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5 Lessons from Ending a Friendship

Photo by Simon Pais
In this world of change, nothing which comes stays, and nothing which goes is lost. ~Anne Sophie Swetchine

Starting at a new school on the other side of town at the already awkward age of 13, I was desperate for the kind of friendship I could lose myself in. I was completely uncomfortable in my own skin and wanted someone I could join forces with, someone that could take some of the focus off of me.

We met in the lunchroom–the worst possible place for a middle ‘schooler’ who has yet to make any friends. So you could say the friendship was sparked by a sort of quiet desperation.

She was surrounded by a group of girls whose connections spanned back to elementary school. I was sitting by myself, counting down the minutes until I could go home.

Our differences at the time made us click–she wanted to be the leader and I wanted nothing more than to follow.

While the people and situations around us shifted with each passing year, our relationship dynamic remained virtually the same. As I learned to speak a little louder and make my presence known, hers became more pronounced and harder not to notice.

I could never quite catch up to her high level of confidence.

As I grew into my early twenties, slowly losing touch with other childhood friends I thought I would have in my life forever, I realized something significant — I was reaching an age where I had expectations for my friends and the longevity of the friendship couldn’t make those obsolete.

We were still friends. I considered her family to be my own and I knew she would be at every one of my birthdays.

I started to notice that, not only did we have drastically different lifestyles, but we were making choices that directly contradicted one another and made it uncomfortable to be around each other.

There simply wasn’t enough shared history to cover up the turmoil and dysfunction in our relationship. And the water under the bridge was about to take out the entire bridge itself.

I told her I needed to take a step back. She reacted with anger. I said I had no intention of ending our friendship. I just couldn’t keep rehashing the hurt I felt from certain situations.

The line of communication between us was closed from that moment forward.

In the beginning, I found it almost impossible to calm the rage that was boiling in the pit of my stomach. I remember waking up in the middle of the night going over and over the sequence of events that had led us to this place.

Anytime other people brought up the situation, I could recite a laundry list of all the things I blamed her for.

I expected a lengthy apology within a matter of days. I never received one.

The last conversation we had was a year ago, and with each passing month, I become more and more open to the clarity that has followed.

These are the lessons I have learned and am still trying my hardest to navigate through.

1. Some Relationships Have an Expiration Date

In this situation I believed that since we had been friends for so long and had seen each other through so much, we were tied together forever. In some ways this belief caused me to go against the flow of what felt right and natural.

But friendships shouldn’t feel like a constant struggle to swim upstream. If they do feel that way, it may just be an indication that life is taking you in different directions better suited for each of you as individuals.

2. A Reflection of Your Inner Struggles

Since we had such drastically different personalities, there were traits I saw in my friend that would make me uncomfortable or upset. There were times I tried to point these out as things that were “wrong” with her.

In reality, they were things that I was struggling to make amends with within myself. Once I was able to recognize this, all the things I was angry about her “for not changing” became obsolete and I was able to reclaim the power that I had lost by blaming someone I had no control over.

3. Making Room for Positive Change

There is a time for confronting an issue head on. There is also a time when taking a step back and allowing the pieces to fall as they may is ideal and absolutely necessary.

If I would have remained in the thick of the drama and upset that was brewing around us, chances are I would have continued to react from a place of negativity and anger.

After removing myself from the situation, I was able to see the entire scope of our friendship and all of the subtle nudges and red flags that had been popping up for years.

This has also allowed me to be completely at peace with the outcome, something I would have fought against if I had chosen a different plan of action.

4. Recognizing the Clues

I remember hearing this lesson on Oprah, but I never understood the true depth of the meaning until I found myself in the middle of this struggle.

Growing up, I had witnessed several instances where others were deeply hurt by the actions of my friend. As we got older, the situations became more serious and the consequences of her actions became more severe and far-reaching.

While I noticed the repetition, I never thought that I would be on the receiving end of that hurt. I also believed that she would change.

Yet, she had been telling me–or showing me–who she was for years. For me this wasn’t a lesson in pointing fingers, it simply brought a new sense of understanding to the situation.

5. Not All Relationships Have to End in Anger

A year after the fact, I can say with some certainty that my friend and I will most likely not have some heartfelt reunion.

I haven’t come to that conclusion because I’m still angry or hurt over things that have happened in the past, but simply because I know we are both better off moving in different directions without the pull of what had become a toxic relationship.

I’m not at peace because I feel as if I was justified in ending the relationship. I’m at peace because I know that this was the next logical step in our growth as individuals.

I wish her nothing but happiness and in all honesty I know she wishes me the same — that is how I know we are both exactly where we need to be.

> How about you? Do you have similar stories with the ending of a friendship that no longer served you? Share your thoughts and stories with us in the comment below. See you there!

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About the author

Kayla Albert is freelance writer intent on living life deliberately. You can follow her at Confessions of a Perfectionist. If there's a writing project you'd like for her to tackle, visit her website at kaylaalbert.com

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11 thoughts on 5 Lessons from Ending a Friendship

  1. “Some relationships have an expiration date.” I can relate to this. Some thing just will not last. Growing slowly apart is also a silent way of ending friendships without us even knowing it…

  2. This is total truth. It’s so weird how this topic was this week’s post when I had a falling out with 2 of my friends last week. I’ve been feeling bad about it, but after reading this, it has allowed me to realize that it just happens in life when people go their separate ways. And, that sometimes it’s a sign from the universe to help propel you forward to eliminate the things that could be holding you back. This post has inspired me to develop a post of my own (regarding these recent fall outs) in my blog (www.alphameditate.com. Thank you for your insight and inspiration!

  3. I find letting go of some friendships really painful and it is hard to accept sometimes that I or the other person has changed or circumstances have changed etc… the hardest is when you realize you were blind to the other person’s potential for hurt. Thanks so much for such an intimate post.

  4. So true. I like what Dr. Wayne Dyer says, “Some people enter your life in Act I, Scene 5, and exit your life in Act IV, Scene 2.” He’s right.

    Like it or not, we change throughout the years. What you valued five years ago may not be what you value today. This means family and friends who had the same values as you did years ago may not share your current value system. They may decide to move out of your life and vice versa.

    Change is the one constant in life. However, it’s your reaction to change that makes the difference. You can either be upset and angry, or you can lovingly let go of people and wish them best. The choice is yours.

    *Some people could re-enter your life if they ‘change’ and now match who you are today.

  5. First, well done. Next to no-one writes on friendships. It’s nearly always about relationships.

    Working in a field which results rapid personal growth, there are some friends I have needed to let go over. Or sometimes it’s only particular ways of relating that need to be let go of.

    Friends can assist with personal growth but others hold you back (and a particular friendship can be in one camp one time and another another time.)

    One unusual but often helpful approach is to imagine a symbol for the relationship up in the air and then unwanted energies and agenda drain out of it into the ground. How have your feelings about the friendship shifted.

  6. Kayla,
    I am astonished that your experience is EXACTLY what I went through with some girls I grew up with. I stopped being friends with them when I was 21 years old and that was about 6 years ago. One of them is the friend you spoke about; she was my best friend. The way you wrote this article helps me to put into words my experience, feelings, and reflections. I couldn’t have written it any other way objectively. I just saw these gals recently and I am glad to discover I made the right decision and I am at a happy place which includes friends that love me for me and do not judge or mistreat me. The experience has taught me what true friendship looks like to me and also allows me to be that friend to others, and it’s actually appreciated. When I write about this topic on my blog I will link it to this articlee. Thank you for sharing. I truly appreciate it.

  7. I am thankful you wrote this post Kayla. It describes my exact experience growing up. I wasn’t able to capture it in writing in the past, but now I can direct others to it. I will feature it on my blog today. I am happy that you are in a better place now, like I am.

  8. I appreciate this post! You articulated my experience growing up perfectly. I wrote about it in my blog today and provided viewers this link. Thank you for your honesty.

  9. It has happened to me, I had to put an end to a friendship which I felt was no longer supporting me. I was about 40, and this had been a university friendship. I kept feeling angry and guilty for years!
    Nice post.

  10. Hello everyone,

    It seems like when someone is read to advance their life it usually means a friendship might have to end. Nothing stays the same; because people’s wants and desires are constantly changing. If one is not willing to grow in life, then he or she can’t expect their friends to stick around forever. We either grow in life or get left behind.

    Have a nice day,
    God bless

  11. Erin

    I can relate very, very well to this article. I had a friend for 17 years who was a terrific friend in high school, and not a healthy relationship for the next 14 years. I kept thinking I would be a bad person if I didn’t keep trying, and after some pretty revealing discussions it became clear that our paths were not the same. Trying to be friends with her was crushing my own growth and development. I was being asked to actively reject positive change to stay available and accessible to her. Four years after our last conversation, I am in a much better place and able to grow and challenge myself without fear of disappointing her. It is good to have friends, but it is also good to be able to honestly see when those friendships (like any relationship) have turned toxic and are no longer healthy.

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