Dear Carolyn: My wife and I have friends of many years who frequently invite us to spend a few nights with them at their beach house. Sounds lovely, right? We truly like these people, but they drink a lot. From lunch through nightcaps every day. In smaller doses we enjoy their company, but we are simply not up for more than an evening’s worth. We have recently started to decline their invitations, but they’re asking why. I’d really rather not tell them the truth. But if I say that I’d rather not say, then that may leave them imagining who-knows-what. What would you say?

— Uncomfortable Friend

Uncomfortable Friend: Please just tell them the (necessary part of the) truth. “We can’t keep up anymore — drinking from lunch to nightcaps is too much for us.” Because it is. Saying it this way makes it more about your preference than their behavior.

You have cover: advancing years do come with a receding tolerance, be it at 30, 50, 100.

They, of course, are free to hear your message however they want, take it personally and spin that into resentment at being judged.

But you're already pulling away from them and they're already asking why — and you're already inviting their resentment by dodging their legitimate line of inquiry.

So why not give integrity a chance? Dish it out, diplomatically, and see if your friendship can take it.

Alternately, if you haven't already, you can try first to accept their hospitality but refuse any drinks. Not loud, but perfectly clear.

Hi, Carolyn: How does a person end a relationship? You once described the miserable reality that humans pick a person off a shelf, examine them and sometimes put them back. It’s awful.

There’s no way to get to know a friend or romantic partner without spending time together, during which both people become invested. So when you’re mismatched, what can you say that isn’t monstrous? I’ve found myself staying because I don’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings. This ends up feeling like I’m stringing them along.

— It’s Not You

It’s Not You: Well, that is one side of it — that it’s painful to be put back on the shelf.

Another angle on my original observation, though, is that it's part of life. Not every combination of people works, or keeps working.

And when something occurs naturally with people, then it's okay to conclude that we're therefore, generally, equipped to handle it.

To use an extreme example, take the death of loved ones. It feels unbearable — until we realize one day we're bearing it. The fact of death is unavoidable so we handle it.

The fact of getting dumped is unavoidable so we handle it.

I understand not wanting to cause pain, but sometimes all your options bring some degree of pain: You either tell someone you’re not interested, or keep seeing them (and keep them from more suitable others) out of guilt, or, ugh, silently disappear on them. With these choices — two cruel, I believe — you can only accept you will cause pain regardless, then try to minimize how much you inflict.

So if someone misses your not-interested signals, just be clear, kind and quick: “This isn’t working for me.” And trust them to recover from it, as you surely have from such inevitable no-thank-yous yourself.