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6 Things I Learned About Ending a Long-Term Friendship

By Julia Hubbel May 14, 2021 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.

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.

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Landl

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?

Downtowntiger

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…..you will feel better about yourself. She sounds like a very nice person…..I think she will listen.

Celine

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.

Zara

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…”
AT LEAST HE COULD TEXT YOU OR CALL YOU
(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

KayCee

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

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 https://www.walkaboutsaga.com/

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