I knew the friendship had run its course—yet, the shared history and guilt over closing the doors kept me feeling chained to this unhealthy friendship. For years I wanted to sneak out of the friendship quietly but my conscious wouldn’t allow me to just disappear from the friend. At the time, I didn’t know how to respectfully end the friendship. I wanted to walk away without hurting this person because I did care about them—and we all know the pain of a ghosted friendship.
Sometimes a friendship can just turn toxic (see Signs of Toxic Friendship here). Without us knowing how to name the feeling, we begin to feel a dread every time this friend texts us to hang out. Or perhaps, you just feel like you are both drifting apart and you want to honor the friendship by releasing it instead of feeling guilt over your lack of trying to stay in touch.
Here are two collaborative and clarifying questions you can ask to start a conversation around
a. rescuing a friendship
b. or releasing it.
Question 1: How do you define friendship?
This open-ended question provides a lot of clarity on what your friend is seeking and wanting in their season of friendship. They may say, “I want a friend who is spontaneous and available to do things I like to do.” Maybe they’ll say, “I am super busy and just want someone who will text me regularly and check-in.” You have no idea until you ask.
This gives you an opportunity to share, as well. If your definitions for friendship align, hallelujah! You just reconnected and can recommit to meeting each other’s friendship needs. If they don’t line up, this opens the door for you to say, “I don’t see our definitions aligning and I think it would be better if we released each other to find friends that will fit our definitions. Our needs deserved to be met and we’ve been disappointing each other. I’m sorry for my part, this friendship has been so valuable to me but I want it to remain valuable for both of us. Let’s close the door for now, but leave a crack open for the future if we can reconnect and find ourselves in a new season for each other.”
Question 2: What do you see our friendship becoming in the next two years?
Knowing where you are going is the best start to any new venture—same in new and old friendships, as well. Asking them for their insight on the direction of the friendship is also very clarifying but puts the ownership of the future friendship on their shoulders. If they can clearly and excitedly tell you how they hope to grow closer, spend more time in bible study together, or having monthly dinners so you feel more like family than friends—awesome! Let her know you see that future together too.
If she struggles to come up with something, let her know you’ve been feeling like you aren’t sure the friendship has future direction.
Perhaps, you can both take a step back and reevaluate. Set a time to reconnect and if you both still feel like the friendship has run its course. Release one another.
I wish I could wave a magic wand and make all these conversations go smoothly, but these two questions are non-threatening and an easy way to approach a tough subject. Prayer helps, too.