Now It's Time to Say Goodbye: Ending Friendships

PD Character Studies SS32081 Friendships are among the most important things in life. Some people assume that the longer the duration of the friendship, the better the friend. But that's not necessarily true. Friendships come in all shapes and sizes, "and some don't have a very long shelf life," says Sandy Sheehy, author of Connecting: The Enduring Power of Female Friendship. There is a point when you hold on too long, allowing unhealthy connections to continue.

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

It can be hard to admit it's time to say goodbye to a friend, even when her behavior warrants it, as Cindy Gallagher, of Maryland, learned first-hand. Her long-time friend, Helen, balked at any attempt Cindy made for independence, such as when Cindy's parents visited and she didn't tell Helen. And Helen fumed when Cindy's now-husband bought her engagement ring without consulting Helen first. Helen confronted Cindy, telling her she was getting "uppity.""She had me in tears at first because I was so shocked and she was so angry," Cindy recalls.The two tried to patch things up, but the clincher came when Helen bad-mouthed Cindy at her wedding reception."I realized this woman is just not a friend of mine, not a true friend," she says. "After that, I just made excuses not to see her…and she quickly got the message."

Knowing the Signals

While betrayal or seemingly deliberate attempts to be hurtful are clear signs it's time to say goodbye, sometimes the signal of the end of a friendship isn't obvious. You may sense a gradual distancing or feel unstimulated by the other person, or the relationship may just require more care and maintenance than you're prepared to give.

Doing What's Right for You

No matter the reason, ending a friendship can be very difficult for many women."The idea of having to end a friendship is something women kind of chicken out at," Sheehy says. It may be because of the desire to avoid conflict or the wish to be seen as "nice" and not hurt the other person."Women will do a lot of things that aren't in their own self-interest, that aren't good for them, to stay in relationships with people they care about," Sheehy adds.But by allowing unhealthy or unfulfilling friendships to continue, you could be sacrificing your own well-being. If the relationship has stagnated, then you're spending your scarcest resource time on something that doesn't add to your life. And if the friendship is downright unhealthy, as Cindy's was, you may even risk your emotional health and happiness. "A woman should not spend her valuable personal time in a relationship unless it enhances her life, helps her be the best person she can be, encourages her to follow her dreams, [and] supports her in her struggles," says Marilyn Sorensen, PhD, a Portland, Oregon-based clinical psychologist and author of Breaking the Chain of Low Self-Esteem.

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