Friendships are a very rewarding part of a person’s life. We often rely on our friends for support as well as enjoy the social pleasures they bring to our lives. Having friends makes people feel less lonely, which is why people place such an importance on not only making friends, but also keeping them. It is not uncommon for people to drift apart and for friendships to change.
Oftentimes when friendships change, we feel at a crossroads with whether or not we should end the friendship or if we should continue putting forth the time and effort that is required of any kind of relationship.
The decision to end a friendship is a difficult one and it often comes with much sadness and even feelings of guilt; however, there are many times when despite these feelings this becomes the best possible decision for all parties. Ending a friendship is not an easy decision to make; however, when it is well thought out and done right, it will not be long until it feels like the right decision.
Friendships bring a lot of happiness; however, when a friendship starts to deteriorate the time spent with that friend will begin to feel like it is doing more harm than good. It can often be difficult to recognize and acknowledge that the relationship is no longer as good as it once was, especially when the person as been a part of your life for a long duration of time; however, if there has ever been a resolution to make your life happier and more complete, ending a friendship is sometimes necessary.
While all relationships are different, the main source of conflict comes from when a person does not feel honored or respected. When a person does not feel respected or honored, emotions ranging from feeling a little hurt to extreme sadness occur, which makes it difficult to be around the person who makes us feel this way. Sometimes, the relationship might start to form tension when one of the friends develops an addiction, whether that be to alcohol or drugs or a sex addiction. While sometimes friends say or do things that upset us, the feeling of needing to end a friendship usually happens after consistently feeling devalued.
The need to end a friendship is not something that can be decided over night. Rather, it is a process of evaluating the benefits of staying in the relationship (i.e. the person makes you feel good, you have fun when you are together) versus the costs (i.e. the person always makes fun of you, you are unable to be yourself when you are with that person). If the costs outweigh the benefits of staying with your friend, then it is likely time to consider ending the friendship.
There are two approaches to ending a friendship that depend on the circumstances. The first approach is a “formal break up”. During the “formal break up” the friends will sit down together and have a conversation around why the friendship is no longer working. There will likely be feelings of anger or sadness and the person who is getting “broken up with” might feel defensive. Feelings of rejection are also likely.
While this approach might seem daunting, by letting your friend know why the friendship cannot continue, you are letting him or her know upfront about your feelings, which gives them the chance to try to fix their behavior that has led you to feel this way. Formally “breaking up” with a friend is best when the friend has been a part of your life for awhile or your friend has done something so horrible that it is imperative that you confront them.
The second approach is to just have the friendship fade away. This approach is when you slowly phase the person out of your life. It involves telling the person that you are busy whenever they invite you to do something or when you are in a small group you act polite but do not go out of your way to spend time with them. This approach is most appropriate when you have not known the person for very long or they are a part of your social circle. By using the “fade away” approach there is no formal rejection, which can make it easier for the other person to justify why the two of you are not longer spending as much time together as you once did.
Friendships, like any relationship, are about giving and taking. However, when one person in the relationship is giving more than he or she is receiving from his or her friend, it may be a sign that the friendship is toxic. When a friend constantly needs you for absolutely everything, it can be tiring especially when that friend does not return the support.
Along with the feeling like one person is constantly taking up all of your time and energy, another sign that a friendship is toxic is when you dread seeing the person. Since friendships are voluntary relationships, it is probably time to end the friendship if there are feelings of dread every time the person is calling or trying to hang out with you.
Another sign of a toxic friendship is when the friendship is never consistently fun. The relationship jumps from being great to awful rather quickly, which can lead to emotional exhaustion. The unpredictable nature of this relationship can lead to emotional distress such as feeling anxious, nervous, or in some instances depressed.
Again, friendships are voluntary relationships, which is why is it imperative that this relationship benefits both parties. When the friends are in constant turmoil or can’t seem to agree on much of anything, it can lead to feelings of extreme uncertainty as well as all of aforementioned emotional impacts.
Ending a friendship versus a romantic relationship
The media constantly sensationalizes the breaking off of romantic relationships. It is not uncommon to see a group of girl friends in a movie eating out of pints of ice cream while they cry over their ex-boyfriends. However, ending a friendship can be just as taxing as a traditional break up.
People often go into romantic relationships calculating the potential risks and benefits, whereas not as many people do that with friendships. Rather, it is common to go into a friendship thinking there is not nearly as much risk as a romantic relationship, since it is unlikely that it will end with as much pain. However, this is not always true.
When a romantic relationship ends, it is common for people to offer some kind of explanation around why the relationship did not work, whereas when a friendship ends it is harder to justify the need to cut that person out of your life. While it might be more difficult to explain to people why in fact the friendship had to end, it does not make ending a friendship any less painful.
Another reason that ending a friendship can be as if not more difficult than ending a romantic relationship is that we often rely on our close friends to be a constant part of our lives. The close friendship that are nurtured and developed over the course of many years, leads to a certain level of reliance on the friend. It is expected that that person will be able to support you regardless of what is going on, which is why when that source of support changes or ends completely, it is emotionally difficult to overcome.
Ending a close friendship can be extremely daunting because unlike romantic relationships, there are no dating sites for friends. It appears much more difficult to find friends; especially close ones, than it does to find a new romantic interest.
At the time the friendship ends, it might seem nearly impossible to go out and make new friends; however, it does not have to be this way.
Getting involved with different activities in your community, school, or church will help ease the pain that is felt when a friendship ends. By getting integrated in different activities, exposure to new people will at an all time high and it will reassure you that making friends outside of your previous friendship is possible.
Embrace the ending of a friendship
It might seem counterintuitive to embrace the ending of a friendship, since the relationship with someone close to you has ended. However, if a friendship has ended it is often because the relationship was no longer benefitting both parties.
While it might seem daunting to no longer be able to call that person a “friend,” it is important to not be afraid of the unknown. When a friendship ends, feelings of uncertainty as well as questions such as “whom will I hang out with?” and “who will be my friend?” are likely to surface. It is important to remember that this friendship did not end because it was a great friendship; rather it ended because it was no longer a good match for either of you.
Similar to the ending of a romantic relationship, there will be a period of missing the friendship you had as well as reminiscing on the good times that the two of you had together. Remembering the good times is important, but it is also necessary to take responsibility for the ending of the friendship and remember why the friendship ceased in the first place. This is a time for self-reflection regarding what you value and want out of a friendship as well as what you do not want.
By doing this, you will be able to better embrace the ending of the friendship as well as realize your self worth.