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Why Friendships End and How to Cope

I'm passionate about health, wellness, social issues and relationships. I offer relatable content and solid advice.

Friendships

Friendships

We’re not supposed to spend forever with people who don’t help us to enjoy life or teach us things about the world or ourselves or who generally don’t serve a purpose other than to frustrate us.

— Brianna Wiest, Author

The Breakup

I've had a lot of friendships come and go over the course of my life. Sometimes there is an obvious ending over something big, and other times they may end over something small, such as a minor disagreement that persists too long. And even other times you may wake up one day and realize you and a friend have way too many differences or a completely different lifestyle now, and the friendship fades into the distance.

Recently my daughter had her first friendship breakup, and it was bad. I'm not entirely sure what it was over. She is ten, and ten-year-old girls can be demons with drama. It's not uncommon for girls to bicker and change friends (and their minds) on a daily basis.

We invest more time into certain people. We put all our eggs into one basket—our time and effort into one important friendship—so that it hurts more if, or when, it ends. This was what she was feeling.

At first I tried consoling her with the usual rhetoric, "I'm sorry. It will get better." "She doesn't deserve you as a friend." But I knew one truth. It takes time.

Reminiscing over all the friendships that crashed and burned in my life, I realized it was time (and hindsight) that healed those wounds. My daughter would eventually get over the broken friendship, first in a matter of days, then months, and even years. It's a process.

Broken friendship

Broken friendship

It's Not You; It's Me

I have figured out that when a friendship ends during a time we wished it wouldn't, or we don't understand why it has ended, it usually concerns the other person more than you. The friendship may not be conducive to their needs anymore. They may have personal reasons, and they typically don't involve you.

If it is something you did or said, it is still about them, and their decision to take a break or end the friendship based on what they tolerate and prioritize.

I am that person who blames the end of friendships on myself- "It must have been something I said"..."something I did?" And I have also been the one to blatantly end friendships, for good reason of course, but typically a boundary I have set for my life.

People change over time, and it's common for those close to them to not always change with them.

You will always care about the others person, but you must not beat yourself up over it. I know you tried, because you're reading this. Maybe you're still hanging on by a thread, wondering how it went all wrong.

Is it you?

Is it them?

Is it over?

What I have found is some friendships stand the test of time and others fall apart over time. This isn't based on one person or the other more than just life's course.

The Bitter End: Reasons Why Friendsips End

No matter how many friendships we've suffered with until the bitter end, it never ceases to shock us when one is truly over. It stings.

There are as many reasons to end a friendship as there is to continue one:

  1. Different life paths (with a fork in the road). The inconvenient truth is it's natural for people to go their separate ways due to moving away or following different goals and lifestyles. As I reach early midlife I realize my values have emerged more prominently (or some values mean more to me than when I was younger), and having conflicting values with a friend is a fork in the road I've had to face in recent years. It can be politics, lifestyle choices and activities, and even differences versus commonalities.
  2. One-sided friendships (The energy drain and self-esteem sinker). Does your friend have enough problems to fill all your conversations together? You might come to a point where you realize one day that most conversations center around that friend. Perhaps when YOU need your friend, they are fair-weather. YOU do all the calling. YOU do the keeping in touch and thoughtful gifts and gestures. All YOU! And then you wonder if you are not worthy of the attention you give to them or that your problems don't matter. If you have to wonder if you're worth the effort in the relationship then they are definitely not worth the effort.
  3. Can't fight the feeling (Underlying issues that can't be swept under the rug)! There are some icky feelings between friends that rear their ugly head often enough to create a great divide. The single friend envious of the married one or vice versa. The successful one versus the unlucky, struggling one. There is also feelings of resentment from something in your past together. Sour feelings = sour relationship. Unless there is open conversation about the elephant in the room, then this friendship can fizzle with a giant explosion at the end.
  4. Abusive friendship. Harsh insults, gossip, and back-stabbing are harmful if not outright abusive. You can't settle for this under any circumstances. Watch out for passive-aggressive behavior and co-dependency/controlling friendships too! If you must, take some time developing yourself, even if this means counseling and self improvement books related to the issues you are facing.
  5. Communication break-down. You listen more. They listen less. They no longer understand you. It's like you're speaking different languages. Technology can create divides too. They like to text. You like to talk...in person. The silent treatment gets thrown around too. Without syncing your communication styles it can spell t-r-o-u-b-l-e.
  6. Deception and Lies. One of the worst thing done between friends is knowingly deceiving and lying to each other. Deep hurt does not belong in a friendship. There are certain rules implied in friendships, and when those are broken, the damage is done.
  7. New Relationships. I can recall plenty of friendships lost due to a new friend in the middle or a new relationship, like when my friends and I all got married at different times. When a romantic partner enters the dynamic, they can steal a substantial amount of yours or your friend's time. This can feel like the end, and sometimes it is unfortunately.
Friendships aren't always meant to last

Friendships aren't always meant to last

How Do You Know When a Friendship Is Over?

It's not always obvious the precise moment or even the exact day that a friendship ends. Most end gradually.

If it's not completely obvious, there are signs it is ending slowly but surely.

Personally, you start feeling less toward them, and including them less in your life- less calls, less activities together, less sharing. Even if something is wrong on their end, you might pick up on it instinctually. It can become too much effort to make plans with them. This feeling is one that precedes drifting apart.

When there is one too many fights in succession, and repeated arguments there is obviously a wedge being driven between you two. It is also a sign of drifting apart, but with more hostility and ill feelings toward one another.

Another sign a friendship is ending, is when you or your friend are speaking more harsh truths to each other and the friendship itself. You are taking less care of each other's feelings. When we're in a friendship, we make effort to be kind to our friend, make them feel good about themselves, and offer critique with consideration.

Sometimes, you or your friend begin hanging out with other friends more often. Interests and lifestyles change and friendships are one of the first things to reflect this.

Time to reflect...

Time to reflect...

Celebrate endings, for they precede new beginnings.

— ~Jonathan Lockwood Huie

How to Cope

I might as well put the obvious out there: Friendships hurt when they end. The sooner you can identify the end, the sooner time has to heal the hurt.

The end of a friendship is a great time to be honest with yourself. Use this time to reflect. Whoever ended it, or however it ended is a sign that you and/or your life have changed in some ways. There are times when this is a great thing.

Of course it's not easy to let go of a friendship, but embracing changes leads to a transition period that can materialize great things.

Have you changed?

Did the other person change?

Are these welcomed/good or bad changes?

This is also a great time to focus on others in your support network. Who is in your life that your can count on? Feel comforted by their presence without dragging them into the mess.Focus on the people outside of your former friendship.

You can take your time to build a good, solid, support network with the insight you gain from failed friendships. You can cultivate new friendships, and eventually invest more in them.

A good start, and practice, is making and having friends for different aspects of your life. You can have other “Mom” or other “Dad” friends, friends you get a beer or glass of wine with, friends you do certain activities with, Neighbor friends, and “online” friends. This eases the extreme emotional investment into just one person.

Next, don't get ugly about a friendship break-up. Try not to involve other friends, or mutual friends if it ended in a mess. If necessary, put an end to communication between you and your former friend if this helps to control your animosity.

When anything in life doesn't go our way or how we expect it to, in can crush our fragile reality. Take it as a sign that you are ultimately not in control- relax. Everything is either happening for a reason or as it needs to. Pay attention to the signs that led to this moment without ruminating.

Believe it or not, it is possible to find the positives out of this. Begin by connecting the dots- what led to the demise of the friendship. When you reflect on this, but not for too long, the signs are there for us to use as lessons. You can often find many reasons this was not a good friendship for you anymore, or perhaps to begin with. Detecting those issues that led up to the end, is a positive move in the right direction.

Don't be hard on yourself—it's easy to misjudge people and relationships.

  • What to Do After a Relationship Break-Up
    Break-ups can hit us like a Mack truck. Sometimes you just need to know how to take the first step, whether it's the day after or when the first dose of reality kicks in. Here's how to move forward.

Comments

Lauren on January 13, 2019:

Okay another update Laura this guy is just acting weird he listened in on my phone conversations at first which is odd now it's escalated to where he's actually scaring me a little bit he has driven close to where I was running when I was running outside then he showed up at my gym just as I got there then he tried to talk to me when I was running outside again then he showed up at the gym two more times I'm hoping you might have some advice

Lauren on October 21, 2018:

Here's an update I didn't exactly go back to being his friend again more like I'm slowly moving on I'm learning to stick to my choices and that I really didn't want to be his friend anymore either because of how unhappy I was he was holding me back from growing up since he was kind of immature what did you expect he's a 24 year old guy I've since made a new friend named Roger who is a really nice guy he's a perfect match for a friend for me

Sharon Joshep on October 12, 2018:

I ended the friendship a month ago. And it was such a devastated feeling. Because they kept on doing all the bad things that makes me appeared that i was the bad girl all this long. It was really sad as i really counted on both of them. But they treated me like this instead. Each time they harrased me,i felt like my heart was broke in a million pieces and i felt so sad till the moment i feel like crying every single time i had to. I even had a mere deppresion because of it. At the end i realize that this must be the end of both of us. And i should move on. I should move if they didnt want me again. I should depends on the one that i trusted the most instead of them. And i could only say i love myself. And no one can break my wings. Good luck everyone

Shae on September 27, 2018:

I ended the friendship about 6 months ago and it had lasted for over 20 years. We grew apart. She couldn’t accept my new man although I supported her and gave her space when she met and married her husband. She wanted me to need her so she would feel valued. Looking back on the friendship it was codependent and toxic from the start. It just took me years to grow and see this. Now I struggle to make friends. I had the one friend for so long. I either come off as needy or trying to fix them or solve their problems from the start. I want true friendships, I just don’t know how to make or keep healthy ones.

Lauren on September 26, 2018:

I did end the friendship when and if he changes I'll be his friend again I don't think friends are supposed to be on the back burner I could tell I was and I simply don't have time for that kind of friendship I have a lot of better friends anyway so I don't need him I knew I had to end the friendship with him because I wasn't really happy for four months I know I did the right thing who knows maybe he learned something from this situation maybe now he knows he was in the wrong

Laura Izett-Irwin (author) from The Great Northwest on August 30, 2018:

Lauren,

Some friendships can be put on the back burner for a while and picked up at a later date.

You say you ended it but perhaps he wanted to put it away and pick it back up.

As life gets more complicated for people with boyfriends/girlfriends, marriage, jobs, moving, kids, it is natural for friendships to come and go- even strong friendships, but sometimes you can pick up where you left off when you can...in between a busy life. The nature of friendships, and really all relationships, is that they change over time.

It could be your friend doesn’t know how to juggle a girlfriend and a friend yet. Give him time and allow him to figure it out.

Laura Izett-Irwin (author) from The Great Northwest on August 30, 2018:

Laurie,

I have been known to be more genuine with people than they are with me. There are a lot of fakes and fickle types out there who treat people and relationships superficially.

My thought is perhaps your dance instructor sees you as an acquaintance more than a friend.

Also, if you have shared more with her than she has with you then she is less likely to value the relationship than you.

Best of luck...

Laurie on August 28, 2018:

I made friends with my dance instructor. We have known each other for a year. Today I saw her in the street and was about to say heelo to her but she put her head down and ignored me and walked past me without saying a word. I see her every week where she instructs the dancing. I am hurt. Like others, I can't figure out why she'd do this to me.

Lauren on August 16, 2018:

Well Laura I could use some advice on a friendship that I just ended two weeks ago his name is Dominic he wasn't really there for me when I was having bad anxiety sure he's been good about texting me more frequently but he's got a little trouble balancing his time he gave all his free time to his girlfriend like every free minute he had and he barely saw me at all he hardly texted me when I had a kidney stone and was in the emergency room he didn't make time to hangout his words aren't matching his actions the problem is he doesn't seem to understand that the friendship between me and him is over he was trying to get me to go back to being his friend I need advice he's acting w little weird also

Lauren on August 04, 2018:

I had a friendship end recently but he didn't end the friendship I ended the friendship with him he wasn't making the friendship a priority because he gave all his free time to his girlfriend and finally enough was enough he didn't care about me anymore I knew he didn't

Laura Izett-Irwin (author) from The Great Northwest on April 09, 2018:

Thank you very much Larry! Politics and religious beliefs are two tricky areas to navigate in a friendship. I can understand why politics harmed one of your friendships.

Larry W Fish from Raleigh on April 05, 2018:

An interesting article, Laura. I will be 70 years old this year and I have seen quite a few friendships come and go. However, I will say that most of my friends have been in for the long haul. I just chatted with a friend on facebook yesterday that I have known for 64 years. The last friendship I ended because the other guy tried to jam his idea of politics down my throat. It was bitter at the end, so I ended it. Other than the politics he was a nice man. My wife and I have been married for over 47 years, so that is long lasting, yes, she is my best friend. Good writing, Laura.

manatita44 from london on February 04, 2018:

A very interesting Hub. I like the part where you say this:

"Maybe friendships and relationships come with an expiration date." Seems very meaningful right now.

Laura Izett-Irwin (author) from The Great Northwest on January 28, 2018:

Paula,

I love that you mention "based upon serious soul searching". I can completely relate. Your entire comment is a perfect addition to this article. I hope people read it!

I can also relate to not settling- I also got to that point in my life. Absolutely necessary for our relationships and environment to reflect important changes that occur in us, especially if we want to continue to enjoy the benefits of changing for the better.

Suzie from Carson City on January 27, 2018:

Laura.....This topic (situation) has been very real in my life, at least 3 major times. In each case, the "alleged" friendships were quite long-lived, on the brink of cutting ties for a few years before the actual break and all 3 initiated by me based upon serious soul-searching & accepting reality.

In other words, I experienced a wake-up and stopped forcing myself to "settle for" less-than-mutual respect & loyalty." I admit to having a tendency to giving & sacrificing far too much, in order to keep the peace~~that the other person never considered. For some reason, I will overlook much that goes severely against my beliefs & attitudes. I realize that in this case, I'm to blame for the decline of a friendship, because this is something which can't be tolerated for long periods. I made the mistake of expecting myself to tolerate far more than anyone should have to.

However, I firmly believe that the person literally destroying a friendship by using, abusing, lying & manipulating is WELL AWARE of their behavior & taking advantage of their patient, loyal friend. Thus, I truly don't think they can be shocked or surprised when (in this case, "I") began to pull away, decrease contact and pretty much cut off all forms of interaction. By the time I reached that decision, I was so thoroughly disgusted, disappointed and done, I felt an announcement or explanation wasn't necessary nor would be appreciated. Have I made any sense to you? I hope so because I am completely comfortable with the way I walked away from these individuals and not even for a moment have I regretted it.

Found this article a wonderful read. Thanks. Paula

Laura Izett-Irwin (author) from The Great Northwest on January 26, 2018:

@Dashing Scorpio

Thanks for the comment!

There are definitely differences between men and women- from the time they’re born girls hold eye contact and study faces longer while boys focus on objects more so sharing a beer and pizza sounds about right ;-)

Although my husband stopped drinking and his best friend no longer wanted to hang out so it happens to guys too.

That being said, with a lot more in depth practice in relationships, women are probably “better” (I use that lightly) at relationships than men so they can handle all the emotional investment that comes with the type of friendships we make.

However, I don’t like drama and “you’re enemy is my enemy.” Like you said, that’s immature loyalty.

What I prefer is different friends for different things. I have other “Mom” friends. I have “business” friends, “online” friends, et cetera. All serve a different person rather than investing everything in one or two friends.

Laura Izett-Irwin (author) from The Great Northwest on January 26, 2018:

@Breakfastpop

50 years! Wow. Well I can imagine how things can change in that time, including values and even lifestyles and interests.

I’ve had a hard time ending friendships that were not in my best interest so stay strong. I did this a few years back- let go of two friendships that when taking some time away, I got a more objective perspective of the relationship and it hit me like a 2 x 4 over the head. Why was I wasting my time and energy?

Anyway, stay strong and great idea to print this to keep mindful of your intention!

dashingscorpio from Chicago on January 26, 2018:

I'm not sure if this is true or not but it appears to me that (women) have more expectations of their friendships than men do especially on an emotional level.

Two guys are pretty content sharing a pizza, a pitcher of beer, and watching a sport on TV or shooting pool.

Conversations are generally over current events, things going on at work, weekend/vacation plans, and if they're single they might talk about women they hooked up with.

Generally speaking they don't dump their problems and insecurities on one another in depth. If they do mention a problem they're looking for some advice not just to be heard.

Each of us (chooses) our own friends, lovers, and spouse.

Each of us has our mate selection process/must haves list.

Each of us has our "boundaries" and "deal breakers".

Lets face most friendships and relationships are not going to last a lifetime! Some people evolve/grow and want other things. The less you have in common the more likely that friendship will fall by the wayside. You don't see too many married people spending a lot of time with single people. Those with children tend to hang out with other people with children. Those who are career driven to socialize with other career driven people versus being with a stay at home spouse.

Sometimes a relocation can create (emotional distance).

Last but not least sometimes {immature loyalty} is a major issue. "Your enemy has to be (my) enemy in order for us to maintain our friendship." Just because (you) don't like someone (I'm) suppose to treat them like crap.

In some instances people believe a "true friend" never calls them out on their bad behavior or says "no" to them.

We're always one disagreement away from a breakup!

breakfastpop on January 26, 2018:

You have no idea how much I appreciate your article. A friendship I have had for over 50 years ended recently. Truthfully, the relationship was on life support for many years. I didn't feel that we had anything in common anymore, and I no longer respected her or her values. I have a feeling that I may hear from her, but it would not be in my best interests to pick up where we left off. I am printing your fine article to bolster my intention to stay strong and stay away from a person who brings me down. Thank you.

Laura Izett-Irwin (author) from The Great Northwest on January 25, 2018:

Peg,

Yes, it’s been my daughter’s first ended friendship. And she doesn’t know why other than the other girl started hanging out with new people. She started being mean to my daughter to get her to go away.

No matter what age, ending friendships still hurt. A lot of times it is because we’re left with so many questions about what went wrong.

It sticks out to you like your memory of your friend from childhood. Like you said, best to apply the lessons to life moving forward.

Laura Izett-Irwin (author) from The Great Northwest on January 25, 2018:

Moonlake,

If the other person would speak up it would be appreciated for all those who don’t understand why she is upset enough to end friendships.

As I get older I tend not to invest as much in friendships. I have my husband, but I think I require more in common to be closer to another person as a friend. I’ve made friends with my neighbors which I think is valuable and very rewarding.

Thank you for sharing your experience- Im sure a lot of people can relate!

Peg Cole from Northeast of Dallas, Texas on January 25, 2018:

You've nailed it here covering the experience of losing a friend. We certainly have those feelings of "What did I do?" or "What did I say?" that can erode our self-confidence. But the best use of the ending is to learn something and apply it to our lives.

Even after all these decades I remember my first friendship that ended abruptly for reasons other than our family moving out of town. I was about your daughter's age and the experience bewildered me, saddened me and made me question myself. Looking back, I realize that my best girlfriend at the time had moved on to someone she probably had more in common with. We'd been friends in 4th, 5th and 6th grade when it ended. Still it hurt. I know your daughter will get past this experience but it will take time.

moonlake from America on January 24, 2018:

I was a military brat so it was hard to keep friendships going. I manage to do that with three friendships for 56 years. One friendship since I was a toddler 70 years. My best friend my husband lasted 52 years only ended when he passed away.

When I was a teen I lost a friend because her boyfriend didn’t want me around. She agreed with him. By the time she broke up with him it was to late I didn’t want her for a friend.

About four years ago went on a quilting trip with three good friends. One friend was suddenly mad at me. I have not figured out why but it ended our friendship and her friendship with the other person. I had this happen one other time almost the same way. I lost another friend because she thought I did something I didn’t do.

I don’t easily make friends anymore because I keep thinking something must be wrong with me to lose friends like I did.

Your hub was very interesting.

Laura Izett-Irwin (author) from The Great Northwest on January 24, 2018:

Hi Oscar,

It is often baffling why or how things end. Most of the time it’s a combination of things plus people change. Sounds like that’s the route yours went.

Time heals, although not as comforting to hear when it’s fresh. If you look hard enough you might find why the relationship wasn’t right for you.

Thanks for sharing your experience!

Oscar Jones from Monroeville, Alabama on January 24, 2018:

I can say i've had the worst breakup happen. But truth says the other person consciously made decisions against our continued relationship. I felt like i was betrayed, but they had to do what they needed to do, based on confusion I probably created , but I didnt intend for it to be doomed. Oh well. And years go by and we all change and adapt.