Why Friendships End and How to Cope
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
When did your last friendship end?
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.
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.
Maybe friendships and relationships come with an expiration date.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- How to recognize (and end) a toxic friendship - CBS News
If you have a friend who makes you feel rotten, it may be time to say goodbye
How did your last friendship end?
Friendships tend to end as lives evolve. With change comes choices as well as different paths which distance people. Their individual interests change which make them not as compatible as they once were and then this ends up in slowly drifting from one another.
If you must be the one to end a friendship, understand your truth. Marry honesty with tact and speak up to the other person.
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.
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.
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