Auntie SparkNotes: Is It Okay to Freeze Out a Friend?
Your response to this letter made me really uncomfortable after I read it. Because, well, I am the friend who is "freezing out" another friend—intentionally.
At the beginning of the previous school year, this girl (we'll call her Chloe) joined our friend group kind of out of the blue. She was fun to hang out with for about a month, but after awhile, everyone in our group noticed that Chloe was really clingy and manipulative. Everything had to be her way—what we did, where we went, even who came (she flat out refused to let my friend invite even one other girl to the mall who was not part of our usual group). If things didn't go exactly as she planned, she would get really moody and grumbly and made sure that everyone else knew it. Once I was 10 minutes late picking her up to go to lunch, and on my way to her house she wouldn't stop calling me (I didn't answer—we only live a mile apart, and I don't like talking on the phone while I'm driving). When I got there, she was in full panic mode, scolding me for not answering my phone.
Starting at the beginning of this summer, my friends and I have slowly started trying to let our friendship with Chloe fade. Even though we gave her lots of chances and tried to make it work (politely suggesting other solutions when she got moody, accommodating her or giving her space when she needed it, etc), I still feel guilty "freezing her out."
Right now, I see three options: 1) Keep lying and making excuses never to hang out with Chloe and just let the relationship fade 2) Confront Chloe and explain to her what's wrong (this would be the hardest to do but the easiest on my conscience—I feel like I at least owe her an explanation) or 3) Keep up the friendship, but on a more limited basis and excluding Chloe from plans where her negativity could have a bad impact.
Chloe had mentioned to us that things ended badly between her and her previous friends (I am starting to suspect it ended for these same reasons, but I never wanted to pry), so I am worried that letting this friendship fade will leave Chloe completely friendless. I really do want her to be happy, but I just don't think our friendship was healthy for either of us. What's the right way (is there a right way?) to end a friendship?
Fact: the right way to end a friendship is the same as the right way to end any relationship: with consideration and care for the well-being of the person who's getting kicked to the curb.
Other fact: this can be complicated.
Because consideration and care sometimes mean the opposite of what you might think—and because despite what you may think, the kindest and most considerate approach to people like Chloe is not accommodating their nastiness until you're ready to lose your mind. People like this don't need to be tiptoed around and enabled. They need to be smacked in the teeth—gently, and by someone who loves them—with the vital information that they're acting like a Monster Jerk.
Which, of course, is the thing that nobody wants to do, and therefore the thing that allows Monster Jerks to be so very unreservedly monstrous and jerky for such a very long time. Some Monster Jerks even make it to adulthood without ever getting figuring out that their control-freaky attempts to keep their friends close are actually doing the opposite: alienating and upsetting people until, fed up, they turn to the freeze-out as a last resort. At which point the Monster Jerk will confusedly seek out a new group of friends, to whom he will no doubt complain that the world is a strange, cruel place full of fickle meanies who won't hang out with him for absolutely no reason.
It's a vicious cycle, you guys.
But the good news, Sparkler, is that you have a chance to stop it. So rather than freezing Chloe out—or worse, tiptoeing around her antics to the point where you're actively enabling them—here's what I'd like you to consider: gathering your group's most diplomatic members, and staging a last-ditch intervention. Like so:
Start positive. This conversation is happening because you are her friend, and you want her to be happy: make sure she knows that before anything else.
Then, lay out the situation. Tell her what she's doing to upset you, use specific examples to illustrate the problem, and don't shy away from stating directly what seems like it should be obvious. Most people who behave this way are bizarrely clueless about how they come off; you'll probably have to say, straight out, "You're really mean to everyone when things don't go your way." (Or, "When I was 10 minutes late to pick you up, you gave me such a hard time about it that I wished we'd never made plans in the first place," or, "When we decided to stay home and watch SHARKNADO instead of going to the mall, you spent the entire time sulking, snapping at everyone, and making snide comments so that nobody could even enjoy the part where that guy launched himself into the shark's face with a chainsaw."
And finally, deliver an ultimatum... nicely. The message you're sending is this: you want to keep spending time with her, but you can't unless things change. And again, specific examples are your friend. (Ex: "We want to have you around, but we also don't want to have a miserable time because you're being grumpy and nasty to everyone. If you can't be gracious when someone wants to bring another friend along, or when things don't go precisely as you'd hoped, or when we're watching SHARKNADO, then nobody is going to feel good about including you in plans.")
And if she's not interested in doing what it takes to make your friendship (and her own life) better? Then hey, you tried. And having tried, you can accept that the only option left is to distance yourself—which you can do with total confidence that you ended it the "right" way.
Have you ever had to freeze out a jerky friend? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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