Ending a one-sided friendship: How can I get her to stop IM-ing me?

Published: November 12, 2010 | Last Updated: November 12, 2010 By | 13 Replies Continue Reading

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

I’m in an awkward situation with a friend and I’m at a loss about how to proceed. We’ve been friends for about 6 years. We met at a high school summer program and would see each other maybe once a year, but talk occasionally online. This friend as always been very socially awkward, and when we were younger, it was kind of endearing. But now that we’re in our 20s and out of college, it’s getting kind of sad and really uncomfortable.

 

A few months ago, she moved to my city (which I actually just moved out of), so we saw each other much more often. When we’d get together, it was painful trying to maintain a conversation (not a lot of give-and-take), and I was also noticing a lot of personality differences that were getting to me (e.g. she found certain things to be hysterically funny while I thought they were really offensive).

 

I came to the conclusion that we had drifted apart, which is fine. But I don’t want to completely end the friendship, so I’ve been trying to get some space/downgrade the friendship (maybe back to the see-each-other-once-a-year level). But she won’t take a hint! Right before I moved away, I was dodging her requests to make plans by saying that I was really swamped, which worked for a while.

 

The issue has now become internet communication. Over G-chat, if she tried to start a conversation, I used to do the same ("I’m really swamped"). But now I’ve taken to just not responding period and it’s not working! For the past few weeks, she’s continued to message me anytime we’re both on G-chat, often messaging multiple times (as in, having a one-sided conversation) while I haven’t responded at all.

 

It’s gotten to the point that as soon as I see that she’s online, I immediately sign off, which then infuriates me that I’m doing these things just so she won’t contact me. I started off wanting to simply downgrade the friendship, but it’s as if she won’t let me! It’s wearing me out, and it’s affecting my other friendships when there’s people I DO want to chat with but can’t because I have to sign out so I don’t have to deal with her.

 

I know she hasn’t really made any friends after moving to the city and is lonely, but I just can’t handle it anymore. I feel like I’ve done what I can to show that I’m not interested in talking, but every single day (not an exaggeration) I get a message from her. What else can I do?

Signed,
Lexi

 

ANSWER

Dear Lexi,

What makes this situation so awkward and uncomfortable is that you and your friend both have different needs and expectations. You’ve tried to hint, quite graciously, that you want to back off but she hasn’t gotten the message. Since your friend is "socially awkward," it’s quite possible she may not have understood your subtle cues.

 

You don’t have a lot of choices that I can think of. You could block her on G-chat, or you can go invisible (so she doesn’t know you’re online). But I sense you’re reluctant to do either of these. I’m not sure if it is because you know your friend is lonely and you feel badly for her, or it is because you really want to keep her as a once-a-year-friend. I suspect it is the former.

 

You also have the option of meeting her in person, or sending her an email or snail mail saying that you feel like you’ve simply grown apart. I know that wouldn’t be easy either.

 

The off-line equivalent of this G-chat situation would be a friend who pounces out of the bushes each time you appear in the park even though you say you don’t want to talk any more. What can you do? Online or off, eventually, you have to bite the bullet and be direct in the kindest way you can. Your friend can’t feel very good about the relationship as it is now, so in the end, she may appreciate your honesty.

 

Hope this helps and, perhaps, other readers have better (or different) suggestions!

Best,
Irene

 

Related posts on The Friendship Blog about online friendships:

Why don’t friends just talk about it

How to handle a Facebook frenemy

Thoughts on being defriended

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Comments (13)

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  1. Sally says:

    As a person who is also socially awkward it seems from what I’ve read that the friend might be better off without Lexi in her life, I hope she has enough self esteem to see that, move on from that friendship and find some friends who actually value her more than what Lexi does.

  2. EagleWings says:

    I’m usually the socially awkward one who has a hard time making friends. :o)

    My suggestion to the original poster or any one else in this scenario:
    if you have a friend like this, who obviously seems to have a hard time making friends on her own (and the original poster mentioned the socially awkward friend is new in town too), why not help her make other friends?

    Yes, that means you might have to contact her for a little while (and I understand your goal is to lessen contact), but think of it like this:
    after you set her up with friends who you think would be compatible with her, she will be so happy and busy with the new friends that she will not need you as much.

    If you set her up with new friends, she might even choose to stop contacting you as often if she has other people in her life to turn to for friendship.

    The responsibility for making friends is truly hers, but-

    If she is slow to take your hints for wanting to take the friendship down a notch (I’m like that too, but it’s not malicious on my part, it’s a part of being shy and socially awkward – please exercise compassion towards people who are like this!), you might want to do this for her, as it is a solution that will help you too.

    More friends for her means she will probably not contact you as much, since you will not be her only friend.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I disagree, Irene. Lexi obviously does not value the woman enough as a person, which is why she is avoiding her. Lexi would have been ONLY reaching out to her friend after she’d posted on an online friendship advice blog and was told to do so.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I agree. I tried to be friends with someone who did the bait and switch. She would say lets get together and never follow through. Then I followed through and she stood me up twice. When I finally called her on it she said I was “over-analyzing”. Needless to say I didn’t appreciate it at all. We never truly established a “friendship” but she hurt my feelings. I couldn’t understand what I did or if I did anything at all. I asked her if there was something I did to which there was no reply. She went from hot to cold. I believe in being direct but my first thought is that we often think more of ourselves than anyone else could ever think of us. You’re just incompatible. So, just say that. No different than if you were going to date someone. Friendships can be that intimate. Saying that you don’t believe you two are compatible anymore will hopefully open up an honest conversation between the two of you. AND it never feels good to be ignored or to ignore someone. It does not feed your soul but being a compassionate human being always feeds the soul.
    Good luck …

  5. Anonymous says:

    I agree with Leah, people arent trash to just be disposed of, and people DO change by coming to know themselves through another person. That’s part of the value of friendship! With the comedy thing, I myself went to a comedy show and laughed at jokes because everyone else was and lots of others like this comedian. So I just let go and enjoyed it but when it comes down to it, after I thought about it, I would not go again.We say and do things lots of times that we dont mean, so everything we do is not necessarily characteristic of who we are.
    A very normal reaction to being ignored is that the person being ignored becomes more clingy. This is discussed in dating and marriage all of the time and is the same for friendship. Your friend might be happy to compromise not trying to talk so much if she knew what was going on. And I think ignoring someone like that that you have significant history with is much more dysfunctional than her trying to contact you. Have u thought about justice for her? You sound very judgmental and this woman just might be better off without you, but since she feels, in my opinion, wrongly ,that you are a friend of value you could at least have honest communication. I think that downgrading is fine, but from often to once a year is very inconsiderate.

  6. She is constantly pinging you through a series of different digital avenues. Compose your thoughts through text and send them to her in an email. You can even get one of your trusted close friends to read it before sending, if you want, so that you are assured it is worded with kindness.

    You obviously need to spell it out to her, because it is sounding like border-line harassment. Every single day with no response back from you? That doesn’t sound like the behaviors of a super stable individual.

    I highly discourage doing it in a public setting. Your friend sounds co-dependent and from my experience with my CD friends, there are no neutral settings. They will “go off” at the hint of a dumping where ever you decide to do it.

    Since you don’t even live in the same city anymore, and she appears to be more than willing to communicate with you via text, squash this with an email.

    Whatever issue you have with this lady, she DOES deserve to be empowered with knowing that your close friendship is over and at this point a bit unrequited. However, you do not have to do it face to face unless you sincerely feel it will be well recieved and are willing to make the journey to do that.

    Good luck with whatever you decide 🙂

    My two,
    Lez

  7. Irene says:

    Lexi is trying to handle this situation in the most considerate and authentic way that she can. It’s great to add another and different point of view but please try to respect her feelings too!

    Thanks so much! Irene

  8. Leah says:

    Lexi, I feel complelled to post, because many of us have been the friend in the other position. Moving to a new city is hard, especially on someone already socially awkward as you say.

    It’s mean that you want to just dump your friend outright, without the benefit of at least telling her what’s wrong and allowing her to change. Chances are, she doesn’t know she comes off as offensive. Maybe she’s making those jokes in hopes that being funnier will make people like her more. I’m willing to bet that if you had that conversation with her, she would be willing to change. it would help her be a better friend to you, and to other people too.

    All I know is if she’s really a socially awkward person, she has no idea that she’s offending you, and not telling her and just dumping her is mean. Having been that socially awkward friend many times. If you care about her, be honest, and do her a favor of helping her improve.

    🙂 Leah

  9. Anonymous says:

    I agree with what you are saying, I’ve been in the position where all the sudden the one time friend decided to end a friendship but didn’t have the guts or courage to let me know. Just the games, the silent treatment, the put downs and the digs and then told me she was dead inside….? I thought she was acting the way she was because she was going through personal issues. I went out of my way to try to understand and work things out. I prefer to have someone just come out with it. Nothing is worse than trying to figure out what is going on in someone elses mind. Sure most people do get the hint after a while but when someone is acting crazy you want to make a lot of excuses for them because your their friend and your not the one ending the friendship. You don’t have to be cruel or go into detail and if you can’t say it face to face then send the text, email or gmail. I dealt with not knowing what was going on for 16 years and to me that is cruel. The ending of a friendship should be handled with dignity and grace and some compassion this person was a friend at one time and you owe them that much. Now, not all situations are the same so in the case of abuse or something serious you owe them nothing,

  10. Anonymous says:

    So what’s the big deal?
    Make a new account, make it private and give it to everyone but her.
    She’ll wonder why you’re never online and you won’t be there to tell her.
    You can’t put somebody off for once a year because you don’t want to feel like a jerk.
    That or accept her as she is and respond nicely. You know,
    friends aren’t the easy things in the world to keep in the long term and you’ve had her for 6 years and you’re fairly young.
    You may not have very many LT friends in the end and she might stick around for the long term even if you don’t approve of everything she thinks is funny.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Inviting this friend out for coffee after avoiding her for months, only to dump her to her face…. is just too mean. She’ll take the invitation as a sign that you want to reconnect. Think about it – your total silence isn’t enough to clue her in that you have moved on, so how else would she take your invitation? And in general, who expects to be invited someplace and then dumped? So she shows up, happy to see her friend again, and gets dumped TO HER FACE? Yuck. Put yourself in her shoes – would you want to go through that?

    I don’t use g-chat, but how hard is it just to ignore her messages? Or placate her with yet another “I’m swamped” reply? Eventually she’ll figure it out.

  12. Irene says:

    Hi Laura,

    I love your suggestion of the cup of coffee technique. It’s direct, takes place in a neutral setting, puts limits on the amount of time available to deliver the message, and, hopefully, Lexi’s friend will realize that she was valued enough as a person that Lexi reached out to let her know.

    And what’s wrong with being addicted to this blog??

    My best,

    Irene

     

     

  13. Laura says:

    But fortunately, people got the hint.

    In this case, this person needs the message spelled out that there is a conflict of values, such as the awkward person’s sense of humor about things that Lexi finds offensive. That should be the crux of the “we can’t be friends anymore” break-up conversation. It’s valid because it’s an issue of values and beliefs, not subjective “I just don’t like you and I don’t know why” which is code-speak for unconscious biases/prejudices in many cases, if not all.

    Perhaps an offer to have a cup of coffee – pay for it as a last gesture of goodwill – and it also makes it easy to get away for either one if the conversation becomes heated or too emotional. And in the end, I imagine Lexi wants to feel that she did right by Awkward friend no matter what her reaction is since you cannot control how people will react or perceive your intentions to be.

    On another note, to Irene: I think I’m addicted to your blog! I need to shut up. 🙂

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