I used to have a friend who I would fairly regularly see - usually for lunch.

A few details about this individual:

  • Very quiet and shy
  • Is a high-functioning autistic individual
  • Socially awkward

We fell out of touch a few years ago when he (very suddenly) lost his job and moved away, however he quite recently moved back and has started to try to restore the friendship, which I was originally receptive to.

However, I've since stumbled across an article on the website of one of my local news outlets, dated around the time he lost his job, indicating he had been convicted of a crime. The judge showed leniency because of his autism and he wasn't put in jail (it was deemed that he would be at risk from the other inmates). I won't go into details of the crime, but suffice to say I find his particular crime abhorrent, and as such no longer wish to be associated with him.

I ignored his previous communication (sent in a setting where it could be feigned as unnoticed) - but would like a way to firmly cut ties with him the next time he reaches out without being insulting. How can I do this?

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    I was aware he'd lost his job at the time, and he dodged questions as to why so I dropped it. I would agree that he was not a close friend, but closer than casual acquaintance implies.
    – Scoots
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 12:57
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    Where/how long was he gone? Also, is 'moved away' indicating that he did jail time? Is there anyone else you can talk to to gain a better insight as to what he has been doing?
    – Jesse
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 15:59
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    Do you feel you would be in any danger by upsetting this individual?
    – corsiKa
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 16:43
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    @corsiKa Hey, sorry for the slow reply - work and life both pulled me away from the PC. I've honestly not considered it - he has displayed violent outbursts before, but they were all short lived, mild, and triggered by prolonged harrassment (never once directed at myself). I'd like to say I don't think so, but I'm not sure how well I know him any more.
    – Scoots
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 17:26
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    I'm voting to close this because it's essentially a "what should I say?" question. Commented Apr 22, 2018 at 13:02

6 Answers 6


Keep in mind that doing this is a step that both of you cannot go back from. Suppose 10 or 20 years down the road he wants to reach out to you. Will you still hold that against him? If not, then firmly cutting ties may not be the best decision.

But lets say that it is. You want to never again be associated with your friend. I think that the most effective way to do this is to say: "I need to be frank with you. You were convicted of [x]. Whatever the circumstances, I find this abhorrent and cannot get past that. I'm sorry but I need cut our ties".
This tells him why and what steps you are taking.

If that's what you want to do, stop reading here.

I'd challenge myself, however, to be his friend. I'd try to find out his side of the story. Not all prosecutions are unfair (and I'd say most of them are fair and proper), but there are enough anecdotes out there of overly zealous prosecutors and bad defenses that I'd want to do that for a friend. Before I write someone out of my life, I want to be absolutely sure I'm making the right decision. I may decide to take some time away for me to process this information. I may decide that he needs a friend more than he needs ostracism. There are a couple variables that I personally would want to address.

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    Thank you for your advice - I will definitly take some time to consider the future repurcussions of this. If I decide to hold to this course, your phrasing looks like it will be very helpful.
    – Scoots
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 13:24

When someone commits a crime, there is punishment, and then there are consequences. The two are very different.

Punishment is limited, and without getting into a debate about whether or not sentences are sufficient or too lenient, the bottom line is that once a prison sentence is over or a fine has been paid then the criminal has "paid their debt to society" and that is the end of the matter.

Consequences though can be ongoing. Every action has consequences, and these don't necessarily end when the punishment is over. For example (and I am not suggesting this is the crime for which your friend was convicted) a paedophile may complete a sentence and be declared as rehabilitated but a court order may prevent him from working with children for the rest of his life.

If the crime for which your former friend was convicted is abhorrent to you, it is understandable that you don't want to be around him. That is a consequence of his actions, and he has to live with that.

I make this point because a large part of your difficulty in saying what you want to say to him is likely that you feel some kind of guilt for being unable to "forgive" him, but if the details of his crime affect on any level, you have no reason to feel guilt about it. Most criminals are subject to some kind of rehabilitation program and likely he will have been made to understand that too.

As we do not know the details of his crime and I do not wish to send you into a direct confrontation which could be dangerous or inadvisable, you do have the option of ignoring / blocking his communications. Some will argue this isn't an "interpersonal" solution but I think it sends a very clear "non-verbal" message.

But if you must to have a final conversation with him, then just be straight and honest. Perhaps say:

I have become aware of the reason you moved away. I appreciate that you have paid the price for your crime now, but I'm afraid I don't want to be associated with you as a result of that crime. I hope that you can turn your life around, but I ask that you do not contact me again.

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    I neglected to mention in the actual question, but he hasn't faced any jail time due to the judge showing lenience for an autistic first offender - he was deemed at risk from other inmates. I thank you for the answer however, you make some good points.
    – Scoots
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 16:09
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    I don't think I would put the part about "paid the price for your crime". If poster wants to cut ties interlocutor, then poster doesn't need to appeal to a sense of morals or of justice. I'd say that this part is useful only if interlocutor has specifically raised this objection. Otherwise, saying something like "paid the price" could give the impression to interlocutor that the rejection is somewhat negotiable.
    – a3nm
    Commented Apr 21, 2018 at 12:41

but would like a way to firmly cut ties with him the next time he reaches out without being insulting.

You're asking the impossible. There's no reason for this person not to be insulted. You're making a personal judgment about their behaviour and intentionally severing all contact with them as a result. There's no way to dress that up.

Your options are:

  • Just ignore his approaches. This leaves your options open in case some time in the future you change your mind.
  • Spell out to him why you don't want further contact with him, accepting that this is likely to be upsetting.

I'm in a similar situation, and wrestled with myself a bit before posting this answer. If you take away anything else from this answer, know that you're not alone.

Good friend of almost 20 years gets arrested 2 years ago for... something pretty unforgiveable. While awaiting sentencing on that arrest, gets arrested late last year again for similar (new) offenses.

I'm pretty torn over this.

On one hand, if all of his friends abandon this guy then what hope does he have to turn his life around? On the other, his offense was, well, as I said pretty unforgiveable. Nor is there any doubt about his guilt in the matter.

So the question you have to ask yourself is, do I feel any need to help salvage this person, or just abandon him to his fate? Because if you don't help who will? That's not necessarily an exhortation to do so: you may decide that either he's not worth helping or that it's not your place to do so or that it's not worth the risk. But that's what's at stake here, and I urge you to consider it before writing this individual off. Both for your sake and his: you don't want to hear 5 years from now that he killed himself and wonder if you could have made the difference. Even if you decide to still write this person off, at least you know gave the matter due consideration.

If you are at that point, you need to gently but firmly tell this person that you hope he finds help, but that you are unwilling to move past this event.


Given that your former friend was convicted of something, and given that this conviction is what is making you uneasy, it would make sense for you to approach him and be honest about where you are coming from.

I heard you were convicted of blah? I personally find that kind of behaviour reprehensible, and would prefer not to have anything more to do with you.

Having said that, he has most likely had plenty of time to think about, and atone for, his actions. Since he is not (by your description) a very outgoing type of person, and he has been locked away for some time, then chances are that he has very few "friends" at all. Hence, giving him a second chance might actually be beneficial for everyone (note that this depends a lot on what the crime was).

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    He was actually shown leniency due to his autism and was not locked away - it was deemed that he would be at risk from fellow prisoners.
    – Scoots
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 13:26
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    @Scoots Well, then there is all the more reason not to push him away. Maybe talk to him about it, but with the goal of your conversation being that you don't judge him for what happened in the past (because to be fair, his conviction wasn't for some crime against you personally, right?). Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 5:57

I'd suggest you should be straight in saying you do not want to see him again but present it as "I'm interested in different things these days. We really don't have anything in common any more". This way you can avoid talking about the real issue because if that comes up it could end up in a situation where he tries to justify his actions and it is clear from your post that you do not want to talk about the criminal activity.

In my experience, trying to postpone a difficult discussion by saying you're busy, is simply leaving the door open to him saying "how about next week then?" and you will end up on a merry go round.

I don't have any experience with Autistic men but there are quite a few other topics here that mention autism and might be helpful to you. One of the answers in this one - Dealing with somebody who's ignoring my very existence - explains quite a bit about how information is processed and suggests that a written response can be more effective than talking to the person.

  • That answer you've linked to there is a particularly well written piece and has given me a lot to consider. Thank you.
    – Scoots
    Commented Apr 19, 2018 at 13:34
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    I'd really like to upvote this for linking to that previous answer, that was a great call I remember that answer and feel its one of the most useful things on autism I've ever read. But I worry that your first paragraph advice conflicts with that answer in that it send s a mixed message that if only they had things in common again they could be friends... when they can't, so could leave the former friend trying to clear a bar that he never can. Also in comments @Scoots said that the ex-friend reached out over the Steam platform, which suggests they do still have leisure interests in common.
    – user9837
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 10:15
  • Thanks @Spagirl. As I don't have any experience with autistic men, my suggestion to look at the other page was meant to offer more options rather than support my answer. I should have clarified. I do have experience of a situation where a workmate (now in jail for 18 years) was convicted of an indefensible crime and my approach of framing the rejection as "I've moved on", rather than referring to or acknowledging his actions, is what I would do if he ever reached out. I agree with you about that fantastically helpful insight into autism.
    – Jak
    Commented Apr 23, 2018 at 9:27

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