I’ve had this post in my drafts for a couple of weeks but hesitated publishing it for fear of what you guys might think of me for suggesting that you should perhaps breakup with your BFF. I felt compelled to write about this subject because of something that was going on in my personal life but I was afraid you might see me as a bit cold and heartless once I presented my experiences to you. Last night, I dreamt about the person that inspired me to write this article so I am taking it as a sign that I should just share my stories in the hopes that they might help guide you on your own path.
As you have guessed from the title of this post, I am talking about breaking up with a friend. This is not about romantic relationships as there is already plenty of love life advice out there. Information on managing a “friendship transition” however is a little harder to find. Allow me to start with a disclaimer that I don’t see friendships as disposable.
My friends are the most important people in my life with my family and boyfriend and I don’t know what I would do without them. That said, I have also learned over the years that you aren’t doing anyone any favours by sticking with a pal that you are no longer compatible with. Since I am an organized Virgo I like to break things down in a clear, easy to digest manner so let’s dive into this complex topic by picturing different scenarios:
Scenario #1: Life happens and then your friendship doesn’t
Sometimes, life just brings two people in completely different directions. For example, I had a BFF that I went through university with but once school was over, I moved to the big city, got a high powered (sort of) job while she decided to stay in the burbs and not work in the field that we had studied in. She eventually had kids (I don’t think children are for me) and we were just in totally different places. We didn’t have enough in common for our friendship to have a strong foundation. This was a gradual, natural “break-up” where we just drifted apart and were both okay with that.
Scenario #2: You realize that you and your BFF see life in totally different ways
Just as life evolves, so do we and with that, our way of seeing life can change as well. I had been quite close to a girlfriend since high school when I started to realize that every time we spoke I would feel frustrated and discouraged. She seemed to be making decisions that would clearly bring her unhappiness (ex: dating married men) and despite all of us trying to guide her away from these self-destructive habits, she didn’t follow our advice and would always end up coming back to us in tears needing a shoulder to cry on.
I am all about being there for your friend when she/he is in a crisis but the problem was that she could tell that I had issues with her way of living and she started to feel judged (I have to admit I kind of was judging her at the time). One day, I received an email from her saying that she thought it would be best if we parted ways. I couldn’t have agreed more with her and so we wished each other well and concluded our friendship in the most loving way possible. In this case, I believe it was a question of clashing values that made our friendship incompatible. When we were younger, life was simple and we didn’t really think of these things but as adults we started making important choices that affected other people and that’s when the rubber hit the road.
Scenario #3: the friendship has become a one-way street
Just like in love, the saying “it takes two to tango” also applies to friendships. If one person is doing all the giving and the other the other all the taking, the relationship is out of balance. Here are two different examples of what I mean:
When I started working at my first real job after university, I became friends with an intern that was a pretty cool girl. She was fun, bubbly and always brought great energy wherever she went. We would go out and have a blast. We even went on trip together to Dominican Republic and it was one of my most memorable vacations.
I eventually moved on from that company which made it a little harder for us to get together. I would call her to catch up or try to plan an activity but it would take days (sometimes weeks) before I heard back from her. When she did commit to doing something, she would cancel at the last minute leaving me hanging.
At first, I didn’t think much of it but as these experiences accumulated, I started getting frustrated and wondered how valuable our friendship was to her. She would say “Oh I am so bad at maintaining my friendships!” but to me that was a cop out to not make the effort to stay connected. Years passed, she got married and had a baby, which of course only reinforced her “absentee friend” status.
One day I realized that I was the only one putting energy into the relationship and that it wasn’t fair to me. It left me feeling rather unimportant as a friend even if I knew she loved me very much. I chose to focus on my other friendships and with time she understood this and respected my decision.
On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, I have a girlfriend that has the biggest heart in the world and makes me feel like she values our friendship more than anything. Despite having a crazy hectic life (at one point she was a working mom with a very demanding job AND doing an MBA at the same time!) she has always showed me how important I am in her life.
She has made the effort to stay in contact with me, always remembers the important milestones (birthdays, interviews, new jobs, first dates) and shows that she genuinely cares. We both want to maintain this precious friendship even though our lives are quite different and it can be difficult to find time to see each other. The love is there and we both put in what is needed to keep the relationship going.
Scenario #4: Your energies are no longer compatible
I know this one might seem a little “woo woo” but trust me when I say that even though you might not believe in energies, they are definitely at work in your friendships, work relationships and basically every encounter you have with another person. I am very sensitive to people’s energy. If you are in a bad mood, have PMS or just generally adopt a negative attitude, I can feel it a mile away. I usually try to steer clear of bad vibes but was confronted to a difficult situation when a person in my life that was very dear to my heart turned out to be a negative Nelly.
We had been through so many things together, from break-ups to burnouts and were always there for each other in our darkest moments. Our bond was created over negative situations but eventually I decided to move out of Dramaville and she chose to unpack and live there.
Through spiritual reading, therapy, changing the circumstances that were making me unhappy and consciously choosing to see the good in my life I became a different person and started seeing things in a much more positive way. She however, would continue to rant on every time we met up. She would focus on all the bad things that were happening to her and would turn what was supposed to be a pleasant get together into a negativity shit storm.
When we parted ways, it was like I had literally got slimed with bad energy. She had dumped all her frustrations on me and I was left feeling crappy and totally drained. Although she still holds a place in my heart, I prefer to spend my time with non-toxic friends and I truly hope that some day she can see that she has a choice in what she focuses on and how she sees life.
Now, before you jump the gun and start going through a mental list of your friends to see if anyone needs to get the bums rush, I want to add an important side note. It’s super important to make sure that you are breaking up with a friend for the right reasons. In the past, I have decided to eliminate certain people from my life simply because they hurt my feelings or disappointed me. Because I was afraid to confront them, I would choose to push them out of my life rather than sit down with them and tell them what was bothering me. This was the wussy way out and I later regretted losing some of those friends.
You might also be thinking “Wow, this girl has gone through a lot of friends!” and you know what? You are right. I think I only just realized this now as I write these last few lines. As much as I have been lucky in love, meeting good guys and having healthy romantic relationships, I have had my share of challenges on the friendship side. That said, every friend that has come into my life has taught me an important lesson whether I realized it at the time or only years later.
Know that some friends will gravitate around you for a lifetime and others will drift in an out and that is totally okay. Take each encounter as a learning experience and treat the other person with love and compassion. When you feel like it’s time to go and that the friendship has run its course, respect that too. Not all friendships are meant to last forever. As one of my dad’s favourite songs goes:
Know when to hold ‘em
Know when to fold ’em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run