Let’s be acquaintances

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I won’t sugarcoat it: some people are more work than pleasure to be around, and maybe it’s time to start thinking about how to cut those people out of your life.

You just don’t have time to spend with everyone you like. So either you can try to have it all, and spread yourself thin trying to spend time with everyone – or you can prioritize, giving more time and attention to some, and less, or none, to others. Or, in other words: you can attempt friend-breakups.

Strangely, it’s more difficult to break up with a friend than with a romantic partner. When you get into any romantic relationship there’s always the tacit acknowledgement that there could be a breakup somewhere down the road, so both partners are prepared for the possibility of it. Lovers split up, we’ve seen it thousands of times. There are whole books written about it, movies dedicated to it. You’ve done it before, and so has everyone else you know. But you’ve never heard of someone being looked in the eye and told: “I’m sorry, let’s be acquaintances.”

What makes it so hard to friend-breakup is the deeper, more fundamental personal territory you risk wounding in the other person. When you break up with a romantic partner you’re telling them you don’t work romantically with them. They might still be a swell person, full of virtues and passions and interesting thoughts, but, for whatever reason, your romantic convexities don’t match their romantic concavities. This is not the case for a friendship breakup, where, no matter how tactfully or delicately we say it, we’re essentially saying we don’t value this person as much as we value other people.

Tough – but true. And, like a romantic relationship, honesty is important. If you feel this way about a “friend” of yours, maybe they feel the same way too. We should also realize that our company is not some gift, especially if we’re giving it out of any motivation other than the genuine desire to do so.

Like a traditional breakup, a friend breakup isn’t always an easy or painless thing to do, but it is, sometimes, the right thing – for everyone involved.