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Finding The Meaning In Friendships That End

I remember the first Christmas break after I came home from college.

My high school friends and I had just seen each other at Thanksgiving. Everything had been fantastic. Lots of reminiscing. Laughing about someone sporting a new beard or talk about who was still liking who.

Something had changed. We had more time to be together but there was less to talk about. Just how many times could you tell the same funny story?

Maybe a handful of us still felt close. But the vast majority? Not really.

friendship, friendship ending, losing a friend, how to cope with friendship ending

Friendships. Some abide through thick and thin. No matter what happens in your life. No matter if you go through a time when you are not all that easy to love. That friend is sticking around.

We revere those relationships. I watched the movie “Good Will Hunting” with my son the other day. Matt Damon’s old friends were the ones yelling at him to get the heck off the job. Use the superior intelligence he had been given.

The famous book “Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood”… About friends who have had each other’s backs all their lives.

These kinds of friends? Of unmeasurable value.

But what about friendships that fade away? Perhaps the friendship doesn’t survive losing the context of how it began. Or something else. Something unpredictable. Jarring.

Maybe you don’t even know what happened at all. One of you slams the door. Walks away from what were years of laughs. Confidences. Tears. Fights. Forgiveness.

There’s a new anthology out. “My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends“, compiled by Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger. About female friendships. It includes essays by women who were left. And women who did the leaving.

This has happened to me. Once, by someone whom I thought would be sitting by my side, me at 90 and her 91 – (always an important detail…). Laughing and cussing that we couldn’t hear each other. Going for walks. Or if one of us hadn’t made it, still sensing the other’s presence somehow.

My kindred spirit opted out with no explanation other than, “I (meaning her) am a bad person”. No other explanation. She’s not a bad person so I, like many of the wonderful writers featured in the book, was left to sop up my heart that had burst all over the floor. Over years and (to my embarrassment) after a couple of angry, pleading phone calls, I divorced her too.

It remains a mystery to me, but so be it.

I was intrigued to read about what others had to say on the topic.

What I found was more comprehension. More perspective. Of both my friend and me. It was such a wise choice on the editors’ part to include stories on each side of the dynamic. As you travel from one story to the next, you hear the pain of being either person. The self-doubt of the one left behind. The guilt of the one choosing to go. The darkness that might have always existed in the friendship. Or those where the light, that was so bright at the time, weakened in its intensity. And so the end.

An emotional dilemma seems to be discovering the meaning in a relationship, even after it ends. Not seeing it as a “waste of time” because it’s now over. That’s true for divorce. For intimate friendship. Not using fury or shame to demean what it stood for in your life. What you learned. How you grew.

I have been told by Alyson Herzig, one of the featured authors, that many of the friendships described in the book have been reconciled due to the story being told. And read by the other involved. Perhaps that’s a statement about the idea that time heals. Or that misperception and misunderstanding can be resolved. With responsible effort and sincerity.

Other friendships that are lost won’t have that chance. They have to be grieved.

Their time has past.

And that can be okay.


You can read more of Dr. Margaret on her website,


Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Dr. Margaret Rutherford has been in practice in Fayetteville, Arkansas for over 20 years. She began blogging in 2012 with the website “NestAche”, and following with in April 2014. Her work can be found here on Midlife Boulevard, as well as the Huffington Post, Boomeon, WeWantMore, BetterAfter50 and Arkansas Women Bloggers.

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T.O. Weller

Saturday 24th of January 2015

Throughout the course of my life, I've had many friends come and go. It's not that I haven't wanted life-long friendship. I think, most of the time, it's like the story you open with -- with growth and change, people drift apart. In those cases, it can be so much fun to touch base years later, catch up and share a laugh. No hard feelings. Sometimes the friendship grows again with a rediscovered common ground.

But, then there's the break-ups. In the last year, I've had a couple of them and they really hurt. What started out feeling like we'd found 'our people' became, in both cases, a situation filled with expectations, judgment, and lack of support. Where I might have been more tolerant in years gone by, I now choose not to share my time with people that diminish me or my dreams, or simply take me for granted.

I have been in the midst of transition -- new marriage, career reinvention, and a planned relocation in 2015. I can see how it would be hard, in the face of all of that change, for some people to adapt or to understand. But I do have a few special friends that remain, regardless, and I am there for them as well. No matter what.

I read something a while back that really helped me to gain perspective, and it's probably a well-known quote to many: "People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime." When I keep that in mind, I can see the reasons and the season -- in both cases -- and I find peace in that.

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Sunday 25th of January 2015

Well, I am one of the ones who had never heard that particular saying T.O. and I think it happens to be beautiful. and very helpful. Thank you so much for an in-depth and heartfelt comment.


Thursday 22nd of January 2015

i lost who I considered "my people" a little over 2 years ago. And while I've met some wonderful new people I wouldn't have otherwise had the opportunity to meet, there's not a day that goes by that I don't miss them, and wonder what I did wrong. It makes me mad that I think like this, but i do.

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Thursday 22nd of January 2015

Hi KathyKate. I know what you mean I think. People aren't replaceable. You can accept. Go on. Meet other new wonderful friends - who may even become your "family of choice", you may miss the others. Frankly it took me a lot longer than two years to see my way clearly. The book is great and may help you. Especially with that idea that you did something wrong. Thank you so much for letting me know that the post helped in some way.

lorraine schuchart

Wednesday 21st of January 2015

I recently went through this as well. I learned a lot about my former friend by how she handled the 'unraveling' of our friendship. Although I miss elements of the relationship, most of the time I feel freed of the burden. Trying to save an unhealthy relationship can be like trying to save a drowning person who fights you. If you don't swim away, they take you down with them.

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Wednesday 21st of January 2015

What an interesting comment Lorraine. There are several stories in the book about relationships that had a dependency or some kind of unhealthy aspect to them. One even of sexual abuse. Those are at times even more difficult to see. And break free. Yet the friendship, while perhaps unhealthy, can have its own moments that will remain dear. It's just not all bad.

Thanks so much for your comment. It certainly got me thinking....


Wednesday 21st of January 2015

I went through that very thing last year. I had been best friends with this person since 1993 we went through so much together but she changed at a fundamental level that I didn't see until one day she called me up and in the course of our conversation she really disrespected me and hurt my feelings and she showed me that she didn't care about how I felt my feelings didn't matter to her. After that phone call I was furious and sad but I knew in my heart that our friendship had run its course it was over! I forgive her for what she said I just can't forget how she hurt me. Time to move on!

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Wednesday 21st of January 2015

Susan I get it. That story, minus the explanation, is what happened in my life and what many writers in the book talk about as well. I am not necessarily promoting "The Other Ex" but it helped me to have my feelings validated . What was also helpful was opening the door to some ideas of why it might have happened on her end. I may never know. Thank you so much for writing and telling your story.

Deborah Strauss

Wednesday 21st of January 2015

This brought tears to my eyes Margaret. It is such a powerful part of life, friendships. They do evolve and it is a mystery when they stay and when they go. Definitely want to get that anthology. Thanks!

Dr. Margaret Rutherford

Wednesday 21st of January 2015

It's a wonderful book Deborah. I cried when I wrote it as well. Just hard memories. The good news is that healing takes place. Thank you for letting me know.

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