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How To Break Up With A Friend: It’s Never Easy

Published: May 16, 2024 | Last Updated: May 16, 2024 By | Reply Continue Reading
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A woman struggles with how to break up with a friend after she previously overlooked things that annoyed her in the past.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

Over the past few years, I’ve struggled with a friendship with a woman I met through my church nearly twenty years ago. I have decided my best course of action is to stop initiating contact.

I haven’t spent time with her for over a year, and I think she’s finally gotten the message that I’m no longer interested. The problem is I can’t avoid her at my small church, and then I doubt myself and feel less than confident about my decision.

This former friend, “Sue,” has a daughter who was a friend of my daughter’s—or so I thought. Sue’s daughter is 2.5 years older than mine. Sue would speak badly about my daughter (her daughter told my daughter this happened!) and encourage the girl to be manipulative, faking interest in their friendship but not making plans. 

Sue also lied to me several times, fabricating false reasons to encourage my daughter to stay away from hers at church youth events. She has a reputation for being entitled and demanding when it comes to her children, and I ignored that until it became a real issue in my life. 

Fortunately, my daughter has stopped trying to make this dead-end relationship with her daughter work and has moved on.

My friend wanted to preserve her relationship with me despite her obvious dislike and poor treatment of my daughter. I can’t accept that. However, in addition to my lack of trust, I’ve found Sue to be argumentative, overly combative at times, and more challenging to spend time with than I prefer. 

Part of me thinks she’s jealous — she and her husband are hardly more than housemates, which has been the case for years. She also has no extended family; her children are now young adults, and I suspect she’s lonely.

Part of my doubt is likely related to the fact that I overlooked so much bad behavior for years that I don’t know how to stand my ground now that I see the truth.

I am looking for validation that I am entitled to end a friendship with someone whose primary fault is treating my child poorly despite her obvious desire to remain friends with me.

Libby

ANSWER

Hi Libby,

It’s completely understandable that you’re struggling with this situation. Ending a long-standing friendship, especially when it involves past oversights, can be emotionally complex.

Your Protective Instincts Are Spot On

As a parent, your priority is your daughter’s well-being. Sue’s behavior, from encouraging negativity towards your daughter to fabricating stories, is not only manipulative but disrespectful. Trust is a cornerstone of friendship, and Sue’s actions have understandably eroded yours.

You Deserve Healthy Connections

Healthy friendships are supportive and enriching. They shouldn’t be a source of stress or doubt. The fact that you find Sue argumentative and prefer less challenging company is a valid reason to distance yourself.

Focus on Fading, Not Formality

Since you haven’t seen Sue in a year, and she seems to understand the dynamic shift, a formal breakup might not be necessary. When you encounter her at church, a polite nod or hello is perfectly sufficient. Focus on building stronger connections with people who uplift and support you.

Addressing Past Oversights

It’s common to overlook red flags in long-term friendships. Sometimes, dynamics shift, and what was once tolerable becomes unhealthy. Don’t beat yourself up for past decisions. Acknowledge your growth and prioritize your well-being moving forward.

Moving Forward with Confidence

You are absolutely entitled to end a friendship that no longer serves you. Surround yourself with people who value your daughter and bring positivity to your life. If you are struggling, consider reaching out to supportive friends or a therapist to navigate this transition.

I hope this is helpful. You might also want to read this previous post on “the rules” for breaking up with a friend.

Best, Irene


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