Ok, so as a person who has encountered both romantic and platonic endings with women, I find myself in a unique position to compare the 2 experiences. the main differences I see between a romantic relationship and a platonic friendship are: the lack of sex and the lack of honest endings!
In a romantic setting, it is fairly well accepted that there is a level of monogamy that is expected in the partnership, and should you wish to explore your other options, an ending of your current relationship will be required. While I, and many women like me, will go to great lengths to avoid nasty confrontations with people of either gender, this particular type of confrontation is expected, anticipated and endured for the greater good of everyone involved. Now, that is not meant to indicate that ghosting and a lack of ending/closure never happens in a romantic setting, because indeed it does and it’s becoming more frequent! (Post on Ghosting to come.)
In a platonic setting, it is widely accepted that while loyalty is expected to some degree, monogamy is not. Most of us have more than one friend and hopefully continue making more as life takes us on new paths. So this means technically we are always free to explore new beginnings without ending the relationships that already exist. Not only does this mean we enter platonic friendships without the expectation that they will need to officially end at some point, it also means we often don’t feel it is necessary to end them at all. That said, they do indeed end.
In a romantic setting, the breakup is unpleasant, however not particularly unexpected as in most cases, we can probably see that the relationship has been struggling. Regardless of if a person was the “dumper” or the “dumpee” in a romantic relationship, after some time both parties usually come to a place of relief about the ending, and both parties understand and respect that the relationship is no longer. (Usually!! I said usually people!! Lol) Sure, sometimes people simply downgrade the relationship to a more platonic level (or at least promises of friendship are made….note to self, write a post on friendships with the ex.) When these downgrades happen however, we acknowledge it verbally. This is not the case when the original context of the relationship was platonic.
When the original context of the relationship was friendship, a breakup often blindsides one party completely and they may have not seen any signs that the relationship was in trouble. Of course, this depends on the exit strategy of the “dumper.” If the woman who wants to end the friendship chooses what I refer to as “the slow fade out method” then it is less of a surprise to the dumpee when the relationship eventually stops altogether. The slow fade out involves less frequent contact, less invitations, (or more group invitations and less one on one invitations,) and the dumper becomes basically the busiest person on the planet… (To avoid you and your friendship. Ouch.) This method is effective in a few ways, being that it is usually the person being dumped who technically ends the friendship; either through confrontation or a gradual acceptance and a lack of effort to keep the friendship alive. Effectively the dumper may even come off as the “victim” in this scenario at worst, and at best avoids accountability for the break up. She never directly tells you the friendship is over, she lets you decide that on your own. Her conscience is clear. It shouldn’t be, but it is! It also has the added benefit for the dumper that because she never officially ended it, her options remain open to resurrecting the friendship at a later stage if she wants to, no questions asked....
In the dumper's defence (and I have been her) the woman who uses the slow fade out may not have consciously decided she wants the friendship to be over. (However; when confronted, she really needs to decide if this is the case.) It is possible that she simply met someone else – usually a romantic partner (although by no means always,) with whom she prefers to spend her time. She may have suddenly experienced a life change and found herself with less time for any of her friendships due to new responsibilities. She may be experiencing mental health issues and generally withdrawing from everyone in her life. Or, yes, she may have decided to label you as “toxic” and is consciously ending the friendship.
Some psychologists actively encourage this method for ending friendships. If you do a quick Google search of it; you will find women asking for advice on how to end friendships and being told by the experts to 'be busy and dilute the friendship with other people, initiating longer time between contact, lack of intimate conversation and avoidance in general.' While this may indeed be sound advice for the dumper, it does not take into consideration the feelings of the dumpee. In my experience the slow fade out is the worst exit. (As the dumpee that is…) You can feel it coming and it’s like pure torture trying to reconcile your feelings about it in relation to what you thought was a healthy happy friendship. It can leave a person questioning themselves, reliving conversations and looking for clues and ways to blame themselves, while being equally worried about the person who is effectively dumping them. (Interestingly; the dumper is not worried about the dumpee at all, or even believes she is being kinder this way.) This is enough to drive a person crazy, not to mention the insanity the dumpee feels if she tries to address this fading out with the dumper. The fade out is denied, brushed off and swept away by the word busy, and the dumpee is left questioning if she is imagining this, if her expectations are too high, if she is being needy etc…. It’s really cruel. Much crueller than just telling her “Yeah, I need some space from you right now…” Those words will hurt, but at least they are clear and confirm that the person can trust her intuition. Removing a person’s ability to trust her intuition and altering her reality to suit yourself is like psychological torture. It’s essentially “gaslighting” and we do it to each other all the time?! It’s not cool ladies, let’s stop!
So what are the alternatives? The most common alternative to the slow fade out method is "ghosting" - whereby the dumper abruptly stops responding to any contact from the dumpee. All calls, texts, emails, letters and visits are received by a stone cold wall of silence. This may be followed by (or even instigated with) an unfriending on social media. Ghosting deserves a whole post of its own. For the purpose of this article let’s sum it up like this:
The problem with these methods is that they are dishonest and allow the dumper to avoid the discomfort of holding herself accountable for the hurt she is causing the dumpee, and denying her closure. Why are more experts not telling women facing friendship issues to say to their friends “I just can’t be the friend you need right now.” Why not encourage us to be honest, and face the fact that yes, our decision is hurting someone? (And that this doesn’t make us terrible people?!!! It happens.)
My advice? Use these methods if you must, (maybe she feels the same way and the friendship will die a mutual unspoken death) but if the dumpee confronts you about it; own up. Be honest and kind; keeping in mind she will remember your words for a very long time, and that you once considered this person a friend. I know it sounds like an oxymoron to be kind when breaking up with someone, but it is possible. (Example: “You’re right that I haven’t been giving you the time and attention you need. I guess I just can’t be the friend that I was, the friend that you need right now. Sorry to let you down, but I don’t see this changing anytime soon. I have enjoyed our friendship and I do hope you can find someone else who can meet your needs.” No excuses, no justifications, no blame.) Even if the dumpee is still devastated, (and she will be,) she will get over it much quicker than if you deny her the grieving process altogether by denying your exit or not acknowledging it at all. Sure, maybe you think she deserves it, but you want to look back and feel that you handled it in a way you are happy with. You can’t control her behaviour, but you can control yours.
Have I always followed this advice? No, and that’s how I know it is sound advice!! I have experienced slow fade outs, ghosting and some nasty unkind confrontations full of blame and justifications and basically poisonous word vomit. I have been the dumpee and the dumper in all situations. I know our intentions are for the most part kind, (I said for the most part! Lol) or even unconscious or reactional, but if we have enough integrity to be clear and upfront when ending a romantic relationship, don’t our friendships deserve the same respect?
Breaking up with someone IS unkind, but YOU don’t have to be. Think about it. Let’s do better?
Your Best Friend ForNever