Friday, 26 August 2011

The One Where I End A Friendship?

Life as an expat has isn't always easy. You move far away from family and friends. You have to learn a new culture and in some cases a new language. You are desperate for any connection to home. As a result, in most countries, the expat community is a very close knit one. Bonds are formed fast and quick.

Oh, you're from my country?? Oh, you like drinking wine? Oh, you are free for lunch on Tuesday?? All these things can be the basis for the beginning of a friendship. Expats are like college freshmen, searching for new connections far from home. We cling to each other like long lost family members. Any connection, no matter how slim, warrants invitations and hopes for the future.

We are all lost souls looking for connection, and we cling to each other. We form friends in fast-forward. Skipping the normal getting to know you process and vetting by other friends. After all, most of us have no other local friends. We need each other in a way that no one else can understand unless they have been a foreigner in a strange land.

As a result an acquaintance can quickly rise up the ranks to become your BFF. You form an intense intimacy that doesn't exist in many places beyond college and summer camp.

At first it feels great. You are welcomed to your new community with gusto. You get invited to parties and lunches. You feel like people want to get to know you. You form fast connections and feel much less homesick.

But what happens after the flush of new friendship wears off? What happens when you really get to know your new friends? What if you decide that you don't really like them after all? What do you do then?

That my friends in bloggyland is the dilemma I am currently facing. I have been an expat for almost 6 years now and have seen many new friends come and go. I am familiar with the idea that as an expat you are constantly making new friends to replace the ones who move away. But in all my years I've not been in the situation I find myself in now.

How do I extricate myself from a friendship that I no longer want to be in? I recently told you all about this person. Probably not everything, but if you read my previous post you will get an idea of what I'm talking about.

I made friends with this person shortly after finding out I was pregnant with my son. She was there through it all, and now she has let me down. Not just in the ways I've written about, but in other ways as well. Not being kind to people I consider friends. Not being the kind of person I thought she was.

I don't think I want to be friends with her anymore. But it's complicated by the fact that we're part of a very small community. A community that talks and gossips.

I hate drama. The last thing I need is for her to go around telling people that I cut her off because I couldn't handle that she was pregnant. That has nothing to do with it. Sure, the timing is bad,,,,, but the truth is that this was coming long before she shared her news with me. But to end the friendship now, I just know she would think it was due to her pregnancy.

I know, I know,,,, you will tell me that I should have an honest conversation with her and tell her how I feel. Trust me, if I thought that she would listen or be even the slightest bit receptive I would give it a shot. But I know her... she's very defensive and does not respond well to criticism.

In no time flat my feelings would get twisted in a way to make her the victim and me the crazy lady whose baby died and can't be happy for anyone else. This is not what I want. So I've got some decisions to make.

How to extricate myself without causing unnecessary drama?? Is that even possible?? Ugh,,,, It's too much to even think about right now. 

Thanks for listening.


  1. It's tough to stop a friendship - I personally think that if I wanted to end a friendship - I would not have a conversation - I would just be busy - too busy to talk.. too busy to whatever she wants and then find things to be busy with... that's just me....
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  2. I don't have an answer. I joke with my friend LJ about wanting to "dump" a portion of friends here in my new home of the Chicago burbs. But of course... it's the same sitch; everyone is part of one big group and I can't just dump one without dumping them all.

    So I decided that I needed a break and emailed them about it. So far this break is going swimmingly and will continue for an undetermined amount of time. But I think my issues are more me and not as much them. I just want not to be bothered right now.

    Good luck. It's a lot harder to give friends the ax as adults, isn't it?

  3. I do not think it's possible, unfortunately, to duck out of the friendship drama free. I had friends who were similar in ways. I think if she does run around telling everyone whatever she does decide to tell them (and she WILL do the running around) that also will help you figure out who your real friends are. If people are willing to listen to her, rather than ask what your side is, then screw 'em. I know this may suck for a while, but you deserve to surround yourself with positive people. Much love and luck. As always, thinking about you and your boy.

  4. Am an expat too. No one will believe how many friends I had here in Dubai until last year. Until all was well. Things are much different now. I have lost many a friendships but am not not least worried about them because I constantly compare it against my greatest loss. Other things seem so miniscule.

    My advice may not be of much value but I think maybe you can start out by being a passive person with this 'friend' and then cut her out totally. Just doing anything to protect ourselves given the situation we are in makes sense to me.

  5. It's so hard to dump friends in real life. Especially when they have connections to other friends or worse family- that's what I'm dealing with right now and it sucks. This person knows they are no longer my friend (she pretty much told me she can't be my friend anymore because my son dying was too stressful for her) but because she knows our family so intimately and her husband is good friends with other members of the family she continues to push herself in the faces of my family and my in-laws. It makes me want to scream!

    I'm not sure what I'm going to do to cut her off from my family. I don't really care about our group of friends because most of them haven't been that supportive so I'm fine with not talking to them. Sorry I don't have a lot of advice on this matter. Just wanted you to know I feel your pain.

  6. I would just slowly wean and distance.
    She will be over the moon about her news and getting so much attention from others that hopefully she will not notice that you are pulling away from her much, and then suddenly it can be a "You got busy with the pregnancy, and that's ok" thing.
    Good luck.

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  8. 5 years ago - I dumped my bff. since the 6th grade. She was in my wedding - last event we ever did together. Long time coming too.... event after event after event. Even though I'm not an expat - we do live in a VERY small community. (We now even work in the same building). Anyway.... I was just slow to do it. I told ONE close friend. Why I was dumping her. The real reason. I picked the ONE person I knew would stand up for me in our close circle of friends. The ONE person I knew wouldn't cave and trash talk me when given a chance. Then I just was very short with phone calls, unusually busy, talked to her when we saw each other out, but... backed off until she was just ... out. I don't know what she ever told people was the reason. To everyone else, I just said we just drifted off. I wish I could give you a better example... But - dump her. Kristen

  9. I would say begin the silent treatment.

    Find ways to reduce interaction such as not meet her for lunch/dinner/any meals. Avoid anything except small talk when you are at some gathering.

    I think she is smart enough to get the clue. And people like her will always make new friends, but you need to keep your sanity together, so just do it. Make sure you are always too busy for anything with her.

    (I must say that her pregnancy has happened at a bad time....she will assume it as the reason for you dumping her).

  10. I agree with what's already been suggested. Just quietly eliminate her from your life. If you see her, smile and be pleasant, ask how she's doing and then move on. Don't offer details on your life beyond the 'oh it's been busy, I don't get a chance to see everyone as much'. Why? Because it's polite (not that you owe her that, but because you know YOU are a good person). Don't worry, self-centered people like her won't notice you not clinging to her every word.

    Stay friends with those you care about and who care about you; they will be more than willing to get together 1-on-1. In all likelihood, they'll be happy to be able to get a word edgewise without the other person being there when you get together. I would NOT tell anyone I was dumping her (if they can't figure it out, why would you owe them a reason or risk setting off WW3?) nor would I bother to talk with her. Friends come and go, they drift apart, it's natural.

    She's entitled to think what she wants. All you can control is you. Remain pleasant and don't waste energy worrying about it. Focus on who you want to be friends with, not who you don't. The ones who know and care about you will support you, and why would you waste your time with anyone else?

    Deep breaths. Tell yourself it's easier than you think; all you have to do is make the decision. Then get on with your life.

  11. In theory, I agree with the previous posters who suggested to slowly eliminate her from your life, but as a long-time expat, I know that it might be tricky. Like you said, it's a tight knit circle, you always go to the same events and it might get awkward to be constantly running into her in social settings while trying to avoid her privately. Especially if you two were quite close before. While I don't have any good practical advice, I just wanted to say that I understand, I am sorry you are going through this and I hope this situation will resolve itself somehow..Sending good thoughts your way! xx

  12. Hmm..I find myself in a similiar situation. One person who I worked very hard to become friends with went behind my back and told my husbands entire family I did and continue to do stuff...I never did. I decided to just move steps at first. Meet new people if only on line..for a start. I am separating myself from all of them because ONLY one called and asked me my side. It still stings but I will move on.
    I lost a daughter at 36 hours old. My heart breaks for you and you will be in my prayers. Never give up:)

  13. Ugh. That is a lot to consider. One side wants to rip her loose and tell her why but the best and most painless answer might be to let the friend dry up. You dont owe her a damn thing, especially an explanation.

    I would like to think if everyone knew the real reason they would get it but sadly, people just dont. I am glad they dont but really fuckers, come on. THINK about it.

  14. Pfffffttttttt... that's me letting out a long breath here. This is such a hard one.. and I think most of us have been there. Can you just try avoiding? Sometimes that works.. just an idea.

  15. Sweetie this may be a little to cut and dry but here it goes...
    Life is way too short for us to be expending energy on things that make us miserable.
    Sure its easy to say on paper and not have to act but in the long run the grief you're dealing with now will continue until you make a clean cut.
    I think the same goes for internet friends. Sometimes we just "grab" on to someone quickly for whatever reason.. mutual friends or hometown.. then the reality hits that we'd never really be friends in the real world.

  16. Hi there - over here from Mel's blog.
    I've been a stranger in a strange land a couple of times in my life, and I know how hard it can be in such a small circle of friends. I want to echo what a few other ladies have said here - Don't cut her off decisively. Just make your way away slowly. She doesn't need to know you're cutting her off. It's a question of balance. Don't cancel plans with her EVERY TIME, but do it a bit more often. Then call her a bit less. If she confronts you about it just say - "sorry, things are a bit crazy right now with *insert regular non-IF life stuff here*"
    Eventually you guys will lose touch and she won't even notice. Just ease into it and you should be fine. Good luck!

  17. First, I really appreciate your explanation of the expat friendship. My SIL recently married a Navy man and is stationed internationally for the first time, so I feel like this post gave me insights into what shes going thru.

    Second, and to the main point--it's really hard ending a friendship, and I definitely understand wanting to avoid the drama. It feels so middle school to have to break up with a friend! But, having recently had to end my first friendship as an adult, I'd like to respectfully disagree without he "just avoid her" line of reasoning. Because see, with my friend breakup earlier this year, she got mad at me about something and never told me, and I kept trying to make plans and she'd blow me off, but we're both busy so I really didn't think anything was wrong for a long time (& I'd like to think that wasn't just me being dumb--she did always reply and act like she wanted to get together, but there were always good reasons it didn't work out). Finally, I saw her again at a mutual friend's baby shower, and it was so awkward that I emailed her after what was up. When she admitted that she'd by then been mad at me for 6 months without ever mentioning it to me, I was so upset that she'd never given me the courtesy of telling me what was wrong so I could try to fix it (it was a misunderstanding about a blog post, actually)--or, if she felt it unfixable from the start, to let me know so I wouldn't have felt so foolish for all those attempts to make plans when she already didn't like me anymore. At that point, I told her I didn't feel things were fixable, because she'd been dishonest with me for so long, and didn't respect our friendship enough to even try to talk thru our issues. So I say I ended it, but it's more that thing where she made me break up with her. Which isn't cool when guys do it either. You have every right to not have someone in your life whose behavior is causing you pain. But given your past friendship, I think you should be upfront and let her know that you need some distance from her right now--or if you really don't ever want to be friends again, I'd find a way to tell her that too. Not an easy conversation, and maybe do it over email so you can be really clear in what you want to say and avoid a nasty confrontation. But based on my recent friend-breakup experience, I do think you should be honest with her. It's by no means easy, and certainly you have every right to want to avoid more stress in your life, but I think it's the right thing to do--both the "breakup," and the letting her know about it (think how yucky it would be for a longtime boyfriend to break up with you by avoiding you till you went away, rather than saying "it's over"!). Good luck with however you choose to proceed. You can do it!

  18. I'll start out by saying that I'm not familiar with you and this "friends" history. Perhaps that's for the better, maybe it doesn't matter at all.

    One thing I've learned in life is that people will believe whatever they want to regardless of what you say or what the facts should lead them to believe.

    My advice (for what it's worth, it's free so it's not worth much) is...

    1. Be busy when she calls to make plans. She should eventually get the message.
    2. Don't ask her or anyone else questions about her. (Politely) pretend she doesn't exist.
    3. If she's at the same event, say "hi" (I'm sure that you were raised to be polite) and tell her she looks great (NO QUESTIONS, do NOT answer any of hers).
    4. Don't say anything bad about her to any of your friends (even the close ones).
    5. Just let her continue to exist... in someone elses world.

    Let her go.

    Focus your energies on your upcoming cycle.

    Life is short...