The Upside to Letting Go of Friends in Adulthood

Think back to the good old days. Making friends as a child was probably less stressful for you than finding and maintaining them as an adult. In childhood, it was simple. Parents scheduled playdates; we took classes together or participated in the same after-school activities that allowed us to see each other all the time. Half the time, if a kid said “hi” to you, you were instant best friends.

Adulthood is a different story.

letting go rewire pbsNow that we have responsibilities, jobs and Twitter accounts to maintain, friendships can end up taking a back seat. As a result, we put less effort into those relationships than we should. It’s easy to forget how much work and dedication friendships require until you begin to feel that disconnect. Commitment and communication are essential to holding those you love close, even when you’re not in a romantic relationship with them.

Letting go is okay

Not all of your relationships will stand the test of time. Growing up can mean growing apart. It can be hard to get past growing pains in a relationship. You might get interested in different things, be too busy to meet up or simply lose touch.

Growing apart might not be obvious at first. It can start with cancelling plans because something else came up or because you simply don’t want to go. You might stop paying attention to their texts or start ignoring their phone calls, making a mental note to call back but never doing it.

If your friends end up drifting away or ghosting on you, don’t put all the responsibility on yourself.

Through social media we are constantly connected to one another. Unless your friend is off the grid, it’s very difficult to go throughout a day not knowing what new recipe they’re attempting or the number of selfies they’ve taken at the beach. Based on what they share online, it’s very easy to turn a “like” or “comment” into a full-blown conversation.

Phones work both ways. Holding onto something that clearly isn’t working will only cause you more discomfort and pain than accepting that this is where your path together might end.

Are your old friendships still healthy?

Sometimes the signs that it’s time to end a relationship are less obvious. Maybe you’ve been friends with this person since grade school and you’ve gotten used to them being there for you. You don’t notice, or you forgive, changes to the way they treat you because  they’ve stuck with you for this long.

If that sounds familiar, it’s time to take a long, hard look at yourself and your relationship with this friend. Constant negativity has no place in a friendship, especially if you consider them a close friend.

letting go rewire pbsShasta Nelson, founder of GirlFriendCircles.com and author of “Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness,” has a simple working definition of friendship she wrote about for the Huffington Post:

A friendship is a mutual relationship between two people that is satisfyingsafe, and where both people feel seen.”

In her eyes, if that doesn’t define your friendship, it’s not a healthy relationship, and it might be time to let it go.

Appreciate what was and what you gained from that relationship. You probably grew as a person and experienced milestones with that friend. Remember the memories fondly. Think of this as a learning experience that can help you understand what you want and deserve from relationships in your life.

Bouncing back from a friendship loss

Seth Myers, psychologist and author of “Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve,” points out in Psychology Today that “acceptance is the key to recovery from loss.” Friendships can be fleeting and may not fit us as we grow older. Realize that you are free to make your own choices and live your life—with or without the friends who started the journey with you.

Give yourself permission to move on and accept your choices. Letting go of old friendships that have run their course means you have a new chance to decide who you want to surround yourself with moving forward.

But don’t forget to be your own best friend along the way.

Liz Brown

Liz Brown is a writer and copy editor whose day job is in marketing and communications. From pie shops in Missouri to social justice in Chicago, her passion lies in finding the unique angle in every story. Follow her ramblings on Twitter at @lizb411. She can also be reached at [email protected].