Ending a Friendship – Letting Go When the Relationship is No Longer Joyful

As the flow of life carries us along on our journey, sometimes we discover that those that we started the journey with are no longer in sync with us. In fact, sometimes they are quite out of rhythm with our own goals, beliefs and plans. How do we recognize this — and what should we do?

Here are five questions to ask yourself to see if a friendship is waning. (I am going to use the pronoun “her”, but take it to mean either him or her):

1. Do I really relate to him/her, genuinely? Do I look at her and feel a real heartfelt bond, or do I think “Why am I still friends with this person” or “why am I still trying to spend time with this person?”

2. Do we respect each other, encourage each other, support each others’ dreams and goals? Are we there for each other in an equitable way — or is there much more give on your side and take on hers?

3. Do we have real fun together – do we regularly laugh, share jokes and smiles? Do we make time in our busy schedules for our friendship, nurture it with joyful (and sometimes even gossipy) phone conversations? Do we get together often enough to keep us strong as a duo?

4. Do we communicate well, meaning are the lines of communication open and a two-way street? Or is it all one-sided and she goes on and on about her favorite topic — herself!

5.  Am I free to be my real, true authentic self with her, or do I find myself too often having to hide who I really am, my core personality and beliefs? Have I changed over time in a positive way — and maybe she is still hanging on to the old, negative belief and behavior patterns?

I am struggling with a few old, fading friendships in my own life — ones that are just not what they used to — or should be. Intellectually, I recognize this, but emotionally I hold on because of that pull of the long-term friendship ideal. Recently there was one defining moment which truly made my heart sink. We were out for dinner, and after her lengthy update about all that is going on with her career/business, I began to talk a little about my own life path. Well, I could see immediately  that her eyes just sort of glazed over, looking off into the distance. Her attention was clearly elsewhere. So this very obvious sign was more telling than anything she might have actually said to me. That distracted gaze told me in no uncertain terms that I am not of any great importance to her, not worth listening to. This caused much sadness and soul-searching on my own part but I realize that this long-term friendship has worn very thin.

So what do we do if we should encounter the friendship that has faded? Do we let our roads fork in different directions? Do we still hang on to the fragile thread that holds us together?

There is no one, clear answer for this. The decision is so very personal. But there are many different options to think about.

• First of all, try one more time to work on the friendship — infuse it with life, joy and comraderie!  If this doesn’t work, then you will have to move along to one of the other suggestions.

• Accept the current friendship for what it is. Resign yourself to this — but let this friendship remain on the “periphery” of your life. Remain thick-skinned and non-reactive.

• Have phone contact that’s comfortable for you. Curtail phone conversations that are either distressing or disparaging. Make a diplomatic excuse to get off the call.

• Limit in-person get togethers if they only serve to bring you down. Maybe that once or twice a year face-to-face moment is fine. Tactfully turn down invites that you know will get you caught up in her loop of negativity or self-centeredness, or that really conflict with more positive, upbeat or important events in your own schedule. Don’t be afraid to say “no.”

• Move forward in your life and expand your circle of friends to include new people who resonate with who you are right now. No excuses – you are never too old to make new friends. So look for those who will accept the authentic you and whose general ideas about life are not so different from your own.

• End the friendship. This is the most severe decision, but sometimes it is the only way. I had to do this once way back. This friend had let her life fall into total disarray, and her chaos was overflowing constantly into surrounding relationships (including me.) In addition, any time we would try to get together,  she would either cancel last minute or arrive an hour late.  After one “last straw” of when she completely forgot about our plans and just never showed up, I told her farewell in a very clear way. And I haven’t looked back.

The bottom line is that you must follow your own heart. Use your intuition — your inner guidance — tap into it and really see what your feelings and wishes are regarding the best way to work through and improve (or end) the friendship.

Affirmations:

  • I treat my friends with kindness, encouragement and respect.
  • The affection and understanding I show my friends is joyfully mirrored back to me.
  • I am open to new positive relationships in my life.

3 comments to Ending a Friendship – Letting Go When the Relationship is No Longer Joyful

  • Alexandra

    Wow wow wow, Sheryl, you wrote this directly for me, to me. I remember the first time I realized that every time I came away from spending time with a certain friend, I felt bad. So I ended that friendship in a not unkind way. And twice I ended friendships abruptly when the friends betrayed me badly. I have thought of these breaks sometimes and thought do I regret having ended the relationships. And for each case, I’ve thought I was right.

    I’ve printed this Tip, I want to reread it and think about it.

    Thanks.

  • Sheryl

    Alexandra – thanks for sharing here. We all go through this experience of having to end friendship once in awhile. Hopefully it is not often, because it can be very emotionally difficult. But it’s certainly not healthy for us to hang on to friendships that are clearly detrimental to our mental well-being either.

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