The Friendship Doctor

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Friendship: The Whole Truth, Nothing But the Truth – What Do You Think?

Sometimes it may be easier and kinder to simply drift apart.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I've been reading your blog after googling to find out if anyone else had experienced similar issues to me. After recently spending some time away with a close friend, I realize I don't like many aspects of her personality

She is endlessly checking her phone (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), which I find invasive and rude when you are in company. She talks about the same things over and over again and expects me to do the usual nods and responses to show that I am interested and listening. Out of politeness I do, but often she doesn't respond when I have something to say, making me feel she is not interested in me. 

One incident springs to mind when I mentioned liking doing something and her response was, ‘Well I don't agree," which stopped the conversation dead in its tracks. I don't believe you need to vocalize every opinion that pops into your mind and the ferocity with which she does comes across as aggressive. She can come across as blunt and completely lacks warmth. She is actually a lot nicer to be around when she has had a drink, as this seems to make her less aggressive and friendlier. 

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I find I am on tenterhooks all the time as she is judgmental and critical about everything around her (not me, but it makes for an unpleasant and draining atmosphere). I have seen her belittle and bully other people, including her parents and her husband and it upsets me to hear it. She is definitely a bully. I don't let her bully me but that doesn't mean that I like her behavior. 

I have quite a strong character myself but she is intimidating and I suspect she doesn't realize I find her intimidating and, at times, unpleasant to be around. She feels that she and I are very similar and I fear that I have may have perpetuated this belief. I believe that she is emotionally unstable and I know that she does not like herself very much, so I often reassure her that her personality/behavior is okay. I don't like to see people feel badly but it's making me feel like I lack integrity when I do this. 

I come away from our time together feeling like I have often gone along with what she wants to do. She frequently tells me that I am her best friend and criticizes other friends to me and I know that if I ended our friendship it would crush her. 

She recently did something that upset me and I spoke with her about it, but I know that deep down I wanted to use it as a catalyst to end the relationship. I also don't know how I would do it without having to directly refer to her personality, which is why I am asking for advice. 

I would never want to tell someone I do not want to be friends because I don't think that they are a very nice person. There is a lot of advice on the Internet about ending friendships if you grow apart, have different interests, or someone does something wrong. What though do you do if you just don't like somebody very much? She is very pushy, so if I avoid her then she will phone/email text to find out what is wrong.

Please help.

Thanks, Barbara

 

ANSWER

Hi Barbara,

If a friend does one or two things that make you uncomfortable, it's always worthwhile to talk to the individual to see if they are capable of changing or if you can reach some compromise that allows both of you to feel comfortable. For example, it's fairly easy to address discrete behaviors or habits that are annoying, like cell phone etiquette or punctuality, and resolve them. 

However, it sounds like this woman possesses a constellation of traits that irk you---ones that are part and parcel of her personality. You describe her as consistently: judgmental, critical, aggressive, self-centered, blunt, and draining. You sound like a very kind and caring individual who has thought long and hard about your feelings before deciding that this relationship isn't working. 

It's not your role, nor would you be able if you tried, to change or mold your friend into someone else who is more likeable. Moreover, it's okay to admit to yourself that you simply don't like her; no one has to like everybody and you are entitled to surround yourself with people whom you admire and respect. 

The difficulty comes, however, in finding a way to disengage from this pushy person. In my opinion, nothing would be achieved by your laying out a litany of complaints. Instinctively, she would try to defend herself and/or overpower you with arguments. To minimize her hurt as well as diffuse any potential anger she may have towards you, you need to find a graceful way to drift away.

  • Can you see her far less frequently?
  • Can you make your visits together more brief?
  • Can you diffuse your get-togethers by adding other people to the mix?

If you want a clean break, tell her that you've changed and need to spend more time alone, with your family, or with other people. 

In all likelihood, she will be fine and will find someone else to take your place. There's also a remote possibility that this will be a reality check that will make her pause and reflect on how she treats other people. 

If you still have misgivings or doubts, you may want to read my book, Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, to feel more comfortable about ending a friendship and finding the right way to go about it.

Hope this helps.

Best, Irene

 

Some prior posts on The Friendship Blog about honesty and friendship: 

Feeling trapped? Honesty may help 

Why don't friends just talk about it? 

Should friends be brutally truthful with one another? 

 

**Coincidentally, here's a great article in today's New York Times about the same topic.

 

On the Forums:

One possible reason for abrupt friendship demise

Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., is a psychologist and professor of psychiatry at the NYU School of Medicine. Her latest book is Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend.

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