Earlier this year I got unfriended on Facebook. By a person I had been close friends with since childhood. There was no explanation, no catalyst for the unfriending. And I haven’t heard from her since.
I had noticed that I hadn’t seen any updates from her on my newsfeed for a little while. When I clicked over to her profile, I was surprised to see that the reason that I hadn’t heard anything was because I had been unfriended. On closer look both her and her husband had unfriended me and my husband. I just had a friendship ended on Facebook.
If there is anything that texting and social media has done to communication, it has allowed us to not deal with our problems head on. After all, it is a whole lot easier to simply end a relationship over social media or text rather then actually confront the problem. But there is nothing more hurtful then sending the message to a person that you don’t even value the relationship enough to even have a phone conversation about it.
I have to admit that I wasn’t entirely surprised. Ever since this friend had gotten married she had changed and the relationship had changed. And after I told her about my engagement things got even more weird. She just wasn’t the same person that I had been friends with for years and some of her actions in the time surrounding my wedding really stung. I wasn’t really sure where our friendship stood and the next year passed with me hearing very little from her.
There was part of me that had known for a while that our friendship was coming to a close. But I was mad, then sad, then even more mad, that she had chosen to cut me off completely. Unfriending sent the message that she no longer wanted me to be part of her life or even know what was going on in it.
These last two years have really sucked on the friendship front. There is part of me that hates looking at our beautiful wedding reception painting that everyone signed because there are people that came to our wedding that are no longer in our lives or with whom the relationships are just not the same anymore. There are even times that I wish I could paint over some of those people, to erase them out of my life like they erased me out of theirs.
Sometimes Friendships Change
It hurts, it hurts a lot when a friendship ends. And unfortunately I’ve had more then my share of friendships ending. Most of them have faded out in a whimper, a natural progression of the end of a stage of life. Leaving college meant some of those friendships never continued. Then I moved out of the country for grad school. And moved back. I left a job with coworkers I was close to. I got engaged. I got married. I moved to a new city. We left the church my husband had been going to for six years and I had been for two years. I wrote more about these transitions and moving on last year in this post.
Life changes and friendships change. Transitions are frequently the cause of petered out friendships. It may become clear that all you had in common with your work friends, was well, work. And if you leave a community or a location, suddenly it becomes more of an effort to connect with the people you’ve left behind.
I also have been in the unfortunate position of being the initiator in a lot of my friendships over the years. It is a constant frustration and as a result, when I give up on being the person who is always reaching out, usually it means that I am giving up on the friendship as well.
Is This Friendship Worth Saving?
Change doesn’t have to mean the end of a friendship. When you move, it doesn’t have to be the end of all the friendships from where you used to live. When you have children, it doesn’t mean that those friends without children just don’t belong anymore. And conflict or time apart doesn’t have to be the kiss of death. While some friendships come to their natural end, some friendships are worth saving. But how do you determine the difference? Sometimes it is about more then how long you have been friends or how much you have personally invested in the friendship.
Is the friendship full of negativity? How do you feel after you spend time with them? Do you feel happy and empowered or drained and upset? Recently I made the decision to not engage in any one on one time with a person I used to consider a friend. Why? Because every recent interaction with this person has resulted in me feeling upset and angry. A person that doesn’t treat you with respect and kindness is not a friend. Neither is someone who is constantly criticizing or belittling you.
Is it a one sided friendship? We all go through stages in our lives when we need a lot of love from the people we care about and have very little to give. But a healthy friendship, although it will have some ebb and flow, needs to consist of both giving and receiving. It isn’t about keeping a balance sheet, but feeling like you are also on the receiving end of love, attention, and caring. If you are the one consistently doing the reaching out (whether by texting, calling, etc.) or making the plans to get together it can be easy to start to wonder if the other person has the same investment in the friendship that you do. And the likelihood is that they don’t.
Do you just not like them anymore? This one may sound a little harsh, but just like circumstances change, so do people. Whether you are the one that has changed, or they have, if your key values no longer match, it could be time to move on. Staying in a friendship because of obligation, even if they are a bad influence or their bad treatment of you has started to drive you crazy, is never a good choice. You are not obligated to spend time with people you don’t enjoy spending time with!
Dealing with the emotional backlash of a friendship ending
When I discovered that my friend had unfriended me on Facebook, I wasn’t sure how to react. Should I contact her and confront her about it? Should I just let it go and accept that the friendship had run its course? There were multiple angry conversations about it with my husband. There were some tears. Then I realized that after over a year of the friendship being in some strange limbo stage, it finally had closure. Not the closure that I really wanted, but closure.
I no longer had to dwell on why she did the things that she did in the months leading up to my wedding. Now of course, I had to deal with the fact that apparently she cared about our friendship so little that she was willing to end it on Facebook. And it can be hard not to take that personally, even if it likely had little to do with me.
I made the decision to simply let go of the friendship. I had already came to the conclusion before this even happened that we had grown apart. Yes, it was hard to leave behind years of history with a person, years of good memories. But the friendship had changed. And how she chose to end the friendship was only further evidence of this.
Here’s some tips for dealing with the grief from a friendship ending:
Feel those feelings. Just like any loss, you will go through the grieving process when a friendship ends. You might feel desperate to regain the friend, anger at how things ended, or sadness that you have lost a key person in your life. All of those feelings are normal and healthy. Allow yourself to feel them. Just do not address them with that person.
Express yourself. Have a conversation with another friend or your significant other. Journal your thoughts and feelings about the end of the friendship. Writing is a especially effective way to express exactly what is going on in your head without hurting another person. Use it as a way to have a conversation in the form of an unsent letter to your former friend.
Give yourself time. This is not the time to be considering applications for new friends to fill the void that this friend or friends left. It is okay to need time and space to recover from the end of a friendship and from hurt and broken trust if it was abrupt or nasty. Re-invest in the important relationships in your life. Use the space to get to know yourself, just like you would if you broke up with a significant other.
Move on. After you have processed your feelings, addressed them, and taken some time off from delving deep into friendship, it is time to move on. That doesn’t mean that you won’t still occasionally feel sad about the loss of the friendship or remember memories you had with them. It means that you deserve to find healthy friendships that feed you and make you feel loved and cared for. You don’t deserve to wallow in unforgiveness, bitterness, or sadness.
Let’s get real here: making friends as an adult is hard. And when you’ve been burned, betrayed, and felt like you’ve had your heart stomped on it’s even harder. But I’ve finally gotten to the point where I’m ready to find the friendships that I deserve and you will too. But that’s another blog post, so I’ll dive into that in the future.