How to Deal with Outgrowing a Friendship: Ending It

The other day as I stared at the high school photos I have Silly-Puddied to my bedroom wall, I wondered what so many of those people are doing these days and where our friendships just sort of ended. I mean we look so happy in these pictures and at the time, if you’d told us our friendships wouldn’t even last through college, we would have laughed in your face. We were supposed to be friends forever, or that’s what we said when we made plans to visit each other at our respective college every other weekend. But as I’m nearly halfway through my third year of college (eek!), I’m sad to say we have yet to follow through with those plans. Even over long summer breaks, we really didn’t make the effort to see each other. Even though it was a mutual “BFF breakup,” it still leaves me feeling gutted and almost betrayed to have put so much time and effort into these long-lasting friendships only for them to be cast aside like gas station sushi. But the thing that makes me most upset was that neither side intended for our friendship to end. No there was no catastrophic argument followed by months' worth of backlash; there wasn’t even a proper conversation where we chatted about why the friendship was coming to a close while sipping overpriced coffees to fill the awkward silence. Honestly, I don’t know if I would have preferred either of those scenarios.

In high school, blowing off a friend was as easy as sitting at a different lunch table or giving them a dirty look and a snippy comment. But now that we’re adults, we have to take a more mature approach. While some may go the passive-aggressive route and just ignore their calls and chronically cancelling plans 30 minutes before they’re supposed to happen, the weeding process should be done with care. These are people who you’ve spent time getting to know, who you’ve most likely had intimate (not like that) conversations with, who have helped you through your lowest points. Seems to me that you wouldn’t want to hurt them more than necessary. I’ve come up with some steps to take when going through this difficult process in hopes that you both will come out relatively unscathed.

Step 1: Assess the situation

Breaking up with a friend can be just as hard, if not harder than, breaking up with a significant other. Before you decide to end your friendship, consider these three things:

  1. Just because a friendship is changing doesn’t mean it’s ending; change, as much as you may not like it, is healthy and a normal fact of life.

  2. Friendship should be a 50/50 partnership. If it’s feeling more like one of Richmond’s one-way streets, then it may be time to let them go. It’s not selfish to want to be around with people who love and support you and put as much into your friendship as you do. In fact, there’s real value in being able to acknowledge that and making the effort to find people who truly inspire, support and better you.

  3. Writing a list of pros and cons may help you decide if this friendship is worth saving but only you can be the judge of that.

Okay, now that you’ve really taken your friendships into consideration, it’s time to have a conversation. Trust me, as awkward as it might be, communication is key in this situation whether you’re trying to end the relationship or if you want to rekindle it in a newer, healthier direction.

Step 2: Decide the best course of action

Wouldn't it be great if we could hire Donald Trump to just end our old friendships? He could toss out a quick compliment before kicking them to the curb.

Sadly, as that's not an option, you'll have to take it into your own hands and realize this depends entirely on the level of your friendship. Do you let things just fizzle out? Do you tell her you’re busy this weekend, next weekend and every weekend after that and hope she gets the message? Or do you meet with her and explain exactly why the friendship is over? Only you can make that decision but I will tell you, the “slow fade” only works if it’s mutual.

Step 3: Have the conversation

Yes, it might be awkward, and you’re going to be so tempted to do everything to avoid sitting down and having an adult conversation but trust me, when you’re clear about your feelings, people respond best to that. You may think you’re doing your friend a favor by not saying anything, but in the long run, this does more damage. Plus, if you’d be open to changing your mind and staying friends, allowing your friend a rebuttal can help you realize that your friendship isn’t over, you just need to turn over a new leaf.

Realize that your friend might not react in the most appropriate way and choose somewhere relatively public but quiet (like a cute little coffee shop), just in case she decides to kill you. Just kidding... Kinda.

Now when you’re having the actual conversation, be kind. Your friend doesn’t need 100 reasons why you no longer want to be friends; just give her the top two so that she has that information for future reference and move on.

So what should you say? As a person who writes and plans everything out, personally I would go in having written down everything I have to say. So take some cues from these ideas:

''There has been irreparable damage to our friendship, and I don’t see myself being able to get past it to be close to you again.'' This is best if they’ve betrayed you in some way and you don’t see yourself being able to trust you after the damage they’ve caused to your friendship.

''There have been times when I’ve really needed your support and you just didn’t come through.” This works best when you find yourself putting more into the relationship than your friend. Such a frustrating situation...

If something serious has happened between the two of you, then spell it out: “I don’t think I could ever forgive you for all the ‘yo mama’ jokes.” Or something...

''I just feel as if we're at different points in our lives.'' Realize that this is somewhat inevitable as you are different people and that this doesn’t mean a friendship’s over.

Don't say that you’re too busy; that’s an obvious copout and a really stupid excuse.

Step 4: Move on with your life

Expect there may be some backlash depending on age and maturity levels. Your friend might take to name-calling and pointing fingers on Facebook. Just ignore it; I mean do you really need to defend yourself to someone that you’re trying to weed out of your life? Other mutual friends may pick sides or be super annoying and try to mend your friendship. Yeah, it may sound like high school, but sometimes even mature adults seem to revert to these primitive ways in messy situations. As sucky as the situation might be, make an effort not to turn anyone against anyone and just move on. As lame as it sounds, time is really the only thing that can heal the situation. And who knows, maybe one day down the road, y’all will cross paths and reignite your friendship again. Or maybe not. Ya know, whatever.

According to this Daily Mail article, women make nearly 400 friends in their lifetime but only maintain a handful. So why endure the ones that really don't seem to be good for you? Ending a friendship isn't something you should feel guilty about. Maintaining a friendship is something you should "want to do" not "have to do". 

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