Queer Abby: How To Break Up With a Friend

Dear Queer Abby

Over the course of the past year, I have realized that one of my friends is someone I just don’t want to spend time with. It has become clear to me that she’s manipulative, she lies, and we don’t enhance each other’s lives in any way. I’ve learned that even the genesis of our friendship is based on manipulation. For years I thought we became friends because we just happened to hit it off at a birthday party. It’s hard to make friends as an adult, and this just seemed so easy. But I recently discovered that at the time, she had a big crush on one of my (male) best friends and was seeking out his closest friends in order to get closer to him. She approached me specifically because she’d seen me on his Instagram but made it seem accidental. She still has a crush on this friend that borders on obsession and as much as I’ve told her I’m uncomfortable getting involved, she always brings him up and in many of our conversations she still tries to get information out of me about him. 

She’s always told white lies in general, but she’s usually the only person these lies affect so I’ve let it slide. But I’ve started to realize that some of these lies actually involve other people, including me. Sometimes they’re innocuous — when she wants to prove a point, she’ll attribute her own idea to someone else just to seem like she’s not alone. Or she just makes up events that clearly never occurred. She’ll repeat stories that she’s told other people about me where she either misquotes or misrepresents something I’ve said or flat out lies about things I’ve said or done. She’s always in the middle of a massive blow-up fight with someone, and it’s become increasingly clear that the common denominator in all these fights is her. I’m uncomfortable telling her anything about my life because I know she’ll spread it to other people (usually in a distorted way), even though I’ve asked her not to. Plus, she’s always saying borderline offensive things (the last time I hung out with her she asked if I “missed men” when I’m dating women). I find myself dreading hanging out with her because I feel like I can’t be myself, and I don’t actually feel like I’ve ever known a real version of her.

This isn’t a person I feel like I can negotiate with over how to save our friendship because it’s not really a friendship I want to save. So my question is: how do I break things off with her? I wish the friendship could just fade naturally, but she’s not someone who reads social cues. She’s mentioned to me in the past that when people have tried to blow her off, it just makes her more persistent.

In any other situation, I would just have the honest conversation with her. I would tell her I don’t think we’re compatible as friends, but with her, I know any version of that conversation will result in a) her having many, many, many arguments with me over it and b) telling everyone we’ve ever met how much of a monster I am.

I’ve tried to do the passive-aggressive version — I never initiate plans, I’ve said no to plans with her more times than I can count, I rarely respond to her texts, I didn’t go to her birthday party this year. In short, I am not a good friend to her and have hoped that this would make it clear I don’t want to pursue a friendship with her. But none of this seems to register with her. So what do I do?


Frustrated Friend in Phoenix


Dear readers, 

Today I was scratching my nose and a booger fell into my open mouth, which I tasted. 

It was very salty, and I thought “I’m 37 years old and I just ate a booger.”

I am your trusted advice giver!!! I approach the world with curiosity and wonder. Did Dear Sugar ever open up a column that way? 


Dear Frustrated Friend,

Yikes.  If it doesn’t make your tail wag, you don’t have to do it. You are under no obligation to be anyone’s friend. As an adult, you get to choose situations that feel nutritious and fortifying.  Your time on Earth is limited.

If something isn’t making you feel good, you get to choose something better. It seems like this person is taking up a lot of your mental space, and your procrastination around this one hard conversation is probably amplifying the rent she’s taking up in your head. The power you have in your life is the choice of whether or not to keep someone in it whom you are judging and obsessing over. 

She gets to live however she wants to live. If she wants to lie her face off, and Instagram-stalk people into interactions, that’s her business. She gets to be homophobic and pushy and manipulative. She has her own path in life, her own timeline, and it sounds like it’s just not a fit for you.

It’s not doing her any favors to be surrounded by people who are suspicious and lukewarm about her, so I wholeheartedly support you self-selecting out of that group.  Rip off that bandaid, sister! 

Identifying your needs and learning to say them aloud, to the person, with honesty and bravery is an invaluable skill. 

Now, how to do it?

I like that you’d tried the path of least drama — the fade-away — but since it has not worked, the adult thing to do is to be direct.  If you don’t want to be this person’s friend, and she is not taking a hint,  you need to say so.  Tell her the truth! It’s not a match for you. She can’t argue you out of your feelings: 

“This friendship isn’t a fit for me anymore, so I need to step away. I wish you the very very best.” 

Then stop responding. It’s not a conversation, it’s a statement. You don’t have to argue with her.  You are under no obligation to process your feelings with someone you don’t trust. You do not have to pick up the rope if she tries to start a tug-of-war. 

If I were you, I would block her phone number and I would block her on social media. If you are not friends, she doesn’t need to track your goings-on.  If she has an emergency, she has a lifetime of friends, family, and professionals she can call.  It doesn’t matter if she tells people you’re a terrible person. Consider the source! If she told *you* that someone had cut her off, you’d probably feel happy for them and wonder how you could do the same. 

It may feel like everyone has bought in on her schtick because you see them smiling and nodding in her presence, but I promise you that your experience with her is not unique and that the red flags she sets off in your head are set off in your community members, too. 

We are not 14 years old. Two friends in the same community can stop hanging out and no one needs to take a side or have an opinion. She is an adult. She is not being victimized in any way by you stepping away from this (seemingly surface-level) friendship. She is just being disappointed. 

There are people she’s known longer and been closer with who can comfort her through this, if that’s what she needs. 

Good luck, and I promise that after you rip this bandaid off, you will feel better for it. 


NJG, Confessed Booger-taster

p.s. When thinking about this letter, and the expression “white lie” this week, I couldn’t get this passage out of my head from the bell hooks book, Black Looks
“… there are inevitable associations of white with light and therefore safety, and black with dark and therefore danger, and that this explains racism (whereas one might well argue about the safety of the cover of darkness, and the danger of exposure to the Iight); again, and with more justice, people point to the Jewish and Christian use of white and black to symbolize good and evil, as carried still in such expressions as “a black mark; “white magic,” Uto blacken the character” and so on. Socialized to believe the fantasy, that whiteness represents goodness and all that is benign and non-threatening, many white people assume this Is the way black people conceptualize whiteness. They do not imagine that the way whiteness makes its presence felt in black life, most often as terrorizing imposition, a power that wounds, hurts, tortures, is a reality that disrupts the fantasy of whiteness as representing goodness.”  –  from Richard Dyer’s essay “White,” as reprinted in Black Looks
I suggest that (especially in these times when our country is being run by noted white supremacists teetering towards fascism) my readers take a moment to reconsider language and the paradigms they might be upholding with (seemingly) simple turns of phrase. It doesn’t hurt to be thoughtful. 
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