Reader Q &A: Should breaking up be a blame game?

Published: December 16, 2008 | Last Updated: December 16, 2008 By | 3 Replies Continue Reading


Dear Irene:


When you break up with a female friend, is it really necessary to "give advice" about what they should do in the future, or is it better to focus on the problems within the relationship you were personally involved with?


I just got dumped by a friend who went on to say some very hurtful things under the guise of giving advice and saying she still cared about me, even if she didn’t want to be friends anymore. It just felt like having salt rubbed into the wound — she insulted my parents, my family, me, and cast doubt on my other relationships (none of which I’d been having trouble with), all while supposedly trying to help me be a better friend. I know she was just trying to give me a good explanation, but was it really necessary?


I’ve always tried to focus just on why it wasn’t working for me when I end a friendship, not try to give advice on how they should behave with other friends; it just seems like it’s enough to leave it implied. I also do a bit of the "It’s not you, it’s me" approach if I really care about the person but just can’t handle them anymore, since I don’t believe in putting all the blame on the other person when breaking up even if I feel that way –it just seems too hurtful/unfair. Is this correct, or is it okay to come out and say that it was all the other person’s fault?


And when you break up with a friend, do you also unfriend them on Facebook/MySpace? What am I supposed to think if she tells me she has no desire to have me in her life, then doesn’t unfriend me on Facebook?





Dear Anonymous,


Just as knowing what to say at a time of loss (e.g. a death) is always awkward, there is no commonly accepted protocol for breaking off a female friendship. That said, my thinking is that if an individual decides to unilaterally end a relationship, leaving no room for discussion, she should take responsibility for her decision and do whatever she can to allow the other person to feel unscathed.


Although your friend rationalized her bluntness by saying she was trying to help you become a better friend, her explanation doesn’t quite cut it for me.


  • She was insensitive about how you might be feeling. Being dumped without warning leaves any woman reeling, so her approach and timing was off if she really wanted to “help” you become a better friend.
  • Disparaging your parents and family should have been off bounds; Her relationship was with you, not them.
  • It is arrogant and unfair for her to blame the relationship’s demise entirely on you. She failed to recognize that all relationships are defined by two parties, not one. While your ex-friend may not have been able to sustain her relationship with you, other friends don’t seem to have the same problem with you. Did she even consider that it might be her and not you?
  • It sounds like she lashed out at you in anger. I’m not sure why. And because of the way she handled it, it has made it extraordinarily difficult for you to ever consider reconciling your relationship.


Since the ball is entirely in her court, I would consider the friendship over unless she comes back with a very good apology and you want to accept it. And if I were you, I would want to be sure to establish a comfortable distance from the woman who just dumped me. I wouldn’t want to know what she was doing and wouldn’t want her to know about me and my relationships. I understand your pain but I think you just need to move on. Taking control and defriending her might help.


Warm wishes,


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Comments (3)

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  1. Tam says:

    Recognize the hostility at play when someone cites your “sins” under the guise of advice or not. Hostility is something more than and other than “I have a bone to pick with you.” It’s more about “You were supposed to be made to order for me” and a whole lot of other myths. (Hostility is automatic in discrimination: And discrimination is built more on myths than facts.) Hostility also has a life of it’s own (like cancer) if left unchecked because it’s schtick is to prove that one’s state of mind is well founded, so perceptions get biased in favor of the mythical “proof”. A lot of times, too, we build a case for what is just a desire. Would that we were more noble: Got what we desired at the least expense to another. That’s what we’re supposed to be doing.

    In short, your ex-friend got hostile; got herself a litany of proofs to end the friendship with you. I find it funny that when it goes to hostile, people aren’t satisfied enough to quit the “source” of their hostility, they go gunning for the pound of flesh, too.

    You are absolutely correct that when you do as you desire (As in ending an ungratifying friendship), you do so at no expense to the other. If you think for one minute, “They need to know the reasons”, your desire is not wholesome at all. It then becomes a desire to poke at them… and then run away like a 6 year old. Adults leave people alone, to be who they are and find the best fits for themselves. So, when a friendship becomes too much trouble, it is most true to say “I’ve realize that our relationship does not serve us well now. I’m going to move on with fond memories of when it was gratifying. I will never forget the… (nice thing you did /nice time we shared, etc). That it doesn’t fit anymore in no way diminishes you and I wish you all good things”. That’s easy enough to say… What makes it less than obvious is the business of “feelings” overruling the rules and we to believe we have the exemption to become lawless… while, we’re saying in the next breath for every indecent and foul thing we learn of “What is this world coming to?”. This world is a sandbox shared. Piss and crap in it and it does get foul and noxious.

  2. Irene says:

    Dear Anonymous:


    Please don’t think of it as 6 years going down the drain. There was a time when it was a rewarding friendship and actually what you are doing is lessening the time that it will be toxic.

    With any luck, you will soon find another friendship that will be more satisfying and less uncomfortable.


    My best,


  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi Irene,

    Thanks so much for answering me! This has really been tearing me up (I can’t believe 6 years of being friends is just going down the drain) but I will try to move on. Thinking about it now, I guess we already started drifting apart after graduating, and it’s been awhile since hanging out together has been much fun for either of us. I will try to move on; thank you for your advice.

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