When a friendship ends

Teen daughter and mom hugging and smiling looking at camera

Girl, I could write endlessly on this topic. That’s how transient friendships can be, and how hard it sometimes feels when trying to maintain one with another female.

We are an awesome, glass ceiling shattering gender. We can also be unhelpfully hard on ourselves and even harder on each other.

At some point, you will encounter a friendship with another girl that sometimes inexplicably cools to the point that you go from being super close to barely being acquaintances. It’s a weird feeling, especially if it’s a gradual drifting apart, without any falling out.

And on that last point, there should never be a big falling out. As much as you can, daughter, try to live harmoniously with all God’s children. More (much more) on this particular topic later – it’s another blog post for another day.

Maybe you’ll be wiser and stronger than me, and when you experience the sting of someone pulling away, it won’t bother you. I’ve gotten better about it as I’ve gotten older, but I would be lying to tell you that when it happens now, the realization that I’ve been pushed aside doesn’t hurt. It absolutely does.

All I know to do in those situations is to look at my own behavior, and to break the cycle of this particularly insidious brand of girl-on-girl meanness.

On that note, when I’ve been the person who did the pulling away, here’s what I’ve done right (I think), and what I got wrong.

There’s really no good way of doing it, and I recognize that my approach isn’t for everyone. But I try to at least give people the courtesy of a conversation as to why. Note – this is not at all enjoyable, but I firmly believe it’s the right thing to do.

In this particular situation, an acquaintance was making a genuine effort to grow our friendship. I respected her for it, as she was practicing what we are all taught to do, i.e., “to have a friend, be a friend.” It’s a lot harder to put in the work and to put yourself out there than it is to sit around moping that you don’t have any friends.

I didn’t really feel a connection to her, and truth be told, she had some habits that kind of rubbed me the wrong way. When I tried the subtle “pulling away” tactic that most women use, it did no good. She kept texting me, inviting me to join her in activities, and trying to arrange gatherings between our families.

I felt super lousy saying no all the time, especially when she didn’t seem to be picking up on the social cues. Here’s where I did what I wish more women would, even though it wasn’t easy.

I suggested we meet up.

A mistake was that I had texted her a pretty clear message earlier about why I was pumping the brakes on us getting together any more.

Quick aside here. Generally, it’s a bad idea to text things that are sensitive, though sometimes the person freezes you out and it’s the only communication tool you have. In that scenario, never, ever forget the fact that it’s in writing and cannot be undone. It can be shared via screenshot and other means. Avoid doing this when you can. If you must text something that is difficult to convey, make for darn sure that you would be comfortable with anyone and everyone seeing it, because the moment you hit “Send”, there’s no taking it back.

Because of my frank text no doubt, when she met up with me, her body language was strongly communicating that she’d rather be anywhere else in the world besides this moment with me. Well, that made two of us. I took a deep breath, thanked her for being willing to meet with me, and shared as assertively but also as respectfully as I could what I needed to say.

That was a big deal for me, as I have spent so much of my life being overly apologetic, accommodating, and way too concerned with what other people think of me.

Again, another blog topic for another day, but I can’t even begin to tell you how freeing it is reach the point in life where you are really, truly ok with the fact that not everyone is going to like you.

I then did something else that is hard to learn. I kept my mouth shut, opened my ears and my heart, and actively listened while she talked. I sought to understand, not to reply. It was no picnic hearing her assessment of how I had made her feel, but I took it on the chin. After all, I was the one who had asked that we have an adult conversation.

We parted ways on as good of terms as could be expected when a relationship comes to an end that the other person did not see coming. I saw her socially a time or two after that, usually when there was a school-sponsored activity that brought our kids together. I would always take the initiative to go up to her, say hi and make a sincere effort to engage in a little small talk. It’s what I’d want someone to do for me if they had been the one that had essentially said, “Thanks for trying to be my friend, but I’m not interested.”

It was always sufficiently awkward, but again, I’d rather feel awkward briefly than to give somebody the cold shoulder just because I don’t know what else to do. That’s a cop-out, and I ask that you never, ever treat another girl or woman this way.

One more thing, and this is another hard one. As tempting as it may be to reach out to a mutual friend and ask if something’s up with the friend who is pulling away, please daughter, don’t do this. However well-intentioned you may be, likely driven by a desire to obtain closure from something that can feel abrupt and hurtful, there are just too many ways this can make an awkward situation worse.

One of the hardest life lessons I’ve had to learn (ok, I’m still learning it) is to be willing to exist in temporary discomfort.

You have to learn to overrule that innate “fight or flight” instinct that starts shouting from the inside out whenever anything feels amiss.

You can’t magically resolve every little unpleasant feeling or situation. You certainly cannot force relationships. Be thankful for what you enjoyed with that friend in that season, and then move forward.

Lastly, I hope if I’ve taught you nothing else, that you’ve learned above all else (after Jesus coming first, of course) to be self-aware. So many people are not, and that alone can perpetuate years and years of “Well I can’t stand her and it goes back to a long time ago and I can’t even remember how it all started exactly.” That’s not verbatim, but it’s for darn sure close to a conversation I had with someone on a girls beach trip many moons ago. Grudges are the worst, and when you can’t even remember why you have a beef with someone yet you still get all worked up when you see them?

Now that’s some foolishness ain’t nobody got time for and that none of us deserve.

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