Author Topic: How to word this - backing away from a friendship  (Read 5554 times)

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Danika

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How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« on: January 07, 2013, 05:59:45 PM »
I made a new friend recently and despite a few yellow flags, I continued to hang out with her. My schedule's really busy so I really haven't spent that much time with her.

The first time we hung out, she complained all night and was quite negative, but I thought she was interesting and I like talkative people, so I figured that it might not occur again and I shouldn't judge based on first impressions. The second time, it was a similar experience and I started to realize that she's generally negative like that.

She's now calling and emailing often. Her emails are long and filled with frustration about how she's a victim often - of salespeople, doctors' offices, other parents at her kid's school - she's always having bad experiences. And she says she has a hard time making friends, etc.

I've been busy so nearly every message has gone to voice mail and I haven't had much time to reply to anyone's emails.

She's asked if we (our family of four) would like to get together with hers and she picked a date far in advance. I don't mind remaining distant acquaintances but I don't want to foster a friendship. DH and I have decided we'd rather not get together with her and her family.

I don't want to lie and say we're busy because she'll just suggest another date and another. I don't want to be honest and say "You're creeping me out. You appear to be negative, whiny, angry and self-absorbed and I don't want to be your therapist." I think the best thing to do is keep the ball in my court and basically say "Don't call me. I'll call you." How should I word that?

Experience with her is teaching me that she's not good at reading people and she does not pick up on subtleties. But I don't want to be rude or hurtful either. I want to be polite and thoughtful, but also clear, if possible.

My DH is starting a new job soon so I have the true excuse that we won't know his work schedule and so I can't commit to anything right now. Does the following sound like an appropriate reply?

DH is not sure of his new work schedule yet. We don't know how many, if any, weekends he'll be working. So I'm hesitant to commit to a date in February until we know what his new job is like. Let's hold off on planning anything and I'll email you when we are able to get together.

LeveeWoman

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #1 on: January 07, 2013, 06:04:43 PM »
DH is not sure of his new work schedule yet. We don't know how many, if any, weekends he'll be working. So I'm hesitant to commit to a date in February until we know what his new job is like. Let's hold off on planning anything and I'll email you when we are able to get together.

I might say something about the months leading up to summer.

bah12

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2013, 06:06:42 PM »
I think that response is perfect.  Since this isn't a long or deep friendship, I don't think you owe her much of an explanation for backing away.  Be as non-commital as you can and don't agree to hang out in the near term and eventually (hopefully), thinks will die away naturally.

If anything, you could change "hestitant to commit to a date in February" to "hesitent to commit to anything"...just leaving it more open ended in case she asks you to commit to something in January.

rose red

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2013, 06:22:54 PM »
I'm not sure about that letter.  It makes it sound like you will call for a get together sometime in the future.  Possibly in March.  She sounds annoying, but I think it's rude to string her along and make her look forward to your call.  Also, if she doesn't have many friends, she may not back off and you'll be stuck making more excuses.

I don't know a nice way to tell her to "get lost" so I can't help with that, but hopefully other posters might.

DottyG

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2013, 06:25:59 PM »
I don't have an answer, but I'm trying to think about this from her perspective.  If I were this lady, what would I want to hear that would get the message across but wouldn't make me feel completely horrible (I know it's going to sting a little bit, but is there a way to lessen it some)?

If we think about what we'd want to hear, does that help phrase something useful?

Danika

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2013, 06:42:40 PM »
Yes, I'm open to more ideas. I have saved the email in my Drafts folder because I hope we can all come up with something better than my original. I won't send it for a couple of days.

PastryGoddess

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2013, 06:56:12 PM »
I've been dealing with a similar situation for the past year or so.  After trial and error, what seemed to work was me saying "I'm not sure what my schedule is going to be like, here are the days I'm generally free.  Why don't you shoot me a text message a week or so before you want to meet?"  I put the onus on getting together on her

Eventually her text messages and phone calls went from every week, to every couple of weeks, to every month or so.  I just stayed too busy to meet.  What also helped was that in September I quit my full time job and started my own business, so I could use that as a legitimate reason to be busy and not answer phone calls and text messages.  I'm down to getting the occasional text blast and holiday message.

Now you have kids and family so I'm sure being busy is not an issue for you :)

LazyDaisy

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2013, 07:06:35 PM »
DH is not sure of his new work schedule yet. We don't know how many, if any, weekends he'll be working. So I'm hesitant to I can't commit to a date in February until we know what his new job is like. Let's hold off on planning anything and I'll email you when we are able to get together right now.

This won't commit you to contacting her or making a plan at a later date. I think the time to address the negativity is at the time it occurs -- I just can't think of a good way of bringing it up now that doesn't feel like an ambush of sorts. Then when she emails you again with her list of woes (because she undoubtedly will), address it then. "Friend, you sound like you have a lot of stress right now. It feels like every conversation with you is filled with negativity. I have a philosophy of focusing on positive things and this is starting to stress me out and I don't have the energy to deal with it. I hope you can find some way to work these things out, but I'm not qualified to help you do that. Please, stop using me as a venting board." or something similar. I'm sure some other e-hellion can phrase it better. Hopefully she takes it well and can remain distantly friendly, but she may feel "victimized" no matter how nicely you do it.
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rose red

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #8 on: January 07, 2013, 07:20:38 PM »
I've been dealing with a similar situation for the past year or so.  After trial and error, what seemed to work was me saying "I'm not sure what my schedule is going to be like, here are the days I'm generally free.  Why don't you shoot me a text message a week or so before you want to meet?"  I put the onus on getting together on her

Eventually her text messages and phone calls went from every week, to every couple of weeks, to every month or so.  I just stayed too busy to meet.  What also helped was that in September I quit my full time job and started my own business, so I could use that as a legitimate reason to be busy and not answer phone calls and text messages.  I'm down to getting the occasional text blast and holiday message.

Now you have kids and family so I'm sure being busy is not an issue for you :)

So you gave her dates that you are free, but when she calls, you tell her you are busy?  That's not very nice and I don't recommend this approach.  Unless I'm misunderstanding your post.  I apologize if I am.
« Last Edit: January 07, 2013, 07:22:53 PM by rose red »

PastryGoddess

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #9 on: January 07, 2013, 07:50:54 PM »
I've been dealing with a similar situation for the past year or so.  After trial and error, what seemed to work was me saying "I'm not sure what my schedule is going to be like, here are the days I'm generally free.  Why don't you shoot me a text message a week or so before you want to meet?"  I put the onus on getting together on her

Eventually her text messages and phone calls went from every week, to every couple of weeks, to every month or so.  I just stayed too busy to meet.  What also helped was that in September I quit my full time job and started my own business, so I could use that as a legitimate reason to be busy and not answer phone calls and text messages.  I'm down to getting the occasional text blast and holiday message.

Now you have kids and family so I'm sure being busy is not an issue for you :)

So you gave her dates that you are free, but when she calls, you tell her you are busy?  That's not very nice and I don't recommend this approach.  Unless I'm misunderstanding your post.  I apologize if I am.

no, I didn't give her specific dates.

She is someone who did not want me to hang out with anyone but her and would get pouty and jealous if I decided to hang out with other people/do stuff on my own.  So I started putting parameters on our meetings as I was getting tired of her behavior.

I refused to make plans for than two weeks out.  I also only agreed to hang out on my days off which were the same every week.  Her schedule was more flexible and so I put the onus her to contact me when our schedules meshed. 

MsMarjorie

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #10 on: January 07, 2013, 08:02:49 PM »
Do you have to see her in any other setting or if you cut her off, will you be able to never see her again?

I'd say "sorry I'm so busy, I can't commit to anything right now" and then stop taking her calls.

Danika

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #11 on: January 07, 2013, 08:08:12 PM »
Do you have to see her in any other setting or if you cut her off, will you be able to never see her again?

Her husband and I went to college together, so our families might run into each other at the occasional (maybe once a year) alumni/ae function. But that's the extent of it.

oceanus

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #12 on: January 07, 2013, 08:16:32 PM »
This "how can I end this friendship" question comes up a lot.

People usually advise using some variation of the “I’m so busy” excuse when the fact is the person doesn’t want to continue socializing with the person – at all.

While I can appreciate how awkward it can be to end a friendship (or what was starting out to be one) I think it’s rude and dishonest to string people along and toss vague excuses at them “hoping they will get the idea”.  That’s just playing games, and it can go on and on and on.  Yes, they should know that if you wanted to spend time with them you would make the time and do it – but why not gently and politely tell the person the truth?

“I don’t think we have anything in common, and I would rather not make any future plans.  I wish you well.”   

It's not necessary to try to think of a bunch of excuses or get pulled into a discussion - just repeat the above sentence.  Politely but firmly.  Then don't respond to any text msgs, emails, etc.   Is that so hard?
« Last Edit: January 07, 2013, 08:19:33 PM by oceanus »

Lynn2000

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #13 on: January 07, 2013, 08:17:26 PM »
I like LazyDaisy's wording for your email.

You said you're okay with being a "distant acquaintance," so I guess you have to figure out exactly what that means for you, especially if she's calling and emailing you a lot right now. For example, do you want to exchange emails with her? If so, I don't think you need to reply to every one she sends you, and not right away. When you do reply, keep things somewhat short, just a paragraph or so, and light. Touch on a few things that she said so you're not entirely ignoring the content of her messages; but maybe say things like, "Oh, that's too bad. That must be very frustrating. I hope things turn around for you soon," as opposed to getting sucked into offering suggestions. Add in a few light things about your own life, send the email, and then decide that you won't reply to her again for, say, a month, no matter how many emails she sends you in the meantime.

I don't know... Does that sound polite to people? I guess I'm having a problem with the "keeping her as a distant acquaintance" thing. I don't think I'd want to "keep" her as anything, and I would be afraid that replying to her emails--even just once a month, with a paragraph--might be too much encouragement. Honestly I think I would go with MsMarjorie's suggestion--tell her I was too busy to make any plans for the foreseeable future, never respond to her again, and hope she stopped contacting me soon.

Also, I personally wouldn't address her negativity, or difficulty in making friends, unless she specifically, sincerely, and repeatedly asked me about it. I wouldn't consider her a good enough friend that I would bother trying to help her "get better," you know? But that's just me, and I don't think it would be rude to mention those things, if you wanted. I personally just don't see that it would help anything.

ETA: oceanus has an interesting point. I will give that some more thought.
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MsMarjorie

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Re: How to word this - backing away from a friendship
« Reply #14 on: January 07, 2013, 08:51:54 PM »
Do you have to see her in any other setting or if you cut her off, will you be able to never see her again?

Her husband and I went to college together, so our families might run into each other at the occasional (maybe once a year) alumni/ae function. But that's the extent of it.

In that case, I'd be a little more definite about never getting together again.  After you send the email, I'd organize to go do something fun, because you sound really nice and I think it would upset you to send this email - you'll need to take your mind off it  :)