Ending Friendships as an Adult
Saying good-bye or choosing to leave a friendship as an adult is a very difficult decision. How do we know when it is time to end a friendship? How do you end a friendship in the best way for you.
Come with me on a journey back to 2011. It is senior year of high school and I am standing with my group of friends in the quad. This group of friends had been established for close to four years. We had all promised that we would still be friends come our first High School Reunion. We had promised we would still be in each others' lives. We had promised to be in each others' weddings, raise kids together and be as close - if not closer than we were then.
Now, if you read the title of this post, you may have already guessed, but those promises made were not kept. Some of these friendships lasted longer than others. Some faded away, as we grew apart. Others were cut off abruptly. One still remains. These high school friendships ended and while it was hard, it felt nothing like the loss of friendship in adulthood.
It wasn't that I excepted my high school friends to no longer be my friend in adulthood - but it also did not shock me that we were no longer friends. However, the friends I have made - and loss- as an adult, these friendships had an expectation on them that they would be long term. That 10, 15, 20 years from now, we would still be friends.
Why do friendships established in adulthood end?
This is a question I asked as I prepared to end a friendship with someone who has been in and out of my life as it has been convenient for her. Our friendship started strong and lasted several years before this unexpected shift happened. Did I need to justify or explain why I no longer wanted to be friends with her? And how do I go about ending this friendship?
Friendships can end for a variety of reasons: Physical space, other priorities, new friends, different interests, lack of support when it is needed, an unwillingness to be happy for you during good moments, escalated arguments or betrayal (frenemy).
Friendships are built on trust and on going through life together. There is a level of support and care that is expected from a friend. When trust is broken, sometimes it cannot be repaired. It is okay to decide that a friendship needs to end. It is okay to remove your self from a toxic friendship, from a friendship that is not mutually supportive, from a friendship that you no longer want to be in.
When a friendship should end slowly...
These friendships or loss of friendship can be justified: you drifted apart, your lives were going in opposite directions. A space is created - whether physical or emotionally - and it just kept growing.
Sometimes allowing a friendship to die slowly, without confrontation can be the best thing for both people. A lack of energy or effort put into the relationship will eventually cause the relationship to no longer thrive.
I have a group of friends I met my freshmen year of college. They were super sweet and I loved hanging out with them. However, we had different desires for college. For this group, their investments were still at home. They would head home as soon as class got out on Friday and wouldn't return until Monday - just in time for class. There was a lack of desire to be on campus over the weekend. Eventually, I started hanging out with a new group of friends who stayed on campus over the weekend. There was a slow fade. Neither side did anything wrong - it was just that our priorities were different.
In the example above, confrontation would have been inappropriate. That group of friends did nothing wrong, but what I wanted was a group of friends who would invest to being on campus and apart of the residential community.
If you are in a friendship that you no longer want to be in and that doesn't require confrontation to end, you can slowly distance yourself. Do not feel pressured to stay in a friendship that you do not want to be in.
When it is time to say Good-Bye...
When I made the decision to end a friendship with a close friend, I knew that a conversation needed to be had. I knew that I needed to share why I no longer wanted to be friends and that I no longer wanted her to contact me. Talk about anxiety provoking!
I knew that this friendship needed to come to an end, but it still did not make the conversation easy. I did it over text message because I knew that if we sat down face-to-face that my friend would dominate the conversation and not allow me to speak. I explained that I no longer wanted to be friends and listed a handful of reasons as to why our friendship was an unhealthy friendship. I said good-bye.
Saying good-bye provided closure for me. It allowed me to close the door and start moving forward. It provided some healing for me as I learned to say no. As I set boundaries on a very toxic friendship.
When you just need to leave...
There are times when a toxic friendship doesn't need an explanation, it doesn't need a slow fade. It needs a door slammed shut. Bolted closed. The key thrown away.
You do not have to remain in a toxic or abusive friendship. And if you decide that you need to leave that friendship - NO explanation is necessary. I pray that this type of friendship is never experienced, but if you have experienced this type of friendship, I want you to know that you deserve better in a friend and that you have every right to leave.
Some examples of toxic friendships: someone who never has anything nice or uplifting to say, someone who is overly competitive with you in most aspects of life, someone who always starts drama or makes you apologize for things outside of your control, someone who pressures you to do or be someone you do not like to be, someone who expects you to do everything their way, someone who punishes you for angering them.
In order to leave a toxic friendship, it is vital to have support around you. I would highly recommend seeking therapy or a counselor to talk about why you need to leave and stay out of that friendship. I would recommend seeking accountability and having someone to reach out to if you find it is hard to stay out of that friendship.
You deserve to happy, healthy, life giving friendships. Having quality friendships increases your sense of belongs, boosts your happiness, reduces stress, provides support when you go through hard times and can be vital to coping with trauma. You need to have friends, you deserve to have good friends.
Next week, I will be posting a follow up blog on grieving the loss of a friendship. Even when I knew a friendship needed to end, I grieved.