When Midlife Friendships End

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If, like me, you have embraced a greater spirituality and new interests as you have grown older you may find yourself looking at your friendship group and wondering if the past is all you have in common anymore.

This was brought home to me one day when my oldest friend and I had our second disagreement in 25 odd years. We were close buddies at school but lost touch when she disapproved of my marriage to my first husband as he was older than me. We got back in touch again when I sought her out to see if we could repair the damage. We seemed to get along as well as we had always done and slipped back into what I thought was an easy friendship for a few years.

What I didn’t know then was that she was harbouring a decades old jealously. I found this out rather shockingly when she lost it in my house during a coffee meeting and admitted she was jealous of my exam results from school decades before, felt inferior to me intellectually in the here and now, disliked the fact I was no longer a wallflower and was more confident, hated me because she had stayed in her marriage and was unhappy and yet I was divorced and in a happy relationship and…well, the list went on for about an hour. She then left and, although I tried to speak to her at the time, we haven’t seen each other since.

Ironically, I had always happily sat in her shadow. She was always far more popular than I was at school, with both sexes, was slim and had a loving, big family with five brothers and sisters to call her own. Her home had a normality I craved and I basked in it when round there. It had such an impact on me I decided to have a big, happy family of my own and went on to have five beautiful children and recreated the place I saw as perfection from my teenage years.

The day our friendship ended again and the things she said devastated me at the time but I let her go mentally and physically. I did so because I realised the past was all we had in common and to keep trying to repair something which had been so (unknowingly to me at the time) fragile at its best was not going to be good for either of us. When I looked back I could see the things she had said and done which should have red flagged the whole thing for me but I had chosen to see these things as part of her darker side we all have. I loved the bad with the good and blamed myself instead. It is a familiar story and happens frequently with those we care about.

I also began to realise that a lot of friendships I had were very similar in that they were there but neither them nor I were bringing anything to the party. Conversations were superficial, lacking any depth or interest and there were increasingly awkward gaps. So I did something which at the time was scary but was the best thing I could have done. I slowly withdrew in some friendships and dropped others quite quickly. This might sound harsh but many of my friendships were ‘rescues’ which I probably shouldn’t have bought into. They were mentally draining and with people who wanted me to be there all the time and got upset if I wasn’t immediately available…you may recognise the type I mean.

Roll on a few years and I have found withdrawing from those friendships was absolutely the right thing to do. Life is quieter but it has freed up more time for me to be me, to concentrate on my family and my research. It has also left a space ready for when I find my tribe. I say ‘find’ as I haven’t actively gone out to find replacements yet. I will do but life is busy and it is something which I don’t want to rush into.

There are plenty of ways I could go about it in the real world –  go to events and festivals and make contact with local groups to name a couple – but I am not quite ready yet. I have a few contacts with similar interests in the real world as well as people online and they are enough for me for now. I am comfortable with my level of social interaction, value the free time it has given me for my own pursuits and feel very content with my life in this area.

I can’t lie, I do miss having a real life female best friend I can tell all to but what I do have is a wonderful friend in the USA whom I have been exchanging emails with every day for about three years now. We have never met face to face as she lives so far away but she has been as supportive and meaningful to me as if she were simply living next door and I value her friendship as if she did. That’s one of the beautiful things about the internet…making friends with people who are in your tribe but whom you would have never met otherwise. I like that.

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29 thoughts on “When Midlife Friendships End”

  1. I was just thinking today about how friendships I made twenty years ago or more have gone away, not so much with a bang like yours, oh that sounds painful, but more like they just slowly dissipated. I think some relationships have an expiration date. I too have made wonderful connections online. :)))

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And here she is, my dear friend from the USA *waves*

      Not as painful as it could have been and very therapeutic looking back. We all move on different paths. In order to grow ourselves (and for others to grow without us too) sometimes the box needs sorting through to check we have all the right pieces before the puzzle can be completed 😉

      Like

  2. I relate to this post completely and recognise lots of similarities to an old school friendship although there is something hard to let go of that shared history.. I am amazed at how the internet has opened up so many new opportunities to establish relationships with people – some I knew previously and the internet enabled us to re-connect and some are new relationships which have been formed and have opened up a wealth of new information, ideas and inspiration – you are one of my ‘inspiring’ new friends.. Thankyou! x

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I have been in friendships that are exhausting and one sided. You are right they are not healthy for either party. You are also right that we do not always know what our “friends” are thinking or going through. It is at times hard and painful. I am glad you have found a good place.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. We get so used to the status quo that it can be difficult to make the break sometimes but equally it can often be the only way forward for both. The hardest thing is HOW to end a long standing friendship even when you know it needs to be done or the guilt which follows sometimes…us women and our guilt!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I met a friend I haven’t seen for 20 years on Monday. Luckily we meshed straight away again…but I know exactly what you mean. Sometimes people grow apart and you realise they were never really friends at all. I haven’t had many friends in my life, due to trust issues, but since being on WP I have met lots of people I would be both pleased and proud to call friend. Great post, made me quite emotional!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s great about you meeting your friend, Samantha! I have a particular friend I don’t see very often due to distance but when we do see each other it is like we were never apart. We met on a Psychology course and just clicked.

      I have never been one to have zillions of friends either. The most is about 20 at one time, I think, in my adult life. People come and go and that is natural. I have such a big family I would not have been able to fit too many friends in my life at one go. I think I spent too long on the ones who wanted a lot from me when I should have spent more time on the ones of equal standing! Something I have put right.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wonderful post. I think the topic of friendship and the ways they come and go is a wonderful conversation to keep having. Just like families, friendships are evolving, changing and blending into new beginnings, ends and meanings. 🙂 Alexis

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Moving finished off most of my friendships from youth. I never had many, because I was in no way outgoing; by high school, I had four friends I considered like family in a very literal sense. I’m an only child; they absolutely were my brothers and sisters. There was never a break with any of them. They moved; I moved (a lot). They got married and had families; I got married and divorced (a lot). They all settled into nice, normal lives; I…well, yeah. I haven’t spoken to any of them in at least 10 years, and I have a hard time imagining what I’d say to any of them.

    I don’t have any physically present friends now. I have some from a distance, but I haven’t been here long enough to even think about making any, and the nature of the area strongly suggests if I do make any, they’ll be coming from very unexpected places.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. There would have to be. Or possibly an outright miracle. *laugh* His lifting partner is the only one even close to our age he’s around routinely. The only thing I can imagine having less in common with than a man in his 20s is a woman in hers. 🙂 I’d probably have better luck with our neighbor in his 80s — assuming he stops going out for the paper in the buff. *hee*

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I can totally relate to this in the since that I don’t have a lot of friends. I am really focused on developing my craft and find it hard to be a good friend to a lot of people.

    It sucks that things blew up the way they did, but I agree with you. It’s probably better not to hold on to a friendship that’s so fragile.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We all lead such busy lives, don’t we, and it’s wonderful you are so goal focused on something which you are determined to make a success of.

      It hurt when it happened but in the end I had to be pragmatic for her sake and my own really. It was the proverbial straw.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What an insightful post, it reminded me of this: https://sunnymirrors.wordpress.com/2016/04/18/friendship-wounds-healings/
    I reflect on my relationships on a regular basis and it is really interesting to notice how they evolve with time.
    It is all part of growth…We change and so does everyone else. This doesn’t necessarily have to be a reason to grow apart, with some you keep on changing together and with some not, it’s OK.
    Priorities change. It’s like…you won’t be using skiing equipment in summer, every season has its own characteristics and also in life we have different phases.
    May you keep nourishing the friendships you have with others and yourself 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I had a similar blow up with a friend, so I can relate. We actually had little in common and when I stepped out of her shadow, things fell apart. It was pretty shocking to me at the time, the things she said, and like yourself, I should’ve seen the red flags. I miss the close friendship of a woman as well, but now I am very cautious about how close I let someone get.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Yes, I have had a fair few friendship learning experiences too! at first I thought there was something wrong with me but now I realize it was healthier to let go. I think I stayed in some relationships for too long and some were totally wrong for me. I have fewer friends now but I think that is right for me. As I age I hope/ think I am a little wiser!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Very powerful post. Elena Peters re-posted it this evening (Dec 9). I don’t think women hold on to their childhood friendships as often as men do. We let other priorities get in the way. And we do make friends throughout our adult life. When I left my job 18 months ago, I also left behind some of the relationships. While not exactly toxic, there are people who “breathe more than their fair share of air”; in other words, they suck the energy around them without giving back too much. I’ve let them go. And while I feel a little bit guilty, I am happier without them.

    Liked by 1 person

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