Social media makes interacting with people impersonal. When you decide you don’t want to continue interacting with someone, it’s as simple as the click of a button from the comfort of wherever you are. Unfriending someone in real life is not as clean-cut as this. It’s personal and uncomfortable. It’s messy and awkward.
I unfortunately had to experience this very recently.
I met my friend about 9 years ago at my job. After a few years, there was a messy demise to the friendship and we parted ways on bad terms.
A couple years later, she reached out to reconnect, let bygones be bygones. I thought we had handled things immaturely back then and since some time had passed and we’d grown up a little, we should give things a go again.
Initially, everything was great. We had just bought a house, they had just had a baby and we were catching up.
Fast forward to now and, without airing dirty laundry out of respect, I decided I had to go a different direction. At some point I tried to let the friendship dissolve organically, but it doesn’t work when the other person isn’t on the same page.
To be fair, there was never a one-off incident that would have been an obvious indicator that something wasn’t right. It was a gradual build up over time and I finally decided I had to cut ties. It was not an easy decision. Not at all.
At first, I decided not to respond to messages. I assumed if I didn’t respond, she would get that something was wrong and move on. In hind sight, this was not the best approach. Eventually she became very persistent and wanted an explanation.
It sounds foolish to someone who doesn’t understand anxiety, but I just wanted the situation to go away; confrontation does not bode well with my anxiety. I loathe it. I fear it. Now, being confronted for answers, I felt I had to do something. I felt it was fair and would provide closure.
I decided to send an email. I opened my computer after the kids went to bed and began typing. Despite my feelings leading up to this moment, it was extremely hard for me to get words down. I finally began to just type. I went over, and over, and over the very short letter. Removed a sentence, tweaked another. I absolutely wanted to make sure I didn’t place blame and to be respectful, but also make clear what my intentions were. I didn’t want to say I was looking for space, or needed time. I was walking away definitively.
I was left with about a 6 or 7 sentence letter, which took me almost an hour to write. I don’t want to disclose the exact letter, however I stated I was sorry for ignoring messages previously and I’ve had good times that I appreciated, but I was going a different direction. I said I didn’t mean to hurt her and that was not ever my intention.
I understand from her perspective this was a complete blind side and with no real explanation. There was no way for me to give an explanation that wouldn’t seem like I was blaming or criticizing. The bottom line is, it was necessary for me to walk away and I did so as respectfully as I knew how.
I sat a long time in front of my computer, contemplating, fighting with myself. Was I doing the right thing? Was this what I really wanted? Yes. I knew once I hit “send” there was no going back. I finally spontaneously reached my hand up and hit the button. That was it. It was done.
As soon as I hit the button, I cried. At first, I wasn’t even sure why I was crying. I cried because I had to fight myself and my anxiety to make an extremely difficult decision. I cried because I knew I was going to hurt her. I cried because a friendship was ending. I cried because this friendship had failed again.
I know she does not understand where things went wrong. I know she thinks there was something specific that happened. That’s not how this came to be. It seems unfair to not have given an explanation, but I know in my heart of hearts it was the right thing to do. I would have only left more questions and caused more animosity.
After I sent the email, I received more text messages the next day. I decided not to respond to them because I had already messaged her making my intentions clear, so there was no question left as to what was happening. I really had nothing else to say. I didn’t want to go back and forth with me trying to explain myself or her feeling like she needed to defend herself. I don’t feel that I owed that much of an explanation and she didn’t owe it to me to defend herself.
Even so, I was at work and wasn’t able to focus on that. It was too much to deal with before I was able to get home.
Before I was even able to finish my lunch, I received what was to be the final text message from her. Her demeanor had changed. I assume because I wouldn’t engage or give her the answers she was looking for, she had now moved directly to anger.
Basically, she said she guessed our “friendship” wasn’t a real friendship. She then accused me of being immature and said I should grow up and I should stop hiding from my problems. I don’t know for sure if this was her spewing because she was upset, or trying a different approach to get me to engage, but either way I stayed quiet. There was no benefit whatsoever to me responding at this point.
I spent a long time deciding what was right for me and how to execute that decision with as little damage as possible. I took the most mature way possible to deal with this that I could think of. I didn’t hide at all. Contradictory, I dealt with it head on by blatantly stating I was walking away.
She had no idea what was going on in my life to make me decide this (in her defense, I never told her anything, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t dealing with something). Maybe it wasn’t even about her at all.
Regardless, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and was as understanding as I could possibly be. I was able to understand a degree of anger.
A couple weeks passed and I hadn’t heard anything else. Of course, the situation crossed my mind every few days, but I was elated it was finally dealt with and she and I could both move forward.
I hadn’t blocked her from any accounts we were connected through. Firstly, I didn’t feel the need on my end for unfriending in the virtual world. Secondly, as patronizing as it might sound, I figured if she felt the need for unfriending, I would at least give her the dignity to be the one to do it since I felt I had already don’t enough to make her upset. I am still undecided at this point if that was a mistake or not.
A few days ago, while fulfilling my almost daily need to pin on Pinterest, up pops a recent pin from her. Harmless I thought. Before I could scroll further down in my home page, three more. In fact, she has gone out of her way to make an entirely new board called “quotes.” Also, harmless, until you factor in the timing and the content. The pins read:
I have what I have and I am happy. I’ve lost what I’ve lost and I am still happy.
Be happy. It drives people crazy.
Making mistakes is better than faking perfections.
Whoever is trying to bring you down is already below you.
Naturally, I thought fuck this and proceeded to block her from all accounts, including Pinterest. If I’ve ever been wrong about anything my whole life, these being directed at me is not one of those things.
I’ve never once said I hope she was unhappy. I’ve never once said she wasn’t allowed to make mistakes (furthermore, I have never acted like I am perfect, especially in her presence). I’ve never once said anything to try to bring her down, so to say I’m beneath her is borderline see-you-next-Tuesday-ish. In fact, the very fact that she stopped her regular life activities to do this would prove that she is trying to bring me down.
Choosing to walk away from a friendship is not in itself a criticism of the other person. Sometimes, it’s a necessity for oneself.
I had spent so much time and energy making this as respectful and mature as I possibly could. I never once accused her of saying, doing or being anything, despite her accusations about my maturity.
BUT… I still stayed quiet. Because, you see, I will never regret accusing her of something, bad-mouthing her, or engaging in other regretful behavior. I am nearly positive I am being slandered by her, as one would do when they’re angry with someone.
But blood is thicker than water, and the view from the high road is much clearer and serener.
In all honestly, I’m glad she’s said what she’s said and behaved the way she has. True colors shine brighter when people are angry. If I am being slandered, then it further proves that unfriending was without a doubt the right thing to do. If she really thinks I’m immature, a fake perfectionist and beneath her, then why would she have wanted to be my friend anyway?
If I ever run into her somewhere, I will be cordial, polite and respectful. Unfriending her does not mean I don’t wish her well, it just means I have to do it from a distance.
Have you ever had to walk away from a friendship? What was the experience like?