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Dear Nicola...

How do I ‘dump’ my longtime friend?

Written by . Published on February 10th 2011.


Dear Nicola...





Nicola Mostyn

Friday 4 February 2011

How do I ‘dump’ my longtime friend?

Dear Nicola

I have a friend I’ve known since we were at school together and who, I’m beginning to realise, I only see out of duty. I generally come away from meeting her feeling bad about myself as she seems to take every opportunity she can to talk about herself and her perfect life and subtly put me down. I’ve thought about confronting her but I can’t see her changing and she’d probably just deny it. I think I would be happier if I just didn’t have to see her again, but she keeps calling and arranging to meet up and I don’t know how to extricate myself from such a long time friendship without bad feeling.

Nicola replies:

Ah for the simple days of high school where ‘breaking friends’ was an almost hourly occurrence. Unfortunately, allegiances get more complex as you get older, based on concepts like loyalty and honesty and shared experience, rather than a shared love of George Michael and ra-ra skirts.Loyalty is a great quality, but paying your dues to time spent doesn’t really help anyone. You will have changed significantly since you both met (at the very least I’m guessing you won’t still have a bubble perm). Perhaps your friend is still operating on the old school girl hierarchy and you haven’t found a way to enlighten her that those old rules no longer apply. And if she sees you as part sounding board, part flattering mirror, and you have not set her straight, she has no reason to begin acting any differently. I’m not suggesting it’s your fault - undoubtedly your friend could do with a touch more self-awareness - but we can only get great friendships (supportive, inspiring, nurturing and fun) if we’re willing to give and exchange information honestly. You are playing a role to your friend – one which you clearly resent - but similarly, if she feels required to buoy up her ‘perfect’ life at your expense, she’s probably not being totally truthful either. Not all friendships are about deep conversations, true, but if you’re not having any fun either then what precisely is the point?It’s hard - though not impossible – to update your files with long time friends and it’s definitely a worthwhile exercise, but the success of this depends on whether there is any love between you. We need different things from different friends at different life stages. Currently you two might have little in common except history, but as people pass through various new experiences - motherhood, illness, career shifts, bereavement – once dormant, friendship can blossom again in unexpected and rewarding ways. If you do love your friend at heart but she is, just right now, irritating the hell out of you, then take some distance, but without a blazing row (something which, if you continue your friendship on the current basis, is almost certain to happen.)Get suddenly very ‘busy’ with a project for a period of some months – this in itself should send the message that your time is precious. Then, after some distance, initiate contact on your own terms, and make a commitment to having the sort of friendship you actually want. This means pointing out the things that she does that you find offensive in as gentle and firm a way as possible – even joking about them if you can. If she doesn’t shape up, then at least you gave her a chance and – crucially – learned how to stand up for yourself.

Friendship never ends?
If confrontation really isn’t a possibility or you just don’t care enough to put yourself through that, then do what most people do – drift off, phasing out one-to-one contact altogether. It’s not the ideal option simply because, no matter how old we get, none of us like to be ‘broken friends’ with, at least not without the chance to know what we did and attempt to put it right. But sometimes it is the only way. Losing friends is tough, but occasionally essential. It we all kept the same company for our whole lives, then it would be impossible to grow and have new experiences.Learning when to hold on to friends and when to let go is probably the most difficult part, since, unlike school, the days when you could just swap a George Michael key ring and magically ‘make friends’ again are, alas, long gone.

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Nicola Mostyn
Liverpool Confidential
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