How Do You Go About Dropping a Friendship?

Recently, I caught up with a dear friend of mine over the phone. They updated me about their life, career choices, dreams, aspirations, the whole run down. I love that feeling of reconnecting, even though we send memes throughout the day everyday. You know, you have those designated people and group chats on Instagram that you send your funny content to, political memes, world events, maybe some gossip here and there, and you are fairly close. You’re technically “connected” everyday, but there’s work, different schedules, and life in general – nobody got time to give constant updates every time. So it felt good to catch up and talk about our lives and dilemmas. We got on the topic of friendships, loyalty, and letting friendships go that are toxic or drama-filled. We are usually on the same page, but we had opposing views on some aspects.

“You should write about this on your blog,” they said as we wrapped up the topic of cutting off friends, “Like, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but friendship edition!”

“Oh my god, yeah, I might just,” I said, even though I had never watched it. But, I got the gist. This is actually a topic I wanted to write about for some time, but was always hesitant because I didn’t want anyone to think I was @-ing them. But I mean, if the shoe fits…

Friendship breakups are so under-rated. Sometimes, it’s equivalent to a romantic break up because you can feel betrayed, hurt, taken advantage of, and conflicted about things ending. Unlike a romantic breakup though, we don’t really think of the possibility that things can end in a platonic friendship. It can be blindsiding, emotional, and a difficult decision to make. Other times, it’s as clear as day that the friendship needs to end, but just because what needs to be done is clear, doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. It can be very confusing as well if you’re on the receiving end of the cut off.

This phone call led to this question: How do you go about ending a friendship?

My friend vented about their current situation with a former friend. Long story short, my friend was on the receiving end of being cut off, but for no apparent or obvious reason. I’m very neutral and would tell my friend straight up if they messed up, as they shared all the possibilities of why the friendship could’ve ended. But, I honestly couldn’t figure it out. It seemed like it was a 1 way argument, but without the arguing and communication. Only that person knew why they cut off my friend, but never communicated any prior frustration or conflict. Throughout the phone call, my friend kept bringing up how they wished this former friend would just communicate what was bothering them, instead of just ending the friendship with no clear reason.

I agreed that it was weird for their former friend to just stop talking to them and cut them off. Especially since the former friend didn’t communicate anything that would even hint towards frustration or being upset. In fact, the former friend would just gossip to other people, and it got back to my friend, and only then did they find out why they were cut off, but still not having a definite answer coming from the source. It’s like the other person withheld information purposely so my friend could wonder what was going on, and decided to gossip about it and be fake in person. That’s what I thought was weird. It’s one thing to just drop someone without any context. But it’s another thing to drop them, talk shit about them, but still hangout and act like everything is cool in group settings.

“Yeah, that’s some weirdo shit,” I told my friend.

My friend wished they were aware of what they “did wrong,” so they could address it, communicate about it, patch up the friendship, and move on. They believed that it was weird that some people really suck that much at communication and would rather throw away a friendship than openly communicate about what bothered them. We got on the topic of “keeping it real,” with our friends, and went over the different scenarios and instances where we would have to check certain friends in the past. We both agreed that we had no problem checking friends when they’re in the wrong or doing something we don’t agree with. I agreed that in this specific instance, the friendship they lost was probably for the best since it seemed like the other person was pretty fake and liked to play that high school shit. You know, when you find out “your friend” is talking about you behind your back but acting tight to your face – the shit we’re clearly too old for.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that in some instances, I was that friend – minus the acting cool to your face. In this specific instance – yes, I felt the one who ended the friendship should’ve communicated something to my friend. But I noticed in general, when I’m cutting someone off, I rarely give a reason why too. There has been very few friendships I’ve had that ended badly. But at the same time there are some friendships I’ve had that ended with obvious fights that resulted in the termination of said friendships. But for the most part, I’m the Homer Simpson meme disappearing into the bushes. My only difference from my friend’s former friend is that I don’t play it fake. You’ll know where I stand.

“Really?! That’s sooo weirdddd!” My friend said when I made this revelation.

I explained my reasoning. For me, when there is a clear fall out and fight, obviously I’ll communicate my side, say my peace, and if I can’t patch it up from there with time, then I just cut it off. But as much as possible, I try to avoid bitter endings with former friends. To be honest, there have been very few occasions where I had to tell off a friend right before I snip them. Very rarely will I be so done with someone that we fight about something for a prolonged period of time to the point where I don’t think I can continue with the friendship. If the friendship is worth it, and there is respectful communication, then I don’t cut people off. I don’t think I’ve had too many situations like that where the friendship was so over that I cut them off, deleted them off social media, blocked them, deleted their number, etc. It ain’t that serious.

I’m open with all of my friends and tell them how it is. But when I start to notice patterns in friendships and in their character, I just take a mental note. Especially if that friend did nothing to me personally to make me mad or question the friendship, it wouldn’t seem right to call someone out on their character and decisions when it isn’t directed towards me. If it comes up in conversation or if they ask for my opinion, obviously I’ll say my peace, but when I notice patterns like selfishness, being untrustworthy, and things of that nature, I just observe and remember for future reference. There is power in silence, and power in moving differently towards them when you see them for who they are. But there’s no reason to end on bad terms.

And at that point, there is no point to bring up or confront people when you realize you don’t want to surround yourself with friends that move like them. To me at least, there’s no point to let it be known that, “hey, I see through your actions that you’re actually not someone I want to associate with.” It’s a waste of time especially if that person is living the life that they want to. It just doesn’t make sense to me to call someone out on their character flaws if I already made my decision in letting the friendship gracefully drift. I don’t want any tension, especially if there is no specific fall out that made me want to end the friendship. Nowadays, I noticed that I just distance myself from people I no longer want a friendship with. Not because they did something to me, but because I notice traits and habits that I don’t want in a friend. No bad blood, no hard feelings, no big fight to make the cut off official – just a mutual understanding that the friendship has drifted.

Friendship break ups can definitely hurt. Sometimes there’s obvious reasons why it ended, and sometimes there isn’t. I realize that my explanation for silence and distancing myself can be the same explanation my friend’s former friend had. Sometimes you can talk it out, and sometimes you will be returned with radio silence, so I guess to each their own. For me, I think silence and being cordial is the best way to go about it especially if they did nothing wrong to you personally and you just come to the realization that you just don’t want to fuck with them like that. However, if there is a specific problem or event that led to me feeling some type of way, I’d definitely communicate it to a friend before I start distancing myself.

Because let’s be real, in this cut off culture, anyone and everyone gets triggered and will snip you and broadcast why all over social media. It doesn’t have to be like that. Handling friendship breakups with class is key. But friendship break up’s shouldn’t be the answer to everything. That’s always a red flag to me, when people rotate their friends like the seasons, and have countless fall outs with a lot of former friends. At that point, you really got to sit and look at the bigger picture – who is the common factor. Some friendships can turn toxic real fast, and it’s okay to gracefully leave a friendship.

And just because the friendship is over, doesn’t mean all the great memories are now soured. That is what I took away from that phone call that night. When friendships end, it’s okay to look back and reminisce and be a little sad about the good times. Those memories don’t have to be ruined because the friendship is over. It’s okay to gather your information and realize that you guys don’t see eye to eye on certain things. And it’s okay to let the friendship naturally drift without conflict.

How do you go about dropping a friendship?

Pushing Forward

For the sake of the individual’s safety and privacy, they have chosen to share their story anonymously.

Do you ever think back to the times before something very significant in your life happened? You can remember the exact moment when someone entered your life, and little did you know at the time that life as you knew it would never be the same again? This is one of those stories. Their story started with a handshake.

It was kind’ve awkward to be honest. Jordan said hello, but Alex stayed mute, keeping their eyes down to the ground, and finally they shook Jordan’s hand. At work, they befriended the same people and were in the same department. They were bound to have conversations and bump into each other regularly. Alex started to notice that Jordan was taking an interest in them, maybe even trying to pursue a relationship. Jordan was very flirtatious, and Alex didn’t know how to feel. Alex definately thought that Jordan was out of their league – there was no way a romantic relationship would develop between the two. But Alex started to feel themself getting attracted to Jordan’s charming ways. Alex really liked that Jordan’s presence came off as “in control.” One day Alex caught a glimpse of Jordan’s eyes in the sunlight, it was a done deal.

From there, the couple moved pretty fast. They moved in together about 6 months into their relationship, and they were already planning a wedding by the end of their first year together. Alex describes everything in their relationship as “moving fast.” From “I love you’s,” to moving in, to taking “what’s mine is yours,” very literally, and so on. At the time, Alex didn’t see that as a red flag. And why would Alex second guess Jordan? Jordan swept Alex off of their feet and played the part well – making their love look so real, and making Alex feel like their love would last a lifetime. Alex was ecstatic, they never thought that a person like Jordan would be in a relationship with them. However, moving fast in the relationship was just 1 red flag of many. And unfortunately, Alex’s happiness did not last very long.

Alex explains that initially, these red flags didn’t even come up as red flags to them at the time. Why? They were so wrapped up in the “bubble” of happiness and the relationship, that they didn’t think twice about the manipulation. In fact, it took almost a decade later for Alex to understand that they were a victim of domestic abuse. Alex’s therapist helped Alex see all of the red flags that they missed throughout their 8 year long relationship. Moving fast in the relationship, Alex learned, is a tactic narcissist abusers use to start controlling their partners. But Alex was so caught up in the bubble, that they didn’t even realize Jordan’s actions were signs of control.

Very early on, Alex would hear the way Jordan would treat and talk to their ex-partners, since Jordan had children from previous relationships. Alex would always try to get Jordan to see the ex partners’ side, especially since Jordan had to co-parent with them. Jordan would boast about having children with different partners, and how there were probably more children they didn’t know about. Alex thought it was odd that Jordan would take pride in that, but brushed it off. 7 months into their relationship, Alex and Jordan got news that they were expecting. Alex never expected that co-parenting would soon be in their distant future, and they would be in Jordan’s exs’ shoes.

As soon as their relationship started, so did the rules. Jordan didn’t like the fact that Alex had personal social media accounts. Alex was forced into deleting their personal accounts, and had to replace them with joint accounts that they shared with Jordan. The people that they followed were mostly Jordan’s family and friends. Every friend / follower was approved by Jordan. Jordan got to choose who Alex interacted with on social media, and made sure Alex wasn’t searching or interacting with anyone they didn’t approve of. This meant that Alex couldn’t keep in contact with their own friends if Jordan didn’t approve of them. The first round of cut off’s happened with social media, and Alex didn’t know that they’d lose a lot more friendships due to Jordan down the line.

Jordan wanted the joint social media accounts because they wanted to keep tabs on who Alex spoke to. The agreement was that both of them would delete their personal accounts and just have the joint relationship account. Alex discovered that Jordan had personal accounts of their own. Alex couldn’t believe it, they thought it was bullshit that Jordan went out of their way to control the followers and accounts, only to have their own accounts secretly. Alex was pissed, so they decided to make their own personal accounts again. This would only add more fuel to the small fire already burning.

Alex started to lose a lot of friendships quickly. Some ended because Jordan demanded Alex end the friendships, and others ended because some friends were trying to tell Alex that this was not a healthy relationship. Alex would blame themself for the way Jordan treated them – not trusting them, accusing them, and controlling them. When Alex would vent to friends, their friends would tell them how the relationship wasn’t normal behavior. Alex would brush it off and try to justify Jordan’s actions, being oblivious and in denial about their reality. Jordan didn’t approve of Alex’s friends that were of the opposite sex. Jordan forced Alex to block and cut ties with many friends, but the rules never applied to Jordan. They were still friends with people of the opposite sex, and being very suspicious with a certain classmate. It was a double standard, and Alex was the only one having boundaries and rules.

Jordan started to accuse Alex of cheating. To make sure Alex’s self-esteem was low, Jordan would verbally put Alex down – commenting on their appearance, weight, and claiming that they could sleep with anyone. It was ironic to say the least because majority of their fights were due to Jordan’s flirtatious ways. Sometimes, the flirting would happen right infront of Alex. But when Alex would get upset, Jordan would brush it off as Alex having jealously issues. No matter what, Jordan always made Alex feel like they were doing something wrong and sneaky.

“No matter how many times I defended myself, I was always wrong in (their) eyes and I was the cheater,” Alex recalls. “I was upset of course. I could give reason – a valid reason – but (they) would never accept it as the truth.”

Jordan never let up on accusing Alex of cheating their whole 8+ year relationship. But there were multiple times where Alex caught Jordan cheating on them. And everytime Alex would confront Jordan about it, Jordan would say Alex is delusional. But the proof was in the pudding – all the messages, lies, and things not adding up. This put Alex in a difficult situation because by this time, they had a couple of children together already. Alex was tired of Jordan putting them down for things they were not guilty of. The least Jordan could do was admit their wrong doing, instead of projecting it back on Alex.

But that’s what Jordan was best at. Jordan would emotionally abuse Alex by not validating their feelings, ignoring them when they needed support, being very detached from the family. Alex admits that almost 9 years together and they still didn’t feel like they knew much about Jordan. Jordan kept to themselves, and didn’t give too much detail about their personal life and upbringing. This sense of privacy angered Alex because they just wanted to bond. Alex felt as though they only knew snippets of who Jordan really was, and there was no sign of Jordan budging or letting anyone in. They knew the basics of Jordan – like their favorite color, simple likes and dislikes, food, but anything passed that, Jordan kept Alex in the dark.

“8 years with (them), I’m assuming I was the only person who stayed the longest, and I learned about (them) from others,” Alex said.

Throughout their relationship, verbal abuse was very common. Jordan would call Alex names and put them down all the time. Everytime Alex tried to confront Jordan of cheating, even having valid evidence, Jordan would resort to name calling. Psycho. Stalker. Crazy. The list went on. Jordan would comment on Alex’s appearance, saying they gained weight, they should work out, they should do XYZ to themselves. Threats, insults, name calling, and being put down was common in their household.

On top of the verbal abuse, Jordan was notorious for their gaslighting. Jordan was constantly lying, making Alex believe the things they claimed – even if Alex had solid proof. Jordan’s go to defense mechanism was to deny deny deny. Jordan would deny saying something, even when Alex recalled the conversation and the details. It seemed like everything Jordan was guilty of, he would just project it back on Alex. Any questions Alex may have had were always met with accusations of Alex being a cheater, liar, and being at fault for causing a fight. Alex was miserable, but at the same time desperately wanted Jordan’s love. It was a love hate relationship, and that’s what made it all the more confusing.

Alex kept all these red flags from her family. They didn’t want their family’s perception of Jordan to change. Alex was protecting Jordan’s honor, and wanted their family to still see Jordan in a positive light. Therefore, Alex dealt with the abuse alone. Alex’s mother was extremely fond of Jordan. From the moment Alex brought Jordan home, Alex’s mother thought Jordan was great and really loved them. For 8 years, Alex’s family didn’t know how tumultuous their relationship was. On top of that, Jordan started to shit talk Alex’s family. Jordan would categorize them with certain stereotypes, and would judge them. To make Alex more insecure, Jordan would say that Alex’s sibling(s) wanted to have sex with them. Jordan claimed that Alex’s sibling(s) have mentioned it/ have hinted that they would be down for a sexual encounter. Alex didn’t believe what Jordan claimed, but was weary. Alex no longer wanted their sibling(s) around Jordan, fearing that what Jordan claimed was true. Alex started to distance themselves from their siblings.

Alex believes that this is part of the reason why Jordan wanted to move so far away from their family. Alex now sees, over 10 years later, that this was Jordan’s way of isolating them from people they were close to. They moved to another state – far enough that Jordan was confident that Alex’s family couldn’t afford to visit. They moved around a lot because Jordan was never satisfied with their location. Within 2 years they moved 4 times, from apartment complex to the next, to out of state, and another relocation after that. They finally settled in California. Alex had no family and no friends near by. All they had was Jordan, their kids, and Jordan’s family and friends. Alex felt alone throughout their relationship, but this time, they were actually alone, with no one to turn to except their abuser.

Alex was really lonely in California. Jordan would tell Alex that they were boring, and would act as if they were helping by forcing their family to hangout with Alex. In reality, Alex knew that they were just a burden to Jordan’s family, and Jordan forced others to hangout with Alex so they themself wouldn’t have to. Alex’s main and only concern were their children. But it seemed like Jordan always put their family last. Alex had enough. They were tired of the mind games, the name calling, the abuse, the cheating, not feeling good enough, they didn’t even recognize themself in the mirror anymore. Alex hit their breaking point. The relationship was going on 9 years, 9 years too long.

“I wanted to be loved, noticed, valued, and appreciated… but I wasn’t,” Alex shared. “I know now that I will never get those things from (Jordan), (they’re) incapable of it. Instead, I felt like I was a chess piece in (their) mind, just waiting to use me for (their) personal gain.”

A month before their 9 year anniversary, Alex made the decision to end their relationship. Alex was in the shower, taking extra long to avoid their reality. Something about that shower made Alex realize how unhappy they were in the relationship. It dawned on them that they were in a relationship with Jordan for almost 9 years, and never really knew the real them. Alex got out of the shower, and Jordan walked in the room with their phone in hand. Alex knew they had to end it.

“I don’t want to be with you anymore,” Alex told Jordan.

“Okay,” Jordan said.

Not a week later, Jordan was in a relationship with someone else. Alex was heartbroken. Jordan didn’t hesitate to say “okay” to not being together, and didn’t put up a fight for their family. And just like that, Jordan was repeating the same cycle with someone else, saying “I love you,” fast -less than 1 week after breaking up with Alex. On top of that, their lease was ending. Alex wanted to stay in the apartment and was going to take full responsibility of the rent and bills, and just needed Jordan to sign off on the lease. But Alex knew they couldn’t depend on Jordan, so Alex started to look for short term residency for themself and the children, not waiting for Jordan’s response.

Jordan didn’t come through with signing on another lease. This left Alex and their children homeless. For a month they lived in a motel, while Jordan moved in with their new significant other. When the children would go with Jordan, Alex would crash on a friend’s couch. Jordan never offered for the kids and Alex to stay with them in the meantime. Eventually, Alex found a place for themself and the kids. But California was just too much – too expensive, too stressful, too much for a single parent. Alex and the kids had to move back to Alex’s home state.

Alex and the kids moved out of state, and for a while the two were co-parenting from a distance. Alex finally decided to seek help. Therapy was Alex’s way to regain control of themself again. Alex felt lost, they couldn’t eat, they couldn’t sleep, and they wanted to find another way to cope with the failed relationship. It is at therapy that Alex learned that they were in an abusive relationship with a narcissist. They couldn’t believe it. When the therapist pointed out all the red flags and all the ways Jordan manipulated and abused them, Alex broke out into tears. 8 plus years of abuse validated. The therapist was confirming that Alex wasn’t crazy, they weren’t psycho, they weren’t making things up and misremembering information. It was abuse.

For a while, Alex felt like they were in a better place mentally. Their progress was tested when Jordan moved to where Alex and the children were after a couple of years of co-parenting from different states. Alex and Jordan became fuck buddies, and with time, it started to give Alex hope. Hope that they could possibly be a family again, or atleast co-parent respectfully. Alex was wrong. They realized once again that Jordan would never be the partner they wanted them to be. Alex admits that the fuck buddy system was put in place only because it was familiar.

The two stopped being friends with benefits, and Jordan found another partner to move in with. After all these years, Jordan was still pulling the same tactics. But even though Jordan has a new love interest, that doesn’t mean they’re over playing mind games with Alex. Jordan brings up occasionally how the two should try for another child. Alex thinks back to the crazy custody battles and how difficult it is to co-parent with Jordan, and shuts down the idea.

To this day, Alex’s family doesn’t know the truth about Jordan and their relationship. Only one of Alex’s siblings knows the truth. When Alex’s mom boasts about Jordan doing a good deed or brings them up in general, Alex can’t help but roll their eyes. But they don’t divulge their deepest darkest secrets, they don’t try to get their family to hate Jordan too, they don’t tell a peep about anything from the past. And in a way, Alex still fights this battle alone. They notice a huge change in the person they have become, but still won’t share it with the family.

And the same goes for friends. After Jordan and Alex broke up, Alex tried to rekindle the old friendships they lost. Sometimes it was successful, and sometimes it wasn’t. They acknowledge that these friendships ended due to Jordan, but sometimes it didn’t seem worth it to rekindle. Long absences usually calls for catching up, and Alex didn’t want to explain the past and relive what they went through. It was their business and they didn’t feel comfortable to share. They also didn’t feel like they needed to explain themself.

“I reached out to them, sometimes it worked and other times I realized it wasn’t a good situation to rekindle anything,” Alex said. “When you’re forced to remove friends from your life and you go back and rekindle things, you face judgments and you go into catching up with them. Oftentimes, there are questions, and I didn’t want to answer any of it so I just left it alone and left the friendship alone.”

Alex’s advice for the outsiders worried about a friend’s relationship is to be understanding. They advise that you hold your judments and opinions, and simply just be there for your friend. It’s easy to say and give advice when you are an outsider looking in, but when you’re actually in a toxic abusive relationship, it’s hard. Yes, give your opinions and voice out your concerns, but don’t make the person feel worse about themselves.

Alex and Jordan was in a relationship for almost 9 years, and they will have to both be in each other’s lives to an extent for their children. Alex has lost hope that they can co-parent peacefully with Jordan. Alex sees how happy their children are to have Jordan back in their lives, and they say that’s what made this journey worth it. But Alex does admit that co-parenting with a narcissist is nearly impossible. They feel as though they’re being sabotaged majority of the time. Alex doesn’t know yet if they’ll ever tell their kids the truth about Jordan. Their main concern is to protect the kids from the illusions Jordan tends to paint.

Alex has come a long way with working on themselves. They put up boundaries, and try hard to not let Jordan’s words get to them. Alex stressed the importance of thinking before reacting, and that has saved them a lot of tears. But of course, there are days when Alex just can’t stand Jordan – they break, they cry, they yell, they blast music to try to remember the bulletpoints of how Jordan tries to manipulate and control situations. There are days when Alex just writes. They write down all the negative things they want to say to Jordan until they feel better. They’ve put up walls, and they know they’re not the same person they used to be. Alex is at a constant battle fighting for themself, their mind, their heart.

“After the relationship ended, it took a while for me to accept what I went through, what my kids went through,” Alex said. “Now I accept it, I no longer deny my experience and my past. It is not my fault. What I went through was never my fault.”