sixtyandme logo
We are community supported and may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Learn more

6 Things I Learned About Ending a Long-Term Friendship

By Julia Hubbel May 26, 2023 Lifestyle

A few years ago I had a long term friendship come to an end. Four decades of love, laughter and jokes, gone. I felt as though someone had removed a part of my heart. However, that experience both taught me important life lessons as well as opened many new doors. Here’s what I learned:

A Right to Choose a Different Path

If you’ve had years of investment with a close friend, noticing that there are differences cropping up can be genuinely disturbing. At first we ignore it, because we want very much to preserve what we’ve had. If it persists, it might be time to ask:

Can we still relate? Are we still on the same wavelength? And, perhaps even more challenging, can I honor the changes in my friend and still be friends? Sometimes, yes, sometimes – no. That is uniquely up to us.

A Fork in the Road

Friends can disagree on many things and still bear great love for one another. I have a close friend whose family differs completely from mine; however, I learn from them, and from her, every time I visit.

This brings value and perspective into my life, and I can appreciate alternative viewpoints. What’s key is mutual respect. If you no longer feel as though your thoughts, views, ideas and opinions are honored, even though you may not agree, this can cause heartache and arguments.

We evolve. Sometimes there is a fork up ahead. You’re headed to the lake front. Your friend needs to climb the mountain. When a long-time friend needs to walk a different path, it can feel as powerful as losing a close family member. In fact, it is.

Ending Things in Person Is So Very Hard

Sometimes we see behaviors that telegraph an unspoken intention. For example, someone is perpetually unavailable. At first we think that they’re busy. Then it feels like rejection.

A conversation that ends a friendship is very hard, and many of us avoid that kind of confrontation. Lots of us express our intentions without actually knowing it, because we don’t wish to cause someone pain. If a longtime friend “doesn’t have time,” that may be their way of saying things have changed.

Long friendships involve years of investment. When we see that slipping away, it can be terrifying. We’re losing part of who we understand ourselves to be with that special someone close to us.

Of course, we want to hold on, and rejection feels like abandonment. It brings up strong emotions and people may simply not be up to that emotional discussion no matter how close you are, or were.

Just Walk Away, Lovingly

If and when a friendship reaches a breaking point for any reason, sometimes all you can do is walk away. As hard as this may sound, if the joy is gone, and aspects of your connection have become stressful or toxic, then the kindest thing you can both do is acknowledge that you need to move on.

We may never find out what happened. There may not be answers. Sometimes we don’t know why things changed. While that can be frustrating – “But what did I do wrong? – not everyone can give, or even has, an answer.

Lots of us don’t want to have to justify our actions or choices. Part of maturity includes not only allowing others to make their own choices, but also to be able to live in the question.

Create Room for New Acquaintances

While it’s important to mourn the loss of a beloved friend, it’s just as important to create room for new acquaintances. They may not share our history, but the pleasure of new ideas and lively discussions far outweighs feeling lonely.

Healing is ahead – for both of you – as long as you can honor what you had and wish your friend the best in all things.

Hold the History in Your Heart

We can’t all have a gracious discussion when a friendship ends. Sometimes it’s just not available. In the best of scenarios, you can talk it out, express your love, and say good bye without recriminations.

Or, have a loving conversation with this person with whom you have shared so much of you. Then visualize them with a halo of brilliant love around them. Above all, be grateful for what you had, for the memories and the gifts they brought into your life.

After our friendship ended, I would find small tokens from Ellen around my house. Rather than make me sad, today they remind me of the treasure that her friendship brought to my life. She graced my life for most of my adulthood. And that is gift enough.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you recently ended a lengthy friendship? Are you currently hurting because an old friend seems to be turning on you or changing? What do you do to work through your feelings? How do you open your heart to new friends as you age? Please share your insights and tips below.

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I without any explanation dumped my best friend of some 54 years. Why? Because I was jealous of everything she had and did. I was jealous of her looks, skills, her career which included lots of international travel, her fun kid-free life, her money, her dashing husband and her slim figure (something I never had). My friend and I were very close. She treated me like the sister she never had. I loved her too. We had lots of fun times together. We lived close by and spent our Summers at the local pool or at each others homes.

Fast forward to our adult years. I never pursued a career. Even though I have a university education, I was not interested in working. I did have a couple of low level jobs but I preferred to stay at home. At the age of 21 I moved in with my boyfriend who eventually became my husband. He worked long hours and made ok money. He was happy to support me. My friend came from a humble background. She left home at a young age and supported herself without a cent help from anyone. She worked two jobs to get ahead. She was a generous soul even as a kid. One time I didn’t have bus fare. She gave me her money. I rode the bus while she walked. When we were 15 she won one ticket to see Paul McCartney & Wings perform in our home town. She gave it to me and I went. (I am crying as I write this).

Two years ago I dumped her over something trivial. It was my fault and I am ashamed of myself. She tried to contact me but I refused to take her calls. I admit that since we were young kids, I treated her like a punching bag. Two years ago I badgered her but it was for the last time. For once she stood up to me and I didn’t like it. Unfortunately my competitive nature lost me my darling, patient friend and it’s all my fault. My overwhelming competitive nature and pride prevent me from making amends. Now what do I do?


I respect you’re taking ownership of your behavior. Sadly, the green eyed monster has crushed your relationship. I truly believe you owe her a brief explanation AND apology. It will repair your self respect and give her much needed closure. Jealousy in any relationship is normal and should help balance it, but you have a major issue with it. I, too, tend to be jealous yet I am amazed if anyone is jealous of me!!!! I saw a therapist and worked through some things.
This won’t be easy. But… will feel better about yourself. She sounds like a very nice person…..I think she will listen.


I would send her a letter. Or flowers with a card. I ended a lifelong friendship for some of the same reasons as you. I meant to make things right for a couple of years but never did. Last year she died and I will never have the opportunity now. Take the plunge and do it now while you still can. You will never regret trying to make things right.

Catherine Vance

You should print off this e-mail and put it into a beautiful
card and send it to her. You spoke from your heart and
admitted fault. Do you have any idea how few people can
do that??? I am impressed with how you own what you
felt and what you did. Don’t go to your deathbed wondering
and filled with regret. Even if she does not reply, you will
feel better for having done the honorable thing of reaching out.
You can heal two wounded souls — yours and hers.

Karyn Loveman

Love the idea of printing the email and sending to her. Put it in a card with a gift card and say coffee’s on me.


Write a sincere, honest letter and hopefully she will understand and forgive.

Rose Marie

I think it’s amazing that you had the courage to write this. I too think you should print this and send it to her. You wrote from your heart, and admitted your mistakes. What you said took guts. I wish you healing.


I think the ship has sailed. You admit responsibility for your actions and you want to put things right, but who for? I really think you need to work out whether you want this resolved to make yourself feel better or whether you are doing it for your friend so she has closure. Don’t be surprised if she doesn’t want to have anything to do with you, you’ve hurt her badly, why would she risk that again just because everything is ok for you again? We can’t change the past, we can only learn from it and try and not repeat our mistakes. I think you need to move on.


I agree 100% with Hunter. It’s admirable you admitted to yourself what the truth is… that’s a gigantic step. You have freed yourself from decades of self abuse. I did the same with who I believe we’re my 2 closest friends of over 60 years when they proved they weren’t when they labeled me as problematic during and after my 35 year abusive marriage. He was a diagnosed narcissist. He’s gone now. And they are gone from my life. They were my real sisters. I will always love our history, but I can no longer see them as my friends. Especially when one of them rejected me when asked if she could be my “friend” during a most difficult time in my marriage. I was devastated. Now I live a free life. Free from what others expect from me and free from how they made me feel about myself. It’s not which side is the cause, it’s that I took charge of my suffering and made myself whole again.

Seek help from a professional. They help you see that guilt is unnecessary and that all of us simply didn’t come with all the instructions to make all the “right” connections with chosen people or people who are family. You can do this!!!


Thanks for this article.
Unfortunately in my case, we didn’t manage to end things amicable and it’s been a source of anxiety and hurt for two years now. Luckily not painful all the time, but still… I think the end was necessary but wish it had happened in a different way, I just think none of us realized what was happening until it was too late. I don’t really know how I’ve dealt with it… Ive talked to other friends about missing her, but have been a little afraid they would take that the wrong way. I like the perspective of thinking of our time as a treasure, cause it was some amazing times… i do struggle with finding that same connection with someone new and fear I’ll never find it (and therefore I think I dont really try very hard either) – but what i take from this article is maybe I have to open myself more to new friendships… get out there more, in a sense. After covid I seem to have just stopped socializing which isnt very good.

Sometimes i dream that we’re friends again and wake up sad. And sometimes i think, just reach out! But I dont think I’ll ever dear/manage.

Karyn Loveman

What you wrote is very relatable for me so thank you.


Thanks for the article. It was really helpful since it’s only 10 days passed from end of 15 y friendship I had with someone who is in fact my cousin. We were so close that everyone used to saw our friendship life long. We used to chat every day. We had same dreams but I wasn’t so lucky to walk in the path that could made me closer to our goal, as she was. geographical distance also made us so different too. If our relationship was face to face, I think that would have made our friendship lasts longer. I’m still looking for the guilty, but I should stop and let it all go. Like it’s dead and looking for the reason why doesn’t bring it back to life.

Jenny T

Thank you for sharing this. It’s very insightful. A few years ago, I had a falling out with my best friend of 20+ years. I didn’t understand what was happening, so I got angry and took it out on her by blaming her instead of allowing myself to grieve. Your article showed me that it wasn’t anyone’s fault; we’re just two different people, and our communication skills at this point don’t accommodate that. While things worked when we were younger, we didn’t know what we wanted then; it doesn’t work anymore.

I realize now that she doesn’t respect me, and I don’t respect myself with her. I also realize that we want different things from our friendships, and while she was willing to have a less close relationship, I won’t because I’m too emotionally invested and tend not to tend relationships unless I know the other person sees me as a priority and not someone convenient or useful.


Susan kelman

I recently had a friend of 20yrs send a 3page letter to end our friendship
I have been in hospital recently and I had a complete breakdown
My family stated family only to visit me in Hosp
I have been home now for a month it took me a few weeks to get my head around things and back to normal even after my discharge
I had been in contact via message text and phone but not in person
I had text a few times to catch up but she had made other plans. And now she has turned it on me saying I ghosted her and has ended our friendship
I’m moving on but I’m just left a little bewildered

Alex Meier

A relationship with a friend of 20 years HAS TO VISIT YOU in hospital. There are little to no excuses (different state/country, due to job or private problems…)
But not something like “yeah I had other stuff to do…”
(Makes me angry to read something disrespectful…)

But never mind:

You did well.
You don’t need friends that are not supporting you. It is hard, and I understand that. I’m currently in the process to tell a friend of roundabout 15 years that her way of treating me feels not good and kinda drains me.

Maybe she understand it and might change, maybe not and we are no friends anymore.

The important thing in your life is your HEALTH and also your WELL-BEING.
People come and go. It’s natural.

Find new people, go to sport clubs, meet friends or find new friends. Don’t be alone and if you really got no-one to talk make an appointment with your doctor. He will surely be able to help you

Maybe talk with you parents :-)

+ English isn’t my native language. Hope you could understand everything.
+ I will check some time if you respond.

Take care ma’am


You don’t need friends that are not supporting you.“
LOVE that! 🙏


Lovely comment! It is sad, I had a childhood friend for about 55 yrs. We have had our ups and downs, though past year she has been difficult, does not listen or show respect to my feelings on things. Last straw for me, was when our high school reunion was coming up. I had gone only two years then moved. I asked the moderator if I could attend, he said great, love to see you. When I told her, the anger came through loud and clear, she did not want me there was very distinct. I was hurt, but did not attend. She never got in touch with me after that day. I texted her after about a month, told her how disrespected I felt as I would never talk to her like that and have been nothing but kind through the years. I knew things were not the same for about a year or so, it’s still sad. She answered with a thumbs up sign, ignored what I said, so I knew it was over. What I did, I could not say. I sent gifts to her for different events or illness, never spoke ill of or to her. It bothers me, but I guess it’s really for the best.


That doesn’t sound like a true friend to me.


She was never your friend.

A real friend doesn’t pull that on a person

1 2 3 6

The Author

Julia Hubbel is a prize-winning author, journalist, international business and women’s conference speaker and international adventure traveler. Her work teaches people how to erase the impossible and redefine their boundaries. As a sales and leadership trainer, her work focuses on success skills and finding the courage to be your best. Visit her website here

You Might Also Like