How & When To Put The "End" In Friendship

If you’re like me you’ve met a lot of people through the course of your undergraduate studies. It’s likely that a lot of the people moved from acquaintances to friends in the time that you’ve known them. What you may not have thought about, however, is why these individuals have remained your friends past the time in which you were required to know them.

The first time it ever occurred to me that friends could (and maybe even should) break up with one another was when I was friendship-dumped. It happened to me in second year when an individual I had become increasingly close with happened to develop feelings for me that I, unfortunately, could not reciprocate. When I began to see someone else, it became too much for him and he ended our friendship.

Many people might look at this with a negative perspective and think my friend was being petty, or that he never really wanted to be my friend in the first place. Trust me when I say that neither of these things are true. This friend was near and dear to my heart and I fully understand and respect his decision to put his needs and well being in a position of priority. We have since reconciled pieces of our friendship and talk from time to time, but due to the previous situation, we simply are unable to be friends in the way we were.

Personally, I find that a BFF-breakup is sometimes required with workplace friends. I’ve held multiple positions in my time at Western and have subsequently met a large variety of people. What I have found is that the worse the position, the closer your relationship to your coworkers. After leaving many of these positions, I discovered that I was having to work excessively hard to maintain these relationships and that many of the relationships were deteriorating on their own. Work was our common ground and without it we were no longer forced to socialize which, in most cases, was what drove the friendship.

There are many reasons for letting go of friendships. Distance may naturally sever a relationship. However, if distance doesn’t play a part, more often than not the reason is that the relationship has become taxing and/or toxic. In these instances, one or both of the individuals has become a negative weight in the other’s life. I’m not inferring that you should drop your friends if they’re having a bad day/week/month. What I mean is that if someone is creating a toxic relationship for you and it is of their own making, then it is time to let go. This happened when I realized one of my good friends was always speaking poorly of others, getting caught in her own lies, and had a generally jealous attitude. As much as I loved her, the way she was acting was exhausting. Navigating her moods was like trying to walk up UC Hill without stepping in goose poop. The last straw for me was how this individual took it upon herself to consistently critique other members of our friend group, despite being guilty of the exact things she was criticizing others for. It was all just too much for me.

Finally, one of the most important reasons to fracture a friendship is when that friend is not investing as much into the relationship as you are. These are the friends that are only down to hangout when you happen to be doing something they enjoy. These individuals will hit you up for a ride, company, to edit their essays, etc… but will hardly ever return the favour if it is asked of them. I had a friend like this. She would always text me to make plans for the next hour and then blame us never hanging out on my not being available. What’s worse is that the plans she wanted to make were for me to accompany her to something she had already decided to do. Sometimes I would ask her to make plans a few days in advance to avoid not being able to figure something out last minute and she couldn’t commit.

Identifying the friends you need to cut out is easy. What’s hard is figuring out a way to end the friendship. My ideal approach is to be direct. This is what my friend did to me. Yes, in the moment it hurt and I was confused, but, in hindsight, I have so much more respect for him, can understand what his needs were, and, because of all this, we have been able to avoid resentment and remain casual acquaintances. This approach might not be ideal for everyone. If you’re looking to cut ties with someone you’ll still be seeing everyday due to work/school, perhaps a more subtle approach would be better. My advice, and what has worked for me, is to still be direct but instead of concocting a breakup directly, be direct in the moment. What I mean is, when they ask you to hangout don’t make an excuse and say you’re busy. Instead, respectfully decline their offer. You don’t owe them a reason or an explanation. Try to distance yourself as much as possible without being cold. If ceasing to hangout with them all together would throw a wrench in your friend group, try to see them only when others are invited as well. And, it may seem childish, but don’t let your time be taken up by maintaining a social media relationship with them. Let the Snapchat streaks die and don’t feel obligated to tag them in every single thing you might see that is relatable to them. Hopefully they will begin to sense your distance and a) allow you to leave the friendship, b) open up a discussion as to why you are being distant, or c) assess and adjust their behaviours.

Overall, it is important to remember that, even if only for a short while, these individuals were your friends and contributed to your life in some way. Be respectful, gracious and kind in your actions to sever your depleted friendships. If all goes well, you might even be able to return to some less intimate level of friendship. Lastly, just remember that just because something didn’t last forever doesn’t mean it wasn't valuable.

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