When Close Friendships Fade

One of the most painful and perplexing life situations is when a close personal relationship changes for no apparent reason and suddenly someone you considered a friend for life is no longer.

That person who occupied a very special place in your heart reserved for a precious few, has suddenly removed themselves, and you are clueless as to the reason why. You feel confounded, hurt, angry, sad, and sometimes guilty, wondering what you did to cause such a drastic and permanent rift. Many times the cause is obvious, such as a betrayal of some sort and it still hurts, but you have a reason and over time you can eventually reconcile it. Sometimes life circumstances take someone away never to be seen again, and we just evolve in different directions. It’s sad, but that’s just life.

Awhile ago man (I’ll call him Bob) came to me heart-sick over the loss of a close friendship since early childhood. Bob and his friend grew up in the same neighborhood, rode their bikes to school every day, served as scouts, went through puberty together learning about women by sneaking peaks at the lingerie section in the Sears catalogue, played sports, and were the best man in each other’s weddings. They were best friends, closer than brothers. They moved to separate parts of the country, but still stayed in regular contact and most years met for fishing and skiing excursions. Then one day, out of the blue, Bob’s lifelong buddy just dropped out saying he no longer felt a connection. He wanted no further contact. He had moved on. That was it. Bob pressed his friend for a reason and he went on to tell him how many ways he had let him down over the years. Bob was stunned since he didn’t recall any of the incidents mentioned, at least not the way they were presented.

As I listened to his story, I tried to stay focused on him, but memories of the people who had played such key roles in my life who were no longer there came flooding back to me. Some I knew why or suspected the reasons they had split, and still others were complete mysteries. I also thought of the times when it was reversed, and I was the one who no longer felt a close bond, and it was I who ended a relationship “just because.” That specialness you once felt for the other just gradually dissolved and you can’t really put your finger on when or why. I think we have all been on both sides of this at one time or another and it is never a pleasant experience for either party. The ambiguity can be maddening, especially for the one being left behind.

So what’s that all about? I could ponder on this one endlessly, but I think it boils down to everyone and everything in life serves a purpose. Once that purpose has been fulfilled, or it becomes obvious on some level it will never be fulfilled in that relationship, we gradually disconnect emotionally and this is followed by a physical separation, sooner or later. Lives change, priorities shift, shared perspectives are no longer. We become different people, grow apart spiritually, politically and so forth, and then one day we look at our old “life-long” friend and realize we just don’t have anything in common anymore. It’s happened to all of us, and most likely it will happen again. That’s the nature of life; people and things always change. People come and people go, meeting certain needs or offering us our life lessons, and then move on.

The sad thing is that too often instead of just acknowledging we are now different people and have moved on, we project failure onto the other person, make them wrong and create some drama to justify our decision. It’s an all-too-familiar scenario. I think that’s what happened to Bob. Unfortunately, his old best friend spewed vitriol and made it all about him, when it was quite likely the other way around. I gave him my copy of Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, “The Four Agreements” to hopefully give him some insight as he heals from this loss. The second agreement is “Nothing other people do is because of you, it is because of them. Don’t Take Anything Personally.” I know, it’s easier said than done, but it is so true. Of course, we still have to honestly examine our role in every relationship and own what is ours.

By the time he came to see me, Bob had been in pain for some time and was seeking release. He said something I have heard myself say, “I never dreamed of the day when this person wouldn’t be a major part of my life.” I asked him, “Assuming your former friend’s decision is irrevocable, how would you like this to be different?” He thought for some time and then said, “I would like to be able to fully accept it, quit obsessing about what went wrong, still remember the good times without feeling such sadness and loss, and just feel happiness and peace again. I want to move on.”

Ah, now we were getting somewhere; Bob identified what he wanted to bring into his life, instead of only focusing on what was missing. I then asked, “What can you do starting now that will help bring that about?” After an extended time of silence, Bob blessed his former friend, forgave him for the immature and unskilled way he ended the friendship, and chose to cherish the love and memories they had created during their many years of friendship. It was a great start. This process will probably have to be repeated often until the full healing takes place over time. In the Army I learned: “Stop the bleeding. Clean wound thoroughly. Change bandages. Repeat as often as necessary.” The same directions apply to an emotional and spiritual wound as well.

Shakespeare said it best in “As You Like It.” “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and entrances; and one man plays many parts.” And life goes on.

Contributed by Rev. Michael Moran


Nurture those important relationships by connecting deeper with those you love. You can Be the Gift!

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