When a Little Distance is Good Medicine

“He’ll keep calling me, he’ll keep calling me. I’ll go I’ll go, I’ll go.”

~ Cameron, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off


Everybody needs a day off sometimes. Have you ever thought, “All I need is a little distance” or “I need a little me time”? Of course, you have. Maybe this distance applies to a specific friend. That’s legitimate, and it’s perfectly normal, right? Then, why do we accept unwanted invitations? Why do we subject ourselves to friendships that deplete us? Why, like Cameron, do we say “yes” when we want to say “no”? It’s simple. We don’t want anyone to feel bad at our expense. Either way, we’re going to feel “bad.” But, there are good ways to do this; we can learn how to ask for distance, we can say “no” and it won’t make us nauseous. Sometimes a little distance is good medicine.

A few months ago, I wrote about best friend break-ups. This is not necessarily a “break up”; it is more like “taking a break.” There’s a difference. Maybe it’s for one night. Maybe it’s for a few weeks. Maybe it’s not the event but a friend we need a little distance from.

Do any of the following characters sound similar?

The Drama Queen – Always seems to be in the middle of a catastrophic drama.

The Narcissist – There is only room for one in this friendship.

The Gossip – Telling others’ secrets makes her perfectly giddy, no matter the harm.

The Critic – She constantly criticizes and is happiest when she is putting others down.

The One Upper – Whatever you do or feel pales in comparison to her experience.

Negative Nancy (or Debbie Downer) – She has two moods — gloomy and miserable.

Hoover Upright – Commanding center stage at all times, she can suck the air out of the room.

And two more:

The Victim – Asks for advice, but won’t take it; she prefers to be a victim.

The Flake – Makes plans only to cancel or no show. Cannot even commit to a phone call.

We love our friends, but let’s face it. Some are more exhausting than others. If your nerves are frayed, that’s when we are in danger of saying something we might regret. It is especially then that distance is good medicine.

Maybe it is not the friend we need distance from, but the event we are invited to. Perhaps you are tired and simply need to re-charge your batteries. Everyone does, and if you’re feeling it then you really should! Write yourself a hall pass, swipe left and take a powder. There is no reason you must accept every invitation. Decline the invitation up front. It is better to say you can’t than to say you will when you probably won’t. This makes us “the flake” (see above). Are you an introvert? Do parties make you feel uncomfortable? You’re not alone. Even extroverts need to take a break sometimes, too.

When asking for distance, remember most people do not require the lengthy explanation. Even though we feel possessed to give one. It’s perfectly fine to say, “No, thank you,” and nothing else. We are tempted to over-explain — don’t. This is a slippery slope, and it leads to embellishment. Less is more. A simple, “I’m sorry, I can’t get together in the next few weeks. I have a lot on my plate” will help us to avoid any fib said to spare their feelings. However innocent, little white lies can be very hurtful when found out.

Graceful ways to claim your distance:

  • Declining an invitation: “I’m sorry I can’t” or “I’m afraid I am not able to make it.”
  • Maybe yes to the individual, but not to the party or “group”: “No, thank you. But maybe you and I can get together for lunch sometime soon”
  • For flakey friends: Stop initiating the plan.
  • For the friend whom you want to keep, but that you need a little vacation from: “I have a lot going on right now (don’t explain). I’m going to need a few weeks. I will text you when it lets up. Thank you for understanding.”

Some of our friends might not take it well. Be prepared for this. But, stand up and protect your boundaries. Repeat what you said gently. Don’t worry. Your needy friends will find someone else to take care of them in your absence.

Try some of these delivery suggestions. Rehearse if you need to. A little distance is good medicine. If it helps, think of it as “self-care.” With a little practice, I think you’ll enjoy being selective, as well as the space you create!