able to answer those questions. You are getting annoyed by those questions because you dont have answers for them.
posted by majortom1981 at 6:06 AM on June 18, 2010

If you want a cheerleading squad, join a football team.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:18 AM on June 18, 2010

The flaws of my ideas/plans/wishes are frequently pointed out.

It can be very useful to have these things pointed out sometimes. You seem to want people around who will tell you all your ideas are great -- well, they aren't, and often there are factors that are more visible to outside observers. There are many questions right here on ask where people are looking for that sort of advice, and many where people have received it and not liked what they got.

Your friends might not have the life experience to really know what obstacles and stumbling blocks to point out to you yet, but if you keep people like this in your life they may acquire that as time goes on. Maybe some of what they are pointing out is good to consider - you might write up a budget of what it would cost to live in your new city, examine your motivations for going into Asian-American studies and come up with a great essay for your grad school application, and look into what jobs you'll be able to get with it so you can counter their "soul-sucking" argument.
posted by yohko at 11:26 AM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

You are friends with them because of history more than choice. You all were thrown into the same school together, which is really a small pool to choose from, so you choose whoever comes closest to matching your interests.

Once you get to be a grown up, your pool of choices is bigger, so you can choose people who are even closer to matching your interests, values, etc.

Think of your old friends as distant relatives, find new friends that excite and support you. You will find that it naturally falls into place just by you spending your time energy where you want, which will be a bit further from your old friends. But it will be nice to visit them every once in awhile.

There is no need to make a proactive decision, and you never know when these people will show up in your life again inspired and changed by your positivity. And it just might be wonderful.
posted by Vaike at 12:11 PM on June 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

First off, are you sure they're even being serious? I have a few friends that will go long lengths to bait and troll someone about something that means a lot to them for the 'lulz', and a few that are still gullible enough to take it throughout the years.

If you don't think that's the case and they're honestly out to get you, they could just as easily be jealous. I definitely get excited for friends whether they just landed a dream job, are going on an epic journey, or even getting married.. but it always begs what if.

What if I just landed my dream job.
What if I went on an epic journey.
What if I was in a relationship like that.

And then after that daydream comes crashing down, you realize that one of your friends is doing that, and others have done more than one, and soon enough -- oh god!! -- soon enough, someone will have done all three. And more and more.

But life isn't a race. And there's no achievements to unlock. Everyone will do their own list of awesome and not-awesome things. There will always be good-intentioned laughs had at everyone's good and bad fortune alike. Not being in school anymore affects people differently. Some are excited and some get hit pretty hard by reality. Graduating in the wake of an epic economic downfall probably doesn't help either.

Just tell them that you're very serious about whatever commitment it is, and it is past the stage where it is up for debate or not. Emphasize that you've got the will and the way to accomplish it, and you only want support. Then ask for any [serious] advice.
posted by june made him a gemini at 7:06 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

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