Today Dear Pepper: Friend, Frenemy, or Foe News

Estimated read time 4 min read

Dear Pepper is a monthly advice-column comic by Liana Finck. If you have questions for Pepper about how to act in difficult situations, please direct them to [email protected]. Questions may be edited for brevity and clarity.

Dear Pepper,

Pepper the dog making a phone call.

I had a combustible relationship with a friend for years that finally blew up over the summer. It involved yelling, accusations of being a bad friend (among other friend crimes), and tearful voice mails, and it was emotionally draining.

Woman holding phone away from her.

This went on for two days until I called a time-out, per the suggestion of my therapist. I told my friend that I’d reach back out when I was ready to talk, but it’s been two months and I haven’t contacted her, and haven’t felt inclined to.

Dashed outline of a woman following a woman walking.

I’ve known her since freshman year of college (we’re both thirty-two now); we’ve spent birthdays and holidays together; and I love her three children. I dislike her husband, which has been part of the tension over the years. We’ve had other friendship hiccups that we’ve worked through, but this feels different. I don’t think I want to be her friend anymore. It felt like a line was crossed, especially regarding respectful communication, which is a must for me.

Dashed outline of woman yelling.

How do I tell her this? Phone call, text, e-mail, handwritten letter? I’d say it in person, but we live in different cities.

Woman walking and rolling suitcase.

If I say nothing, I feel like I’d be ghosting her. If I do contact her, I don’t want to be met with the same lashing-out behavior that necessitated this time-out. Can friends come back from something like this?

A clock.


Friend Fight

Dear Friend Fight,

In my informal millennial opinion (yes, at thirty-seven, I am the world’s oldest advice-dispensing dog), a phone call, e-mail, or old-school letter would be acceptable mediums for you to communicate your feelings to your friend. A text, not so much.

Skull floating above hand holding phone.

At the beginning of your e-mail to me, you sound certain that you want to end the friendship. But, at the end, you waver. There is absolutely nothing wrong with ending a friendship. Dan Savage says a romantic relationship that ends can still be a successful relationship, and I believe the same is true of friendships. People change.

Woman with tree man with dog and woman with snake.

All the same, to answer your question about whether friendships can come back from this kind of thing: I️ think so, with time, and in a more minor key. Clearly, you’ve been letting your friend down by doing friendship your own way, and that’s not good for either of you. But, if your friend saw you as a dear second-tier (instead of a best) friend, she might expect less of you and not be constantly disappointed.

So, if you want to, you could leave a bit of room for some kind of future reconciliation in your breakup announcement. You could say that you don’t want to be in contact for now, and leave it at that.

Woman walking away she has a long shadow.

There is no rule, by the way, that friends need to break up with each other in order to stop being friends. The laws of friendship are so nebulous and stretchy that what even is a breakup, anyway? But, in this case, I️ think you’re right to be clear about your intentions. Your friend has backed you into a corner. Or maybe a better way to put it is: you and your friend could both benefit from a little clarity, respectfully communicated.

Two women standing face to face.


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