others rely on a misunderstanding: Friendship is not an obligation but a pleasure, based on mutual understanding and good feelings, often expressed in reciprocal acts of kindness.
Miss Manners says this not to assure you that you have no obligation to others, but rather to clarify what that obligation is – and is not. Assisting an elderly neighbor, as one example, is a good deed. Spending time with someone who bores you, and to whom you owe nothing, is neither a good deed, a requirement of good manners – nor a sensible use of time. If you do not offer future invitations – and answer those extended to you within a measured time – the problem will resolve itself. It is known as drifting apart.
Dear Miss Manners: I’ve been invited to a party. The hours are from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. Am I required to be there the entire time? I had hoped to stay until the end so I can help my host with cleaning up afterward.
Gentle Reader: How long you are required to remain depends on the nature of the party. Leaving in the middle of a sit-down meal is rude, while holding out past the end of a cocktail party may be equally rude.
Miss Manners presumes that your desire to clean up is altruistic – you want to be helpful, rather than enjoying the act itself. But she assures you that if you reciprocate the invitation, you can clean up your own party rather than hanging around the kitchen at your friend’s.