This year, I found myself in a situation where a decade-long friendship ended abruptly, and I wasn’t sure why. No big blow up or argument – just radio silence. The occasional texts back and forth, meet ups and annual events we shared together, and likes on my social media posts from her had become a distant memory.
Have you ever had a close friendship end or cool down abruptly and not sure why?
When the communication stopped with my friend and the messages that I sent to her either came back with a generic reply or no reply at all, it hurt initially. Our lifestyles had changed a bit and she didn’t live close by anymore, but that hadn’t stopped other friendships I had before. I saw her posting often on social media, enjoying times with other friends and liking everyone else’s posts, so it was clear. I was the one she was moving on from.
In the past, when a friendship abruptly cooled down or ended altogether, I would ruminate about it incessantly – trying to figure out what went wrong and why it ended the way it did. I would trace back my steps and playback conversations to find hidden clues.
I would think to myself, did I say the wrong thing or do something that would be harmful enough to end a long-time friendship? Wasn’t it worth it to let me know her thoughts? Was our friendship really one that deserved to be ghosted?
But then I realized with so many hard things going on in society today, time is more precious than ever. Now being some years older and wiser, what I learned from this experience is if a close friend doesn’t want to be my friend and be close anymore – for whatever reason - then why hold on hoping they will come back?
Now I look at things differently and respect a friend who has decided to move on for whatever reason. In my book, friendships are a two-way street and should be mutually satisfying and make us feel good to be in each other’s lives and be accepted as we are.
This is important because especially in mid-life, we only have so much time to spend outside our regular responsibilities.
Here are four things that helped me move on quicker from this friendship ending:
Accept that some friendships are meant for a reason or season. What once may have looked like a relationship that would last a lifetime – sometimes friendships are only meant for a season or a specific reason. You may not realize that until after it ends like in my case, but it’s ok if it lasted shorter than originally thought. There are many reasons why a relationship cools down or ends. Sometimes a friend can’t even have the “It’s not you, it’s me” conversation to end it because there are bigger issues they are dealing with...or not. I’ve learned to accept things as they are, not as I think they should be.
Focus on the positive memories of the friendship, instead of how it ended. While you may be hurt by your friend’s withdrawal, I found that wishing the best for that person who was once a close friend in your life, is the better way to go then feeling hate toward them. When you think of that person on occasion, remember the good times and send them light and love. Like the scene in the movie Eat Pray Love when Julia Robert’s character had a hard time letting go of the guilt she had after breaking up her marriage, she imagines being with him again on her wedding day and what she would say to him now.
As he tells her he still misses and loves her, she says to him, go ahead and love and miss me. “Send me light and love every time you think of me and then drop it. Because it won’t last forever, nothing ever does.” I loved that she was saying it was ok to still love and miss me, but then let it go. Let your feelings be of love, not of hate anymore when you think of me. I did something similar after my own divorce in dealing with my ex-husband. I wrote him a letting go letter after our divorce decree came in the mail and it was such a healing feeling to no longer feel hate but to know that we both could move on in a healthy way. That gave me what I needed to truly heal from my divorce and meet the true love of my life one month later.
Keep a cooled relationship going with small gestures. Maybe you or your friend are going through a difficult season (or both at the same time) and want to keep the friendship going but don’t have much time to give to it. Just like a plant, you cannot stop watering it and think it will stay alive. A friendship is similar in that it needs some nourishment now and again, to keep it going.
Some examples include sharing emojis, reaching out on social media, sending a quick thinking-of-you text, remembering them on their birthday or holiday, sending a card in the mail or other small gestures. These gestures especially matter when the relationship was one that was close and intertwined and now the rhythm changed.
Use the open time to cultivate new friendships or revisit past ones. I found that one of the best benefits of a close friendship ending is that it freed up time for new or rekindled ones to come in. There is now room to pursue new friendships with others who are open to it as well. In this past year, I was able to use that open time to pursue deeper connections and fun times with friends at work, meet more often with friends who I liked and wanted to get to know better but didn’t have the time, or revisit older friendships that we hadn’t met recently but have now rekindled and see on a semi regular basis.