Friend Ghosting

Dear Emily,
Last fall I befriended a woman via a trading FB page (we had a bunch of mutual acquaintances). I was initially excited because making new friends in your late-20s is hard and we have similar values (feminist! artsy!). 

But our friendship coincided with her going through a really hard time. She required a lot of emotional support – more support than I think I could give anyone, let alone someone I barely know. I would leave our monthly-ish hang outs feeling completely drained and like I hadn’t helped at all and dreading the next time she would ask to hang out

Long story short, I ghosted her. I did the typical “I’m really busy right now” slow fade away into not responding to texts. This isn’t really a question, since I already made my decision. But I am curious about how you would have responded or how I should approach the “being supportive/maintaining boundaries for your emotional health” tightrope walk.
Ghosted a Friend

Dear Ghost,
I think we’ve all had a friend like that, and as hard as it is to admit, I think some of us have been this friend at some point in our lives. We go through hard times and cling to anyone who will listen. Then sometimes we meet someone who seems to always be in crisis, and it’s all hands on deck for the entirety of the friendship.

Anyway, have you seen Catastrophe? It’s an amazingly hilarious and smart show and I 10,000% recommend it. One of the main characters, Sharon, gets friend dumped. She’s really bummed about it and of course I felt for her, but I think the friend actually went about it in a reasonable way. She is honest about what she can handle at that moment and sets a boundary.

In the future, or for those who also are dealing with something similar, here’s how I’d deal with it. Ideally you’d set a boundary in person, but I know how uncomfortable that can be. If you can’t bear to do it face to face, texting is *sigh* fine. Share that you really enjoy their company and love talking about your shared interests, but that you have things that you’re going through and don’t have the emotional bandwidth to take on someone else’s stuff. I’d say that you can suggest being friends in the future, but I do think that when you set that type of boundary, most of the time you’re cutting off that friendship. Suggest therapy if there are are some significant mental health issues, or if they just need some extra venting time.

These things are hard, and I can understand why you handled it the way you did. Sometimes we cringe at the way we deal with situations but the truth is that we do what we can at that moment. If you feel really badly about it, tell her that. Explain the situation and say you could have dealt with that in a better way. If not, count it as a learning opportunity. We always have room to grow.

With appreciation,

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