It took me over a year to make my final decision to end a friendship with a woman I'm socialized with on a weekly basis for more than five years. Perhaps I was afraid that I was being selfish or shortsighted by calling it quits. I worried that it was somehow wrong of me to seriously consider throwing away a friendship that was not particularly bad. It just was not good enough to continue spending time on.
My ruminating thoughts of uncertainty and the accompanying feelings of guilt persisted. I did not want to make a big mistake and regret taking what could easily be an irreversible step. I was not able to come up with anything legitimate sin my friend had committed. Neverheless my mind was made up. I knew I had had my fill of this person. I felt stifled. It was the same old thing week after week, month after month year after year. It was like repeating a school grade over and over again. My dilemma was no longer a question of if but when and how I would say good-bye.
It was not as though I had not given the easier, softer way a shot. I'd tried the tapering approach for several months. I hoped if slowly untangled myself from our weekly commitment by being busy some of the time, she would gradually adjust to the idea of socializing less frequently. Perhaps I gently push her into a new habit of meeting once or twice a month. But just when I thought she was adjusting to the idea, she'd rev up her efforts to get us back on track to meet weekly.
I suffered some anticipatory nostalgia at the thought of walking away. Close friends do not grow on trees, at least not in my world. This woman and I had walked and talked our way through divorces, new relationships, subsequent break-ups and reconciliations. We've shared a variety triumphs, defeats and struggles with our children. We had sons and daughters that were close in age. The two of us had also been equally guilty spending plenty of time analyzing and judging the lives of our mutual "recovery" acquaints.
"I do not trust him. We're friends."
While there had been some give and take over the years, we essentially had a therapist / patient dynamic going much of the time with me playing the role of the counselor. I never got terribly upset about the imbalance because I was aware my basic personality type was in large part to blame. I typically ask a lot of questions and tend to steer the conversation away from sharing my deepest feelings. So it was natural then for me to gravitate toward someone who likes to talk about themselves and asked little about my life.
Do not walk in front of me, I might not follow. Do not walk behind me, I might not lead. Walk beside me and be my friend.
Despite our differences in personality, I often reassured myself that the two of us shared a solid and deepening. I believed I'd found a lifelong friend and the only thing that would ever change is that we'd grow closer. So I was surprised and confused when I noticed that I was looking less and less forward to our regularly scheduled outings. I surprised what my problem was.
Although I was craving to make an exit, a little voice inside kept questioning my sanity. She's was, after all, one of the few friends I have on earth. She's a hospice nurse for god's sake. What if someday I am on my death bed ravaged by some unspeakably painful illness and no one else is around. Will I be sorry then? Will I be kicking myself with what little energy my fragile body has left then for carelessly tossing her out of my life?
My last straw came (and I admit I was probably looking for one) when she called on a Tuesday to book our Saturday. She wanted to make sure we were scheduled before I made other plans. When I listened to that message I knew my tiptoeing away approach was a total failure. I'd had enough.
I decided to sleep on what my next move would be but I knew I had to take action. I was not willing to blow her off completely and I did not want the stress of telling her the truth.
I chose a medium path and one she advocated for her in situations when she did not want to deal with a person directly. I would mail her a card! What a brilliant idea.
The next day I found a "Thinking of You" card. I felt that would be appropriate and honest because I was thinking of her. The card was blank inside and I filled up the page explaining that while I always consider her a friend, I needed a break and I was not up to meeting on a regular basis. I left the door open a bit by ending the note with something about sometimes someday we could meet again. I still do not know if I did that to avoid sparing her feelings or allowing myself a chance to change my mind. Perhaps it was a little of both. I dropped the card in the mail.
About a month later she left me a voice mail like always and said she jumped we could walk that Saturday. She didnt mention anything about receiving my card. I returned her message to let her know I was out of town and told her when I would be returning. That was three months ago and I have not heard back.
I've been tempted to call my old friends a couple of times but the truth is I'm not interested in resuming a relationship. I still feel some guilt from time to time but I get over it by reminding myself that it's perfectly okay to spend time with the people I want to be around. I would not want someone staying in a friendship with me out of a sense of guilt or obligation.
I discussed volumes of advice about ending friendships. It helped me work through my confusion. The list above helped me see that we had grown apart. Maybe I'd changed, maybe she'd changed. Who's at fault did not really matter. My connection to her had weakened.
I have lost friends, some by death others through sheer accessibility to cross the street.
After much soul searching I keep myself permission to walk away without carrying a long list of legitimate reasons to justify my decision. It felt wrong to continue this relationship. It felt right to end to it. Enough said.