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My once-closest friend and I have seriously drifted apart. It's come as far as that I do not want to invest any more energy in the friendship and I'd prefer it to just quietly end.

I am unsure, however, whether to tell him (live, or by e-mail) that I consider our friendship done. A complicating factor is that we are both part of an extended social circle centered around our bridge club, with many mutual friends. I do not expect him to retreat from that circle anytime soon, nor am I planning to.

A bit of background may be in order. We have been friends since college, and over the last few years have mainly bonded over board games and bridge. We are both around 40, and are both male.

I'll try to name a few reasons I want to end this, but I'll try and stay short:

  • He complains a lot, always about the same things--mainly work and other people in his life. He takes advice about the issues, doesn't follow any of it and then complains again next time we meet. Rinse and repeat.
  • He has incredibly high expectations of people he interacts with in matters of communication, how they should behave and what they should do for him. And doesn't live up to them in return himself.
  • Connecting to previous: if I, in his eyes, failed his expectations, we have to talk about it for a bit and then he puts me on the defensive about what his slights are or, even, as he puts it, 'the standard of people you interact with'.

Lately, we have had very little interaction. After I had to find out about his girlfriend's pregnancy through her social media rather than him telling me, I decided not to put any effort in this anymore. A few weeks ago, he (too late, imho) proposed to have dinner together again, with his partner and mine. I avoided that proposal and have not had contact since.

If I prefer this to die a quiet death, is it better I end things with him by an email or a talk? Or is it better to just stay quiet and hope that he takes the cues? I'd prefer to keep a respectful distance while still interact every now and then, because we are in the same club.

tl;dr: My old friend has worn out my patience, partially by not initiating much contact. We are going to be seeing each other in social situations, but I want our friendship to be over, preferably quietly. Is it best to 'officially' end things with an email or a talk, or not?

closed as primarily opinion-based by Anne Daunted, sphennings, Anoplexian, apaul, Tinkeringbell Feb 19 '18 at 9:44

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Welcome to IPS.SE! We can't tell you what you should do, but only offer help in how to achieve your goal. – Anne Daunted Feb 15 '18 at 15:34
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    It might be of note that we are both Dutch--a culture known for its ruthless directness. – Bakabaka Feb 15 '18 at 15:45
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    @AK_is_curious We have talked about it multiple times over, in which I have refrained from commenting on things that bug me about his behaviour out of respect for 20 years of friendship. The total package has made me decide that I'm kind of beyond trying to mend this. – Bakabaka Feb 15 '18 at 16:37
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    I have (had) several friendships over the years who have drifted apart. Some recovered, some didn´t - no benefit in officially ending it. Just limit your investments and let this relationship breath. It seems though you are hurt and actually want to get back at him a little bit. Are you sure you are asking the right questions? – user6109 Feb 15 '18 at 17:03
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    As it is, there's a little bit of "should I" in this question, which makes any answer opinion-based. I'd suggest removing that element and making it a "i've decided to; how do I..." to get this reopened – baldPrussian Feb 15 '18 at 18:41
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Since your purpose here is to have this friendship die a quiet death, your best bet may well be simply ignoring him, and having him eventually take the hint.

You guys don't seem to see each other very often, and he doesn't initiate much contact. Simply follow in his footsteps, and do the same. And on the rare occasions when he does try to engage with you, reply that you can't make it (with perhaps a delay of a few days). Eventually he'll stop initiating altogether.

Be polite in social situations where you run into him, although you may wish to somewhat avoid him even then. For example, if there's several groups of people at an event, stay away from the one which includes him.


PS: This is an answer on a very similar question that I wrote not too long ago. The situation was different enough that I advised honesty, and a direct approach instead of quietly letting the relationship "die". Feel free to read it, to sort of get a glimpse at the other side of the coin as it were.

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I wouldn't lie to him, but not volunteering the truth of your feelings is not lying.

I would avoid interaction with him, using uninformative refusals: "No thanks," "I'm not that interested," or if it is true, "We have other plans."

If he asks tell him the truth. If Dutch culture is known for ruthless directness, you can try a less ruthless but still direct approach.

Say you have just lost interest in expending the effort it takes to meet his "standards of interaction." They have made it not fun for you to get together anymore, and on top of that you feel like your interests are no longer as well aligned as they once were.

If he responds that you should have told him, or done X or Y, say: That is an example, and you are tired of living up to his standards of interaction, so you have chosen to stop interacting.

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    This is a valuable option to me. I have tried to subtly hint multiple times over that his standard play into my securities big time, but that hasn't alleviated the problem. Thanks. – Bakabaka Feb 15 '18 at 16:39
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Some answers to this question have recommended "ghosting", and some have recommended not ghosting, but talking to him.

I'd suggest neither.

It's come as far as that I do not want to invest any more energy in the friendship and I'd prefer it to just quietly end.

From what you're saying, I gather that you've had it with this guy, dealing with him leaves you drained with no positive benefit, and you just want to cut things off.

Don't cut him off. The temptation to cut the relationship off comes from the desire to fix an annoying issue. If you have a sink that keeps dripping at night and irritating you, eventually you're going to want to fix the damn thing. Then the problem will be solved and your frustration will be over.

However, in this situation, if you take drastic action and cut off the relationship (whether via ghosting or direct confrontation), you won't get the same sense of relief. You'll just feel grief and sadness, as others have expressed in their answers.

A better solution is simply to continue to drift apart. Don't contact him unsolicited. Politely decline invitations from him. If you see him at a mutual gathering, remain pleasant but keep conversation at the level of small talk. If he starts complaining about whatever, cut him off and say something like

that sounds bad, but I want to relax and enjoy myself this evening

Or tell him

maybe you should try and focus on the positive

Or

it's probably not as bad as you think

These latter two lines works well on complainers, because you're invalidating his complaints, and he'll find someone else to vent to. (Use sparingly, mind).

If he starts criticising you, brush it off with something like

that's just the kind of person I am

Or

I honestly think you're making too big a deal out of this

It may be that in a few years you've both changed, his behaviour may begin to improve, and you can become close again. Or you continue to drift and become friendly acquaintances.


A final thought: from the way you've described him he sounds like someone with high standards and expectation of how people should behave, but low self-awareness. I'd guess he's the kind of person who sees himself as very logical and rational, and thinks everyone who disagrees with him as illogical. (I personally think people like this are way less rational than they imagine, but that's a whole other discussion). I might be completely wrong on this.

However, if I'm right, he's the kind of person who is easily swayed by emotional dynamics, because he doesn't properly process his own emotions. If, for example, you invalidate or dismiss his complaints in the manner I described above, he'll feel uncomfortable but won't be able to explain why, and will leave you alone. It sounds like he's really upset you multiple times and hasn't realised it, which might be why you're frustrated, especially given that he likes to play the game of "lets discuss how your behaviour can be improved" but won't change his behaviour.

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Alright, story time... I lost a very deep friend almost the same way as you, many years ago. Granted, there was a very bad, life-threatening and literally life-shattering midlife crisis on his side, and I had my hands full with unhappy family stuff outside of my control, which got between us as well. This went over years (I believe it took him over 3 years to get out of it, ending up with moving out from his wife and child, ending his previous career with finality, starting work as a nurse at a closed institution for bad mental disability cases etc.; all during which I was his sole communication outlet for all his trouble - we lived separated by a few 100km, and we Skyped for many hours each night). But the rest was similar to what you told me.

Eventually, we did let it "ghost", as RedOculus calls it.

Eventually, after a very long time of mutual incommunicado, I wrote him one very last email, telling him that having the contact we had at the end was very hurtful to me (the part where he regularly told me all I did wrong with other people, without recognizing or accepting that what he deemed wrong were very conscious, thought-out decisions of mine...), so I was not strong enough to continue it; excused myself for any hurt I may or may not have given him; but that I was glad about the many years of deep friendship we had, and that I would be open to him whenever he would need me or wanted to talk about it. I have not since heard from him, except through distant common friends, who occasionally meet him, and occasionally let it slip that they did so (but not implying anything - not that he mentioned me, or that they feel it as a tension or whatever). It looks like he is doing well now, and I do not know whether anybody except us two really knows what went on with us.

Frankly, I do not know whether he got the email. I do not really know if he was angry at me at the end, or sad, or indifferent, or (he also, at that time, turned to Buddhism) decided to let it all go, like I did. I absolutely hope so, for his sake. I fully and consciously decided to let him go, doing a lot of meditation and conscious "mind work" myself, and have no regrets about anything. I do not brood on this today, but the experience is always with me and has certainly changed me (hard to say if for better or worse).

So. Your case seems to be a bit more relaxed. Just let him ghost away. Don't be rude, don't open a can of worms, just let him be. If he comes and spends good time with you, let that happen. Be indifferent about when he criticizes you. Be happy for him when there is something to be happy about. But don't call him up, don't start conversations, don't send emails etc. You will find other friends; he has a family know and does not absolutely need you. You are both adults. And after a few months or a year write him a wrap-up email to reflect on your past and acknowledge that it was a good time while it lasted, and to let him know that there are no hard feeling. All will be well.

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You may dread it, but you only have to do it once, Talk to him.

The pregnancy is an opportunity to have a candid talk about the diverging directions your lives are taking. Actual communication is the only certain way to clarify your intentions and it could be done tactfully enough to cause no hard feelings. The important thing to remember during this talk is to refrain from going on the offensive. keep the discussion about events surrounding your lives rather then focusing on what you don't like about him. Make the talk about the future, his and your own. Bring up the issues which take your attention and mention that his life is about to take on more responsibilities which will consume his time. In light of these life changes you may not be able to be there for him like the past. Leave him with best wishes and maybe a practical gift for the baby, like a car seat.

3 out of the 4 answers here recommend "Ghosting" as it's known in slang. Ghosting is only barely acceptable for young people dating, not at all acceptable for mature adults. Ghosting leads to hard feelings because it causes confusion, then the psychological defense mechanisms follow that confusion. The urban dictionary (the slang authority) has this to say about ghosting:

Ghosting - The act of suddenly ceasing all communication with someone the subject is dating, but no longer wishes to date. This is done in hopes that the ghostee will just "get the hint" and leave the subject alone, as opposed to the subject simply telling them he/she is no longer interested. Ghosting is not specific to a certain gender and is closely related to the subject's maturity and communication skills. Many attempt to justify ghosting as a way to cease dating the ghostee without hurting their feelings, but it in fact proves the subject is thinking more of themselves, as ghosting often creates more confusion for the ghostee than if the subject kindly stated how he/she feels.

Even though the source is Urban dictionary, not even as scholarly a source as wiki, the opinion contained in the definition is not only valid, its also the most likely outcome if you tried ghosting. Chances are you will be labeled as immature, or a flake or worse; when the ghostee's defense mechanisms write the narrative. Right now you feel like not dealing with it and ghosting is certainly the easy option. Ghosting doesn't end the problem, it just creates another chapter of different problems. Nip it in the bud and be done with it.

Since this answer directly contradicts the others, I expect many vindictive down votes. If you find this answer among the deleted ones, consider that even doing nothing has consequences.

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    "Vindictive - marked by a desire to hurt." The voting going on here is, hopefully, for the most part not designed to hurt the receiver, but to express the opinion of the voter. That's the point of this site, to collect different answers and then, communally, find out which might be the "best" one; with the OP having the final vote. Which, especially on IPS, certainly contains an elemen of opinion and/or differing life experiences. I'd suggest to remove your last paragraph, it doesn't help. – AnoE Feb 16 '18 at 8:08
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    There's one scenario where I've been in the role of that friend that was liked but not so much anymore. I noticed more and more that I got only short responses when texting, so at some point I straight up asked if she doesn't want to text with me anymore and explained why I had that impression. She affirmed but at the same time made sure to state that I shouldn't try to change for our friendship. I developed in some direction, she in another. Honestly, that answer made me sad but was better than uncertainity because I didn't have to waste energy on her anymore. +1 for honest communication – lucidbrot Feb 16 '18 at 13:14
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    This is what I ended up doing, and probably saving the friendship anyway. Thanks. – Bakabaka May 4 '18 at 9:29
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If I prefer this to die a quiet death, should I end things with him by an email or a talk? Or is it better to just stay quiet and hope that he takes the cues?

What you're describing is the type of thing that totally kills me: the process whereby best friends become strangers.

The prospect of him becoming a father seems to have evoked some sentimentality in him.

How, if at all, should I 'officially' end things with him?

You really don't have to do anything.

Miss the celebration of the birth of his child, and if relevant, the Christening.

However, when you see him after the birth, you definitely need to congratulate him and acknowledge the kid. You will both be a bit nostalgic, perhaps promise that your families should have dinner. But neither of you will intend to do so.

The slow death of a friendship is such a sad process.

  • I know, right? It is exactly this why I have put up with a lot and have postponed this for very long now. Thanks for chipping in. – Bakabaka Feb 15 '18 at 16:40
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    The slow death of a friendship is such a sad process. It does not need to be if you remember that all things eventually come to an end. Accepting it as just an inevitable part of life makes it easier. Other friends will come. Clinging will make it hard for everybody. – AnoE Feb 15 '18 at 19:43
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Friendship is not a contract; it doesn't need a defined start and end date.

Friendship is, instead, a mutually-beneficial relationship usually developed through shared experience. If you are no longer receiving the benefits of the relationship, then you will have little reason to provide benefits to your former friend. The absence of the give-and-take and the lack of shared experience is the end of the friendship. No other action is needed.

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I would just not go out of my way to interact with that person anymore, but still be polite when inevitably you have to.
You said that it's mostly due to his behavior, with a few specific things he does, tell him. If he complains about things that he didn't follow your advice over, tell him. If he berates you for things that he won't follow himself, tell him.

That way he either has a chance to change or he knows that you're annoyed by his behavior which will lead to the end of the relationship.

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