What is the protocol for when a reliable friendship morphs into something cold and unfamiliar? How do you know when to continue putting effort into a relationship that isn’t what it used to be? Is the best strategy to always keep trying? Or is there a breaking point? I’d love to say I know the answers, but at this point I’m still working on it.
I’ve had friendships dwindle over time from distance or lack of interest. I’ve had friendships implode over disagreements. However, nothing has been as difficult or complicated as deciding whether to continue a friendship that has changed for the worse.
When I first became friends with this person I was happy. We hung out in the same group constantly. Before long we did everything together, watching lame movies from the early 2000s or attempting to recreate Tasty videos that made spaghetti squash seem like a healthy double for actual, carb-loaded pasta. I thought I had finally mastered college, even if it did take three years. I finally had a sturdy friend group that I could always rely on. But like a bad teen drama, things didn’t last.
Our rough patches started out small. She felt left out of the group or that I wasn’t fully engaged when we spent time together—a totally fair evaluation that I can own up to. She tended to be overly critical of everyone around her. Plus, she became increasingly rude to cashiers, a major pet peeve to anyone who has worked in retail for any amount of time. We talked about these issues, sometimes for what seemed like hours and things always returned to normal before long. But after a year our issues have moved into unfamiliar territory.
What we used to talk about openly, in-person is now not talked about at all or only referenced through short, snarky text blasts. What used to be our mutual friend group is now an uncomfortable conglomeration of people who don’t know how to address two best friends that no longer speak unless absolutely necessary.
When it comes to evaluating whether this friendship is worth salvaging I have considered several elements. Fundamentally, this person does not make me happy anymore. Even before we went full blown silent treatment like a couple of third graders, there was an imbalance between us. I felt like I had to apologize whenever I spent time with anyone else or that I was walking on thin ice. Any moment hitting a nerve that could send us into an argument. Although we still shared the same interests, our relationship had more conflict than resolution. Arguments went underground in exchange for petty passive-aggressive behaviors.
On one hand, I would love to have things back to what they were. But I’m not sure I’m willing to negotiate with someone who doesn’t seem to care whether or not they hurt me, or if that is even a healthy option for me. On the other hand, I graduate in a couple months and will be leaving my college town, probably for good.
It’s never easy to decide to cut someone important out of your life. But sometimes you need to put yourself first. When the people you surround yourself with no longer make you happy or aren’t willing to put in the effort to be a good friend to you, evaluate whether it is a healthy situation for you to be in.
If you are ever in this situation I’d recommend before anything else to talk to this person about your concerns before it gets to a point where communication isn’t happening. If it’s beyond that already, consider the effects of ending your friendship with this person. Would you be happier in the long run? Could you become friends again after time has given you both a chance to grow up? Sometimes your best option for the time being is to cut the ties to a toxic relationship. Friendships shouldn’t be something adding stress and disagreements to your life. They should make it easier.