#1042: “How do I tell an old friend that I’m not interested in reconnecting?”

Dear Captain Awkward,

I have an awkward social situation that I’m not sure how to handle. It’s been causing me a bit of anxiety, and so I’ve been avoiding dealing with it.

Recently I have had a rash of old friends who I am no longer close with contact me, wanting to either catch up or get together. Some of them I’m happy to have a chat with and tell them about my life and hear all about what they’re up to now, but when they suggest we start hanging out again I feel stressed. The problem is that I simply don’t know how to fit these people into my life now.

For a long time I was very mentally and emotionally unhealthy, and I self medicated with drugs and alcohol a lot and was a bit of a party girl. Right now I’m the healthiest and happiest I’ve ever been, and I can look back on those years with new clarity and insight. I see now that I tended to be drawn to people who were dysfunctional because it allowed me to feel like I had my shit together, even though I really didn’t at all. I’ve done a lot of work on myself since then, and I feel like a lot of the friendships I made at that time in my life are no longer fulfilling to me. I’ve purposely distanced myself from a lot of people, not because I think they’re bad, but because I now find their company totally draining. Hanging out with them became something I did out of a sense of obligation. I felt guilty at first until I realized how much happier and calmer I was without them, and that I now had room in my life to make new friends.

There’s one old friend who won’t give up trying to contact me, who I particularly don’t want to see. We didn’t have a falling out, I just realized that I didn’t really like her anymore due to her rudeness, self centeredness, and flair for the dramatic. I was ok with it when she moved a bit further away and we lost touch for a while. I hadn’t heard from her in a couple years, and I was pretty relieved. She texted me at the start of this year saying she had moved back into town and invited me to her birthday party at a bar. I felt an immediate sense of dread. Since it had been a couple years, I pretended that I got a new number or something and didn’t reply. Maybe that was wrong or short sighted.

A few months later she found me on social media and messaged me “WHEN ARE WE HANGING OUT?!?!” which both terrified and annoyed me. I thought it was a rude way to make contact with someone she hasn’t seen or heard from in years. I felt put on the spot and uncomfortable. It made me want to get together even less. I didn’t reply and hoped she would get the hint. She didn’t.

A few weeks ago she found me on another platform and commented on one of my posts “Hey! Let’s hang out!!!”. I didn’t reply and haven’t posted on that platform since. This morning I woke up to a direct message from her saying “(my name)?!?!”

I think at this point I need to be direct because she is not getting the hint and it would be cruel of me to continue this tactic, but I really have no clue what to say. I’m not mad at her, we didn’t have a falling out and there’s not really a specific instance that made me not want to be friends anymore. I don’t want to be hurtful. I’ve been on the other side, attempting to reconnect with someone and realizing that they had no interest. It sucked but I got the hint and let them go. For me, this friendship is over.

What do I say?

Sincerely,

Chronic Avoidance

Dear Chronic Avoidance:

One possible answer to “Let’s hang out!!!!” is always, 100% of the time, “No thanks!” It’s obviously not the answer the inviter wants to hear, but it takes two to make plans, and you can absolutely opt out.

Reply one time on the medium that you think will reach her most privately & directly.

[Name] I got your messages about hanging out. I’m not interested in reconnecting and I don’t want to get together. I’m really sorry, I should have just said so straight out. I wish you well. 

Give her the information that she needs to make good decisions about contacting you, and then block/ignore. Do the kind thing and the right thing. And next time it comes up, do it sooner! It’s okay when you do run into the old crowd to say “It was nice running into you, I hope you’re doing well. Thanks for the invitation but I’d rather not hang out!” Will there be an awkward moment if you say that to someone? You bet there will be! Less awkward than letting them keep trying and trying to nail you down while you get more anxious and avoidant? Only you can decide!

Since your former friend is in your town/social scene, you may run into her again after you talk with her. It’s okay to give a quick “Hello!” and then move on with your day. You don’t have to shun her like she never existed (that’s mean) or avoid living your life where you live (that’s mean to yourself).

We have templates for breakups with romantic partners. We need to institute some for friendships, like, “I’ve changed a lot since the last time I saw you, and I think our friendship has run its course for me. I wish you well but I’d rather not stay friends.

You can think fond thoughts of the times you shared finger-paints or tequila shots with someone long ago without committing to be actively engaged in their daily lives forever.

 

 

 

118 comments
  1. Violet said:

    Aaaaaaand. Sometimes no matter how kindly you try to say “I wish you well but don’t want to resume our former closeness” you cannot control how they will take it, so be prepared. The person I had to do that with is still giving me the ‘cut direct’ (dramatic shunning) when we cross paths in community, not infrequently. It’s been over 4 years, and I am still meant to know that I am a Bad and Awful person (i.e. her ego is still so unable to accept my right to choose and the choice I made). It’s unpleasant, though the intensity for me has faded somewhat over the years. A couple years ago we did have a “sit down talk it out” with a mutual friend ‘mediating’. It turned out she just wanted a chance to blast me and try to convince the friend what an awful person I was (for having boundaries! And saying so!). I had hoped that listening to the Feelings and litany of badness, hearing and apologizing for the hurt, would ease it and allow us to be normal polite in public, but it didn’t change a thing for her. So, LW, I think my former friend is an extreme outlier, and you have a right to feel how you feel and say so regardless of the reaction. Don’t mean to scare you off that.

    • Angle-a said:

      The “cut direct” – regency romance territory! I chuckled. Ta 😁

    • Ooh, just what I needed to hear today! So glad you shared this.

    • If nothing else, how this person treats you now should validate your decision to cut ties!

  2. Amy said:

    LW, it looks to me like your ex-friend is interpreting your silence as maybe you not getting their messages, and is therefore continuing to reach out on various platforms in hopes of getting through.

    Silence is literally a lack of communication–you can’t reasonably expect people to just interpret it the way you want it to come across. If you want them to get a specific message, you need to actually say it. I really like “I’ve changed a lot since the last time I saw you, and I think our friendship has run its course for me. I wish you well but I’d rather not stay friends.” It gets the point across, but does so in a way that specifically points to your own changes, rather than “I think you’re a trainwreck of a human being and would like to stay away” (which may be more honest but also is more likely to cause hurt and prolonged interaction).

    • B. said:

      Yes, this! LW, I understand why you are avoiding this, but the clash of conflict-avoidant and resolution-seeking personalities can hurt deeply if the people involved are not careful to use their words. I think she’s not getting your hints because she operates on a different hint system than yours, and to her, your silence means another thing entirely.

      If your former friend is seeking reassurance or closure, it’s cruel to leave her hanging (I’m better about this kind of situation nowadays, but personal experience makes me think that she’s alternatively wondering if you’re mad at her, if there’s something wrong with her, and if something’s happened to you). And you wrote that having this hanging over your head is causing you anxiety, so this impasse is also hurting you.

      So I’m rooting for you to do the kind thing for you both and let her know clearly that you’re no longer interested and that’s not due to some unredeemable fault within her soul. To that end, I really like the Captain’s script, but in case you’re looking for another, may I suggest “I really enjoyed being friends with you back in the day/Your friendship has been important to me, but I’m in a different place now, and I’d rather not reconnect. I wish you well”?

    • Anon, Goodnight said:

      When someone invites you to something and you don’t respond, that’s a “no.” The problem with using silence instead of words when you mean “no” is that it gives the other person social license to pretend they didn’t get a “no.”

      • piny1 said:

        Sort of – I mean, on the one hand, yes, it is important to be aware that silence can mean no and – for moving on with your life purposes – must be processed as a refusal. However, it is also normal to miss messages like this and flake on messages like this – I’ve done it and had it done to me more than once this week. It’s not meant as a rejection most of the time.

        Social media communications have made it much easier to prod someone when you want to ask them to happy hour or whatever, but they can also be much harder to track, much more so when many people use multiple such platforms (I use tumblr, facebook, email, and texting – and I and my friends have a bunch of highly individuated patterns for using them to contact each other, and we experience significant mismatch and corresponding delays). On top of that, Life Happens constantly, and people will sometimes drop out of sight for months on end.

        All that to say, I don’t think LW’s ex-friend is totally unreasonable for sending multiple enthusiastic messages on multiple platforms, or for apparently assuming that her prior messages didn’t get through. I don’t think she’s pretending so much as working off the reasonable assumption that she and LW are still friends – and okay, probably somewhere between Message #2 and Message #4, starting to worry that she’s lost a friend. It’s LW’s prerogative to nope out of reconnecting, but she should do that.

        And LW, it’s okay to not like someone very much! You don’t have to feel bad about not wanting to stay friends. This woman will probably feel a lot better when she can stop worrying about the status of the friendship, tbh.

      • MuddieMae said:

        I don’t think it’s accurate to make that a universal. Silence might mean “no” and it might genuinely mean the person didn’t get the message. I’ve been on both sides of that before, where someone’s text or email didn’t get to me or mine to them. It’s not an egregious violation to try a couple of times if you’re getting no response.

        All the more reason to use those words.

        • hebbyn said:

          OP even says they used silence to pretend they hadn’t got the message (didn’t respond to the text, hoping they would take assume it was an old number). OP used silence to avoid giving a no, and is still doing that.

        • Caraval said:

          “Silence might mean “no” and it might genuinely mean the person didn’t get the message.”

          This! There are many old school friends/friends of friends who I see maybe once a year (if that), and every time at least half of them ask me ‘Why haven’t you replied to my friend request on Facebbok?’

          Because I don’t have a Facebook account, I’ve never had a Facebook account, and I never -will- have a Facebook account. But my name (even surname) is not uncommon, and there are 3 accounts with my name in my hometown. One (or possibly all) has been getting message-bombed with friend requests from total strangers for years!

          I find the idea of being hounded like that deeply unpleasant and off-putting, even if it was close friends, not long dead (to me) acquaintances. But your old acquaintance’s hounding may be entirely innocent, if misguided.

      • Deanna said:

        I think you’re right, but at the same time silence does leave room for ambiguity, and it is a bit unfair to expect your friend to immediately acknowledge silence as you not wanting contact. After the 2nd or 3rd time, definitely, but a direct no after the first attempt saves a lot of heart ache for both parties, in the end. Especially in the case of LW, where there was no falling out, her ex-friend may have no reason at all to believe (at first) that their friendship isn’t still a given. And some people are busy, forgetful, or hard to get ahold of.
        The LW is not wrong, and at this point the ex-friend shouldn’t be harassing her across multiple platforms. But I don’t think it’s always cut and dry to expect silence to be understood.

      • McStabbity said:

        Sometimes it’s a “no”. Usually it’s a “no”. Interpreting it as “no” is pretty much always an unimpeachable move. But I grant some slack to people who aren’t sure they’re getting a “no” when the silence comes from someone they’ve known as “very mentally and emotionally unhealthy”. The LW may have gotten herself together, but her former friend has no way of knowing how deep that goes. She’s still working from her understanding of LW from the old days.

        How much PSA-style educational messaging have we all gotten on the subject of how real friends keep trying even in the face of silence from people who are mentally/emotionally unhealthy? If you believe and internalize that stuff, it makes mentally unhealthy people’s silences much more difficult to interpret.

        I think the LW is right: it’s time to be direct. Amy’s script is a good one.

        • piny1 said:

          I don’t think LW has any obligation to take this on, or that it makes sense to see this as anything other than a normal friend breakup. This doesn’t seem to have anything to do with LW’s status as unhealthy – and who knows if her ex-friend even saw her that way, or if she just saw her as a partier or whatever – and I don’t think LW should have to factor that in.

          • McStabbity said:

            Perhaps not, but I think we can do without contemptuously assuming that the former friend is pretending not to understand a “no”.

          • Anon, Goodnight said:

            McStabbitty–I don’t think the former friend is maliciously ignoring the no in this case. It’s probably more along the lines of convincing themselves that even after receiving radio silence after reaching out on 3 different platforms, they will eventually get to hang out. In this case, the silence is functioning in the same way that giving too many details to someone who tries to “fix” your “no” does. It’s providing fuel to the ex-friend’s hope.

        • The Sassy Vulcan said:

          If all of my friends assumed I didn’t want to see them anymore every time I didn’t respond to a message or invitation, I wouldn’t have any friends left. :-/ I don’t think it’s fair to expect Old Friend here to be a mind-reader. We know the LW’s thoughts and feelings, but she doesn’t and truly has no idea what’s going on. It’s not fair to expect people to guess your meaning if you won’t use your words, and then to punish or deride them when they don’t guess correctly.

      • J said:

        Precisely!

      • Amy said:

        Yes, it is….when you know they got the invitation. But if you’ve been out of touch for a while and aren’t sure if their phone # might have changed, they might’ve stopped using an email address, maybe they don’t check facebook very often anymore, etc. it gets a lot less clear-cut. It’s not that shocking for someone to try a couple of different platforms to reconnect!

        If LW keeps on staying silent, the ex-friend will probably eventually get the message that this isn’t happening, but a) it might take a while (meaning LW will have to keep putting up with these requests in the meantime), and b) if LW ever does run into ex-friend somewhere, there’s likely to be an awkward conversation about “So….all my messages…did you, ah, never get them? or?”

        Whereas being up-front about it is more difficult in the immediate moment, but will likely put an end the messages right away, and there’s no awkward conversation down the line to dread. There’s a lot to be said for clear communication, really.

        • slythwolf said:

          It’s definitely not universally meant as a no even when you literally mailed them an engraved invitation, as anyone who has had to chase relatives for wedding RSVPs can attest.

      • Mel R said:

        Silence from me and the people I hang out with means the message didn’t get through. Anybody who interprets silence on our end as a ‘no’ is going to cause a lot of confusion, and anybody who tries to use silence to indicate a ‘no’ from them is going to get followup messages assuming something’s gone astray somewhere.

        I have run into *one* person who used silence to mean ‘no’. She insisted it was rude when someone sent a follow-up message to one she was not-answering-as-her-answer, because ~*~obviously~*~ what she meant was clear and they were just trying to get her to change her answer, and then she got all indignant when an email really did go astray and people went “oh, C just doesn’t answer when she doesn’t want to go to something, put her down as a no” about something she actually did want to attend, because ~*~obviously ~*~ they should have known that this time was different, so they were either ditching her or being stupid. Insert eyeroll dot gif here. I hear she’s changed, but I wouldn’t know from personal experience, because everyone I know DID end up ditching her as too frustrating to deal with.

        I figure if everyone in a group is operating on the same rules then it’s going to work a lot better, but you’re still going to end up with the occasional missed message being misinterpreted.

      • The Sassy Vulcan said:

        I have many friends with anxiety and depression (and am that person myself) for whom a silent response isn’t a “no, leave me alone,” it’s a “I’m not feeling well right now but please keep trying so I know you’re still out there for when I get back on my feet.” This happened to me once with a specific friend—I noticed she had removed me from social media and gently checked in a couple of times to ask if I needed to apologise for anything. No response, and her husband deleted me as well. I was deeply confused and hurt but didn’t try to contact her again.

        A year later, I got a very openly apologetic email explaining that she had been going through a horrible experience with anxiety and that my feminist and political posts were triggering her, but she was too ill to say so to me in the moment. She apologised for having shut me out when I had done nothing wrong, apologised for the pain she had caused me, and we reconnected and are good friends again.

      • For something like a known-good email, a text, a letter to a known-good address, or a phone call, I’d tend to agree. When someone knows you’ve gotten their invitation and you didn’t respond, silence is absolutely a no! But since the text was sent to a number that LW hoped Old Friend would think was no longer in use, touching base on a couple of different social media platforms struck me as more assuming that possibly the old message hadn’t been received.

        (For what it’s worth, I have… five? five. No, six. Six different social media platforms I am more or less active on. (Seven if you count GoodReads. Eight with Ravelry. (Help.)) Two of them I am on several times a day, but when you get out to the wilds of FaceBook, “once every two months, maybe” is more reasonable. I *completely* understand accounts gathering dust.)

        I mean, that struck me as more the thought process of someone who’s going “well, maybe FB has been mothballed– wait, is that LW on Twitter? Worth checking!” than someone going “I saw LW on FB. Ping them! Ping them! PIIIIIING THEEEEMMMMM!”

        (Crap, I just remembered the Slacks as well. Nine.)

        I agree that silence should be taken as a no. That said, I hope that pointing out Old Friend could just be honestly assuming her messages weren’t received and is not “pretending” not to get it might help LW relax a little about the whole situation.

      • Anlina said:

        Silence is a “no” when you contact someone on a dating site, or send a message on social media to a stranger – where there’s no existing relationship and (should be) no expectations.

        I think it’s really different when there’s an existing relationship, where expectations and interest in interacting with each other is already established. Sure, those things can change, but it’s not unreasonable to assume that, absent a falling out, conflict, or any indication that your messages have even been received, that your friends are still your friends.

        • jmm said:

          That’s a good point — it depends on the relationship.

    • Liz said:

      That is some serious wisdom – I usually interpret silence (and intend it to be interpreted) as disinterest at best. But you’re right – the lack of communication is not sufficient. And there are loads of people I like and go silent on for no better reason than being lazy, asocial and forgetful. I hope they’re not out there thinking I don’t like them.

      • Amy said:

        Silence is one of those things where…I mean, yeah, if you maintain it long enough, people will eventually assume that connecting isn’t going to happen right now, so in that sense it sometimes ends up functioning sort of like a ‘no’.

        But it means you abdicate any say in WHY they think you’re not connecting. You’re busy? You changed your contact info since they last talked to you? You suddenly hate them? Something terrible happened and you’re unable to respond? People will assume whatever they assume. And they’ll act based on whatever assumption they make–someone who thinks you now dislike them will act differently than someone who thinks you never got their message.

        If this person is really tangential to your life and you’re never going to see them again, that might not be a problem. But if you’re likely to run into them around town, or you might want to reconnect at some point in the future, having some input into the narrative can be really useful. And the clearest, least-likely-to-be-misinterpreted way to steer the narrative is to tell them what’s up.

  3. Bella said:

    This is only a temporarily embarrassing situation: you don’t want to hurt someone but you also want to protect yourself. So my motto is: what’s a few moments of embarrassment compared to a lifetime of freedom? Say you’re sorry but you have plenty going on in your life now or you’re sorry but you’ve changed a lot. Or some other stock stuff. You’ll be fine. And oh so free….

    • Laura said:

      I agree with the motto, it’s great! This will only be uncomfortable for a very short amount of time and you don’t have to manage your former friend’s feelings about what you say to her. You just have to be kind, and clear.

      I would caution you against using a line like “I have too much going on in my life right now.” This leaves a lot of room to be interpreted by a hopeful heart as “but I’d love to hang out when it calms down!!” and then they will just keep contacting you, trying to solve the problem of finding a time that suits your schedule. When in fact, the only time that suits your schedule is NEVER because it was never about your busy schedule anyway.

  4. Bertha said:

    I would also say that the number of times someone said “let’s hang out!!” to me and actually meant it are few. I used to have the opposite issue, where I’d think that they actually meant that they wanted to hang and would keep contacting them for the details. Recently I ran into a couple of people who actually gave me an African violet 5 years ago, and they just couldn’t exchange a simple polite hello with me, nope – they said “we have to hang out soon!!”. I just smiled, and noticed that my time had run out on my parking meter. The next day, two friend requests on my facebook page. I have no intention of ever having them as friends again and will use the Captain’s advice.

  5. Zinc said:

    Really well said advice. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is the right one. No one wants to give bad news and hurt someone’s feelings, but it is better to be clear and honest than letting the other party come to their own conclusions with silence (which could be anything).

  6. Yoly said:

    Great advice

  7. Cat said:

    silly little housekeeping thing: isn’t it #1042?

    • Aris Merquoni said:

      Sometimes stuff posts out of order, nothing to worry about.

      • isabeausuro said:

        It’s not out of order; there’s two 1041s

    • JenniferP said:

      I will fix when I am back at a computer. Sometimes I write & schedule a few and the order gets wonky.

      • Cat said:

        no worries! not like it’s a big deal, ofc. just one of those things my obsessive little brain latched onto ^^

  8. I also think that there is something to be said (and I haven’t read all responses to see if somebody beat me to it) for telling people that they were friends at a bad time in my life when I did things I no longer do, and I can’t hang out with people who have that lifestyle anymore. It’s super awkward to say this, but it’s honest, and I’m a fan of telling people WHY you have no interest in connecting again.

    • J said:

      Yes maybe… But what if the person responds, ‘but I’ve changed too!’??? Sometimes it’s best not to give a reason bc it implies there is room for negotiation and this woman has a history of not respecting LW. Plus if the person in question is a nut, telling them they’re basically a bad person can unpack a can of crazy. Never make crazy mad….. But it would be satisfying to say I see that

      • B. said:

        “Plus if the person in question is a nut, telling them they’re basically a bad person can unpack a can of crazy. Never make crazy mad….. ”
        The Hell, J? You really need to use slurs and take a swipe at neuroatypical people to make your point? That part of your comment is very ableist and very gross.

        • cathy said:

          Not to mention hurtful.

          Thanks, B & Dia.

          • B. said:

            It is indeed very hurtful, I’m sorry anyone had to put up with reading that here 😦
            No thanks needed, cathy, but they are appreciated!

      • Dia said:

        Yeah I’m gonna echo B here, and there’s a lot of things wrong but the one I wanted to point out – “never make crazy mad”, maybe it’s a typo but like, can we at least be people :/

      • Formerly_Academical said:

        There are some people from my past I gravitated toward because we had similar issues. Unfortunately we amplified them instead of evolving. Work took me elsewhere, I felt like I matured. I definitely became more laid back and happier. Unfortunately most of that clique are still in a state of arrested development emotionally and socially, and really can’t handle change. I like to go with, “I’m not the person I used to be. The me from then is far too different from the me now,” and then exchange a few bland pleasantries and with them well. This has worked really well with minimal awkward except for the one who phoned the police and reported urgent concern for my mental health…. You can’t anticipate every, but mostly my script’s worked.

      • The Sassy Vulcan said:

        I’m a neuroatypical ciswoman and I deeply loathe this type of “don’t open the can of crazy!” rhetoric. It’s often used to silence women or make us seem “hysterical” for having emotions or emotional reactions, or to shut down our voices by assigning a label of “crazy” (ie unstable or lacking in reason or validity) to us. Please don’t.

      • Excuse you, as crazy who regularly gets mad, I would like to point out that the worst thing I do is vent in reasonable amounts over the next couple of days and angrily hit the treadmill or watch comfort TV. “Never make crazy mad” was a really snotty assumption.

    • Marthooh said:

      Or “…I don’t want to be reminded of that lifestyle. Sorry.”

      • SarahTheEntwife said:

        Or even just “I don’t want to be reminded of that time in my life”, if you want go to super-neutral. Some people remind you of difficult things even though they weren’t necessarily part of the difficult bit.

        • mossyone said:

          I love this.

        • anon said:

          What I also love about it, besides being non-judgmental of the former friend, is that it is an excuse that doesn’t leave room for negotiation. Former Friend won’t hear it as a problem that she can solve and then they’ll be able to hang out again.

    • It’s been my experience that people treat reasons as starting points for negotiation.

      • Sometimes, yes, but if LW wanted to add something that softened it, they’d still be able to say, ‘No, I really mean it’ and hit the block button if this person pushes. They can always shut the negotiation down.

        That said, it’s very possible the former friend has changed their lifestyle too, so it’s not a very good softener because it sounds like it’s making assumptions. (Which doesn’t mean LW has to hang out with this person if they don’t want to, of course.) If LW does want to cushion it, maybe something like, ‘This isn’t about you, you were always nice, but I had some stuff going on at that point in my life that I need to put all the way behind me, and that includes the social circle I had back then. Please don’t take this as a reflection on you, it’s just something I have to do for reasons too complicated and personal to get into. I wish you all the best, though’.

        • Laura said:

          I really like your script. It’s softer and kinder than the advice given above, but it draws the same boundary.

      • Amy said:

        People who are looking for an argument do this. There are also plenty of people who are happy to take them as an explanation–they just stand out less in our memories, because these interactions aren’t nearly as so uncomfortable or combative. If you know the person you’re talking to reasonably well, you probably have a sense of which route they’re likely to go down, and can tailor your approach accordingly.

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      If you want to go this route, you can but proceed with caution. I feel like this could work but maybe change the part from “can’t hang out with people who have that lifestyle anymore” to simply, “I can’t hang out with people from that chapter of my life anymore.” It’s not about what the people do or don’t do in the past or now…it’s about how you just can’t be around people/places/substances that remind you of your own darkest moments.

      I have a terrible abusive ex…while dating him I befriended this wonderful supportive family who helped me through some really rough stuff unrelated to him…to this day I no longer stay in touch with the supportive family because I only met them through him and that association trumps any kind memories I have of them.

  9. J said:

    You are not cruel. You are self caring and insightful. Since this person has a history of being rude to you and isn’t just your old party friend you don’t want to hang with, you wouldn’t really be mean to shun her. And while you don’t want to hurt her feelings, if she’s the type to not ‘hear’ when you set boundaries you may want to block her on all forms of media once you send the message. It sends a clear ‘I’m so not open to negotiation’ message. I’ve had the same things in my life though in my case I think I was always coopted by dysfunctionals bc I had trouble saying no bc of childhood issues around dysfunctional parents. I see these dynamics beginning but have a hard time extricating unless it’s egregious what they’re doing. I hear your empathy for this girl it is painful. I don’t know if you are like me but for me I gave to train myself to hear my own pain not just imagine theirs. Like the captain says in other posts, which has helped me, do you imagine this woman has done a tenth of the emotional labor about YOUR feelings? No? Then give yourself permission to get mad, if that’s what it takes to feel entitled to take care of you. shes already broken the social contract, never mind it was years ago when you were less happy and more tolerant of bad stuff. She still broke it, and your feelings of dread are there to protect you! Give them their due and listen to them. Yeah she’ll likely react badly. Not your job to manage her feelings. Keep calm and carry on! And congrats on the healthier life, I know firsthand that’s a tough journey, and those little niggles from your previous life can be triggers but you’re doing fantastic to see them for what they are, bad for you.

  10. Fishmongers' Daughters said:

    I reached out to an old friend with whom I’d had a falling out some years before. After a couple days, I got this email in reply:

    Dear [Fishmongers’ Daughters],

    [Mutual Friend] tells me you are doing great and I’m happy to hear it. You must be just about done with graduate school. I hope it’s been a good process for you. I’m doing fine and am happy.

    I enjoyed our friendship and got a lot out of it, but I think that it has run its course. I’m sorry if this makes you upset, but I wanted to be honest.

    I wish you the best,
    [Former Friend]

    *********

    I was relieved. I had mixed feelings about hanging out with her again in the first place – we had both pulled some shit with each other – but this was the most civil and honest email that I could have gotten. It didn’t leave me hanging or wondering.

    Granted, Former Friend had probably steeled herself for a possible FeelingsDump from me, or something cruel and nasty, and had to make herself ok with that before she sent that email. She didn’t get it (I just wrote her back to say I understood and to echo her well wishes), but you might. I’d say you probably *will*, given the sense of entitlement your former friend seems to be displaying.

    So the question is, what’s really at stake? She’s not in your life anymore. Her friends aren’t in your life anymore. You don’t want to be like her or to be around her. So what can her nasty words or spreading nasty stories or whatever she might do in retribution *actually* do to you? I’m guessing not much beyond those uncomfortable feelings we have when we realize there are people in the world who don’t like us.

    I think “I enjoyed our friendship and got a lot out of it, but I think that it has run its course” is possibly the most civil and kind way you can firmly put a stop to this. If she reacts badly to it, that’s on her. You haven’t done anything wrong.

    Best of luck, LW!

    • Angle-a said:

      Fishmongers’ Daughters, I think this is a lovely, gracious response. Consise but firm.
      I sometimes misinterpret social cues & find silence difficult. The response you reported leaves no room for ambiguity, whilst honouring the past relationship. Finding myself at both ends of this conundrum, I would really appreciate hearing this or having it to use.

      • Fishmongers' Daughters said:

        Glad you can get some use out of it! If I were to really critique it, I’d lose the “I’m sorry if this makes you upset” non-apology. It made me immediately want her to know that I am SO NOT UPSET. I ignored it because overall that was an awesome email and also because responding with grace is the best way to tell her that I’m not upset.

        But yeah. The “I enjoyed our friendship and got a lot out of it but it has run its course” was perfect and has stuck with me ever since, because it was true. We were close friends. She was my first example of how to be a woman in academia. I’m the first in my family to go to college and she was a big part of that. But her big, warm, generous, brilliant personality included a strong streak of narcissism, and mine included a strong learned helplessness. This made for a really unbalanced relationship. But I’m pretty sure that if we saw each other on the street now, we’d greet each other with genuine warmth and well wishes.

        And then we’d part ways with no promises to keep in touch. 😛

    • MoragLachlanMaclachlan said:

      This is a wonderful example of a kind and respectful ending to a friendship. Hats off to you and your Former Friend.

  11. Dear LW,
    People vary in how they react to unwelcome messages. If your ex friend is a rules lawyer I suggest something very direct and very short, here’s an example:
    Dear [Whatever her name is],
    I’m not interested in hanging out anymore. Good luck, and be well.
    LW

  12. Clarry said:

    Said with humor, but this will work:

    I hate to mention this because I thought I’d let it go long ago, but there is that $200 I loaned you back when we were friends and hung out together all the time. Would you mind paying that back, and then we can talk?

    Guaranteed you’ll never hear from her again.

    • Anna said:

      And if they do give you the money because they trust you, who’s been a dick?
      Why tell a potentially damaging lie when truth does the trick?

    • SarahTheEntwife said:

      And now she’ll either be wracking her brain trying to remember a loan that didn’t happen, or unnecessarily pissed off that you chose to end the friendship by lying. And in the first case she’ll probably keep contacting you to find out when the loan happened until you finally admit it was made up.

  13. Alison said:

    I dealt with a very similar situation recently. I decided to say this part of the truth: “Old Friend, meeting up with you & actually even hearing from you brings me back to a time in my life I have worked hard to put behind me. I won’t be meeting up with you but I bear no hard feelings towards you & wish you the very best.” He actually took it unbelievably graciously, which was a huge gift because I had never been so direct with someone like that! Good luck, LW.

    • MoragLachlanMaclachlan said:

      This is great – kind and constructive.

    • crooked bird said:

      I like this one! It spares everyone’s feelings by putting the blame firmly on the past & memories, so Friend doesn’t have to wonder who’s the jerk here. Really good thinking & tact!

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      I like this one!

  14. Me said:

    I find that with 9 out of 10 people, the soft approach works. If you turn down multiple invitations to socialize, without reciprocating or making it clear that you really want to but have a crazy work schedule right now (for example), they’ll figure out that you’re not keen on socializing with them, and will move on.

    But there’s that 1 out of 10 person who won’t get it. And, not at all coincidentally, it’s often the person you’re trying to distance yourself from not because you’re busy and you don’t click, but because they’re toxic or bad for you. With that person you need to be direct and, essentially, say “No, I don’t particularly like you and I don’t want to be your friend.”

    And that is a hard thing for even a socially adept and emotionally balanced person to hear right out. Which is why the soft version is the first approach, and we don’t routinely turn down a casual invitation to join people for drinks with a blunt “I don’t like you. Stop bothering me.” But if someone refuses to hear the soft version, you can’t hold yourself responsible if they take the hard version badly.

    As an aside – often people *say* that they want to know why the friendship has cooled off, or that they need closure. But a lot of the time they don’t really want the truth. They want to hear “It’s not you – you’re wonderful! It’s me, I’m a bad friend.” But sometimes the truth is something you really, really don’t want to hear, like “I don’t like you anymore” or “You treat me badly and I can’t take it any longer” or “Your issues are too much for me” or “I hate your SO” or any one of a myriad of reasons that boil down to “It’s not me, it’s you” combined with “and it’s too late to fix things”.

    • Alex the Alchemist said:

      Slightly off-topic, but your last paragraph made me think of “The Break-Up Song” by Rhett and Link. The chorus was, “It’s not you; it’s me- and me don’t like you.” I think this applies here.

    • Anonamouse said:

      I think it’s really unfair and unkind to characterize the majority of people who aren’t good at reading subtle social cues as “toxic or bad for you” or not emotionally balanced, whatever that’s supposed to mean. I have known a number of non-neurotypical people in my life who are kind, generous, wonderful people, who happen to have difficulty reading soft cues.

      • Yolanda B. Cool said:

        There was nothing in ‘Me’s’ comment indicating that they were referring to neuro-atypical persons. My experience has been the same as yours: nuero-atypical people who flub social cues are usually highly embarrassed about it when they realize what has occurred. The comment above was referring to people who intentionally push other people’s boundaries, and take advantage of any ambiguity as license to do so.

        I’ve noticed an increasing tendency in the comment section here to seize on anything that could be interpreted as offensive when stripped of context, and publicly call out the commenter for the perceived offense, while failing to address the rest of the comment, or acknowledge any room for error. It’s making it really difficult to enjoy what has heretofore been a generous and compassionate internet community, and I would prefer it if we could curb that behavior.

        • “I’ve noticed an increasing tendency in the comment section here to seize on anything that could be interpreted as offensive when stripped of context, and publicly call out the commenter for the perceived offense, while failing to address the rest of the comment, or acknowledge any room for error. It’s making it really difficult to enjoy what has heretofore been a generous and compassionate internet community, and I would prefer it if we could curb that behavior.”

          Thank you so much for saying this, I feel the same way. Folks seems so quick to look for and find offense in comments that are intended to be innocuous. Enough already!

      • That doesn’t seem to be what “Me” did at all.They made a connection that the one person who doesn’t get the message is typically the one that really needs to hear it, because that person is toxic/bad for you- not that the majority of people who can’t read signals are bad/toxic. You are reading more into this comment than “Me” wrote, and that is also unkind and unfair.

        • Yeah, that was what I got too, speaking as an Aspie who has had a lot of trouble reading social cues.

          You know what? Even for the struggling, this one is one of the easiest social cues in existence — accepting that a non-response is a functional “no”. SUPER-easy. You don’t have to read body language or anything on this one even, because it’s over social media.

        • TO_Ont said:

          If it’s clear by looking that the person has been using those accounts regularly, and a lot of time has passed, yes. Otherwise it could mean the person is taking time to think about it, or is on a social media vacation or has abandoned their accounts.

      • jmm said:

        I felt the same visceral reaction to Me’s comment, so I’m glad you articulated it.

        I guess I’m a “resolution seeker” because silence is agonizingly mysterious to me. You can say “silence = no” a billion times but that’s simply not true. Silence means an almost infinite number of things. Apparently there’s a social agreement that it’s polite to receive silence as a no. But I’m not sure that agreement is universal or universally well-understood or if it even universally applies. Which means that if somebody doesn’t understand your silence, it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s an intentionally rude obnoxious person.

        It’s just a person who feels most comfortable in the world of direct communication.

  15. Dia said:

    Congrats LW, on the work you’ve done for yourself. I am glad you’re happy 🙂

    Also, good job for writing to the Captain, that’s a really constructive step to take. Sometimes my anxious avoidance leads to guilt that leads to more anxious avoidance, I don’t know if you might be prone to that but if so I hope you can take momentum from what you’ve already done, if that makes sense. Either way, best wishes for a good resolution!

  16. Veronica said:

    I’ve read this site for years and I’ve never commented before but this letter was posted exactly when I needed to read it (my former high school best friend just got engaged and I’ve been dreading the thought of being invited to the wedding).

    I wish you all the luck in the world, LW. I think, if you can be direct, then that’s probably going to be the approach that gives you the most immediate and longterm relief (though it’ll feel a lot more painful in the moment, I’m sure).

    Society focuses so much on and prioritizes romantic relationships above all other kinds and it makes navigating the ends of friendships so difficult because they’re already seen as ‘less than’ other kinds of relationships. It’s tough when friendships fizzle out not because anything *actually happened* but simply because two people are no longer compatible in the same way they used to be. No one is at fault. There are no grudges and no hurt feelings. it’s just … two people who no longer fit the way they used to. And I wish it was something more people talked about.

  17. Modern Culture said:

    I had a very good friendship with “Mike” for about 20 years but it seemed to suffer when I got married (Mike’s gay, I’m lesbian.) He would send cards and say “I miss you. Let’s get together.” I’d call, suggest something but he would never make plans. After 3 years of this, I said, “I’m tired of the games; this doesn’t work for me.” It really felt good to drop the pretense.

  18. jess said:

    As someone on the other side of something this, I would MUCH rather get a (hopefully tactful!) message in reply to my occasional attempts to make contact (not to hang out ongoing again, since we live in different cities now, but catch up for a coffee when we’re in the same place and maybe reconnect on social media) than living in this awkward state where I’m not sure if I’m being viewed as a clueless nuisance who can’t take a hint, or if the mobile number/social media links I have are out of date.

    • TO_Ont said:

      “this awkward state where I’m not sure if I’m being viewed as a clueless nuisance who can’t take a hint”

      Yes

  19. Angel said:

    I recently reached out to a person with whom I have a pretty tumultuous history. Knowing that sometimes silence is an answer, I actually started the message with something that basically said “I’ll get the hint if you don’t respond”. I still felt the pangs of “Did he read it? Maybe he’s blocked my number. Should I ask someone else about it? Should I try to say something next time he’s in town?” and it took several days of mentally chanting “silence means no; silence means no; silence means no” before I was able to get over it. So I totally know why your former friend is reaching out repeatedly on multiple channels. It’s so hard to get over that itch. And again, I had even explicitly said I’d accept silence as an answer!

    Lo and behold, nearly two weeks later I got a reply — he’d just been thinking about it for that long before deciding what he wanted to do about the contact. Silence hadn’t meant no, it had just meant “processing”. Your former friend has no way of knowing if silence just means you’re thinking about it, or if it means you meant to respond and forgot, or if it means you’re ignoring her, or if it means she’s messaging the wrong person entirely! The best thing you can do is remove the ambiguity and let her know where things stand. It’ll be better for her not to have that anxiety, and for you to not be dealing with her messages popping up repeatedly.

  20. Deccaboo said:

    It would have been better to turn down her party invitation, because she’s escalated since and if you’d only cut her off at the pass back then it might have been all over by now. “Sorry I can’t come to your party, have a great night.” Done. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, sadly no one has a time machine!

    If your soon-to-be-ex-friend overlaps with your social circle in other ways and you don’t want to blow this up, it is ok to choose the most recent way she’s contacted you and reply with “Sorry, I can’t hang out!” You don’t have to explain or justify. Just ‘sorry, no.’ You can say you’ve moved on/outgrown the friendship if you want to, but this information isn’t always gratefully received.

    If you’re going to fade out of someone’s life with the minimum of fuss you need to do it tactically. I have politely and permanently cut off quite a few people in my time and the method that works is the ‘sorry, no’ and then stop communicating. If you ignore any and all communication without a ‘sorry, no’, you leave the other person in limbo wondering if they’ve upset you or if they’ve got the wrong contact details… nobody well-meaning likes shouting into the void. If you turn down all offers to meet up, they will get the message. People do know what ‘permanently unavailable’ means.

    If your soon-to-be-ex-friend is as obnoxious as her ALLCAPS suggests, you may have to be blunter with your ‘sorry, no’ and you may have to be repetitive a few times, but she can’t make you hang out with her.

  21. canadakate said:

    LW, I feel like there’s a lot of victim blaming going on here, about what you “should” have done, on how you haven’t been clear enough, etc, etc. You did the best you could and what you thought was best at the time. You had no way of knowing how it would be taken and unfortunately it didn’t work out the way you’d hoped. There’s nothing wrong with that! I would suggest this time just to say some variation of, “Thanks, I got your messages, but I’m not interested in getting together. All the best to you.”

    It’s not your fault she keeps contacting you–don’t feel bad for not getting the outcome you’d hoped right off the bat. I know because I used to beat myself up about things like this. If the other person didn’t respond the way I’d wanted, it was clearly my fault. But it’s not.

    Good luck!

    • Kay said:

      Maybe we shouldn’t use something like “victim blaming” in a context like this? Because what’s she a victim of, an awkward ex friend who can’t take a hint at most? This is definitely a mutual miscommunication, and to cast someone (an old friend!) reaching out and not reading your mind when you give them only silence as causing harm against a victim is really a bit much. Let’s not dilute a phrase that means something very important in its intended context.

      • canadakate said:

        I was referring to the commenters here who were telling the OP that she should have been more direct in the first place, and it’s no wonder the friend hasn’t gotten the hint. I wasn’t talking about the friend themselves at all.

        • Kay said:

          I totally got that! But that’s still saying they (the commenters) are “blaming the victim” when there is no crime or assault and there is no victim. Victim blaming is not synonymous with being unfair to a LW. I don’t want to push things into being pedantic, but again, I do think the concept of victim blaming is an important one in its context and is inappropriately weighted to use here. If I told my boyfriend it was his own fault for missing a doctor’s appointment and getting a cancellation fee, even if I’m being totally unfair because he had stressful circumstances this week or his doctor changed the time and the office never told him, that’s not victim blaming. I hope that makes things more clear.

          • The Sassy Vulcan said:

            I agree; can we please save “victim” and “victim-blaming” for situations in which someone is actually being abused or has had a crime committed against them? Miscommunication between someone whose friendship you’ve outgrown isn’t an assault. Uncomfortable, yes. Abuse? Not so much.

          • canadakate said:

            I didn’t mean to dilute the term, as I have been both a victim and blamed for it. And I’m certainly not equating this with a personal mistake as your example above. But what I am seeing in the comments were people telling the LW that the negative-to-the-LW outcome they had gotten was to be expected based on what the LW had done, and that made me both uncomfortable and surprised as that’s not what I expected from this community. Sounds like it’s just my racing

          • canadakate said:

            Sorry…that should have been it sounds like that was just my reading of it. Clearly, more tea is required! 🙂

        • Belle Starr said:

          canadakate I can’t tell if you agree that one shouldn’t use that term in this context. We understand what you were responding to when you used it, but now that the implications have been pointed out, and you’ve explained yourself, can you agree not to use the term again in this kind of context, without explaining yourself further?

          • canadakate said:

            I’m glad you understand my original point, as I see others’ points of view as well. Since you asked, we’ll have to agree to disagree at this point.

          • TO_Ont said:

            “people telling the LW that the negative-to-the-LW outcome they had gotten was to be expected based on what the LW had done”

            The point of the phrase ‘victim blaming’ is 1) there some things that should never happen to anyone, and no action of theirs can change that and 2) someone has done something horrible and deserves blame for it, which is being deflected onto someone else, allowing them to avoid responsibility.

            Neither of these even remotely applies here. If a phrase like ‘victim blaming’ gets used in innocent mundane situations, it not just makes the phrase meaningless, but harmful as it then describes almost precisely what it is meant to argue against (i.e., that someone who has been sexually assaulted is not partially at fault or responsible for what happened, it’s not an innocent misunderstanding they should shrug off, etc).

            Using it to describe an innocent misunderstanding between two people actively _blurs_ the line between someone harming someone, and an innocent misunderstanding.

  22. thebewilderness said:

    I actually had the “why we can’t be friends any more” talk with a person who I had distanced myself from. In spite of describing the behavior that made it impossible to ever trust her again and clearly stating that our friendship was over, she asked me if I was up for a visit a few weeks later when we met at the grocery. I was gobsmacked. You cannot make people know what they do not want to believe.

  23. I disagree with others who say you need to be direct and say directly, “I don’t like you” or “I don’t want to hang out with you.” If that feels too uncomfortable, you can lie. Or say some version of the truth. One good thing I heard someone else say (not to me) was “I don’t have room in my life for more friends. I have trouble keeping up with my current ones so sorry, I’ve just got no time now.” Be the broken record. Say it over and over. Or, say it once and ignore all the other attempts. People as persistent as the one you describe probably know on some level they are obnoxious. If she’s not hearing you then she’s either a narcissist or has a personality disorder. Either way it’s not your job to fix it. If you feel comfortable to blunt then by all means do it, but if you don’t, then find any other means necessary to protect and enforce your boundaries.

    • MrsLokiofAsgard said:

      Agreed. I tried the direct approach once. I had a friend that was emotionally abusive and draining. I wrote her a note (this was before email) and basically wished her well but told her that I wasn’t able to be her friend anymore. I didn’t go into why, I didn’t blame or name call. I just said “I’ve appreciated our friendship and wish you all the happiness in the world, but I can’t be your friend any longer.” Oooooh…she was so mad. She told all of our mutual friends that this was something that you just didn’t do. Her exact words were “This is something that you write down, stuff in a drawer, and never talk about again. You don’t send the letter. You ignore your feelings and just put up with things!!!” Yeah…because stuffing your feelings down always ends up good for you, right?

      I second the vague approach. “I don’t have room in my life for more friends. I have trouble keeping up with my current ones so sorry, I’ve just got no time now.” is a perfect phrase.

      • MsM said:

        On the other hand, not only do persistent people often hear “not now” as “maybe later,” they’re not all that patient when it comes to “later.” And speaking for myself, I’d be more hurt by a rejection that said “you didn’t make the cut when it comes to who/what I want to prioritize” than a straightforward “it’s not working out any more.” I think LW just needs to keep in mind there’s no magic combination of words that’s guaranteed to make Former Friend leave her alone with no hard feelings, and if her best faith effort at that doesn’t work, she shouldn’t beat herself up and should focus on maintaining her boundaries.

  24. The Sassy Vulcan said:

    I completely understand why LW is avoiding this person, but as others have said, unfortunately people aren’t mind readers and she can’t know what you’re trying to say if you don’t actually say it. It’s much kinder and more productive to just let her know, with polite but direct words, that you don’t want to reconnect.

  25. Alexia said:

    About being direct…

    A few years ago, I had a falling out with a friend who had just been bad for me. I recognized that he was in a bad place in his life, but he spent our entire friendship constantly criticizing everything about me and everyone else in his life. Eventually, he told me I should abort my (wanted) child with a coat hanger and I couldn’t take it anymore. I blew up in his face and finally told him off for being a complete asshole to everyone he knew.

    He told me that I was “immature and volatile” and that he didn’t want to associate with someone like me. He broke things off and I ran with it.

    A few years later, I saw he had released an album, presumed he was at a better place in his life, and congratulated him for it. He couldn’t remember who I was and wanted to reconnect, but I didn’t. He spent the next few weeks bragging to me what he had been up to. When he realized who it was, he then told me that “he had changed” and insulted me again.

    Sometimes, you can’t judge who is “the worst person” of a relationship. We all like to believe that it’s the other person, but most of the time it’s a lot more ambiguous than this.

    • Aris Merquoni said:

      *raises hand* I just want to say that right now I can judge and I’m judging that guy hella hard right now.

  26. L said:

    I am surprised to find myself disagreeing with the Captain here! I think it’s mean to cut your old friend off with no explanation. She didn’t do anything wrong and your disinterest in being her friend has nothing to do with her personally, so why not tell her that? The suggested scripts are so curt, and I think they would be unnecessarily and inaccurately hurtful to receive. Sounds like your former friend has an exuberant manner and it would be a pity to throw a bucket of cold water on it when an explanation of “I am at a different point in my life now and want to keep away from my old life, but it doesn’t have anything to do with you personally and I wish you well in all things” would cost you little and save much hurt.

    • Laura said:

      I agree with this. I think the Captain’s advice is very sound but the scripts are a bit harsh in their curtness and directness. I do think many commenters here have created some slightly softer scripts that would be less hurtful to receive, but also successfully draw a boundary that doesn’t leave any room for negotiation.

      • Guava said:

        Exactly, and if the friend still tries to come back and push after receiving the softer script, the LW can then default to the more direct script with a clearer conscience.

    • BigDogLittleCat said:

      I would adjust your script to delete “it doesn’t have anything to do with you personally” because LW’s disinterest in the former friend *is* personal:
      who I particularly don’t want to see. We didn’t have a falling out, I just realized that I didn’t really like her anymore due to her rudeness, self centeredness, and flair for the dramatic. *** I felt an immediate sense of dread.

      If LW is *dreading* seeing this person, she needs to shut it down without a hint of a glimmer of a crack that former friend might try to squeeze through, and an active statement that friend herself is not an issue could sound like a negotiable exception. At most, “don’t take it personally.”

    • jmm said:

      Inaccurately hurtful. Thank you, that’s such a precise description.

  27. not really a lurker anymore said:

    Please communicate. I periodically reached out to an old friend with whom I’d lost touch with. It’s my fault, I got married and had kids and just dropped off the planet. But I’d leave voice mail on both her landline and cell with no responses. Eventually I assumed she’d gotten a new number. I joined Facebook and left her a private message there. Eventually she responded and requested that I call her, on the cell number I’d been leaving messages on. She had cancer and has since passed away.

    I know, because we were friends for a really long time, that she was fine with cutting people out of her life when she felt the ratio of time/energy spent reaching out got too wonky. I assume that’s why she stopped responding.

    So please, let them know you don’t want to be in contact anymore.

  28. Bobobob said:

    I wish people would quit with the “silence means no” business. My oldest and dearest friend often ‘goes dark’ for periods of a few weeks when she’s dealing with physical and mental health problems and/or life problems. If I didn’t know her so well I’d assume she was ghosting me. But our friendship is such that I know it’s not personal, it’s just something she has to do sometimes, and that she wants me to continue reaching out. (We always do reconnect after these dark periods and our friendship is never affected, and she tells me how important and meaningful it was to her that I did keep reaching out.)

    Also a couple of ignored social media comments on a site the recepient then stops using does look a lot more like “just don’t check FB much” than “go away.”

    • I think “silence means no” is a good rule with people you aren’t close to. Someone who has been your friend for many, continuous years who has a pattern of extended silences related to their life is not the same as an attempt to get in contact with someone you used to know who isn’t your friend anymore—or, as in other cases where silence is recommended, an unwanted flirtation or other overture toward someone you don’t know very well or aren’t particularly close to—that meets with no response. If my best friend doesn’t answer my text for a few weeks, I know it’s because they’re busy or having personal issues, because that’s established within our relationship. If someone I haven’t spoken to since high school doesn’t answer my Facebook message for an extended period of time, I know they don’t want to reconnect, because we don’t have a current relationship to begin with.

    • Mazarin said:

      Oh Yes! I have had people cut me out of their life because ‘”Silence means No”, when in reality ” Silence means I am currently sleeping 18hours a day and have just enough energy to eat before I go back to bed” It is heartbreaking when they refuse to hear your explanation. (I get that they have already done the work and grieving of cutting me off, and don’t want to go back but….)

  29. Bobobob said:

    Personally I’d say “I’m sober now.” All this is clearly about a certain lifestyle which the LW once had and the former friend appears to still have. The former friend appears to want a drinking/partying buddy, and may run a mile on discovering the LW no longer parties. Or at any rate will be a lot more understanding to that than to some weird curt robo-message.

    Also please never use “I wish you well” in a brush off email, isn’t it pretty widely accepted that “I wish you well” is a passive aggressive euphemism for “f*** off”?

    • Not at all. The tone of the e-mail certainly changes how “I wish you well” could be taken, but I don’t think it’s a hard rule in the slightest.

    • TO_Ont said:

      I’ve never heard ‘I wish you well’ used that way, personally. I’ve only ever heard it used to mean ‘I wish you well’.

    • Clarry said:

      I’m not sure that “I wish you well” is widely accepted to mean “fuck off,” but I can tell a story about the time it did. My friend had been alternating between brushing me off, treating me badly, angrily blaming me for everything, apologizing, brushing me off, and repeat. I’d put up with all of it. I went from giving her space, timidly asking for contact, being generous and understanding, and forgiving her immediately. Maybe you could say I wasn’t taking her hints. When I one time got a teeny tiny bit of a backbone and said I’d stop trying to contact her, she reacted angrily– then wanted me to go back to being her doormat. There was no big blow-up, but I did stop trying to contact her, and the friendship was over for a number of years. Time went by, and I wrote a letter pouring out my heart, telling her how much I missed her. When I heard nothing in return, I figured she was no longer at the last address I had for her. More time, and then an apology for not answering. In other words, a repeat of our old dynamic. That time I said that I hardly knew her, and that’s when I got the “I wish you well” letter. It was effusive in her memory of our old friendship, how truly sorry she was that I wouldn’t write to her anymore, and she sincerely, deeply, wished me well in all my future endeavors. It was so sweet that I considered taking it at face value and believing it. I’m glad I waited before answering because the next letter told me how angry she was when she wrote it and begged me to continue writing to her. Yeah, “I wish you well” really can mean “fuck you.”

      • BigDogLittleCat said:

        Ugh. Her “I wish you well” could have been sincere -at the moment she wrote it. But a later “fuck you” overwrites a sincere “I wish you well” so same difference.
        Sounds like you’re better off without this “friend.”

  30. jmm said:

    If I heard one of CA’s scripts above I would feel mortified. It just sounds way too personal and mysterious. Like, “I don’t want to hang out with you because of X and you should already know what X is.”

    Alternate scripts:

    “I’d love to but right now I’m so busy that I don’t want to make any new commitments.”
    “I’d say yes but I’m really trying to find more of a balance between social time and down time, so I’m saying no to any new get-togethers right now.”
    “That would be nice but I already know I won’t have the time to fit it in.”
    “You know, a few months ago I realized that I want to spend more time with the people closest to me so I’m trying to reel back on other commitments.”

    And then, of course, “It was great to see you.” etc. I think this way of phrasing it is closer to the truth — it’s not that you don’t want to get together with them personally or because of anything they did. It’s just that you want to cultivate and prioritize your current relationships, and that means cutting out casual get-togethers.

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