Ask Amy: Friend worries that ghosting might not be enough
Dear Amy: One of my friends, “Charles,” has just gotten out of a three-year relationship with his emotionally abusive partner, “Anthony.”
Before I understood how abusive Anthony had been, I considered us friends, but I’m no longer comfortable associating with Anthony at all.
Normally in this kind of situation where someone’s primary friendship is with one person, the friendship just sort of naturally dissolves when they break up, but Anthony thinks of me as his best friend and is likely to continue, unless I say otherwise.
I don’t want to recreationally hurt his feelings by telling him I’m not comfortable with him anymore (he has severe depression and given that he’s lost his relationship, losing a friendship on top of that could easily push him into a dangerous mental state), but he’s unlikely to stop thinking we’re friends unless I tell him outright.
We have never talked very much, so simply not talking to him anymore would be unlikely to send the message.
Letting him think that I still value our friendship, even though I now actively dislike him seems a lot like the friendship version of leading someone on, but I don’t have the first idea how to go about telling him. What should I do?
– Not Your Bestie
Dear Bestie: Thank you for introducing me to the concept of “recreationally” hurting someone’s feelings. Yikes.
To recap – “Anthony” has been emotionally abusive to your friend. Even though you and Anthony don’t speak very often, you believe he sees you as his best friend. You want to disabuse him of this notion, but you don’t want to ghost him, and you don’t want to confront him because you are worried about his mental state.
A middle ground here would be to continue as you are, not initiating contact, speaking infrequently, and letting him think whatever he wants to think — until more time has passed and you each would have gained some perspective and can back away slowly.