An extraordinary person once said, “Friends should bring you joy.” Oh wait! That was me! And that is the barometer I use when nurturing my own friendships.
I’ve been researching this question, and asking men and women alike whether it’s okay to break-up with an old friend. What are the signs that a friendship has lived past its shelf life? Do we sort through our contact list in the same manner as we do our closet? And if so, how can we give away the friends who no longer fit us?
The stories I’ve collected about friendships that haven’t aged well seem as varied and colorful as my nephew’s sock drawer. I’ve heard about friends who are selfish, critical, disrespectful, and dramatic. I’ve heard the word “draining” more often than I thought possible. People shared that their friends were lying losers; that they were unreliable; that they were gossips; that they were jealous; or just plain mean. The stress I observed when listening to these tales was palpable; volume raised, and fists clenched. I’m no psychic, but I’m going to predict that not a single one of these friendships was the slightest bit fulfilling.
Friends should bring you joy.
If you are considering dumping an old friend, I’m here to help. First, give some thought about whether you simply want to end the friendship versus whether you’re actually ready to do it. If you’re on the high-dive, toes perched over the edge, I’m going to suggest two very different ways to end up in the water.
THE DIRECT CONFRONTATION:
Arrange a meeting at a specific time and place. Tell “Kate” that the purpose of the meeting is to talk about your friendship — where it’s been and where it’s going. When you are face-to-face, start the conversation by telling Kate that she will have an opportunity to respond once you’re finished, but that you request she not interrupt you and you will afford her the same courtesy. When it’s your turn, listen. You might be surprised at what you hear. And if you desire to maintain the friendship after all, this is the perfect time to set some new boundaries. Then stick to them! On the other hand, if your conviction remains firm to dump her, be sure to do it nicely. Tell Kate (and this is really important) that while you value the history you once shared, it is better for you to leave the past in the past.
You can let the relationship fade organically. First, STOP INITIATING THE CONTACT. Don’t return calls or texts unless absolutely necessary, and then, only after the third attempt to reach you has been made. Decline invitations by making vague excuses (“Um — that’s not gonna work for me”). If you run into the person, talk about the weather. Or the Lakers.
As your Mediator, I feel compelled to end with something for you to think about. If the friendship no longer brings you joy; if it’s being sustained only out of history or out of habit, please give yourself permission to grow apart. It happens.