• How To Tell When a Friendship Is Over

    When should you end a deteriorating friendship? How do you know when a friendship is over?

    When a friendship is over

    In a romantic relationship, the signs are clearer: you stop going on dates, you move out, you stop hanging out. There’s a clear “cultural script” for how a romantic breakup goes. In friendship, the signs can be much more ambiguous, especially since it’s perfectly normal for friends to fade in and out of our lives at different points, particularly during major life transitions.

    Friendships come to a close for a variety of reasons. You grow apart. You change priorities. You move. You have kids. You get or lose a job. A loss of some sort — a divorce, death — rocks you to your core, and your friend either gets it or doesn’t. Sometimes it’s impossible to tell just what the reason is.

    How can you tell when a friendship is over, or should end?

    There’s no one definitive sign, but here are some clues:

    1. The relationship is unbalanced.

    You realize that your relationship is one-sided. You — or your friend — is always the one to initiate contact or make plans. If you don’t take the initiative, then you just won’t hear from her. You feel like she’s making excuses to get out of spending time together.

    This is one of the most common dilemmas that Nina Badzin, our friendship advice columnist, hears about. In previous columns, for example, she’s advised a reader who feels like her friend only gets in touch with her when the friend’s “real” friends are busy; a reader (“Needy Nancy”) whose friend suddenly seems cold and is pulling away; and a reader whose friend consistently cancels plans at the last minute.

    Many of us are also bad at telling who are friends actually are. While we assume that our friendships are reciprocal, research shows that in actuality half of friendships are one-sided.

    2. Conversation feels too hard.

    It feels stressful to keep talking, beyond the usual updates of each other’s lives. It doesn’t feel natural anymore. There’s no chemistry. You might end up sniping at each other or there may be lots of awkward silence.

    3. You don’t have fun together.

    You don’t seem to have much in common anymore. It’s okay for friends to have different interests, but it could also be a sign that spending time together is too much work for both of you.

    4. After spending time together, you find yourself annoyed and drained.

    After being together, you feel emotionally depleted, instead of supported and recharged.

    5. It’s only through social media that you often find out what’s going on in her life.

    You no longer share the “big” or small daily life happenings anymore. She leaves out important information about what’s going on in her life even when you do talk. Or, alternatively, your friend never interacts with your posts on social media.

    6. You don’t act like yourself when you’re together.

    After being together, you reflect and realize that you don’t like the version of yourself that emerges when you hang out. She brings out the worst version of you.

    7. You feel like you’re “suffocating” in the relationship.

    You feel like you’ve given so much of yourself, but it’s never enough. Or she may be controlling or needy or possessive. You feel like she needs you for everything, including validation. Or all of the above.

    In one of Nina’s previous columns, she advised a reader with a needy and lonely friend. The friend wrote: “Since she has no one else to talk to, she uses me to vent. I mostly feel awful after these talks. Yet I realize she is alone in a new city and has no other support…She knocks on my door or phones almost every day. I feel harassed and have spoken to her about my need for better boundaries, but she does not get it. I find myself turning off all my lights so she will not know I am home and I don’t answer my phone or go to the door.” This friend knew she wanted out of the relationship, but wasn’t sure how to do it.

    8. In your gut, you feel that the friendship is a “toxic” relationship in your life.

    The lines between healthy friendships and “toxic friendships” are sometimes fuzzy. A toxic friend doesn’t have to be someone who is always mean and terrible; she doesn’t have to be a “bad” person.

    According to Dr. Irene Levine, author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend, a toxic friendship is “one that is consistently, or more often than not, unequal, non-reciprocal, demanding, clingy, stress-inducing, demeaning, and/or unsupportive.”

    As Nina Badzin points out, sometimes the question of when to end a question boils down to this:

    “When there’s more frustration than joy. Life is too short.”

    About your friendship, ask yourself, Nina advises, “Do the pluses outweigh the minuses?”

    It is hard to let go. It’s hard to admit what you perceive to be a failure. You try to ignore the ways that this friendship no longer works or feels right to you. You make excuses for your friend’s (or your own) behavior.

    The bottom line: When a friendship is more of a drain than an asset, it’s a good time to step back and reflect about whether your life would be better without this person. No friendship is perfect, but it might be time to cut the cord if you think a friendship can’t be fixed.

    What have been the signs for you that a friendship is over?

    Read more about how friendships end — from both sides — in our essay collection, My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends



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  • HerTake: Friends Who Cancel Too Often


    In this month’s HerTake question, Nina answers a letter from a woman who says her inconsiderate friends often cancel plans or change the plans last minute. Is this an expected part of being an understanding friend or does this letter writer have especially inconsiderate friends in her life? Help our letter writer decide what to do!

    Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.

    Dear Nina,

    I’ve come across a problem recently in my social life that I’m stumped as how to solve. There have been a number of times when friends have either canceled plans that we’ve made or declared that they could actually only hang out for much shorter than originally planned because other plans came up. The problem I have is that I don’t know how to nicely explain to them that this is rude and makes me feel bad. Every time I have tried to go about this, I feel like I am coming off as the rude one for being upset, even though they’re the ones skipping out on our plans.

    What is your advice?


    Tired of the Cancellations

    Dear Tired of the Cancellations,

    I don’t blame you for being irritated! Now, whether you should take it personally is another issue, and what to do about it is a separate answer, too. I will get to it all.

    Are these inconsiderate friends in other areas of their lives? Do they frequently cancel on others? Are they chronically late? (I mean more than a few minutes.) I’m asking because if they are unreliable in general, then it’s not something you should take personally. Not taking it personally, however, doesn’t mean you want to count on them as your closest friends. Because, yes, their unreliability sounds excessive and canceling because something better came along is as rude as it gets.

    How Much Canceling Can You Tolerate?

    Each person has to decide how much canceling of plans she can tolerate in a friendship, and there’s no right answer. I can tolerate more than average because I have to cancel sometimes. I have four kids, and if I make a lunch date or any kind of meeting with a person during the school day, I will have to cancel if one of my kids has to stay home from school.

    In the past two weeks, for example, my kids took turns passing around a five-day virus. I had to cancel on the same friend twice. Each time I rescheduled on the spot to signal how much I want to see her. She knew not to take it personally, and I was grateful for her flexibility. Similarly, I have a handful of friends with whom I make dinner plans so far in advance that we have a mutual understanding making it easy and unemotional if one of us has to cancel because family came in town or a birthday or bar mitzvah invitation arrived that would be strange to skip for a dinner out with friends we can see another time. But if we cancelled on each other for “better” plans? No, that wouldn’t be cool.

    Balance Between Flexibility and Reliability

    Even with all that in mind about times I may have to cancel or my close friends have to cancel, we all try very hard to keep our plans because as you’ve experienced, too much canceling sends the message that you don’t want to spend time with the person on the other end of that conversation. There’s a balance friends have to strike between flexibility (understanding that life serves up unexpected illnesses and other problems) and reliability (knowing you can count on your friends the majority of the time). I think a solid friendship exists in that sweet spot in the middle.

    It sounds like your friends are asking for too much flexibility. That doesn’t mean a big confrontation is required or that the friendships need to end completely, but if you’re unable to communicate your legitimate frustration without them turning it around on you, then it may be time for a demotion for these ladies. Don’t make plans with them for a while and focus more on current acquaintances who could become better friends after spending more time together. Yes, you can talk to your chronically canceling friends about how their behavior makes you feel, but you cannot force them to change.

    Last point: a friend of mine who said this keeps happening to her teenage daughter encouraged her daughter to use the experience to shape the type of friend she wants to be to others. That’s great advice! I hope that helps, and perhaps other readers will have different ideas.


    You can follow Nina on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

    We’re always looking for new reader questions for Nina! If you have a difficult friendship situation that you’d like advice on, fill out our anonymous contact form.




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  • How To Deal With Gossip a Friend Said About You

    In this month’s HerTake question, Nina discusses hearing third-hand what a friend said about you. Let us know what advice you have for this month’s letter writer and her struggle with how to deal with gossip.

    Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.

    Dear Nina,

    I have a friend, “Lisa,” who I was very close to, but about a year ago we drifted due to her traveling and some comments she made regarding special needs kids (knowing I have one).

    Last week I was having lunch with a mutual acquaintance from our book club, Megan, who told me that Lisa approached her while watching their daughters’ basketball practice. Lisa started asking Megan about another friend’s political affiliation and religious beliefs, and during the conversation Lisa referred to my husband as a traitor of Jews since he is a Republican. I am very hurt and dismayed by this and he is, too.

    My daughter and Lisa’s daughter are friends, but they are too young to be friends without us arranging playdates. Others have told me not to confront Lisa. What is your advice for how to deal with gossip?


    I Heard It Through The Grapevine


    Dear I Heard It Through The Grapevine,

    You asked whether you should confront Lisa. My short answer: no.

    While it seems the “culprit” in your question is Lisa, I find more fault with Megan who had no business repeating Lisa’s words. What was Megan thinking?

    Was Megan hoping to make you more upset with Lisa than you already were? Does she have a stake in you feeling closer to her than to Lisa? Does she not like that your husband is a Republican and this was her way of letting you know? I’m actually getting increasingly aggravated at Megan as I write this.

    Don’t Repeat Gossip

    I’m asking these questions not because I think you know the answer. Rather, I think it’s important to acknowledge that we rarely act with no intention whatsoever so it’s safe to assume that Megan had some purpose in mind when she repeated the conversation to you. Now to be fair, Megan’s intention was likely the most benign type. I bet she was simply trying to be a good friend. But I would hope most adults know that repeating what one person said about another is not being a good friend. It just isn’t.

    Hey friends of mine who are reading this—listen up! I don’t want to know anything bad somebody said about me, especially if I don’t know the context and if it’s only going to make me feel awful about myself or about my friend.

    I can hear some of your voices, dear readers. “But Nina, how can someone who said anything about you truly be your friend?”

    Ladies, come on now. We all know darn well that we say things we regret when we are upset, jealous, trying to gain favor, or just having an overtired, overworked moment. We hopefully, with age and experience, get more dignified with our tempers, jealousy, and whatnot. But we have all been in Lisa’s shoes, have we not?

    I Heard It Through The Grapevine: if you have never uttered a questionable statement about another person, then you can perhaps demand an explanation from Lisa. But if you have been in Lisa’s shoes, then I would let this one go. It sounds like you have already drifted from her so a confrontation at this point seems wholly unnecessary and more personal drama than it’s worth.

    Sure, the idea that Lisa was asking, seemingly for the purpose of gossip, about another friend’s political and religious beliefs is egregious. And I will hardly address Lisa’s alleged point about Jewish Republicans being “traitors” except to comment that it was a chutzpadik thing to say if she indeed said it. Nobody—not even a group “insider”—gets to speak for that entire group. The end.

    Confront the Gossiper?

    Let’s get back to Megan. If you’re going to confront anyone, I’d go with Megan. It’s one thing to vent about a friend. Fine, most of us have been guilty of that. But to wedge yourself between two friends by repeating what one said about another is a worse crime in my opinion.

    You can let Megan know that in the future you’d rather not know what anyone says about you. Despite the human nature in all of us that makes us think we want to know everything, I promise that this type of information never leads to any good. With that in mind, I’m not sure it was necessary to repeat the comment to your husband, but I get that you were upset about the situation and looking for support. Your husband was the obvious choice and it was better to vent to him than to further make both Lisa and Megan look bad in the eyes of your mutual friends. (Thereby doing more damage with gossip.)

    Advice From Nina’s Mom About How To Deal With Gossip

    For what it’s worth, I sent your question to my mom (who is the most skilled anti-gossip person I know), and I reviewed her answer before I wrote my own answer. It mirrors my sentiments, but it has the extra Kathy flair. I want to share it with you.

    “Grapevine must ask herself why this Megan repeated the hurtful comment in the first place. What was her motive? Was she trying to stir up trouble? In other words if Grapevine didn’t actually hear Lisa’s comment, then she doesn’t know what was actually said, or if it was said at all. I have found that the person who repeats hurtful comments is worse than the person who allegedly made the statement. Since Grapevine was not part of the original conversation, then a confrontation is pointless.”

     Readers, since my mom and I are on the same page, I’d love to hear from anyone who has different advice for Grapevine about how to deal with gossip. And if you want further (and more heated) conversation about friendship and politics please read my editor Jessica Smock’s piece written before the election.

    Thanks for sharing your dilemma, Grapevine. I think it’s one many readers can relate to from your experience, Lisa’s, and Megan’s.

    Good luck!


    FULL RES - Badzin-03 copy-1You can follow Nina on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

    We’re always looking for new reader questions for Nina! If you have a difficult friendship situation that you’d like advice on, fill out our anonymous contact form.




    **Read our powerful November Voices column, “The Healing Notes of Song” here.

    **Have you grabbed your copy of So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood yet? It’s now available on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle copy! (Makes a wonderful holiday gift for moms!)

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  • Can Your Friendships Survive Donald Trump?

    ending friendships over trump

    Thomas Jefferson wrote:

    “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”

    Yet Thomas Jefferson never had endure a campaign between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. What would he say about arguing over the Muslim ban? Or building a wall to keep out the “Mexican rapists” and criminals? Or fights about private email servers? Or bragging about sexual assault? Would the America of this election cause him to rethink this idealistic view of friendship?

    What is politics, really?

    Is it about differences in how to write the tax code, in how to interpret particular amendments to the Constitution, in how to eliminate the debt, in how to protect the environment, in whether or not to sign trade agreements?

    Or is politics about something much bigger? About how we treat others who are different than we are? About the culture that we want to create for our children? About whether our country’s best days are behind us or right in front of us?

    Is politics at its core really about — as a viral article (“I Didn’t Unfriend You Over ‘Politics'”) — nothing less than morality, decency, and humanity itself?

    In that article, Jennifer Sullivan writes:

    “I will not be made to remain friends with people who see [Trump’s] continued attempts at oppression and discrimination as an ‘inconvenient consequence’ of ensuring that their party remain in power. Because ultimately, if discriminatory practices aren’t a deal-breaker for you, if they don’t inspire in you a pain and an anger so heartbreaking that it leaves you aching for your less-privileged neighbor, then I don’t want to know you. And I shouldn’t have to simply because we shared the same floor freshman year of college.”

    Our Friendship and Election 2016 Survey

    During this campaign, I have struggled with these questions, and when we asked about this topic in our Friendship and Election 2016 survey, I was hoping that many of you had good answers. It turns out that most of you are just as confused and pained as I am about friendship and politics, for the first time in your lives.

    I’ve been unfriended by relatives, I’ve cried when I’ve read words defending sexual assault from friends that I’ve formerly respected, and I’ve unfriended others who post positions so racist, so vile, and so uncivilized that I have begun to fear that I never knew my country at all. I’m certainly not alone.

    About Half Lost a Friend

    About 55% of the respondents to our survey told us that they have lost a close friendship because of the election. Nearly three-quarters have unfriended or unfollowed a close friend or family member on Facebook during this election.

    • Christy of Educate to Eliminate: A man who is like a father to me, who walked me down the aisle at my wedding, unfriended me and has stopped all communication with me. He’s known me my whole life and just recently didn’t acknowledge my birthday which he does every year.
    • Elura N.: I’ve lost serious respect for people I actually know. I’ve had strained relationships and conversations with family members with whom I’ve never seriously disagreed about anything. I’ve unintentionally offended and antagonized people I trusted to have moderate views by being surprised about their willingness to tolerate sexual assault, racism, and authoritarianism.
    • Christina L.: I found out a few of my oldest friends from middle/high school had strong opinions about immigrants, and spoke out as firm Trump supporters. I am a first generation Asian American, and was deeply troubled by their positions, some of which were laced with racist overtones. I initially challenged some of their views but have quietly distanced myself from the rest. It’s not a large number, but enough for me to question whether they understand how hurtful it is for someone they consider a friend.
    • Joy of Evil Joy Speaks: When women I know who have daughters the same ages as my girls support Donald Trump, it makes me question what they values they hold. I want to empower my girls and teach them to be fierce. In turn, I make sure playdates don’t include political or religious discussions by adults in earshot of children. I also note with whom I will no longer have political or religious discourse.
    • Julia: I can’t talk to some friends about the election and I avoid them. It’s too upsetting to me. I’m very careful to know where someone stands before I mention politics because I’ve been sexually assaulted and I don’t think I could remain friends with someone who supports or votes for Donald Trump.
    • Erendira of Rejoice Beloved: I am a Christian and am part of the #NeverHillaryorTrump camp. A group of our friends are Trump supporters and because of our biblical convictions, we could not reconcile (as our friends did and still do) standing for Christ while parking our faith at the door in support of a candidate who is double-minded in all his ways.

    Should You End Friendships Over Politics?

    Respondents were evenly split on whether, even during this election, we should seek to listen, to respect, and to maintain friendships with friends on the opposite side of the political spectrum.

    About a third said that they find nothing wrong with severing ties with friends who are supporting Trump. (No one mentioned severing ties over supporting Clinton.)

    • Laura: I’m trying to see this as just one part of a person, but in this election, it’s so much more than that. The severity and ugliness of Trump and his supporters has permeated my view of some friends and close family. I respect them less and am less interested in trusting them.
    • Kristin: I normally have no problem with maintaining diverse friendships, but this year I knew I personally could not look my Muslim or gay friends or my Mexican-American sister in law in the eye again if I didn’t clearly state how very against Trump I am. I believe any friendships lost this time around weren’t real friendships if I could not keep my integrity around them and speak my mind. I think a lot of people who hid racist tendencies under coded language and silence before have been exposed, and I refuse to just sweep that under the rug for politeness’ sake anymore .
    • Julia: Bring it up as rarely as possible. Don’t let it affect your friendship unless it means looking the other way about something that is one of the tenets of your life or is critical to human rights and of moral obligation (racism, sexism, gay rights). I decided about a month ago I’d give up a friendship if someone strongly supports Trump. He’s a dangerous man worth ending a friendship.

    Dialogue or Avoidance?

    Another third of respondents were divided between those who welcomed dialogue and discussion and those who said that the best strategy was to avoid talking about politics altogether:

    • Laurel: I find it best to be an active listener, have an open mind and see someone else’s perspective. But I keep most of my political views to myself until I know where the other person stands on a candidate. This election in my opinion, has been polarizing on a gender basis, not a political party basis. I find myself feeling safe to talk with other women about the election, no matter their affiliation. I do not find it safe to talk to men, even family members about it. I get very upset when I have to explain how hurtful the misogyny practiced by the candidate and his backers against women feels.
    • Stacy M. of The Novel Life: Don’t talk politics. period. With several extended family members voting for Trump we have a very, very strict line in the sand about discussing politics. I don’t think we could ever come back to our good relationships if we got into a discussion. I’m not willing to lose family members over Trump or Clinton.
    • Gretchen of Drifting Through My Open Mind: I’ve been trying to remember that they have fears that are probably compelling them to vote a certain way. Or issues that they are just as passionate about as I am about mine. At some point you have to agree to disagree.
    • Mandi C.: Walk away slowly.
    • Sarah C. of Housewife Plus: I still maintain friendships with several folks who are following Trump, but they have never said aloud or demonstrated the gross sexist attitudes that Trump has. While I vehemently disagree with these friends’ political views, they have been respectful in the way they express their political leanings and I can respect that.
    • Morgan H.: Don’t get personal and see things through life experiences.
    • If you’ve seen evidence your “friend” is a decent human being in non-election years, get over *yourself*. There is more to life than electing a new POTUS. Be compassionate and magnanimous. If you are ugly to others, will it reflect well on your chosen candidate? Additionally, consider you may have become a crushing bore with incessant political talk/preening. Are *you* loveable? Extend the same grace to others you’d appreciate.
    • MyLove Barnett: My super close friends and I have made a deal to not discuss it at all. We talked about it earlier in the election cycle, around the time of the primaries. But we don’t agree and we know we don’t agree and we love each other too much to even talk about it right now, because we are all so passionate in our views. We’ve decided that since we can’t change each other’s minds, it’s a moot topic of conversation. As far as online relationships, if the same comes up with close online friends, I simply unfollow their feed so that I don’t see it. And if I do see it, I don’t engage.

    We’re All Clueless

    Some just aren’t sure. The last third of respondents said they had no idea at all what advice they would give about navigating friendships during this election.

    • Stephanie: I have no idea. I’ve literally never experienced this before. The fact that this election really transcends political values is probably the reason — the human rights issues, sexism, racism, general character flaws of a candidate, have gone so far beyond Republican/Democrat political differences that I have no idea how to navigate it. I’ve never had this kind of a problem with my own reactions to Republican friends or family members. I guess I’m more surprised by my own vitriol toward Trump supporters and I just don’t know how to handle it.

    I’m uncomfortable with these divisions. They aren’t good for our country or for our relationships. I don’t want to live in a bubble, only interacting with people who think like I do. However, more and more it seems that are political differences are no longer about genuine philosophical splits. They’re tribal. They’re about human rights. They’re about how we see the world and our fellow citizens. They’re perceived by many as a fight between good and evil — and the frightening thing to me is that I’m not sure that they’re wrong.

    They are about so much more than politics.

    Do you think that these divisions — within our country and in your own life — will get better after Election Day?

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  • The Social Media Cold Shoulder

    In this month’s HerTake question, Nina discusses what to do if you think a friend is purposely ignoring your posts on Facebook. Have you been on the receiving end of a digital dissing? Have you ever purposely withheld likes and comments from a friend?

    Dear Nina,

    I’m confused by one of my friends who is great in person, but ignores me on Facebook. Yes, a modern “problem,” but one that does affect our relationship or at least how I view our relationship.

    First, some background: I met “Jana” in a support group as we were both going through infertility. We hit it off and have been friends now for eight years. (By the way, we both have babies so it all ended well.)

    When we’re together, just the two of us, whether in person or on the phone, we have a wonderful time connecting, and I feel like she’s one of my closest friends. But then she completely ignores me on social media. We are friends on Facebook and Instagram, and I see that she likes and comments on (seemingly) everybody else’s feeds but mine. I also write a personal blog that I know she reads diligently because she mentions things she’s read there, but she has only commented on my site twice in the last eight years.

    To see the rest of this question and Nina’s answer, please visit Nina’s post.

    FULL RES - Badzin-03 copy-1You can follow Nina on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.

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  • A Friend Who Gives Too Many Gifts

    Do you have a friend who is too generous?

    In this month’s HerTake question, Nina answers a question about a friend who gives too many gifts as well as how to end a friendship with someone who is not taking the hint. We love that our community helps each other in the comments section. Please add your two cents!

    Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.


    Dear Nina,

    I would very much welcome advice on a situation that has been happening over the last year or so. I moved areas, and a woman (“Kim”) whom I had met online and talked to a bit said she lived fairly close and suggested we meet up. I thought it was nice she reached out as I was getting settled in a new place.

    That first time Kim and I met, she brought me a little present. Then when we got together again, she brought me a tote bag. Another time, I went up to her city, and while we were in a bookshop she bought me three little books. We’ve met up at least six times and on every outing she’s either brought me a gift or bought something for me while we were shopping. I’ve never bought her anything. I don’t feel guilty about this, but I do feel a bit awkward. I feel as though I’m being courted, which is a bit odd. (Just for clarity we are both straight.)

    I have at least two other friends who buy me gifts now and then and vice versa. In those friendships it seems to work out, but with Kim, I feel as though there are strings attached. She’s never said, “I buy you things so you have to be my friend,” but that’s how it feels, and it makes me very uncomfortable.

    One other issue is that I’m coming to the conclusion that Kim is a very negative person. The first time or two, I assumed she was having a particularly bad time or was tired. But in most of our time together she complains about people and situations. If someone says something or does something that could possibly cause offense, she takes the offense.

    As I hear how I sound in this note, I know that I’m not interested in continuing this friendship. The negative talk makes me dread seeing Kim and so does the gift giving. Unfortunately, I’ve already tried to pull away and she doesn’t take hints. No matter how busy I say I am, or how many meet ups I refuse, she carries on suggesting more and sending me long emails. (I am currently only replying to every other one.) I’m really not sure what to do next.

    Thanks for the help,

    Yours In Bafflement


    Dear Yours In Bafflement,

    Before we address ending this friendship, we need to discuss the gift giving. I admire people who get gift giving exactly right. Kim is clearly an over-giver. There’s no reason to exchange gifts with friends at every lunch, dinner, walk, and so on. On the flip side, I tend to suffer from under-giving. I might show up to a casual, last-minute birthday dinner with a card while a few of the other women found the time to procure the perfect small gift for just such a moment. I’m rarely the one to organize big group gifts for friends. It’s not that I don’t care about my friends, it’s simply one of those areas where the right thing to give and do is less obvious to me. My point is this: we all have different gift-giving styles, but somewhere between Kim’s style and mine is likely the sweet spot.

    More important than the “right” way to give gifts, however, is the issue of why you never told Kim that her method was making you uncomfortable. The fact that Kim didn’t take the hint about the gifts when you never reciprocated is unfortunate, but you need to take responsibility for not speaking up about it after the third time. First time, yes accept the gift. Second time, another gift is surprising, but not quite cause for concern. The third gift and certainly the fourth, fifth, and sixth ones were all opportunities to gently say how much you appreciate the gesture in concept, but the idea of being spoiled by a friend was feeling uncomfortable. We can’t assume that our silent messages (like never showing up with a gift for her) are being communicated to the next person. Your silence might have encouraged Kim to continue giving gifts and to seeing you as a closer friend than you are. When we give, we often feel closer to the next person. I’m guessing Kim felt closer to you with each get together.

    Likewise, Kim hasn’t picked up other hints. She hasn’t recognized you as an (understandably) unreceptive audience to her complaining and therefore has continued to complain. And she hasn’t noticed your lack of enthusiasm for making plans. Kim obviously does not pick up your hints, which means the onus is on you to communicate more clearly. I’m guessing you don’t like confrontation. (Does anyone?) Nevertheless, you owe more directness to Kim, a woman who welcomed you to town and tried to be your friend.

    For the record, I want to say that your attempts to subtly give Kim the message that you’re not terribly interested in a friendship was the right way to go at first. I do think it’s unnecessary to be direct with every person as nobody wants to be told that the next person is too busy to make time. When I say “direct,” I do not mean that you should say, “I don’t want to be friends because you complain too much and the gifts were over the top.” That type of honesty would be unkind. Kim’s style may be perfectly fine for someone else. There are plenty of people who like to engage in the drama of “being offended.” I also find it tiresome when someone manages to find a way to feel offended at every turn, but for some women, bonding over such “battle wounds” is an essential friendship ritual.

    As for exactly what to do next with this friendship, I turned to my mom to help you because she has mastered the art of balancing the subtle with the direct. I sent her your question and this is what she said:

    “Clearly Yours In Bafflement wants to end the friendship. The question is how. Perhaps she should answer every third email, then every fourth email. There is no point in having a confrontation, if she has no interest in continuing the relationship. If, on the other hand, she does not mind seeing Kim on occasion, then she has to set some ground rules. First, no more gifts. Second, if Kim persists on complaining about other people, then Bafflement might consider asking Kim if she can put herself in the other person’s shoes. Maybe she can offer a different way to look at the “offense.” That would be an interesting conversation. There is no reason for Bafflement (or anyone) to be mute and listen to the complaints without offering some feedback. If, however, all of the above seems like too much work, I would advise fading away a little bit at a time.”

    A quick note on my mom and gifts. My mom and my nieces are staying at my house this week. My mom remembered our shortage of towels from the last time she visited so what do think arrived in a big Bloomingdales box days before her trip? New towels! It was the perfect hostess gift for me because my mom knows I like useful gifts most of all.

    I hope our advice helped and that you’re able to let this friendship go in the kindest way possible.

    Good luck! Nina (and my mom, Kathy)



    You can follow Nina on her blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter. UPDATE (2019): Find Nina and her advice column at HER NEW FRIENDSHIP ADVICE SITE


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