On firing a friend


My office friends Robin and Leo were sitting in the kitchen when I came in for my morning coffee. Leo pulled a chair out for me to join them.

“Robin’s having problems with her house guests,” he said.

“They’re still there? How long has it been?” I asked.

Robin began to shred her napkin. “It feels like they arrived sometime during the Clinton administration.”

Her high school friend Amy had written to ask if she and her daughter could come to Robin’s for a visit. Robin was delighted. She told Amy they were welcome to stay with her but warned her that, since she lived in a one-bedroom condo, they would have to share a sofa bed.

“It was nice to see her again,” Robin said. “Then we went out to dinner the first night and Amy announced that they planned to stay for 11 days.”

“Did you ask her to sign a lease?” Leo asked.

“Oh wait, it gets worse. I told Amy I couldn’t possibly take that much time off work. She said not to worry, they could take the train into Boston and keep themselves entertained during the day. She even turned in her rental car.”

“They sound like low-maintenance guests,” I said. “That’s something, I guess.”

Robin scooped up the remnants of her napkin and dropped it in the waste basket. “Oh, it was fine the first two days.”

“Which is precisely the point when they should have been going home,” Leo told her.

“I know, Leo. If she had any sense, she would have been packing up. Instead she asks if she can drive me to and from work so that they can use my car during the day. Yesterday they drove to Maine so she could shop at LL Bean. This morning she brought me in early so they could explore Cape Cod. I lease that car. They are chewing up my mileage.”

Leo went to make another cup of coffee. “You have to throw them out, Robin.”

“But how? I hate confrontations and Amy seems tone-deaf to any hints.

“The really sad part is that I realize I don’t like her that much any more,” Robin told us. “We were friends in high school but don’t have that much in common.”

“She’s not your friend, Robin,” Leo said. “She’s using you to get a cheap vacation. Throw her out.”

“No,” I said. “Fire her. She can’t be your friend any more. Once she’s out of your house, stop communicating with her. Don’t answer her phone calls. Don’t respond to e-mails or voice mails. Even the dimmest bulb will eventually get the message.”

There is no protocol for this, no form to fill out or severance pay involved. The tipping point is this: If you met that person today for the first time and you knew them only as they person they are now, you would not choose to have them as a friend.

Shared history only goes so far–especially when your history ended when you were both 18, which was several lifetimes ago.

So, fire the parasites. Fire the narcissists. Fire anyone who doesn’t consider your interests.

The irony is that they probably won’t care if you do.

22 thoughts on “On firing a friend

  1. Obviously this “friend” studied at the Vladimir Putin School of Relationships. The school’s underlying philosophy is based on the premise that most people will back down just to keep the peace. Knowing that is a tremendous advantage because it works with everyone who has not attended the school.

    You should never confront these people because they are good at confrontation and you are not. You would have better luck negotiating with a used car dealer or taking a swing at a black-belt.

    The best strategy is to threaten them with having to confront someone who has taught at the school. For instance, Robin could warn her guests that her boyfriend, the meth-head, has just gotten out of jail and will be also be staying with her – and she could add that the living room couch will no longer be available because that is where his pit-bull sleeps.


  2. I had a group of friends from high school that I got together with at our 20th reunion. We had great fun for about a year and then things got strange. It came to a head when I was on vacation and they sent me really mean emails. I told them, in so many words, that I no longer wanted to be a part of that friendship if that is the way they wanted to treat me. 2 years later it is still painful, but I have not looked back. I would rather fire them the easy was as I don’t like confrontation either. They do not deserve your time, energy, or kindness. Did I mention that one of them was my college room mate?


    1. I can sympathize. Just let them go. People change from the people we knew years ago.
      I fired a high school friend a few years ago and the other classmates were dismayed. She pulled enough stunts that I’ve decided to write about it in a book.She stole my favorite blouse, for one thing.


  3. Had a friend like that but she was blatantly pushy and self centered. Eventually told her off and she ended up threatening me and tried to spread rumors. Thought she was out of my life, recently snuck her way back in through a mutual friend. I’m not having it. Then again I’m Cuban, fighting people off is in my nature lol gotta do what’s comfortable for you!


  4. I can completely sympathize with your friend. I’m the type who would try to be nice while they were there and complain endlessly whenever I could. I’m learning to be more upfront with people and set limits though. It’s heaven when I follow through.


  5. My mother went through a similar a few years ago. Except this friend actually was a friend. This woman (with her family and new baby) came for a week, hosted a barbecue in our backyard, payed for nothing, and expected everything. We never talked to their family after that. Sometimes, it’s just best to cut your losses and devote your time to people of quality.

    Courtney from SheWearsManyCrowns.com


    1. I agree.
      This particular person in the blog was the victim of her bankrupt in-laws parking their Winnebago in her driveway for 2 months because they were essentially homeless. When my (former) friend and her family left on vacation, the in-laws broke into her house so that they could use the bathrooms and tap into the electric line.
      Wouldn’t you think she would be a little more sympathetic? Nope.


    1. Good idea. But sometimes you just get blindsided by their brazen attitude.
      I’ve had people show up all the time just because they were too cheap to pay for a hotel. Then when I went to work, they cleared out my refrigerator.
      They got fired, too.


  6. We have a house guest like that right now….. I’m about to go insane. He’s an ex marine. When I first found out he needed a place to stay when he moved back from deployment I thoight “yeah ok. He’s a marine he will be neat and respectful amd helpful”. He’s been here since august and he’s had 3 great jobs that he’s left because he didn’t like the job or hours. He sits on the couch amd plays world of warcraft or sleeps all day…. he’s rude and mean amd judgemental. I cannot wait until he gets his own place!!! I really feel for robin. Having a person in your house who shouldn’t be there feels like an invasion of privacy and a huge inconveience. And you feel used and betrayed. Its not fun….


      1. Thanks!!! Hubby and I have a heart to heart about it a lot. Hubby gave him an ultimatium and now he’s working at McDonald’s and savinfgb for his own place!!


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