When I was growing up, my mother told me that I’d be able to count my true friends on one hand. She explained that the company I keep will often change based on where I am in life. I may not have the same friends in high school that I had in elementary school/junior high, and the same would apply once I went away to college and long after that. She was right.
Since I had a better understanding of friendship at a younger age , I never felt it was dire to hold on to relationships that lacked honesty, comfort, quality, security, and stability. Most of the time, it was easy to walk away. In the times where it wasn’t so easy, I gave these relationships careful consideration, weighed the pros and cons, and debated with myself whether they were worth holding on to. If I decided to let go, it was because there was no mutual respect in one way or another, I completely lost trust, they were only my friend out of convenience, we were at two very different points in life, or the give and take didn’t balance out.
The best friendships are those that last a lifetime, even through conflict or turbulence, but the harsh reality is not all friendships last forever. Friendships can end when there’s a change in actions, geography, real life social status and networks, behavior, interests, opinions, and lifestyles. It’s almost expected, isn’t it? People don’t grow in the same ways at the same time, so sometimes people grow apart.
When we understand the dynamic of our friendships and that people fall into the categories of being around for a reason, a season, or a lifetime, we then understand the purpose that people serve in our lives and the purpose we serve in theirs.
So how do we know when a season is coming to an end?
You’re in Different Places
As we grow older, we evolve. People sometimes change drastically or minimally, but either way, the dynamic of our relationships naturally change as well, and we either work to hold on to people through those changes or we let them go. The end of a friendship isn’t always caused by some dramatic ordeal. We just sometimes end up in very different places where we no longer feel like we’re on the same frequency. These frequencies can be so different that we feel as if we have nothing in common anymore. Again, our behavior, interests, opinions, and lifestyles change and don’t quite align anymore with what initially brought us together. Consequently, the investment in each other changes, and sometimes it’s easier to let it go. There are ways to work through these changes. Mainly, each person needs to maintain a commitment to hang on and iron out the kinks.
There’s Been an Unforgivable Betrayal
There are certain betrayals that we can not get over. Whatever we consider severe betrayals can disrupt the foundation of friendship beyond repair. Betrayal causes us to lose trust, and when we lose trust for someone, we become reluctant to rebuild it. We’ll always question the level of loyalty and respect, and seriously, who wants to go through everyday questioning someone who we shouldn’t have to question at all?
There is Unwavering Conflict
No relationship is perfect 100% of the time. There are ups and downs, smiles and frowns, and everything between. While conflict itself isn’t always a reason to end a friendship, it can become something more serious when the same issue(s) presents itself over and over, or minor issues become astronomical as time passes. Conflict leads to turbulence and becomes exhausting, and no one has the time or energy for that!
The best ways to end a friendship (or romantic relationship) are to:
We want people to be honest with us, so we should extend the same courtesy. Unless one party is resistant, closure seems to be a common goal for most people, so we should always strive to achieve it. Focus on the reasons why the dynamic of the friendship/relationship isn’t working anymore. When we use examples that are based on facts, these will validate our reasons for feeling the way we do. Hopefully there will be some common ground, or we’ll just have to agree to disagree and move on.
Another thing to consider is whether we’re being honest with ourselves. Perhaps we are the ones adding strain to a friendship. Are we supporting our friends the way they support us? Are we loyal and respectful, or are we the ones betraying the people we claim to care about? Think about it.
Create some Space
When we distance ourselves from people, what we are non-verbally communicating is that we are heading in different directions. Creating space is a fairly easy place to begin when wanting to end a friendship. We can distance ourselves by keeping overall interaction to a minimum which include spending time together, placing phone calls and sending text messages, and even interacting on social media. When we start putting forth less effort to maintain the relationship, we give not only ourselves time to acclimate to the shift in the friendship by letting it naturally run its course, but the other person as well. Keep in mind that questions about the status of the relationship may begin to arise so be prepared to answer them. Remember, transparency is key when this happens. We should talk about it and be honest about why we are creating space.
Leave the Door Open
Sometimes when you decide to end a friendship, it may be what is necessary for a specific time in life. Depending on the circumstances, we may need a break but have intentions of restoring the friendship down the line. Of course this doesn’t work for everyone. Some people feel that once it’s over, it is over! We must be clear if our intention is to reconnect because mixed signals aren’t cool. There’s nothing wrong with leaving things open-ended in hopes that the relationship will revert back to the way it was when things were smooth, but it has to be a mutual agreement.
How have you ended a friendship in the past? What strategies worked (or didn’t work) for you?