After I graduated from college, a girl I had been friends with for four years stopped returning my phone calls. I later found out from a mutual friend that she moved to New York. I was hurt that she didn't want to be my friend anymore, but I accepted it and didn't try to contact her again.
Last year, I befriended a young woman my age who lived in my neighborhood. We were friends until she got a boyfriend. Then all of a sudden she was no longer able to hang out, because she was always spending time with him. I still see her from time to time, and she likes to talk on and on about how well things are going with her boyfriend. She never mentions how she ignored my e-mailed invitations to hang out or how she dropped me the minute she found someone.
It's often awkward and painful when friendships end, especially when you're the one who gets dropped as a friend. I usually don't get an explanation for why the relationship ended, and I don't ask for one; I am afraid that I'll either get a list of excuses or a list of reasons why that person doesn't like me anymore. I figure it's better to just take the hint and move on.
It's even more difficult when you're the one who wants to end the friendship. That's a problem that I'm dealing with right now. I was friends with this girl for years. But now it feels like we don't have much in common anymore. I don't approve of some of the choices she made, and it's hard for me to listen to her talk about them. I tried to give her constructive criticism once or twice, but she didn't listen.
She is also similar to many people in my life who don't understand that my day doesn't end at five P.M., and I'm not free every weekend. Many people believe that college teachers have it easy: we only have to teach a few times a week, and we have the rest of the day free and summers off. They don't know that untenured college teachers often have to work through the summer, because we don't earn enough during the school year to live on. I may just spend a few hours in the classroom, but I still have appointments with students, e-mails to respond to, lesson plans to make, papers to grade, and department meetings to attend. Not to mention I have my website job and my dissertation to work on.
This person has always expected me to spend more time with her than I'm able to, even when I explained that I had to work. I finally realized that I didn't enjoy her company anymore; it felt like we were having the same conversation over and over again. I could no longer tolerate certain things about her that had bothered me for years.
I didn't want to hurt her feelings, so I didn't come right out and say why I no longer wanted to be friends. I just stopped calling. I didn't call her for months, but then she started calling and e-mailing me. I told her that I couldn't hang out anymore because I was busy with work and school, which was true. But she kept insisting that I set aside time for her. I finally told her that one reason I didn't want to hang out was because of certain things she kept doing, though I tried to be tactful about it.
For a while she stopped calling. But now, months later, she's e-mailing me again, and it infuriates me that she won't leave me alone. When former friends stopped returning my messages, it didn't take me that long to get the hint. I didn't keep contacting them, as this person has done.
When you break up with someone you've been dating, only in the worst scenarios does that person keep contacting you. And at least when you exit a romantic relationship, you can tell that person that you just don't feel that way anymore, or that you want to see other people. But I don't know the best way to break up with a friend. I feel like I can't say, "I just don't enjoy your company anymore."
I haven't returned any of her messages. I'm afraid that if I do I'll blow up at her and tell her what I think of her, once and for all. And even then I'm afraid that she still won't get it and will keep pressuring me to be her friend. But I don't WANT to, and I don't appreciate being made to feel like I HAVE to. You'd think after two years she'd have gotten the message.
Have you ever been in this situation? Have you ever ended a friendship before? How do you deal with it when people want to be your friend, but the feeling isn't mutual?
Interview with… Adam Byatt - Today it’s the turn of Adam Byatt to sit down and share his writing with us. This is my 13th interview, and there are still some wonderful authors to come!...
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