When it's time to let a friendship go
What we know is this:
Things change, even things so deep as belief systems, or love, or friendship. I’ve come to learn, especially in my adult years, that sometimes things fall away, and though it feels abrupt and shocking, nothing can stop it.
Knowing when it is time to let a friendship go is one of the most difficult parts of the ebb-and-flow of life. We forge friendships because they are good and because they help us. Friendships are based on love (hopefully) and we call them in just as we call in any other kinds of love: for reflection, for growth, for faith, and for expansion.
Sometimes, as things move and shift, friendships that once seemed anchoring and powerful will become the inverse of these things. They will become draining, unsafe, negative, uncomfortable. They might leave us tired after we spend time in them or leave us with a vague feeling of discomfort. Certain friendships may suddenly not be right for us anymore, and this phenomenon requires graceful navigation, the likes of which can only come with self-love, trust, and compassion.
When a friendship that you’ve built (for a short time or a long time) suddenly seems like it’s not working for you anymore, listen to this. Pay close attention to your body and how it reacts to spending time in this particular relationship. I’ve had friendships where after an hour or two of conversation, I feel exhausted, like I want to curl up right where I am and fall asleep for a few minutes. In other situations, I’ve noticed that spending time with certain people ignites anxiousness around my heart. I feel it in my center—a need for heightened protection, a desire to withdraw.
As women, workers, mothers, or lovers, we know that we don’t have time to waste on relationships that aren’t right for us. Instead, we want to invest, to plant, to cultivate, to grow. By loving ourselves and having boundaries, we can hold our space. The difficult side of this is that sometimes it comes to light with people who we’ve already let in, and then we have to let them out. This can be awkward or not; it depends on the situation. It is of utmost importance to give ourselves permission to do this. We can still be kind and uphold our own boundaries.
Letting go of a friendship does not mean that you won’t miss that person. In fact, you will probably always miss them, especially if the time you shared together was good and authentic. Just like with any loss, allow yourself to grieve it. Don’t beat yourself up for any reason, and remember that part of becoming your true self is allowing things to fall away. This is, in many ways, the definition of truth—it’s a process of illumination through elimination: only the core essences will remain.
Above all, remember to listen to yourself.
When things aren’t feeling right, they probably aren’t. If you are compromising yourself in ways that feel badly to you, it’s time to change something about that dynamic. Remember that with any belief system, the most important thing is to always ask questions and to allow fluidity even where things are anchored fastest. Freedom is yours, as long as you can allow it to move all around you, and to take with it whatever it needs.
Editor's note: this piece was originally published on September 28th, 2015. It has been one of our most popular articles and so we are publishing a reprise.