Towards the end of 2020, when lockdown was still in relative full-swing, I joined an online writer’s group. For a few months, during some of the darkest days that winter, these people knew more about my day-to-day than my decades-long besties. 

Nothing major happened, there was no massive fallout. As these things sometimes go, we drifted apart as life began to open up. I’ll occasionally receive a text, but for the most part, we are all strangers again. 

When I was younger, I might’ve stressed out about losing touch with potentially great friendships.

But now? Not so much because I realized two things:

  1. Not all friendships are meant to last a season much less a lifetime. Here for a good time, not a long time vibes. 

  2. Making new friends is simple. Reader’s Digest says it’s as easy as going where other people are

What does stress me out is thinking about the fallout from friendships that did end badly. Long-expired, the signs were there, but still, I held on. 

Why is it so hard to say goodbye?

One is silver and the other gold

Friendships make us wealthier, happier, and live longer

With both old and new friends, we share experiences, history, interests, and inside jokes, probably even some ill-fated dating advice and questionably appropriate wedding toasts. Like the precious metals of that old Brownies’ campsite fave, new friends and old friends are terribly valuable.

Sentimentality can cloud our judgment and blur boundaries. When we’ve invested so much of ourselves, our time, energy, and love into these relationships, it can be hard to let go, even to our own detriment: 

“I have been unhappy about my relationship of over 55 years with a ‘friend’ …Why do I still put up with a person who throws a sarcastic remark at moments when you need a friendly hug? Who never fails, given the opportunity, to rub salt into a wound?

“I have two children and four grandchildren... It seems unkind to drop her now as she was not so similarly blessed. We all have burdens to carry throughout our lives, I know. But her negative, unfeeling attitudes never fail to irritate or bring me down.” – The Guardian

Eleanor Gordon-Smith responded to the above solicitation for advice with this: 

“We might have always known they had the traits that now seem so vividly irritating – that they were prone to sarcasm… – but we hadn’t got all the way to the question you’re now asking: wait, why do I put up with that?”

That’s why it’s important to look out for red flags, take a moment to do a self-check, and consider saying goodbye. Otherwise, you might spend 55 years wondering why you too put up with salty sarcasm when you really needed a friend. 

Knowing When to Let Go

Alyssa "Lia" Mancao, LCSW has a great list of nine signs that your friendship is maybe over. Psychology Today has 55. The universal thread seems to sum up simply as “how do I feel when I’m with this person?” 

  • Do you feel pressure to compete? 

  • Do you dread answering their texts? 

  • Are you constantly coming up with excuses to cancel plans? 

Ending a friendship doesn’t have to look like a scorched earth response to an ultimate betrayal. Sometimes it’s just fading vapor, an untended garden. 

I just ended a fifteen-year friendship last month. No one knows except me. And now you. But my friend doesn’t. 

It wasn’t an easy decision to make because fifteen years, that’s a lot of history. But it’s also kinda ancient history and we are no longer those people. Lately, after we spoke on the phone or hung out, I just felt drained and grim. 

We had so much shared history that it was really hard to reconcile that this friendship was passively draining me, and just not in my best interest. So, to put my mind at ease, I closed that friend door in my mind and sent the rare call from her to voicemail. 

Ghosting gets a bad rap when it comes to exiting relationships, but not every occasion calls for a complete post-mortem. Maybe a text is ok, or an email is better. Perhaps you’d prefer a face-to-face conversation. No way is the right way, but the best way is the one that gives you the closure you’re looking for