It’s okay to lose people, but it’s not okay to lose a good friend. This is because, like wine, friendship gets better and more valuable as it ages.
A few days ago, a friend told me she never believed we would still be friends after we left the university. This is because, often when most people make friends in the university, it is just for keeping company and getting support in school.
There is really nothing wrong with that. I’ve also had such friends, who I knew even before we left school that our friendship was destined to end after graduation. But, I also had good friends who I knew were worth keeping.
What causes friendships to end?
I’ve lost a lot of friends over the years, and I’ve found that there are many reasons why friendships end. Some of these reasons are within our control, while others are not. For example, a study involving 133 people found that there were 55 different reasons why people said they ended their friendships. These reasons were categorised into selfishness, infrequent interaction, romantic involvement, and perceptions.
However, I think the underlying cause of many of these reasons people end friendships is poor or unhealthy communication, lack of trust, distance or unavailability, disregard for boundaries, toxicity or abuse, misaligned values, and negative perception by others.
Poor or unhealthy communication:
Communication is at the heart of every relationship. It is how our thoughts and feelings are shared – understood, aligned, or changed. When communication is unhealthy or completely broken our actions begin to misalign, offence springs up, and either avoidance or conflict ensues.
As a rule of thumb, I try communicating with close friends – via call, texts, chat, or face-to-face – at least once in two weeks. Even a number of studies suggest that there is a strong correlation between the frequency of communication and the strength of friendships.
On the other hand, when the communication is unhealthy – when they show little or no interest in your thoughts and feelings, constantly misunderstand and argue with you, lie, gossip, or never say anything relevant to you – the friendship can also die off.
In short, when the quality and frequency of communication wanes friendships fizzle away.
On this basis, some reasons people give for ending a friendship include:
- “Friend never calls/texts or responds to my calls/texts.”
- “There is a lack of communication between us.”
- “Friend does not show understanding.”
- “It feels exhausting talking with them”
- “Friend is not honest.”
- “We argue frequently.”
Lack of trust:
Forget money, trust is really what makes the world work. And, it is doubly so for friendship. No sensible person can stay friends for long with someone they can’t rely on. There needs to be trust before we can eat with them, leave our valuables with them, share our ideas and secrets with them, or really do anything meaningful with them.
It takes time to build trust, and it is quite easy to wreck.
When asked, people who ended a friendship because of a lack of trust often give the following reasons:
- “Friend is indiscreet.”
- “Friend is two-faced.”
- “I cannot rely on them.”
- “Friend is inconsistent.”
- “Friend betrayed my trust.”
- “Friend did not support me in difficult times.”
Distance or unavailability:
For thousands of years, human societies have been small and tight-knit. Our relationships have always been with people not too far away and there was always time to catch up later in the day. But, thanks to advancements in technology, we now often see friends travel far away, or sometimes, make friends from far away. Plus we now work jobs that don’t afford us the time to catch up later in the day.
Even though social media and instant messengers have been somewhat helpful, distance and lack of availability are still a strain on friendships. They limit the things you can do together as friends – think hanging out, going to events, or staying beside a sick friend.
People whose friendships ended as a result of distance or unavailability often say,
- “Friend is always busy.”
- “Friend never shows up.”
- “We live far away from each other.”
- “We lost touch because of daily life.”
- “I do not have enough time to keep this friendship.”
Disregard for boundaries:
From cell walls to our epidermis, having some sort of boundary is always necessary for things to function properly. When friends do not recognize boundaries – be it emotional, financial, spiritual, etc. – they are bound to do things that might offend or hurt each other.
Often, when boundaries are the cause of the end of a friendship, the common reasons they point to include
- “Friend does not respect me.”
- “Friend does not accept my choices.”
- “Friend does not respect my personal space.”
- “Friend shows romantic interest in my partner.”
- “Friend starts to show romantic interest in me.”
- “Friend takes my belongings without my permission.”
Toxicity or abuse:
Toxic behaviours and abuse diminish the benefits of a friendship. It doesn’t matter if there are other things to be gained in the friendship.
- “Friend is selfish.”
- “Friend is arrogant.”
- “Friend is judgmental.”
- “Friend is manipulative.”
- “Friend takes without giving.”
- “Friend does not respect me.”
- “Friend sees me as a competition.”
- “Friend drives me to things that are not good for me.”
Whilst not all friends must have similar dreams and goals, it is often a problem when their values or principles are misaligned. For example, even though I am all about leveraging the internet to make money, I do not support doing it through any unethical means. And, I do not celebrate anyone who makes wealth through such means.
However, misaligned values are not always a matter of good and bad. Sometimes, it simply is just about (too much) difference. Hence, a friend may not recognize, value, or support what the other is doing or has achieved because they simply do not understand it.
When people end friendships because of misaligned values, they may give reasons such as:
- “Friend has a bad character.”
- “Friend has no moral values.”
- “Friend does not support me.”
- “Our characters are incompatible.”
- “Friend brings out the worst in me.”
- “We do not have a good time together.”
- “Friend does not acknowledge my achievements.”
Negative perception by others:
Just like in marriage, when we make friends with people, all the other people we know (and will come in contact with in the future) have some influence on it. And, even if it is ultimately up to you to decide to stick or not to stick with them, the way others see your friendship will influence the friendship to some degree.
For example, I’ve found that the frequency of interaction with friends often reduces once they get a partner. This is doubly true if they are of the opposite gender.
People who end friendships because of negative perceptions may report that their reason is;
- “Friend has offensive behaviour.”
- “Friend is addicted to substances.”
- “Friend has poor personal hygiene.”
- “My family does not approve of them.”
- “My partner does not approve of them.”
- “My other friends do not approve of them.”
The 12 rules of friendship that will ensure your bond stands the test of time:
One of the most significant friendships I’ve lost was due to a lack of availability. At first, it was I who created the distance because back then I was very religious whilst he didn’t seem to be into it. Then, when I left for the University, and basically ghosted all my friends from home, all my past friendships died.
Later on – after my religious saga had ended – I tried to reconnect, but my past friends still had the whole religious thing going, and the other friend who wasn’t into the whole religious thing seemed preoccupied with work, school, and stuff. So, even though we were connected again, I couldn’t really call the religious ones friends (because I was no longer religious).
So I had to start making friends again. I connected with many people – both genders – and I discovered that there were some mutually respected laws that marked the connections that turned into friendships and lasted till today (years after leaving the university).
Below are some of the rules that will ensure your friendships last forever (as long as both parties are willing to stick to them):
Don’t try to change your friend:
Before you connect with anyone, keep in mind that people seldom change, or do so excruciatingly slowly. Anyone who flips their character overnight is most likely acting. Friends should accept each other for who they are – with their flaws and their quirks. Trying to change your friend (to suit your taste) can be seen as controlling or manipulative, and it can make your friend feel like they’re not good enough or latch out at you. If you can’t stand someone’s behaviour, the best thing to do is keep your distance.
For example, back in the university, I had different people whom I considered friends, but not all acted like I did. Some loved going to the club, others loved smoking weed, while others just loved screwing different ladies. It wasn’t in my place to change them, and I didn’t try.
Trying to change people is one quick way to get “X”ed from their lives.
Never let them do anything that would make you hate or distrust them:
Even though it is not your responsibility to dictate your friend’s behaviour, it is still up to you to warn and restrain them from doing something wrong. If you watch your friends make mistakes, perhaps you are not a friend. And, if you let your friend do something wrong (even if it is to someone else) then sooner or later, you will be in danger of being wronged.
For example, a friend once quipped about his interest in starting internet fraud. I explained to him that I do not support that, and will stop being his friend if he gets into that.
The subtle difference here is that whilst it is not wise to make friends with a fraudster and then try to change them, it is good to advise a friend against getting into it. This is not the same as trying to change your friends, but rather trying to keep their behaviour consistent – reminding them of the reason you were friends with them in the first place.
Always strive to know how your friends are doing:
One of the most crucial benefits of friendship is that it allows you to feel seen and heard. Life can be tough, complex, and exciting all at once. Whichever the case, it is always lovely to see that someone cares. It is not enough to bear the title, a true friend actively seeks to know how their buddy is doing and what they are currently experiencing.
I’ve had friends call and just thank me for always being there, and caring. I’ve also been in situations where friends got pissed I failed to show care. All it takes is a 10-minute call without distractions. All it takes is asking, “How are you feeling about X, Y, or Z?”.
Everyone is addicted to genuine care and attention. Just that, most people don’t realise until they lose the source of their high and start experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
Showing genuine care strengthens your friendship, and you should never take it for granted if you want your friendship to last.
Make time for your friendship, and put in the effort to make it worth it:
Too many people take their friends for granted. This is a huge mistake. Just as you won’t be cavalier about a job interview (assuming you were in need of a job), so also you should treat time or a meeting with friends as important.
For example, I try to make out time for my friends online and offline. And, whenever I’m having a video call with a friend, I find a quiet environment and give them my undivided attention. Also, when I am hanging out with them at a bar or stuff, I keep my phone in my pocket and try to ensure we have a good time.
However, I must confess that I often feel anxious about meeting friends outside. The other day, I cancelled a meeting with a friend who I hadn’t seen in years. She was so, so mad at me.
The point is that making time for your friends will make your friend feel valued and appreciated, increasing the likelihood of the friendship lasting.
Never lie to your friend, and show them it’s okay to be honest with you:
Without trust friendships fall apart. And, while it is important to not lie to your friends, it is also important that you teach them how to be more honest with you. And, you teach your friends to be honest by not overacting to their wrongdoings or mistakes, keeping their secrets confidential, and helping them fix their fuckups.
For example, my best friend and I have so much trust that even when I misplaced one of his phones and told him about it, he didn’t think I was lying; though he definitely thought I was a bit careless. Which I admit. However, if I had been known to lie to him (or know him as someone who overacts and never forgives) I might not have been believed or (although this is not my character) might have made up an elaborate story trying to exempt myself from the matter.
In short, wherever lying abounds, things are bound to go wrong or get worse when they do.
Respect your friend, and demand the same from them:
Friends have to treat each other with dignity and consideration else resentment and conflict will arise. Good friends value each other’s opinions and feelings and are always willing to listen to each other rather than make assumptions about each other.
For example, even though it is common to see my friends and I playfully call each other names there are a couple of words which we never use on each other. For example, if you have a fat friend, calling them “fat” to their face may be crossing the line. This is not to say you should not point out to your friend that they need to work out.
This also applies to height, disabilities, financial status, and other qualities of theirs which they do not have complete control over. It is also important to respect their choices – whether it is in terms of their clothing, religious practices, dates, etcetera.
When you show your friend that you respect them, they will be more than willing to reciprocate, unless they are toxic (in which case it is up to you to bear or end the friendship, because you deserve to be treated with dignity and respect).
Never let a friend hurt themselves:
Every human is prone to harm themselves be it because of their ignorance, mental illness, trauma, addiction, low self-esteem, loneliness, anxiety, pain, fear, anger, despair, etcetera. Hence, everyone needs help – we do not only need someone to protect us from the world but from ourselves too.
For example, even though I put off a stoic front in public (and online), I struggle a lot with my emotions when alone. Many times when I am feeling sad or depressed, I often find a friend’s call helpful. On the other hand, I’ve also had friends who discouraged me from getting emotionally attached to ladies who were no good for me.
Sometimes, a good friend will risk offending you just to save you from the monsters attacking you from within.
Forgive your friends for their transgressions, but do not forget:
Forgiveness is important in friendships because offence is inevitable. Sometimes, a friend can offend you by their tone, or mannerism. It doesn’t have to be something serious. But, other times it can be very grievous transgressions; like getting angry and hitting you.
Even though forgiveness is vital for a friendship to last, it is crucial to remember the offences (no matter how little). This is because, when offences repeat themselves, it is often a red flag – a sign of toxicity or abuse in the friendship – which might exasperate to cause real harm in the future.
For example, I remember a friend back in the University who refused to do favours (no matter how little). At first, we thought it was due to genuine lack or just a one-time thing, but soon we found it was his character. To him, everything was transactional, down to the last kobo, and even when we pointed this out to him he refused to change. I haven’t heard from him in over 2 years now.
Never allow yourself to be willfully blind to something wrong.
Sincerely seek forgiveness when you offend a friend, and find ways to make amends:
As much as our friends can offend us, we can also offend them. And, offending a friend doesn’t always mean you went out of your way to hurt them, or that you intended it. Sometimes, you could have accidentally sat on their phone or spilled their drink. You don’t have to be unapologetic about it because they are friends.
In fact, you should even feel more remorse for your actions knowing that they may not have the heart to take vengeance or ask you to repay (hence, it is usually a double burden on their end).
For example, one time a friend from far away came to visit, but when they got to my neighbourhood, they couldn’t reach me. Despite it not being particularly my fault, I had to apologize and reschedule another meeting.
I think you need to value your friends enough to be afraid to offend them.
Never abandon a friend in need, but know your limits:
Perhaps, the true test of friendship is when things get hard. Friends who are available in only the good times are not really friends. They are leeches.
I remember a friend of mine who had a severe health issue and needed help drastically. Yet, it was at that moment that all her other “friends” abandoned her. It was crazy. I even started getting pissed at them for abandoning her, but then again, I really do not know the dynamics of their friendship. But, I knew mine was genuine and healthy. So, I helped her to the best of my ability. Thankfully, she pulled through.
True friendship is supposed to hurt like hell sometimes, and that is the reason you need to be more careful when picking friends; to ensure they will be worth it. Because, let’s face it, no one loves casting their pearls to the swine.
Ask for help, or at least accept it:
Most people don’t like the feeling of indebtedness, and neither do your friend. No sensible or true friend will be okay with you always giving them stuff, without them repaying you in one way or the other.
For example, when I had some issues with my bank account, a friend heard about it and went out of her way to ensure the issue was fixed. I didn’t resist or decline the help. And, even though she didn’t succeed, I found her enthusiasm and effort endearing.
If a friend offers to cover your bill, sometimes, it is okay to accept. This will help them feel they are contributing to the friendship – that they are important and valuable in some way, in your life. Don’t deny your friends that opportunity.
Always strive to improve yourself, and don’t let your friend hold you back:
In all you do, do not forget to prioritize your growth. The truth is that if you do not grow, your friends might begin to feel ashamed of you or see you as baggage. Also, if your friends are holding you back from growth, it might be a sign that you have found yourself in a toxic friendship.
For example, I am in that stage of my life where my age mates are getting jobs, getting married, and becoming rich. Whilst I am not there yet, I am striving to get there. And, I totally understand if friends who have made it start limiting their interactions with me.
The truth is that getting married, getting a job, or becoming rich often comes with a lot of responsibility and mindset shifts that make it hard to stay connected with people who haven’t made the transition.
So, even though it is good to stick with friends, it is more important to improve with them. You can’t be useful in a friendship if you’re not growing, and you should not hesitate to jettison a friend who refuses to grow or tries to keep you down.
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Conclusion: It’s not within your power to make a friendship last forever.
I am the type that struggles to let people go. One time I had a misunderstanding with a friend and cut her off. But, I soon couldn’t bear it and had to start asking about her from our other mutual friends. Later we reconnected. However, the connection hasn’t really been the same.
Just as some marriages last a lifetime while many others do not, so also our friendships are. And, just as those marriages that work out do so because of the mutual effort of both parties, it’s not within your power alone to make a friendship last forever.
For a friendship to last forever, both friends have to put in a lot of work in themselves and the friendship.
“Friendship is serious. Maybe even more than love.”– A Summer’s Tale (1996)
Here are some handpicked content you might find helpful:
- Build Intimacy In Friendship With These 10 Tips
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- 23 Things Toxic Friends Do, and How To Cut Them Off
- 31 Ways To Strengthen Your Friendships (With Examples)
- Boundaries In Friendships: Why and How To Set Up and Enforce Healthy Boundaries.
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