“Someone asked if I knew you and a million memories flooded my mind. Then I said — I used to.” –Anonymous
The first time I read that quote I understood exactly the response, as if I had given it myself. Because I have. If you’ve ever experienced a break-up, you might have said the same. How else can you describe a severed connection to someone you once knew so well?
Our alliances arise from a variety of circumstances. They can be as simple as proximity or sharing similar interests. Their endurance can be brief or last a lifetime. Skim the surface or reach great depths. Some friends drift in and out of our lives almost without a sound or they enter and exit dramatically, at full volume.
But along this journey, almost all of us have lived through a close confidant sadly becoming someone we used to know. Even friendships we thought would last forever can collapse. Yet when that happens, we’re often left unsure of what to do. There aren’t many guidelines on how to initiate, respond or survive the process.
Why we hang on to friends who aren’t good for us
As we grow older, we need to confront the fact that not all of our friends still fit. It’s not unusual to hang on to relationships even when they’re no longer healthy. Or that simply have become annoying. Who doesn’t have the friend that makes you slightly cringe when you see their name on your phone? Why don’t we let go? There are a few common reasons:
- You’ve known each other for years
- You worry you won’t have any friends and think anyone is better than no one
- You feel like you’ve invested too much in the friendship to just walk away
- They helped you when you needed it and you’d feel guilty to let them go
- You hate conflict and would rather tolerate than confront a bad friend
But who we choose to call a friend is too important not to examine or leave to chance. We only have so much time. There are different levels of friendship but at the very least they should be based in goodness.
5 considerations when examining your friendships
The following observations might help if you’re considering your friendships and whether it might be time to let someone go:
- If you find you’re still struggling to connect with someone you no longer have anything in common with, it may be time to part. In today’s overbooked world, it’s hard enough to find space for genuine friends who deserve your attention.
- If you have a relationship with someone who makes you feel bad about yourself or leaves you feeling emotionally abused, ask yourself why you’re allowing this to continue? You deserve good friends. Don’t spend energy on those who aren’t.
- If you’re the one being discarded and you haven’t done or said something terrible, don’t take it personally. The same goes for feeling that you have to have a good enough reason to let a friendship go. Relationships end because people move on. Interests change. You don’t see each other much anymore. There are many reasons they expire but it doesn’t mean someone’s not worthy of friendship.
- The good news for those who avoid confrontation is that you don’t need to officially break up with a former friend. After a period of diminishing contact, it eventually will extinguish itself. Only if someone refuses to get the message will you need to be more direct.
- If it was a close relationship that ended, let yourself grieve. This is a genuine loss in your life. Appreciate the experience, what you may have learned and the memories you made together. Wish them well (even if only to yourself) and then let them go.
Losing a friend hurts at any age
I’ve been on both ends of a break-up. I was only 12 when my very best friend decided to cut me loose. We were inseparable but she was a year older and when she started junior high school, I was still in elementary. She now had seventh-grade friends and I was excluded. She told me that she was older now and couldn’t hang out with me. I was heartbroken and didn’t understand that she had outgrown me. And our friendship.
But it hurt just as bad when I lost a friend I loved a few years ago. We had shared many of the ups and downs of life, but it was often off-balance. I was the one who made the plans to get together. I was his support system when he needed encouragement or a place to vent. But it was rarely reciprocal. It became dysfunctional and he even began to blame me for his problems. I finally realized this was a burden I couldn’t continue to shoulder.
Making room for the true friends in your life
It’s been said that people come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. We just don’t always know which it will be. But I do know that every friendship I’ve had brought meaning into my life, even those that ended when the job did or when someone started seventh grade.
As women, we frequently feel responsible to nurture relationships, even when they no longer work for us. And we often attract needy people, which typically leads to one-way connections that we blame ourselves for if we can’t make them work.
Friends should never be taken lightly or for granted, but the truth is not everyone is good for us. It’s not easy to cut ties with someone we were once close with. But I also think as we grow older, we do become at least a little wiser.
Youth can afford to be more reckless with who or how they spend their time. But we now truly understand its significance. One advantage of age is the discovery that we need to regard life and time with more reverence now.
We don’t want to waste a single moment but we also know we need good friends. Life is short, yes. But we want it to be full as well.
This article originally appeared on the Worthy blog. Worthy is an online auction platform helping people sell unwanted jewelry in a smart, easy, secure way.