07 January 2011

The great unfriend.

I was talking with my Mum about needing to do a friendship stocktake. New year, fresh start, all of that. Sure I've got some of the best friends in the world. Ones that I can tell anything to. And call on at any time. Ones I laugh and cry with. Who give me a stern talking to when I clearly need to find a new love interest, or tell me I look beautiful when I am feeling my worst.

But there are the ones that make me sad. How can I move on from them? How do you do a friendship stocktake? How do you click the unfriend button in real life?

It is hard to talk about this issue, even harder to write publicly about it, for fear I may offend. But here goes.

There are a few people in my life that continuously let me down. I'm not talking about canceling on dinner because they're sick once or twice. I mean constantly not being able to make it, but not bothering to schedule an alternative time either. Even for missed birthday celebrations and canceled hospital visits. And not taking calls, returning texts or bothering to initiate a call. And there's always an excuse, usually involving someone who deserves their time more than you do. The excuses become tiring, and hurtful when you see the photos of the events they've actually attended on Facebook.

There's the people kept in your life for nostalgia purposes. Old lovers perhaps, but not necessarily. Nothing much being said between either of you. Not much in common. You drift apart. Large silences. Going nowhere. You're wondering if it's ok to call them. What do you have to say to each other? Is it worth holding on? Sometimes friends acknowledge they've been a bad friend. But they don't do anything to change their ways.

Everyone's busy. Everyone has different priorities. But everyone needs their friends to be there for them.

I don't think friendships mean that you have to be constantly hanging out together. But they don't work if one person is not participating. It's one thing to have 967 Facebook friends (I actually do), or receive a nice text now and then, but if the friends that matter to you aren't participating, then what's the point?

I am not good at being assertive. When I try to be it comes across as bitchy. So instead I timidly say nothing, and am continued to be disappointed by some people. Friends have told me to lower my expectations about others. But I don't think expecting a friend to keep their appointment or turning up on time is unreasonable. A few years ago I had a friend who was constantly late or canceling plans with me. I decided to talk to her about this, but it ended badly. And now, she's no longer my friend. But what if I had not addressed the issue? Would she still be letting me down today?

I quite often don't ask people to do things with me for fear of being let down.

The Age did an article on how to cut ties with friends. Readers suggest cutting ties is more of a woman thing and men don't have the difficulty of unfriending.

So I need your advice? How do I cut the friends out of my life who aren't participating? How do I avoid burning bridges? It is hard making friends as an adult. I don't think it's as simple as unfriending them from Facebook (and you know the shock of seeing that you're no longer a friend of someone on Facebook? Unfriending is harder in real life.). Do I talk to them about my decision? Do I send them this blog entry? Am I the one who has already been unfriended?

It's easy to tell people how much you value them. And it's easy to end a friendship when they have done something definable to hurt or betray you. But it's not easy having a conversation about your consideration to unfriend them.


  1. I have been in this exact situation a few times. I am a big believer in some friends being 'friends of a time'. By this I mean the friends who you met at a time and they got you through a particular time (uni, a particular job, having young children etc) but if you met in the 'real world' you wouldn't actually be friends at all. Some 'friends of a time' stay with you for a lifetime, some fulfill the need of the time and it just fizzles out as you both move on.
    Kindred Spirits are harder to find but even one or two of those type of friends are enough.
    'Unfriending' friends is difficult; options I can think of are explaining how you feel, writing a note, or just letting it run it's course. Don't contact them, play it cool and see if it teeters out naturally. I want to have lots of time and energy for the friends who I actually want to be friends with.
    Very interesting post, sorry for writing so much but I have though about this topic a lot over the years. Good luck!

  2. I've had to do this a few times Carly, it's not easy. For me, rather than have a massive, drawn out thing with the other person, I limit my contact with them.

    I don't necessarily believe there is any need for a big reasoning behind the whole thing, because the time may come where you want them back in your life but they will remember that the way you broke up with them.

    There's always exceptions to this rule. Like the guy that was married, that knew I was married too that wouldn't stop hitting on me?
    Yeah, had it out with him.

  3. Carly Im not sure that you need to go through the "unfriending" process unless they have really upset you and you want them to know. I think cutting or limiting contact is the best way to go. Sometimes you can simply want different things from different friends and you just have to reassess what you expect. From some friends the ocassional blog comment might really be enough for you and from others you might want to be close to them. But sometimes they don't want the same thing back. I guess the best advice I've got is to direct your energy toward people that really want it and don't waste time on people who have none for you. Don't take a bad friends behaviour or attitude personally, you aren't the only one who will be getting poor treatment, believe me. Just direct your sparkling personality to the people who love you and want it in their lives :) - Lucy

  4. I think that as we get older, we sometimes just grow apart. As lives and work and interests change, the people we want to hang out with also changes.
    I don't see it as a sad thing, just a part of life.

  5. Stop contact or limit it - stop initiating anything.
    Thats the best way I think. I dont keep people in my life who are poisonous - sure that doesn't leave me with heaps of friends but I don't really want lots of friends!

  6. Carly i had a friend years ago who i really liked but his wife was a nightmare. In the end it was easier to limit the contact and then i basically told him (via email - the cowards way out) that i didnt want to see him much anymore. The thing is, years later i dont really miss him, so im not too sure how strong our friendship was to start with!

    (ps - it may be my computer but i cant see your blog heading anymore??)

  7. I'll just echo what others have been saying here. If they are not making any effort with you, and you don't want to waste any more effort on them by continually organising things - simply don't make any attempts to catch up/communicate, and things will peter out naturally.


  8. Dear Carly:)
    Stay true to you:)

    Have a nice day.

  9. I don't make a big fuss either. It hurts me, but I'd rather not stir anything up as we might become friends again later. I don't think people mean to be slack, they may just have things going on that are hard for them to cope with. I try not to take it personally and rather focus on my great friendships.

  10. I think we've all been in this situation. Luckily I've never had to sit down with a friend and tell them how I feel - any friends I've watned to cut ties with have just sort of drifted away. You just stop calling/talking so often over time and eventually you never talk. I'm timid as well though and I need to work on being more assertive. I hate confrontation and offending anyone or "rocking the boat", it makes me sooo nervous! But sometimes it needs to be done, and in doing it you save a lot of stress later on. It's tough though. The fact that you care, just shows that you're a compassionate person!

  11. I've got drifters in my life like that, I just stop contacting them or contact them periodically. It doesn't mean I hate them or despise them it just means we are at different stages in our lives. I try not to over evaluate these friendships. The only person I've ever had to "cut off" so to speak was an ex, (all my other ex's I've remind friends with) due to legal/safety issues all contact was severed and court orders were put in place. This continues now. That was only because of the things he did to me. It was no longer safe for me to have that person in my life. Apart from that I'm happy with drifters, everyone plays a part I guess. Expect nothing - get everything :)

  12. I personally think 'unfriending' is a wee bit melodramatic.If these people aren't the type of friend you would prefer there isn't really a reason to burn bridges,per se.There is no reason you can't have different levels of friendship.

    I have besties-the ones I can depend on.Then I have 'friendlies'-people who i'm friendly with but wouldn't necessarily turn to in a crisis ,who drop in and out of my life or are a random phone call/email away,and are great for making up the numbers at parties.Then I have associates-these can be anybody from work colleagues to people you went to school with.They're the ones that play a very small role in your everyday life,like some of the people you've described on your blog.You don't have to make a song and dance about the relationship but you can just accept these friendships for what they are.Only put your commitment and time where it is valued but there isn't any reason to completely cut people out,life is strange-you just never know ....IMHO.

    Also,maybe you could assess the type of friend you are.Maybe your expectations of people are too high.That's not to say you should be a doormat but just because some isn't fulfilling your friendship needs doesn't mean you're still the perfect friend and that you're fulfillinmg their needs either.

  13. I had a very wise boss in my early 20's who pointed out that some "friends" can suck the life out of you; you give all, they just take; and that I was better off giving my full attention to those who gave it back. At the time I thought she was a little nuts & didn't really get what she was saying. Well I have considered her words over and over the older I have become. She was spot on. It is quality not quantity that really counts.

  14. I think there's always a sense of sadness when a friendship doesn't go the way we want it to, especially for the friend who is still making an effort and being ignored. I think if someone genuinely upsets you, cutting off from them in real life and online is a good idea - no one needs nastiness in their life. It's harder with people who simply don't make an effort, I definitely agree that it can be better to just limit your own effort and contact with them without needing to explain your actions. It doesn't hurt to leave the bridge intact in case you do want to contact them for something one day :)


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