When a Friendship Ends

“When a friendship ends, people don’t always give it the same amount of thought that they do relationships. With an ex-boyfriend, there are discussions of bad timing or different expectations. But most of the time, friendships end in a different way — slowly, and without declaration. Usually people don’t really notice until a friend has been gone for a while and then they just say they grew apart, or their lives became too different.” ~Jennifer Close (The Hopefuls).

235571-oI’ve given it a lot of thought, this idea of endings. Obviously every relationship has a beginning. These starts are generally demarcated by introductions or shared initial moments. They are definite. Sometimes only one person remembers the exact particulars, and sometimes neither one does, but you do remember when you weren’t friends. Then something shifted.

But endings — well, they do tend to be gradual among friends. At least that’s what I’ve noticed. One friend can’t make a lunch date on a Tuesday. Two weeks later the other one is too busy to take a phone call. Before you know it so much time has gone by since you even texted each other that now it would seem a bit awkward to text out of the blue. So it stretches on. Then when you’re relaying a story to someone else later, a memory of the two of you, you realize it’s all in the past tense. The entire relationship. That it has all been in the past for quite some time.

Don’t get me wrong. Not all friendships are created equally. That’s just the nature of the beast. Some friends are meant to be transitory, to fill a void in your life at a particular time when you need someone there, then they’re gone. Sometimes you’re that friend for someone else. Most times you both know it, but you go with it because it’s beneficial for everyone involved. Those can be very sweet friendships. But other friends seem like they’re in it for the long haul, so what happens to derail them?

It’s honestly a combination of a few things, in my opinion. A good friend needs to be 1) a good listener, 2) able to be empathetic, and 3) there in times of need. And it needs to be reciprocal. You can’t expect these 3 things from someone else and not be willing and able to give them in return. It’s this last part that I think dooms so many friendships because they end up being lopsided. One person gives and gives, the other takes and takes, and there’s never any time for reciprocity.

Beware when you’re the friend who is always there for others because you’ll get that label and it will stick with you. When others befriend you it will be because they need something from you, because they know you’ll be a good friend to them. And you will, because you’re the giving type of person. But eventually you will need something, and others won’t be there, because they don’t know how. Because you’ve allowed them to be takers for so long that they don’t even know where to begin when it comes to giving.

See, it’s those friendships that are reciprocal, the one when both friends give and take equally, that last for a long time.

I’m not saying it’s your fault you’re such a good friend, but usually those kinds of friendships end when you stress the point, when you need them and they’re not there for you. It can be devastating when the realization hits that your entire support system is built on yourself as the sole support. It’s true that we need others in order to be stable, healthy human beings. No one is exempt from that.

So they disappear, or you are the one who vanishes, stuck in the cycle that can’t possibly sustain itself. See, it’s those friendships that are reciprocal, the ones when both friends give and take equally, that last for a long time. Those are the easy ones, where both friends ask how the other is doing more than just dropping more drama on each other. It’s so much easier to be there for each other than to simply expect the other friend to always be there for you, and not expect the same in return.

When a friendship ends someone is left holding the torch. Either it’s you, or it’s the person on the receiving end of your ambivalence. Everybody needs friends, people you can lean on when the going gets rough, but who are also just there for you when you need to share good news, or you need a piece of advice. We all need a pick-me-up in the middle of a particularly difficult day, an ear that will always listen to us, yet someone objective enough to always tell us the truth, even if we might not want to hear it.

When a friendship ends there is a fracture in the system of our lives, whether we know it or not. I often think of those who have disappeared, those who used to wander these halls with me but who have now moved on to new halls in new buildings in their lives. And I don’t blame them. It takes two. They just weren’t ready to be that second person. They weren’t equipped to be that two-way street. And it’s okay. I need people in my life who are.




e874e2c0f6cbd5968fdbf3067198b666“True friends know your deepest, darkest secrets, but they never hold them against you. They listen while you breathe, and they breathe with you.” ~Theodicus

I think listening has become a lost art form along the lines of hieroglyphics and cubism, as neglected in the 21st century as html language and refrigerator school. And I wonder why, with all we know about how effective listening can be to ourselves and to others, that we continue to go in the opposite direction. Everyone is all about talking now. Indeed, blogging can turn into just that, a way to talk and talk some more without having to listen to anyone else, but it can also be a give-and-take, which is how it was intended. I like to listen.

This morning I had a conversation with a friend of mine about just what I was talking about on here, regrets, and the future. She told me, among other things, that one of the reasons we all have regrets is because life shows us so many alternatives after the fact, like Monday morning quarterbacks, and school is so expensive it’s backwards to try and go back after we realize the degrees we have just aren’t yielding jobs. But best of all she listened to me as I spelled out exactly what I felt wasn’t working, and exactly how I was feeling, emotionally and whatnot. She listened while I spilled everything out there, while I sighed and frowned, and while I eventually exhaled after all that talking.

See, that’s the key to real friendship, those friendversations where one friend can say his piece and the other can listen, because we all need those times. Then the shoe can be on the other foot, and the friend who was talking can be still and listen while the other unloads. It shouldn’t be all give and no take, neither should it all be a time to just bitch and moan about everything that’s going wrong in your life. It should be a time for structured listening, for each person to hear what the other has to say, to acknowledge it, and to give support. That support piece is another thing that’s missing too much these days. We aren’t looking for agreement when we talk, just for someone to be there, to show they care, and to offer their own opinions upon reflection.

So find some friends who will breathe with you because they’re rarer these days than a real Monet.


The Friendship Archive

A Real Friend Is…

  • love-friendship
    friend love is real love

    there for you when you aren’t even there for yourself

  • never blind to your faults but loves you in spite of them
  • always willing to compromise
  • someone who listens, even when you keep saying the same thing
  • never disposable
  • comfortable to be around
  • a formidable ally when you are in trouble
  • not perfect
  • a person with feelings, so treat them well
  • someone who helps you remember the important things
  • proud of even your smallest accomplishments
  • never too far away when you need them
  • always conscious of your feelings
  • worth more than gold
  • never just an accessory
  • always looking out for your best interests
  • someone to take goofy pictures with
  • a veritable fount of memories
  • forgiving, even if sometimes it takes a bit of begging
  • someone you should never take for granted
  • the family you choose for yourself
  • someone who doesn’t keep score
  • never “just” a friend
  • unconditional


The Friendship Archive

Friends Forever

Who would have been friends with this guy?
Remember your high school yearbook where everyone, even the people you hardly ever talked to, just had to write in it and tell you how  absolutely amazing it was being your “friend” in school? And you were so excited because even though they hadn’t really been your friend, you knew you would be able to look at the yearbook 20 years in the future and “remember” fondly that they were. Even I have some of those memories based on what people wrote in my yearbooks, even though I hardly had any friends in high school. The famous phrase other kids liked to put down (and still do) is “Friends Forever!” But what did that really mean then, and what does it mean now, 20 years later?

Think about the food you loved most in the world 20 years ago. Got that firmly in your mind? Now, imagine somebody told you that the food you loved then would only be available for another week, and then you would never be able to eat it again ever. What would you do? Eat it as often as possible, gorging yourself on it like it was going out of style, because it was? Stop eating it as soon as you could to try and ease the pain of having to go cold turkey when a week came due? Or eat it just as much as you always did — no more, no less — until it ceased to be available? That’s exactly how your concept of Friends Forever turned out, whether you knew it or not.

First, there were those people who thought they could make those high school friendships last forever by packing in a ton of memories before everyone went their separate ways. They organized the barbecues, the brunches, the parties, and the after-parties one after the other until you felt like you were going dizzy from being so many places at once. Then graduation came, you went your separate ways, and you always have the yearbook thoughts. Then there were those people who disappeared near the end of senior year, completely focused on college or whatever lay beyond, who phased you out because it would be too hard to do it at graduation. Lastly, there were those who stayed exactly as they were until the time came due to separate.

And ever, and ever!

Because that’s what inevitably happened. You separated. And don’t get me wrong, I know there are some people who definitely have friends from high school still in their lives 20 years later who are just as good friends as they were then. I do not negate your experience, but indeed I celebrate it, because it is not the norm. My wife fits into that category, having grown up from a very young age with her best friend, and they are still as close as white on rice, but even she recognizes the rareness of the air they inhabit. So, the idea of “Friends Forever!” becomes more of an idea than a reality. After high school we grow up, and we grow apart, which is okay.

That’s why when you do come together again 20 years later, it’s nostalgia, but it’s also a rediscovery of the people you were and the people you’ve become. And maybe you realize that you were better friends back then than you thought, or perhaps you understand yourself more now and you give someone a chance to be your friend that you never would have back then. That’s where social media can be a great tool to keep up the idea of truly being Friends Forever. The ability to be halfway across the world from each other and to still see each other face to face (Skype, etc.) or to have long, incredible conversations that don’t cost a fortune (unlimited talk through cellphones, or Facebook chat, etc.) is an amazing resource that connects and reconnects.

I was going through one of my high school yearbooks yesterday and I came across just such a missive. “You are such a cool dude, even if you are a wack dog. Stay cool. Friends Forever.” And I wonder if that guy would even remember me now if we crossed paths on the street. But that’s okay. I know what the phrase really meant, and I know the sentiment with which it was written. That’s good enough for me. Right back at you, wack dog. Friends Forever.


The Friendship Archive

The Friend Rediscovery


My daughter has several little friends, AND a best friend. Shhh. Don’t shout too loudly for joy. You might jinx it. Newly turned seven, so I guess no longer a baby (though she’ll always be my baby), but it still boggles my mind. I mean, she can be a bit of a control freak (like her father), and she can get really agitated when she doesn’t get her way (like her father). She even has a really hard time adjusting to change (like her father). So it amazes me (in a very good way), that despite being so much like me, she has still engendered herself to other human beings who like her for who she is. But then again, I’ve always known she was amazing (like her father).

You see, I had one friend growing up, one and that was it. I was dreadfully shy and a bit of a nerd (I loved the library, and figuring out the lowest common denominator). But there was this one kid who didn’t seem to mind any of that: Robert. Because I was pretty introverted, he had to do most of the talking when we were together, but he didn’t seem to mind. Maybe that’s why the friendship maintained itself, because I didn’t get in the way by talking.

Anyway, we were in the same grade in school, and we didn’t live too far away from each other (it was easy to ride shotgun to his house in the old Chevy Nova). Indeed, when he and his mom moved to a new house, my family even moved into his old one. It was almost like I was him, just a little later. Even though we were in the same grade in school, he was nearly a year older than I was, so he would impart to me knowledge about life and girls (he still does). It took me 30 years to realize he didn’t know what he was talking about.

But, as happens with childhood friendships way too often, we drifted apart. He went into the armed forces, I went off to college, and we just lost touch. I’ll admit I was caught up in so much the world had to offer that I didn’t even miss his companionship for a long time. I mean, he was a world away, and I got caught up in the crowd. But things have a way of coming back around, and our friendship was one of those things.

When I got a Facebook account in 2008, little did I know all of the people who would crawl out of the woodwork to send me friend requests. So many people who hadn’t even been my friends when we inhabited the same general space were scrambling to earn a place in my life. It was ironic, honestly. But I accepted them one and all because you know how it was when you were the unpopular kid and how you craved the acceptance of the popular ones. Even if you didn’t want to be like them. Facebook was a good cure for that illness. Suddenly, anyone could be popular just because it was convenient to see their recommendations and friend request the previously friendless. I didn’t mind. At all.

But then Robert showed up as one of my friend requests, and finally there was the one person who had really been my friend from the start, the one guy who had been there for me through thick and then when no one else would give me the time of day. And those memories all came rushing back. J couldn’t believe I had let us lose touch like that, so casually. Because having him in my life wasn’t just the memories. We still had more to share and to help each other with. So I accepted his friend request. And I’m really glad I did. We caught up quickly, and I even traveled back to Philly to hang for a couple of days. It was like the old days, but at the same time it wasn’t. It was something new as well, getting to know each other as we are now. And we aren’t going to take that for granted again.

So I see my Alexa enjoying her little friends at her birthday party. I see her having disagreements but getting over them. I see her learning to take turns and talking on the phone with her buddies, and I’m reminded of how wonderful and grateful I am for her to have that. And I’m reminded of how I was given a chance to rediscover that for myself. And how good it feels.


The Friendship Archive

The Friend Analysis

So, I was talking with my therapist the other day about how I feel like I make friends easily, but they have the tendency to disappear. She said it might have to do with my intensity, and I recognized that for a truth right away. I do have a predilection for being loud, gregarious, spirited, energetic, etc. In short, I tend to overwhelm people, especially when I am first getting to know them. I realize my personality is over-the-top, and I think most people tend to enjoy that at first, which is why I make friends rather easily. But then, after a while, I think it’s probably tiring to keep up with me and my Energizer Bunny personality, so they drift away. And here I was blaming them for it when it was me all along. Isn’t that always the way? My therapist also said that maybe I need to re-evaluate what I expect from a friendship so I’m not over-sharing and making people flee (my words, not hers). I agree, so like with everything else, I will post my expectations here. Someone I would consider a friend is:

1. Willing and able to go toe-to-toe with me when I’m in zany mode, or at least willing and able to tolerate me when I’m in that mode. You see, if someone can get past that part, I do have other levels to my personality that shine through at times. And of course I’m also proud of my personality, so it can’t be a disgruntled tolerance. That’s not real tolerance. It would actually be a bonus if they could appreciate the quirkyness. It’s tough to find people who aren’t quirky who appreciate the quirkyness, though.

2. Ready to be spontaneous, because while I love making and keeping plans, I also like to be surprised, and to be surprising. Getting little gifts and doing little things for my friends “just because” is one of my joys. The problem is when the friend feels like they have to reciprocate. If they just wanted to spontaneously do something for me, or get me something, that’s fine. But I think animosity builds up when they think they are beholden because I got them something or did something for them.

3. Available to spend “just chillin'” time with me on occasion. And here’s where the disconnect starts, according to my therapist. While I consider “on occasion” to be at least once a week, it seems that most others think it means something more amorphous, so if I didn’t see them for six months, that was cool and acceptable. But for me, six months is an eternity. I mean, they’re friends for a reason. I want to spend time with them. I don’t know if I could get on board with the six month thing. I guess I subscribe to the theory of making time for things that are important to you, and I can’t reconcile that much time between.

4. Ready to communicate. Now, I don’t mean we have to be in constant contact, but even a text message here and there is better than absolute silence. Or if I send a text message to a friend, I like to get some kind of response, even if it’s a short one, or even a generic one. I guess I just like contact of some kind. Maybe I’m old-school with my idea of a friend in this way, but I would think in this information age, with phones at our fingertips, why not? I will sometimes send short quotes of the day to my friends just to brighten their worlds.

5. Willing and able to talk about serious issues. Sometimes we all need a chance to vent, and I think friends are there for you when you need that. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re a burden on your friend because you’re always talking about how your life sucks, or something else depressing in your world. But that’s what friends are for, to be there for us, in the good times and the bad. So, that means share all your positive things as well. That way you won’t feel guilty (even though you shouldn’t anyway) when you unburden yourself.

6. Willing and able to give the support needed. We all need to vent (see: 5), but sometimes that’s all we need, someone who will listen to us, and let us get it out. Other times, though, we are looking for advice. And what is a friend better at than giving advice?  Because they know us, they know our tendencies, and they know how our minds work. That’s why we talk to them about our issues in the first place. So, when we need advice, they are there with that sound knowledge we are looking for.

I definitely realize, after typing up that list, that I am asking for a lot from a friend, and so many people these days are looking for something a lot more loosely defined when it comes to friendships. In fact, what I see so many people calling friendships look to me a lot like just acquaintances. See, it IS all in the way we define the essence of friendship, and I’m glad I came up with my definition so I can refer to it when seeking new friends. If you don’t already know yours, you should come up with your own definition too, so you’re not devastated when you find people who don’t fit the bill. That’s okay. There are other friends for you out there.


The Friendship Archive

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