Help me stop texting my friend for a bit
July 3, 2021 10:07 PM   Subscribe

My best friend's behavior towards me changed a few weeks ago. We went from talking/texting hourly every day to only chatting here and there over the course of the week. I do most of the texting now. She responds maybe half the time. This transition is hard for me, and opens up old wounds from other relationships (platonic and romantic) where the same things happened. I would therefore like to help myself practice self care and letting go by not texting her at all for a few days. What could help me do that?

Please be kind, this is very hard for me and I am trying to honor both my feelings of loneliness and what seems to be a need for space on her end. I am not sure what's going on and I feel really uncomfortable asking why we don't talk as much as we used to. This is an exercise I need to do.
posted by Hermione Granger to Human Relations (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Can you change her name to something like “Bad Feelings”? I changed someone’s contact name to Bad Vibes Shitgoblin once and that certainly helped remind me not to text them.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:10 PM on July 3, 2021 [29 favorites]

I don't know what your patterns of texting are, but for me, the things I want to text people are often things I noticed or experienced or thought of, and just jotting them down into a notes document halfway satisfies the urge to send them to someone. So maybe try redirecting these thoughts to an informal self journal type thing. A nice benefit is you can go over them and take the highlights if you're still communicating with this person, just less frequently.
posted by aubilenon at 10:13 PM on July 3, 2021 [11 favorites]

When you get the urge to reach out, turn your phone off, stick it in your back pocket, and do anything else. Bonus points if it's engrossing enough to avoid The Bad Feels. No big if you stumble at first - forgive yourself and keep busy.

Eventually it will become a habit.
posted by transitional procedures at 10:27 PM on July 3, 2021

Unless you need a piece of information from them (of a referential nature, i.e. "what is the address of _____", not "why aren't you responding"), put it in a text note instead. At the end of the your text-denial period, look through the note at what you wrote, and get rid of whatever was just a transient impulse that no longer seems important, and what is no longer useful to send, hours later, i.e. "Are you at the store?". Then get rid of the duplicate thoughts. Then, decide whether what's left is worth sending.

Feel like calling her? Make a note of it, and what you would've said.

I don't know you, but it's possible that a lot of the communication between you two was kind of empty, and she started to feel that before you did. Or something else is rubbing her the wrong way about the time and frequency spent communicating with you. It may or may not be personal to you, but it's premature to get too upset about it, as long as she's still in touch and friendly.
posted by Sunburnt at 10:41 PM on July 3, 2021 [3 favorites]

Is there someone else you can text with who can pick up some of your extra communication energy for a bit. If loneliness is the issue, then perhaps you can nurture some additional connections so this one friend isn't your only option
posted by brookeb at 10:43 PM on July 3, 2021 [4 favorites]

If I were you I'd ask why she's not responding. The assumption here is that she's suddenly decided not to be as good a friend. She might have fallen in love, become unhappy, or just decided that she spends too much time on her phone. It's quite likely that if you knew why, this wouldn't be hard to accept. Also your friend might need your help.
posted by AugustusCrunch at 10:58 PM on July 3, 2021 [19 favorites]

Finding a good substitution activity depends somewhat on what you get from the texting relationship to start with. You could download a journal app on your phone and put all the funny things and photos in there. You could download the Replika AI app and chat with it instead of texting your friend. You could buy a book you really want to read and put that on your phone. You could set up coffee dates or phone dates with other friends so you’re getting your social needs met elsewhere. You could come up with a little meditation or gratitude practice and every time you have the impulse to text you could do a quick bit of that instead.

I’m sorry you’re going through this, it sucks to feel this way with a close friend. I hope you find some resolution soon ❤️
posted by hungrytiger at 11:55 PM on July 3, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Things that might help you break the habit for a few days:

Move whatever messaging app you use to a different location on your phone, so that you don't find yourself opening it on autopilot but have to pay attention to what you're doing.

If you have control over the name and the image representing her in the app, rename her to WAIT TILL WEDNESDAY or NOT RIGHT NOW or GIVE HER SPACE, and replace the image for now with an X or a DO NOT DISTURB sign or an image of a sleeping puppy.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:36 AM on July 4, 2021 [3 favorites]

These are all good suggestions but I also agree with AugustusCrunch.

I'm your avoidant friend a lot of the time. I go through periods of being very chatty with my friends and having more energy to communicate, which is usually followed by some time where I pull into myself and start doubting my own feelings, not wanting to be a bother, or just not feeling the energy to reach out and talk. Sometimes I'll experience feelings of resentment if I believe I'm the one always carrying the conversation (which is rarely true), or inadequacy if I believe my friend has better things to do than talk to me. Sometimes I pull away because I want to prove to myself that nobody will chase me back (which is a shitty thing to do to your friends, but I definitely recognise the urge).

All of this is 100% my problem, not theirs (and if your friend is doing this, not yours). It's my issue to unpack and deal with. But that said, I would and do absolutely value the friends who recognise this and reassure me. A quick message saying "I don't know what's going on but if you need me, I'm here, and if you need some space that's okay too, I'll be here when you want to share memes again" goes a long way. It reminds me that they also have needs and their own lives, but they're also holding space for me. I return the favour when it happens in the other direction.

Absolutely take care of yourself and do what you need to do in order to maintain your own mental wellness and boundaries, but if you feel up to reaching out just once before you step back, it might be very much worth it.
posted by fight or flight at 4:33 AM on July 4, 2021 [5 favorites]

I am exactly where you are right now, were a once very close and incredibly communicative friendship seems to be cooling down. It hurts when you're the one not ready or wanting that. And especially because we know that it is completely reasonable for our friends to text less.

I am trying to honor both my feelings of loneliness and what seems to be a need for space on her end.

Again, this is me too. One of the things I've done is develop a 'distraction plan'. It contains small, easy things like 'pause and count your breaths' to longer, more involved things like 'watch every episode of shameless'.

But the key for me is that I literally have to take it as getting through a half hour at a time. I know that sounds dramatic, but we texted a lot. I just keep distraction myself.

I understand how much this sucks because you're hurt but you want to be reasonable.
posted by aclevername at 5:17 AM on July 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

I agree that you should ask why. I had a friend who was very chatty and what happened was that my young child started noticing my phone use in a way I did’t like, and I started having periods of the day (e.g. after school pickup, before bed) where I would consciously put my phone away. And she did not understand it. She just literally did not understand that I would put my phone down and a) not see it or here it if it sent an alert or b) notice the alert and consciously choose not to pick it up. It was not a slight against her. I could pick up the phone later and respond, the way people did in the days before text. But she was just wanting immediate replies and I wasn’t able to be instantly available to her, and I bristled a little at the expectation that I should be.

We are still friends, but not in the same way, and that’s not anything bad. She wanted a type of relationship and she had made other friends who can give that to her.
posted by ficbot at 6:27 AM on July 4, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Tailing on many comments with a slight twist in the script. Instead of asking why which is putting more labor and effort on your friend try something like this.

"hey friend I noticed you're not replying as much. That's totally fine of course. I'm trying to not text as much since I noticed. Just wanted to make sure you're OK. I'm here if you need anything."

Then you're being a proactive friend and making clear communication. The response could be anything from nothing, to "thanks I want to text less", to "sorry busy at work", to "gosh no please don't", to "oh crap sorry. My phone is _____ing"....

I think this gives you a sense of action and confirms you're still a friend and gives them space to explain without demanding "why don't you text as much as you used to?"

Good luck. Go easy on yourself. Memail me if the urge strikes and you need an outlet!
posted by chasles at 6:40 AM on July 4, 2021 [9 favorites]

Best answer: I really feel you on this! I have found myself in the same situation a couple of times, I really value that quick, short feedback of texting a funny thing to someone and just getting the HAHA tapback, doesn't have to be anything more than that ... but some friends I have just don't operate that way.

One thing I did when it was a real issue was to remove them from my contacts. If they aren't in there, I can't message them easily. If I *really* need to communicate, I can type in the number manually to send the message. You can put the contact information in the "notes" app or something to keep it handy. I have also changed people's names to things like NO and DO NOT CALL and NON-COMMUNICATIVE and things like that.

And if it makes you feel better, I also struggle with taking this very personally. I'm not sure how to fix that ... people say "don't take it personally" but that's like telling somebody "don't be depressed". One thing I do is, if there's someone who doesn't answer me right away, I make a conscious effort not to answer them right away when they do message me. If communication from me is low-priority to them, then communication from them is going to be low-priority from me.
posted by mccxxiii at 7:40 AM on July 4, 2021 [2 favorites]

I get how you’re feeling as I’m more like you and have a number of friends who are like your BFF. I understand how it feels so hurtful and opens old wounds even if you know deep down that this is just a difference in personalities and not a negative reflection of you or even how your friend sees you. That’s a good thing at least, right?! She will eventually come around and probably open up if you continue to be your kind and warm self but also give some more space. I just heard from a friend after I forced myself to stop writing for a bit. It’s so hard!! Please be kind to yourself: I think the negative reinforcement techniques that people have suggested can certainly work but negativity rarely works for me: I just feel more ashamed and sad. So maybe write down the feelings on paper, in an ongoing journal, redirect the attention by reaching out to a different friend and/or do something nice for yourself like write a message you wish she or an ex had sent! I have found that last option to be the hardest but best because it forces me into those difficult feelings and my history. Of course, the scariest things are actually not so bad when we actually acknowledge and explore them, more like a sweet little lamb than the wolf in sheep’s clothing we fear!
posted by smorgasbord at 8:26 AM on July 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ok, I changed her contact name, moved my messages app somewhere off my home screen, and also figured out how to mute notifications specifically from her. Then I got stressed and I sent her this:

"Hey hey. Is everything ok? I noticed over the past few weeks that we're not texting as much lately (which is fine) so I've been trying to text less as a result. I bring it up just because we've always joked about how much we talk each day. Is texting less something you want to keep doing? Here if you need anything, though, of course. :)"

To which she replied, "Hahhaha omg hermione nothing is wrong"

So I told her that asking her about it was hard, and she thanked me for checking in but "nothing is wrong"

Which makes me somehow feel worse?
posted by Hermione Granger at 4:38 PM on July 4, 2021

Response by poster: I gotta be less sensitive and not take these things so seriously. Thank you all for your input. I feel mortified right now, but that's my stuff to deal with.
posted by Hermione Granger at 4:55 PM on July 4, 2021

Best answer: Her response is actually quite passive-aggressive, so the sting you feel isn't oversensitivity at all. When you feel that sting from something someone did, it's almost never oversensitivity, no need to gaslight yourself. Trust your gut. Nice things don't sting.

A kind response would be "I'm ok, been a weird week- thank you for checking in".

"Hahhaha omg hermione nothing is wrong"
What's she laughing at? Why's it funny that you sent her a kind text checking in? The OMG kinda feels like she's playing to an imaginary audience, and then "nothing is wrong" feels like she's gaslighting you by acting as if she hasn't stopped texting and you're making it up- but that's not accurate. She did change her behaviour. Maybe nothing is "wrong", but something did change. And she doesn't have to tell you what, but there's no need to deny it outright like that.

This may just be her personality or her attempt to hide a deeper problem and accidentally being flippant or whatever, and not a deliberate attempt to hurt your feelings, but it's not a kind or friendly text and it would hurt my feelings too.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 7:47 PM on July 4, 2021 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: You're right, something about this is still off. I don't like it. I've blocked her and will take some time to think. If she really wants to talk to me she can email me. Her response wasn't kind, and that's going to make the whole situation fester unless I take a big break.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:32 PM on July 4, 2021

"Hahhaha omg hermione nothing is wrong"

Either she's in denial or she's lying to you or both, but right now she is behaving uncharacteristically and that's also red flagging big time. That's not a great answer to give. Good for you for getting up the nerve to ask, though. It's really hard to do and I'm sorry she gave you that kind of shit answer.

I've been following this thread and have been having the same issue with people that I want to connect with but they seem to not want to so much (I actually texted one off my now disabled old phone so the person wouldn't get the texts...hahah). I have also been whining in journals and the like rather than reaching out. I also remind myself that reaching out will only make me unhappier in the end and not get me what I want out of the person, because people don't respond in the way that you want to. I'm going to be unhappy either way if I reach out or if I don't, but at least if I keep my mouth shut, I feel like I have some self-respect about it all.

opens up old wounds from other relationships (platonic and romantic) where the same things happened.

Yeah, me too! So triggered! It's so clearly "circling the drain" on those relationships to get to this point, isn't it :( It's hard to believe that a friendship will come back from this point, and you know it most likely won't. But all you can do is mirror their new communication style and see if THEY ever reach out for a damn change.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:33 PM on July 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

This has been happening in my life recently, too. My friend made a new connection and has been spending all their time communicating with the new person. It's hard to process, it definitely feels like rejection, and it hurts.

What I've tried to do is be philosophical about it. People are in our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime - and we can't control how long it will be. I'm just trying to be grateful that my friend and I had our connection as long as we did.

Seconding the advice to direct that energy elsewhere.
posted by acridrabbit at 12:51 PM on July 6, 2021 [1 favorite]

Okay, blocking her in response seems like an extreme response. I want to suggest that you find a time to talk on the phone. Sometimes things get lost in writing, whether via text or email. Texting hourly is a lot. It's fine that it was working for you, but ... that's a frequency of communication that isn't sustainable for many people.

I want to suggest that you keep your phone in a different room for a few hours and do some writing and journaling by hand when you're inclined to go grab it.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:28 PM on July 6, 2021

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