Friendships : When to Stay and When to Go (7-minute read)

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Friendships. Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve surely got some of your own. There are best friends (and, somewhat surprisingly to me, there are apparently variations on how many “best” friends one can have). There are good friends. And there are even enemies who are friends who are called frenemies. (Must be the 21st century word for the adage: “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”) Who knew that so many types of friendships exist in the world?

For me, the establishing of friendships takes time and the number are few and far between. As a Pisces, I know it’s true for me what I’ve read about us, the men at least, that our friendships more closely mirror those of siblings.

I’m also a “lifer.” Once I’ve bonded with another human being as a friend, the bond – even if the friendship does – never ends. Regardless of how the other person may feel, I always develop deep soul connections with those people who become my good friends. Often, the bond begins in the moment we meet. I feel strongly that the chemistry, the attraction stems as if from a previous life experience together. Upon meeting, the void you usually experience between you and a stranger is instead filled with a comforting familiarity, a “Hey! I know you! Where have you been?” moment. Together you start your friendship by finishing each other’s sentences.

And, as a “lifer,” I get that: “People are not disposable. If you have ever had the experience of cutting someone out of your life, only to feel a great loss later on, you know what I mean. Family is everything, and for those who don’t have one, friends become that family. Having people in your life makes you feel stronger and validated. If you push them away, you will feel a loss as soon as your anger goes.”1

“You spend lots of time alone.
Sometimes it’s been years.
And you miss those arms
that used to go around you.”
– Kelly Johnston and Stephanie Nicks,
“No Questions Asked.”

Also, I spend lots of time alone. For a bunch of reasons, none of them quantifiable as “good” or “bad,” but rather “just are,” I enjoy spending lots of time alone. Of course, often our society assumes those who enjoy their own company – alone at home or out in public – are “loners” or “introverted” when the truth is often as simple as: “I’m comfortable in my own skin. I enjoy my own company. I enjoy being alone sometimes . . . Okay. Okay! A LOT of the time.”

I’m always in a sort of awe around those truly gregarious characters who spread their attention so generously and gingerly across a wide group of people: strangers, acquaintances, and friends. Every once in a while, I’m guilted into believing there’s something wrong with me for not being able to spread my love for humanity so sweepingly. For me – without judgment – it’s exhausting and feels superficial. To me, it’s more like spreading myself too thinly. In short, it’s just not genuine to or authentic for me.

Mind you, these examples are presented simply as observations and not criticisms. I do not judge. I just know – well – the boundaries of my comfort zone.

That said, I’m one of those social introverts who often finds themselves forced outside of their comfort zone and into the social mix flitting and flirting around a room like the most seasoned social butterfly (and I often find, surprisingly, I enjoy it somewhat). It is a role that does not come easily to me and one in which I’m always striving – likely too hard for some – to feel rooted, authentic, and – God forbid – meaningful. Yes. If you’re thinking: “That sounds like a lot of work.” You’re right. But, I like work and I like to work on things, including friendships.

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“I’m as hard on myself as I am on others.” – Designer Sir Lancelot

Most recently, a friendship had been tested. And for better or worse, for the time being or forever, the friendship broke down under the weight of too many conflicting factors: differing desires, goals, and the always deadly: expectations. Over time affections shifted; the rules changed; the players changed; the game changed and, as a result, a part of the team disbanded.

In fairness to both parties, we each have a lot of the proverbial “a LOT going on” in our lives right now. In addition, we each began exploring other friendships and other interests. We had less quality time for ourselves together and more opportunities to experience independent of one another. So, often each time we came back together the distance between us increased incrementally until – for me – we became even more like strangers than even acquaintances.

Too many inconsistencies in character and increasingly unpredictable and erratic behaviors create too much anxiety and, eventually, resentment within me. I admit it. I’m both a sensitive and reciprocal soul. So, when I’m feeling unappreciated and disrespected I’ll tell you so in an effort to right the ship and course correct. But, that doesn’t always work. And, that’s when I know it’s time to move on.

“Why do you lie about love?
I saw the light go out.”
– Gillian Howard Welch
and David Todd Rawlings,
“New Favorite.”

Yes. All of my close friendships – besides including (I hope) the qualities of loyalty, honesty and commitment – possess that quality of that relatively modern contrivance: romance. It’s just how I’m hardwired. It’s the cloth from which I’m cut. A choice or not? It doesn’t matter to me. It’s who I am and who – in the end – I want to be. I get that I am what I think and I am what I feel; therefore, I’m okay with hopeful hopeless idealistic romantic. It makes me feel alive. It makes me feel fulfilled. It makes me feel that I live fully.

Sure. Being a hopeful hopeless idealistic romantic creates drama in my life sometimes but, as the character Erica Barry says in the 2003 film “Something’s Gotta Give:” “I think it’s the drama in life that makes you strong.” And, I’ll take more strength wherever I can get it.

On loyalty, I identify strongly with the following: “‘ . . . if all my friends were to jump off a bridge, I wouldn’t follow, I’d be at the bottom to catch them when they fall.’ You see I am loyal and darn proud of it. Remember a good friend is someone who walks into your world when the rest of your world is walking out.”2 “Loyalty is hard to come by nowadays. Someone who can maintain friendships knows how to be loyal. This means he or she doesn’t talk behind your back — they’ve got your back. Even more so, they will stand up for you if someone is trash talking you.”3

Another interesting and comforting byproduct of having experienced so many broken hearts is that you begin to understand human behavior better. You begin to understand your worth in the eyes of another and the energy put into the relationship by each of you over time. So, as Alison Krauss sings so plaintively in the song “New Favorite:” “I saw the light go out.” I’ve become really good at realizing when that happens – when the light goes out in the eyes of the other – and to instinctively turn and walk away, to move on. I’ve no time to be under-appreciated. I’ve no time to waste.

“Off the chain . . .
Out of the band . . .
Talk On The Town
says I’m a free man.

Yeah, Talk On The Town
says it’s time to go.
Babe, it’s not just talk
I’ve just gone solo.”
– Lance Colby Hatch,
“Talk On The Town.”

I was initially surprised by how much relief I felt almost immediately upon breaking up and what little angst I felt in the days before and immediately afterwards. I experienced my heartbreak and went through the first round of the stages of grieving. Trust me! But quickly, I’m good.

In retrospect, I was prepared. I had been pulling away myself. It was time to go. We were not the same people. We would never be the same; therefore, “it,” the friendship would never be the same. And sometimes, the reality is that when the love for the other is so intense the relationship can’t segue into anything else. There’s just no place for it to go, so it must burn out. The fire must die. The light goes out. Sometimes, it’s just best to recognize that and just go.

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And, in moving on, I’ll leave you with the following words. They suggest an experience of friendships emerging from shared values based in participating in activities together that occur off the radar of social media. More and more, I find myself enjoying just “being” with someone rather than “posing” with someone. Of course, there’s a place and time for that, too, but in a true friendship there’s more time for this: “The relationship has nothing really to do with outside people, or with your self-image or with status updates, and perhaps our vision of friendship has been degraded by the instantaneous, relentless nature of our communications technology. Replace ‘watch and click’ with ‘listen and feel,’ close the curtains and mix two drinks, download nothing, ‘share’ nothing, but lose yourself in the sort of communication that has nothing to sell.”4  Touché.


  1. Goldsmith Ph.D., Barton. “People Are Not Disposable.” Psychology Today. 6 July, 2015.
  2. George, Don. “Why Loyalty Is Important in a Good Friendship.” 13 October, 2010.
  3. Altschule, Sara. “10 Habits of People With Longstanding Friendships.” 27 November, 2014.
  4. O’Hagan, Andrew. “Reflections On True Friendship.”23 November, 2016.

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