Divorcing a friend
Not every friendship is meant to last a lifetime. How to make a clean break if you need to end one.
Mon Apr 13 2009
Your friend’s the dean of drama, the maven of manipulation—and you’ve had it. But you’d never divorce a spouse without seeking counsel, so don’t ditch your pal without expert advice. Jason Price, licensed marriage and family therapist and partner with the Center for Divorce Recovery (847-412-0280), weighs in on how to dissolve a friendship as painlessly as possible.
Be direct. “When you’re trying to separate from a friend, you have to be clear and succinct about why you’re ending the friendship,” Price says. “If you make up excuses or give a wishy-washy answer, there’s a greater likelihood you’ll feel guilty and the friend will not believe you and will seek more answers.” Edgewater resident Mark*, 36, was direct when he cut off Doug, whom Mark calls a “Class A manipulator.” Doug squatted at Mark’s house rent-free for two years, then flew to Florida to visit an online sugar daddy who promised Doug a car, a credit card and a place to live. Mark minced no words. “I said, ‘This is a cycle you’re not interested in breaking, and you should never expect one iota of help from me again.’ I haven’t heard from him since.”
Don’t overanalyze it. “The longer it’s a dialogue, the more entangled it becomes,” Price says. “What happens in failed relationships is the attempt for understanding becomes a way to stall the breakup. You’ll spend hours going over the ‘why’ and the other person is never really listening. All they hear is, ‘You don’t like me anymore.’?” Lakeview resident Sara, 30, bickered with her friend Kelly over Kelly’s habit of getting drunk at bars and wandering off with a guy, leaving Sara stranded. They recycled the same argument over e-mail for two years, until Sara finally realized they were getting nowhere and ended the friendship with a simple: “I’m done.”
Cut off all communication. Price says this is key. “The person who was dumped may try to reach out, and it could be manipulation: an illness, a breakup. You have to maintain your distance.” Otherwise, he says, you could get roped back in. Kate, 36, severed ties with her needy, jealous friend Tina. But it wasn’t easy: Tina married Kate’s cousin, so there are occasional run-ins. “I can’t give her any information about myself because she’ll use it to manipulate me,” Kate says. “Over time, the good memories of friendship rise to the top, and you almost forget how painful it was. I had to trust myself that there was a reason why I ended the friendship.”
*Names have been changed to protect privacy.