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Losing Friends With Grace

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-freedom-change/202007/losing-friends-grace

psychologytoday.com

Losing Friends With Grace
Friendships can be difficult. Attachment theory can show you how to ask for what you need, know what is reasonable, be a good friend yourself, and, when necessary, let go.

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Ending friendships

Ending friendships

Sometimes a friendship can become so painful or unhealthy that we need to end it.

But we often don't have clear guidance or formulas to make these decisions. Our negative emotions drive our thoughts and may cause us to make poor decisions and lose relationships we could have kept.

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Attachment bonds

We commonly form attachment bonds with a friend. Although we don't talk about it, we do have unspoken psychological expectations when our friends become attachment figures.

The indicator of a secure attachment figure is that s/he is consistent, available, warm, and responsive. But an insecure attachment style (preoccupied, dismissing, or fearful) might struggle with friendship expectations or the ability to provide a secure base to others.

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A secure attachment style

You are likely able to accept the good with the bad in your friends. You may get close to your friends but will also give them space. If you feel hurt by a friend, it won't consume you.

You will have seen enough relationships go through the ups and downs so that you know not all relationships last. You know you can tolerate the loss and are free to continue getting close to people.

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A preoccupied or fearful attachment style

You likely have a stronger need for closeness in your relationships. You desire a "best friend" and confidante. You may be overly attuned to subtle cues that you are left out.

You become very involved in a person's life, but your friends may not reciprocate when you are in need. You may feel hurt, betrayed, angry and shame because of the belief that there must be something wrong with you.

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A dismissing attachment style

You may have friends who complain that they are there for you, but you don't reciprocate or reach out enough. You are social but feel exhausted by the amount of emotional interaction that some of your friends need.

Try using the "consistent, available, warm, and responsive" recipe. Communicate boundaries and expectations (which most friends don't openly discuss.) For instance, you are not available at 3 a.m. for a chat. If you are less expressive, be aware that more anxious friends need the interpersonal feedback to know that you still like them.

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Navigating the end of a friendship

  • Try to be honest with the person. Do it with kindness and just talk about your own emotional availability. "I realize that I'm not a good friend right now. I just don't feel very emotionally available."
  • Try to avoid "all or nothing" thinking. Friendships have cycles. Sometimes people are close, and then they drift apart. If you want to end the friendship in the drifting apart phase, you will prevent the ability to revive the friendship another time.
  • It's better to show up some than not at all. Many people will avoid sending an old friend a text thinking they don't have the time for a long exchange. Send them a text anyway.
  • Allow friends to "change orbit." Most people have 2 to 4 close friends, a circle of about 10 friends they do things with occasionally, a circle of casual friends, and many acquaintances. Sometimes people need to change friends because of life circumstances. Let them go with love knowing that they also have their own life paths to follow.

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When you can’t stop thinking about a friendship

Don't sit and wait for a text or phone call. Get busy in your own life. Make plans and fill your day.

If you can't stop hurting, consider whether the pain is partially an emotional memory from previous painful events that you have not dealt with.

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Ending the friendship

If your friend is making it hard for you to function (won't stop calling, interferes with your work, causes damage to your other relationships, hurts you financially) and you have already spoken to this person, a hard stop may be necessary.

It is kinder to tell the person that you are stopping the friendship than ghosting them or letting them live in a state of anxious ambiguity. Conversely, if you have a friend that keeps you living in that anxious state, and you have tried to speak about it, then honour yourself and end the friendship.

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Consistency

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Consistency is the action of repeating our time together which in turn develops our trust as we begin to create and modify expectations of each other. It’s what builds a shared history and increases our commitment and feeling of support in each other.