The Washington Post

Carolyn Hax: Relationship reciprocation; severing a friendship


Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Hi Carolyn:

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I’m in my first relationship where I have to do most of the pursuing, and I don’t like it (even though I thought it would be a welcome change from being pursued, as I have been in past relationships).

Where does one draw the line between showing interest and being a pest?

I find that I do at least 75 percent of the reaching out, which my boyfriend seems fine with, but part of me feels like if he really liked me, he’d be reciprocating in kind!

D.C. Metro Area

This one just works by feel. When you have the sense that you’re putting in all/most of the effort, and you don’t like it, then put in less effort and see how that goes — as a means to discover what works, not to test him or manipulate him by pretending to be unavailable.

The relationships that work tend to find an equilibrium fairly quickly after the get-to-know-you pursuit stage. If yours hasn’t shifted into mutual yet, then that’s not necessarily the end, but it should at least be the end of the status quo.

Re: Pursuit:

What do you do when your “less effort” results in spending less time together, and you don’t like that, either?


Then you see your two choices for what they are: Stay in a relationship where you are in fact the only one keeping it alive or break up.

Sometimes the path to a likable option goes through a bunch of unlikable ones. Until there’s some way to make other people want to be with us (there isn’t, nor should be), that’s not going to change.

Dear Carolyn:

I have started to acknowledge that I no longer wish to be friends with a woman I know. We used to be very close, but, due to life changes on both fronts, we’ve drifted apart.

If I finally decide to officially call it quits, should I (a) send her a note letting her know and wishing her well or (b) let it naturally drift (the way it’s going)?

I feel like I “owe” her an explanation or a goodbye at least, but am not sure I wouldn’t provoke some judgment or a holier-than-thou response (part of the reason I don’t wish to be friends anymore).

Parting Ways

You owe her, why — because she has been asking? Because you have a cherished history of honesty with each other? Because that’s what you’d want?

I certainly don’t see the harm in “some judgment or a holier-than-thou response.” Sticks and stones and all.

And since your intent was to end the friendship anyway, you could respond to her response with “I thought you might say something like that. I can’t change what you think of me, but I can choose to go my own way. Thanks for your candor.” Goodbye, see ya, have a nice life.

That is, if you deem it necessary to explain yourself. If you’ve done some drifting already, and if she has answered with drifting of her own, then I see no reason to try to improve on nature. Let go and let drift.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or Subscribe at



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