• Handling Breakups

Ending A One Sided Friendship: It Is Never Easy

Published: January 20, 2024 | Last Updated: January 20, 2024 By | 9 Replies Continue Reading
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This reader describes a one sided friendship that is difficult to end. She asks how to end it with kindness. 

QUESTION

Dear Friendship Doctor,

A couple of years ago I wrote to you about my dilemma regarding a casual friendship that I didn’t want to continue. 

You may recall that I met this friend through a local professional group before the pandemic. She kept telling me she admired my work (which made me uncomfortable from the start) and started inviting me to meet for lunch. We exchanged a few emails and met for lunch, maybe three or four times, before the pandemic. 

After getting to know her better, I just wasn’t interested in continuing this friendship. 

Mainly, I don’t have lots of extra time, and the time I do have is reserved for my family and a few established friendships that keep me busy. I’m not the kind of person who wants or needs to socialize with many different people. I’m a quality-over-quantity friend, and I’d rather spend my free time with people who mean the most to me.

I stepped back and said no to her lunch invitations over the past couple years. Rather than totally ghost her, I answered her emails and remained friendly online — but distant. The pandemic made it easier. And while our friendship never became “close” by any stretch, I think she believed we were better friends than I did.

I thought she’d given up after a few months of not hearing from her. But out of the blue, I just received an email from her today, asking me what she’d said or done to “offend” me. She practically demanded an “explanation” as to why I’d made no attempt to get together with her. The email was to the point, and just short of a scolding. 

I’m baffled as to why she has invested so much in a friendship that isn’t reciprocated. 

There are other friends in my life whom I haven’t seen in a couple of years, but they are not sending me emails demanding that I explain why we haven’t gotten together. 

Do I owe this person an explanation — for not being available to socialize? Or should I just ignore this new email from her? I don’t want to hurt this person’s feelings, but I really don’t want to feel forced or “guilted” into having a friendship with anyone. How do I handle this with kindness?

In need of advice,

Anna G.

ANSWER

Hi Anna,

We all have the right to pick and choose when it comes to friends. As a result, there will be times when someone you choose as a friend will have little or no interest in you and vice versa. That’s life.

Unlike blood ties, friendships are volitional and should be mutually satisfying to both people. A one sided friendship feels draining rather than energizing and is difficult to sustain without great effort that extracts a personal cost.

It sounds like at this point, interest in this friendship is certainly one-sided and you shouldn’t feel guilty about ending it. 

After giving this friendship a chance, you tried to offer this casual friend subtle cues that you weren’t interested in deepening the relationship (e.g., saying no to invitations and not initiating contact).

Apparently, she didn’t understand, accept or respond to your cues. Instead, she may have misinterpreted your prior attempts to be kind as interest in continuing the friendship.

At this point, you have no choice but to be straightforward and direct in ending the relationship. A one sided relationship isn’t a friendship.

Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a totally satisfactory or kind response to this tough dilemma.  She sounds like a pretty pushy person if she “demanded” an explanation for not getting together: If you tell her you aren’t interested in the friendship (even doing so in the kindest terms), she may not accept your decision.

Since you already haven’t had contact with each other for months, I think it might be far better to not respond to this latest email. I suspect this woman is far less sensitive than you and has been in a similar situation to this one before. 

Hope this is helpful.

Best, Irene


Tips for Ending A One-Sided Friendship With A Pushy Person

  • Remember that you deserve friendships that are mutually satisfying. 
  • If you’ve given a prospective friendship a chance and find it unrewarding, you have a right to end it without guilt.
  • If the person doesn’t accept subtle clues and is pushy, you may have no choice but to be firm and unequivocal, either by directly telling the person you aren’t interested in the friendship or summarily ending contact.

Previously on The Friendship Blog


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One sided friendship pin


Have you ever had a hard time getting out of a sticky friendship? How did you handle it? Leave a comment below to help others.

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Category: HANDLING BREAKUPS

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