Part 2: How to End a Friendship.
Posted June 2017 by Rosanne Morse, MS/MFT
Generally, we initially make friends fairly easily based on little information. Essentially, we do want to be kind, caring human beings. As kids, we don’t pass a lot of judgements about the new kid. If the kid joins in and seems friendly, we let him in. If he is shy or “weird” we just ignore him until a grown up encourages us to “be kind”.
As we mature, we reach out and make a lunch date or an “after the meeting” chat. That’s when we start to decide. Are they interesting? Do they listen? Does it seem easy going and we might get together again? The next time though, we find ourselves canceling or rearranging the time or date. We get together again. Now, it feels like an uncomfortable obligation. Are they boring? aggressive? nosy? Or just “weird”? We just know we don’t want to spend our time in this way with this person.
What to do???? After all, we don’t want to hurt anyone, or make them angry, or be unfair, do we?
First, remember that is not our job to befriend everyone in the universe. Nor is it possible to have a personal relationship with everyone we encounter. It is possible to be kind and compassionate without developing a friendship. We are recognizing their basic humanity and that is enough, we do not have to like everyone. Compassion can be consciously practiced, but our preferences simply exist. We don’t like the same books, music, or painting.
Because most of us have experienced a situation when we were the one being left out, rejected or ignored, it is difficult to inflict that on someone else. It feels too harsh and that we are devaluing them as a person. Rejecting someone as a friend isn’t declaring them unworthy of friendship. They are simply not right for us. We each evolve individually generally correlating to our maturation. We go through stages wherein we feel we must be immersed in large groups of friends constantly, then we dial back friendships to focus on work and our budding family. Sometimes we seek isolation for a while. Eventually we wind up with a handful of lifelong friends/family no matter where we, or they, live. We are human and regulate our friendships according to our needs as we change.
So, how to end a friendship? For sure the easiest method is “passive rejection”. We slow down our response to calls, texts, emails, we turn down invitations. We offer transparent explanations of work or family obligations. We are hoping that our former friend with just get the message and fade gracefully away. On the receiving end of this behavior most of us really don’t understand what is happening and we chalk it up to just drafting apart. Passive rejection allows us to avoid a confrontation, although it takes a long time, feels unpleasant and somewhat dishonest. But, the alternative, confrontation, is also unpleasant and even cruel.
So where does that leave us? Most importantly is to begin the distancing before you hurt the other person. Is it necessary to “be upfront” and tell them? No, not really. It is natural for friendships to end or change. If the other person asks, or needs, an explanation, then your only obligation is to be as authentic as possible while remaining gently and kind.
“I know we haven’t been seeing each other as much as we did before. I’m feeling overwhelmed by all my obligations and for a time I am limiting my circle of friends. We’ve had some great times and I expect we will again. Take care.” On a personal note, this is like “combat” friends. We are desperately close to people during intense times in our lives. They will always be friends who really “knew” us, but our lives and needs change with time and circumstance. No harm, no foul, just life.
Based on an article written for Psychology Today by Alan Lickerman M.D. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/happiness-in-world/201308/how-end-friendship