There's this woman I never wanted to be friends with, and somehow we've been friends for almost 10 years. Is there any way to stop being friends with her without hurting her feelings?
November 16, 2011 5:13 PM   Subscribe

There's this woman I never wanted to be friends with, and somehow we've been friends for almost 10 years. Is there any way to stop being friends with her without hurting her feelings?

I don't feel good about the way I feel about this friend of mine. She's a sweet person and she means well, but she drives me up the wall. Yet we've been friends for almost 10 years, I was in her wedding, and she considers me one of her inner circle. I really never wanted to be friends with her, and I still don't now, but I don't know how to get out of it. I will try to explain how this happened.

I moved to the West Coast, and quickly started hanging out with my next door neighbor, who is a wonderful friend. We were close from the beginning and we've stayed in contact despite several moves on both our parts. She had a friend from college, who I also liked, but didn't feel quite as connected to. She and I were both at weird times in our lives, and we were both honestly drinking too much and getting into bad relationships, so we partied a lot. But she was a little too wild for me and still kind of clingy and we never really missed each other when we fell out of touch, though we're totally friendly when we see each other at Major Events (weddings, mostly, so far). Which brings us to Gina, who worked with the second girl, the wild one. Gina started coming around more and more of our get-togethers, which we had a lot of, as their coworker bond turned into a real friendship. At first I was just warmly polite to her because that's how you treat people's guests, but I immediately found her to be annoying. I didn't think it mattered, and I'm not one to really talk shit, so I never said anything to my other friends about it. I didn't think she'd really be hanging out that much but then... she was. All the time. And by the time I noticed, it was too late and we became something she called the "fearsome foursome." I feel like she inserted herself into my life, and there was just never a time where I felt like she deserved someone to say to her, "Look, I don't want to be friends anymore for no reason other than the fact that I've always found you annoying."

But that's how I feel.

The opportunity to sort of gracefully drop out of the picture presented itself in the time after I'd moved to the East Coast, all of our common friends finished getting married, and I just sort of called less and less until we never called each other at all. That felt pretty natural to me, although granted, I've moved all over the place since childhood, so I have small handfuls of friends I have fond memories of but never, ever talk to anymore. Perhaps this is cold-hearted, but it just feels natural to me.

So now I've been in her wedding, and am still receiving (group, granted) emails to all her girlfriends about some of her current personal quite intimate problems and what am I going to do, not write back a supportive email? She's struggling in a way that really needs a support group right now and I would not feel right about turning my back on that.

And now she wants us all to meet up in the Big City and take her mind off her woes and spend tons of money on a weekend I don't want to go to. I want to see my neighbor friend, and she will be there. It's only for a night and it will be bearable. I have the money, and the Big City is more convenient for me than it is for everyone else, who are flying in for this weekend. But all I really want to do is flake at the last minute with an excuse about being sick. This will cost no one any money, there are no deposits or anything. But my gut tells me that is not the right thing to do when someone arranges a group trip because they need support and some girlfriend attention or whatever.

I don't think it matters why I think she's annoying so I am trying not to go into it here because I don't want to rant. If that's important, let me know and I will reply.

Anyway, I guess my questions boils down to things like: Can I get out of this trip? More importantly, can I get out of this friendship, with a woman who considers me one of her tight group of BFFs?

Why anonymous? I can only imagine how it would feel to discover this question and realize it's about you. Gina never reads this site as far as I know, and I'm trying to be as vague as possible, but I still don't think it's right to attach it to my profile. I hope that makes sense.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Just stop being her friend. Decline her invitations. Ignore her emails. You can not stop being her friend while remaining her friend. It doesn't matter if she feels crappy or needs support. You are not her friend anymore, you do not need to provide that. Obviously she has other people to lean on, let them deal with it.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 5:21 PM on November 16, 2011 [5 favorites]

I, who come from the same basic cultural background you do (assuming you grew up in the states), give you the right to stop being emotionally supportive of this person. You don't owe them.
posted by phrontist at 5:22 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

I totally agree with the above posts. And if you feel guilty about it, you can simply say, "I wish you the best but I feel we've outgrown each other." You can say this to others in your peer group and, if you run into her again, to the person herself, ad infinitum, without elaboration, and that really is good enough FOREVER.
posted by devymetal at 5:25 PM on November 16, 2011

You ended up n her wedding.... You don't know how to it go on this trip.... You don't know how to it reply to her emails.... Do you generally have trouble saying no to people or is there something about this relationship that triggers it?
posted by bq at 5:27 PM on November 16, 2011 [10 favorites]

I think, that because you've moved away, this friendship will eventually fizzle out naturally without you doing anything drastic, or even having to tell her that it's over (especially if you're getting group emails from her, but not one-on-one emails).

Right now, though, if you want that Fizzling Out to happen, I think you need to NOT go on the trip, which is good, because you don't even WANT to go. Just tell her you can't make it, but you hope they have fun, and leave it at that. You can see Neighbor Friend another time, and it sounds like Annoying Friend has other (real) friends who will support her in this tough time, so it's not like you're even leaving her in an emotional lurch.

Just turn down the invite politely and be privately relieved about it, I say.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 5:29 PM on November 16, 2011 [6 favorites]

Fall off the grid. Unfriend her from Facebook, don't read or reply to her emails (make a filter to send all emails from her to a hidden folder if you have to), either ignore and don't return her calls and texts, or change your number.

You are under no obligation to reply to her personal drama emails, especially if she's sending them to multiple people. Just assume that she'll get the support she needs from her other friends.

Life's too short to waste on people with whom you don't want to associate, and she deserves better than to think a friendship is what it isn't.
posted by litnerd at 5:36 PM on November 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

I could have written this. I feel guilty for pulling back, but the only real reason I ever talked to her of late was if something was going on with me that only she would understand. Ultimately, that made me more of an asshole than backing away. I send a card for her birthday, but that's it.

I've just sort of made peace with feeling like a bit of a jerk. Not entirely (obviously), but enough.

You probably shouldn't go on the trip - it's keeping the connection alive. And if you think you'll be miserable anyway, why bother? Getting together on a weekend built to support her just to see other people or whatever isn't very nice. But I wouldn't make a big deal by defriending her or whatever, just fade. I'm not sure anyone is helped by saying/hearing, "you're too annoying."
posted by crankyrogalsky at 5:52 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

It sounds like she needs good friends right now and you are clearly not one of them. I would opt for the fade away seems like your style and is much better than even the most gracious version of "our whole 10-year friendship was kind of a meaningless bother to me, I find you really annoying and that's my reason for ending this. Meant to do it a long time ago, sorry." It sounds like she's in a place where she really, really doesn't need to hear that and you could be so kind to spare it.

To answer your main question, "Is there any way to stop being friends with her without hurting her feelings?" Even the fade-away hurts, but it's more of the loss and sadness kind rather than with an unnecessary scoop of malice on top that the other methods entail. Please be kind.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:55 PM on November 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

Gina, I'm so sorry you're having a tough time, but I'm just not able to make it this weekend.

I think you should be kind, because you've let this person believe it was a real friendship. Just keep reducing your contact. She'll ask, and you can say I've got a lot going on, and my life seems to be going in a different direction.
posted by theora55 at 5:55 PM on November 16, 2011 [6 favorites]

You were in her wedding and you have been friends ten years, and you don't even like her? You said you had the opportunity to drop out of the picture, and then in the next paragraph you say you were in her wedding. Either something deeper is going on for you, or some info is missing, or you just have a really big avoidance problem, or all of the above, or something else strange entirely.

Regardless, if you don't like this person, I think you need to start getting real and start saying, "no." You definitely aren't doing her any favors by showing up to "be there" for her when you don't even LIKE her. In fact, it's pretty rude to do something like that. I mean, I wouldn't want a "friend" who did me "favors" like that. If you want to see your other friend, go see her at another time. Don't make it all about you.

Can you end the friendship without hurting her feelings? Yeah, just stop replying. Don't go on the trip if you don't give a damn, and if she calls you or something, just act with bare minimum of politeness. At this point, I don't think it's very cool to get dramatic and un-friend her and all this garbage. I mean, ten years? Come on. You just have to stop being her friend RIGHT NOW? Eventually, if you fade away, she'll lose interest. Or she'll ask you what's up, in which case, you can say you've been "busy" or whatever. I think that's a crummy way to act, but so is letting it go so far.
posted by amodelcitizen at 6:06 PM on November 16, 2011 [15 favorites]

She's struggling in a way that really needs a support group right now and I would not feel right about turning my back on that.

If you genuinely wish to provide her with the support you perceive she needs, then you are her friend whether you like it or not. If you don't want to be her friend, you will need to make a conscious effort to care less about her life.

And now she wants us all to meet up in the Big City and take her mind off her woes and spend tons of money on a weekend I don't want to go to. I want to see my neighbor friend, and she will be there.

I generally enjoy ice cream, but if offered an opportunity to eat ice cream with dust bunnies in it I would probably pass it up.
posted by flabdablet at 6:12 PM on November 16, 2011 [6 favorites]

"Sorry guys, turns out I won't be able to make the weekend in the city. You all have fun though!"

And then you stop responding to her emails. If she calls, she gets a "Oh, I'm so sorry! I've been super busy lately, you know how that goes. I'm actually in the middle of [something really boring that doesn't get elaboration]. I've gotta dash, bye!"

She'll take the hint eventually. There's absolutely no reason to add a dramatic "unfriending" to whatever other drama she's got going on. Unless you want to hurt her. (Which, given your 10-year streak of not doing so at all costs, I'm gonna assume not.)
posted by billybunny at 6:31 PM on November 16, 2011

No, you can't end the "friendship" without hurting her feelings, because she thinks you actually are her friend. Whether you do a slow fade or an abrupt stop - and really, there's no need for a formal "unfriending" - if she's been blind to your disregard and annoyance towards her, she's not going to immediately get why you don't want to be friends anymore, especially during a difficult time.

Just disengage and let her go -- because you aren't actually her friend and the right thing to do is to stop leading her on.
posted by sm1tten at 7:02 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Does the friend you DO want to see know of your indifference to Gina? Going to the Big City weekend, but pooping out on the group activities because you don't like Gina, but do like the others seems jerky to me.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:19 PM on November 16, 2011

It's a very different scenario, but your post reminded me of the other side of this post.

I'm not saying that it's AT ALL the same, but I still thought about it.

I sympathize with you, honestly, because I do have in my circle, a couple of people that I'd rather not spend time with. But... I would have compassion for her. Even if she's irritating. Shes' going through a rough time, and she wants to see her friends to try and feel better.

The kindest thing to do would probably decline. Make a plan to see your other friends another time, but decline the invitation, and fade out.
posted by mornie_alantie at 8:18 PM on November 16, 2011

Not wanting to spend a lot of money besides not wanting to see this annoying -acquaintance- doesn't make you a bad person.

"I'm so sorry, but I can't make it to the trip due to _fill in reality or vague lie here_."

Then, yes, you stop sending supportive e-mails. And you cut down on commenting on her and her life to other friends; make her less of your conversation. If "Gina" makes some sort of "Haven't seen you in forever! why is that?" type of opening line, make it about you.

"Oh, I'm just really throwing myself into my work."
"Haha, I'm just so absent-minded these days."
"I'm afraid I can't get together with you; I'm all full up for the next month or so."

Repeat until she either gets the picture and fades out OR until you have to pull out The Bitch Mode, of which there are several levels. Try to keep this as a last resort though, especially if you want to keep your other friends (and mind you, just because you and her are friends with the rest, doesn't mean you have to be friends with each other).

Rather low level: "Look, Gina, I never really felt that you and I were that close. Including the fact that I'm going through some personal stuff right now" (this works rather well, depending on your situation) "and I'm afraid I just can't maintain our relationship anymore. It's a big strain on me. I would really appreciate it if you would not include me on future personal e-mails." Etc.

Mid to high level, if she's super clingy: "Gina, you're not really that close of a friend to me. Somehow...because of our mutual friendships, we ended up friends, but that was a fluke. You need to stop sending me personal e-mails and including me in your invitations."

Please avoid coin phrases such as joking around that you're "breaking up with her", unless she brings it up first. Then repeat what she says but reaffirm it in a way that she can't make any mistake as to your intention.

Just my two cents.
posted by DisreputableDog at 8:34 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

For some reason lately I've been reading AskMe with a different perspective. In this case, it leads me to want to know why you find her annoying. Because the thing is, there is so much about you that you can't tell us. And that makes it difficult to offer advice.

Ten years is a really long time. And I wonder what her side of the story would be. Maybe she always felt you didn't like her, but didn't know why. But she really liked *you* and wanted you to like her. And she developed a really unfortunately annoying habit because of that. I know you said you "immediately found her annoying" but that was such a long time ago. Maybe it was somewhat less immediate.

Of course that might all be a bunch of bull. But I'm still curious about the annoying thing she does, that doesn't seem to bother the other 2 members - at least one of whom you enjoy very much.
posted by Glinn at 9:16 PM on November 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

you do her more a disservice by being a false friend.

tell her you no longer have time these days and move on.
posted by AJoiB at 9:33 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Can you end the friendship without hurting her feelings? Yeah, just stop replying.

That would strike me as rude and callous.

Surely you have it in you to muster up a paragraph or two to thoughtfully relate that the time has come to say farewell.
posted by ambient2 at 11:24 PM on November 16, 2011

Some would say the "busy" excuse is evasive or fibbing, but the truth is that you have the same 24 hours in a day as anyone else, and being too busy for something usually just means you don't want to prioritize it. Hence, you slowly become too "busy" for her.

I would definitely not go on the trip, for reasons most others have cited (plus, you'll probably be kicking yourself the whole way there if I'm imagining this right). And I disagree that just because you feel compassion for her, it means you're her friend. It's great that you want to see her feel better, but it doesn't mean you're the best person for the job.

If you really think your friendship is helping her in a unique way and that you'll overcome the annoyance, that's a fine path. But right now it sounds like you'll be wondering, in 10 years, how to drop a 20-year-old acquaintance.
posted by Talisman at 11:35 PM on November 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

I guess other posters here are nicer than me or something because I wouldn't break up with her via a formal email. I actually think that would cause hurt feelings and be a little dramatic especially when you have mutual friends.

Just say no to invites, stop replying to emails, be "away" on Gchat, and the time will roll around that you will see that she will stop emailing you because she knows you never reply. She is an adult. She'll see what's happening and get over it in time.

Re: this trip, just don't go. You own your time - you don't even owe people a long, involved excuse if they want to organise a big trip to a different city which is going to involve a lot of money being spent. "Hey guys not gonna make it this time, [optional: have some [work / family / whatever] thing I committed to a while back]. Have fun, can't wait to see the photos." Boom.

I have done this with people; people have done this with me. There has been minimal drama involved. Everyone understands that your priorities change especially over decades. Friends come and go. Of course you can wish her the best but you can do that from a distance, without giving her time that you don't want to give her.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:15 AM on November 17, 2011

Somehow...because of our mutual friendships, we ended up friends, but that was a fluke.

Yes, the "fluke" is that Anon is evidently too nice for her own good and doesn't know how to say "no." Finding a way to gracefully decline being in the wedding of someone you don't even like, for example, would be a good way to avoid having a situation like this develop.

Too late for that; but OP, you have to start now saying NO. Definitely don't go to the weekend get-together. What mornie_alantie said should be your new mantra: Decline and fade, decline and fade.

Don't take any of the advice above about officially unfriending her online or in person. Being annoying is not a serious enough offense to merit that kind of pain. You kind of fell into this friendship; you should try to fall out of it in a similar way. You're lucky the friendship is long-distance; that should make it easier.
posted by torticat at 6:14 AM on November 17, 2011

what am I going to do, not write back a supportive email?

Yes, that's exactly what you do. You have trouble not responding to an email, but you think you can drop this woman from your life?
posted by I am the Walrus at 6:58 AM on November 17, 2011

She's struggling in a way that really needs a support group right now and I would not feel right about turning my back on that

Something you can try, and it won't seem as if you are blowing off her struggle, is tell her that you hear what she is saying, however, you feel that it is really "out of your hands" or "over your head" and you don't feel "qualified" (or whatever) to give her advice concerning her struggle. Gently suggest a therapist for her to get past her struggle. It might allow you to back out of trying to support her.

As for the "let's get together in Big City and spend a bunch of money". Hell, that response is easy (and quite believable).
"Sorry, would love to, but hard times are hitting everyone, can't do it this time."
posted by foxhat10 at 8:48 AM on November 17, 2011

Yes, decline and fade. No need to reject upfront; that's just cruel.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 9:40 AM on November 17, 2011

Mod note: From the OP:
Well, I said I would respond if someone asked me why I found her annoying, so I'll do my best to sum that part up without being GRARy, and address a few other good points you all have brought up. You've given me a lot to think about today, and thanks everyone for taking the time to share your thoughts.

I find her annoying because she is easily offended. I am most comfortable with people who have a rowdy sense of humor and can be irreverent. I find myself either holding back when she's around or else being a bit more over-the-top to intentionally needle and tease her, which is a pretty ugly thing to do considering how I feel about her. There is also something about her that I can only call prissy or twee or disingenuous or something. I think she over-shares, both about things like her income as well as things such as her current personal drama (which I won't go into here). However, I admit that my feeling that she over-shares could be based on the fact that I don't feel that close to her to begin with. She sometimes uses baby talk when she speaks to us. She doesn't tip well.

These things are just idiosyncrasies and a personality differences, as far as I can tell; she just happens to be the kind of person I tend to find annoying with a few specific habits that I don't like.

Also, it's true that I was in her wedding after I moved East, but she asked me (kind of) before I moved, and that was way before I started the process of trying to quietly disappear. I guess I didn't make it very clear that I had been trying that, and she doesn't seem to get the hint. After her wedding in spring 2009 and a few other events where I knew I would see her, she would call or IM me every month or so, and I'd say a quick hello (2 minutes) and then say I was too busy to talk and never call or respond to follow up. When she was still contacting me in spring 2010, I stopped saying I was too busy and instead just stopped responding at all. She pinged me again in January of this year and I didn't respond, and again a few times after that. I thought I'd been able to close the book on it until recently, when she's sent out these cries for help and some attention, explaining what's being going on with her these days and why she's "fallen off the map".

I see now based on what you are all saying that I really should not have responded, and I did. I will remember that in the future. It just felt strange to be getting very long supportive emails from the other people in the chain and it seemed cruel to be the only one not to respond considering the situation. I waited a few days and wrote something pretty brief but supportive directly to her, and thought that would be that. But then the idea for the trip germinated, and I have already agreed to go to only 1 night of the 3 they were staying. I figured after that I could quietly fade away. I am thankful to those of you who pointed out that I really don't have to go, and since I don't want to, I won't.

bq, something about your comment really rubbed me the wrong way at first, so I figured I should stop think about it for a minute. :) I am definitely not the kind of person who has trouble saying no to people and I usually have no qualms setting boundaries with my friends or anyone else. I am not sure what it is about Gina that brings it out in me. All I can think is that I feel so guilty for having been a false friend for all these years, that somehow I owe her the respect of making sure she doesn't ever find out...which is ridiculous, when I see it typed out like that, and clearly has more to do with my guilt than her, so thank you for asking me why she had this affect on me. All the things I originally disliked are now compounded by the fact that I have been more two-faced with her than I could ever imagine myself being with anyone. I don't want to be that kind of person and she represents something about myself that I don't like, through no fault of her own. That's on me.

I'm going to skip the trip. If she keeps reaching out to me, I will not respond, and if she ever directly asks, I will try to tell her something vague about timing and being at different points in our lives and try to leave it at that.

OK, well, this is embarrassingly long. Thanks all for helping me work through this.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:50 PM on November 17, 2011

It just felt strange to be getting very long supportive emails from the other people in the chain and it seemed cruel to be the only one not to respond considering the situation.

This is selfish and cruel. You responded to her basically to save face with the other people. It had nothing to do with her, and you're letting her think she has a friend in you during a crisis.

I started the process of trying to quietly disappear. .... she doesn't seem to get the hint.

Nobody can read your mind. Stop hinting and pull off the band-aid already. The poor woman deserves it.
posted by headnsouth at 3:22 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

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