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How do you tell a classmate you don’t really want to be her friend?

December 10, 2015 | By | 2 Replies Continue Reading
A 15-year-old girl wonders whether she should tell a classmate she doesn’t want to be friends.

QUESTION

Hi,

I’m 15 years old. I’ve been having a problem since the start of school this year. There’s this person in my class (let’s call her Kate) who isn’t quite good at socializing so she’s alone all the time. I am her only friend at school.

I am not very close with the people in my class so during breaks, I go to all my best friends in another class. I only go to my own class during registration in the morning and I’ve been doing this for two years.

This September, Kate texted me saying I’ve ignored her for the past two years and that I don’t treat her as a friend. I apologized since I actually felt sorry. I didn’t spend any time with her at school (we do talk online) and it feels like we’re only classmates, not friends. Therefore, I decided that I should try to be friends, even though we don’t have any common interests.

Since I’m her only ‘friend’ at school, I though she would feel lonely when I go to the other class I always go to. I don’t want to reduce my time spent with my best friends but I don’t want to leave her alone either. So I tried to make her come with me as well. However, apparently she doesn’t like the people there and the people in that class don’t like her either.

If you ask me where I would prefer to spend my time, it would usually be with the other class since all of my best friends are there and it’s been my routine for two years.

Anyway, over the last couple of months she got mad at me for many times for not treating her as a friend. I apologized every time since she had a good reason to be mad at me. She forgives me every time. But it’s getting frustrating. She quarrels with my other friends and gets mad at me when I refuse to take sides. Sometimes she says mean stuff to me. She knows that I’m not happy about that, but nothing’s changed.

Gradually, I find myself feeling uncomfortable whenever I’m around her. It got up to the point where I didn’t hang out with her at the school fair at all even when I knew she’s there. Now she’s really mad at me and I don’t blame her. It was very mean of me. I apologized. Even if it sounds like my sorrys didn’t mean anything anymore (I said it so many times but I kept repeating my mistakes), I was actually sorry. I tried to be a good friend but it didn’t work out.

It’s two days later and I don’t know what to do. I didn’t talk to her because I don’t know what to say and I know any random speech would make things worse. Now she says I don’t care anymore, and again I don’t blame her but on the inside my brain is exploding because I keep thinking “WHAT SHOULD I DO??”

Do I stay by her side just because she wants me to, or is it because I want to? I don’t want to completely cut ties with her because that would hurt both of us. Also, it would be very very awkward because of mutual activities always require partners. Should I give it one last try? What should I say? What should/can I do?

This letter is really long and there are probably some similar situations that are already solved on this blog. Even if there’s no time for you to reply, it’s nice to get all of this out of my heart. Thank you very much for reading this letter.

Signed, Gracie

ANSWER

Dear Gracie,

You sound like a very caring young woman who has gone above and beyond to be kind to a classmate who doesn’t have friends. That tells me you have a lot of empathy. From your letter, it seems that you feel sorry for “Kate” rather than feel like like a friend. Additionally, it seems like she doesn’t always know how to be a good friend.

Your question “What should I do?” jumped out at me. Should is a loaded word. Most situations don’t have a one-size-fits-all solution.

Friendships are voluntary relationships meant to enhance lives. Does Kate make your life better? Do you enjoy spending time with her? You will still be a good person if you decide not to continue the friendship with her.

Having healthy personal boundaries means understanding where you stop and the other person begins. With Kate, where do her needs/wants for friendship end and yours start? Her needs aren’t more important than yours. What you want matters, too.

Lots of times people are afraid of hurting feelings by being direct but sometimes a lack of clarity can end up being more confusing and painful for the other person.

Some people are better than others at picking up cues. Since Kate doesn’t have other friends, she might not have learned this skill. Being direct may feel “mean.” Helping her understand what you want from the relationship is a kindness. For instance, you might say with as nicely as you can: “Kate, I’m sorry if I haven’t been clearer with you about our relationship. Mary, Sarah and Jennifer have been my best friends for a long time. You and I don’t have as much in common. I like being friendly with you in class, but I’d rather spend my time outside school with my best friends.”

Don’t apologize for having friends you like more than Kate, because that’s not wrong. You’re not responsible for Kate’s choices or lack of friendships. You have tremendous kindness and insight for being 15 years old.

Signed, *Amy Feld


*Amy Feld, PhD, MSW has trained and worked as a child psychologist.

Disclaimer: Nothing in this or any other post is intended to substitute for medical, psychiatric or clinical diagnosis/treatment. Rather, all posts are written as the type of advice that one friend might give to another.

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Category: Teen friendships

Comments (2)

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  1. Lorraine says:

    I agree with Tanya.

    At some point of your ‘friendship’ with Kate you may have sent her double messages. Meaning you say one thing and your body language shows a different message. It can be quite hard to understand which one to follow. It’s like someone giving directions to turn right, but they mean left instead. How must the person listening to the instructions know which one is meant if what you wish to say is not coming out clear from your head.

    I would suggest: 1) you write / type out what you would like to tell Kate;
    2) choose a quiet place to read it out to her.
    3) Be tactful, straight to the point, not rude or disrespectful.
    4) Put yourself in her shoes and ask your self, “If I was Kate, how would I liked to be treated in this situation?”

    I only knew there were different level’s of friendship at 52. The reason for this was the majority of people kept on telling me we’re friends but only when they wanted something from me. I was constantly puzzled by subtle behaviours and I find this more with women, than with men.

    There’s a book called “The Asperkid’s Secret – Book of Social Rules” by Jennifer Cook O’Toole. If you can afford to buy her a copy as a present, that could be a start of having something in common. You have something you’re good at and so does Kate. However, you won’t see that so quickly as she’s different to you. Who knows, both of you could meet up and benefit and learn something new together, without your other friends.

    Gracie, I believe you already know what to do.

    However, please consider the above tips. You won’t regret it and you’ll become a much better person in the long run than what you may think you know about yourself already.

    I wish you all the best.

  2. Tanja says:

    This happens. Not all friendships work out. If she makes you feel guilty or either you just do feel guilty and you keep saying sorry but doing it again, there is a problem in the relationship. Now, I would not tell her that “you don’t want to be friends anymore” that statement is unkind and causes more conflict or awkwardness. Instead, you could phrase it in a different way such as setting boundaries and letting her know that you have other friends as well that you would like to be with. She can either come with you and try to get along or not, but that is her choice and you do not have to feel bad about that. I would not use statements that “cut off” the friendship. But, eventually, things will fade. You teach people how to treat you. So,the fact that she always accepts your apology shows that she is lonely and she would rather have you than no one. It is not very good when one person in the relationship has all the power. In this case, you have all the power because she needs you more, it sounds like. So, you need to be very tactful and explain to her kindly how you would like to do this or that, she can either come with you or not or you come up with one day a week for an hour or so, where you spend time with just her. Hope this helps. Relationships, any kind, between friends, husband, wife, mother, father and child is like a dance: who makes the first step, the first move? how do you fall into a smooth groove with that person you are dancing with? Eventually, you find that comfortable groove to sway to and the type of dance will differ depending on the relationship, but each relationship has to work for you and if it does not, eventually the dance will fade and so will that person without any words being spoken.

    Hope this helps!!!!

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