Breaking Up With a Best Friend
After 25 years, I don't like my best friend anymore. I feel used up and see things in a different light. How do I best pull away without causing too much of a problem?
A break up is a break up. Whether it's a romantic relationship, breaking away from family that isn't supportive of your life choices, or ending things with a friend. It's an emotional cavalcade. Especially when there is a long history there are emotions ranging from sadness to guilt, and aversion to anger.
The key with your question SW, is in the wording: I don't like my best friend anymore. You didn't say you don't love this person anymore and that's probably not by accident. Loving is easier than liking. Love has some unconditional overtones with any luck. Like, on the other hand, constitutes things like respect and agreement.
Obviously your friend has done things that have brought about this new light. I'm going to split this right down the middle and say there are two possibilities here. You most likely fall into one or the other.
The first is that your friend has actually undergone change. The second is that it's really you that changed.
I had a friend many years ago that I used to go clubbing with. We used to live a certain lifestyle. We slept in, we went out late, we drank too much, we partied too hard. We dated frequently and we were just living life and having fun.
And then he changed. He got married. And he had a kid. And I celebrated those life choices, but my life had not changed. I was still partying in NYC, coming home after dawn, living the life he used to enjoy. I would still invite him along occasionally, but he'd never come out. At first he made excuses, like that he didn't have a babysitter, or that his wife wouldn't let him. And then one day he said he didn't want to be friends anymore.
It is something to consider. Is the reason that you're different from your friend because you've changed? Grown up, matured, went to therapy or rehab or jail, had a kid, and now see the world differently, and that in some way you're a different person now? Were you at one time more like this friend, and you've changed?
Or did your friend really take some kind of turn for the worst. Are you the same person you were 25 years ago more or less, and this friend is not?
You may be thinking what difference does it make who changed? Well, it goes to closure. And it frames out how you should be making your exit.
If you are the one that has done the changing, if you've grown up or smartened up, or live a new life now, then you sort of owe your friend some sort of explanation. Not liking this person anymore could come from not liking the person you used to be, when you were more like your friend. Not wanting to be friends anymore could signify you need to end this so you can stay strong in the changing choices that were right, but are hard to make and maintain.
If that is the case, my recommendation is to put it in writing. That way you can collect your thoughts calmly without pointing fingers. Send a card in the mail or a very well thought out email. You know the classic, "It isn't you, it's me" break up line. Well this is actually the truelife version of that. Just let this person know they aren't the one that changed, you are. For better or worse. And that you love them, but that you need to put this friendship on the back burner, or even off the stove altogether so that you can move on with your life without ever resenting unrightfully. Let them know you're letting go, for you, not because of them.
But if you feel the real version is that your friend has changed, changed into something you can't like or respect, not grown up but actually grown bad, then this is all about you and what you need to do for yourself to move on. And I say, you don't have to do anything but let go.
There is a chance that this 25 year friend isn't stupid. Maybe they know that they've hurt you, wronged you, disappointed you. Maybe they are expecting to lose you. If they've really known you for 25 years then they are probably picking up signals and seeing the reality of their actions. Your disappearance will not be a shock, and your silence might actually be appreciated. It's hard to defend yourself when you can't.
If you live near each other or share mutual social groups, this will of course be harder. But not impossible. Just stop calling. Stop texting, stop emailing, stop inviting. Just stop. They may not even confront you about it, if they've been expecting it. If they "know." If they actually were ever a friend and can read you at all.
Bumping into them in a social circle or out in the neighborhood doesn't have to constitute an meaningful exchange. You're allowed to nod or wave, and move along.
If this person is stubborn and confronts you, it's up to you how you want to handle it. You can always deny. You can say, I have so little free time I have to think about where it's best spent. You can walk away without a finale. You can let them think about it, and mull it over, and come to their own realizations.
But if you choose, you can have immediate closure. You can tell them you don't want to be friends anymore, this hurts you but you don't like them anymore, and you feel used and drained. Just be aware that there are two sides to every story. That doesn't mean their side is right, it just means they have one. And if you speak yours, they will most likely inflict theirs on you. Closure is usually a two way street. And for many people, that isn't closure at all.
So don't consider a confrontation or getting closure as just your side being spoken. Consider having to listen to theirs. And the possibility that it will escalate into a fight. And then how uncomfortable is it going to be to bump into them at a party or a neighborhood shop. It might be the healthier and easier thing to just let it go.
If you really feel you have things you need to say, write them down. It's therapeutic. And it's even more healing to send them off. Throw them in a river, flush them down the toilet, mail them to Santa. Just don't send them to the friend.
In deciding what you want to do to end this friendship, my advice it first try the things that can be changed. Try first just letting go. If that doesn't work, try writing for release and setting it free. If that doesn't work give it some time, and if you still need to confront, then do it. But if you start off with confrontation, you can't undo it. You can't then try just letting go and trying to disappear.
If you and your friend are in the same social circle, you may want to share your decision with some other people in the circle so that they don't feel they have to choose sides. Telling someone outright that you just don't feel like hanging out with so and so any longer, and please don't turn it into a big deal, kind of lets them off the hook. And, it will probably alleviate some social awkwardness when you pass on some of the parties or plans your friends make.
Honestly if this person has changed so much and caused you so much stress and disappointment, the odds are that you're not alone. Your friends may even have wanted to begin excluding this person from different types of events, but haven't because of courtesy to you.
SW you are allowed to surround yourself with positive people and influences. You are allowed to love and respect yourself. You have the right to not be friends with people that take away from the goodness of your life, no matter how much time has passed. Do not cheat yourself out of even one more day of a brighter life. Let this person go. Namaste.