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Letting Go of a Friend

When might it be time to part ways with a friend?

We all have people in our lives whom we stay friends with, out of loyalty. But real life sometimes creates or uncovers things about a person that you just can’t live with. If you have known someone for more than twenty years and want to move on from the relationship, it can be hard to get that person, or what they did, out of your psyche.

If you ever loved this person, it is even harder. That feeling of wanting may wash over you and will make you want to reach out and see if they have changed if they will be better to you. So, after you have unblocked them, maybe you’ll send a text or make a call to see if you can reconnect. But is that really a good thing to do? What if they haven’t changed or are worse?

So, let’s say you went for it and you gave it your best effort, but things are just not working for you in the friendship. Now, all that’s left to do is to permanently remove that person from your emotional space. You’ll get to that eventually—but for now, you’ll just reblock them. You may also think they are out of your brain, but it will probably take a lot longer than deleting their pictures from Facebook.

Friends and lovers who have entered our hearts can stay there forever, no matter what they have done. The heart tends to only remember the good, the mind remembers the bad, and the two together can create many a sleepless night for even the strongest-willed human being.

I recently had to let go of a friend because the relationship had become unbalanced. Let me explain. My friends all know I’m a therapist, and upon occasion, they will ask me a question or two. In general, everyone is respectful and they don’t push it.

In this case, my friend was beside himself over a breakup and couldn’t contain his pain. Although he had a therapist of his own, he felt he had to tell me. too. It got to be too much for me. For some people, talking nonstop about what is going on is a means of coping, but it can be very difficult and tiresome for the listener, especially if they are just a friend (and not a therapy client).

I asked him to stop, and he truly could not. And it was getting out of hand. I was beginning to feel like Richard Dreyfus in What About Bob?—and that was a sign. I held true to my boundaries but distanced myself while still keeping tabs on him (just in case).

Then, as one might expect, he became angry with me. It wasn’t like I vanished, but I did unfriend him — these days that is akin to throwing down a gauntlet. He then moved from the internet to texting to contact me, and I chose to completely block all communication. I did not enjoy the process, but my self-respect and well-being were dependent on making this break.

In this era of digital communication, people who don’t receive a response may pout loudly for a little while, maybe create some posts, and then their fingers will find someone else for them to project their pain on to.

Letting go of a friend is never easy. But if something like what I’ve described happens to you, don’t feel bad about blocking or disconnecting from someone in the interest of self-care. If it ever gets to the point where you need to distance yourself for your own well-being, just remember, you are doing the right thing!