Do I have to RSVP?
September 15, 2010 10:27 AM   Subscribe

An ex-friend I ended the frienship with contacted me via email after over a year of no contact. The email was along the lines of, "do you still use this account? I guess sending this means I wish to reconnect." I don't want to resume the friendship with her, but she has serious mental health issues and we have a lot of friends in common so I feel obligated to answer the email... mostly to not seem like an a-hole. Do I have to answer it? If so, what should I say? I'm afraid even a really vague response will encourage her; she has really poor boundaries.

She doesn't live in the same state as I do but we went to high school together... This friend's mental health issues are relevant because she often does impulsive stuff (buys tickets to Vegas when she has no money and is on probation at work for no-showing with no PTO) and things which can endanger her (suicide attempts, driving drunk at 90 MPH in rain, etc). I ended the friendship because I couldn't handle being the one she called when she was in crisis and refusing to get treatment. She sent me a facebook message on my birthday and I tersely thanked her. I'd hope she'd get the hint. She's a fine person, I just want out of the drama. Thanks MeFi.
posted by ShadePlant to Human Relations (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Don't reply. You didn't get the email.

Spam blockers filtered it, you no longer use that account, etc. etc.

Delete. No reply.
posted by jbenben at 10:29 AM on September 15, 2010 [11 favorites]

Best answer: If she lives in a different state, and you have no worries about running into her on a regular basis, there's no need to reestablish contact. Staying in touch with someone because you're afraid what kind of behavior they might exhibit if you don't is not a particularly compelling reason.

Contact begets contact. If you don't want to deal with her, don't respond.
posted by orville sash at 10:29 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

You don't have to answer it if you don't want to. That's the beauty of email. If you use Apple you can choose to "bounce" the message back. She'll get a message it wasn't deliverable because the there's no account by that name.
posted by birdherder at 10:33 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

People like this never, EVER get hints. If you don't want to resume the friendship, then don't answer. So she'll think you're a bad person for not answering? Not your problem.
posted by Melismata at 10:34 AM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

Yeah, just don't reply. A former friend sent me a similar "can't we be pals again" email recently and I debated the dickishness of not answering it, and then - because my answer ultimately was no, which would be more dickish, really - I didn't reply.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:37 AM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

I'd say she deserves the dignity of aa forthright response from you. Say you wish her well, but that you do not want to reestablish contact with her.

If you must explain be brief, firm, and gentle. "Continuing to provide you with a sympathetic ear causes me great stress and at the same time, I fear, enables you to avoid the kind of lasting change your life needs. Please do not try to contact me again as this is not a point for negotiation. I truly hope you seek honest meaningful help and I really do hope you turn things around." Something like that.
posted by cross_impact at 10:38 AM on September 15, 2010 [3 favorites]

See, personally, I would be more upset by that kind of answer than no reply.
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:39 AM on September 15, 2010 [9 favorites]

She gave you the out, by suggesting you don't use the address any more. Ignore it, if you're concerned about her boundary issues. If you're not concerned, and your reasons haven't changed, just repeat the same thing you said a year ago.
posted by davejay at 10:43 AM on September 15, 2010

Answering someone's email is a form of dialog, which implies back and forth. Which you do not want. Delete.
posted by phearlez at 10:44 AM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Say you wish her well, but that you do not want to reestablish contact with her.

There are a million ways to say 'Go fuck yourself' and this is one of the more polite ones. Sometimes its better to just not say anything at all.
posted by sickle cell moon at 10:44 AM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

You ended the friendship; you don't want to reconnect. Her desires and actions put no obligation on you. You have no obligation to reply.
posted by galadriel at 10:48 AM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

I wouldn't touch this email with a 30 foot pole. And every time you feel guilty about not replying, which you shouldn't, think about how good it's felt in however long since you've dealt with this person how nice the lack of drama has been. Then, relax somewhere nice and think about nice things. Life is too short.
posted by elder18 at 10:49 AM on September 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

The message you received is her attempt at a wedge - if responded to, regardless of the content of the response, she will try to use it to draw you into further conversation. Don't reply. You'll be better off.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:56 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

You can't handle the drama. Then don't touch the drama. Leave the email be. She's not your responsibility.
posted by inturnaround at 11:07 AM on September 15, 2010

DO NOT REPLY! Also ignore Facebook friend requests, etc.
posted by luvcraft at 11:19 AM on September 15, 2010

Best answer: I don't want to resume the friendship with her, but she has serious mental health issues and we have a lot of friends in common so I feel obligated to answer the email....she has really poor boundaries.

Neither her mental health issues nor your shared friends any any way obliges you to reply. You might look at what you're telling yourself that makes it seem that way, and view this as a chance to practice your own boundaries.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:35 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: This is pretty much the fastest AskMe resolution I've gotten! I will watch the thread in case anyone has a brilliant, against-the-grain response, but it looks like the email will be permanently deleted. It's in the trash already... Thanks.
posted by ShadePlant at 11:54 AM on September 15, 2010 [4 favorites]

My friends use 'obligations' so they don't have to be authentic...i don't quite get it. it's ok to be like 'eh, no thanks' to the friendship, the party, the promotion etc. in this case, not responding to the email says the same thing...but should you meet this person in real life...just remember that sentiment.
posted by UltraD at 11:57 AM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

There are definitely times when a non-response is the best policy, for example if you feel your life is in danger.

However, if there is no immediate risk to your safety, why not try and use honesty? You were obviously friends at some point, and saw some value in having a relationship with her. Things have apparently changed, but perhaps one last try to shake her out of this insanity is warranted.

Perhaps you could say something like:
Friendship is a beacon in an often dark and chaotic world. Our friendship has meant a lot to me over the years. However, recently your self destructive tendencies have made me fear for your life. I refuse to be a bystander as you spiral downward into oblivion. If you want to talk about treatment options or ways to get help, I am here for you. Otherwise, please leave me alone.

Or something similar.
posted by satori_movement at 12:31 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Cosigning everyone above on "Do Not Reply".

Because you share many friends in common, your friends can let you know, months, or years from now, if your friend gets their life stable and stops the behavior patterns that drew you apart. But there's no reason to brave that minefield yourself.

I had an ex-friend, who was the closest friend of mine for over 10 years. It took about 6 months to break it off completely, though, in hindsight, I should have cut off right away. The space was necessary for me to see all the problematic parts, but also, the drama just ended. It was very strange, having a space without drama.

Now, I can just hear 2nd hand reports from friends and see - nothing has changed and I don't need to waste my time.
posted by yeloson at 1:10 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Those who are suggesting an honest "Sorry, but no thanks" have possibly never dealt with a manipulative person with poor boundaries. Any contact will inevitably lead to "But WHY?????^10" "I thought you were xyz, but you're selfish and blah, blah please take me back I won't ever do x again."

Nthing no reply.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:28 PM on September 15, 2010 [9 favorites]


if you find this hard to do, write out what you think you would say to her, and then simply delete before sending, or write it out long hand and after you're finished and leave it on your desk for a day or three, just toss it in the recycling bin.

the impulse to respond is deeply engrained in many people (me included), it takes a little practice to be able to do it. i have been trying it a lot lately, because so many Ask MeFi folks readily suggest this to others. I'm finding the results are very good, and I don't find myself engaged in pointless things or other people's emotional dramas.
posted by kuppajava at 1:54 PM on September 15, 2010

I agree with everyone else. Don't reply.

But she sounds like the type of person who would check that box so an automatic reply, 'your email has been opened', went back to her.

Hopefully she didn't think of it or her email system doesn't offer it, but be aware that it's a possibility.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 2:48 PM on September 15, 2010

No, but for a different reason: Her 'I guess sending this means I want to reconnect' is noncommittal and passive-aggressive.

She is putting the decision and the next action wholly in your hands, and doing it this way is no kind of positive sign. Hit 'Delete.'
posted by yellowcandy at 6:00 PM on September 15, 2010

You can also block her on Facebook, which means that she will see NO trace of you, even when you reply or post something to mutual friends.
posted by cyndigo at 1:00 PM on September 17, 2010

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