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#753: The awkward aftermath of ending a friendship with someone you still run into all the time.

Dear Captain Awkward,

Last year I ended a friendship “Joe.” Joe is a “misery loves company” kind of guy. He is also immature, manipulative, and vengeful. He will poke at your insecurities when HE feels uncomfortable, just so he isn’t the only one feeling vulnerable at the moment.
Example: I once confided in him that I felt like I was developing a drinking problem. He stopped me to yell about how I was obviously lying for attention and that claiming I had a problem was an insult to actual alcoholics. He then attempted to ban that subject from future conversations. Joe would have preferred keep me close, drunk, and unhappy than to risk me not hanging out at bars as often.
We did not stay friends much longer after that.

Joe’s character took a while to show through… and I’m ashamed to admit that it took me even longer to recognize I was being hurt. I just kept telling myself that it was my job as a friend to be there for him. I knew he was hurting and lashing out, and felt like a bad friend if I didn’t help him.

I soon realized that I was SO MUCH HAPPIER when we weren’t talking and I ended our friendship. I’m happier (and healthier) without Joe in my life, and I stand by my decision. I kept saying that my life got infinitely better when I realized that I could remove people from it. Maybe I took that too seriously with other friendships?

More recently, I ended a friendship with “Jane.” Our friendship had morphed into her using me as a dumping ground for her problems and emotions. Trying to “fix” Joe to the detriment of my own well-being was something I didn’t want to do again, and maybe it spooked me out of the friendship with Jane.

I pulled the “friendship fade-away” and distanced myself from her without much explanation. This, I admit, is not the most mature way I could have handled things. I didn’t want to hurt Jane, but I guess I was just selfishly ignoring what she must have felt about the situation. I kept telling myself that since I was fine, she must be, too.

I am, however, still happier not being her friend.

She has since made me the villain in this. She accused me of lying to her and trying to slight her on social media (untrue). She is avoiding me on the street and at work, and asks mutual friends to disinvite me to events. Did I really treat Jane so badly to deserve the punishments she is doling out? Am I the villain in this?

How do I take care of myself without being a jerk to others?

Thank you,
Selfish Sally

Dear Sally,

Short answer: 1) You don’t have to be friends with people who don’t make you feel good. 2) When you do end a friendship and/or visibly pull away from someone, they are allowed to feel how they feel about it and you can’t control the story that they will tell. Rejection sucks, and not everyone shrugs and moves on when it happens to them.

Since you appear to work together and have a large mutual friend circle, it might pay to clear the air with “Jane” along the lines of “Hey, I can see that I really hurt your feelings when I stopped wanting to [be friends outside of work][talk about personal subjects][spend so much time together], and I’m sorry for the way I handled it. I should have told you what was going on with me instead of leaving you to wonder.

Might. Maybe. It might also put you in the position of having to say “I still don’t see us having a close friendship, tho” and starting the whole rejection cycle over again.

The other strategy you can use is to disengage and let it all blow over. Unfriend/unfollow/block. Be civil when you do have to interact with her at work, give the “heyhowyadoin” nod or greeting when you run into Jane socially, and otherwise ignore. If something untrue makes it back to you through the mutual friend/colleague grapevine, say, simply, “That’s not true” but don’t get into the details. Think of a brief, neutral story you can tell about what happened between you, such as “Jane and I had very different expectations of our friendship, and it’s obvious that I really hurt her feelings when I pulled away. I’m really sorry about that, and I wish I’d handled ending the friendship better, but I know it was the right decision for me. All I can do now is hope that with time everything gets a little easier for both of us.”

I realize that a detached response is at odds with how annoyed you feel right now. Look at it this way: If you fight with Jane about the fairness of what she’s doing, if you work hard to correct each untruth, if you follow up every time she tries to have you disinvited to something, if you invest hard in proving that you are the good guy, you won’t just have lost a draining friend from your life, you will have converted her into an equally draining enemy. Jane is punishing you for withdrawing from her and doing stuff to get your attention–the thing you didn’t really want to give her in the first place. If you stay somewhat relaxed and detached, and Jane continues to try to tear you down, mutual friends worth having are going to quickly realize that Jane’s story is not congruent with your behavior. Hang out with those friends who are important to you one-on-one and in small groups instead of just at big events, and give her (and you) a lot of time and space.

 

 

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93 comments
  1. Celeste said:

    Listen to the Captain! Jane is asking you to feed the fire and still be in a (negative) relationship with her. Don’t feed it. Let it burn out. There really are people who have a need for drama, but that doesn’t mean you need to serve it up on demand. Wishing you all the best with moving forward and towards the people you want to be with.

    • Awkward Kitten said:

      This comment and the Captain’s advice are awesome. Yes, don’t feed the drama — and don’t take it personally if you can help it, you can’t control how other people act. I think this especially true if you have to work with the person who doesn’t take rejection well.

      I am the LW from this letter, about my possibly creepy freelance client, Doug.

      https://captainawkward.com/2015/08/04/730-social-media-surveillance-and-the-possibly-creepy-freelance-client/

      After I “dumped” Doug (in a polite and professional way), he totally blanked me which would have been totally awesome except then I found out (via a colleague and randomly) that he had not taken my name off of the speakers list at a conference, he just omitted to tell me I would still be speaking after I said I could not work with him on a particular project. When I mailed him to ask me about it he refused to speak to me and actually BCC-ed me into an email that was addressed “Dear Colleague” so he would not be speaking directly to me. Which…. I don’t know. At the conference, he refused to speak to me at all despite him being the chair of the panel I was on. He literally turned physically away from me when I stood up to talk. He thanked everyone for speaking apart from me. I would have tried to clear the air by making a polite comment but he turned his face away from me every time I came by him. It was a small venue, too so very awkward. I’m sure people noticed.

      I know Doug has told some other people in our field negative things about me — but I am going to take the advice of not engaging and being relaxed and detached and acting as normal. Hopefully people will see it’s his drama and not mine, and that I am professional.

      So LW, I hope Jane’s weirdness blows over soon. I think that if you don’t feed it by reacting then it will blow over faster. But I completely sympathize with you because Jane is making things extremely awkward and it’s really horrible when your friends get dragged into these things.

      • Myrin said:

        Fromer!LW, I’m really, really glad you managed to dump Doug – I remember reading your letter and feeling majorly creeped out by the behaviour you were describing. It sounds like you 100% did the right thing by dumping him but also reacted mature and professionally afterwards. Dough, though… well, not so much. Honestly? I can’t think of any other word to call the behaviour on his end you describe here than “childish”. Seriously, that’s how petulant kindergardeners react, not adult professionals. But as you say yourself, the drama is his, and it seems like pretty obviously so – onlookers are very likely to identify the cause of the weirdness here, and it’s not you!

      • Serin said:

        I love it when we get updates from past posts!

        And all I can say is: if this is the way Doug treats a person who has declined to have him as a client, I can only imagine the nightmater it would have been to be in any sort of long-term relationship with him. You really dodged a bullet!

        • JenniferP said:

          Right, the only worse thing I can imagine is actually being dependent on Doug in some way to get work done or to get paid and have to spend more time in his presence. BYE DOUG

          • I once got a first message on OKCupid that went:

            ‘hi do u like anal my name is doug’

            I wonder if it’s the same Doug.

  2. Aija-Marjatta said:

    LW, I did precisely “option 2” with someone fairly recently. She’s someone I have a ton of mutual friends with due to living in the same city and making friends together over 15 years, during the last few years of which the friendship became toxic and terrible. This person will remain on the periphery of my life probably forever because of all these mutual friendships, but I no longer have any interest in calling her a friend or keeping her around, due to myriad reasons including compulsive lying, constant flaking, taking me and my time and interests for granted, and not taking me seriously when I attempted to discuss these problems.

    Anyway, long story short, I did pretty much exactly the “option 2” that Captain Awkward outlined above. I blocked her on all social media, I decided I would no longer answer emails or phone calls (setting up filters/blocks for these things is exceptionally helpful). She did not take this well and has occasionally tried to provoke me into responding to her by pulling some exceptionally shitty stunts, one of which involved attempting to affect my job. I hope that with time it will blow over. In the meantime, there are awkward moments, and there are bad days, but if you have a solid group of friends and they love you and care for you, they will understand why you made the choice that you did and support it. Team You is valuable and important. And it is 100% your decision who gets to be on Team You.

    • E_helbling said:

      Hello, you might be me! I’m in pretty much an identical situation except when i tried to have conversations with my ex-friend about the issues I was having, in return I got abuse and harmful, untrue accusations. Eventually, I ghosted because it was the least painful option open to me, and, yeah, ex-friend was thoroughly raging about it, including but not limited to public rants which include more falsehoods than I can count, and snarky remarks (which I think are supposed to be hurtful, and would likely be if I cared about her opinion anymore) whenever she can get away with it in person.

      LW, these are the tactics of people who need you to still be involved in their lives, and if they can’t do it in a positive manner, they’ll try to do it in a negative one. Non-engagement is the only strategy that works; you don’t have to wish her well but don’t wish her harm either. Just work on not caring. If she launches into one of these lines in public, look at her as if she’s announced the sky is green, and then go find someone else to talk to. Spend your time with your team you and on making new friends.

      So far, it hasn’t shut her up, but it genuinely no longer has any effect on me, which is, as far as I’m concerned, the important bit anyway.

      • Aija-Marjatta said:

        Hah, yeah, that sounds exceedingly familiar. In my case she took my ghosting/blocking exceptionally badly (lots of accusations of me “irrationally cutting her off for no reason” and making it a ‘villain and victim’ situation). It was really, really hard not to take it personally at the beginning, especially since she took potshots at me where she could and used the 15 years of backstory as a wellspring of knowing exactly where to hit where it would hurt. But time and good friends have helped me realize that she was just lashing out because she didn’t like that I finally got myself out of her web, basically.

        Learning the Peggy Carter mantra (“I know my value. Anyone else’s opinion doesn’t really matter.”) is highly recommended, basically.

        • E_helbling said:

          Isn’t it frustrating? Especially the cries of ‘cutting me off for no reason’, when I’d had conversations with her where I tried to express why the friendship was damaging for me in its current form, which apparently she….had forgotten took place? Tbh, she might genuinely have done so, given any time I raised an issue with her, it was immediately put aside in favour of addressing her feelings and upset which were far more urgent and involved insulting me. Which she’d acknowledge and then in the same breath be confused why I didn’t want to spend time around her. Or the chameleon-like nature of what state our relationship was in – she’d email me proclaiming we were ‘just acquaintances’ and then publicly tell everyone we were having an argument and not speaking…

          Just…gaslighting. So much gaslighting. And so much better now I’m out. And yes! Go Goddess Peggy!

          • “any time I raised an issue with her, it was immediately put aside in favour of addressing her feelings and upset which were far more urgent and involved insulting me.”

            Wow, you were friends with my mother?

            That’s one of the behaviours that make me desperately wish I could cut her out of my life forever. Nothing ever gets resolved between us because of how much she does this. I’m so glad you could get away from it.

      • Guava said:

        “LW, these are the tactics of people who need you to still be involved in their lives, and if they can’t do it in a positive manner, they’ll try to do it in a negative one. Non-engagement is the only strategy that works; you don’t have to wish her well but don’t wish her harm either. Just work on not caring.”

        Holy shit, I really needed to read that today. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

    • Kat said:

      Yes, ma’am. I’m embarking on my “option 2” journey and the Captain’s advice and your example are really helpful. Thanks!

  3. Annalee said:

    Another script that might help, when mutual friends come to you with things Jane has told them about you: “I’m really sorry Jane is trying to put you in the middle of this. That must be very uncomfortable for you. [subject change].”

    And if they tell you she’s asked them to disinvite you from things: “Wow, I’m sorry you’re in such an awkward position. Jane and I are no longer friends, but I don’t have a problem seeing her at parties without making it weird. I’m sorry she can’t do the same.”

    (Seriously though, disinvite you? Wow. I can understand a person saying “I don’t want to be around Ferdinand, so please don’t invite me to gatherings he’ll be attending,” but unless Ferdinand is abusive, trying to dictate other people’s guest lists is some messed up friendship-test nonsense).

    • Aija-Marjatta said:

      Trying to dictate other people’s guest-lists and friendships = massive red flag. Anyone doing that is revealing themselves to be a manipulative, immature person.

      • Yes, yes, yes!

        I’ve been in Jane’s position before, with a classmate suddenly ignoring me and being all withdrawn (and for whatever reason I couldn’t tell), and yet I never went around asking our large circle to disinvite her. Usually what happened was that either I tolerated her for the duration of what gathering there was, but when I finally got fed up with her, I would just withdraw myself for my own protection.

        Sure, Jane’s allowed to feel awful about the friendship ending the way it did, but she can also act constructively on those feelings.

      • Kiv said:

        But sometimes they’re an abused person trying to carve out a space away from their abuser in a small community. (Not that I think this is the case in the LW’s letter!)

        I think it’s one of those things where you have to look at the totality of how people are behaving.

        • Aija-Marjatta said:

          Absolutely an abused person has the right to say “I do not want to associate with that person because they have done the following abusive things to me” but even then, the decision to associate with that person is up to each individual, not someone else. One would HOPE people who learn of someone’s abusive ways would say “Woah, I don’t want to be friends with someone like that,” but sadly it’s not always the case.

          • Annalee said:

            I personally think abuse changes the equation. For example, I think “it really bothers me that you’re trying to stay friends with my rapist” is different from “I can’t believe you’re still hanging out with the person who snubbed me.” In cases of abuse, people are often way too quick to use “gah, mature people don’t make their friends choose!” to silence and isolate victims.

            But that’s not the situation here. From what we know of the situation, LW did not abuse Jane, ruin her financially, destroy her reputation, or commit any other grave offense that would warrant an “I am not willing to have this person even on the periphery of my life, so them or me” ultimatum.

          • twomoogles said:

            It’s also not always easy for friends to tell which is going on from the outside, either. I have unfortunately been in situations where one person says “this person emotionally abused and verbally assaulted me” and the other says “no, I finally at snapped at them after months of having my boundaries ignored” and I’m *sure* that both people absolutely are not lying about their perception of events. And all I could really go on was my own impressions of the people involved…

        • Maggie said:

          That is where, “Please don’t invite me to anything that you’ve invited X to,” comes in, as opposed to, “Please don’t invite [or cancel your invitation to] X.”

          • This 100%.

            The first is setting personal boundaries while the second is attempting to control other peoples choices.
            It definitely sucks that sometimes your setting personal boundaries will mean that you don’t get invited to things but it lets you keep your soul where being manipulative and possibly abusive towards your mutual friends and acquaintances does not.

    • DewiSri said:

      Annalee you hit the nail on the head. This strategy worked really well for me when a long-term ex’s new girlfriend tried to make me look crazy/manipulative in front of lots of mutual friends of the ex and I. In the end people recognised who was creating the drama, and it definitely wasn’t me.

    • Good Wolf said:

      Yes, there’s a difference between asking not to be invited to the same things as X, and asking people NOT to invite X to their own events. I have done the former, and my friends have kindly respected that, but that meant that sometimes I didn’t get invited to things, which was fine – it was what I specifically asked for, and it saved me and our mutual friends some serious awkwardness.

  4. Amy said:

    Being direct with people when breaking off friendships is a good thing to aspire towards, but from my own experience I can tell you that some people will act terribly no matter how you deliver the African Violet. Getting phased out sucks, but there are ways to respond to that that aren’t spreading lies and attempting to turn mutual friends against you, which it sounds like Jane’s doing.

    Backstory – I African Violetted an abusive friendship/ex-Darth last year – directly, in a Skype call – and the fallout from this has resulted in me leaving shared social spaces (thanks to him using the group chat as an excuse to send me continuous emails criticising the way that I spoke to him in-chat), and losing a friend that I’d really liked after he pressured them into ignoring my existence with what sounds like a bunch of emotional blackmail. Most recently, I discovered that he been spreading lies about me as recently as this month – telling people I know that I was horrible to him, and that he was the one who ditched me. Fun times!

    The main way that I’ve managed to deal with it so far is to remember that this guy feeds off attention; he once told me that indifference is the worst thing that a person can feel towards another person (I KNOW, RIGHT). This helps me ignore him even when I’m angry, and denies him the power to drag me down with him.

    The other way I’ve managed to deal is by confiding what happened to one or two close friends, who have been watching my back throughout this and correcting the nastier accusations on my behalf (on their own initiative). It took me a while to open up to them because I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be believed (and also being paranoid that I HAD acted badly), but they’d already observed ex-Darth’s behaviour towards me, and were indignant on my behalf long before they knew my side of the story.

    So, have heart, LW – Jane might get nasty, but keep calm, trust in Team You, use the Captain’s scripts and refuse to rise to her nonsense. If your friends have an iota of common sense, all her lies will do is make her situation worse.

    • miss_chevious said:

      I told an ex-boyfriend once “I will continue to not talk to you as long as it hurts you.” Not exactly my kindest moment, that, but I haven’t spoken to him since, and it really enabled me to let go of the pain of our relationship and subsequent breakup because talking to him, even out of anger, wasn’t an option.

  5. kemmi said:

    “She has since made me the villain in this. She accused me of lying to her and trying to slight her on social media (untrue). She is avoiding me on the street and at work, and asks mutual friends to disinvite me to events. Did I really treat Jane so badly to deserve the punishments she is doling out? Am I the villain in this?”

    No, but if you slow-fade on a person, you don’t get to use “she is avoiding me” as a sign of them doing something wrong. You’ve made it clear that you don’t want to be around her, so her doing that? That’s not a punishment. That’s the response you should expect when you make it clear that you don’t want to be around someone. You absolutely made the right decision and you are happier now -and asking mutual friends to disinvite you to things you’re already invited to is the definition of a dick move – but if you break up with someone when they don’t know the reasons, they will try to find them and the easiest thing to believe is that you weren’t really friends anyway.

    You are absolutely under no obligation to be friends with someone who makes you unhappy, but when you hurt someone? They get to be hurt. You decided to end a friendship that presumably made her happy, without giving her an explanation– of course, to her, you’re the villain in this. Slow fades can be quite cruel sometimes, since they magnify all of the usual insecurities about friendships (do they really like me? does not replying straight away mean they secretly hate me?), with a bit of self-gaslighting (no, I’m just being stupid and paranoid) before ending up with a healthy dose of validated negativity (I knew they’d get bored of me, all those times I doubted, I was right!)

    Which– the point of them is to protect the fader, rather than the fadee, so that’s the necessary price. Protecting yourself has a cost and sometimes, that’s a cost that others pay more than you. That doesn’t make you wrong to do it, and this was clearly the right decision for you, but that doesn’t mean that it hurts her less.

    • JenniferP said:

      “No, but if you slow-fade on a person, you don’t get to use “she is avoiding me” as a sign of them doing something wrong. You’ve made it clear that you don’t want to be around her, so her doing that? That’s not a punishment. That’s the response you should expect when you make it clear that you don’t want to be around someone.”

      I’m sayin’.

    • aebhel said:

      Yeah, it doesn’t sound like Jane is the healthiest person to be around, but being on the receiving end of the slow-fade is incredibly awful, and she’s allowed to be hurt. She’s allowed to not want to talk to you, or be around you at events. That’s how people respond to rejection, even people who don’t otherwise suck.

      • Agreed. If someone pulled this on me (and I recognized it as such), I’d wince every time I saw them, be it in real life or social media, and stay as far away from them as possible.

    • I love everything about this comment.

      Ihave been on the receiving end of lots of slow and fast fades in my life. I was just talking to a friend yesterday about how this experience both during HS and College has really shaped a lot of my current issues with social anxiety. So I think this point is really important.

      Choosing to end a friendship can be really hurtful. Especially if the person has no real warning, and things aren’t already rocky from one person’s perspective. The realization that someone has just decided you aren’t their friend anymore is awful. But even worse, the fact that they couldn’t be bothered to TELL you, that they just ignored your calls/texts/invitations. There is also the embarrassment of looking back at how long it took you to realize you were being ignored. And then the ongoing paranoia that whatever you did to that person who suddenly didn’t want to be your friend anymore, you will do again, BECAUSE YOU DON”T KNOW WHAT IT IS.

      While maybe this isn’t as serious as the breakup of a romantic relationship, it is still a break up. It is reasonable for a person who’s been dumped, especially in a not very straightforward way, to not want to see you, and to have really negative feelings and reactions to you right now.

      • Monica said:

        I had a friendship that ended in a slow fade (her doing mostly, not mine until I caught on) and for a long time I didn’t get what it was. Looking back, I think she tried the slow fade but then felt bad about it and changed her mine, going back and for a few times. I wouldn’t get messages to my texts sometimes or it would be days later and then she would make excuses about how she “doesn’t really check her phone that much anymore” or “I just didn’t really have anything to say in response to that.” Which I did think were legitimate reasons not to reply but …well, we aren’t friends anymore – the big signal to me was I found a lump on my breast and I texted her while I was freaking out and she said absolutely nothing about it. Then when I broke up my with my boyfriend, she wanted to hang out but by then I had realize she was a very bad friend for me and I didn’t even try anymore.

        I sincerely wish she had used her words and been upfront. Not just because she was a person who kept talking about how important communication was between people and how people had the responsibility to use their own words, but because the is she/isn’t she my friend thing went on for months and it was confusing and I didn’t know how to place her in my life, and I still cared a lot but every single instance of not knowing if she would respond HURT SO MUCH because not only did I continually feel ignored by someone who claimed she was my friend and called me her best friend only a few months prior, but I had to keep second guessing myself and my instincts. Deep down I was certain that for whatever reasons she didn’t want to be my friend anymore, but her excuses/reasons for her lack of communication with me led me to believe that I was just being silly and reading into things like ha ha! What an overthinker I am! How absurd I am! Clearly I don’t know that much about people and she knows more! etc. Her behavior led me to doubt myself in a way that did not help me in future relationships and is one of the reasons I’m in therapy right now.

        And if I saw her in person, I’m not sure what I would do. I might avoid her, as Jane is doing, because it’s not just her existence that is upsetting to me now, it’s the fact that I allowed myself to ignore my instincts and think we were friends much longer than we actually were.

        • Yup. I had a very close friend in college that really just destroyed my confidence. We were really close, but then he got a boyfriend. SO he was understandably busy, but we hung out when there was time. I called him a few times at the beginning of the semester and got no answer. I saw him at a few events with our close friends. We went out to dinner one night with everyone and I told him I missed hangin gout and we should make plans soon. I was blythely assuming he was just busy.

          And then one day I ran into someone out at brunch and he asked me why I hadn’t been at the party last night with my now apparently ex friend. A party that I realized my housemates had gone to and not invited me along to. Around that time we also all spent a day driving out to a pumpkin patch to hang out, and I spent the day being avoided ditched and ignored.

          Fortunately I had other friends to help me through that time, but it took me years to get my confidence back to any state of normalcy. And I refused to speak to him again. I did send him an e-mail asking him why, and a month later he answered with some complete bullshit. But for probably 3 months I was thinking everything was fine, and he was laughing at me and ignoring me. It was terrible.

          I know that it was really about him, and him needing to deal with his own insecurities or whatever around coming out and all this stuff. But it also hurt me very deeply. I always thought my friends from college would be the friends I had the rest of my life. But it turns out, that is harder to predict than I thought.

        • peep said:

          “Looking back, I think she tried the slow fade but then felt bad about it and changed her mine, going back and for a few times. I wouldn’t get messages to my texts sometimes or it would be days later and then she would make excuses about how she “doesn’t really check her phone that much anymore” or “I just didn’t really have anything to say in response to that.” Which I did think were legitimate reasons not to reply but …well, we aren’t friends anymore – the big signal to me was I found a lump on my breast and I texted her while I was freaking out and she said absolutely nothing about it.”

          Yes, this. My friend did the back-and-forth thing too a bunch of times. I finally got the big signal when she didn’t respond to something that was similarly important.

          “I sincerely wish she had used her words and been upfront. Not just because she was a person who kept talking about how important communication was between people and how people had the responsibility to use their own words, but because the is she/isn’t she my friend thing went on for months and it was confusing and I didn’t know how to place her in my life, and I still cared a lot but every single instance of not knowing if she would respond HURT SO MUCH because not only did I continually feel ignored by someone who claimed she was my friend and called me her best friend only a few months prior, but I had to keep second guessing myself and my instincts. Deep down I was certain that for whatever reasons she didn’t want to be my friend anymore, but her excuses/reasons for her lack of communication with me led me to believe that I was just being silly and reading into things like ha ha! What an overthinker I am! How absurd I am! Clearly I don’t know that much about people and she knows more! etc. Her behavior led me to doubt myself in a way that did not help me in future relationships and is one of the reasons I’m in therapy right now.”

          You’ve described my feelings so well here. The entire experience has been so painful and feels like so much gaslighting. I don’t believe she intended to be mean — I just think she wanted to avoid feeling awkward. So she took the coward’s way out and figured I would eventually get the hint. This all happened during an otherwise very vulnerable period in my life and it hit so hard. I find myself second-guessing interactions with people now, never sure how to interpret whether friendly overtures from others are genuine or merely acts of politeness. So much self doubt. I find myself withdrawing from social contact and preferring my own company these days, as I’m just not up for going through this again.

          • Anon For A Day said:

            Peep, Manders has said everything I was thinking. I wish I could express how strongly I feel about that.

            I didn’t sign up to be extra super close. I didn’t offer best friend qualities or behavior. It’s not a relationship I ever contributed to establishing. And now I am supposed to use my words to explain I am not sure what? Why I am doing something consistent with the arc of a friendly acquaintance to possible friendship that doesn’t work out as a possible friendship?

            It feels like being asked to have a breakup discussion with someone I’ve been on three dates with. We’re not breaking up. I am saying I don’t want to go on a fourth date with that person.

            If someone who believes in using their words isn’t, and they usually do, there’s probably a reason for it.

      • aebhel said:

        I really wish we treated friend breakups as seriously as we treat romantic breakups. In my experience, it’s often just as upsetting, and there’s really not a good social script for doing it (or dealing with it).

        • ToxicNudibranch said:

          Right?! African Violets should be a thing.

        • BiancaSnoozes said:

          I agree, ending friendships is so COMPLICATED. Because unlike romantic relationships, which for most people is an exclusive relationship, you can theoretically have an infinite number of friendships, and therefore the extension of that is that in order to end a friendship, there has to be a REASON.

          I’ve dropped friends for absolutely no reason other than I simply did not like being around them anymore. This is an OK reason to end a romantic relationship, because there are lots of euphemisms for this. “I don’t see myself spending the rest of my life with you,” or “I’m not happy in this relationship, so I’m ending it.” The socially acceptable ways of ending romantic relationships are not socially acceptable for ending friendships.

          I’ve pulled the fade on several people, and I’ve had it pulled on me. It’s no fun on either end, but until we start an African Violet tradition throughout our culture, people will continue to use this method to end friendships that were not extinguished by a specific conflict.

          • peep said:

            “I’ve dropped friends for absolutely no reason other than I simply did not like being around them anymore.”

            I can see doing this for casual friendships (what I would call acquaintances). There is little invested there, so a big heart-to-heart may not be the way to go.

            However, I cannot see pulling a fade on a friend whom I’ve known for years and been an intimate part of their life and family. I’m sorry, but people in whom I’ve had a great deal invested deserve better than that.

          • BiancaSnoozes said:

            Peep, I can’t directly reply. I’m curious, though–what do you think they DO deserve? What should one do when one wants to end a friendship because the friendship just feels bad?

            Do you think it is better to sit the person down and tell them straight up that you are ending the friendship because you aren’t enjoying their company anymore?

            Or are we obligated to keep all of our friends forever just because they haven’t done anything to deserve being broken up with?

          • Manders said:

            @peep I admit that I’ve faded on people who *thought* we were close friends and were very hurt by it, usually because they came on way, way too strong too fast and they’d made a habit of blowing up at people who tried to gently point out their own needs. It’s a crappy thing to do to someone you’re genuinely close to, but sometimes a necessary action to protect yourself from people who are demanding closeness and refusing to take no for an answer.

            The way LW describes Jane reminded me of that toxic cycle: the relationships went from friendly acquaintance –> constant one-sided vent fests, until I felt like I could be replaced by a cardboard cutout without my friend noticing. I’ve spent the last year untangling myself from several toxic friendships like this, and I know I’ve hurt people doing it, but I was buckling under the weight of the status quo.

          • sophylou said:

            A few years ago I faded on a very old friend from college. We had taken very different life paths and I felt more and more like we just didn’t have anything in common. She never had time for me, she didn’t listen to me (I’m a talker, and she’d call and say “I’ve got five minutes, tell me everything” and after years of that I finally started thinking, “Have you MET me? When have I ever been able to do that?”). The thing was, she was so disconnected from me in so many ways that even though I felt like I was doing a fade, in a way it wasn’t a fade, quite, because things had already so faded — I just didn’t respond when she’d make that “you’ve got five minutes” call.

            I felt — feel, sometimes, still — bad about it, but it also felt like a real thing that we had nothing in common and like she was actively disconnected from me and from other aspects of her life. After I disengaged more, I realized also that our friendship was rooted in what had been a very bad time for me, and that while I’d grown away from who I’d been in college (I was very withdrawn and shy, and I spent most of college being physically, sexually, and mentally abused by a boyfriend, without anyone knowing), it seemed like she hadn’t. College was what we had in common, and I realized that I was feeling kept in that bad mental space by trying to stay in a friendship with her…. like I was always going to be “the damaged one” to her.

            That said, I feel bad that I didn’t try to talk with her about it, but at the time I had the feeling that she wasn’t going to be able to hear my concerns, and it’d just be more evidence of my damagedness. I do wish there were better ways of ending friendships, because I don’t doubt that I hurt her.

          • peep said:

            @BiancaSnoozes, I think it really depends on the nature of the friendship and whether I will need to have a harmonious relationship with that person in the future.

            Most of my extended social circles revolve around shared interest communities. With the exception of newcomers, most of the people involved have been around for decades, have watched each other’s kids grow up, etc. If a friendship dissolves in the community, one still needs to be able to get along with that person on a superficial level, as they are not going away anytime soon. Besides, ignoring people in close quarters can take a lot of work.

            If the person was a casual friend (what I would call an acquaintance), chances are that our friendship would be mostly limited to the setting in which we shared a common interest. The friendship has no further depth than that, so there really is no reason to sit the person down for a heart-to-heart. I would just continue to be friendly, yet engage less over time. And I wouldn’t make myself available for any one-on-one conversations that weren’t directly related to our shared interest. The fade is so polite and so slow, the other person might think it was their idea.

            OTOH, if the friendship is one in which both of us have invested a great deal in each other over time, shared very personal confidences, etc., I really think the person being faded out deserves my honesty in a direct, yet compassionate way. IOW, I would approach the situation as if I was breaking up with a SO, allowing them the time they need to process (within limits, of course). The only exception would be if the person is given to histrionics and/or verbal abuse.

            No, we are no obligated to keep all of our friends forever. But if they meant anything to us at one time, I think we owe it to them to be courageous and honest, given the traumatizing effect that not allowing any form of closure can have for that person. We’ve seen numerous comments here about the pain that folks have experienced when they were dumped with no explanation, and it can have long term consequences. The effort and inconvenience of being honest with them pales in comparison to the damage caused by shutting them out of our lives with no explanation. Ending a friendship is traumatizing enough. I see no reason to make it more so by leaving them to wonder what the hell they did to deserve being placed in a big hefty bag on the curb.

          • BiancaSnoozes said:

            I appreciate the perspective, but personally if someone were ending a friendship with ME, I’d prefer a fade rather than them sitting down with me and telling me outright that they no longer enjoyed my company and would be ending the friendship. Both are painful, but at least with the fade, I can make up my own story. They were too busy for me. They didn’t like my new perfume. They are really into their boyfriend or another group of friends. Whatever.

            I’ve had it done both ways to me, and having someone sit down and say “I don’t want to be friends with you anymore because of the core of who you are. Your presence makes my life less enjoyable and I just dread the time that I am forced to spend with you,” hurts way more than a gradual fade. IME, at least.

          • jaynn said:

            Bianca that really just highlights how my YMMV here. I think the key is just to remember that while an African violet will most likely hurt the recipient no matter how many bows you dress it up in, a fade is not guaranteed to spare their feelings and may play into insecurities the person already possesses. So don’t assume that a fade won’t hurt once the person notices.

          • This is to peep because of nesting.

            Peep, people have told me the friendship isn’t working and I just about died.

            I’d really rather they fade away

      • peep said:

        “Choosing to end a friendship can be really hurtful. Especially if the person has no real warning, and things aren’t already rocky from one person’s perspective. The realization that someone has just decided you aren’t their friend anymore is awful. But even worse, the fact that they couldn’t be bothered to TELL you, that they just ignored your calls/texts/invitations. There is also the embarrassment of looking back at how long it took you to realize you were being ignored. And then the ongoing paranoia that whatever you did to that person who suddenly didn’t want to be your friend anymore, you will do again, BECAUSE YOU DON”T KNOW WHAT IT IS.”

        OMG, yes. When it happened to me recently, it really shook my confidence and exacerbated my social anxiety and trust in my own perceptions. This friend knows that I have a pragmatics impairment with nonverbal communication, and how painful it is for me to always feel so misunderstood because my nonverbals are inconsistent with my emotions and what I say.

        I really miss my friend and have no idea what I’ve done to offend her. I tried to ask on multiple occasions but I can’t get a straight answer. She tells me that everything is fine, yet her behavior over time says something completely different.

      • jaynn said:

        So much this on the second guessing and worrying about messing up future relationships the same way. I’ve been the recipient of plenty of fades and a couple African violets (sometimes mean ones) and while the latter hurt more at the time long run they’re a cleaner break–I can write the person off as not worth my time/attention. It’s the fades I still dwell on, because I have no idea years later WTF really went on and I wonder what the deal was, partly hoping to apply learned lessons going forward…but I don’t know enough to apply any lessons.

        • I got a fade from a former best friend, and almost a decade later, I still have moments when I think that maybe I made it up, it’s my fault, that I should have tried one more time to reach her, that I should try again now.

    • Aija-Marjatta said:

      This is a great comment. The slow fade/ghosting thing is a choice you make for your own self-preservation (and I’d hope nobody makes that choice lightly), but it is important to remember that in choosing to do that, you are choosing to hurt someone. It’s an inevitable effect of the process. And it’s not wrong to do it, but it is the consequence of the choice you make to go through with it, and you have to be able to live with it.

      • The last time I did a fade (not sure if it was quick or slow), was because I was getting a very bad feeling about the party in question and needed to protect myself.

        I can live with it, but at the same time, I have been on the other side of fades, so I knew exactly how much damage I was doling out, and it was not easy to deal with for a while.

      • Jess said:

        This has been something I’ve learned as well, over time. I don’t regret either of the slow fades I’ve done, in the sense that I made the best decision I could at the time, but my goal since that time has been to not let things get to that point. If I sense a pattern emerging with a new friend or acquaintance, I do my best to change that pattern right then, without hurting anyone, before things get to the point where I have such anger and resentment towards someone that I need to get out like that.

        • Manders said:

          Yes, I’ve faded in the past and I’m definitely working on getting to the point where I won’t need to do it in the future. Breaking out of those patterns requires relearning a whole lot of things I was specifically taught not to do, like putting my own needs first and using my words even when it makes someone else sad or uncomfortable.

          I took to the Friends of Captain Awkward forums a little while ago and got some good advice, and someone in another forum pointed out an unconscious behavior of mine that was perpetuating those toxic patterns. It sucked to learn those things about myself, but it will also help me avoid getting into situations where fading is the best option.

          • Anon For A Day said:

            A-Men.

    • LW, kemmi is sharing some good perspective here. Be firm in your resolve that Jane and you are not meant to be friends. But also recognize that even friendship break ups and slow fades work like romantic break ups and slow fades. There is the issue of time. You came to a realization sooner than Jane did that your friendship would not last. By slow-fading, Jane really has no direct understanding of the reasons why–and it’s also very likely that explaining them to her would still not have changed anything. But Jane is going to need to time to eventually get on the page that you are, the one where you are no longer friends but are perhaps friendly to one another. In the meantime, Jane may act poorly, and just try to do your best to wait her out. Enlist what friends you can to vent to, and just hang in there.

    • peep said:

      “You decided to end a friendship that presumably made her happy, without giving her an explanation– of course, to her, you’re the villain in this. Slow fades can be quite cruel sometimes, since they magnify all of the usual insecurities about friendships (do they really like me? does not replying straight away mean they secretly hate me?), with a bit of self-gaslighting (no, I’m just being stupid and paranoid) before ending up with a healthy dose of validated negativity (I knew they’d get bored of me, all those times I doubted, I was right!)

      Which– the point of them is to protect the fader, rather than the fadee, so that’s the necessary price. Protecting yourself has a cost and sometimes, that’s a cost that others pay more than you.”

      This. Having been on the receiving end of a protracted fade from a woman whom I believed was a close friend, I can tell you that it hurts. To this day, I have no idea what I did. My friend and I never had harsh words. I did notice that reciprocity of get-togethers had changed, but I attributed it to my friend’s increasing health problems. I politely asked several times if there was anything we needed to talk about, and her response was that she was “just busy” and didn’t have much time for a social life. Yet she didn’t seem to be too busy to make time for others. The phone calls stopped, and my occasional emails to share articles of mutual interest went unacknowledged. All doubt was removed when she did not send her usual birthday greetings this year.

      Unless the fadee has a history of being dramatic or abusive in the face of criticism, I really believe that pulling a fade on a (once valued) friend is nothing short of cruel for all the reasons you mention. The excuse often given is that it’s ‘good manners’ to spare the fadee’s feelings. But it doesn’t. It leaves the person in a painful limbo, wondering what they did to deserve the rejection. And it allows them no opportunity to clear the air or clarify what may have simply been a misunderstanding.

      All the fade does is benefit the person choosing to end the friendship. They get to avoid any awkward moments associated with being honest with their former friend. IMO, it’s a cowardly way to treat someone and is very hurtful. I cannot imagine doing that to anyone whom I once valued in my life.

      • Exit Flagger said:

        +1000. If you were really close with someone, and there isn’t any specific precipitating event, I do believe you owe them some kind of explanation. There is nothing worse than feeling like you hurt your friend’s feelings in such a way so terrible that they can’t even bring themselves to tell you what you did wrong. It makes you doubt any future friendships too, in case you make the same mistake again.

    • Exit Flagger said:

      ***Slow fades can be quite cruel sometimes, since they magnify all of the usual insecurities about friendships (do they really like me? does not replying straight away mean they secretly hate me?), with a bit of self-gaslighting (no, I’m just being stupid and paranoid) before ending up with a healthy dose of validated negativity (I knew they’d get bored of me, all those times I doubted, I was right!)***

      This oh, so much. I honestly believe it is much crueler than just ripping the band-aid off. I mean, you gotta do what you gotta do, but I wish slow faders would take a little bit of time to see how it would feel if someone suddenly stopped replying to them, stopped hanging out with them at events, etc. Especially since most people assume there’s a Serious Reason when someone cuts you out of their life and are thus more likely to believe the fader’s version of events over the fadee. The fader isn’t under any obligation to make an announcement like “hey, I don’t like this person anymore, but they’re cool and not an abuser,” but it can be something that can really hurt the fadee’s mutual friendships with the fader.

      • peep said:

        “The fader isn’t under any obligation to make an announcement like “hey, I don’t like this person anymore, but they’re cool and not an abuser,” but it can be something that can really hurt the fadee’s mutual friendships with the fader.”

        It just occurred to me that this could be a real issue in our social circle. The friend who pulled a fade on me is much better known than I am, and therefore has more credibility. While they are not inclined to gossip much, if someone does mention not having seen me around with them lately, I don’t know how discreet they will be.

        Meanwhile, I can’t say anything if asked. Other than that I haven’t seen them around in awhile and really miss their company.

        • Exit Flagger said:

          Yeah, I ran into this with my slow fader. I haven’t seen many of our mutual friends in awhile and I don’t know if there’s gossip or if we were only friends because of the fader, who is ridiculously well-connected. I have friends who don’t know the fader at all and I’ve been spending my time with them instead, but it really hurts to lose the mutual friends especially when I know I didn’t do anything wrong. (Or did I? I don’t know! I may never know.)

      • I like the slow fade (and sometimes I like the quick fade) because if I need to get out of a friendship, it’s almost always because the person is not awesome, and the fade is the safest method of disengaging. A while back I needed to get someone out of my life because they were seriously harshing my mellow, and also, I knew from experience, were not going to react well to “Hey, sorry, this just isn’t working for me anymore”. So I faded so hard I was designer denim. I’m not under obligation to provide a reason for not wanting to be friends with someone.

        • Exit Flagger said:

          “Harshing my mellow”? Really??

          Well, no, most people aren’t going to react well to “this isn’t working for me.” They’re happy in the friendship, things are changing, most people don’t like change. But unless you think the person might stab you or something, I think telling them that (along with “it’s not you, it’s me”) is far kinder than letting them linger on forever. It’s not about giving a reason, it’s about giving closure. If I know someone doesn’t really want to hang with me anymore, then even just a simple “not feeling it” allows me to mentally cross them off my list of buddies, instead of trying to make overtures that will never be reciprocated. Because there is nothing more pathetic than trying to continue to be friends with someone who doesn’t want to be friends with you. Not everyone can tell when a deliberate fade is happening.

          Basically I think that the break-up of a friendship shouldn’t be dissimilar to the break-up of a romantic relationship. You don’t have to give a concrete reason for breaking up one of those either, but you wouldn’t just fade.

          • JenniferP said:

            I also think people need to pay attention to reciprocity. The times I’ve had to end friendships, either via fading or a conversation, it’s usually a new relationship the person has made assumptions about how close we are that don’t match my feelings or my *actions.* They tell me intensely personal things; I tell them none and sometimes say “I’m sorry you’re dealing with that but that’s a more intense conversation than I bargained for today. Can we change the subject?.” They text me 4x/week and constantly want to make plans and see me one-on-one; I initiate plans once a month generally by inviting them to bigger social events and say stuff like “I’m not much of a texter” and I stop texting back at all if they don’t stop. I see them as an acquaintance/sometimes friend, they see me as a new close friend. It feels unbalanced from the start, and it feels like they don’t pay attention to reciprocity, so by the time we get to the crisis point there has already been plenty of communication, just not all of it explicit.

            You mention that breaking up a friendship has similarities with breaking up a romantic relationship, and I agree in one sense… With that person you went on three dates with and you don’t want to go out with again, you don’t schedule more dates. But with that neat person you’ve hung out with a few times and generally like at a “social media + seeing them at events” way, do you have to have a big talk about how your “friendship” isn’t working, or are 10 “thanks for thinking of me but no” without making any invitations of your own in a row enough? The anxiety happens on both sides – “Is she avoiding me? Did I do something wrong?” vs. “If I make my communication of ‘thank you, but no!’ more explicit, are they going to really hear me?”

            I think I owe a friend of long-standing a real conversation when there is a shift in the relationship, but I’m not so sure about the “I see you as a sometimes-friend and you see me as an always-friend, is there a middle ground here where we can still hang sometimes?” conversation with a newer acquaintance because the person that would prompt me to want to have that conversation has already ignored reciprocity and signals for so long by the time it would come up. Does that make sense? And in the LW’s case, they don’t even like “Jane” and possibly never liked her – the thing was totally one-sided with over-sharing. How do you “break up” gently and respectfully with a situation like that?

            Sometimes people are just mismatched, rejection always sucks no matter what form it comes in, and I don’t think there is one rule for navigating mismatches in expectations.

          • I could go into exactly what this person was doing, but it’s a long and tedious story and pretty grotty and I chose to say something lighthearted instead of getting into the gory details. So fucking excuse me for not writing a novel about the shitty things that made me realize it had stopped being a friendship several years previous.

  6. Louloula said:

    So timely. I have a newish friend (of about a year) who I feel regularly kicks the wind out of my sails through the tiniest of comments. It’s such a strange dynamic and very difficult for me to put my finger on what exactly she does that annoys me so much. I find myself hesitating to return her phone calls/emails and when I do re-engage, she she will inevitably find some bizarre way of undermining me or making me feel like I did something wrong. Anyway – time to re-read up on the African Violet threads I think. To the LW, I wish I had more to add – just know that others out there are navigating these weird waters with you as well.

    • Polychrome said:

      I have an old, old, friend who is a jedi master at this. She is insightful, kind, funny, wonderful –but boy can she use those skills for evil. You’ll be sailing along having a nice conversation and she’ll get in a stiletto between jokes and you are like ha ha ha oh wow I am bleeding profusely wut.

      We are still friends — I know it totally has to do with her own insecurities, and actually it’s weird cause I’ll think oh she seems really happy and she’ll suddenly do it and I’ll think oh probably not. But honestly? Probably a lot of the reason the friendship survives is because it is super long distance, and so the balance between “great funny lovely” doesn’t come with too many fleshwounds. But if she lived around the block I think I’d have to end it to avoid massive blood loss. I don’t know if I read it here, but a statement that sticks with me is that “if you have to like everything about your friends, you won’t have any friends” and different kinds of friendships work at different ranges.

    • Alexia said:

      I’m currently doing a fade on someone who is *exactly* like this. When I met this frenemy, she told me that a person in one of her other groups was good friends with her for 2 years and then stopped talking to her entirely. Fast-forward 12 months later, and I think I know why that other person did a fade on our mutual “friend”.

      This girl is really sarcastic and goes out of her way to verbally stab me in the front with catty, sarcastic comments at least once every time I see her. She has this strong desire to be the alpha of any group. She’s also insecure and constantly feels the need to put down others so she can keep believing she’s the alpha. (One of our mutual friends is actually the alpha of this group, and I have zero problems with the actual alpha girl.) So essentially, this girl will move in a group and target the quietest person as “fair play” for her nasty comments because of her own insecurities.

      I’m introverted enough that I do need to recuperate after social events. It’s tough enough organizing my time and money and energy to head out there and have a good time. The last thing I need is to be on edge the entire time I’m there, just waiting for this frenemy to attack me.

      I even confronted her about this behaviour of hers and she said “I only say these comments to those who can take it”. Self-justification, much? That’s when I decided to drop her. I’m not interested in playing the role of someone’s punching bag when I’m trying to socialize. I’ll still go to the same events she does, but I always make sure that it’s in a big enough group that I can discreetly avoid extended conversations with her.

      tl;dr – Life’s too short to hang out with underminers.

      • “I only say these comments to those who can take it” = If you don’t like it, you clearly can’t take it so there is something with YOU, not me.

        I have a few friends who I can be jokingly harsh with, but we’ve known each other for almost 10 years, been through a lot together, and there is a ton of trust built up over time. And it’s certainly not our default state! We just enjoy the occasional wry, acerbic comment or remark at times. The kind that makes you go ‘ooooo that’s a good one, you clever girl!’ not one that makes you feel bad about yourself.

        It sounds like this girl is secretly desperate to be close enough to someone where they have that kind of trusting/joking relationship like she’s probably seen on TV or in movies (where it’s catty but loving and always there for each other, etc), and she doesn’t have it, so it’s just coming out as mean and cruel instead because what’s really going on is that she’s very insecure about where she stands with people, and thus bitter.

      • When you meet someone who tells you about all the shitty things that everyone they’ve ever known has done to them that required the cut direct, it’s best to interrogate those circumstances, because you are likely going to find that those “shitty things” were people either establishing firm boundaries at the start or belatedly enforcing healthy boundaries.

        • bean said:

          Oh so wise. I’ve taken on a new friend’s complaints about everyone else with a grain of salt, just trying to be a supportive, good listener, but that ended up with them concluding that I am not like everyone else, the one in a million, the last hope for humanity, their only friend, the only one who understands and shares courteous values.

          We got along great as long as I always listened and deferred. This was no skin off my nose for a long time because I knew they’d gone through a rough patch and expected them to bounce back after some venting.

          But the day came when I needed to set a boundary and clearly, politely, with long, friendly, supportive conversation did so. They repeatedly, intentionally walked all over my really necessary boundary and became more demanding. One day, I said I considered a certain flagrant boundary breach to be disrespectful. We talked some, with lots of patient explaining from me. Nevertheless, that very day they cut off the friendship.

          I suddenly understood a lot more about the troubles they had had with other people and I wished I had looked into them a little more back when, rather than taking on the role of never-critical encourager! By not questioning in the beginning, I got myself in deeper than I needed to, but it also let them set me on a pedestal where I did not belong. They were not prepared for me to express needs for boundaries/reciprocity. When I did, I was suddenly and dramatically “just like all the others” and had gone over to the dark side in their mind.

          Very sad!

          • As with so many things of this nature, I learnt this one the hard way (see my above comment about pulling a slow fade on someone I’d been friends with for a very long time). This person has a million stories of all the people who have turned out to be terrible people who pretended to be their friend until they suddenly and dramatically turned into their enemy, blah blah, and when I actually started talking to some of these people and they were like “Yeah, they started demanding that I X and I was like, uh, what? So after that, obviously, I started backing off the friendship as much as I could, because really, like, who does that?” Always a different value for X, but always something that involved this person demanding that other people cater to their whims in unreasonable ways.

            I’m sure I’ve joined the long list of people who dramatically betrayed this person, but I’m actually okay with that. The people who don’t understand don’t matter and the people who matter understand.

    • I’m currently doing a fade on someone who is *exactly* like this. When I met this frenemy, she told me that a person in one of her other groups was good friends with her for 2 years and then stopped talking to her entirely. Fast-forward 12 months later, and I think I know why that other person did a fade on our mutual “friend”.

      This girl is really sarcastic and goes out of her way to verbally stab me in the front with catty, sarcastic comments at least once every time I see her. She has this strong desire to be the alpha of any group. She’s also insecure and constantly feels the need to put down others so she can keep believing she’s the alpha. (One of our mutual friends is actually the alpha of this group, and I have zero problems with the actual alpha girl.) So essentially, this girl will move in a group and target the quietest person as “fair play” for her nasty comments because of her own insecurities.

      I’m introverted enough that I do need to recuperate after social events. It’s tough enough organizing my time and money and energy to head out there and have a good time. The last thing I need is to be on edge the entire time I’m there, just waiting for this frenemy to attack me.

      I even confronted her about this behaviour of hers and she said “I only say these comments to those who can take it”. Self-justification, much? That’s when I decided to drop her. People like that don’t change even if you point it out. They have too much vested interest in pushing people under the water line to understand respect.

      I’m not interested in playing the role of someone’s punching bag when I’m trying to socialize. I’ll still go to the same events she does, but I always make sure that it’s in a big enough group that I can discreetly avoid extended conversations with her.

      tl;dr – Life’s too short to hang out with underminers.

  7. Anonymous said:

    Relevant, I think, post. Maybe? Description of some animal cruelty, so pass by if you need. Written in a bit of panic, so please be kind.

    Background: So, the person I’m “option 2″ing on is a very close friend who’s been pretty toxic to talk to/be around recently (last six months). She uses me as a venting resource (I’m in a profession that encourages care for the hurting and I have lax boundaries about trying to help and comfort friends) about everything going on in her life, specifically around her husband and his antics, some of which are illegal, all of which are “do not do this when you’re a pastor, it’s hurting your congregation! (my opinion)” This has been going on for 3 years, but I’ve grown aware that I’m personally upset with her in the last six months, to clarify.

    Part of it stems from her getting married to this man and complaining about him to be before and during the marriage and refusing to leave him despite his seriously dangerous behavior, some of which has reached out to me in this 6 month period. A few weeks ago, her large dog was in an accident and she and her family decided to spend money on a temporary pain-relief procedure that would neither save the dog nor provide relief outside of those few hours. I was asked to come stay with Friend’s daughter while Friend was at work, because in case the dog died, Friend did not want her daughter to be alone. I’ve worked in medical fields where the human fix for this problem is a permanent one, and I both assumed and misunderstood that the fix was not permanent when she asked me to stay at her house for a few hours and thought the sedation was constant. The dog was drowning in itself and could not breathe when I arrived and was howling and terrified trying to catch its breath and, even though I offered to take the dog/pay for the euthanasia that the dog desperately needed (psychological trauma of being basically waterboarded for 18 hours before it died), Friend refused and restated that this was the decision her family had made and I needed to respect it, as she wanted her dog to die at home surrounded by family (in reality, surrounded by me, who had no clue what she was getting into). I was tempted to steal the dog and take her to the vet myself (they couldn’t do anything, legally knowing it was someone else’s dog who hadn’t given me permission (small town, only vet)) and actually called a vet friend of mine in another state to see if there was a way I could end this dog’s suffering myself. It was a horrible morning, but I held the dog and sang to it and prayed and it finally passed.

    I left as soon as Friend got home and spent the time in the car both in shock and freaking out about what I’d seen (that would later lead into a few anxiety attackish spells). I got home to a text from Friend complaining about her husband again and I told her the morning had really done something to me and that I needed time to process what was going on. She yelled that I wasn’t being supportive to her family by asking her to consider my feelings when her dog had just died and she had to deal with Daughter’s grief, which was… fairish and not fairish at the same time.

    Question: So, after a day of truly WTF just happened processing, I decided I was done. I’ve cut her ties on everything social media/phone related (outside of blocking). This is simply incredible to me, that someone would do this. I still have trouble understanding it. It shows a darkness that is so so so disturbing and that I don’t want in my life. She has responded to my need for time with repeated texts and phone calls, which is upsetting. I’ve blocked her number, but somehow her texts get through. We are in smallish professional community where everyone seems to know everything that’s going on with everyone else and our lack of communication has been noted and commented on by people who are good friends to both of us. How do I handle this? I haven’t formulated a good response when someone asks why we’re not doing things with each other and still feel “deer-in-the-headlights” when I think about it. I feel that ghosting is a good thing (for me), but I still feel a lingering past respect for Friend and don’t want to mess anything up for her or cause her undue pain by being honest about everything. Can I simply say “We do not associate anymore, sometimes things just work out that way?”

    Even thinking about what’s happened makes my heart race and my blood pressure skyrocket and I feel both guilty and assertive. Argh!

    • piny1 said:

      Yes. “We’re not in touch.” If anyone doesn’t take the massive hint, just say, “Sometimes it just doesn’t work out.” Then just stare at them until they get really uncomfortable. You don’t have to answer these questions, and there is zero (0) premium in rehearsing this with anyone.

    • miss_chevious said:

      Jesus Christ. That is horrible, and I am so sorry you (and that poor dog) had to endure that. I think your response is perfect, and if people pry you can simply shake your head and refuse with something like “I’m sorry. but I can’t talk about it.” Your former friend behaved horridly and left you in a situation where you had to watch an animal suffer needlessly, and she needs to be out of your life. A dispassionate response is the fastest way.

    • Drew said:

      What your ex-Friend did to you (to say nothing of the dog) is absolutely horrible. I am so very sorry she did that to you. Jedi hugs if you would like them.

      I can’t imagine the callousness of someone who is so unwilling to deal with their pet’s suffering that they not only refuse to take the pet to the vet but summon a friend to sit with it while they go off to work as though nothing were wrong. Or, I should say, I thought I couldn’t, but this letter has proved me wrong. I hope you can find someone on Team You (as opposed to Team You-And-Friend-And-The-Whole-Merry-Band) you can talk to about this.

      In your shoes, what I would tell common acquaintances is just, “Friend and I had a serious disagreement and we’re taking a break.” If they ask about what, just say “It’s very personal and I’d rather not discuss it.”

  8. Vorvayne said:

    Dear LW, I think you did your very best here, and there’s no reason to beat yourself up. Some feelings were hurt, both yours and Jane’s, but sometimes that’s not really avoidable. Maybe, if you have to disengage a friendship again, you can try a different way.

    In the meantime, you can take a deep breath and try to treat everyone well going forward. Jane, by allowing her to avoid you since she’s probably hurting right now. Mutual friends, by being polite about Jane in their hearing, and offering them a truthful-but-neutral script like the one Cap has given here. Yourself, by not engaging with any drama, removing Jane from your social media feeds, and finding something great to do with your time with friends who are maybe not mutual friends. Do everyone the kindness of letting it go.

  9. bean said:

    I had a dear friend once who seemed to be fading. After awhile of backing off, I wrote a note saying that she need not feel any obligation, and I understood things get busy (we were both married with kids), but that if I had caused any offense, I’d love the opportunity to know and apologize. She very sweetly wrote back that she was caught up in difficult family things and probably would be for some time. In another year or two we got back to very regular communication and remained dear friends.

    I’ve had friends who I wish would do that, too. Someone, for instance, who did really hurt me and I thought it unwise to hash out the situation with them. I wanted to keep the friendship but create a little more distance and asked for a pretty minor boundary shift. They wouldn’t accept it, which made me draw back more, and they never asked about anything, just concluded I hated them, unbeknownst to me, which made them act even weirder, and the whole thing was soon lost.

    I’ve had someone just fade fairly rudely by responding to an invitation to dinner with “I’ll check the calendar and let you know” then never replying. After a couple things like that, I took the hints and let those friends go. People change, things happen, alliances shift…a fade was probably preferable for all to any explanations. I don’t think it is always a hurtful or wrong option.

  10. LW, lately I tried option one on an acquaintance who’d been overstepping boundaries left and right and who wasn’t hearing me when I was forthright about my limitations in the friendship. It didn’t work. She continued to ignore my needs, my illness, dump her problems on me, and demand my attention constantly.

    So then I option two’d her and went full-on ignore. She, however, feels like I skipped option one entirely, and is not at all shy about telling mutuals how I abandoned her in her time of need without any explanation. It hurts, because I DID tell her the problems, I DID say that I would like to build friendship slower (she was skipping intimacy levels like she was playing hopscotch). I did care about her, but I resented the pushing, and that built walls fast.

    However, I feel like I did the right thing (for me). Yeah, I have to occasionally tell a mutual friend that what they’ve repeated to me is untrue, calmly and without any bitterness in my voice. Yeah, I sometimes see her at parties and she’ll return my politeness to my face and then boohoo to someone behind my back that I’m two-faced. It hurts and it sucks, but at least I’m free of her manipulation and boundary stomping.

    You really have to think about what would be best for you, and accept the consequences. The Captain is right about those Mights and Maybes, but explaining/apologizing (maybe?) also might make you feel better. But the detachment, whether it comes with or without an explanation… it’s a relief.

  11. Angiportus said:

    I once had 2 friends do the slow fade. One was due to mental illness (depression) and the other I’m still wondering about. Ze was a teacher who I sometimes called and occasionally visited; we seemed pretty close for some 15 or so years. But then ze started being busy all the time, or so it seemed. Looking back, I think some of it might have been my fault–I did some venting about how my career situation was going downhill despite my best efforts and I couldn’t find any help with it. (I had a therapist but xe was turning out to be utterly useless.) I think that friend may have thought I was contagious. Despite I made an effort to ask about zir life and listen, and mention my few triumphs. I assured zir ze wouldn’t catch whatever I had but that wasn’t enough. One day after I thought ze said yes ze would recommend me to employers, I left a message at zir place asking to confirm this and when I did get back in touch with zir, ze got all up on my case about me sounding like a stalker, which I didn’t intend to and can’t see how I could have; ze really misheard it, and must have known after all those years that I am not dumb enough to stalk people. I said you were probably stressed out with the beginning of the semester and misheard me, but ze denied any such stress. Then ze said let’s let bygones be bygones, but I didn’t have a good feeling about that; what other crazy things might ze come up with down the road? Ze then offered to return a gift I had made, so I came to the school and got it and we talked briefly about how the lab had been remodeled and that was that.
    I’m still kicking myself for not figuring out who to talk to (namely the bosses) about my work situation, (which is a whole nother story — I needed help with talking with said bosses and got only nonsense), instead of ever spending more than 30 seconds complaining to that friend, but damn it, it wasn’t ALL my fault. If ze could have said “I like talking with you once in a while but my work and family life make it impossible for this to happen as often as it used to, and there might be someone here who can point you to counselors specializing in occupational issues,” that would have been okay. But I feel what ze did was creepy and bogus. It felt amiss for quite a while before the final rift, and of course I wondered why I hadn’t figured it out sooner. I have some new friends now, our discussions are nicely balanced and I don’t get any weird vibes from them.
    I must say that this site is real helpful for me in several ways. I hope that LW and others can find solutions–and better friends.

  12. Minister of Smartassery said:

    To add to the Captain’s very wise advice that you don’t owe friendship to people who don’t make you feel good, you OWE IT TO YOURSELF to end friendships with people who make you feel bad. Whether they mean to or not, when someone’s friendship causes problems for you (i.e. using you as an emotional dumping ground.) and then she reacts to distance with accusations of lying and demands that you be blackballed from your social group, it’s pretty clear this person does not have your best interests at heart.

    When she sees you in person and reacts dramatically, just blank her. Stare at her as if you don’t understand what she’s saying or why and then move along with your business. Talk to your close friends about what is happening to you, so they can at least hear your side of things. And if other people ban you from social events to appease this person, feel free to slow-fade them as well. Life is

  13. AndTheRest said:

    I think friendships are the most difficult relationships to navigate — family and work relationships have involuntary aspects to them, and there a many different “models” of romantic relationships from which to start working with. But friendships come in so many different flavors, and apart from personality differences of the people involved, people have an incredibly wide range of expectations and resources available to put into friendship.

    I don’t like the fade, either fast or slow, having been on the receiving end many times. Yet when it comes to ending friendships, it sometimes is the best option (or only option left). In the LW’s case, telling Jane “you’re using me as an emotional dumping ground” may not have had good results — given Jane’s drama-tinged behavior on the fade, it probably would have been much worse.

    I haven’t been a perfect friend by any means ( I really suck at sending birthday and holiday greetings in a timely manner, assuming I even remember the date), but I really try to be supportive and positive of my friends and the endeavors, and an understanding listener when they need to vent. Yet I’ve been faded on — or kept at a distance from people I’ve tried being friends with — and looking back on some rather subtle instances, I’ve concluded the following:
    1) Some people are just more self-centered than others, and if you don’t feed their ego when they want, they move on — though they may come around again when they need another ego boost.
    2) Some people just have more to deal with (mental or physical health issues, family and/or work problems), or may have to suddenly deal with these things and their lives, and just can’t invest in a particular friendship.
    3) Despite liking a person and wanting some level of friendship with them, things like marital status, whether or not you have children, socioeconomic status, politics, religion, age — essentially, how similar two people are depending on where they are in their lives — have a HUGE impact on forming and maintaining friendships.
    4) Some people are just shallow, and you’re probably wearing the wrong color socks or whatever for their taste. (Screw ’em.)

    It took me a long time to figure out that #3 is a real thing, and despite (or because of) connecting with people of many different backgrounds and places in their lives, it’s been a hard pill to swallow. It’s why those friends from college don’t stay your friends forever. I remember the commencement speaker at my university graduation said “These are the friends you’ll have forever” — liar! Maybe if all of your lives follow very similar paths of career, partnerships, offspring, financial status, etc.

    And it hurts a lot when the fade — or lack of friendship formation — happens due to #3, because it’s not always apparent why it’s the case. Even if it’s clear to the fader why the friendship is a no-go, try saying the following outright and not come across as extraordinarily rude and insensitive:

    — “We’re not friends because you aren’t married/partnered/seeing someone, and me & partner can’t do things with you because you aren’t part of a couple.”
    — “I don’t like (can’t be) spending as much money as you do on outings, and you aren’t interested in less expensive options, so there’s really nothing we can do together.”
    — “You just don’t understand what it’s like to have children, and I’d rather invest in friendships with other parents.”
    — “I am increasingly appalled by your attitudes toward [descriptive social adjective of your choice] people/issues. I thought we could be good friends, but we’re just too different in our values.”

    So… yeah. Despite having a deep appreciation for the cold, hard truth, I think I’d rather have the fade in some cases.

    • Exit Flagger said:

      Heh, I’ve said the second thing to someone. It wasn’t a break-up, more like “dude I can’t spend $50 on dinner, and no I don’t want you to pay for me, so please don’t invite me to dinner outings anymore.” And we remained friends! We just started hanging out at each other’s houses more often. So in that case a slow fade would have been the wrong thing to do (even though I was still slightly judgy about the way that friend spent money).

      I’ve also said the fourth thing to someone and we didn’t remain friends, but I didn’t really want to. But letting them know I thought they were a terrible person made me feel a lot better. Bigots deserve the cold hard truth.

  14. Just wanted to respond to the part in your letter in which you give an example of why the friendship broke: “I once confided in him that I felt like I was developing a drinking problem. He stopped me to yell about how I was obviously lying for attention and that claiming I had a problem was an insult to actual alcoholics.” That shit makes me mad, and I am sorry you had to go through that. Unfortunately in many cultures, especially the US (dunno if LW is USian), if you want to get sober you have to PROVE that you are a REAL ALCOHOLIC ™ by reaching ROCK BOTTOM, or else you are not being sensitive to people who are REALLY struggling (note: certainly there are differences in severity and privilege in terms of the spectrum of addiction, but yeah, it’s a complex spectrum that should be respected at all points). This cultural belief, this widespread bogus, causes people not to get help, and not to get sober or start changing their drinking, for longer and longer until they finally DO come closer to reaching that elusive threshold of “REAL” problem drinking.
    LW, if you want to get sober or work on your drinking, I hope this person’s voice doesn’t ring in your head. You can improve your life however soon you want in whatever way you want; you can call yourself an alcoholic or problem drinker or not, and you will not be insulting those with “deeper” issues. In fact, sometimes people with “high bottoms” who get sober or better or both can become advocates and/or allies for those with low ones (like incarceration, homelessness, bankruptcy, discrimination, etc.). Joe used a classic silencing tactic and perpetuated stigma.
    It seems like there were a lot of good reasons not to continue this friendship with Joe, and I just wanted to point this one out and do a mini PSA here about sobriety and addiction and the complexities of these things. (I’m on day 76 of sobriety by choice, btw, and bullshit comments like Joe’s were so not helpful).

    • Drew said:

      Best of luck in your journey of sobriety!

  15. I’m seeing a lot of people downvoting the slow fade (in the absense of abuse/danger to the fader), and I just wanted to leave a comment in favor of the fade.

    My specific example is my high school friends – awesome people all, but when we went off to college I just kind of lost touch with them. I don’t do long-distance friendships well, and I prioritized in-person friends above keeping up with long-distance ones. Given that if they’re ever in my area I would totally love to catch up with them/let them crash at my place, and that I see them once a year on the holidays to catch up, it seems super weird in this situation to send them a message saying “I just don’t have time for you/am prioritizing other people, let’s not be friends.”

    I have every sympathy for people with social anxiety (my brother and my close friend both have some mild social anxiety issues), but when a fadee’s brain weasels tell them a slow fade means ‘you are unloveable and annoying’ vs ‘this friendship is not Meant To Be’… is this even a situation I should be changing my behavior to address? It feels like I am trying to accommodate someone’s brain weasels.

    • Guava said:

      Right. Sometimes you just grow apart from people. I have also done the slow fade in instances where I felt that a ‘breakup talk’ would go really, really badly. We had befriended a couple – we saw them as more like acquaintances – but as we got to know them, it became clearer and clearer that they were liars, like huge, slanderous liars, who would say anything and everything to try to ruin the reputations of the people who had ‘wronged’ them. Once my husband confronted the husband of the couple over a totally legit boundary and then we heard from friends-of-friends that Other Dude was going around telling people that my husband was rough with our children and physically hurt them. Um. No. I did a slow fade because I didn’t want thinly veiled blog posts written about me, peppered equally with identifying details and lies, floated out into our entire community. Because they’d already done exactly that to other people we knew. Sometimes the honest confrontation is not safe to have, and in those cases, I think the slow fade is the right response.

  16. Commander Banana said:

    Having been in a similar situation where someone was spreading a false narrative about a relationship ending, if you have a friend or friends that you trust, you can also enlist their help in managing the situation. NOT as in using them as go-betweens, but just saying “hey, X and I are no longer friends because X,Y, and Z, this is how I’d like you to help support me in this situation” whether that’s letting you know if X is going to be at an event in advance, not sharing information about you with X, cutting off any talk about you and X between mutual friends when it comes up, etc.

  17. CatScratcher said:

    I feel everyone here with the spending more time alone and not trusting friendships thing. Constantly questioning if people REALLY like me or if they’re just pretending? That’s me! Plus I just moved to a new city where the only friend I have is a family member I have only seen at holidays for the past decade, who I’m starting to realize has a low opinion of me. SO FUN.

    Friendship endings always suck, but if I had to choose, I would choose the slow fade. I think it’s probably the nicest thing you could have done in the situation, as I doubt your friend was ready to hear a long list of why she sucks (I never have been). Avoiding you is pretty normal and actually exactly what you want her to do. Anyone who immediately takes her side of the story without asking yours is probably primarily her friend anyways and I wouldn’t worry about them. You didn’t steal her dog or burn down her house (I hope) so it should blow over. But if you get in this situation in the future, you can look back and analyze your fade “technique”, if that makes sense. Maybe you broke things off too fast (maybe you had to), or you had some fun times together mid-distancing which added to the hurt?

    There was one particular girl who gave me such a slow, smooth fade in college I honestly admire her for it. Looking back I understand why she did it, and a “break up” conversation would have gone so, so poorly for both of us at the time. It was painful and confusing to realize that she didn’t like me that much, but years later I know we could run into each other and genuinely be friendly. She’s like my friend break-up role model. The ex-friends who officially cut it off with words? If I saw them I would probably be nauseous and sweating. A couple of those people are the subject of any and all nightmares I have had as an adult. Thinking about them specifically doesn’t hurt anymore, but the whole situation screwed me up emotionally in a lasting way. Do not give anyone a long letter about how they suck!!! Do not!!!!

    I’ve also faded out on people myself. I think it worked as well as it could have, but I will never know for sure.

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