Friendships come in all shapes and sizes. Some are life long, others seasonal. Some are distant and others are intimate. When situations change the quality of our relationships is revealed. Sometimes it's the friendships we have the most faith in that break. Other times, people we did not think would stick around, prove over and over, that they are in it for the long haul.
Firstly, that's ok. It’s normal for friendships to change, because we change. Change is what happens when we grow. It's healthy and necessary. The best kind of friendship is when friends grow together. However, growing apart is fine too. Hard, but fine. Sad, but fine. Hurtful, but totally fine.
Still, there are times when we feel certain friendships have to end. This could be for any number of reasons. Maybe, the friendship has become unhealthy. Maybe, trust has been compromised. Maybe, you no longer feel supported. Maybe, you are no longer in alignment with each other.
Friendships that end abruptly are generally harder to navigate than a slow drifting apart. Becoming hostile, involving other friends, seeking revenge, being unkind on social media should be avoided. It's important not to make matters worse with reactionary miscommunication.
If a friend has hurt you, know that you do not have to respond in detail before you have processed the pain. It's ok, to tell them you need a break and take a step back to decipher how you feel. Denying you are hurt for the sake of saving face only breeds resentment and will not lead to a healthy friendship in the future. Being honest is brave work!
If you no longer wish to be friends with someone. You can choose one of two routes: allow the friendship to naturally fade out, or end it immediately by having a talk. People often choose to ‘fade out’ friendships because they perceive it is less painful than confronting the person face to face. However, fading out friendships is not without pain. The key to fading a friendship out is to let your heart lead. Don’t do or say anything that you don't mean in your heart. If you don't want to hang out, say so. Don’t do anything out of obligation or fear of being alone.
Talking for the purpose of ending a friendship is never easy, however, there are a few things to consider beforehand that can help. Location is important. Decide on a place where you perceive you will both feel safe and comfortable. The goal is to set a new boundary, not to project hurt or frustration. Decide what that new boundary will be before you arrive. Do you want to have less contact or no contact? Practice what and how you will clearly and compassionately communicate what you want.
Remember healthy conversation includes both talking and listening. Don't be afraid to repeat yourself if you do not feel heard. Likewise, listen for the sentences your friend says more than once. This will help you understand what they are truly feeling. Start with a statement that will open the conversation up. For example, you could say, ‘ Lately I have been feeling like our friendship is not quite like it used to be, and I was wondering if we could talk about it?’
Try to leave them on a positive note. Make sure they know that you wish them well and are thankful for the good times. Part ways, knowing that although things have changed, there is no ill between you. Even if they do not respond well to your new boundary, know that their reaction is out of your control. Understand that they have just received information that might be hard to hear and they may be feeling hurt. Give them grace.
Letting go of friendships is no small feat. After you talk to them and are alone, nourish your soul. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself space to process the conversation. If the conversation did not go as well as you liked, don’t beat yourself up or judge your emotions. Let it be done. Engage in something that will help you look forward and move on.