The Friendship Doctor

Send in your friendship questions and quandaries and get expert answers and solutions

How Do You "Break Up" With a Group?

A reader seeks a graceful way to drop out of a group of friends she's outgrown.

QUESTION 

Dear Irene, 

I met some people and we had a shared hobby, so we started meeting on a regular basis to share information and enjoy our common interest. As a group we made decisions about what we would do and not do, when we would meet, how often, etc. However, over time, the group changed and there was no longer a single focus; it became much more of a social event than a study group. There are many members now and they are having fun.

As the group changed, I found it no longer met my needs. This was okay with me. My interests changed slightly and I wanted to spend my time concentrating on new projects by myself. I stopped attending. I let others know of my decision and that, while I might drop in once in a while, that they should not count on me to be there.

I am not interested in being more than an acquaintance with these people. Members of this group want me to return, and I appreciate this is a compliment, but I am not interested. Some people have become quite persistent, trying to talk me into coming back to the group and questioning my reasoning for no longer participating.

I would like to be able to respond calmly and gracefully, perhaps with humor. I think that if I can keep the conversations light and pleasant I will feel better and that it will deflect the scrutiny I am receiving. Do you have any suggestions for what I can say that is socially acceptable, honest and will discourage people from trying to change my mind?

The funny thing is, the more they try to convince me to return, the less I like them and the less I want to return.

Find a Therapist

Search for a mental health professional near you.

Signed, Anna

ANSWER 

Hi Anna,

Although the approach didn’t work to your satisfaction, you handled this situation perfectly by letting the group know of your decision, telling them you want to concentrate on new projects, and saying you might drop in to visit once in a while. This was “socially acceptable, honest, and should have discouraged them from trying to change your mind.” But it didn’t. 

While the group started around a shared hobby, it is now a group of friends. You have every right to figure out how, and with which friends, you want to spend your time—both as individuals and/or groups. 

It seems like the “treatment” for your dilemma will require more than one dose. My suspicion is that if you stick to your guns and don’t attend the group---and don’t drop in for a visit too soon, the group will lose interest and be less persistent in urging you to return. 

If they ask again, reiterate that your time is finite, and as much as you have enjoyed their company, you really want to try some new things. Using humor is a great idea but I really can’t think of anything that might give them a chuckle. You could ask them to throw you a farewell party! 

Hope this helps~ 

Best, Irene 

Other posts on The Friendship Blog about friendship in groups:

Slowly being excluded from an adult clique: What could have happened? 

Is it disloyal to talk to a friend's enemy?

No friends in high school: What am I doing wrong?

 

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.

more...

Subscribe to The Friendship Doctor

Current Issue

Dreams of Glory

Daydreaming: How the best ideas emerge from the ether.