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  • Ros McMaster

When Friendships Go Awry

Updated: Sep 25

"Some people are going to leave, but that's not the end of your story. That's the end of their part in your story." Faraaz Kazi

We've all been there. We thought we had a real connection with someone only to find out that they didn't feel the same way about us. It can be a devastating blow, especially if you have a long history together. Heartbreaking though it may be, it's important to accept that friendships coming to an end is a natural part of life, often happening for several reasons :


1. One person feels they have outgrown the friendship. - there is a loss of commonality

2. Mismatched expectations - each have different ideas of what a friendship should look like so neither meets the needs of the other.

3. One or both are exhibiting toxic behaviours or behaviours that leave one feeling betrayed


While it can leave you feeling a sense of grief' after experiencing the loss of a friendship, if you're really truly struggling to get over it, then there's a strong chance you have some deep rooted issues which may have been triggered by your friend "moving on". If this is the case, you'll need to dig deep and be honest with yourself .... Do you always find it difficult to 'let go'' in similar life situations? Is there a pattern of people 'leaving you'? Perhaps, just perhaps, if you dig deep enough, you may find that there was a toxic element to the friendship that damaged the trust between you? Has one of you become resentful, bitter, or jealous? And is this also a pattern that keeps repeating itself in your relationships with family, friends, lovers etc? The universe has a way of placing us in situations that will serve our highest growth in some way, even when it seems harsh. So this friendship ending may just force you to deal with something that needs your attention and healing. What a gift this friend has given you!


Did You Honestly Miss The Warning Signs or Simply Choose to Ignore Them?


It's pretty rare that a friend will cut you off suddenly. There is more often a gradual distancing. When someone is distancing themselves and moving away from the friendship, it can be so subtle that you may easily miss noticing the signs. That's because, believe it or not, it's also difficult for the friend who is moving on.... they may be letting you go gradually in order that your feelings not be hurt. There will still be the odd occasion when you get together and share a laugh, which only serves to reinforce your own belief that "everything is okay after-all".


Or perhaps you are so focused on how you feel about the friendship, that you refuse to accept the warning signs no matter how overt they are. The fact is, unless it was a mutual parting, most likely your feelings will be hurt regardless.


So how do you know if a friend is distancing themselves from you and the friendship? Here's some clues:

  1. They purposely create distance, gradually making more excuses not to accept social invitations. They always seem to be busy with other friends when you invite them out.

  2. They often cancel plans to meet-up.

  3. They stop confiding in you or sharing things about themselves.

  4. They’ll seldom reach out to make contact - you always seem to be the one reaching out and making plans.

  5. They take forever to reply back to your texts.

  6. Very little to no effort is put into maintaining a conversation or the conversation is often one-sided and/or brief.

  7. They are always inviting other friends to socialise with them but you never seem to be included.

I've been on the receiving end of thinking I was a part of a friendship group only to discover the hard way that I was not. Crushing and bewildering for sure. Gosh we clinked our wine glasses and laughed out loud....... But I've also had a good share of purposely letting friends go. One such recent ending was a girl I'd known since high school.


After I married, we drifted apart quite naturally, only making contact a handful of times. Neither of us sought each others company. As is often the case with high school friendships, our lives went in very different directions. Fast forward 30years, when both our marriages ended at roughly the same time. Now, finding ourselves on common ground, we reunited, enjoying socialising together as single women. But at some point along the way, I became aware that our status as single women was all we had in common.


The friendship was built around a shared situation rather than underlying compatibility. Our attitudes to life and our way of dealing with the world around us was vastly different. We were worlds apart. In the time since my marriage breakdown, I had also undergone cancer treatment, nursed my ex partner through his cancer until he died, navigated the return of my cancer. With each challenge I faced, I saw opportunities for me to grow and heal. Victim was not in my vocabulary. I had become brave and fearless. And I had a strong desire to surround myself with others who lived and thought the same way. Many friends became a casualty of the new direction I was taking.


Within my heart, I really felt that I had outgrown this friendship. The more time I spent in the company of my old friend, the more I felt the gap between us widen. Over time, I no longer enjoyed our conversations, I made few attempts to meet up, I delayed responding to her texts, I made constant excuses that I was too busy to accept her invitations to socialise.


When it finally became apparent that I was distancing myself from her, she began to pursue me more vigorously, refusing to let go. I recall a time in high school when we were engaged in a phone conversation. There came a point when complete silence filled the space between us and so I said, "Okay well, I'm going to go. I'll speak to you tomorrow.". To which she replied, "Don't you want to talk to me any more?" The conversation had long ended, but she didn't want to hang up the phone. Didn't want to let go. Now, all these years later, when it was clear that our conversation had ended, she was still reluctant to 'hang up' and let me go.


For those of you who have been left bewildered and heartbroken by the loss of a friendship, there is a path to healing.......


How to Heal When You've Lost a Friend

  1. Acknowledge your pain. First, know that your grief is normal. Loss is loss.

  2. Practice self-care. That includes looking to see if there is a pattern that repeats itself often in your life, signalling that deeper levels of healing are needed. Self-care also means not continuing to pursue a friend who has made it clear that they're not interested in you - self-respect and self-worth come into play here. Instead, place yourself in the company of people who love and respect you, and want to lift you up.

  3. Avoid rumination. When people ruminate, they over-think or obsess about situations or life events. Ruminating can take you to dark places and cause you to create scenarios that move you away from the truth and into the negative stories you've always told yourself. You might also create a multitude of stories around the motives of the friend who you feel abandoned you, when in fact, it's simply a case of life taking you in different directions. In fact, research has shown that rumination is associated with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more - all the more reason to avoid going there.

  4. Talk to someone. It's healthy to share your hurt with friends who want to listen. The operative word here is "listening". Be wary of falling into the trap of playing blame games. Friends often support you by reinforcing the belief that you have been "wronged", rather than helping you see the bigger picture. The funny thing about empathy is that your friend may have had a similar experience, and if they haven't resolved their own feelings of rejection, they will reinforce your negativity on the basis of their own wounded ego-self.

Bottom Line?


I said it before, and I'll say it again..... friendships coming to an end is a natural part of life, and it often happens because one person feels they have outgrown the friendship. As hard as it might be to accept, realise that it's nothing personal, or be honest enough to ask yourself some hard hitting questions about deeper issues that need to be addressed within you. And finally, love yourself enough to know your worth. Make a choice to only surround yourself with those people who want to be in your life and value the contribution you make to their lives. Friendships, like all partnerships, should aid your growth in some way. So accept. Forgive. Heal. Move on.


 


From Shadows to Light


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