Self

I’m “Quiet Quitting” A Friend

Photo: Antonio Guillem / Shutterstock  
woman leaving a man

*Names have been changed.

I love my friendships and I pour a lot of energy into them.

I’m excessively introverted, and as such, I only have a few people that I would actually consider “friends” — I have many others I would consider acquaintances.

For my friends, I’m available day and night. I answer their texts (and they mine), I answer their phone calls (and this is a big ask), and if they need me for advice, a shoulder to cry on, or just someone to have a drink with, they know that I’ll make the time for them.

They don’t take advantage of these offerings, and I do my best to not take advantage of theirs, either.

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When I first heard the term “quiet quitting,” I thought it meant leaving a job without saying anything.

I thought, whoa. That’s a bold move. What horrors would drive someone to have to quit their job without saying a word?

Of course, upon further research, I came to understand that the term simply meant to draw the line at one’s own job responsibilities, and not take on extra tasks. Easier said than done in today’s market — which I find disappointing — but a move I love and fully support.

After all, why should anyone feel forced to take on more than they’re being paid to do?

Personally, I’m lucky in that I don’t feel the need to “quiet quit” at my job. My manager doesn’t overburden me — she’s very careful to provide boundaries for her staff — and when I do take on extra tasks, it’s because I want to do them.

Still though, the term “quiet quitting” resonated with me — for one of my particular friendships.

As I finished reading an article about the term, I thought, yes! This is what I need to do! I’m going to “quiet quit” Scott*!

Scott has been my friend for years.

During that time, I’ve watched him grow from a mostly contented individual to someone who is really angry at the world, and extremely insecure.

Sidebar: I think it’s pretty normal to be feeling this way right now. Still, knowing who he used to be, this difference is jarring.

When we were in our 20s, it seemed like we had our lives in front of us. But, as we grew into our 30s — and now our late 30s — I can tell he feels that he’s hit a rut. He’s unhappy in his job — he considers it a dead-end — and he’s unhappy being single.

Neither of these things would bring joy to the lives of many. The issue here, though, is that Scott isn’t in a rush to change either of these things. He’d prefer to complain about them. To me. Incessantly.

I like to give advice — I do it for a living — and I enjoy helping people as much as I can. I had already been someone that Scott confided in regularly — but over time, I noticed that our conversations became very circular.

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He would text me and tell me about his unhappiness at work, and I’d offer an ear.

If he asked for advice, I’d offer it — and he would never take it. Ditto for his relationship status — he’d ask advice on dating — I’d offer it, he’d not take it, and then he’d whine about how “there are no single women who like me.”

After months of this, I’d begin responding, “Okay, well you need to do something about it then,” or, “We already had this conversation and I’m pretty tired of it.”

Not taking the hint — or more likely, not wanting to take the hint — I finally set my boundaries clearly, and in writing (text).

“There’s nothing I can do for you beyond what I’ve already done,” I told him. “Your life is yours to live, and I’m here for you, but I’m tired of having these conversations. I’m not going to talk to you about these things anymore unless you have something new to report. I’m going to ask that you stop texting me about these things, because these conversations don’t go anywhere, and they wear me out.”

“I understand,” he told me. “I just need to make some changes, and I will.”

For about a month, he was true to his word.

But now, I’ve noticed that his complaints are starting to creep back in, and I’ve not done a good job maintaining my line.

“Why is dating so hard for me?” he texted me yesterday.

“It’s hard for everyone,” I responded.

“I hate my job so much, I just want to quit,” he told me the day before.

“Then do it,” I said.

I felt frustrated with both him and myself. I felt frustrated with myself, because I know that my responses will only encourage him to continue complaining, and I know this.

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I felt frustrated with him too — I asked him to stop complaining to me about things he’s unwilling to fix — and he ignored that request.

People who are struggling to climb out of their stress can sometimes be selfish. I know this, as I’ve been there personally, and I see it every day at work with my clients. He knows that I want him to stop talking to me about these things — but he ignores that part — because he’s upset, and he wants to feel better. I get it.

Part of me feels that even receiving these texts enables him to continue his wallowing. Sometimes I wonder, do I have responsibility for his inability to move forward because I keep giving him a soft place to land?

But, no. He’s a grown-a** man. He’s responsible for himself — none of this is my fault.

But, I’m also responsible for myself, and I’m allowing myself to be driven crazy by ceaseless negativity. By allowing him to continue doing donuts in the parking lot of our texts, I’m allowing myself to feel drained.

So, I’m “quiet quitting” him.”

He’s my friend, and I’m not going to end our friendship. But I am going to stop providing more emotional support for him than I can reasonably manage to give.

I’ve decided that I’ll respond to his texts like normal, and if he directs them into “I hate my job and being single is the worst thing in the world” territory, I’m going to say, “I’m not having this conversation,” and then I’m going to simply stop responding to anything further in those topics.

We can only expect our friends to do so much for us.

They’re not our therapists — they’re our friends. They can give us advice, but it’s on us to choose whether or not we want to take that advice — and if we choose not to, if we choose not to do anything about the situation at all — it doesn’t help to ask our friends to continue providing us with emotional support.

In this case, perhaps this will drive him to move forward with life changes. Or, perhaps he’ll continue to wallow — maybe find someone else to begin texting.

But, I can’t want changes in his life more than he does, and right now, that’s where we’re at, so it’s up to me to make a change in my own life in what I will and won’t tolerate and support.

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Carolyn Light is a writer who focuses on her relationships, mental health, human rights, and animal welfare.

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This article was originally published at Medium. Reprinted with permission from the author.