Is it OK for BFFs to not actually last forever?
There’s a saying about friendships that goes something like this: ‘We have three types of friends: friends for a reason, friends for a season, and friends for a lifetime.’ Of course, there are no hard and fast rules about these sorts of things, but clearly, the sentiment resonates. So let’s talk about it. Specifically, let’s talk about perhaps the trickiest one: friends for a season. The idea behind this is that some friends are right for a period of our life. Maybe it’s for months, maybe years, but there’s a beginning and an end to the relationship.
And, apparently, it’s not an uncommon experience. According to a UK poll by Disney, the average friendship lasts for 17 years. Another study from researchers from Aalto University in Finland, and the University of Oxford, took a look at the ways that friendships evolve throughout our lives. In order to do so, they reviewed data from three million phone users to identify the frequency and patterns of who they were contacting, and when, as well as overall activity within their networks. What they found was that men and women tended to make more friends – being ‘socially promiscuous’ – up until the age of 25. After that, the researchers saw a drop in the number of friends people had.
Many of us will go through life entering different eras – school, work, university, moving away, starting a family, changing jobs, picking up new interests – we evolve with time, and sometimes the friendships that were so valuable to us are not, or cannot be, fulfilling. Sometimes they end with a confrontation, sometimes they just quietly fade away. Either way, the end of a friendship isn’t something we’re overly accustomed to, making them difficult to deal with. But we have some advice to help you navigate these times.
Is there a right way to end a friendship?
Yes, and also no. If a friendship just fizzles out over time, with no ill-wishes, perhaps simply because you’ve become different people with different priorities, and there are no burning questions or unfulfilled needs from either party, then there’s not necessarily anything wrong with just letting it be.
But when it comes to ending a friendship that has turned sour – perhaps because they overstep your new boundaries, or a change in priorities or lifestyle has caused disagreements – you may need to take a more direct approach.
The same rules for confrontation that apply to romantic relationships work here. Try to approach the person when you are not at the height of your emotions, so you can remain calm. Use ‘I’ statements to express how you feel – for example, ‘I feel like my boundaries are not being respected,’ rather than ‘You always cross the line.’ You can go into detail if you need to, and be willing to answer questions if you can. But if the conversation turns hostile or aggressive, know that you’re under no obligation to remain in it. And then, like with a romantic relationship, make it clear what you want to do next, for example: ‘I think it would be best if we didn’t see each other anymore.’