Friendships come and friendships go.  It is an inevitable part of life.  Friends are often very much like romantic partners.  They come into your life for a season or a reason.  But not forever.  Do friends ever stay forever?  Do you ever have those enduring friendships (so commonly portrayed in those Saturday afternoon TV movies) that travel with you from childhood to old age?

I never really formed any solid friendships in my youth.  Through elementary school and high school, friendships were tenuous and tended to change depending on peer perception and stages of popularity.  I hung on the outer circles of groups, but never really found my tribe.  It made for a stressful and lonely period of my life. 

It wasn’t until I moved on to college that I started forming deeper friendships.  In college, I met some really lovely people, people I truly liked and cared about.  These weren’t lifelong friendships per se, as we drifted apart– they got married and had children, and I moved across the country.  But they are people that I connect with periodically through Facebook and remember our time together fondly. 

Work is another place where I met some great friends.  But here’s the tricky thing about making friends through school and work—these are friendships that often spring from convenience.  You see these people every day.  You’re pushed together in an artificial environment and bond over shared experiences, not always positive.  Have you ever noticed when friends from work get together, all they do is bitch about work?  Fun times. 

For me, when I have met people through shared interests and positive experiences, these were the friendships that stuck.  These were the people that came into my life and stayed in my life.  These relationships have had their ups and downs, times when we were pissed off with each other, times when we just needed a break from that other person, but in the end, the bond and the love remained.  Will these friendships last into our golden years?  Nothing in life is guaranteed, but I feel like the foundation on which these later friendships were built were more solid, and more emotionally bonded than in my younger years. 

But what about when one of these cherished friendships that, like a puff of magician’s smoke, simply disappear.  No precursor.  No explanation.  Just radio silence.

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Has this happened to you?  It has happened to me twice in my lifetime.  These were people I held close to my heart, shared secrets, and faced new experiences.  We supported each other through broken relationships and loss.  And then they were gone, without warning or explanation. 

The loss of any relationship can be difficult.  When it ends without warning, it can be especially devastating.  Questions and doubts plague you.  Did you do something?  Why wouldn’t they just talk to you instead of walking away?  Don’t they miss you like you miss them?

In place of that friendship is grief, confusion, and often anger.  It’s very much like experiencing a death. 

Friendships end for many reasons.  Perhaps one of you moves away.  Sometimes a betrayal occurs or a romantic relationship develops with one of the friends (nothing buggers up a friendship like the arrival of a new boyfriend!).  Or, you simply grow and change as a person and interests diverge.  The friendship fades away like the dying light of a summer day.  While still painful, your soul prepares for the loss as it dwindles.  

Some friendships are toxic.  These are friends that can be known as “frenemies”.  There is a dangerous imbalance in the friendship, with one person giving too much, and the other taking too much.  The inequality can create a situation of one person being emotionally bullied or subtly disparaged, often in front of others to keep the attention on the toxic personality.  Veiled insults make the toxic friend feel more powerful in the relationship, more in control, and batters the other friend’s confidence.  That is the way they like it. 

Ending such friendships can be equally painful, but much healthier for both parties in the long run.  Lessons are learned and experience is gained. 

So what do you do when a cherished friendship ends and you’re just not sure why?  Well, in my case, the first time it occurred, we had been friends for 10 years.  We had been roommates, we had spent Christmases together, gone on holiday together, and knew each other about as well as anyone could know another person.  At least, that is what I thought.  One day, out of the blue, my friend blew up at me about a silly Facebook share.  While I was surprised, I apologized and my apology was apparently accepted.  Except that I guess it wasn’t.  I never really heard from him again.  I tried reaching out a couple of times, and received no response.  A few years later, I had heard he had married and had a son.  I sent a card to congratulate him and his wife.  Again, no response.  I was baffled, hurt, and then angry.  That was 16 years ago, and to this day, I’m still not really sure why the friendship was severed. 

More recently, I had a close friendship with a woman I met in BC.  We met through work, and became close friends.  We got together regularly, shared our secrets, had deep conversations, tackled new hobbies and experiences together.  We also supported each other through failed relationships and family tragedy.  And just like that, she was gone.  I tried to talk to her, to discover if there was something I had done to upset her, or if she was going through something that was making her withdraw.  But any attempts were met with a blank stare and a monotone “I’m sorry you feel that way, but that’s not the way I see it.”  After hearing this mantra a dozen times, I realized that my attempts where futile. 

Following this loss was confusion, grief, and finally anger.  I was angry with her, but I was also angry with myself.  This was a pattern of behavior with this person, but I arrogantly assumed that our friendship was different, that it would not happen in this case.  I doubted my ability to be a good judge of character. 

But the truth is that we can’t see the future.  We can’t predict human behavior.  The same part of you that forgives common friendship offences, also forgives more telling transgressions and bad behaviour because of the “good qualities”.  We want to believe the best in people. We don’t want to believe that someone we have let into our inner circle doesn’t have our, and other people’s, best interests at heart.  So when that friendship has run the course of its usefulness and the person disappears, you may never know what happened.  You may never understand why they walked away from the friendship.  The key is to realize that it is their why, not yours.  There is something within themselves that makes them unable to confide, share, and stay.  This is their issue, not yours.   And if they don’t want to remain in your life, it is a waste of your time and emotion to try to analyze and figure out why.  Quite literally, screw them.  You gave the best of yourself, and if they couldn’t appreciate and value that, you’re better off without them.  Or, if you realize perhaps you didn’t give the best of yourself, take the lesson to heart and to your new friendships.  Because those new friendships will come.  The key is to make yourself happy through activities that feed your soul and you’ll meet similar people. 

For me, they came later in life, many through the shared love of wine, animals, and travel!  And they are truly wonderful people that are my soul tribe—you know who you are!  And when those people come, you just know.  They are family.   And the Houdini friends cease to break your heart. 

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