Relationships

Have You Ever Had a Friendship Breakup?

friendship breakup

A few years ago…

…my son’s middle school friends mysteriously dropped him without explanation. Though devastated, he refused to talk about it no matter how gently I poked. But one day, after overhearing a rash of incoming prank phone calls through his closed door, he finally opened up. I held him in my arms, hot tears on my T-shirt. “You will find your people,” I told him.

As I consoled him, my thoughts traveled to my own soured friendships past. My last real falling out, I’d realized, had been about 20 years ago. With age comes wisdom, I figured, with a little bit of pride. I must have gotten better at vetting friends and no longer avoided conflict the way I did when I was younger. Maybe we all just eventually grow up — the rare perk of middle age!

But then a peculiar thing happened, as it often does when you think you have things all figured out. Life, that sly sneak, humbled me with the lesson that the more you learn, the less you actually know: In a brief whirlwind, I, too, lost a few friends mysteriously without explanation.

I came to think of it as Frexit.

And, boy, did it sting.

One friendship ended surprisingly abruptly when our children stopped being friends. Another few were slow drifts whose loss only came into sharper focus under the pandemic’s lens. And one couple, close friends whom my husband and I had known for over a decade, unceremoniously dropped us in a way I can only describe as Middle School Mean.

Making friends, I’ve realized, comes easily to me. It’s losing them I’m lousy at, even — and maybe especially — now.

I wish this could be a How I Got Over Them story. I wish I was one of those people who could shrug and say, Who cares? Their loss! But I’m the kind of person who stares out the window at the burst of birds flying together and apart and thinks, Why? I’ll puzzle over it while shampooing my hair. I’ll walk home from the grocery store singing a snatch of that Liz Phair song to myself, “And it’s true that I stole your lighter. And it’s also true that I lost the map. But when you said that I wasn’t worth talking to, I had to take your word on that.”

One friend loss in particular was impossible to get over because I’d hadn’t even realized I’d been ghosted.

Living in different cities, we were no longer in each other’s everyday orbit, but our decades-long friendship was warm and reliable with a magnet’s pull, like a dog who runs a thousand miles back to her family’s former home.

So assured was I of our bond, I corresponded one-sidedly with her for years, cheerfully keeping up for the both of us in unanswered texts and voicemails until one day, after passing milestones and the absence of a pandemic check-in, it finally sunk in: she doesn’t want to know me anymore.

To be fair, it wasn’t the first time she’d disappeared. She’s a free spirit and a bit of a flake. Forever losing her cell phone. Forever losing my number. The year after we both had gotten married, I had left countless messages with something big to share. When she finally resurfaced, I told her my news: I had had a baby.

“You are having a baby, you mean,” she said, her voice catching.

“No. I had a baby,” I told her nervously. “I have a little boy.”

An awkward silence gave way to tears.

“How could you have a baby without me?” she breathed.

“You stopped calling me!” I said, crying too. “I thought you didn’t want to be friends anymore.”

“How could you even think that, Rubisch?” she said.

We called each other by our last names, as though we were TV cops or people who played team sports.

Jones and I met in high school chemistry. I was the shy, new girl; the only freshman in a classroom of sophomores. She sniffed me out as studious, someone from whom, she later told me, she could cheat. She was the cool girl who dated the best friend of the boy I pined for from afar. There was something in it for both of us, I guess, but soon after, something sparked and we became inseparable.

We must have stood in front of a thousand mirrors getting ready for the concert, the party, passing the shared tube of frosty pink lipstick that practically crackled with mischief. We looked more like sisters than our own, actual sisters: pale skin, dark curls, blue eyes; suburban girls in thrift-store army pants and beat-up Converse sneakers.

The unspoken contract between us was that I would take care of her. I would be the responsible one who would help her navigate through life. She, in turn, would help molt my teenaged caterpillar into a less anxious butterfly. Hands tightly clasped, we pulled one other from girlhood into adulthood.

Our friendship made it through adolescence and the decades that followed. We went to the same college, danced at each other’s weddings and held each other’s children.

The last time I saw or spoke to her, she was in town for work and we talked and laughed so late into the night that she ended up forgoing her lux hotel and slept over.

But that was six years ago.

Now I don’t believe in Happily Ever After in romantic love — for me, that’s about hard work and renewed choice — but somehow when I meet a friend who makes my heart beat, I become giddy, like I found the other half of a winning lottery ticket. Friend loss is particularly wrenching, I feel, because it lacks the ritual of romantic breakups. In romantic breakups, we comfort ourselves with sad songs and movies (mine are Nothing Compares 2 U and all things Nora Ephron — I’m sure you have yours). We pull our friends around us like a weighted blanket to discuss our pros and our ex’s cons. It’s normal, even encouraged, to indulge in tear-smudged journal entries, tarot cards, pints of ice cream, wine and whine.

With friends, there are no such sad songs and routines. You might confide in a few people about this breakup but chances are, you ran in the same circles and can be met with embarrassment and loaded silence. A romantic breakup feels like grabbing a scalding pan from the stove with your bare hand — a searing pain that eventually heals and subsides. A friendship break is more of that creeping dull ache in your side that, although mostly ignorable, never fully goes away. There is secrecy and shame in admitting you were dumped by a friend. Even writing this right now, I’m imagining some of you reading it and thinking…what must be wrong with her?

My husband has bumped into the Middle School Mean couple a handful of times but I have not. He said they just pretend like nothing happened and gush about how much they miss us, as though we had moved to the last village on Earth without internet, and he just plays along.

But I can’t small talk and pretend we didn’t cry-laugh together on a thousand Fridays. Didn’t share years of parental worries, personal triumphs, work vents, takeout tacos, holidays, vacations. Didn’t expose our most vulnerable underbellies to one another on a weekly basis. I’m the kind of person who would run into them and say something so awkwardly grievous, I would play it on a loop for eternity. No, I needed to have a plan if and when I ran into them. A prophylactic retort-at-the ready, like George Costanza might. Because I want them to know that what happened was hurtful, but that I am okay.

My sister once told me about a Yom Kippur prayer, that, if not curing me of this friend loss heartache, certainly ameliorates and it is this:
I forgive you. I forgive me.

This is so simple but it stopped me in my tracks and I return to it often when I need it.
I forgive you. I forgive me.

For losing interest in you. For outgrowing me first. For anything offensive, annoying, deceitful or dumb thing either of us may have done or said. For just being our flawed, human selves.

I still haven’t run into those friends who dumped my husband and me and I don’t actually miss them, not anymore. I’m not going to lie: occasionally I’ll fantasize about them having, like, sudden onset couples alopecia. But in forgiving them and myself, I’m at peace with our break. We had a good run.

I did, however, figure out my George Costanza line.

I stumbled on it one day at random and it’s just the most shockingly ribald thing I could ever cook up. It’s nothing that can be published in an essay and I can’t even say it out loud without falling off my chair. I doubt I will actually say it if I do cross paths with them, but that’s ok. Just thinking of it grounds me, takes the thumb off the bruise. It’s exactly the kind of humor that would have once had us doubled and over and gasping, clutching each other in peals of laughter.


Lisa Rubisch started her career at MTV and now directs commercials and music videos for major brands at Park Pictures in New York. She also contributes writing to websites, anthologies and books, and has written other essays for Cup of Jo.

P.S. A small kindness I’ll never forget, and 11 reader comments on friendship.

(Illustration by Alessandra Olanow for Cup of Jo.)

  1. Melissa says...

    I’ve been dumped by a lot of so called friends.

    •My maid of honor ghosted me after my father died.

    •I lost a bunch of friends after my ex-husband and I separated. It was the most boring and amicable divorce but many people think divorce needs to have a tangible reason (infidelity, substance abuse, financial issues, etc) and it’s apparently contagious.

    •My ex SIL, who I had remained close with post divorce, decided that the best time to cease being my friend was when I lost a job I loved over 3 years ago. Super supportive.

    I have since forged healthier friendships with more stable people but I’m extremely cautious.

  2. Anne says...

    My best friend of 25 years and I have been slowly drifting apart over the last 4 years. I have always leaned to the left on political issues. She grew up in a Republican household and has always called herself an Independent. She has voted for both Dems and Republicans over the years. Until Trumpism, our minor political differences never got in the way of our very deep bond. I have always felt as though we were soul sisters. But just after Trump won in 2016 we met for lunch and I was completely stunned and shocked by her defense of him. She didn’t go as far as to say she voted for him but she continued to defend him. We have stayed in touch over the past 4 years but every time we get together, at some point, we begin to disagree over an issue. I can’t believe how different our belief systems have become. I’m having a terrible time relating to her or understanding her anymore and I am devastated by this feeling that I might not really like her anymore. I only have a few very close friends that I hold dear to my heart and losing her breaks my heart. I am very conflicted and unsure how to move forward with her.

    • Angeline says...

      So sorry to hear this, Anne. I feel your dilemma acutely because I’m in the same situation with family members, and it’s so hard to reconcile the dichotomy between the person you thought you knew — the decent human with similar values and beliefs as you — and the person they revealed themselves to be with their vocal support or endorsement or plain defense of Trump and his deplorable behavior. With your friend, I think you don’t really have to do anything per se — maybe just take a breath and focus more on taking care of yourself first. With time, and a little bit of luck, your feelings should become clearer and the right path forward for your friendship should naturally reveal itself too. Wishing you peace and clarity in these tumultuous times.

  3. owen says...

    ❤️

  4. Elise says...

    Please share your George Costanza line! I have scanned the comments to find it but can’t find it..

  5. Jenny says...

    I’ve been through a lot of friend breakups – most recently a new group that I’d grown close to that one day crossed the street to avoid me. And also a longtime friend group (15+ years) that ended because of an argument about driving home after a night of drinking. I wanted to call a Lyft, now I’m not in the group chat anymore. But the ones that hurt the most are the friends that get married, have kids, and slowly phase you out because you don’t have those things. There’s nothing worse than knowing you’re being phased out. This last year, I had to move during the pandemic to a new city – I long for good friends. If you have a good friend, hold on to them.

    • A says...

      I have been on the other end of this. As the first of my friends to get married I felt left out of things because I was married. Friendships didn’t end but they definitely shifted and did weaken for a time. We are not as close as we were in our twenties but after more than twenty years I know we do care about each other. I am not a hugely outgoing person and I tend to keep a very small circle of very close friends. This group are not my very close friends anymore but they are my old friends. They know the old me and the now me, we have seen each other grow up, we know each others histories and as painful as it was at the time, I’m so glad these friendships shifted and settled somewhere different rather than end.

  6. Anon says...

    Throwing this out there in case it helps anyone. Reading all of these ghostees and ghosters stories reminds me of attachment theory. If you want to understand any relationship better in your life, look up Attachment Theory. Anxiously attached people [likely ghostees] are direct, empathetic, actively seek/crave emotional connection, and are inherently insecure/afraid of losing our connections so we can act clingy. Avoidantly attached people [likely ghosters] are not direct (possibly to the point of being passive aggressive), have trouble advocating for what they need/want, keep themselves safe by “living on their own island”, and find emotional connection very scary. The more an Anxiously attached person reaches out, the more an Avoidantly attached person may view this as dangerous and not safe for them. I don’t think it’s a black and white issue and everyone is some degree of the different attachment styles, but for my dear, fellow ghostees: ask yourself how many people in your life are Avoidantly attached? I am Anxiously attached and after years of frustration I’ve found so much clarity by understanding attachment theory because I’ve realized how I’ve been inundated by Avoidants in my profession, my family, and friends. It’s been so difficult to learn that there’s a large portion of the population that emotionally processes so differently than I do that they may as well speak another language. It does help to explain why the people I love do things that I would Never do, especially when it comes to communication in relationships. People are wired differently, and by understanding our wiring better, we can create for ourselves some of the closure that we desperately needed but did not receive.

    • Margo says...

      Googling Avoidantly attached people right now!

    • Thank you. I will look into this

  7. Jessica Bell says...

    Wow did this post ever hit home. It’s something incredibly challenging as an adult to go through, and no one ever seems to really talk about it or recognize the impact of “friendship breakups”. From my experience, it hurts just as much to be the one who has to initiate the “friendship breakup” and you never really heal from the loss of missing someone whom you were once so close with. For me I would try and try for years to make something work, even going so far as to have those oh-so-difficult conversations in the hope to heal things, only to lose that person for good.

    In past years I’ve come to truly appreciate my friendships that have lasted long timespans and moves across the country. In my opinion friendships are just as important as relationships, I always joke with my now partner that my best friend has been in the picture longer than him and has gotten me through thick and thin, he teases me about having friendship anniversaries but we do that cheesy as it is. 15years going strong and we try to plan a little holiday on the years we hit big milestones!

    That being said I’ve lost 3 close best friends for various reasons, and man does it make you appreciate the others all that much more. There is something truly heartbreaking, about someone being a soul sister, the person you tell EVERYTHING and then poof something happens one day and you no longer talk. The worst part about them is that it was me who was forced to cut them off. Through therapy, I’ve come to realize just how much I was investing into relationships that were very one-sided. My therapist’s expression is “Stop watering dead plants and recognize you’re pouring your attention & efforts into something that no longer is alive.” Some people call it “cutting off toxic people” but it’s truly so much more painful than that. I had a best friend who was like a sister to me, and I would have 100% had as my MOH once upon a time, and I slowly came to realize just how self-absorbed she had become and that I was playing the role of HER therapist. After months of attempting to redirect her negativity and resurrect a friendship out of the relationship, it all came to a breaking point when I returned from a holiday not feeling good only to go through a major cancer scare. I texted her one day that I needed some support after a terrifying doctor’s appointment and that I was so scared, and I called her later that night, and she didn’t ask me once about how my 3 week holiday had been or even allow me to speak about the doctor’s appointment before launching into her self-pity saga. It was only then I realized this wasn’t healthy any longer and give. Sometimes we need to protect our own energy more than we need a friendship to survive. That being said I still miss her so very very very much, and I often find myself nearly 4 years later desperately missing her. I’ve come to accept though that it’s ok to miss the people we no longer want in our lives. It’s a hard truth to accept.

    • Byrdie says...

      I relate. I’m in the middle of trying to distance myself from a best friend to honor my own boundaries for many of the reasons you stated. It’s so so tough.

    • Jessica, so well put: “I’ve come to accept though that it’s ok to miss the people we no longer want in our lives.” I had a friendship end over a year ago and I realized I no longer could handle her, but I care(d) for her deeply and found her fascinating and bold and empathetic…I loved so many things about her. Ultimately her strong opinions didn’t leave room for me to be me and it wasn’t an honest relationship where I could be myself. I imagine she felt me start to distance myself as I tried to figure out how to still be friends and love her well, so she reacted by fully pulling away. Moved on from me before I could move on from her. The whole thing hurt and ended up with her giving me an ultimatum of the way I’d need to change to accommodate her. Which for me what she was asking wasn’t something I could give her. The whole thing sucked. Friendships ending are painful. I still miss her but ultimately it’s for the best we’ve gone our separate ways.

    • Brenna says...

      My case might be different, but I have a friend like this, and we get along well. No, she doesn’t deeply care about what’s going on in my life, but then I know not to expect her to, and I’m not about to ‘pour out my heart’ to her, that’s for sure. We share some uncommon interests though, and have a lot of fun together! Not every friendship has to be deep or perfect. (Although there are time when we unexpectedly do have good ‘deeper’ kinds of conversation, and that’s even better.)

      If I can stereotype, it might be good to look at guys’ friendships: they often seem to fight less, and to be able to laugh off or forget about people’s faults, and not take them as personally. Someone pointed that out to me, and it’s something to think about.

    • M says...

      I had a best friendship end due to similar struggles. I went through something bad and was dealing with the emotional aftermath for months. I called her and said I needed a friend can we please hang out that night. She said yes, then canceled on me to go to a party with her boyfriend and said she didn’t realize I wasn’t over it. She complained a lot about never hanging out with her own friends, only people her boyfriend knew (I knew those same people at these parties). Then I wound up in the hospital and she didn’t respond to me for almost two days and her boyfriend texted me saying that if I needed to reach her I should get in touch with him. I bailed on being in her wedding because frankly I couldn’t give any more to this relationship after those heartbreaks. She was really mad at me and said how she was always there for me and I couldn’t even respond because I was in such shock that she didn’t even see the harm she had inflicted. For me, those were thing that our friendship couldn’t come back from.
      I hope that we find people who are willing to be there for us as much as we are for them, and I’m proud of us for having the strength to let go of the people who don’t.

  8. Amanda says...

    I’ve had this happen twice as an adult, and man does it sting. One time there was not recognition of it, but full reconciliation. The second, it was just a very aggressive and abrupt falling out…with slow but infrequent communication later. I think it was a real eye opener. It hurts to have flaws that other people perceive pointed out, but both times there were also serious things happening in people’s lives that caused fissures. I am actually surprised this is not something spoken more about…but so loved this post and reading through the comments.

  9. j says...

    My husband had a good friend who started dating someone new and she and I became fast friends (and she and my husband’s friend eventually got married and had a kid). We were very close and then, to make a long story short, she suddenly stopped talking to me and never really gave me a good explanation as to why – even though I reached out multiple times to try to clear the air. And of course, it made things awkward for my husband and his friend, and his friend group. A few years later a mutual friend told me that this woman, without much of an explanation, divorced her husband. I wasn’t surprised to hear it, because it sounded similar to how she’d treated me.

  10. Em says...

    A friend I lived with for several years stopped being friendly to me in public and I realized I didn’t want to continue the friendship… i stopped wanting to open up or be vulnerable. We stopped making plans together. I was sad for a little while but over time realized the connection stopped feeling good and had become stuck. Why this happens is a mystery. I’m relieved to let her go and finally see how it’s opened up space for new friendships and connections in my heart. Thank you for writing this – it is oh-so-relatable to so many people.

  11. P says...

    I became best friends with a girl in high school and quickly became inseparable. We moved from our small town to a big city. We had adventures and fun. She moved in with her boyfriend and we remained friends. For me, she was still my best friend. I travelled abroad and when I got back things were different. I tried to keep in touch with her but we just dropped out of communication. I stopped reaching out. It’s been 4 years, she never reached out. It was like one day we were friends and the next strangers. It was hard for a long time. She comes to me in dreams. In random thoughts and sometimes I mourn this friendship. I wish I could just remove her memory these days.

    • This is amazingly close to my experience: we were best friends since high school then I moved abroad for work and made a bunch of new friends abroad, when I then moved back to my country finally happy to be closer to her to spend more time together she kept declining my invitations and proposals and I had to acknowledge she wanted nothing to do with me, a year after this happened I tried reaching out to her to clear the air and understand why that had happened and she blamed it all on me for leaving our country and finding new friends. It happened in 2015, it is still painful to this day and I wish I could have an explanation, I have found amazing friends in the past years and I consider myself incredibly lucky but still I miss my high school friend…

  12. Molly says...

    I love your question, E! My view as someone who is trying to slowly fade someone out now? I couldn’t imagine telling her what I perceive her ‘faults’ to be because in my case, it’s not that she’s done anything wrong/ bad by me. I’m just at the point being 30 in NYC that I have many other individually close, life enriching friendships. These people bring me joy, actively reach out, and make me feel loved/ supported on a regular basis. The friend (childhood bff whose lives we’ve been in and of since we were 3) I am trying to fade out plays the comparison game subtly (even though our lives couldn’t be more different) and I don’t feel like my best self around her. Even if I did go the ‘fault’ route, I couldn’t see a world where she thought what she was doing would ever be considered ‘taking a dig’ or ‘being judgmental’. For me, the ‘slow fade’ works for me (aka when she reaches out for a masked walk every 3-4 months, I’ll respond to her text within 30-60 min and make a plan for a facetime) because that is all the emotional space I can hold for her.

  13. Kate says...

    I have been slowly breaking up with the woman I have called my best friend for 15 years over the course of the pandemic. She has been chronically ill for many years, and the added weight of the pandemic, a literal threat to her life that is causing her to have to isolate pretty aggressively, has made her (understandably) very combative. It took months of painful back-and-forth emailing to come to the conclusion that I just couldn’t be comfortable in a relationship that felt this way to me. Even if and when things improve, I don’t think I’ll be able to regain emotional safety in the relationship. It’s terribly sad for me to lose her, but there is also relief – that combative, unhealthy relationship I previously couldn’t imagine walking away from is now in my past, as is the anxiety wrapped up in it. I’ll always love this friend, but for my own peace, I had to say goodbye to her. I guess our season was long – 15 years! – but unfortunately, it had to end. I miss her, but there is a lot less stress in my life now, and so I know it was right for me.

    • Evie says...

      I’m having a really difficult time with a friend and I’ve decided I want to disengage with our friendship. The complication comes from her being so incredibly sensitive to being left out of things that I now feel like I have to break up with my other friends too just to get away from her. It’s exhausting and I feel trapped at the moment. How do you handle someone so clingy but who makes every conversation feel so unsafe?

    • Emi Visser says...

      Hi – thanks for sharing Katie.
      This is a response to Evie’s question.
      A year ago I broke up with a friend who was part of a friend group. In this case I was not so afraid of losing the other friends, but of the hurt I would cause everyone by breaking up the group.
      I cannot tell you how to go about your situation, but maybe my experience can help you figure it out.
      It took me 6 years to realize the bad of the friendship truly outweighed the good (bargaining). The relief of deciding to break it off felt great. However, it took another year for me to come to terms with the fact that this decision would hurt a lot of people and would be incredibly uncomfortable. I went through various scenarios and learned to accept the fact that others would be hurt and disappointed by my decision.
      It took another month to devise a plan on how to do it. I ended up calling her up -out of the blue – and said literally ‘i do not want to be friends with you anymore’. Thereafter, I explained to her why I wanted to no longer be friends and what I felt our break up with entail for myself, her and our friend group in a practical sense. Specifically, I said I would be okay with seeing her at parties, but small gatherings are a no go – i.e. no more group coffee dates/dinners. In this case I did not leave room for discussion.

      She was really hurt, I felt bad for hurting her. In the end though, my life has improved. I am living a more authentic life and I don’t have a toxic friendship in my life.

    • Kate says...

      It’s so tough. When this friend and I started to disconnect, I really felt weird being on group texts/emails with her and our little friend group. I ended up telling the others what was going on (no details, just that we were going through a rough time and I didn’t feel comfortable in the group texts anymore). I have been so lucky in that the other people in our friend group have been very kind and understanding and encouraged me to do what is best for myself. It’s taken a bit more effort on my part to keep up our correspondence separately, but ultimately that’s made our friendships stronger and more personal. It’s an adjustment, but I’m working through it.

  14. Natalie says...

    Thank you for this article. My best friend of 17 years, who I often refer to as my life-mate, recently told me that health issues with her sister have left her feeling “unexpectedly overwhelmed in regards to talking with people”. In October she stopped answering my FaceTime calls, and her responses to my text messages became more and more delayed. We were college roommates and since graduating have lived in different cities and countries. Once or twice a year we would meet up in a foreign country, or I’d visit her or she’d visit me and we’d FaceTime each other once a week…. even when she was living in Nepal, during the earthquake. She is the funniest most thoughtful and adventurous person. She knows all of my secrets and everything about me and has always loved me and accepted me. Most of my favorite memories have been with her. Part of me thinks perhaps this truly is the end of a friendship and another part refuses to accept that. Regardless, it has been way more painful than any romantic breakup I have ever had.

    • Lauren says...

      Of course I don’t know your situation, and maybe this friend really doesn’t want to be friends with you, but as people have commented on this post and as I know myself, sometimes difficult things in life can make someone withdraw for so many different reasons: not wanting to be a downer, being too fragile, not being able to handle one more item on a to-do list, hating that you’re seeing people as items on a ‘to-do’ list, not knowing where to start, feeling ashamed of ghosting and thinking the other person is probably done with you, and on and on.

      Again, as others have commented, it can end up meaning a lot if you keep in contact, even if it’s one sided–just a short text here and there; nothing that makes you feel like a martyr. Don’t if it hurts too much, but if you can, you might be helping someone have a full life to come back to once things get better.

    • Kari says...

      I did this to a friend. I was completely overwhelmed…my sister got Lyme disease, my dad had an affair and my extremely disfunctional brother was living in my basement and not doing well. To be fair this friend made a nasty and judgmental comment about a Go Fund Me that I had for my sisters for Lyme treatment. She apologized and I thought I was good, but I wasn’t good…the GFM thing hurt and my level of overwhelmed hit rock bottom and I became so anxious I struggled to leave my house. I ended up totally ghosting her. She tried to get in touch, I didn’t respond. I feel awful about it. Maybe give it some time overwhelmed = anxiety and anxiety will make you do stupid things.

  15. Leta says...

    Confessions of a (non-serial) ghoster: a friend i had done the slow fade with reached out on social media unexpectedly many years later to ask what had gone wrong with us, because in their words i “had been an important person in their lives” and they didn’t understand where it had all gone wrong. Honestly, that one bolt from the blue dredged up a whole cocktail of feelings, chief of them being panic, heartache, and fear in equal measure. Panic because the thought of potentially being confronted by the ex-friend made me break out in a cold sweat, heartache because of the involuntary reminder of painful memories I’d thought I had already processed and gotten over (mistakenly, as it turns out), and fear at the thought that should this ex-friend really show up to relitigate the past, they might just be able to persuade me that I was wholly wrong to have pulled the plug and be talked into resuming the relationship, which I simply no longer have the energy for, nor the inclination to resuscitate. I knew this person well enough to know that I would never be able to simply reply with my side of the story, even via dispassionate mediums like email or social media, without inevitably triggering a whole argument delineating how I was wrong to feel the way I felt, and that the whole thing was just a simple misunderstanding that i overreacted to/blew out of all proportion that I needed to get over. Just thinking of having to battle that invalidation of my point of view was exhausting…

    Some context: This person from my past is infamous for their silver tongue, strong will and magnetic personality, able to convince and persuade many ppl to do things like switch careers from our industry to something they deemed was a better fit for their friends, and relentless enough to constantly nag their friends because they sincerely believed that it was for their own good to upskill and abandon what was to them a sunset industry. They’re hard to resist because they’re operating out of a sincere belief that they know what’s best for others even while they were busy climbing their own career ladder, and wants to see their peers succeed equally. Still, there’s something insidious and ever so slightly unsettling about being talked into believing that this person knows what’s best for me, even though they claimed they had my best interests at heart. It’s hard to put a finger on it, but there were many instances after spending time together when i used to feel like, what just happened… I promise I know my own mind and am perfectly able to withstand relentless subliminal messaging, but then again, maybe i’m not? So I took it as a sign that I should not attempt to provide or obtain closure in this instance, since i was still rattled enough by this non-encounter these many years later. I chose to prioritise my own mental and emotional wellbeing, and even though it made me sound selfish, ultra cold and unfeeling, I had to put myself first. I wish I could avoid hurt feelings for everyone involved in this scenario but I simply couldn’t see a way to do that without jeopardising my own hard won peace.

  16. R says...

    Thanks for this– the article and all the great comments. It’s kind of a revelation that this struck a chord with so many! I guess I would just encourage folks as we all walk through life to keep in mind the “do unto others as I would have them do unto me” thought, because it is so easy to cause so much pain. People, flawed as we all are, are just inherently worth more than to be unceremoniously dropped.

    I speak from a few particularly painful situations:

    The worst was a best friend from college who encouraged me to write to her after I had a second trimester miscarriage in my late 30’s. I did, because I trusted her and she’d invited me to. I shared my whole heart. I never heard from her again. It was so confusing and painful on top of the loss of my child. She was one of the pillars of my life and we’d never had any disagreements. Even now, many years later, I don’t understand how sharing my pain at her invitation caused her to throw me away. She must have know how cruel she was being in the worst crisis of my life, and did it anyway?

    More recently, an acquaintance-friend for whom I cooked many meals when she had cancer told me when she bumped into me one day that “I don’t have space for you in my life.” I supposed she’d gotten the use out of me that she wanted? It would’ve been so easy for her just to say an innocuous “Hi” instead, since we hardly ever see each other anyway.

    And a third is a friend with whom I shared so many early motherhood experiences, but is now ghosting me inexplicably. Is our friendship actually worthless to her? And by extension– am I?

    Sure, friendships come and go and that’s totally reasonable. The drift as we change and move in our lives is sometimes inevitable, but overt cruelty lingers. For years. A small bit of grace could accompany the petering out of a relationship and let the once-cherished person go without devastating them.

    Thanks to everyone who has given an honest perspective from both sides. Lots to think about. And to all my fellow dump-ees: you ARE worthwhile in your very own unique and precious, unfinished and growing way, and you have much to give that someone else, somewhere needs!

    • D says...

      This sounds all too familiar to me as I have been through the same many times with women. Cutting me off after miscarriages i’ve gone through , getting happily married etc: I am loyal and kind and always am the “listener” then get ghosted.

      Hugs to you

    • R says...

      Thanks, D. Yes, sounds very similar. Hard to be the one who usually listen and be let go when I’m the one who needs support. But, I wouldn’t change who I am or how I give/live. I guess I’m learning that the same wind that blows one door shut may open another. And it’s OK to mourn what’s lost, but I’m trying not to stay stuck there (feeling like a loser) and instead turn towards different relationships that are more reciprocal.

      Hugs to you too!

  17. Amanda says...

    This one hits home, hard. My best friend of 10 years and i had a friendship broke up in the midst of one of us meeting the love of our life and getting married, and the other experiencing a loss of pregnancy, two things we both had wanted for so long. I can’t help but feel cheated she wasn’t there for my wedding and now pregnancy, and feeling pain that she associates our friendship troubles with the loss of her pregnancy. I wonder about my role in all of it, was I too harsh, or was I setting boundaries. I’m sure there was wrong on both sides. Though it hurts, I try to remind myself that we had a good run, and accept that some friendships aren’t meant to last forever. She comes to me in my dreams, the pain is still raw, it is a different form of mourning, when the person is out there living their life but feels like they’ve passed on. But through my pain and anger, I always wish her the best. Always.

    • Jenny says...

      It’s strange to read this comment, because I am your friend in my own situation. I’m in my fourth year of infertility and loss, and drifted apart from my best friend when she became pregnant. It’s just so incredibly painful to watch someone easily get what you so desperately want and can’t have that I had to step back to protect my own heart. I told her this as best as I could, and I hope we can reconnect once I’m done fighting this miserable battle trying to become a mom. I hope you and your friend can do the same <3

  18. Lauren says...

    Many of these comments remind me of a quote about friendship that said something like: when a woman makes a new friend, she lays a ‘perfect friend’ template over the person, and starts snipping away at any of the parts that don’t match!

    Some of these comments sound like people complaining that the scissors are too heavy, when nobody asked you to wield them in the first place! Rememember that over-investing in someone to the point of exhaustion or frustration is a choice that you don’t have to make. It’s good if you can spend more time just enjoying your friends, and less time treating them like projects or problems or mysteries.

    • PY says...

      Love this metaphor and your closing remark! Great advice

  19. Ann says...

    I am someone who has been ghosted and also a ghoster. I am still trying to come to terms with both.
    But I am learning that when I become the ghoster, it may be because i am struggling, and everything even the good things can become too much. I start to avoid and isolate myself, especially from those who make me feel less than just by being them, because what is great about their lives, is making me feel worse about my own, in that season.
    And maybe as I start to pull back, and avoid and isolate myself, those friendships that I thought I didn’t want because they made me feel bad, are sensing my pulling away and they pull away first. And when that happens, because they did it first, I feel ghosted by them.
    Friendships have always been complicated for me.

    • K says...

      I felt compelled to reply to your comment, because that is exactly where I am right now—unintentionally made to feel inferior. It’s not jealousy, because I honestly do feel happy for them, for everything they’ve accomplished—proud even. It’s just that “so what’s going on with you? What’s new?” that I dread. I have never been comfortable with comparisons, even when I was at my best. So while I’m in this “phase”—anything that potentially triggers comparisons really digs up a ditch.
      I do feel bad when I see that they’re trying to reach out, but I feel even worse at the thought of responding.
      I still don’t know whether I want that friendship to run its course. All I know is that *right now*, sustaining it would be absolutely terrible for my mental well-being.

  20. SP says...

    oh, wow. friendship is the aspect of my life that i struggle with the most and it makes me feel so much less alienated to read all of these beautiful comments. i grew up in a tiny town and was the “floater” of the friend group. it seemed like every other girl was paired up with a best friend and i only got included if there was an extra ticket or someone couldn’t make it. in college, i finally found a group of really good girlfriends and we knew everything about each other, fell asleep talking on the couch, made each other dinner. those friendships faded after college and i realized one day that i only talk to 2 of those girls on a semi-regular basis and only if i make the effort. i know this isn’t unusual– we scattered to cities across the states, but it feels like i’ll never have that again. i don’t mind being alone but it is something completely different to feel starkly, utterly lonely. reading these comments gives me hope– friendships seem to come and go for all sorts of reasons and in all seasons of life.

    • kate says...

      I definitely relate to this – there were times in my life when I wasn’t the 3rd wheel but I do feel that most of my friends I now think of as my “best” friends have other, better best friends than me. Not to mention, I’ve been burned in the past – both in high school and college and after – and have a hard time now investing in friendships because I am wary and weary! When I’m feeling down about it, though, can’t help but think of my mom who has several close friends, many of which she made as an adult after having kids and a family, so maybe there is hope for me yet!

  21. Momzi says...

    I had a girlfriend straight up break up with me. We were not a couple / partners just friends and she was like ‘I need to break up with you’. and while it was shocking at the time, I understood and it actually made it a little better because she said why. When you get ghosted you do not know why. I think sometimes it does not even matter. There is a theme in my life of me liking people a LOT and it is not reciprocated. And I am used to it.

  22. Diana says...

    I still, very clearly, remember the day my best friend sent me a note during class telling me that she didn’t want to be friends with me anymore. We were seven. I started crying, and the teacher forced her to apologise to me. Our parents kept organising playdates and sleepovers, our friendship ¨continued¨ for years. Still, I always had the feeling of not being good enough.

    Even though I’ve made great friends over the years, and found people I felt I could be myself with, I know that my friendship breakups have deeply shaped me, way more than any romantic one.

  23. Diane says...

    Take this from a serial ghoster: maybe we’re just busy or stressed that friendship is not our #1 priority. Maybe we struggle to make ends meet that we can’t make it to return your call. Maybe we have 1001 problems, significant and trivias that we’re not sure you can help in any way so why bother tell you and add one more stress in your life? I know it sounds very rude, but sometimes people just try to stay afloat in any way they can. Sorry if we hurt you, but no, we never hate you!

  24. Jen says...

    I thank you for this post. The topic is so often on my mind and has occupied so many pages of my journal over time. I feel so heartened by the thoughtfulness of the author and the 400+ readers who left comments. I know none of you, but your sharing somehow makes me feel less lonely in my quest to understand the ebbs and flows of adult relationships.
    After years of mental anguish over lost friendships, I have decided a few things:
    1. That I often really cannot know what is at the heart of these changes
    2. In the face of that uncertainty, I must examine my own contributions and work on bettering parts of me that need it, but I ultimately get to write the story of the friendship and its end, and I choose to write narratives that don’t torture me.
    Like so many commenters, I really have come to believe in the importance of understanding that there are many levels of friendship and connection. This realization was long in coming after so many years of BFF socialization, which seems so pernicious among young girls especially.
    Now well into my 40s, it strikes me that I haven’t always been able to foresee how friendships would play out over time. Some that I thought stalwart ultimately fizzled; others that I thought superficial grew more profound and steadfast with time. My practice now is being thankful for all the permutations, being forgiving, keeping my heart and mind open to new connections and incarnations, and letting go gently and with grace when letting go feels like the thing that’s needed.

    • Anj says...

      This is so lovely, Jen!

  25. Coleen says...

    This article resonated loudly within me. It has been on my mind especially since last year when the pandemic started. The past few years, some of my friendships ended which caused grief and pain. I realized, like seasons, friends do come and go. Either the relationship has drifted apart, low vibration, one-sided, change in socio-economic status, not sharing the same interests and values anymore, competition/envy, lack of communication, living thousands of miles apart, etc. I also felt that some friends have chosen their own tribe while we are getting older. And I don’t fit in their criteria. And mine have changed as well. A few tried to reconnect this pandemic (none / minimal contact for many years) but I am exercising prudence in answering their calls and messages. I feel they only want to get information on what are my achievements, current financial status or family situation. One article I read stated, connection protects our mental health. However, I needed to release myself from relationships that no longer serves me and are unhealthy. It is sad to lose friends but it is alright just to have a few who are flexible, loyal, and true. Even if you have not seen them in months or years.

    • gilli Treiman says...

      Beautifully stated!

  26. Amanda says...

    What a great essay!

  27. Kate says...

    One of my favourite quotes:
    Friends are there for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

    Once you start putting your friends into these categories, I find “breakups” are easier to deal with. And my fellow introverts, it’s hard to keep up friendships sometimes isn’t it? I am often so exhausted by the relationships I must maintain in my career and my marriage, that I have nothing left for friendship. And that’s OK. It’s a season.

    • Sage says...

      Agreed. I’m exhausted reading many of these comments. How many friends does one person need…or want?! The way some “lesser friendships” have been categorized are how I categorize my TIGHT relationships – getting together monthly means you barely know someone? I have limited time on this Earth, and limited social energy in my reservoirs, I do not go out to coffee with people I feel so-so about.

  28. Alice says...

    I had a slow break up with one of my closest friends from school. I moved to a new city, where one of the only people I knew was her. I moved literally a 10 minute walk from her place, and excitedly tried to set up plans. She was keen too- until she cancelled at the last minute for a date. So I offered a few new dates, and we rescheduled- and she cancelled last minute for no reason at all. I gave her a third and final chance, and the same thing happened. I literally knew three other people in this city- and she knew that, and still couldn’t make the effort to even try to reschedule (that was all coming from me), so I decided to wait to suggest meeting up until she did- and she never did.

    I also was dumped as a friend in a spectacular fashion. My friend and I met through work (though we didn’t work for the same organisation). We hit it off immediately, and she became the closest friend I’d ever had. She was my cheerleader, my confidant, and I was the same for her. After I was running late for brunch once (I’m an incredibly punctual person so this was an absolute rarity) she messaged to say not to bother coming. I apologised and said I’d love to see her, but she then messaged to basically outline all the things she thought I wasn’t doing well enough, and told me to get out of her life. I’ve never been more shocked in my life. I apologised, told her I’d love to talk and work out things, but she just didn’t respond.
    She reached out to me a few months later saying that she thought about me all the time and missed me, but I was so angry and upset with the lack of apology from her side for the situation that I just didn’t respond. We’ve subsequently messaged a couple of times and I do still really miss her but I can’t bring myself to be her friend again, in case the same thing happens again.

    It’s all just so sad. Both of these women played such an important part in my life and I miss them, but it just doesn’t seem worth it to try to be friends with people who seem not to want to be friends with you.

  29. Meghan says...

    I am a travel nurse and have moved all over the country for the past seven years. I’ve made friends in weekend trainings, work contracts that were a few months long, in yoga studios, etc. They were all warm, wonderful people and I wish I could say I’ve kept in touch with many of them. But I think if I’m being honest, I can really only be a good friend to a small handful of people at any given time; most of the others, by no fault of their own, have slowly faded out of my life due to lack of proximity and no longer having shared experiences. I sometimes feel sad and ashamed that maybe some of them feel hurt by my not keeping in touch better, but I do feel in my heart that th he value of a friend is not determined by the duration of the friendship.

  30. Maïa says...

    I have a question for the ones who did it : why have you ghosted your friends ?
    I’ve been ghosted/slow faded by friends and it hurts so much. I sometimes tried to get an explanation. Sometimes not. (never got an authentic answer). I did slow faded a friend once, and still feel unconfortable about it (and I believe I would handle it more maturely now). But why don’t you communicate to say you need to end the friendship? It feels to me that to say it out loud is unconfortable but is more fair and respectful to the other and to the good moments shared in the past. I understand sometimes its so difficult/preferable to slow fade, but how did you decide ?

    • Katha says...

      Truth is I didn‘t decide. It just … happens. I can‘t remember I ever feeling the need to end a friendship. Things change and situations change and we went from speaking regularly to once every few weeks to once a year to I don’t even know what‘s going on in their life. I can think of a few people. I don‘t even know who left who and if the other person feels sad about it or as if it wasn‘t mutual.
      When I meet them or leave the occasional comment on social media it‘s not awkward.

      I have lost a friendship where I feel ghosted and sad about it though. So maybe it depends on the perspective.

  31. ana says...

    love this post, I´ve read a couple of comments on breaking up with friends due to opposite covid behaviours. I´m on the other side, I have been social distancing since this all started, but there´s one exception my fiance and I are living in different cities at the moment, so we travel to the other one city to stay there for two weeks, in our country (Spain) this is not permited. I was talking with a friend and told her naturally in a conversation (I´m not a liar, so I talk about this frankly) I´ve noticed that ever since it happened she has stopped checking on me, and we have been friends for more than 10 years. It´s sad, but I have to face it

  32. beth says...

    This post was so poignant and everyone’s comments are amazing, but man, I’m dying to know the come-back zinger from the last paragraph, haha!

  33. Wondering what's up says...

    Has anyone had a sibling/sister slowly start to ghost them? I was always the one putting in the effort in our “friendship” even though it was my sister. I’ve treated her and her husband plenty well and am pretty accommodating to her and her family when she comes to visit from out of town. Our kids are all within 1-2 years of each other (there are 4 of them combined) and they all adore each other. When my mom passed away, I tried to discuss some things with her, but she just shut up and didn’t want to discuss anything. I understood that she grieved differently, but there were some issues with the way things were dealt with afterwards that I wanted to discuss. I went through some martial issues and wanted to connect as a family but she shut me out. We didn’t speak for awhile – and when I saw the psychic, she said that my mom was telling me to keep in touch with her in my mom’s memory/honor. So, I swallowed my pride to keep the family ties together. Fast forward to today, it’s like a one-sided text string when I write. She takes 1 week to respond, and when I suggest that my kids want to talk to her kids (the cousins), she says, yah sure, and then conveniently forgets if I don’t contact her on the weekend. If I do call her, she has to “fit it in” because one of her kids has a sports practice….not sure if this is true esp. during COVID or if it’s real. I’m testing her to see if she will eventually text me back and if my efforts to maintain family ties are just futile…….

    • mimi says...

      Sometimes the moms or grandmothers are the glue that keeps a family together. My siblings and I have always lived in different cities & states and thus, our children are not close and do not have the experience of cousin relationships like we had. We had them because one uncle decided to stay nearby and raise his family with ours and be near our grandparents. Once my grandmother passed, the brothers hardly kept in touch and we cousins were adults and hardly saw each other. For my siblings & me, we reach out monthly to each other now that we are empty nesters and working full time. Some families let the cousins play video games together to keep those relationships going when states keep them apart. Some families have a text group & chime in from time to time. Some families do reunions every other year in the same spot or different spots and everyone travels to it & shares the responsibilities of meals & entertainment for the different ages of kids. It’s all about effort & maintenance & unconditional love & time spent investing in the relationship. I hope you and your sister can talk soon heart to heart.

  34. Wondering what's up says...

    Has anyone had a sibling/sister slowly start to ghost them? I would was always the one putting in the effort in our “friendship” even though it was my sister. I’ve treated her and her husband plenty well and am pretty accommodating to her and her family when she comes to visit from out of town. Our kids are all within 1-2 years of each other (there are 4 of them combined) and they all adore each other. When my mom passed away, I tried to discuss some things with her, but she just shut up and didn’t want to discuss anything. I understood that she grieved differently, but there were some issues with the way things were dealt with afterwards that I wanted to discuss. We didn’t speak for awhile – and when I saw the psychic, she said that my mom was telling me to keep in touch with her in my mom’s memory/honor. So, I swallowed my pride to keep the family ties together. Fast forward to today, it’s like a one-sided text string when I write. She takes 1 week to respond, and when I suggest that my kids want to talk to her kids (the cousins), she says, yah sure, and then conveniently forgets if I don’t contact her on the weekend. If I do call her, she has to “fit it in” because one of her kids has a sports practice….not sure if this is true esp. during COVID or if it’s real. I’m testing her to see if she will eventually text me back and if my efforts to maintain family ties just futile…….

  35. A says...

    This past year I have been ghosted by a close friend of nearly 20 years. Medically I had been having a difficult time after finding out about a genetic mutation and was facing some devastating choices. But after a few years I had finally worked up the courage to schedule the prophylactic but still traumatizing surgery that would spare my life. I knew we had drifted while I was being swallowed up by impossible choices (and my sister’s cancer diagnosis), but thought this was a temporary phase. In any event, I told her that my surgery had been scheduled while having dinner together a few weeks beforehand. She never called me during my recovery. Shortly thereafter the pandemic began and I continued to not hear from her. After some weeks I put my hurt feelings aside to text and check in to see how she and her family were doing. After some back and forth where she continued to not ask me about my surgery, I mentioned that I was recovering nicely. And she said, ‘oh I wish you had told me, I would have called!’. She did not even remember that I had told her I was finally having surgery. And somehow, I couldn’t bring myself to mention that I had in fact told her. Had she had too much wine the night I told her? Was she lying about not remembering? Had she disassociated from me so much that I didn’t even register for her anymore? I have tried to understood that it was probably overwhelming for her to listen to me struggle with my anxiety. Probably I was one of those vampire friends that people talk about. But to forget about someone’s life-sparing surgery after 20ish years of faithful friendship is beyond hurtful. Likely I’m better off without her. But I miss this friend, and wonder what she has to say for herself.

    • Previvor says...

      As someone who has the same genetic mutation as you, and has also gone through this surgery, I can empathize. My closest friend took me out to dinner before hand, and visited me in the hospital, only to start ghosting me shortly thereafter. The effort she put in for me during my surgery felt performative in the aftermath. I struggle with thoughts of what she has to say for herself as well.

      I also understand your point about it being overwhelming for friends to listen to the anxiety associated with this mutation and the choices involved.. before my surgery, I was consumed by anxiety. Now, it’s so far from my mind that I forget my follow up appointments!

      If you ever need someone to talk to about mutations/surgery recovery/etc., I’d love to connect.

    • A says...

      To Previvor – yes, I would love to connect, if we can figure out how to go about that! Thank for your comment. It’s such a unique situation, isn’t it?

    • Previvor says...

      It truly is! And hmm.. maybe the admin of this article can help connect us?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Just connected you both over email! Thank you so much xo

  36. Charlie says...

    One lesson I’ve learned this year – relevant to dating, friendship, and employment – that a good relationship takes two equal investments. Both parties have to be investing in the other and committed to giving back. Or, it just won’t work. And that’s ok.

    Walking away can make space for new people and growth.

    I’ve been on both sides of this: I’ve let a few friends go recently because I realized I was doing a lot of the caring, and getting very little back. At first i felt guilty (still do some days) but I think it was the right thing. They’ll have their people, and I deserve people who enrich my life, invest back in me, and where the support and love goes two ways. On the other hand – I’ve been ghosted too. It can really hurt – especially if it’s a dear friend – but I’ve learned that if someone doesn’t have the time or appreciation, or just needs to do selfcare, its better off that way.

    A girlfriend of mine, Nicole, uninvited my former partner to her December wedding a year ago, after we broke up. It really hurt me because it hurt him – we’d spent years doing couples dinners together – and I thought we’d all been friends. And I realized then, if this is how she treats her friends, I don’t want to be her friend. So I, in turn stopped maintaining my friendship with her. I honestly don’t think she noticed.

    Life has a way of working out – floating the right people in, and the right people out. We must allow it. Cling, and we become too focused on what’s fleeting to notice what’s arrived.

    XO

    • SP says...

      this is so beautiful! i used to desperately want a huge circle of friends but the older i get the more i realize that a few good ones are what really count. i recently had this wait a sec i carry our entire friendship on my back feeling and it was sad but freeing.

  37. Julia says...

    Thank you for your beautiful writing.

  38. Kerry says...

    I love love love her writing. More, please. Thanks, Jo.

  39. Julia says...

    Not so much a comment but a round of applause. I loved this.

  40. Hoiho says...

    I’m by no means good at maintaining friendships. But, I do wonder whether it’s important to have insight into our own role in the breakdown of a friendship when we are ghosted. I used to work in family law and what became apparent to me over time is that, on both sides of a case, people were inevitably very complex, and often did not have a great deal of insight into their own complexities. I also wonder whether we are willing to tolerate more frustration, that we ride out, in our families than with our friends.

  41. DZ says...

    Thank you for talking about this!! It is easy to grieve a lost love relationship but so much harder to find closure for a lost friendship. I guess because so many times the breakups are open ended and it feels quite dramatic to say that you have in fact broken up with a friend, even if that is exactly what happened. I have my fair share of friendship breaks ups and it leads me to think there must be something wrong with me… but I know I have made boundaries for myself and set out expectations of what I want to receive in my relationships, and at the end of that day that keeps me from getting resentful in one sided relationships.

  42. Sarah says...

    When I was 20 my best friend commit suicide. When I was 31 my best friend of 10 years came to my baby shower. I never saw her again. She never responded to my text when the baby arrived. Then when he turned a month, a year. I moved from our shared city. I saw on social media other other day she got married. I have sent 10 texts/emails over the past year asking what I did, begging for forgiveness. Nothing. In so many ways this lost hurt worse than the suicide. I its been 4 years and I still think about her often.

  43. sanjay says...

    I love this post. I’m going back and reading all of your posts because I Love your storytelling! I will have to check out your other writing online. Thank you.

  44. Lisa says...

    My best friend from 6th grade just kind of stopped keeping in contact with me. The last time I saw her was at a mutual friend’s father’s funeral. She had flown into town from the other side of the country for the service. A year and a half later my dad died and when I texted to tell her she texted me back saying “I’m sorry.” I didn’t expect her to come in town for the funeral, but a phone call or letter or something would have been…I don’t know, nice I guess. And then I started thinking maybe it was me. Maybe something was wrong with me. I have texted her a few times since then but her answers are always very delayed and very short. We are both moms now and I honestly can’t even remember the name of her little boy which is such a crazy thought. 20 years of friendship and now nothing. Her husband and my brother are friends (they met through me) and so I hear about how she is doing through him.

    I was going through all of my things from childhood a few years ago and found some of her notes she passed me in school. I was surprised to find that they were quite mean! I did not remember that at all. Maybe I had no emotional intelligence back then? And maybe I am better off now?

    • Sarah says...

      This struck me so acutely because there are a few friendships right now where I wonder if this is happening. One of my BFFs (we were in each other’s weddings) has been fairly AWOL and I’m the one dripping on her every few months to stay in touch. But I know she has major anxiety and has been running her own business and had a host of family/health issues. So how much is letting things fade and how much is gently supporting friends who don’t know how to ask for help, who need that weighted blanket to come to them?

    • PY says...

      Yes! Last few lines resonated with me.

    • bethany says...

      Lisa, I came to the comments to tell a similar story: the girl who was my roommate for all four years of undergrad and was a bridesmaid in my wedding wasn’t there for me at all when my mom died, and it really hurt. Our other friends contacted her to tell her what happened and she didn’t respond at all, or make an effort to attend the funeral. Several months later, we hung out together on a weekend getaway with a couple of our friends, and she acted like it wasn’t a big deal — “sorry to hear about your mom” and that was it. It just solidified the fact that she really didn’t take my grief seriously, or think that her presence would have comforted me. Like you, I started to look through our friendship memorabilia and remember all of the ups and downs, and I just realized that friendship was never as deep or as tight as I needed it to be in order for it to last. When she tried to reconnect with me later via social and text, I decided I couldn’t give anything to that relationship anymore and stopped responding. It’s hard to shake the feeling that that friendship was a waste of my time. But I do think we’re better off without them, because we can spend our energy on the people who did show up for us when it mattered, and we can return the favor.

    • Lisa says...

      It really touches my heart to know I’m not alone. We were also in each other’s weddings and I truly considered her my best friend. Sometimes I tell myself it’s because she has such a busy job (which she does – she is an executive in the entertainment industry), but I also remember when I had her office phone number on speed dial because I called her at work so often. I had a Facebook memory today of her writing on my wall 13 years ago about something dumb and ridiculous that only we would understand and it actually made me cry.

      Another thing that is wild to me is that my husband and I are really struggling with whether or not to have a second child (it would have to be via surrogacy) and she is an only child. I would love to be able to have an honest conversation with her about being an only child. She was very lonely growing up. What is it like for her now? I was basically the closest thing she had to a sister growing up and she is a big reason I am leaning towards having a second child. There were a lot of nights she would call me and we would fall asleep on the phone together because she hated being alone. Anyway, I miss her. But, again, maybe life without her is healthier for me? I guess I don’t have a choice.

  45. Mary says...

    I have been on both sides of this throughout my life and only recently came to terms with the first time a friend dumped me. It happened my senior year of high school, during a time when I was really struggling. I was devastated by the breakup and held a grudge for years. Decades honestly. It wasn’t until reading about the Vampire test that Joanne posted a few weeks back that it dawned on me – I wasn’t energizing them. They were young and trying to enjoy their final year of high school, they didn’t need to be weighed down by my struggles. I spent decades being angry, but by starting to process my anger as sadness and disappointment, I’ve let go of the resentment.

  46. D. says...

    Oh yes, this is a painful subject, especially when you don’t realize it’s happening. Like yourself, I failed to notice that with some people, without my initiative, there wouldn’t be any relationship. The pandemic shook me to the core in that sense: I decided I’ll just stop being the first one to pick up the phone. And you know what? Nothing happened. That hope that they will figure it out themselves, that bit hurts most.
    But you know, I take some of the blame too. I taught them that way, didn’t I? Not to excuse poor behavior, but when you build a relationship and take all the responsibility, you can’t be surprised when ghosting happens. Every relationship takes work, from both sides.

  47. Michelle says...

    I really needed this article today as I have been grasping if I was in the wrong in ending a friendship that was toxic and abusive. I feel seen and heard regularly by this community. Thank you.

  48. lily says...

    When college was ending, my best friend from all four years needed help moving. She was my person even when boyfriends came and went. But it was an 8am moving truck and I was a terrible friend and ended up flaking on helping her move her stuff. She was so hurt and justifiably so. . I apologized months later and we sometimes stay in touch but even 20 years after that day, all these years later, I still deeply regret my childish irresponsible actions and losing such a good friend.

    • Anni says...

      It sounds like it may have also been situational, during such a big life transition, that your friendship went through a test. Sometimes I think we set up situations like this subconsciously to make life transitions. Sometimes we sabotage relationships because we are scared of how to continue them during transitions. Or maybe part of you knew this relationship was just for your college era and you needed to move on, but you didn’t know how.
      Apologies of this doesn’t resonate, just a thought.
      Thank you for sharing your story.

  49. Riley says...

    I’ve had my fair share of friend break ups over the years — intentional ones, either explicit or more of a slow fade. I’m proud of the explicit ones, feel a little more conflicted about the slow fades.

    What I’m feeling worried about as I go through the comments is if I’ve unintentionally broken up with some friends as well…? So many people are saying “she didn’t text for months” or something along those lines, and I just can’t imagine interpreting that as a break up! Sometimes relationships ebb and flow, with more contact and less contact… I wouldn’t assume that distance meant the person no longer liked me. I always try to err on the side of remembering that everyone else has lives, and that their actions could have so many explanations. I find that a quick “I miss you! It’s been too long.” text can open up a really good exchange.

    Anyways, do some digging before you assume you’ve been dumped. <3

    • Lisa says...

      I wanted to say something similar. I would implore anyone who has a hurting heart from this to PLEASE pause and consider the high likelihood that whatever they perceive as a ‘breakup’ is about something going on with the other person, and might actually have nothing whatsoever to do with them.

      To wit, I will own something. My husband and I are friends with two wonderful couples – in both cases, the husbands are incredible cooks. Like next-level stuff. They invite us over for seemingly effortless exotic multi-course meals, and it is lovely, and I feel so spoiled. And I am so intimidated by it that I can never invite them to our house for dinner. I would have no idea what to cook, I could never even begin to compare, and I would be a self-conscious wreck the whole time. I feel ridiculous about this, but it is a real feeling and I can’t seem to talk myself out of it. I’m sure they wonder why we don’t ask them over for dinner and it breaks my heart to think that they might wonder if we don’t appreciate their friendship :( I do always follow up with gushy thank you notes and we connect in other ways, but I would love for them to feel taken care of by us in the same sense. It such an act of love to be cooked for.

    • b says...

      I just want to second Riley’s thoughts- sometimes people are going through stuff that they just can’t share, even with their closest friends. For instance, about a year and a half ago I found out that my husband of close to 2 decades had been having an on/off affair with one of our closest mutual friends for almost 10 years. I was devastated (I still am, really) and as I struggled to come to terms with what I was feeling and what decisions I wanted to make, I found myself drifting from my other friendships. Most of my best friends live across the country but we all know and talk to the same people, and while I can calmly compose all this in an online forum, in real life, I’m pretty private. I just couldn’t handle telling my very well-meaning best friend, who loves me and who loves my husband and who also loves to gossip, what was happening when I wasn’t sure myself- I was so afraid that suddenly everyone in my small town would know, or maybe worse, I’d find out that everyone else already knew. And telling her would make it even more real; I could barely remember to breathe- I couldn’t take anymore real. Anyway, this is obviously very specific, but life can be like that. I have found that I’ve mostly come out the other side of this experience (though definitely not completely), and I’ve started to hint that maybe not everything’s been so great this last year to my friends. I love my friends, and I’m sorry that I could not be more present for them this last year; I really, truly am. But I was in survival mode and I did what I could to just keep breathing.

    • Christina says...

      @Lisa! I so understand how you feel, having been in similar situations myself. Could you invite them over for something that is not dinner? Like afternoon tea if you feel comfortable with sandwiches and cookies, or ice cream outdoors on a warm day? Or sausages and s’mores on the grill in the snow? Many people appreciate the gesture and don’t expect the same level of cooking they do themselves.

  50. Jamie says...

    Years ago I went through a friend purge and all at once let go completely of 3 close friendships. I just stopped contacting them completely and didn’t respond meaningfully to their outreach. It was very difficult but I had clear reasons for doing it in each case and was ready to make a change in my life. It was for the best.

  51. This seems to be the ONLY slice of the entire internet that addresses this situation, so THANK YOU for sharing! Yes, I have experienced this friend breakup and it is very hard, confusing, and hurtful. And it takes years to get over, if ever, unlike a romantic breakup which has more clearly defined lines. With an ex romance partner you are either still speaking or you are not. Or if it is somewhere in the middle then you still know that, too. With a friend who just slowly fades away, only to pop back in and tell you that it’s your fault somehow (or vice versa) that you haven’t spoken… yeah, it’s just overall a lot to deal with, and gives an already anxious mind much to mull over.

  52. E says...

    This piece and the comments are so insightful. But let’s talk mechanics for a minute. It sounds like we’ve all been on both sides of the equation. Is it worse to do the slow fade, or to be told your faults directly? I’ve had some pretty stark realizations about who I want in my life thanks to Covid Clarity, but what do I do next? A dramatic voicemail-leaver I am not.

    • Jamie says...

      I’ve had to end a friendship before and I just ultimately found it more respectful to just slow fade or ghost. But I think this has to be a conscious decision that it specific to the nature and dynamics of that relationship. Choose what is most respectful in other words. If you feel doing it in person will help them or be appreciated or necessary in any way, do it. For me, it felt like those avenues would ultimately be insulting for my specific relationship with that person. It still hurt like hell.

    • bethany says...

      I’ve had to end a few friendships in my life, and I almost always find it better just to let it quietly fade, because it comes down to this idea of whether or not I can change someone or whether they can change me. I know that I can’t change them and that trying is often a recipe for drama. I’d rather just respectfully bow out and let them be who they’re going to be and find people who are okay with that, then argue with them. Some people are only “your people” for a season, and that’s okay. The COVID Clarity is real – there are a handful of folks that have refused to be careful during the pandemic and my husband and I have just agreed to avoid hanging out with them even after its safe to gather again, because we clearly just don’t have the same values anymore. We can’t make them see it our way, but we don’t have to pretend like their choices were fine, either.

    • Brenna says...

      The slow fade comes most naturally to me. Those official line-in-the-sand “breakups” seem forced and artificial. And far worse, they don’t leave room for a possible serendipitous reuptake in the future! Who knows where either of you are going to be in years to come.

      Who knows what events (or workplaces, etc) you might find yourselves together at in the future. Dramatic “breakups” can be kind of ridiculous because they imply that you have total control over whether you see someone again or not.

    • e.m. says...

      I have done both the slow fade and been upfront about it (via a text message that said I didn’t think we had anything in common anymore). I think it depends on the friend and what your friendship was like.

    • C says...

      Honestly if you don’t want to deal with more drama and can get away with it I think the slow fade is best. I’m sure you have good reasons for letting go of some people…..unless they force confrontation (and with Covid….email is probably the easiest)?

  53. Jessica says...

    I loved reading this essay and all the comments here. An interesting recurring thread in these comments is when a friendship ends because one or both of you don’t have the emotional energy to maintain it, often due to some kind of personal crisis. I was reminded of a good friend who went through a serious mental health crisis in our early twenties which understandably interfered with her ability to keep up friendships, though I and another friend did what we could to stay in touch and support her. She one day sent both of us separate letters that essentially said, “thank you for being a good friend to me even though I can’t be one to you right now.” I thought that was such a gracious, brave, kind, and vulnerable thing to say. 15 years later and I still think of it. Not only was she able to acknowledge our feelings, but she also respected her own and implicitly set up the boundaries she needed–she expressed gratitude, but also clarified what she was capable of at that moment in time. I have so much respect for that, even more so that she was able to do that at such a young age and such a difficult moment for her. She might not have felt like she was being a good friend to me, but she modeled for me what clear and healthy communication in a friendship can look like–what a gift to a friend. We’re no longer in touch, but it’s a reminder to me that even though friendships may ebb out of our daily lives that doesn’t mean they don’t stay with you in a deep and meaningful way. In that sense, they don’t really end.

    • Katha says...

      „… but it’s a reminder to me that even though friendships may ebb out of our daily lives that doesn’t mean they don’t stay with you in a deep and meaningful way. In that sense, they don’t really end.“

      This is such a nice thought and beautifully said. Thank you Jessica. I will take that sentiment with me – it helps :)

    • mimi says...

      I wish more people could be that respectful, even receiving a letter is better than nothing at all and leaving you hanging. Being in the military and moving around every few years, I made friendships with a few girl friends each time and thought we’d be in touch for a long time. After sending birthday cards & holiday cards & no replies, I created an excuse for them because they didn’t do it for themselves. I told myself that they are only friends with people who live nearby.

  54. C says...

    This resonated with me so much! Especially with the part about getting over it compared to a romantic relationship. I was good friends with someone for years-one of my favorite people. We l, unfortunately let our relationship take a turn into a “more than friends” situation. When he finally “ghosted” me after that ended it hurt so much. It always hurt more than any other breakup-and I truly think it’s the friendship aspect of it. The hurt and shame of being let go of as a friend, and not caring about the friendship in the same way I did. In my head I look at it like more of a breakup now, but this post really helps me pinpoint what made me the saddest about it. A lost friend.

    Also, when I entered my mid 30s I basically ghosted an entire group of people I’d be hanging out with since my early 20s. Lack of effort and maturity on their part, and just growing up and apart just made me want more for myself out of friendships. Even if that meant just enjoying my own company instead of going out with a huge group on a Friday night.

  55. Dee says...

    I’ve been through this twice as an adult. My best friend from middle school onward was in crisis, reeling from the death of a loved one. She had toyed with the idea of suicide and wasn’t capable of being happy for anyone else in her orbit because of how she felt about herself. She was several states away and cut off communication. There was nothing I could do, but I understood. We reconnected 8 years later and are back like nothing ever happened.

    The other was a friend from 9th grade onward. We had attended different colleges and grad schools and returned to our hometown around the same time from abroad. We started hanging out – a lot – and were responsible for helping steer each other to our husbands. I attended her wedding. She was IN mine. And that was the last time I saw her. I texted her one day and saw the “read” receipt. She never answered. Weeks later, I texted again. Same thing. Emails unanswered. I finally took that I’m-not-just-being-paranoid leap and asked her if I had done something wrong. Read and unanswered. Then she unfriended me on Facebook…. and had her mom and sister do the same. To this day, nearly a decade later, I have no idea what happened. There was no argument, no tension. And now I’m left with wedding photos that hurt my heart to look at because she couldn’t be a grownup and at least tell me why.

    • Kate says...

      The same happened to me. I now recommend skipping bridesmaids to newly engaged friends. I see my wedding photos and feel a pang of heartbreak at the loss of one important, now ghosted, friendship.

  56. Hilary says...

    It seems like many of these comments are by those who’ve been broken up with (and I’ve been there!), so to balance the scales, I wanted to share a vulnerable defense of being the breaker-upper.

    I’ve had two friends that I have broken up with – one, a swift and sudden removal and the other a slow fade. The swift and sudden friend was removed after she left me (and my stuck car) in the snow outside of a house party at 2am so she could rush to a booty call. As I simmered in anger and waited for help, I realized – movie montage style – that she’d been a toxic friend for years, comparing our bodies, making mean comments about my sibling, calling my new college friends awful names when we went to different universities. So while I’m sure she was blindsided, I finally erected a boundary that felt strong and powerful to me. Therapy has taught me that I’m allowed to make boundaries and I don’t owe anyone any explanations about it, especially someone who has benefitted from me not having any boundaries at all. Mean girls – you’re on notice!

    The slow fade friend has been hard and sad, but necessary. This friend has been holding grudges for years, angry about petty things like where she stood at my wedding, who was invited and not, and the time I asked if I could set her up with a guy I thought was great and she thought was beneath her because of his job. She’s angry that she’s single and childless, but won’t go to therapy or do anything to remedy her situation. Life is so short – I don’t want to listen to her whine, complain and be passive aggressive about my life because she wants what I have. I’ve given this one several years of listening and hugs and offering advice when asked. But I finally gave myself permission to intentionally let her drift away and what I feel is…relief.

    So what I guess I want to say is this: it’s okay to break up. You’re not a bad person, or even a bad friend for recognizing toxic patterns, lax boundaries, or mean behavior. Everything has a season – even friendships – and when the hard stuff happens, somehow, life continues to turn, turn, turn.

  57. Vava says...

    Yeah, I’ve lost friends, but as it turns out I’m much happier not having them in my life. I was in a group of sewing friends and the dynamics were very unhealthy – the lead of the group tended to be very controlling and critical and it just wasn’t a good fit. I axed that friendship and naively thought I could remain friends with the others but it was not to be. Loyalties, you know.
    The other recent situation has come due to my friend of 40 years becoming an avid Trump supporter. Making racist statements and thinking I wasn’t going to call him on it. So, bye bye. I’m totally OK with it because I think his views are absolutely IMMORAL.

  58. Tobie says...

    This post is so timely and beautifully written. Many of my friend relationships are undergoing a real test right now due to COVID, politics, and our newly heightened awareness of some fundamental differences between us. It’s hard. On one hand, these stressful times are when we all need friendships the most! On the other, how do you just look past some really glaring differences (we always knew we disagreed about certain things, but those things feel now like strongly held core values rather than casual opinions)?? One of my oldest and dearest friends, a white woman who identifies as Christian, recently went on a FB rant about George Floyd, police brutality and mask wearing that shook me to my core. I have always known she skewed more conservative than me but I knew she was a good person who meant well and I think she also tends to posture as more liberal when she is around me. Either way, seeing blatantly racist stuff coming from her like that….it floored me. I lost sleep for several days trying to decide how and what to say to her about it. I don’t feel right writing her off or cutting her off, but at the same time, I cannot do nothing. At the very least, I know I can no longer muster the kind of trust, intimacy and respect that our friendship used to have. I know thousands of people are walking through this same painful quandary with family members and friends. My heart goes out to all of you.

    • suki says...

      Let her go. Sometimes you just have to. It’s ok. You can love someone and still let them go. It is actually one of the most progressively peaceful activist moves you can make because it sends a strong but peaceful message to God and to yourself about who you want in your life and the kind of life you want to support. There are a lot of fish in the sea. Actively practice CHOICE. If she cares about your perspective she will ask you to explain. But I’ll bet she lets you go too. And then you’re free to choose a better friend.

    • Kate says...

      There was a recent post on CoJ about a very similar situation!! I have definitely had to dump blatantly racist, men’s rights, straight pride parade expounding friends. It becomes exhausting and disturbing dealing with them.

    • Ella says...

      I can relate to a lot of this, but it’s with a newer friend, not an older one. But we live in the same neighborhood and have kids the same age, so it’s going to be hard to completely avoid one another once this pandemic ends. I did decide to speak up to say that I’m not sure we can still be friends knowing her support of issues and people (i.e. the former president) are so different than mine. Like you said, at this point it has become more of a values disconnect than a political issue. We had sort of a silent pact just not to discuss politics, but feel like that might have been a mistake because maybe I would’ve understood sooner how completely different we are. She has been a good friend, but it’s sort of unconscionable for me to be close with someone who is supportive of people and issues that can directly harm me and those who I love. My secret hope is that she will take the opportunity to learn more about my perspective, but I’m just not going to hold out for that anymore.

  59. Sarah says...

    I tell my partner and close friends that thinking of (or God-forbid, randomly running into) my “ex-best-friend” is just as gut-wrenching to me as if she were an ex. It’s almost more hurtful. Typically, romantic relationships have to end in order to move on – you only have one romantic partner. But when someone chooses to do that to a friendship, where there is no expectation of monogamy, that is a hurtful and confusing wound, especially when you don’t have a specific reason for why it happened. At least in my case, I think that’s why it hurts so much.

    • Sarah says...

      Yes, THIS exactly! There’s no expectation of monogamy in friendship, so when someone feels a need to end it, it’s impossible not to take it in the most personal and hurtful way.

    • This this this!
      Exactly totally agree that it hurts so much more than a romantic relationship

    • Ellen says...

      I feel this. An acquaintance I thought was turning into a friend ghosted me, and it still hurts when I think about it. We had known each other for a few years, and then both moved to the same area, and were both pregnant. It made me wonder what she thought of me, if even in this situation she didn’t need/want my friendship… it really stung.

  60. Lauren E, says...

    Wow that exchange about having had a baby really got me. I’m 12 weeks pregnant and my oldest friend doesn’t know because we haven’t spoken beyond a Happy Birthday text in nearly five years after a very ugly incident at my wedding. I miss her all the time, though, and I’m ready to mend the bridge but I just can’t figure out how to do it.

    • Lane D. says...

      Hiya, just a humble two cents, but just take that last sentence and text/email/send a note in the mail. Do it! You will have heroically broken the ice, and then at least you know. Five years can change, or cement, someone-maybe you will both be surprised

      Your note here inspired me, I’ve been internally pining for a message like this from a friend fallout for months…and I just now sent it to them. I wrote ‘Hi, I don’t know how to start,, but I miss you and hope you’re safe. I’m here if you want to talk.’ Maybe we’ll surprise each other too.

    • Lainey says...

      I agree with Lane below, and wanted to share my experience. One of my closest friends since high school and I had a falling out right after college. Four years later, she reached out to me with very similar words to what Lane shared below and we were able to slowly mend things. It took some time and was a little awkward at first – like catching up with an acquaintance, though we knew each other’s families and histories and had many shared memories. That was over a decade ago, and she is among my closest friends to this day. I was embarrassed at my role in our friendship ending and don’t know that I would have had the courage to reach out to her, and am so glad that she chose to be the bigger person and initiate.

  61. Katie says...

    When my husband was in medical school I made friends with a woman who soon ghosted me. When I ran into her one day she said, “I just want you to know that I adore you, but when you said that you would be moving in a couple of years I just decided that I couldn’t make the investment in a relationship with you.” It felt good and hurt. She wasn’t rejecting me for me, but for circumstances. However, I knew that my life would be and had been littered with many moves (residency, fellowship, rural medicine practice, academia etc). It’s hard to make and maintain friendships under those circumstance. I have lived so many places that I have friends all over the world and way too many to maintain regular contact with. However, that doesn’t lessen their importance in my life. After the experience of being rejected because I would be moving soon I determined that I would be the friend to the transient people. I think it’s worth investing in friendships no matter how short. I look at that limited time as a challenge to dig in and get to know them well while I can.

    • Dana says...

      Yes! As a military spouse who moves every 2-3 years, transient friendships have been my lifeline for the past two decades.

  62. MS says...

    I just wanted to say thank you for writing this and all these comments are relatable and wise. I’ve had several friendship breakups in the past few years and they hurt so much. Most of these were slow fades and happened because we were growing in different directions.

    However, recently a very close friend seems to be completely ghosting me which has never happened to me before (with a friend) and it’s really wrecking me. I shared things with this person that were so intimate. I bared my soul to her. She called me her best friend. I’m so confused. During the pandemic we basically became each other’s lifeline. I keep looking at my phone hoping to see some kind of communication from her but…nothing.

    I don’t regret the friendship or being so vulnerable. I don’t want it to scare me off from being close with people again. It’s still really raw and painful at this moment, though. I’m very sad about it. I see everyone who’s feeling the same pain and send you my love <3

    • Sarah says...

      I’m so sorry you’re feeling that pain right now! I don’t have any advice other than be kind to yourself! And this feeling will get easier.

    • Ana D. says...

      That’s the kind of relationship that can be the most momentarily rewarding and long-term taxing. It’s absolutely crucial when it’s at its peak, and then it can gradually become an agonizing energy drain and epicenter of boundary-crossing. I’ve had to walk away from incredibly intense friendships before because I couldn’t find a path to healthy de-escalation and ease. These friendships went from being a source of solace, epiphany, and self-care to a source of persistent emotional burden and cyclical pain. Sometimes the connection burns hotter than someone can handle.

    • HYS says...

      This just happened to me too. It wasn’t a ghosting, but a text that was mean, accusatory, full of projection and not remotely like her in any way. We were cohosting a podcast we both loved at the time, and it’s all still a hurtful mystery to me. I lost a beloved friend and incredible project all in a single text.

    • E says...

      Ana, yes!! I was the breaker upper of a friendship where she rushed to use terms like “best friend” (which seems unnecessary and immature as women in our 30s). The constant FaceTime was fun for a while but then I did this or that that was slightly hurtful, or didn’t give over my full attention at demand, and the response was ICE. Sometimes it is best to let go simply because it is just too heavy.

  63. J says...

    My natural inclination is to be a hermit. I love my friends, but I will sometimes go through times–sometimes days, sometimes weeks–where being in communication with people just seems like too much. This happens less as I get older, but was especially prevalent in my late teens and early 20s. There are some friends that I do my best to cut through this fog for. They are wonderful, and I don’t ever want to lose them. Even long distance, these friendships have lasted. For the casual acquaintances and possible friends though, one day I may just slip away into the breeze. I don’t mean to hurt your feelings. I just can’t find the strength to physically bear the weight of friendship.

    • Lauren E. says...

      I feel this HARD. And I have a couple friends who need constant contact and it weighs on me. I end up feeling so guilty, and that makes it even harder. I feel like maybe if we were all a little more honest, it might lessen the burden.

  64. Tricia M says...

    When a ” good ” friend just wasn’t there for me after my mother died. The following advice really helped me as I hope it might help some readers here:
    “It’s during the toughest times of your life that you’ll get to see the true colours of people who say they care about you. Notice who sticks around and who doesn’t; be grateful for those who leave you for they have given you the room to grow in the space they abandoned and the awareness to appreciate the people who loved you when you didn’t feel loveable.”

    Sorry I can’t recall who said this. Take care everyone.

  65. Callie says...

    I’ve been the friend ghoster. I’ve let a few friendships (one of them very close) fade out because they felt suffocating or energy-depleting to me. The people involved were always asking about spending time together and meeting up, even though I work a very stressful and busy job (and love it) – plus I’m an introvert who needs alone time to recharge. I felt so guilty about having to constantly turn down invitations and deliver justifications why I can’t meet, it got to the point where the guilt and anxiety would set it when I saw those people’s names pop up on my phone. I know, not the most mature way to handle it, but I hoped they would lay off a bit when they kept getting rejections from me.

    Eventually I came out with the truth and said how I felt – that it had nothing to do with them, but with my busy schedule and limited desire to socialize in my free time. Two of the friends became angry and took it incredibly personally. The other one said she understood but ended up badmouthing me to mutual friends.

    I think all friendships have a certain run, and it’s ok when that run is over. It’s nothing personal. But my standard for the friends I do love to see and keep in touch with is that they feel nourishing and energizing, and it’s ok that only very few make that cut.

    • Daphne says...

      The friends you ended the friendships with were probably very hurt, there is no reason to blatantly end a friendship because they wanted more time with you than you wanted. These friend losses stay in hearts and memories forever, be careful how you treat people. And it is personal.

    • Mary says...

      Callie, good for you for setting boundaries for yourself and for having the courage to be honest with your friends. Their reaction and anger only speaks of them. While they were probably understandably hurt, the fact that they couldn’t support you and empathize with your needs was a sign that it was the right decision to let the friendships go.

    • Jackie says...

      Wow. Daphne’s comment is incredibly cold. I’m sorry she took her personal feelings out on you in the comments. I get you 100%! I have a friend who constantly texts me and asks for more time. And I’ve noticed our time together fatigues me now. She seems to always be boasting about her life and making fun of my struggles. I don’t know how we got here – I don’t remember this being our dynamic. But I am also distancing trying to give myself more room. I too am an introvert and I just don’t have the energy to give to everyone who wants it from me.

  66. agatha says...

    thank you so much for this. this post resonated with me more than any other post in this crazy upheaval of a pandemic year. two friends, one newish but one i had invested a lot of time in and had high hopes for, and one 10+ years, disappeared during this pandemic. no matter how many times i reached out i heard nothing back or when i mentioned i hadn’t heard from one in almost a month and was concerned, i received a scathing text about things i should have known (which were impossible given the unreturned messages). these fade outs, particularly in the midst of a global pandemic when i live alone and rely on my friendships as a lifeline, were beyond hurtful. i’ve spent the last 10 months moving through phases of hurt, anger, to acceptance. i tried to figure out what part i played in this loss, if any, but finally gave up after months of beating myself up about it. if this helps anyone, a friend gave me a quote when i discussed how hurt i was because of this ghosting: he told me to “Stop Trying to Water a Dead Plant.” for whatever reason these people didn’t care about me anymore and did not want to be a part of my life. i was putting forth all this energy and thought into people that showed no respect or care for the friendship and love i had put in and continued to try and put in, so it was time to let go. when i stopped trying to water these dead plants of friendship, i could water the plants that were thriving in my life.

    thank you for this powerful piece and for anyone that has had friendships disappear, it sucks, it hurts, but you will get through it

  67. Kim says...

    I ghosted some friends from high school after going to one of their weddings and getting blackout drunk on white wine. I was 24, and they had some of the biggest wine glasses ever for the white wine. I still feel a bit guilty and embarrassed over the whole situation almost 10 years later. But mostly it made it easier to leave those friends behind. I don’t think they really knew me well and I was always awkward and exhausted spending time with them because we didn’t have much in common. I figured they were probably better off without me in the friend group too, and that it was easier to just cut things off than try to repair things after my terrible behavior.

    • Kim says...

      Actually I wouldn’t call it ghosting. I’m not sure I even apologized to the bride (big mistake there), and I maybe turned down one event invite afterwards and then they also just let things go. So I imagine they also weren’t too interested in keeping me around.

    • Laura says...

      I think sometimes we try to desperately try justify our bad behaviour to ourselves (and we ALL mis-behave sometimes) when we’re struggling to deal with the shame around it, but I think the way to actually heal is to rather than tell ourselves stories about why it doesn’t matter (which we don’t even believe), we can dig deep into empathy and try to really understand what the situation would have felt like for the people that we hurt. This isn’t to make you feel like more of a jerk (NOT AT ALL), but to actually put yourself in their shoes. Maybe you could send a small no-strings-attached apology to the people you hurt? I think you’ll find that you not only make them feel acknowledged and they will respect you for that, but that your shame around it will start to fall away. You’re not a bad person, you just did a not so good thing. Your one drunken episode at a wedding certainly does NOT define you. I hope you find some inner peace around this one. Sending a hug. :-)

  68. Kate says...

    I’ve never really had many close friends, certainly not a good group of friends, until the past couple of years. And I’m 31. It was all I ever wanted but I couldn’t figure out how to connect with people, and I didn’t know how to break into an already established group. I imagined being part of group chats, and going on friend trips, but all I had were my boyfriend of 4 years, my sisters and my one close friend. Nobody else texted or called me or invited me out. It was quite lonely – so I’ve never really been friendship dumped but I do know how it feels to be left out and forgotten.

    But when I left my relationship in 2018 the world opened up to me! Now I have three separate, sometimes overlapping, groups of good friends. I took a trip to Portugal with two female friends in 2019, spent a girls only weekend at a cabin with a handful of friends, went on a weekend ski trip with 10 pals early last winter, this past Christmas day a bunch of us met up to go sledding in the afternoon just like we were kids again – these are experiences that I genuinely longed for and could only have imagined. After a serious relationship ended abruptly and brutally this past summer, my friends helped me move out and checked in on me, I stayed on my best friend’s couch for a month. That’s the measure of friendship, when something seriously shitty happens, like getting dumped and being suddenly homeless in the middle of a pandemic, can you be honest with them about your pain? Will they be there for you? I am now known for having “lots of friends” and my close friends know I didn’t really have anyone in my life before, I’m not shy to admit it because even though at the time it felt like I must have some fatal flaw for not being ‘chosen’, it’s not a real reflection of my worth. What I’m saying is, you can always begin again! You are lovable and worthy.

    • suki says...

      Oh God I love this story! So happy for you!

    • sasha says...

      this give me hope! I am 29 and still searching for that elusive “friend group”.

    • al says...

      My story is so similar. There were several years I would look at photos online of acquaintances and their friends and wonder why I couldn’t penetrate a group like that. I was so friendly and would meet people and think “I’ve done it, I’ve made a friend!”, to hardly hear from them and go on for months longer alone. Finally, it took moving and breaking up with my ex and meeting just one person who opened me up to her world, then so on and so on. Now, I have several deeply close relationships and friend groups and my friends are shocked when I tell them “this is all I ever wanted”. For anyone out there who finds it hard to make friends, it will happen, keep trying. I now make a point of being that “one person” to open up to someone and let them into the group whenever I can.

    • SP says...

      oh my god, hooray! i also feel like i genuinely long for a group of really good friends so much. even more than a romantic partner, really. i’m so glad you found your people!

  69. SJ says...

    Unfortunately, I understand this post more than I’d like. I’ve gone through many friendship breakups. However, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with them. Like romantic relationships, sometimes you learn things about a person that make you uneasy, or you learn you don’t share the same values as someone (i.e gossip, breaking of commitments, etc.) As I get older, I realize the importance having good quality friendships versus friendships that simply work due to proximity or ease. Good friends are a treasure. Thus, the discovery takes time. And good, fruitful friendships aren’t guaranteed to last forever. Learn what you can from them, give and love with your whole heart, build trust, and enjoy the moment.

    • Madeleine says...

      Love this comment. I needed to hear that. <3

    • SJ says...

      @Madeleine

      I’m so happy to hear my comment resonated with you. I’m grateful to be a part of this kind and caring community. It makes the world feel a little bit smaller.

      Sending love!

  70. Denise says...

    I literally had this happen to me last night. While looking for two friends I was meeting up with at an outdoor venue, I spied three other close friends together. I hadn’t been invited. I found my two friends and texted two of the other three that “imagine my surprise”. They both texted to come see them, and when I didn’t answer, one (the sweetest, nicest person) came to find me and explain. It was the third. It’s always the third. Later I texted them and asked what I’d done. Nothing. They asked if we could meet up later this week to talk. I told them no, that if I thought I’d hurt one of them, I’d be on their doorstep right now. I spent all night thinking I’m a bad friend for not always reaching out. But they didn’t either. So, I forgive them, and I forgive me.

    • Kate says...

      Ugh, that really stings, Denise. Earlier in the pandemic something similar happened, my friends had a Zoom board game night and when I found out they didn’t invite me I just said, “Guess my invitation got lost in the mail” but it really hurt. Later, after I confided in one of my close friends he explained they didn’t bother inviting me because they thought I wouldn’t show up. I had essentially become really flakey since getting into a relationship with someone who was very selfish with my time, and I realized I had been prioritizing time with him over seeing my friends, and sadly I had taken our in-person time for granted. I’m grateful he was honest with me, because it’s easy to feel like it’s personal and that they didn’t want me there because they don’t enjoy my company. It definitely made me feel like a kid again when you find out your friends all went to the pool without you :( But I saw that I needed to literally get better at showing up for them. And also, I recognized that people can totally hang out without me and it’s not a reflection on me. Different people bring different dynamics to a group and how many times have I invited some people out or over and not others?

    • Denise says...

      Thanks Kate <3 I spoke with the two this morning, and we ironed out what had happened. They always assumed I just knew they spent time with her one on one. I didn't, because when it was the three of us, they always asked if they could invite her too. I wrongfully assumed the same thing was happening on the other end. So definitely an uneven dynamic. It will take some work, and I don't know if I'll ever feel fully comfortable around them again. But I'm willing to try.

  71. E says...

    My first therapist back in college told me something that I’ve always returned to over the years “Everyone is going through something that is completely unrelated to you.” It brings me some comfort when I think of friendships that could have been and weren’t or drifted away. Maybe it didn’t have anything to do with me, as sad as it was. Conversely, I could see where *I* was the one that did the drifting through no fault of others. Several years ago my husband and I went through a horrible period in our marriage – money, alcohol and unfaithfulness were all involved – and very few people outside of our very closest friends knew about it. He stopped drinking and we stopped going out with our group of friends, got off the group chat that was only about going to the bar, and definitely withdrew. Looking back I’m sure it could have felt like we dumped some friends when it was really something we were dealing with as a couple that we didn’t really want to make public. At the same time, that group chat evolved into how the whole group made plans, not just going to the bar, and, not knowing that, we thought we were being deliberately left out. Over those couple of years we ALL changed, and it definitely impacted the nature of our friendships. We now live in a new place, and only keep in touch with the people we confided to back then. I guess what the whole experience has taught me is that it may be worth saying to people “I’m going through a hard time right now and that might make me appear distant” rather than just retreating from the world.

  72. Sally says...

    I still think about the girl who ghosted me in our early 20s.
    We’d been friends since we were 7, and although she never quite made “best friend” status for me, she was virtually always in my top 3. I thought we’d be friends forever. Even when we went to separate universities, we’d made it through.
    We had drinks together, one warm September evening. Walking from my house, to a local pub and back again. I was about to move away for a year to do a post-grad course. We chatted, had fun, promised to catch up soon… And I never heard from her again.
    I bumped into her 7 or 8 years later at a school reunion, and it was awkward as hell. She ignored me most of the night, and went I eventually cornered her to say hi, I got a hug, “good to see you!” and then she went back to pointedly ignoring me.
    I often wonder what went wrong, and find myself thinking of her quite often.

    • s says...

      Stories like this are why I decided to always provide a simple explanation – we deserve it! “You’re an amazing person but I feel like we see things differently” etc. Something true but simple for closure and clarification. It is cruel not to do this.

    • Dee says...

      Totally agree with S. It’s cruel. That happened to me – dumped with no explanation even when I requested one – and I still dwell on it almost 10 years later.

    • R says...

      I don’t know… perhaps the ghosting is closure enough? Here’s another take on it:

      Think about it in terms of dating. Sure, when someone ghosts I pine away and want to know the reason “why.” But would I actually want them to send a list of my flaws or go into detail about why they didn’t like me?

      I had a guy do that a few months ago and it wrecked my self-esteem. That’s why I think, while we love the idea of closure, it’s important to be able to give *ourselves* closure — either because we’re never going to get it, or because we aren’t going to like it when we do.

      The same might be true for friendships. Give yourself the closure if you were ghosted. And if you’re the one ghosting, think twice before sending that “breakup” text.

  73. LK says...

    I’ve been on both sides of this, at lots of different times in my life. High school drama (when I was dumped, a lost a lot of friends), similar with college (senior year when I dropped by someone’s house in my neighborhood and saw they were having a party without me), and then even one of my bridesmaids (my husband’s long time friend).

    It’s so difficult, you look at yourself and think “what could I have done differently”? But as time passes, you realize, even if you could change everything, the people were cruel to you and hurt you so badly. It stings and I still think about it…but I do realize I have found my “people” who appreciate me and love me.

  74. Thank you for posting this. I’ve lost almost all contact with a group of friends I used to see or talk to almost everyday for two years since COVID. One friend in particular just stopped reaching out. I know COVID has been hard on everyone, and I’ve said hello a few times over text, but it’s so awful to go from seeing or hearing from someone every day to radio silence.

  75. I just took nearly half an hour to read all these comments and I feel all the pain, guilt, nostalgia, and sadness — and the relief in some cases. Understanding that every friendship is different (and will have its own season) has brought me so much peace. Some friendships are lifelong (rare, but so possible), and others will last as long as both parties remain invested. That helps me make peace with evolving or ending friendships.

  76. Katie says...

    Thank you for this essay. It also makes me reflect on how friendships can change and it’s OK. My best friend from college and I are no longer bffs like we once were, but we have a solid hang-out-a-few-times-a-year type of friendship. We just don’t have as much in common anymore and spend most of our time reminiscing, and it’s fun to hang out with her! Things had started to feel tense between us when we tried to force the intimacy that we’d had before. We almost had a total breakup and it was painful for a while – but then took some space and found that it’s OK that our friendship had evolved and isn’t what it once was. I’m glad to have her in my life. I have other, closer friends now, but none who have known me as long as she has! Relationships change, often for the better, to fit the direction your lives are going in. I’m glad we’re starting to have more nuanced conversations about friendships!

    • Sarah says...

      This is so true. My oldest, dearest friend holds diametrically opposite political views to me. We have so much history and love for each other – which means these days I keep my counsel, trying to hold onto the maxim, it’s better to be kind than be right.

  77. kim says...

    i dumped a GF who i’ve known since we were 7 or 8 a few years ago. I’m now 56. i know she doesn’t understand, and i know a different person would have explained how negative and rotten she ‘s become. i know that ‘s a terrible thing to say. I started to have a real problem w/ her when she would complain about her husband and how he didn’t make any money, and how she would pray for him to be hit by a bus (he’s a wonderful man). anyway, i know she doesn’t understand but i couldn’t bring myself to have a dead end conversation w/ her. i know we shared many things, even our parents knew each other – but i didn’t want to, i still don’t want any contact with her. her husband has told me that she misses me but , i don’t care.

    the other friend break up is still painful. i lied to her once , tried to make myself more impressive and she found out. but she wasn’t kind about it, i knew she knew and she would kind of torture me, we didn’t talk about it openly. anyway, i slowly distanced myself from her b/c i felt so deeply embarrassed . she reached out to me once after that but i didn’t feel like continuing – i didn’t know how to move forward, so i just didn’t return the call. that still hurts b/c she was so smart and funny and interesting. on the other hand, i do remember she had so many stories of friend break-ups, people ghosting her, and people she dumped. so sometimes i think it wasn’t my fault.

    thank you for writing that about forgiveness. i copied it into my journal.
    THANK YOU so much.

  78. Shona says...

    i had a 15 year friendship with someone who ended up ghosting me. We had visited and stayed with each other when we lived in the same country. When we both moved to other countries, we kept in regular skype contact, I’m talking monthly 2 hour long catch ups. She was a very dear friend. We planned and went on a long awaited trip together. One that meant we both had to compromise on our ideas for – she wanted more luxury, I wanted more backpack style. After the trip, I got one line responses to my emails/texts. She sent a lame excuse for not attending my wedding. In the end, a year and a half after our trip, I received an email explaining why she was no longer my friend, basically because of grievances related to planning of the trip and things from the trip, none of which I had any idea about. I did respond, not quite sure what she expected and to be honest, so much had happened in my life since then, I didnt event remember all the details she referred to. She never wrote back. Its been 6 years since the trip and our lives have changed a lot. I still don’t understand it, especially because she would gripe to me about other friends, and how they wronged but she’s still friends with them. I never expected her to be so petty and to act like that.

  79. Taylor says...

    Thank you for this beautiful article. You captured the nuances of adult friendship so well. I especially appreciate the acknowledgement that even as we grow older, we can and do still feel the pain.

    And please share your George Costanza line!

  80. Katha says...

    Thank you for this post. I love reading the comments and I didn’t know how much I needed this right now.
    So here is mine.

    I’ve had friendships drift in and out of my life and that’s ok. There was some high school drama (that hurt) but there was also reconciliation. I had some close and less close friendships that faded away. That’s ok, that’s life. I miss them (I always do) but it mostly didn’t/doesn’t hurt much.
    But two stick out for me.

    One because I was the shitty friend.
    I guess I was never as invested in the friendship as she was to begin with. But in hindsight my behaviour was sometimes downright neglectful and egoistic. I’m not proud of it. I never thought I would be that person and it’s a very humbling experience. I don’t remember how it ended but I think she did right by pulling back from our friendship.

    The other one was me being cut off and it still hurts. We met the first days of university 20 years ago and were close for many years. Then the communication got sparse, she stopped initiating contact and at some point she stopped replying to texts or mails. I tried to keep in touch but after some time I just stopped reaching out. That was a few years ago but I still think about her often. I don’t understand why we have no contact at all. I have a couple of friends that I was relatively close with and now we rarely speak. But they’re still there somehow and we catch up every now and then. I can deal with that. But she just left me completely and it makes me wonder what I did.

  81. Hayley B says...

    After reading all these honest and sincere comments, I have to wonder: is it better to be told why your friends are ditching you, or is it preferable to just be ghosted outright? Personally, I think I prefer the latter. Honestly, there is no reason or explanation anyone can give you that is going to be good enough to salve the pain of them wanting you out of their lives, least ways not to me. At least if they just fade away, I can console myself that it’s just because of differing life paths or a change in circumstances/us drifting apart, instead of it being due to some flaw or fault of mine, whether perceived or real. Maybe it’s delusional of me to think so, but being able to tell myself that it’s really them, not me, seems to be the one final mercy/grace former friends can grant each other and ultimately the gentlest way to manage the end of a friendship.

    I also have to say, I agree with the commenters who say it feels like friend breakups hurt more than the end of romantic relationships. Maybe it’s because the parameters and roles of partners in romantic entanglements are more clearly defined than friendships. The same goes for the reactions of friends, family and society in the aftermath of romantic breakups. Generally the accepted treatment of women suffering heartbreak is for friends to gather to provide support and a sympathetic ear, roundly condemn the Ex as a no-good louse, and reassure her that she deserves better. There isn’t a similar grieving ritual for anyone suffering friendship breakups — indeed mutual friends in the breakup aftermath tend to hold back and get awkward in the presence of the dumped — and maybe that’s why there’s still this shroud of secrecy and shame at being dropped by their friend circle. The only silver lining is that the fallout tends to get less intense the older one gets, because at least you don’t have to deal with seeing the ppl who are suddenly ostracizing you day in and day out like you would have to in the cramped confines of school or college. Propinquity can be a b*tch…

    • Emily says...

      I completely agree Hayley, I would rather not know why someone doesn’t want me in their life anymore! That kind of information would likely haunt me forever, and not necessarily help me in future relationships.

    • R says...

      I just posted above that ghosting is way, way better. We think we want closure but if someone were to send me a list of reasons why they didn’t want me in their life anymore? No thank you! Ghosting is enough information. And closure is something you give yourself.

    • Hayley B says...

      Emily, R, I totally get you guys. With the benefit of hindsight, I’m starting to think a lot of these friendships break up as a result of just a bad fit. I mean, just for example, some commenters said they got ditched for being “too eager” or “too enthusiastic” to spend time with their friends (which sounds like a weak sauce excuse if ever I’ve heard one?) that came across as smothering to the dumper, but I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who would be *thrilled* to make a friend who’s so openly happy to be with them. I mean, I’m an introverted, reserved sort — always have been ever since I was a kid — and as fate would have it, I tend to attract (and love!) the ebullient, outgoing sort of friend. Or, personalities change over time and one or both parties comes to realise the relationship is no longer a good fit. My point is, sometimes the trait that is a dealbreaker to one friend could very well be something that another person would love to have in a friend. Just because one or more of your traits doesn’t mesh well with your current set of friends, it doesn’t mean there aren’t other people out there who wouldn’t value them or you.

    • theguvnah says...

      Yeah, in my case there was no real way to say “your desperate need for attention is suffocating and I can’t handle it anymore, and your untreated trauma leading to binge drinking is no longer behavior I can abide” without harming someone. Sometimes ghosting or fading is kinder.

    • Molly says...

      I LOVE all these replies and your original comment, Hayley B! I’m firming in the slow fade camp for exactly what you articulated above. I have one friend I’m going through that now with and it’s not like there was anything directly mean done to me or wrong committed. I have a good number of other close friends who love/ support me much more than she does. Besides the occasional digs in our conversation, I had begun to feel drained/ exhausted after spending time with this friend over the past few years even pre COVID. I cannot continue to spend emotional energy on her on a regular basis, but wouldn’t mind a catch up every couple of months. I agree with you fully that graceful transitions out are the way to go. Sending you good vibes for the journey forward in 2021 :)

  82. EW says...

    I have had three friendships dissolve. In one instance I have no idea why; she ghosted me when I became pregnant with my first child. In two other instances, these were friends with marriages in crisis. In each case (about a decade apart), the friend required immediate help to secure temporary housing, a lawyer; they were experiencing all the upheaval. In both cases, I helped as much as I could and was a good friend. And, once their lives settled and started to turn around, I was the last person either wanted to interact with. I was there for all the bad and then none of the good. In one instance, I wasn’t invited to the wedding when she found someone new. In the other instance, the marriage reconciled but they are no longer our best couple friends (we see them a couple of times per year as a family, max). Both instances have left me with a whistful sort of sadness. I miss these friends.

  83. JenJen says...

    This was me last week. Someone I’ve known for half my life, we were each other’s bridesmaids, we could talk for hours and had had some amazing times together. Her mum passed away in 2019 and her dad last year in a tragic accident and I wasn’t really there for her, which is a huge regret, but I was also struggling with my own losses and frankly what happened to her scared the pants off me. I did try, but not enough, because she dumped my by email. It’s shite, but our lives did drift, especially once I had a kid. I haven’t replied to her email, I know there won’t be any changing her mind. It’s a loss, but also something of a relief, which is probably a sign that it was the right thing to happen.

    • Anonymous says...

      This is so hard. I had a friend who, right as our friendship was falling apart, went through an awful trauma that was super triggering for me. She, understandably, wanted my support and I just couldn’t be there for her in the way she wanted me to be. I try to hold grace for both of us and remember that both things (that I disappointed her terribly and that I set the boundaries I needed) can be true at the same time.

  84. Becks says...

    Over the years I have had quite a few very intense, close friendships that have then disappeared. In counselling a few years ago I was fretting about it and the response was just to let them go. You have friendships for certain periods of your life and then either you or they move on. You don’t have to be friends forever. That’s not a rule.

    I have had friends since nursery school 30+ years ago but also friendships I have grown out of within a couple of years. Doesn’t make it less sad but means I try not to blame myself too much (although I certainly contributed to the demise of couple of them). You can have relationship flings so why not friendship flings?!

    • Antonia says...

      Friendship flings! That is exactly what I have with some friends (past and current) in my life and sometimes I feel guilty of not keeping those friendships of putting in more of an effort. But they were just flings! This feels very liberating to me, thank you!

  85. Emie says...

    My mom had a friend ghost her after over 50 years of friendship. Before I was born my mom met her at the bank where they both worked. We started moving because of my dad’s job but we still family in the area. For years we would always visit with this friend and her family whenever we were in town. Fast forward to 1996 and my parents retired back to the same area. My mom and her friend resumed their friendship. My mom even brought this friend with to come visit me and it was about a 10 hour drive. About 2010 my mom’s friend just quit talking with her out of the blue. Wouldn’t return phone calls etc. My mom even wrote her a letter asking what was going on. Nothing, just no response. So a friendship from about 1954 to 2010 just gone… POOF!

  86. Cindy Nichols says...

    Please tell the George C quote – I read through the comments hoping to see your reply to others that asked.

  87. Antonia says...

    I love this! Friendships can be complicated. In reading this essay and the comments and also when I think about my own friendships, I do notice a massive lack of communication (though maybe that is just my perception!). It seems that no one really talks to the other person about the issues that are coming up? Which is something I am totally guilty of with my own ex-friends! Somehow, most of my friendships seem too fragile to be able to survive an honest talk about the current state of affairs. So I guess I don’t bother – and the other person seems to be doing the same.
    I feel there is so much information out there about the importance of good communication in a romantic relationship but what about a friendship? How does everyone navigate this?

    • Maria says...

      I was thinking the same thing. I have a friendship that nearly broke up three years ago. She was getting married, we were best friends, I had expected to be maid of honour, but was only invited on short notice. I was so confused, I had been thinking that she felt about me the way that I felt about her! It took many talks to get us back together. And I am so glad that she and I were both willing and able to do that work. I´ve had other friendships fall apart, often over “irreconcilable differences”, but I´m so glad this freindship survived!

  88. santa says...

    Thank You for this! It is so beautifully written, and so true and familiar.
    I am still thinking about a friendship that ended a already 5 years ago. We were friends since highschool.
    After getting away from an abusive relationship I tried to piece my life back together. She supported me and helped me. I got a new job that gave me confidence and joy. Then I noticed that she was starting to criticize me. About the way I used my phone, about the people I was meeting, the way I looked…
    She would get upset and ignore me for a while, then reappear and make me feel guilty.
    Then she ignored me again and I was too busy to notice. So we didn’t speak for a couple of years. When I was expecting my daughter, she noticed it on social media and asked me for a friendly coffee. We spent 4 hours talking. I was 8 months pregnant. Most of that time she spent explaining how I had wronged her, how awful I had made her feel, etc. I was a bit shocked.
    This time I didn’t feel the guilt that I usually did. I was annoyed. There were too many important, beautiful things to think about instead of this.
    We congratulate each other on birthdays, but no longer try to do anything else. That is so freeing.

  89. Hannah says...

    I had a friendship break-up in college. 3 girls that I thought were my best friends called me over and told me that they didn’t want to be friends with me anymore. It was a day before we were due to get an apartment together. I was completely blindsided, and even 30 years later now, it still makes me tentative in every relationship.

    I went back to one of the girls later to ask what had happened. She said that I was immature and that I was hanging around her too much and keeping her from studying. She blamed her poor grades on me (and also sounded bitter that I was doing well in my classes). For years, I took that to mean that I shouldn’t ask potential friends to get together, that seeming eager about a friendship would be suffocating to others.

    At our 10th reunion, I saw one of them again. She had moved to NYC and was in a close-knit friend group with some other acquaintances from college. It seemed like all of them together were living the “Friends” life – the gold standard for anyone who went to college in the 90s. I got bitter all over again. It reinforced my belief that there was something wrong with me. After all, she had the friendship ideal, and here I was again, on the outside looking in.

    So yeah, it’s 30 years later, and I just started exploring some of these issues in therapy. I read this post right after today’s session. Thank you Lisa for putting into words so much of what’s been on my heart! “I forgive you, I forgive me” hit home for me. After years of being ashamed and bitter at myself for being immature and suffocating, I have just arrived at the “I’m angry at you, I forgive me.” Maybe, I’ll get to “I forgive you” some day.

    • LK says...

      This really made me stop! This (sort of) happened to me. I was supposed to live with 3 girls, 2 were my very close friends. At the last minute, one of those girls (K) wasn’t able to move in with us (financial issues) and backed out. As it happened, a few years later one of the roommates and I stopped talking to Kl (it wasn’t something we agreed upon, in fact they lived in the same town and I lived 3 hours away). She was difficult to be friends with, though it wasn’t necessarily her fault. I’m best friends with the other girl (13 years!) but I do still think about K and know this was probably very hurtful and difficult for her. I’m not sure what I could have differently but I do recognize it was rough.

  90. Sara Scott-Curran says...

    Boys I can get over, but friend breakups are the worst heartache. Because of the weird shame associated with it, I never realized how many other people experience it. I thought it was a me thing, not a we thing. While I wouldn’t wish anyone else pain, it’s nice to know it’s a more universal experience than I thought.

    • Faith says...

      My thoughts exactly! Well said, Sara.

    • SP says...

      i totally agree!

  91. Jamie says...

    Thank you for writing this. It’s happened to me. The last two times I wrote an email to them expressing my sadness and frustration over the breakup and then just sent it to my own email address. The worst was when I felt I was the one who made the bigger mistakes that cost me the friendship. Oh it stings just thinking about it.

  92. Ale says...

    Last march my best friend dumped me in a terrible and hurtful situation and it still hurts. Sometimes I dream about her, maybe one day I will forgive, I hope, but its true there no conventional breakup routine. Its so hard 😭

  93. L says...

    This post and the comments make me reflect on how incredibly lucky I am to have the friendships I do, some of which (the most important of which) are long term and very deep.
    The break ups I can remember are two: one was a friend from a summer camp at which we both worked. We became close friends quickly and I always suspected that she liked me as more than a friend; I liked her a lot, as a friend. My then boyfriend, now husband and I visited her post camp, staying overnight. In the morning, she accused us of having slept together (we hadn’t) in her bed, where she had invited us to stay, told us to leave her house, and that was that – permanently. I do remember feeling very wtf and totally confused by the entire event, and even sad for a while. But then I realized that someone prone to that rash a decision without even asking to talk about it was not my type of people.
    The other is sort of ongoing, I guess. This is a mom friend who I became quick friends with during the pandemic, when we attempted to share virtual school supervision duties of our combined kids. We share a lot of things in common and would meet to chat frequently – such a breath of fresh air in this time when we can do so little. One day, her kid wronged my kid when I wasn’t there, but my husband was, and he immediately wrote her and her family off. That doesn’t necessarily end our friendship, but it ended the school thing and we now talk about meeting sometimes, but it only ever happens in the context of other shared mom friends. It’s okay because I can now see that our kids won’t remain best of friends, and we do share some very major differences in beliefs that are a big deal to me (religion (her) vs none (me), different parenting styles), but still, to lose anything once gained during the pandemic brings a bit of sadness.

  94. Rebecca says...

    I needed to read this today. I recently went through a friend break up that still haunts me. It wasn’t one event that triggered an end but rather the culmination of years of bad friendship. It took me 10 years to finally see the pattern. We often drifted apart and the only reason we came back together was when she needed something. She would talk of our closeness and forever bond, but her actions spoke differently. I do not miss her and through the grapevine I hear she doesn’t understand why we don’t talk any more. At times you feel like a middle schoolers, but sometimes that chapter has to close. Maybe someday that chapter will reopen with her, but it will be in a different book, on a different page, and I will be better prepared to navigate it.

    • Julia says...

      Well put Rebecca. I needed to read this essay too.

      I share the same sentiment as you and Lisa: I lost a friend four years ago (gosh) and I still miss her and our friendship. She was a soulmate friend, more like a sister. She is the godmother to one of my children. I think about her almost every day. But I realise that I have changed. She has changed. And it wouldn’t be the same friendship if we picked it up today. I like that mantra: “I forgive you. I forgive me.” I will use it.

      I saw my friend from a distance two years ago. She looked happy and it was a bittersweet experience. I remember thinking; I wish her well. I’m thankful for having had her in my life even if it’s finished now. I’m thankful and I wish her well.

      I hope you and I, and Lisa and other women who have lost deep friendships, will find peace within our solo selves.

      I loved who I was with my ex friend. She inspired me and she had this LIGHT she shone that made me and other people feel special and seen. I miss the person I was with her. I try to think though, that maybe she, reflected some light coming from me. I would like to think we both carried light in us.

    • Kate says...

      I’ve had multiple friend breakups, I’m sorry (not sorry?) to say. Sometimes it’s been slowly drifting apart because of physical distance. Other times, like you said, we’ve outgrown each other. I have one friend from college where it ended incredibly badly and probably my fault. We’ve reconnected recently on Instagram and that feels like your beautiful phrase “took the thumb off the bruise.” But what I have found in the meantime are a group of girlfriends that I love with all my heart. They’re the kinds of people and friends I always always wanted- and it took me until I was 21 to even find them. So you will find your people, I believe that.

  95. Liz says...

    Two very long time, close friends have challenged me in the past 5 years. They are good people, but both increasingly talk about mostly about themselves and don’t but much energy into listening to others. I felt my role in the friendships dwindling.

    I came close to pulling the plug, but took a look at myself and realized that I needed better boundaries. I talked about my perspective to one of them, and she was understanding. I don’t think she will change, and I’ve come to accept that. I had to change how I see the relationships and not keep seeking what I used to get out of them.

    It’s different now, but I feel I’ve salvaged the two friendships as best I can. I don’t see either as much (small doses) as I used to, and have to accept that people change. Who knows, some day I may change too but will still need the support of understanding longtime friends.

    • Rebecca says...

      Loved this Liz. ‘I had to… not keep seeking what I used to get out of them.’ I will be reminding myself of this. It is so true and so hard to do.

  96. Lacey Wicksall says...

    Gosh – this is so beautifully written. Thank you. I needed to read this tonight.

  97. Kelly says...

    It’s funny, just yesterday I was thinking about two lost friends: one I broke up with and one who broke up with me. The first was necessary, I felt, though I wish I had behaved better (I ghosted a friend from college because he was very selfish, though fun to be around, and I finally hit a point in my life where I needed more support and just couldn’t handle my selfish friends anymore). And the second, I understand why he dropped me (I treated him as an afterthought when I think he was feeling pretty lonely). But I still think about them, and miss them, even if I don’t know that I want to try to revive either friendship. Thanks for starting this conversation. It’s good to know other people have these regrets too.

  98. Vanessa says...

    What Did I Do Wrong, by Liz Pryor is an excellent book on this subject. I am sure there are other books but hers really answered so many painful questions for me. I honestly don’t think that it’s easier to lose a romantic relationship over a friendly one, they are both a loss. You suddenly wonder if all the smiles were fake.

  99. S says...

    Oh I needed this essay today. I have had two friend breaks due to the pandemic and they HURT.LIKE.FIRE.

  100. Anne says...

    Reading this article and the comments bring me back to my friendship break up 4 years ago…
    She was my best friend since middle school, we were inseparable, went to the same schools, dance after school, joined a weird church together for a time and lived in the same town. I went abroad for college and I have a photo of her hugging me with tears. She even came to visit me there, across the Atlantic. Things started being sticky when she rejoined a church and I did not. I had closed that chapter in my life and she found meaning and a boyfriend in it. We had an uncomfortable dinner discussing Christianity, she and her now husband questioning my non-beliefs. A few years later, they got engaged, I bought plane tickets for the wedding. 2 months before the wedding I received a letter in the mail from her, expecting the wedding invitation, but it was a 6 page letter with bullet points listing all the things I have done wrong and uninviting me from the wedding. I was in the stairway and just sat on the floor sobbing. I’m still baffled by this. Who does this? Was I that negative of a person in her life to hurt so much?
    We met a year later and she said we could still be friends to talk about specific things, like music. I said no thank you, the train passed. I’m done with her telling me what I can and can’t do. (In her letter she said not to reach out). I don’t want her in my life, if she will cause so much pain. But man that was horrible. Religion played a role, the fact that she continued with her belief and I did not. But I think of her often still, knowing she has a child now. I did grieve, and told family and friends as I had to explain how come I am not showing up at this wedding, but it’s not gone.

    • Sarah says...

      I’m so sorry that happened to you. You did nothing wrong.

    • Aline says...

      That sounds so tough. I hope that it gets better and better with time! I think even if you grow apart and develop a different perspective, a letter full of bullet points only highlighting what one person (allegedly) did wrong in the friendship is never the right thing to do. I think it says more about the person who writes the letter (and kept a tally of all those things) than the person receiving it. Good for you in drawing some boundaries when you met her – what an odd suggestion to stay friends for just a few topics. You’ve got this!

    • patty says...

      Ah, religion. You dodged a bullet.

    • Sarah says...

      That sounds so tough. I am sorry. Boundaries are something I am very late to understanding, but my goodness I have made up for that now. A couple of fatalities have ensued. But as the saying goes, if someone has an issue with you having a boundary, they are the ones for whom the boundaries are required.

  101. Searching for a beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox says...

    I’ve had to dump two best friends over the years. One about a decade ago; the other when Covid began. The first tried and nearly succeeded in destroying my reputation and my career because I told her I could no longer be friends with her based on some shady behavior. She went on to have a lot more problems around our colleagues, and I’ve never once regretted leaving the relationship.

    The second one had a lot of narcissistic qualities; she continually used me for my money, and actually told me to my face that she wanted a best friend who would pay for everything in all seriousness. I thought she was joking because WTF, and it wasn’t until later that I realized that it had come to pass, alongside her trying to get me disinvited from events and trying to steal my friends. I dumped her hard, no contact – like the books say to do with people with strong narcissistic tendencies. Unfortunately, it made me look like the bad one amongst our mutual friends, but I’m confident that once they spend any amount of time with her, they’ll figure it out. So yeah, sometimes a harsh ghosting is deserved. To be fair though, it’s also made me take a hard look at why I keep letting these people this close into my orbit, and I’m starting to do a lot of work around codependency.

    • Emma says...

      LOVE the name <3

  102. Gabby says...

    I needed to read these words from someone who understood. These words are honest, cringy, comical, and healing. We really don’t talk about it enough.

  103. LL says...

    I’ve long pondered what I did or what about me made a couple of friends disappear, one being my very best friend from middle through high school. I try to convince myself of that quote that some people are in your life for a reason, for a season, or a lifetime. The sting is when you’ve got which one of those wrong.

  104. C says...

    Thank you for posting this. I had to end a friendship of 20 years recently because it had become toxic & I had to choose myself and my integrity over length of time invested. I do believe I did the right thing. But still, it hurts. Every day. I tell myself to think about other things, but I always think of her every day.

  105. lee says...

    Reading this article and the comments felt so therapeutic.

    I’ve had so many friendships end over the years–some left me, some I left and some were a glacial drift. The hardest ones were (1) the male friend that left me when he got married, because he just couldn’t be close friends with a woman that wasn’t his wife (he told me this at his wedding reception); (2) the female friend that said awful things to me when I was going through a hard time, and never apologized even when I told her how much I was hurt; and, (3) the friend that I swore was my forever friend, but I finally realized (after more than a decade) that I was the one putting in all the work and I got to a point where I couldn’t give anymore.

    I still think about these ppl all the time and my heart hurts a little every time, but then I realize how much I’ve grown over the years and all the wonderful friends that have come into my life.

    One nugget to share: My therapist always says that if you grow, then you will outgrow some people along the way too.

    • Tricia M says...

      Hi Lee, thank you so much for posting the comment from your therapist – this has helped me a lot today.
      Take care. Tricia Mx

  106. Vanessa Chua says...

    I initiated the break up, this happened last year.

    She was my first very close colleague-turned-friend. It was her first time in an Asian country and i helped her navigate through and felt comfortable in Singapore.

    She was competitive, and would always compare our career paths, where i shopped, or how i looked, how I dont party enough, how I’m too nerdy, when i broke up with my bf and devastated, she told me to just get over him and stop being emotional. It was almost like I am not allowed to be anything else, but her. Everything was seen through her lenses. It was suffocating.
    She was constantly berating how Asian people think. or the way we act, or the quality of education in this part of the world, in a way how superior she is compared to the people, and place where she choose to live. I died a little everytime she spoke that way about my people or anyone.

    It was never my intention to confront her, because i know that she wouldn’t be able to see things from my perspective. When she did, true enough – she played the victim – and played it well. Even managed to make me feel bad.

    I wished i broke off with her earlier. Looking for true friends is soooooooo difficult – and now, i look for friends who love me for who i am, and ditch them immediately if we dont have the some outlook on life and how to generally be a good person/friend.

    • Lea says...

      Vanessa, I feel you. I’m Malaysian (hello from across the straits!) and put up with a friend who was always berating Asian people, food, culture, the weather etc. She always ended it with a caveat “oh but you’re different”, but inside I felt hurt yet I never said anything.

      She eventually moved away for work, and that’s when I realised that we really didn’t have much to talk about anymore when we FaceTimed.

    • Siheme Sebaa says...

      Your words resonate so much with me. Someone who constantly competes with you and put you (your culture) down does not feel good at all. I had a person in my life like that and I put an end to it. I actually “broke up” by saying to the person face-to-face how she would make me feel and that I was choosing to not see her anymore, for my own sake. A few years later, I met her and she tried to say Hi and to start a conversation, and I quickly stopped her. I knew that the dynamic will never be good so there was no point in trying to “get back together” again.

  107. Anon for this says...

    I still mourn (although less frequently as years pass) the loss of a decade long BFF friendship that lasted from my late teens to late 20s. She ghosted me & it was the lack of closure that hurt most. It was more heartbreaking than any other break up I’d experienced.

    I occasionally look her up on social media & it comforts me (in a very uncharacteristic mean girl way that I’m not proud of) that she is single & childless. Meanwhile I’m living my best life, married with two children & with supportive & well chosen friends.

    If I walked passed her on the street, I would keep on walking. I forgive her. I forgive myself.

    • I can go anon too says...

      Wow. I had to ghost someone for her terrible behavior to me and to others who also went on to be married and have kids. Her husband is hardly a catch, and if she’s teaching her kids her values, I mean….
      I wouldn’t assume that your life is better than hers just because you’re married and have kids.

      Sounds like there may have been some real differences in values. I think she’s well rid of you if that’s the way you think about people. It’s hardly forgiveness if you’re rejoicing under the belief that your life is better than hers.

    • Happily single & childfree ;) says...

      I’m all for getting the toxic out of your life and moving on, however it’s worth noting that many people are happily and intentionally single and childless.

      Insinuating that a best life is only lived through marriage and child bearing is narrow minded.

    • Kat says...

      A reminder that marriage and children should not equate to “success” or more “fulfillment” in life. If a women doesn’t have those things saying she somehow “failed” or couldn’t be happy without them feels like a very antiquated view.

    • Chris says...

      I appreciate your honesty…and now you can be honest to yourself if your friend might have had reasons for ghosting. Especially the sentence “meanwhile I’m living my best life..” is the mindset of the kind of people I wouldn’t enjoy to be friends with.

    • JR says...

      I give this original commenter the benefit of the doubt. She needed to vent and admits she’s not proud of those mean-girl thoughts. I read it as she’s really proud and satisfied with her life…and she can look “down” on this ex-friend because she’s in a stable and content place…a healthier place that she reached without this friend. The childless/single comment and the well-chosen friends…that’s the petty side of things that a lot of ppl might privately feel…

    • Denise says...

      As a single, childless person living my best life I can say that one of the top reasons to end a friendship is the condescension of married people with children.

  108. “Because I want them to know that what happened was hurtful, but that I am okay.”

    This is among my favorite posts. I always rehearsed what I’d say if I saw the people who hurt me or the people I hurt. I always imagined that I’d be well-dressed and visibly wealthy when we bumped into each other again. But after years of therapy and mourning, I realize healing doesn’t require the other party be present. I don’t need to look like I’m okay, I need to do the work required to really be okay.

  109. nemo says...

    In college, I learned by accident that the person I believed to be my best friend–in fact, the best friend I’d ever had–was merely tolerating me. The feeling of shame was immense. And the worst part was that we went on pretending to be friends until the end of college, when we finally were able to gracefully drift apart.

    • Leta says...

      I’m so sorry to hear that. What an awful thing to have to deal with.

    • Helen says...

      Nemo, I’m so sorry that happened to you. How painful that must have been. I hope you’ve since found friends who appreciate you.

  110. Bridget says...

    Thank you for this. We moved to our town 3 years ago and made friends with a couple after lots of social gatherings searching for connection here. We kept in touch via text and zoom, met at the park during the summer. And then…they just stopped responding to any communication. I kept replaying conversations trying to understand what happened. I saw her out for a walk with another friend recently and it gutted me. It’s an extra layer of loneliness right now.

    • Julia says...

      As half of a couple that is going thru a very very dark crisis at the moment… there may be something going on with them that you don’t know about. My husband and I are not being great friends right now because we are dealing with enormous, all-encompassing grief. Telling people what’s going on is horrible, so we have only told a very select few and they are the only people I can bear to talk to right now.

      So your friends may still like you, they may just not be available to be your friends right now.

    • Maria says...

      I had to respond to your message because I think this is such a common experience for so many of us, especially during a certain time in our adult lives when we are trying to build community. It’s true that the “middle school mean” dynamics follow us into adult situations! Take comfort in the knowledge that you were kind and loyal, and that your kindness will be valued by others.

  111. Pleeeeeeeeeease tell us your George Costanza line!!! Please!

    • Amy says...

      Yesssss… let us into the Jerk Store.

    • Lydia says...

      Yes! I am dying to know too!!

  112. E says...

    I’ve usually been the dumped one (overly loyal Leo here) and it SUCKS. And then this year I really took a look at my boundaries (toddler and pregnant again, career unstable w/Covid) and decided that I would no longer contribute to friendships I wasn’t getting equal commitment from. Instead of trying to be everything to my friends, regardless of anything, really taking a beat to figure out if that energy was really being reciprocated, even if there was no “major” falling-out-worthy event. It feels awkward to pull back from friendship but sometimes is really best.

  113. clare says...

    i think conceptions of what girls are like/ought to be like played a lot into my biggest friend breakup, in high school. We had been friends since very young and I was feeling suffocated by her by this point. That time of life is so difficult in terms of figuring out who you are and who you want to be. Added on top of that is the idea that girls are either “nice” or “mean”. I got to a point in my friendship where i just couldn’t do it anymore–she wasn’t a bad person, our relationship just felt so limiting. And seeing someone in the halls every day, it’s oddly much harder to do a gradual exit than just switch to another friend group. I felt like there was nothing i could do between being “nice”–continuing to give the relationship more energy than i wanted to–and being “mean”, i.e., ghosting. So I chose ghosting. Honestly, I don’t regret it. And I also never harbored any “maybe we’ll reconnect one day” ideas, which again is so “nice” but not true to what I actually wanted. It was the right thing to do and I liked my new friends so much more, and are still friends with them to this day. It was stressful though, especially because our moms were friends and i felt pressure to maintain the relationship out of guilt on that front, which I don’t think is something I needed to bear. I know I hurt her feelings but I think it was just part of growing up and had to happen. The thing I do think about from time to time is, what if i see her at the next high school reunion and she wants to know what went wrong or reconnect? Because I’m still in the same place as I was in high school: I just think we’re very different people and I have no interest in getting into things with her beyond that. I don’t want to have to find a way to turn her down again.

    • Kiersten says...

      Spoken like a true Mean Girl — I wonder if you would have been as sanguine about hurting her feelings and “this breakup needing to happen” if the roles were reversed and she was the one cruelly ditching you and shredding your feelings in the process to boot. I would have been able to empathize with your wanting to explore new identities in your teen years had it not been for your last sentence, hoping you wouldn’t have to turn her down again should you run into her at a high school reunion or similar. Wow. That is some next level presumptuousness, to assume/believe that years later your former friend would even want to speak to you, much less still want to be your friend, after the abysmal way you treated her and then believed that you shouldn’t have had to deal with any guilt or consequences for treating ppl badly. Guess what, people grow up. Clearly you didn’t, if you’re “still in the same place” you were in your teens.

      Honestly, I hope your former friend doesn’t even remember your name anymore should she ever have the utter misfortune of running into you again.

  114. Colleen says...

    I had my first adult, conscious friend “break up” this year- at the age of 35.

    She was in a constant crisis state; there was perpetually some sort of drama with her near the center of it. I was the low-drama friend who would do whatever for her: last minute changes of plans, lending things I’d never get back, always agreeing to whatever was more convenient for her.

    I was that friend- until I just couldn’t be anymore. I tried to be mature and tell her how I felt, but to be honest, I think ghosting would have probably gone better. Even at 35, this was messy.

    She seemed genuinely perplexed that I had feelings that were different from her own. I think it really hurt her, but I didn’t know how else to tell her that she was not the kind of friend I needed.

    At the end of the day, my friendship with her failed the vampire test. After spending time with her, I felt drained, not renewed. I felt fatigued and like I needed to recover a bit. But how do you tell someone that?

    When she texted me, trying to reconnect after a few weeks, and telling me she would forgive me only if I would apologize to her then, it was the out I guess I needed to just move on.

    Sometimes I think of something I should tell her, but then I remember we don’t talk anymore. It’s sad for a minute or two before I remember why. Ultimately I want to surround myself with people who contribute peace and joy to my life and I feel like I can do that for them. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for us, but I’m not sorry I took care of myself in this instance.

    • HH says...

      I hear you and experienced a similar situation last summer. I dropped everything for this friend regularly and remained her friend even as I saw through her attempts to manipulate me. I could never confide in her because she would taunt and ridicule me. Finally I realized, “I have friends. And they don’t talk to me like that.” I told her I needed space and walked away. It was the right decision. I have some friendly interaction with her now but I will not let myself get sucked in again.

    • K says...

      Colleen, I find this one of the biggest challenges of adult friendships–the balance between supporting friends in crisis (even constant crisis) and protecting your own mental wellbeing. I honestly don’t fault people on either end of it. I had a pretty constant state of crisis/ trauma for several years, and I could tell that a few of my close friends couldn’t handle the toll (by no fault of their own, we’re all built differently), so I leaned more heavily on others who, by some beautiful grace and testament to their own emotional strength, stuck with me during those challenging years where I had nothing to give and everything to take, and now I’ve supported a few of them through their own seasons of grief. And it’s been hard very hard, at times, to continually support and stick with friends who drain you, so I definitely understand the ones who ghosted me in my tough season, even though it hurt at the time.

    • Grace says...

      My wife’s therapist recently encouraged her to practice “empathy without responsibility” with a couple of our friends who are in constant and unrelenting crisis. It’s hard! But not taking on responsibility for fixing their frustrating jobs, unfulfilling relationships and general negative world views has been such a relief. We both listen well, and validate and affirm their experiences where we can, and then we step away and put that energy into things we can actually change, like our own lives. It’s certainly not as intimate as our friendships with these couple of buds used to be, but we are less drained and frantic after interacting with them which makes it possible to keep on doing so. This has been crucial for seeing these relationships through the pandemic when we are all so so drained.

    • Brenna says...

      Grace, that is such a good point!

      I have a friend who I love, but who always would have failed the “vampire test” in the past. When I was in therapy for other reasons, I happened to learn how to spend time with people without taking on their problems or being such a martyr. To use Colleen’s examples (and this is just hypothetical; I’m sure her personal situation wasn’t this easy!), you don’t have to agree to last minute changes of plans (just say you’re busy), you don’t have to lend out your stuff (say you’ve had stressful lending situations in the past) and you don’t have to be a pushover. If you’re over at her place and starting feeling weary, just say you think you’re going to get going. If your vampire friend has lots of redeeming qualities, maybe it can be a learning opportunity about how to be less codependent!

  115. Theresa says...

    Thanks for writing and sharing. It was a breath of fresh air to read someone else’s experience and the comment section. I had a 29 year friendship end a couple years ago…being middle aged, I never thought it would happen to me, since we are older and wiser, right?! I was certainly naive. I’ve had a few friends come and go, due to job changes, moves, etc, but not someone who was my ride or die, my “sister”, my maid of honor…it was shocking. Two years later, I am still grieving the loss in a myriad of ways, but am learning to be gentler with myself about it and seeing where maybe we were drifting for awhile. I am loyal to a fault. I certainly have learned a lot about myself and friendships through this experience.

    • Lindsey says...

      I’m a Gemini sun and moon, so I know I’m prone to gossip, but I desperately want to know the exact circumstances of these break ups! I want to read the text screen shots. I’m so curious! Everything is just alluded to here. How were they middle school mean? What did they do?

  116. Nicole says...

    Thank you so much for this post! I was just in the midst of feeling anxiety/ sadness over a friend that ghosted me recently and then this popped up and made me feel less alone.

  117. Sarah says...

    “takes the thumb off the bruise” – beautiful words that I am taking with me from this essay and that can be applied to so many other situations, especially right now when nearly everything seems to hurt so deeply.

    And thank you for sharing this, my own friend breakup happened at 15 and it took me years to fully get over, I’m probably not fully over it truthfully. Nothing bad, she just made a choice to go a different way and didn’t seem to want to take me with her? Or didn’t think I’d want to come, and I sort of didn’t? Hoping this beautiful essay continues to normalize this sadness. Thank you

  118. Kelly says...

    Thank you for writing this post, and to all those sharing in the comments. I had a friend break up with me seemingly out of the blue last summer, and while I can see now it is for the best, it still stings. Every time I read something about cutting out “toxic people” I ask myself, “did she think of me that way? Am I that terrible to be around?”
    In the end I think we just weren’t what the other needed, but it’s hard not to question everything when it ends so abruptly. Another friend suggested “Maybe you could stay friends?” like you might say after a romantic breakup, and I think that’s what stings the most — in breaking up, she didn’t even wanting to stay casual acquaintance friends.

    • Genevieve says...

      Yeah I know what you mean Kelly these comments are making me feel lousy it’s so negative. Time to stop reading I think!
      In general I think it’s fairly easy with friends to turn the dial down gradually if you don’t want to have such an intense relationship with someone (and usually it happens naturally!), I don’t REALLY see the need for these “friend breakups” because they cause so much hurt! And the point is with a romantic break up that (most people expect) they are monogamous so you HAVE to end it to have another. But with friendships, why put someone though that?!

  119. S says...

    Oh, how I love this post (and the comments; Emma, you are not the only one). Without airing all of the dirty laundry, let’s just say that alcohol & anti-depressants are NOT a good combination, no matter what you may think. My 25+ year best friend thought she knew better & called to insult me while she was under the influence. I hung up on her. She later apologized, but words can never be unheard and our former weekly phone chats became less frequent. Then, poof! I was ghosted. I don’t mind, I wasn’t the first friend/family member whom she had dropped; she obviously had other things to work out.

  120. Nicole says...

    Wow did this resonate. I had a massive friendship breakup my senior year of high school—we had been inseparable since preschool. We just clicked. Until we didn’t. (Think “Booksmart” without the hopeful ending.) I’m 34 and have lived so much life beyond that point, but it still hurts, and I still think of her all the time and wonder how she’s doing. (But it’s kind of like the 18-year-old me misses the 18-year-old her. Neither of those people even exist in the same way anymore.) Our lives moved in VERY different directions in college and beyond. We’ve seen each other once or twice, and the spark is definitely gone. I’ve never managed to find another “best friend” even after all these years, and I feel that void acutely. I really hope I’ll get to experience the joy of a best friend again one day, but when I look beyond the ache, I’m still so thankful to have been able to experience that special joy even once. I think it’s also taught me—a lesson I re-learned post college—that some friendships aren’t meant to last forever. They instead serve a more localized purpose. And while that is a potentially pessimistic and painful idea, there can still be tremendous joy in friendship that spans a specific period of life. I’ve tried to remember that during the past 11 months as some friendships have grown stronger, and others have fallen away.

    • “I feel that void acutely” is a remarkable, honest statement. I’ve never read truer words about friendship. I never “get over” the people I loved. I can’t un-love them. I can’t replace them. I mourn them all.

    • Hilary says...

      At 30 I found a best friend spark that made me remember how utterly, truly magical that feeling is – as good as romantic love. So it can totally happen when you’re older, too. Have faith!

    • Jen says...

      Oh, Nicole, thank you! This concept of friendships “serving a more localized purpose” or “spanning a specific period of life” brings me a tremendous sense of relief. I have moved enough to have friends from jobs and times of my life that just seem impossible – or rather, contrived – to maintain. Nothing but love and fondness, but we no longer travel the same path.

  121. T says...

    She didn’t show up for me when I needed her. I came to realise that our relationship had been built on the foundation of me taking care of her, of me giving and her taking. And the co-dependent in me LOVED this … right up until the point that life slammed me into the ground and I needed taking care of. Then she bailed. Not in any sort of way that made it clear it was her shortcoming, no, in a way that was 3 years of convincing me having any needs was excessive and giving me a big dose of insecurity about having become disabled and grief-stricken. The worst was when for three years (I know!) she was too busy to do the social things I asked for, but then would do them (often expanded versions) with new friends. I tried letters to spell out exactly what was happening, she’d surface apologise but stay steadfast in being a taker. Eventually she had her own stuff go down, I dropped everything to help her, thinking this would be the turning point where we help each other. I bathed her kids, I cooked for her, answered her tricky work emails for her (I know!) and then the next week she said she’d be busy for a few months and couldn’t see me.

    Sometimes we need clarity to see what was there all along. My friend did not change. She was always a taker who has avoided hard things. She has so much work to do and I couldn’t do mine while staying in her company – so I wrote her another letter, ending our relationship, my heart tore to pieces knowing I wouldn’t see her kids grow up, but she is on her own path and not ready to be a good friend, and I deserve a good friend. Breaking up with her has made space for good friends who are ready to love mutually to come to the fore.

    I wrote all this to tell you that it’s normal to have needs. Seek those that help you fill them. Xx

    • Maggie says...

      Yes! Boundaries! Self love!

    • You DO deserve a good friend.

  122. I feel you on all of this. I’ve been answering friendship advice questions at my column for six years and so many are about breakups. (From both sides—those who are ready for space from a friend and those who have been left.)

  123. K says...

    I love this post and reading the comments. It clearly hits home to so many people!

    A few thoughts:

    – I LOVED Big Friendship by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman… Talks a lot about how we have to learn to communicate in friendships. Highly recommend it.

    – I’ve been a dumper and a dumpee…. Usually never anything dramatic, just slow drifting away. As the dumper, I felt like it wasn’t my place to tell a difficult friend that I wanted her to change things about her personality — our visits often left me feeling unsettled and bad about myself, and it was hard to think about specific, actionable requests for change.

    – Whereas with healthier friendships, I feel more comfortable giving and receiving feedback, and it could be more tied to a specific behavior rather than an assessment of our personalities. (i.e. to a friend with a new baby, “It hurts me when you don’t have time to talk on the phone.” Her response: “My life is crazy and I need you to understand that, but let’s schedule some phone calls during nap time — I may not be as available as I was before, but let’s compromise to make our friendship work.”)

    – I think part of the challenge is that we have so many different models of what friendship should look like, and we aren’t always on the same page. With romantic relationships, we usually have a clear idea of expectations around that relationship, and we learn to have conversations early on about “defining the relationship” and talking about expectations/boundaries. Friendships run the gamut from the barista you chat with at your local coffee shop, to work friends you never see outside of work but talk with at lunch, to neighbors, to a deep, close friendship where you share innermost thoughts every day. Sometimes those needs and expectations and boundaries shift, particularly when we move/get into romantic relationships/have kids/change jobs. And we aren’t taught to talk clearly about them. And conversations about boundaries can be hurtful, too, so sometimes it feels easier to not have them.

    Ooof, so much to think about here. Thank you all for sharing!

    • M says...

      I keep coming back to this comment–you put it PERFECTLY here:
      “I felt like it wasn’t my place to tell a difficult friend that I wanted her to change things about her personality — our visits often left me feeling unsettled and bad about myself, and it was hard to think about specific, actionable requests for change.”

    • Jessica says...

      Thank you for sharing these, so useful and perfectly capture the complexities of friendships.

  124. Lisa says...

    I read this and it felt like I could have written it in so many ways, so I went back to the byline to see who wrote it and holy shit, Lisa Rubisch! You guys, MY name is Lisa Kubisch! I quickly internet searched her and we both have a background in film and wavy brown hair and now I’m going to go read her older articles to see if we’re basically doppelgängers. So wild!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      Wow haha!

    • amal says...

      You two should start a production company called, “Kubisch and Rubisch”, haha!

  125. Sarah says...

    Love this. I had a very painful friend breakup with my best friend from college many years ago and I still think of her every day. It stung for so long, and I felt so rejected. One day, even though I didn’t understand exactly why, I felt compelled to call her and apologize for my part in the break up, which at the time I didn’t feel was significant. I got her voicemail, and I left a message with my apology. I never heard back, but I felt so much lighter for having done it. My “I forgive you. I forgive me moment.” I suppose. With time I’ve come to understand what I was needing to apologize for (spoiler: I had much more to be sorry for than I realized at the time) and I’m grateful I took that step when I did. I did find one friend break up song that helped me if anyone is in need of one. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jAxCtN1xl8

  126. Bridgette A Moore says...

    I’ve done the breaking up but never been broken up with until this year. We’ve had issues getting or staying pregnant for years. It’s no secret in our tight friend circle who always offer support and love. A very close couple friend of ours, who previously hadn’t wanted children changed their mind and were able to conceive. When that happened they just stopped talking to us. Never breathed a word of their pregnancy. They told the rest of the friends and sent pictures and kept them all updated along the way. They just avoided us altogether for about 8 months. I think it must have been hard to know what to say.

    We had plenty of big feelings around it. When their baby was born we dropped off meals and smiled and wished them well. We realized they were just the people we loved, and flawed, and navigated something poorly. Even though that choice had ended our friendship, we could appreciate what it had been and then let it go.

    • JR says...

      you guys demonstrated the high road–what a classy and kind response to their hamfisted departure

  127. janine says...

    same. exactly. losing my college best friend felt worse than any of the deaths, breakups, or disappointments in my 40 years. it cut deep (still makes me cry 15 years later) and yet still I hold a place for her if she ever returns. it was insulting, confusing, and out of the blue. no closure. it was so deeply shameful, i don’t think i even confessed it to a therapist. the person who knew me best considered me disposable. i can’t help but take it personally. there was no fight, no growing apart, no conversation even. she just didn’t show up when she was supposed to visit, sent a message with someone else, and never reached out again. and yet, i still miss her and think of her often. we shared a lot – songs, experiences, huge swathes of our lives as roommates and travel buddies. i find it hard to imagine she doesn’t think of me, too, when she hears, eats, sees, and does certain things that we shared. instead of resolving my feelings about her, i have fractured my feelings of her off from the rest of me. it’s protective. i can enjoy my memories of the awesome times we shared and compartmentalize the pain so the many years of my life that we shared, and i loved, aren’t completely tainted.

    • lmp says...

      May I encourage you to reach out to her? I avoided my college roommate for the last nine years and COMPLETELY lost touch. It was all due to me feeling so much guilt for letting her down when she needed me. I felt ashamed and never reached out. I sadly and regrettably ghosted her.
      This summer she reached out to me, a very quick video text thanking me for introducing her to thrift shopping (of all things!) but it began a back and forth reconnection and have I benefitted greatly from our new friendship. I’m so thankful she forgave me.
      We are both older, wiser and in a different place.
      I hope that it might be the same for you.

  128. Jenifer says...

    This reminds of a comment a then friend of mine L said years ago “so and so broke up with me” about a mutual friend of ours. It turned out it wasn’t the mutual friend who did it but L since a few years down the road I was told I was a plan B and that we needed to go our separate ways. It was painful at the time but looking back probably for the best since L could not be supportive but rather critical of me to the point I didn’t want to share life events with her. We’re texting friends now and I see her on occasion and it’s cordial but not the friendship we once had which works for us both now.

  129. Shubhi says...

    Thank you so much for sharing this… I always thought I am the odd person who gets dumped by girl friends!!
    It so resonated with what I feel as if you read my mind… specially that full ache that never goes away and even though you forget and forgive but this thought always lingers in your mind, why me? What happened?

  130. Crystal says...

    I went through a friendship break-up about three years ago, and it’s caused me more anxiety than any romantic break-up. I ended up basically ghosting (I sent a brief email) which I still feel horrible about because I never thought I was a ghoster, but she was getting so negative and toxic, and she never seemed to listen to anything I said, so talking to her really didn’t feel like an option.

    I am confident that removing her from my life was the right decision for my mental health, but boy, do I still give myself guilt over it.

  131. Jo says...

    This is been heavy on my heart lately. Not that I have experienced a friend break up in such a blatant way, however I do think that some of my friends think I want to break up with them. I don’t! But I find myself struggling to keep up with friendships. I am a stay at home mom with three kiddos 5, 3 and 1. I am trying my best to balance online kindergarten, keeping the littles busy with very few things to do and places to go AND deal with the anxiety of the pandemic (I was already a germ phobe!). I am exhausted frankly from the daily grind. I have such little free time. At night once the kids are sleeping I still have to make time to invest into my marriage and carve out just a little time to recharge my battery. Unfortunately my battery is NOT recharged by talking on the phone. I am sure is hurtful to long distance friends. I want to say I LOVE YOU – but right now I need to prioritize things and unfortunately most long distance friendships can’t be my focus. It’s not you it’s me! But for real, it’s not you, it’s me, I am just doing my best and I can’t be the best mom, wife and long distance friend. Sending L O V E to all!

    • Kim says...

      Yes to this! Mostly for me I’m kinda down about the pandemic, my kids are exhausting, and it’s hard to have anything to talk about. People have reached out but I’m terrible about responding and I feel bad. It’s not that I don’t love them, but I just have nothing to give to them right now.

    • Kara says...

      Jo, I’m so with you here. In fact, I bristled at the timing of this article for this exact reason. I LOVE that this subject is being addressed on COJ (friendships being as important as romantic relationships is one of my favorite topics), but I couldn’t help but feel like… doesn’t everyone who has gone through this in the last year (specifically the author here) realize there is a global pandemic happening that has completely altered how we’re able to spend time with people? I personally am an ambivert who thrives on in-person friendships. Which means I’m not great at long distance and am so so grateful for my long distance friends who understand this about me, don’t take it personally, and carry the effort of reaching out in ways that give me energy (i.e.. they’re not calling me on the phone haha!). Now we’re stuck in a reality where literally every friendship has become long distance (unless of course you’re a person living in an alternate reality where you think the pandemic has been blown out of proportion and doesn’t listen to public health experts). Life is really hard for everyone right now, and people cope with the social isolation very differently. If you’re one of those people thriving on Zoom game nights and additional phone calls and feeling stung by friends who aren’t participating in that, it more than likely has nothing to do with how they feel about the friendship and everything to do with the fact that they are dealing in very different ways and probably have very depleted energy reserves for how life works right now.

    • LK says...

      Hi Jo, what a challenging time this must be for you. I hope you can give yourself the grace of knowing it’s an accomplishment just to get through a day like yours with the business of your kids, your anxiety and trying to stay connected with your husband and yourself.
      I have a few friends like you – busy mothers for whom it’s taking everything they have just to stay afloat. I am single, I live alone, and I am a doctor working in this pandemic and I think it’s so natural that we’ve all turned inward to keep safe our little worlds at home, but it is lonely for me in a world of one. It’s so helpful to read your comment and hope that the unreplied texts, deferred dates and lack of contact initiation from my friends are a reflection of what they’re going through rather than how they feel about me. I don’t know you or your friends, but may I offer you my perspective that if my friends would reach out even just to say what you have commented – that they love me, that they can spare a thought for me in all the business of their lives, that they understand my situation (though completely opposite from theirs and surely enviable every now and then just as I occasionally envy their homes full of people!) is just as difficult in its own way and that they may be less communicative for awhile while focusing on keeping their families afloat … I would feel loved and supported from afar, and feel more sure that there is still a place for me being held at their table when we can finally gather again. I hope you and your family stay well during this pandemic.

    • Byrdie says...

      I relate Jo. Virtual schooling my kids for almost a year now, the stress of my husband teaching in person, and just general pandemic anxiety has almost put me over the edge.

      I agree with Kara that hopefully all of us can give each other A LOT of grace right now. I hate I can’t be a better friend, but I’m barely getting through the day right now let alone being able to give to others. And we are still not seeing people inside. My friends mean so much to me and I would do anything for a wine night, but that’s not in the cards unfortunately.
      Damn you ‘rona.

  132. Tara says...

    My life is definitely much more marked by the female friendships I’ve lost than the romantic relationships that did not work out. I don’t spend more than a passing thought on those boys, but those girls…they are burned into my soul.

    There was a girl I was friends with for years and became very close to my senior year of high school. Shortly after graduation we had a tiff over something and she never spoke to me again. I will never understand it. It still upsets me to think about it over a decade later. I realize now that she must not have valued me as much as I did her if she could just cut me off like that, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less.

    The other was a woman I met a few years ago. We met online, actually, and clicked very fast. We lived in the same city and started meeting up regularly. We chatted all day every day over text. We became so close that I even invited her to my wedding! And then she slowly started to ghost me. Waited longer and longer to reply to messages, became harder to reach. When we finally did get together she would apologize profusely and say she was just super busy and there were no other issues. But she just kept pulling away. The end was when she RSVP’d yes to my housewarming party, changed it to a No the day of, and never answered another message. She pretty much disappeared from social media so I don’t know if there were other issues influencing her withdrawal from me, but it was so upsetting. A friendship that burned hot and bright and faded fast, a little over two years after our first meet up.

  133. EF says...

    Thank you for sharing this, it’s such a powerful topic. I had a friendship breakup during my second year of grad school that really shattered me and changed how I approached friendship in general. I hadn’t been friends with this person for that long, but we had quickly become close confidantes in grad school. I still don’t understand exactly what happened between us (there was some drama with our mutual friend who she had been dating, but I don’t think that was the whole story). We abruptly stopped talking, and after she refused my offer to get coffee some time, we both started completely ignoring each other, despite being in the same department in the same small college town for the next five years. We would act like we didn’t know each other at gatherings! Completely insane. I felt so ashamed of how much I had trusted and confided in her prior to our breakup, and I became much more guarded socially after that. Later, at the end of grad school, I had a college friend who I had been close with completely ghost me after a decade of friendship. I don’t take this one personally because I think she might have had some upheaval in her own life, but it was still jarring, and it haunts me that I have no idea what she is up to since she has not responded to my messages and has no digital footprint whatsoever. She shows up in my dreams all the time even though it’s now been about six years since we’ve spoken.

  134. Cathleen says...

    Breakups with friends are such a painful thing that really isn’t spoken about! And you wrote so beautifully about it.

    I’ve had three big friend breakups – one with my childhood best friend, one with a high school friend, and one with a friend from college who was sort of the leader of our group – that last one has complicated all of our group interactions since. The later breakups were actually good – both were fairly toxic people.

    My breakup with my childhood best friend was the most painful breakup of my life, to date, way worse than any romantic breakup. Our mothers had been friends so we were always best friends, went everywhere together, and had this beautiful supportive friendship until high school started. We drifted apart, had one heartbreaking conversation, and didn’t see each other from the end of high school until a couple years ago when we reconnected over getting married and getting pregnant at almost the exact same time. We speak daily, our first children were born exactly three weeks apart, and we are thrilled to raise our babies together (and randomly in the same large metro area). Our time apart has helped us each grow into wiser, stronger women, and I’m insanely grateful we found our way back to each other.

  135. Maclean Nash says...

    This post really hit home. It is so easy to think you are the only person going through something like this, especially, as you say because “there is secrecy and shame in admitting you were dumped by a friend”. This has happened to me twice. One was my best friend throughout high school, the other was my best uni friend and roommate. Both left me quickly and quietly and left my messages, texts, and emails unanswered. I am still struggling with not having any closure and I often think of them and think I see them on the street. My heart flutters with a nervous excitement and then comes the crushing disappointment. I learned so much from these two and they will always have a special place in my heart and I have to accept that is enough.

  136. Jen says...

    At the end of middle school I had a friend breakup of my first childhood friend (circa 3 years old). It was so hard. We were growing apart, into really different things and she was hanging around with a crowd I decided I didn’t want to be a part of. She was angry with me since I didn’t know how to handle not wanting to be around her and ghosting her. We had a call that let the feelings out and decided to take a break.

    Fast forward into late high school/early college and we began to ginergly begin contacting each other again every once and a while. Now as full fledged adults we message often and hang out a couple times a year. Its a small and simple relationship but one full of respect and familiarity.

  137. Kimberly says...

    Serial ghoster here:

    It’s not you; it’s me. As a person who is often depressed and who reads a lot of articles on how people should remove negative people from their lives, I often see myself as the “Debbie Downer.” I don’t want you to feel down after I’ve shared my depressive episode(s); I don’t want you to worry or feel bad for me about sharing great moments in your life because mine sucks by comparison. I am struggling with myself, and I just don’t want to be that burden to other people. I don’t want to be a drain to your life–“that friend” who can’t seem to get her s*&% together. So I disappear.

    It’s not that I don’t like you anymore. In fact, I think about you all the time. I wonder what you’re up to and how you’re handling aging, marriage, kids, and job. I think about picking up the phone to call or text. I think about replying back to your emails.

    I.just.can’t.get.myself.to.do.it.–and that’s on me, not on you. Some days, brushing my teeth and making my bed is my success story.
    Just know that I’m thinking fondly of you and miss you deeply …

    • Kamaile says...

      Kimberly, I understand this as I have a friend who has told me this almost exactly about herself as well. I miss our talks and she is a friend to me as much as she is able to right now. I love her and respect her need for space. I still reach out and text her every so often to let her know I’m thinking of her.

    • Maryn says...

      Yes. This. Reading this essay reminded me of a friend I unintentionally ghosted during an extremely difficult, turbulent time of my life. I didn’t mean to let her go… But as I desperately sought to clung onto any kind of stability and peace in my life, I didn’t have the energy to maintain our relationship, and our friendship slipped through the cracks. I still think of her often, and I’ve tried to reach out since. But it’s just not the same.

      Come to think of it, this has happened with a few friends during other rough mental health phases in my life. I wish I had been vulnerable and honest about what I was dealing with at the time, but sometimes it’s just so hard to muster up the courage. I miss those friends dearly.

    • meg says...

      Oh my gosh, Kimberly, so well put. As a person who is sometimes depressed and almost always very introverted, I relate so much to what you’ve said.
      There are so many friends I’ve simply “let go of” by not doing my fair share of maintenance – going out for coffee dates took more energy than I had one week, so I’d put off asking til the next, or the next.

      I could imagine myself texting, or calling, or sitting down and chatting – and I’d so love to be that person that wants to go out, be out, be social and bubbly. Sometimes I am! But as much as it is energizing, it is equally exhausting. Not because I don’t love you (I do!) but because that’s how my body and brain seem to function, or disfunction. Sending lots of hugs… and I wish you knew how much I think of you, friends.
      xoxo

    • L says...

      Kimberly, that’s what friends are for: to share the good and the bad stuff. A true friend will not think you are a burden, and it sounds like you are the kind of friend who could celebrate your friend’s successes even when your life sucks. Please know your friends are likely thinking of you too.

    • Amanda says...

      100% “and I’d so love to be that person that wants to go out, be out, be social and bubbly. Sometimes I am! But as much as it is energizing, it is equally exhausting. Not because I don’t love you (I do!) but because that’s how my body and brain seem to function, or disfunction.”

    • Brenna says...

      Kamaile, you sound like a gem! I’ve been the depressed and ghosting friend, and it’s probably hard for someone who hasn’t been there to understand how a tiny, simple thing like sending a text could ever be overwhelming and seem impossible. It’s hard to believe myself, and I’m only a few years removed from it! To have someone lightly keep the relationship going, in faith, must mean so much.

  138. Elizabeth says...

    Lisa: great essay but I want to know the George Costanza line.

    I have been ghosted many times but I have also let friendships slide. In the latter case these were not people I was in close touch with — I just wish I’d had to sense to realize they were good people and worth knowing and that I’d cultivated the relationships better.

    When I think of those who have dumped me, in retrospect they showed signs of Mean Girl or self-centeredness long before I picked up on it. The pandemic has brought things into focus for me and I’ve experienced what a friend referred to as a “Covid Correction.” I want to be more protective of my feelings now and get to know people better before opening myself up.

    We can only move forward and while I regret the time I put into friendships that fizzled there’s no point in nursing hurt feelings. Onward!

  139. ARC says...

    My at that time best friend dumped me after we had spent two (amazing) months traveling together through the West (California, Nevada, Arizona, Nationalparks, etc.) while we were in law school. We were very good friends, and I thought this was a friendship that would last for a long time. She had a longtime boyfriend. One day, I stopped by her apartment for some reason, she was not there, so I chatted with the boyfriend until she came home. The next day she called me completely outraged telling me that “she knew it all along”, and accused me of wanting to get to her guy. Well, that was the end of that friendship. My heart really hurt, we had such amazing times together. And no, I was not interested in her man, but logic did not get to her at that point. She moved away the next semester, and I have not heard from her since (that was in 1992).

  140. Leslie says...

    I really love this post, it hits home for me in so many ways. I was dumped by my circle of high school friends after I made college my top priority and all of them wanted to take a year off to travel. For most of my college years I tried desperately to get back in to their circle but they rejected me over and over. For some reason I just kept trying and I am sure I came off as totally pathetic. I finally figured it out and moved on but it was extremely painful to lose a whole group of friends. I knew they were attending each others bridal showers and weddings, celebrating the birth of babies without me. More recently, when my daughter was in 6th grade, her best friend since kindergarten told her she didn’t want to be friends anymore. Thinking I should step in, I asked her mother who was a good friend of mine, what happened? She basically told me that my daughter wasn’t popular enough for her daughter and that they both wanted to move on to a different group of friends. I was in shock and worst of all my daughter was crushed. She cried for weeks and I became angry and bitter. Honestly, it took years to get over it and even though the pain is gone and most of the anger, I still feel a bit revengeful and ugly when I see either one of them through social media. I never thought a person who you shared so much intimacy and feelings with could just throw you away like nothing. It’s strange how you can feel the pain of the loss for years and years, thank your for sharing. It is a good thing to discuss.

    • Byrdie says...

      That sounds awful! I’m dreading going through this with my own daughter in a few years. I want to protect her kind soul from all the mean girls (and boys really!) even though I know it’s not possible.

  141. Raveen says...

    I’ve interestingly had TWO friendship breakups with one of my best friends from childhood, but both times (after about 2-3 years of a break) we became friends again. The first happened after we lived together our first year in graduate school, then 3-4 years later we found ourselves living in another city at the same time and purposely reconnected. We then had another “breakup” around the time of the birth of her daughter- about 10 years later and then reconnected again purposely 4-5 years ago. It’s so strange but I think those two friendship breaks allowed us to grow separate from each other and have made our friendship so much healthier now! It was painful going through it of course, but I think each friendship truly does have it’s own natural path.

  142. Neela says...

    Lisa my heart pinged when I saw your name on the byline! I looove your writing- it’s so raw, honest and familiar but still so poetic and evocative. I read your article on turning 50 several times, and already back then was convinced that you would be an amazing and inspiring friend to have!

  143. Meggie says...

    Just to say that it’s a huge almost relief to read something that has GenX all over it. Loved everything about this but especially the Liz Phair. Long live our quiet, beautiful generation. xo

  144. Agnes says...

    I’ve had one awful friend breakup in my life, which coincided neatly with me becoming more aware of abusive, narcissistic behavior and recognizing it in her, and finishing up my masters degree, while she hadn’t finished hers. I realized that she was mirroring my narcissistic and abusive mother’s behavior towards me, almost identically – love and hate and envy, intermingled so that I was drawn in by the love (which I felt I needed) and yet unconsciously believed I deserved the hate and envy as a price of admission for the love. Once I started drawing boundaries (however small), that was it and we were done, by email to our mutual friend group announcing it (with a separate email to me at the same time). My crime was to tell her what was bothering me, instead of being her unquestioning, ‘laugh it all off’ sidekick. I am so so so much less stressed and so much better off. I have never, and will never, allow myself to be in a friendship like that ever again.

  145. Laura says...

    I had some really close friendship in high school that faded away when I left for college, and recently I’ve reconnected with a couple ladies through social media. I started a beauty blog and several people from all corners of my life have messaged to say that read / like the content, and it’s sparked lots of catching up conversations. It’s so nice to feel like we can still connect after all these years and have a little community again as older people/moms etc.

  146. EP says...

    I’ve definitely been on both sides of this equation. I was dropped by a friend group when I was in college, and it was devastating at the time. 15 years later I still have no idea why it happened.

    I left a different friendship in what may have felt very abrupt to the friend but had been a long time coming for me. After our friendship flourished in college, she changed in some toxic ways that I could not square with the person I knew or my own moral compass. The abusive treatment I received as a member of her wedding party after years of unhappiness due to this relationship was the last straw for me, and after the event I left the friendship. I’ve felt guilty about it over the years but also remind myself that I have the right to choose who I share my time and energy with socially.

  147. D says...

    Thank you for this. A few months ago I had to let go of a dear friend of 20 years who was toxic to my life. I completely cut off all contact with her and I doubt she even noticed, which is the worst part. I’m fine day to day and don’t obsess over this, but I do dream about her constantly.

  148. Melody says...

    What a beautiful and relatable piece. I suffered two friend breakups after college. Both left me sad and embarrassed that something might be wrong with me. It’s not like a romantic relationship, I would think, where you generally only choose one partner. These girls can have as many friends as they want, and yet neither wanted me.

    One thing that really helped me better understand the nature of different kinds of friendships, and how these girls actually made me feel insecure and anxious when we were friends, was the book Best Friends Forever by Irene Levine. Working its magic in a similar way to this article and comments, you really realize that you’re not alone in navigating this situation.

  149. Emma says...

    Is anyone else reading through these comments and wondering if they’ll see a post from a friend they’ve dumped or been dumped by? Just me?

    • lmp says...

      100% me =)

    • Amy says...

      Yup!!

    • Sarah says...

      Me! 100% haha

    • T says...

      100%

  150. Amanda says...

    A little over three years ago a friendship I’d had since we were 10 and 11 ended–I confronted her about what I saw as really toxic behavior (in hindsight, I could’ve done it better, but I stand by what I said), she shut me out for a month or so after that, and then tried to act like everything was fine and we didn’t have anything to talk about. In retrospect, it wasn’t really a healthy relationship to begin with, and I’ve heard from a mutual friend of ours that they had a falling out as well, so I don’t know. I’m not blameless here, but I hope that she finds a way to work out some of the issues that were causing that toxic behavior.

    And I had a really good guy friend from middle school through my mid-twenties, which of course got ruined when we tried to date, but that’s a whole other story. (He’s married and has three kids now, so it’d be kind of weird if we tried to hash out what happened at this point.)