I’ve got a friend, who’s really not a friend. He’s a sad, pitiful guy from my past. We were friends in high school I’m in my thirties now, married with kids, good life, dog –the works—and this friend (let’s call him Bob) is still in high school. Not literally, but that’s where his life is. The problem is, he calls me pretty regularly, and when I try to give him the hint that I don’t really want to talk anymore, he throws a major pity banquet –talks about how he values our friendship and wants to stay in touch, and has no one else to talk with, all while wishing for the good old times (aka high school!).
I feel for Bob. I know Bob’s been through some hard times. But the truth is, the friendship is completely one way. When Bob calls, I can’t get him off the phone. He won’t even listen when I tell him I need to go. And he can literally talk without breathing for two hours straight.
Please, Dude Whisperer –how do you break the ties with needy old pals who won’t let go of the past?
Oh boy, has the DW ever been in this spot. Bobs can feel like the undead – no matter how hard you whack them with a shovel they keep shuffling over the hill through the cemetery. Slowly. Insistently. Ignoring your screams and protests. And, they usually smell a little funny.
Look, in most cases the DW is all for getting people to see the other side of things, to empathize, to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. But this is not most cases. This is one of those times when you are not doing yourself or anybody else any good by letting this dude hassle you with his perpetual Bob’s Mental High School Reunion thingy. If Bob was a date dude or a boyfriend dude? Please. The DW would tell you to lose his number and ritually burn the outfit you were wearing when you met. No different just because he’s a friend. Especially since he’s not really even a friend, just more of a felt obligation.
The only thing that has worked for the DW in these cases is simply to refuse to engage the Bob. The preferred DW method of simple and direct an honest communication? This does not work with Bob. Bob negotiates when there is no room to negotiate. Bob hears hope in words so harsh you can scarcely believe they came out of your mouth. Bob gets shot in the chest, flinches, and stumbles forward, biting someone on the neck and making them undead, too.
So don’t engage. Screen his calls and don’t call back. If he catches you between screens, cut him off mid sentence with whatever excuse comes to mind, even if it’s taking your parrot to the dentist. If he comes over unannounced, grab you keys and tell him you’re on you’re way out for an important appointment with the DW, drive around the block twice and come back. If you see him socially, simply refuse to talk to him. Walk away over and over if you have to. The DW did this with a Bob and it does eventually work. Eventually.
Does the DW feels for Bobs? He does. But we are not the people that can heal the Bobs’ ills. If anything, giving them less to be dependant upon may actually help jar them into some kind of action of their own.
Best of luck getting away from Bob,