Long term friendships are the stuff books and movies are made of. Hanging out with someone you have known for decades is comforting â€“ there is security in knowing and being known.
While they are often a healthy thing, there are times when a long term friendship goes on life support and the memory of what once was is honored in a way that is emotionally unhealthy for at least one of the partners.
Over the course of our lives we grow and change, no matter who we are. Our interests, opinions, and beliefs change according to our life experiences. Generally, in marriage we are growing along with our spouses but sometimes we donâ€™t have the same experiences as our friends and so we move in different directions so slowly that it isnâ€™t even noticed.
Eventually we find ourselves communicating less and less, getting angry at their vastly different perspectives, and dealing with negative emotions rather than the support that we have had in the past. At that point, it is time to walk away.
The thing is that it is so hard to do. Letting go of a friendship that spans decades is as difficult as going through a divorce â€“ maybe even more so because the relationship is longer and has more invested in it.
I have gone through this a few times in my life. The thing is, when I look back on the friendships I realize that I should have graciously said good-bye long before I did.
If you are involved in a friendship that has turned into a toxic relationship rather than the supportive one it once was, there is nothing wrong with breaking ties. Trying to maintain the friendship is a bit like two porcupines hugging â€“ there is deep affection but lots of pain involved.
Here are some signs that it is time to move on.
- If you feel that you are no longer being encouraged and supported, but seem to get criticized every time you talk, then it is probably time to let it go.
- If you are the only one investing time, energy, and effort into the relationship it is time to move on. Friendship needs to be give and take.
- If you find that your friend is gossiping about you, then the trust that you had has been broken.
- If your friends seems to be overly competitive with you, it is time to move on.
Maybe the biggest one is lack of support when you need it the most. A few years ago I went through a divorce after 30 years of marriage. I was not the instigator in the divorce even though I was the one that filed â€“ it wasnâ€™t something I expected.
It was literally an overnight life change. To say I was devastated would be an understatement.
Naively, I expected support. I was hurting, afraid, and insecure, and my biggest need was for someone to tell me that it was going to be o.k. I donâ€™t have siblings and my parents had passed away so, other than my children, I was alone. I had been â€œthereâ€ for my friends throughout their lives and now I felt a bit better knowing that I could depend on getting the same support from a few friends I had known for decades.
Only I didnâ€™t. They completely broke relationship with me â€“ because of the divorce, because of my choices, and because of the relationship I entered in to before they thought I should.
When I look back on the years of those relationships, I can see that they had slowly become more controlling and less supportive overtime. The divorce was just the last straw.
I am happy with my life, now. The relationships I have are supportive and healthy.Â Sometimes I am angry that I was hung out to dry when I needed support the most, but mostly I feel relieved that I was able to move on.
Have you let go of a friendship? How did you handle it?
photo credit: Tim Samoff