A few years ago I had a friend who became increasingly flaky. She was (or so I thought) part of my close-knit-friends-forever circle. Eventually, said circle of friends directly called her out on her behaviour one day, and politely asked her what was up. The response we got was surprisingly blunt. She told us that while she ultimately still cared about us, she simply wasn’t interested in a friendship anymore.
This actually wasn’t the first such friendship “breakup” that I’ve experienced. Prior to this, I had a falling out that was basically an identical situation to the above, except that when I called the friend out on her repeatedly canceled plans and her seemingly endless efforts to evade contact from me, her response was a lot more personal. She told me that she found me awkward to be around, that her life had different priorities now that she was married, and that she apparently didn’t really enjoy hanging out with me that much (I know…ouch, right?!). It was understandably pretty devastating to me at the time.
While I ultimately tried to accept this and move on, it still really bothered me, obviously. Especially because I take my friendships very seriously; and, while I don’t typically like to brag about myself, I thought I was a pretty great person to be friends with. The downfall with me taking friendships so seriously is that I kept getting hurt. Very easily. And failed to understand that people do sometimes drift apart, with no fault to either party, and that it isn’t actually the end of the world. I guess I had this mindset that once we became friends, you were mine for life 😉
Anyway. By happy and random chance, in a waiting room, I stumbled across an article that I highly related to. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the time to finish the article or have the foresight to note the author or title. But the basis of it was that after your mid 20s, it’s totally normal for your friend circle to shrink, and that it’s actually even healthy. Go figure…here I was obsessing that there was something “wrong” with me for having lost friends, instead of considering that there may be another way of looking at it. A quick Google search brought up a wealth of information for me, and re-assured me that losing friends is actually a common thing. To quote this article from Vice, people are prone to commit “amicide” in their 30s. And according to this article on CNN, you’ll continue to lose friends for the rest of your life.
But it’s not a total bummer! It actually makes a lot of sense, since by this point in our lives, most of us have other commitments competing for priority (partners, children, careers), and we aren’t going to make room in our lives for people who aren’t really worth our time. Especially since the friendships that aren’t worth our while are actually to our detriment –unnecessary arguments, drama, wasted time and energy.
In hindsight, I’ve now somewhat come to admire these friends for being brave enough to cut the cord at the time (although they definitely could have spared a little more regard for my feelings, of course…). The reality is that if these friends no longer shared common interests with me, possibly didn’t even like me anymore, and essentially no longer gave a crap…did I really want to exhaust any effort on maintaining a friendship? Did I want them to lie, feign enthusiasm, and placate me? Not particularly. That sounds even worse.
It’s also dawned on me that I too can take a pro-active role in choosing whom I want to be friends with, and maybe even be the one to initiate the distance. I don’t think I have it in me to do a flat-out breakup with someone…But I am gradually reducing the effort I make with certain people and trying not to feel guilty about it.
This is especially useful if you find yourself in a friendships that is one-sided, toxic, and so forth. There are times when I pause and ask myself what I’m actually gaining from a friendship. Do I feel happy when I am around the person? Do I feel supported? Am I excited by a text or email? Or does it fill me with anxiety, leave me drained, and secretly feeling like engaging with them is a chore? I’m starting to feel empowered by choosing who I’d like to invest in, and letting go of the friendships that no longer serve me.
It’s been a long, hard process but I am slowly starting to accept that people may drift in and out of my life. I am no longer fatally wounded by every ignored text. I don’t have to spend hours crafting detailed emails to my friends, filing them in on what’s new with me, and being incredibly let down when they have no interest in doing the same. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit how bloody hard I used to claw, trying desperately to remain in someone’s life. Now, I take it less personally. After all, some of the former friends I’ve created distance with are still great people – it just wasn’t working anymore. And that’s cool.
All said and done – it’s kind of a huge load off.