‘I don’t know what happened, but recently I just cannot bear to be around my friend’

Tell Me About It: ‘It is not uncommon that one can have had a close friendship with someone for many years and then distaste and disapproval arrive fully formed’


I think I have the “ick factor” about a friend. It is hard to describe it in other terms as, honestly, sometimes I feel like I have been eating something rotten when I am around her.

We have been friends since school and shared flats, went travelling and even were bridesmaids at each other’s weddings. I don’t know quite what happened, but in the past few months, I just cannot bear to be around her, and I find her to be grating on my nerves all the time.

I can’t believe some of her opinions, which I used to laugh at before, and everything about her is just so challenging. She comments on everything negatively, from appearance to food to politics and friendships and I don’t know how I never saw it before. She is generous and has often bailed me out of financial difficulty (I’ve always paid her back) and I am not blind to her good points, but she puts me down all the time and somehow, I’ve taken it.

Recently, we were out for a night with long-standing friends, and she spoke about my job in a very demeaning way, getting everyone to join in with laughing at my position (middle management). And then she commented on what everyone was eating and how important it is to maintain your figure, and this led to even more negative comments on those friends who were not at the meal.

She thinks that everyone is responsible for their lack of success and that none of it is due to systems or societal blocks and I have totally opposite views. She won’t give to charities as she believes it leads to people “sponging off the state”, but she will support her own friends in business endeavours. On a truthful note, she is much wealthier than me, and I like some of the places she gets me invites to.

What do I do?


What you are describing is not uncommon, that one can have had a close friendship with someone for many years and then distaste and disapproval arrive fully formed and appear to be intractable.

It is worth looking at your own part in all this and how you have participated in creating a relationship that does not uphold many of your principles. Perhaps you have seen a vulnerability in your friend and sought to support her unquestioningly with the idea that she could not be challenged? You must have had fun and connection, in the past, if you shared flats and holidays with her and so the question arises about your own ability to face up to what you do not want to see and how that protective screen has disappeared suddenly.

If you can take responsibility for your own faults, you may be in a position to challenge another person. You have liked the lifestyle that being associated with your friend offers but you chose her as a bridesmaid, so that suggests something deeper and more meaningful. Is this the case or were you frivolous in your choice of witness for your marriage? If you can honestly face this question, then you may have a right to engage fully with your friend.

Can you face up to your own putting of status and money above principles of democracy or societal equality? This may take courage and humility but might allow some self-compassion and determination regarding future actions. The difficulty is that the ick factor (or disgust) is a very powerful emotion, and it is one of the few that is fundamental and thus hard to change.

To cut this friendship off suddenly and with no explanation could be unnecessarily cruel and so the onus is on you to consider what to do with sensitivity and care. She clearly values you, so you may be in a position of influence in your friend’s life and may be one of the few people in her life who can create an openness to change. However, if you engage with her with your current level of disapproval, you will only invite a reaction of anger and confusion. This means that you manage your own emotions before taking things any further. Any influence needs to be tempered with acceptance of her and also with a sense of possibility in her to be open to change.

If you have no hope for this, then gradual withdrawal from friendship to acquaintance is required. Kindness and civility are the cornerstones of good society and these qualities only become tangible when we exercise them in difficult situations.

This is your chance to act out your principles, so manage your “ick factor” and elevate your responses to those of your best self.