Ask Amy: Pressing “pause” on a negative friend

Dear Amy: What is the right way to put a friendship on pause?

I have known “Lara” for many years. We don’t have a lot in common and it can be trying to spend time with her — she monopolizes conversations, tells inappropriate stories and can be extremely negative.

However, she was very persistent about befriending me, so I saw her casually and also spent many hours supporting her after a job loss a decade ago.

While she has now stabilized, she never returned to her prior career and remains very angry.

After COVID struck, I decided to focus on my closest relationships and began seeing Lara far less often.

Earlier this year I lost my own job. It hasn’t been all bad — I’ve been able to help my ailing parents and found some part-time work — but some days it takes everything I have to stay positive.

Lara is the absolute last person I want to see right now: I just can’t listen to her complaints about not seeing me or about the terrible job market.

But she’s been reaching out to me for months, despite my attempts to brush her off politely, and now is getting her husband to text me.

Can I just ghost her? (I haven’t spent any time with her for about a year.)

Do I owe her some kind of explanation, and if so, what should it be?

I will admit that I resent having to do this emotional labor during a difficult time for someone I never felt close to.

But I also dread every text, email and call I receive from her, so any advice would be very welcome.

— No More Negativity in NY

Dear No More Negativity: Placing this friendship on “pause” is precisely what you should do.

It sounds as if “Lara” is immune to generic “ghosting” (where you basically neglect to respond to any contact from her). Having her husband text you on her behalf is a sign that she needs some sort of statement from you.

Consider a “pre-blocking” measure. Email her to say, “You’ve continued to reach out to me, but I want you to know that I haven’t responded because my plate is full right now. I’ll reach out again when I’m ready, but until then I need to take a ‘pause.’ Take good care of yourself.”

She may see this as your attempt to start a dialogue. Don’t bite that hook.

If she refuses to respect your wishes and continues to contact you, then it might be time to block her and consider the friendship to have ended.

Dear Amy: We have close friends whose daughter is getting married in Italy.

We will be traveling to the wedding, but my husband and I thought about it for a while before responding because, first of all, it’s not the easiest part of Italy to get to.

We have to make a stopover, change flights, book the hotel, and rent a car to drive down to the wedding because there is no transportation from the airport.

I believe this girl is being a bit selfish, just to be able to say that she got married in Italy. Many from her mother’s side of the family can’t make the trip.

Why have a wedding if your family can’t be there?

I read that if the couple decides to have a destination wedding, your gift is your presence because of the added expense imposed on you.

Do you agree?

— Disgruntled Guest

Dear Disgruntled: Why have a wedding in Italy if your family can’t be there?

Not having family there is precisely why some couples choose to have destination weddings.

Marrying couples are using the expense and distance as a way to make sure that they won’t have to deal with Aunt Gladys and her pickleball obsession, Cousin Steve who is just out of rehab, or Grandma Jane and her pesky need to use a walker.

Overall, this trend reflects a changing attitude toward weddings — that they are not sacred celebrations bringing two families together, but photo-ops with spectacular backdrops.

Yes, your gift is your presence. It would have been kindest for the couple to state this.

Dear Amy: “Angry Mom” was upset because her coddled son wasn’t invited along with his friends on a European vacation.

You went right along with her, and I’m disappointed. In both of you.

— Disappointed

Dear Disappointed: It’s natural to feel pain when your children are hurting. If her son wants help through his disappointment, she should offer a mature perspective.

(You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)

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