When I was asked to do a segment on friendships breakups, I wasn’t expecting the volume of comments that it received. It would seem that in our lives, at some point we have all experienced a friendship ending and still have so much guilt or sadness about it. Over the years, I have seen friends come and go. Often it was a case of losing touch, having different interests, but other times it was due to a negative incident that couldn’t be overcome or a relationship that started to feel toxic or one sided. Even the ones where things ended for good reasons, I still feel sad about. Buy why?
As kids, we are taught to be friends with everyone. But never does anyone say it’s ok not to like someone and to distance yourself from them. There is this guilt that in an ever changed fast paced world, we need to support each other, be there for our friends, check in with them and support them. So how does breaking up with a friend or ending a friendship fit into this mix? Maybe this is why so many of us still feel guilt for either not being able to make it work or letting it go.
The most recent friendship breakup, which was not by my choice, still burns me. Maybe because it wasn’t my choice and what I was accused of never happened and still baffles me as to how that conclusion was made. But if I look deep into my soul, I think the reason it still upsets me is I don’t like the idea that someone doesn’t like me, that someone doesn’t like me so much that they could end a very close relationships over something that they thought I did without even checking with me first. It hurts me to my core because obviously that person dislikes me that much that they were so willing to end things and not even try to sort things out. As humans, many of us don’t like the idea of not being liked. When I consider the friendship, the type of person and where I’m at now in my life, it’s probably all a good thing. But I still don’t like the idea of not being liked and that sees so many of us hang in to these unions that really aren’t right. If you are the one to end a friendship, then maybe you are the one to be disliked too.
So how do you know when to end one? The interesting thing from the comments received were people confessions of the time it took them to get out. These were friendships of 15, 18, and 20 years with people telling me they had been wanting to do it for a long time before.
There is of course the arguments, mistreatment and broken trust that all have good grounds to saying farewell. But it’s the guilt driven relationship that are the hardest to break away. Are your motivations to see that person, catch up with them for coffee or check in out of guilt or because you really want to? If out of guilt, why is it that you feel so guilty? If your motivations are not for the right reasons, you need to ask yourself why are you still there? Just because of guilt? Because you want to do the ‘right’ things? Because you want to feel liked?
We all have difficulties with our friendships from time to time. Many of which can be resolved or sorted out. But it’s those ones where every catch up, every coffee and every phone conversation feels negative and draining that it’s time to let go.
We are not in the school yard anymore and there is no need for the silent treatment. But if someone isn’t making you feel good and you have tried, they why not use distance as your friend? You can still say hi, wish them happy birthday, merry Christmas and happy Chanukah, but weekly catch ups might be wound day to once a year.
There is no right or wrong when it comes to breaking up with a friend and not one set of rules that will work each time. But there is one important fact to remember. It’s ok not to like someone and it’s ok to action those dislikes.