Making new friends as an adult is a lot like dating. The first time you get together on your own you may go out for coffee. Then you exchange some texts. Maybe you have dinner or go see a movie. You chat about what you have in common and see if you "click." With a little luck, you've found someone who will be significant in your life. You slowly build your tribe.
So, it's no surprise that ending a friendship as an adult also feels similar to leaving a relationship. You stop talking to each other, you disconnect on social media, you move on. You essentially "break up."
I can't pinpoint exactly the moment things went awry. There wasn't a big blowout or fight that ended it all. It just became clear that our values and interests weren't the same anymore. A tension was growing. I kept hoping that this shift in our fault lines would somehow blow over and things would go back to the way they were. This was a friend I had loved dearly for years. But things were not okay, and it was time to stop pretending that they were. Eventually, I made a clear decision to back away from the friendship.
It was very difficult. I worried that my family and other close friends would think I was giving up. I certainly didn't want our mutual friends to feel uncomfortable. However, I knew I had to do it in order to restore balance in my life.
There have been 2 or 3 times in my adult life I feel I've had to consciously end a friendship. It seems so juvenile to talk about doing this as an adult, yet it must be a sign of growth. That you're learning more about who you are and who you need in your life.
It's a lifelong quest for all of us. How do we surround ourselves with friends we love and who love us back? It takes time to grow friendships as we build confidence and trust. And when we find those few friends with whom we do "click," it's beautiful.
Sometimes things happen. Maybe it's one person's fault. Maybe it's not. If there's one constant in life, it's that it changes all the time.
We would never encourage anyone to stay in a romantic relationship that had become extremely negative, and we shouldn't stand for anything less with our friendships. A good friend is as essential as breathing. This we know for sure. In the same vein, a toxic friendship is damaging to our health.
Elizabeth Gilbert calls it surrendering. When you come to the end of your power.
It's not easy to end a friendship. Messages are misunderstood; feelings inevitability get hurt. But I can say that afterwards, you will feel lighter and happier. I thought there was going to be this huge hole in my life, but I was wrong. Making this decision created room in my life. For my family. For old friends. For new friends. For me.
I'm sad for the way things turned out, and I try to look back and remember the good parts of our friendship instead of focusing on the end. But it's time to move on. Channel our inner Elsa and let it go.
Previously published at A Splendid Messy Life.