Not everything is meant to last forever.
A wise man once sang that breaking up is hard to do. But the heartbreak and angst that accompanies the end of a relationship isn’t exclusive to romantic twosomes. Platonic friendships often reach their logical conclusion but sometimes, not everybody is on the same page.
When Jamye Waxman’s high school best friend unceremoniously dumped her over the phone, she was devastated. Two decades later, the relationship expert has applied lessons she’s gleaned from various platonic breakups into her book How To Break Up With Anyone: Letting Go of Friends, Family and Everyone In-Between.
“(Friendships) have a huge impact on our lives,” Waxman says in an email.
“When they end, we begin to question what’s wrong with us for not being able to make a friendship last, even though all relationships are constantly evolving or ending. It’s normal. It’s natural.”
Ending a toxic or obsolete friendship is tricky stuff. Any caring person would want to minimize hurt feelings, but you also want to firmly distance yourself from this person permanently.
The “slow fade” is one way to accomplish this; lag on returning their calls and emails and stop accepting their invitations.
“Ghosting” (abruptly ceasing any and all communication, allegedly how Charlize Theron ended her relationship with Sean Penn) can be cruel but effective.
Waxman suggests an in-person “endship” is best, although this may be too tense and confrontational for some. (Nobody wants to be released from a friendship while casually sharing a sashimi boat — even if their former friend pays.)
Jennifer Peepas, writer of the popular advice blog “Captain Awkward” offers an interesting idea for severing friendship ties while still honouring your shared history. Send your soon-to-be-ex pal flowers. Very specific flowers.
“The African Violet of Broken Friendship came about when I was lamenting that we have scripts for romantic breakups but we don’t have the same rituals for ending a friendship,” Peepas writes.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if you could send someone a plant and a nice card thanking them for their friendship and formally acknowledging its end? I find (African violets) beautiful, and I’ve never been able to keep one alive, so they gave good metaphor.”
Whether friendships end with a scream, a whimper or an African violet, the older we get, the smaller our friendship circles tend to become.
My time and energy are so limited these days, I only want to spend time with friends who pass the Traffic Test. As coined by Tim Urban of “Wait But Why,” the Traffic Test is when you’re so invigorated by an interaction that “when I’m finishing up a hangout with someone and one of us is driving the other back home … I find myself rooting for traffic. That’s how much I’m enjoying my time with them.”
I most value those friends who make me feel happy, engaged, loved, heard and understood. That means relationships where laughing is as natural as breathing and spending time together doesn’t feel like a chore or obligation. Disengaging from those with whom we no longer share a strong connection is, as Waxman writes, perfectly natural. That said, being the dumpee is harsh, so ensure adequate self-care.
“Process your feelings with friends, family or a designated empathizer outside of the social circle,” Waxman suggests. “Find support and feel supported.”
She also recommends writing a letter to your ex-friend that — and this is important — you never mail. It will help you process your emotions.
“Realize this happens to everyone,” Waxman emphasizes. “Friends come and go, but the memories can remain.”
You can always make more friends and create more happy memories.
Life is short. Time is finite. Maximize it by spending time with those who genuinely love you, support you, delight in you and vice-versa.