Friendships and when to let go?

May 18, 2021

Here is an article that I wrote for Yahoo Style:

Friendships are incredibly important for our sense of self as well as for our physical and mental wellbeing.

There are four levels of friendships: 

Acquaintances  - people that you meet occasionally and only talk about general, safe topics

Casual friends – you meet more frequently and talk about common interests

Good friends – you share values and have similar interests and goals. You share safe parts of your life

Close friends – you are open, honest and vulnerable with each other. You are there for each other and can depend on them.

Acquaintances and casual friends can come and go leaving very little emotional trace. It is the good friends and close friends that we need to pay more attention to their trajectory through our lives. 

There is a saying that people are in our lives for a reason (to help us in a particular moment) a season (to help us through a phase of our life) or for life.

 For close friends we may live our lives in parallel when we first meet but those tracks may diverge because of other relationships, changing jobs, moving homes and changing interests.  Friendships can be put under pressure when one is doing better than the other, has a better relationship, more money, nicer children or developing different goals in life.  This can cause resentment, jealousy and drifting apart.

A friendship, like a relationship has six key elements:







All six of these elements need to be nurtured for it to be a goods and sustainable relationship.

There are also three parties in the friendship; you, me and us.  They also need to be in balance.

How you can tell if a friendship has run its course?

You can assume that a friendship has run its course if:

You no longer feel like contacting them

When you do meet, you feel disappointed and wish you hadn’t

They don’t return your calls or want to meet

You feel they are different to how they used to be

There is no longer strong communication, connection, commitment, fun, growth or trust

Life has moved on and you are now on different paths

Your gut feel is that it is no longer ‘right’ and you can let them go

What should you do about it?

Ask yourself these questions:

What sort of friend were they?  If they were just an acquaintance or casual friend then losing them may have very little impact

If they were a good or close friend, then it is much more important

Did you act as a good friend and fulfil your responsibilities? If not, then do you want to get them back or, what can you learn from that experienced to apply to future friendships.

Have your lives changed, and you are now on different paths?

In a year’s time, if they are not my friend, how will I feel

Have you fallen out over something or just drifted apart?

Have they served their purpose in your life?

Should you break up with a friend? Or just let it fizzle out? 

If they were just an acquaintance or casual friend, then, unless you were at fault, let it fizzle out and move on.

If they were close and it matters to you, then have a conversation with them, ideally face to face so that you can say something like ‘I really appreciated our friendship because it made me feel x, y, z’. I am wondering what has changed for you and how you feel about our friendship?’ and then listen to their feelings. If you both want it to continue then agree what you are both going to do differently. If they don’t want it to continue, then thank them and let it go gently.