Monday Musing: Six Tips for When A Friendship Ends

Once upon a time, I had a really close friend.  She was one of the first people who “got” me, and as such I felt truly comfortable sharing my insecurities and fears with her.

Then she dumped me.  Where once we emailed back and forth several times a day, my emails were suddenly ignored.

It wasn’t an abrupt breakup.  Looking back, I can see that the friendship started crumbling months before she disappeared. There were sarcastic remarks and subtle swipes.  Not that I was blameless.  I know my strong personality can be off-putting, particularly for people who are extremely sensitive. Furthermore, our breakup occurred during a time when my confidence was growing while hers was taking a few hits.  I’ve no doubt circumstances made it difficult for her to be around me and she felt she needed to cut ties for her own mental well being.

None of this, however, negates the fact that the break up hurt.  A lot.  I’ve had friendships fade away before, but this was the first time someone out and out dumped me.  Worse, I was dumped by someone with whom I’d lowered my defenses.  When she cut me out, it broke my heart. I mourned the loss of our friendship the way one mourns the loss of a relative. I was confused, angry, sad.  Finally, I reconciled myself to the fact this person was no longer in my life.


She is. After two or three years of silence, circumstances are such that we are once again in each other’s orbits.  We aren’t friends, but we are friendly. Being around her is a little like hanging out with an ex. We get along – we even have a good time together – but it’s clear we will never be friends like the way we were.  We have become two vastly different people.

What do you do when you are the friend deemed “unwanted”? How do you move past being cut from someone’s life?

  1. Mourn the loss. It’s okay to be sad or angry. You trusted this person with the gift of your friendship and affection, only to have it rejected. Rejection hurts. Don’t try to pretend it doesn’t.
  2. Accept that while you and the person are no longer friends, he or she may still be friends with people in your circle.  This is okay too. Most friendship break ups aren’t caused by betrayal, but rather, they are caused by one person walking away from a relationship that doesn’t work for them. Yes, it hurts like a bitch when you hear that your ex-friend is emailing everyone in the group but you, but be the adult. There’s no need to force your friends to choose. (Besides, some may not choose you.)
  3. Accept that you might bear some of the blame. Use the break up as a time for better self-awareness.
  4. Don’t suppress yourself. Especially if the person stays on the periphery of your life.  If you’re a people pleaser, it can be tempting to want to silence your true self in order to be more likable – or to make the ex-friend like you again. Don’t. You want to be liked for who you are, not for you pretend to be.
  5. This is the most important part – recategorized the person in your mind. Change them from “friend” to “a person you know.”  There comes a point where you have to accept the friendship’s end. Be grateful for the good times you had. Forgive them for hurting you. Accept that they didn’t hurt you out of maliciousness and move on emotionally.  Remember last year when I said to build a new ecosystem, you must first burn down the old dead growth? This is one of those times. I have reconciled emotionally that this particular person and I will never be close again. I can, however, be friendly and enjoy her company on a different level.
  6. Finally, focus on the friends you do have. They are true gifts.

For a take on the other side – about when you need to walk away from friendships –  Kristan Higgins and Joss Vey have started a new podcast. It’s called Crappy Friends.  You can download the inaugural episode here.

Have a wonderful week all.  My deadline for my next upcoming Harlequin is coming up fast. Therefore, I’ll be a bit scarce over the next few weeks.

As always, thanks for reading!

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6 Responses to Monday Musing: Six Tips for When A Friendship Ends

  1. Donna says:

    I have had this happen with two friends in my life. Both were very close, intimate, long-time friendships. Both hurt. A lot. But I like to think that the door was still open a crack, because now I’m still friends with both of them. You’re right. The friendship changes, and that closeness doesn’t come back. But caring does, and I’m glad that by keeping it civil and quiet when it was really rough, we’ve been able to reestablish a different kind of relationship.

    Great post, honey. And PS – I am not going to kick you to the curb. 🙂

  2. Penny Watson says:

    This is one of the most painful and awkward and unexpected things to happen on my writing journey. It’s awful. And it’s especially awful when you need to put on your public face and be gracious and professional in the public sphere with someone who has behaved this way. Barb, you have a lot of good points here and a great attitude.

  3. Jeanne Yocum says:

    This has happened to me a couple of times and in both cases, what bothered me most was not having any explanation for it. You wrack your brain trying to figure out if you’d done something bad enough to actually deserve being suddenly dropped like a hot potato. In both cases, I came to the conclusion that the way the relationship ended said far more about the other person than it did about me. If someone can’t speak up and tell you when you’ve hurt them, either knowingly or not, to me that means they don’t really value the relationship all that much and aren’t willing to do the hard work that relationships often require.

  4. Lesley M Mathews says:

    This has happened to me too, and I’ve always found myself mystified. What did I do? Can I fix it? I would torture myself with these questions. These days I realize that I cannot change anyone else, I can only change my reaction to them. It’s hard, and painful, when someone walks away from your friendship and you don’t understand why. But you’re right to reclassify them and let what was go, and try and enjoy what you can from them or just let them go completely and be grateful for the past friendship you had. And Barb, you and I are forever.

  5. Tracy Brody says:

    Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing. I’ve had it happen too. It hurts, especially when you haven’t done anything at least intentionally and they won’t tell you why. Being one of those people pleasers, it took a lot to move away from the negativity, especially when you strongly suspect the ripple affect in your shared circle of people. But choosing to recategorize them and focus on the true friends is definitely a healthier option. Hugs!

  6. Jodi Israel says:

    This has happened to me, too, more than once. It’s painful but most of the time it isn’t about you. I don’t disagree that it takes two, but often when a friendship breaks up like that, one person isn’t getting their needs met and there is nothing you can do to change that because you can’t meet those needs and still be who you are. I think your post was refreshingly clear and honest about how to move past an event like this in a way that is healthy for everyone and shows real maturity of spirit.

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