Letting Go Of Friends Is Okay
Have you ever grown apart from a friend, and realized you were grieving, as if it was an actual break-up? In the past, I’ve had to let go of close friendships for multiple reasons, and I found myself completely confused with the way it made me feel. Why did I feel like my friend just broke up with me? It can be confusing, because in my mind, I separate my friends from someone I’m in a romantic relationship with – and therefore, a breakup by a romantic partner should feel different than a “breakup” with a friend… or so I thought.
I think the media might have a small part to play in this. At the bookstore, you can find shelves and shelves of books on relationships and breakups. When you listen to the radio, you can almost always hear a song play either about a romantic relationship or a breakup. Friendships are often glorified in movies, where life-long friends remain close, or friends come together after many years. However, that’s not really the norm. But less often to we see or hear about friendships “breaking up,” and thus, we are confused on how to feel about it.
The first time I experienced a significant “breakup” with a friend, I was a junior in college. I’m sure in younger years I grew apart from other friends, but for the sake of this blog, I’d like to focus on my more-adult friendships. My friend had been one of my best friends for about four years. Despite going to different high schools and different colleges, we remained extremely close. We shared stories and secrets, and I really trusted her with my life. During the beginning of my junior year, I ended up breaking up with a boyfriend that I had been with for about a year, and to my complete surprise, she started dating him. I cannot express how much pain I felt for such a long time. This scenario was more than just growing apart; a best friend had betrayed everything our friendship represented. At that point, I questioned everything I ever shared with her, feeling like most of my life was a lie. I questioned who I was and why I would surround myself with such a hurtful person. I questioned what I did wrong to make her do this to me. And once I took the time to get over the fact that she was dating my ex – like truly, truly be okay with it – I still could not ever be her friend again. And that was hard to let go of. I did come to terms with them dating, but I still grieved the loss of our friendship.
The next time I experienced growing apart from close friends was when I moved in with my boyfriend (now husband). I was 22, a recent college graduate without a career, and knew I didn’t want to move back in with my parents. At this point I realized that at this age, and this point in my life, my friends and I were all on different pages. Some of my friends were still in school, some moved away for work, others moved in with roommates and developed new lives. I found myself forcing these friendships to last, despite the neglect I felt.
It took me a long time to reflect on these experiences and to accept the “loss” of these friendships. It has taken me a while to realize that it’s not my fault and there’s nothing wrong with me. Additionally, it has taught me my worth as a person and as a friend. I aspire to have friendships that are a two-way street, where both parties put in equal effort. I have to be honest in saying that I also have friendships where it’s not an equal balance in effort. I have learned, in these scenarios, that I cannot force the friendship. But I do have a choice – accept this friendship for whatever it is and put in effort that I’m comfortable with, or let the friendship go. Reminding myself that I have the power to determine the respect I deserve, and having the power to commit to the friendship or let it go, has been very helpful.