The Moment I Knew My Friendship Was Over

Though you don't (normally) enter into romantic relationships expecting them to end, it isn't seen as unusual that they do. Breaking up with someone is hard but at least in a romantic context we have the language and the understanding that for some people, it just won't work. Friendships, however, are a much trickier beast.

Since Sex and the City first aired in 1998, the mantra has been that while relationships come and go, friendships really matter. They ground us, uplift us, and can often be the real love stories of our lives. Which is why the demise of a friendship can be even more heartbreaking, especially as we largely don't have the language for it. We're not armed with a load of clichés to ease the transition. And friendships, unlike relationships, are rarely just between the two of you. While your partner may become great friends with your friends, it's less likely that they'll be embedded and part of a wide network. Severing ties with a friend doesn't just cut off that friend but can leave you ostracised from your whole circle.

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As with relationships, friendships can end for a multitude of reasons. But unlike relationships, we're less likely to talk about the cause of their demise. Films and shows like Tuca & Bertie, Broad City and Booksmart have championed the highs and lows of female friendship. But for better or worse, it can lead us to ask too much of each other – expecting the other to plan a frankly outrageous hen do, or not wanting to admit you're fighting over a boy because it feels like a sexist betrayal to call another woman out. The reality of friendship – where a lot of us don't have one single best friend who fulfils our every need but a sprawl of interlinking people who all have different values and faults – is much harder to fit into a TV show, but can leave you feeling wanting. And trying to let someone go can feel like a betrayal.

But actually, recognising that not everyone is good for us is not a failing, it's a sign of maturity. It's also not about laying blame at the other's feet – it's not that it's entirely the other person's fault (though that is definitely the case sometimes). The heartbreaking but liberating fact is that all relationships, romantic or not, are constantly shifting like the tide. To accept that it is the end, at least for now, is to reflect on it as a whole. If it was good, celebrate it; if it wasn't, learn and grow from it. As these stories attest, the end of a friendship is hardly the end of the story.

She showed up to the party with her new friends and....(Coleen Rooney pause) a boy I'd been kissing!!!

Rachel, 30

How long had you known this friend? What ages did it span? And what was it like?
We were best friends in year 9, 10 and 11. She was very cool and lent me her Nivea Pearl lip gloss. She taught me about boys, music, clothes and everything in between. I wasn't exactly very trendy back then but when I started hanging around with her I suddenly managed to fool everyone at my new school that I actually was.

Tell us about the moment you knew it was over.
She'd been hanging out more with a bunch of other girls in our year who were, tbh, more on her level. They all smoked and wore low-rise jeans and listened to Ja Rule and Ludacris. I'd still hang out with her but I'd kind of stand on the outside, not really sure how to join in the conversation. Eventually, she started hanging out with them without me.

Then, one night, someone's parents went away and we had a massive house party. I went to the party with some other people and was having a great time. But then she showed up with her new friends and....(Coleen Rooney pause) a boy I'd been kissing!!! I knew right then that she'd gone too far and that was not the way friends treated each other. We had a big fight and, I can't be sure because of the WKD haze that clouds that night, I *think* I launched myself at her and we had to be pulled off each other.

Then they left and ended up shagging in his mum's car.

I. WAS. DEVASTATED and didn't laugh for about three months, until sometime later when I ended up snogging her boyfriend at another house party.

How do you feel about it now?

It's a great reminder of how dramatic and intense it was to be a teenager. Even writing that down just now I relived all the emotions I felt 15 years ago. I was hurt! I was angry! I was betrayed! I was vindicated! I can hear Christina Aguilera's "Fighter" in my head! Now we're all grown up and dealing with less erratic hormones, we've bumped into each other a few times and laughed about the whole thing.

On a serious note though, It did teach me to make sure that friendships don't rely on an imbalance of power. There's a fine line sometimes between a friendship and being used or using someone and, unless you know yourself and have clear boundaries of what you're willing to give of yourself to another person, it's easy for things to slip.

My advice? Be good to others, but make sure you're feeling good too.

She and my best friend end up in a screaming row that results in my best friend being carried upstairs to bed.

Esther, 34

How long had you known this friend? What ages did it span? And what was it like?
I was 27 when we first met, at my old job. She's a couple of years younger than me. We didn't really speak for a long time until I moved to sit next to her, after which we became very close, very quickly. About a year and a half later, I split up with my boyfriend and needed somewhere to live; she wanted to get out of her crummy flat so it seemed like a no-brainer that we move in together. We found a place and for the first six months or so, things were great. She has a very maternal side and I'm a bit crap at taking care of myself, so she would often cook dinner for both of us and buy nice bits to make our flat feel homely. It seemed like we'd found the perfect balance.

Tell us about the moment you knew it was over.

Buckle up it's a long story! I turned 30 the year we moved in together and my best friend (whose birthday is two days after mine) suggested we go on holiday to celebrate. We found a villa in Turkey and her boyfriend at the time offered to pay for everyone to stay there as a birthday present. They invited a bunch of their friends and suggested I bring my flatmate along so they could get to know her. I thought this was a great idea!

Cut to the week of the holiday and things do not get off to a good start. My flatmate and I miss our flight after she insists we get the coach instead of the train to the airport to save a couple of quid... So we arrive in Turkey a day late and £70 each out of pocket for the extra flight. It's about 10pm and the atmosphere is pretty merry. We head to a nearby bar, where I'm at one end of the table and my flatmate's at the other, happily making conversation with the others. Next thing I know, she's thrown her drink over someone and run off back to the villa, in tears. We go after her and it turns out that one of the guys has called her a cunt – apparently in jest but she's inconsolable.

She phones her (very new) boyfriend back home in London and, unbeknown to the rest of the group, asks if he'll fly out to join her. The next morning, she tells everyone that her boyfriend is arriving at the end of the week. She asks my best friend and her boyfriend if it's okay but by that point the flight has been booked so they can't really say no.

As the week goes on, my best friend gets more and more pissed off about the whole situation, feeling that my flatmate is a) taking advantage of her boyfriend's hospitality (since he paid for everyone's accommodation) and b) behaving badly towards me (I have to sleep on the sofa when her boyfriend arrives as he has a bad back and needs my bed). The night her boyfriend lands, we all go out for dinner at a local restaurant and she and my best friend end up in a screaming row that results in my best friend being carried upstairs to bed and my flatmate and her boyfriend spending the rest of the holiday alone, coming back to the villa to sleep and not really interacting with the rest of the group. As she is my guest, I feel caught in the middle.

When we get back to London, we have a long chat and air our grievances. We both apologise but after that, things are never really the same between us. When the contract on our flat expires five months later, we go our separate ways.

How do you feel about it now?

In retrospect, the whole friendship feels like a whirlwind love affair. I think we were a bit besotted with each other and probably moved in together too quickly – when we fell out, it was spectacular. We're both part of a wider friendship circle so I occasionally see her at social events. It's always very surface-level friendly but never anything more. Our lives are in completely different places now, too. There's that saying: "Friends are for a reason, a season or a lifetime." We were friends for a season, and that's fine with me.

She sent me these long ranting texts about how I was an awful, selfish friend because I hadn’t wished her good luck with an appointment she’d had that day.

Alice, 27

How long had you known this friend? What ages did it span? And what was it like?
I’d been friends with her for about five or six years, though we’d met years previously but reconnected when she moved to my city.

Tell us about the moment you knew it was over.

We were very, very close for most of the friendship but she was very emotionally manipulative, which I didn’t notice for a long time. Near the end of our friendship she sent me these long ranting texts about how I was an awful, selfish friend because I hadn’t wished her good luck with an appointment she’d had that day (I was on holiday, without phone signal, so did the wishing of good luck before I left; still not sure why I justify it). Anyway, I knew then that it might be the beginning of the end. I spoke to my therapist about the situation, he suggested that I try communicating with her through email after a while as she just bulldozed me in person. Writing and sending the email was difficult, and I was really prepared to work through it with her, but when I got her reply I knew she wasn’t going to be able to do that. She sent me the most condescending, spiteful reply and that was when I knew we were done. It was weirdly like breaking up with someone!

How do you feel about it now?

Honestly so glad. I thought it would be hard but actually, once it was done I was so relieved. I don’t even miss her, which sounds harsh but I think just speaks to how stressed and upset I was at the end! There are some mutual friends that I don’t really speak to anymore as a result, but I don’t mind. I have other really close friends and she didn’t, so it felt right that this didn’t affect that for her.

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I shared with the group that another mutual acquaintance had got engaged and her response was: 'Urgh, couldn't happen to a worse person.'

Marika, 31

How long had you known this friend? What ages did it span? And what was it like?

We met through the flourishing blogging scene around 2012 and kept bumping into each other at events and through mutual friends. I always knew she was very opinionated and I liked her no-bullshit honesty. We work in similar industries so as we progressed through our careers we would compare and cheer each other on. When my long-term relationship broke up and I went travelling on my own, she was a huge pillar of support and encouragement. But when I met my current partner, she started being increasingly mean to me – I became very aware that when I was in a shit relationship and a job I hated, or when I was single and back living with my parents, she was always there for me, but whenever anything good happened to me, she'd pick it apart and make me feel bad. To be honest, had I not been to therapy previously, I wouldn't have spotted it as that at all.

Tell us about the moment you knew it was over.

We were both in the same WhatsApp group after a group holiday where she was so unpleasant to me that I cried every evening when I went to bed. I'd muted the group but did the typical thing of still being involved in conversations most of the time because I didn't want to cause any issues. I shared with the group that another mutual acquaintance had got engaged and her response was: "Urgh, couldn't happen to a worse person." It struck me that she's always very nice to this particular person and that the newly engaged acquaintance wouldn't have a clue that the happiest time of her life was being ripped privately by someone she's never done anything bad to. I could just imagine that if I were to get engaged, I'd likely be the topic of a private conversation between her and others and that sent my anxiety skyrocketing.

I stuck up for the other girl, she got really shitty with me and left the WhatsApp group. So I also left the WhatsApp group (dramatic 21st century behaviour) and made the decision that it was time to put proper distance between myself and her for my own mental health.

How do you feel about it now?

To be honest, I still struggle with it at times. She's since rejoined the WhatsApp group (so I've been told) and I feel like I've had to move away from a group of friends solely because of one person. I'm still good friends with a couple of the girls, some of whom still see her and some who don't as often. I had to attend a wedding with her a few weeks ago and I had a great time, but looked at it like when you meet a girl in a club bathroom and say you'll be best mates and then never see them again. I know that a long-term friendship isn't sustainable with her. Despite having only seen her twice since that 'break up' moment, she's taken both times to casually drop in being invited to my wedding next year, which has been very confusing because I feel like I should, even though she doesn't lift me up like I believe a friend should (and like I strive to as well). There's still a weird loyalty and want to fix things there, but I know it's better to stay away.

She then said: 'I get treated like a princess at home and at my boyfriend's, why should I put up with anything different here?'

Janine, 23

How long had you known this friend? What ages did it span? And what was it like?
About a year, we became friends in freshers' week and became very close. We got on really well and decided to live together in second year. I knew she was a bit of a princess but didn't really feel like it was a defining feature of hers.

Tell us about the moment you knew it was over.
My 20th birthday. Something weird had happened over summer, I knew she was spoiled but she then started to act spoilt when we were living together. On my birthday she chucked cake all over the kitchen and went into my other housemate's room and threw cake all over it – over his clothes, shoes, walls, etc. It is also worth noting they didn't have a great relationship. She never apologised.

From then on she was a nightmare, screaming the house down at the slightest thing that went wrong. There was no hot water left in the shower and she screamed. I did not like her at this point but was still friendly as we were living together. Then after a night out she accused me and another housemate of stealing her cigarettes. We did no such thing (we don't even smoke) and I refused to be accused of that. She then said to my other housemate, "I get treated like a princess at home and at my boyfriend's, why should I put up with anything different here?" and "I don't HAVE to be at uni, I could have just walked into a job with my parents." I didn't even know people said that in real life. From that moment she was not even an acquaintance.

How do you feel about it now?
I'm so glad she is out of my life. It's made me also think about red flags for future friendships... If someone is telling you about previous fallings-out with friends (even if they portray it so it is not their fault) you have to figure out what the common denominator is.

I ended up secretly ordering mocktails for myself to avoid the inevitable subtle comments about me not drinking, being boring, being domesticated.

Casey, 24

How long had you known this friend? What ages did it span? And what was it like?
Nearly six years, ages 18-24. We met at uni. Sometimes we were really close and the friendship was intense. Sometimes I felt it was distant and awkward. I always felt a bit inferior and like she looked down on me.

Tell us about the moment you knew it was over.
We were in a bar, I was really anxious about meeting up but wanted to keep the friendship going. I was getting more and more anxious every time we met up and was second-guessing everything I said and did, trying to anticipate what she would approve of. I set off for this meal out knowing I wouldn't want to drink as much as her and would want to come home earlier than she would. The whole evening I felt so anxious and couldn't face any level of confrontation that I ended up secretly ordering mocktails for myself to avoid the inevitable subtle comments about me not drinking, being boring, being domesticated, etc. I couldn't be honest with her about how I was feeling and that's when I knew that I was too anxious about our friendship to try to fix it. I had no capacity or desire to have a conversation about it.

How do you feel about it now?
I'm so glad it's over, although it sounds so callous to say. I have more time for other friends and I have more motivation to put the work in with friends that didn't make me feel like that. My anxiety in general has been so much better. I do think it's a shame that our friendship couldn't last but I see now that a friendship for which I have to alter my behaviour to that extent really isn't healthy.

I quickly realised friendship should not be steeped in betrayal and sadness, and certainly not at the expense of my mental health and confidence.

Amaya, 25

How long had you known this friend? What ages did it span? And what was it like?
From the age of 12-25. The friendship was always problematic. As the quieter person out of the two of us, I was always more subdued and her personality often more brash. She would criticise my dress sense and intelligence and essentially just embarrass me in front of friends, particularly during college (we attended the same one). Even letting others blatantly disrespect me while I was not there, saying nothing in my defence and then recalling it to me, making clear she said nothing to defuse the situation. But my desperation to hold on to the friendship out of fear I'd not find anyone who I could rely on (one of her somewhat good qualities) kept me tied to the friendship.

Tell us about the moment you knew it was over.
We both went to the same uni, and the toxicity of the friendship began to unravel after I found out she had been telling new friends we'd made at uni awful things about me and trying to embarrass me. She'd share stories about me, and not lighthearted ones either – hurtful events and traumas I'd trusted her with. On my own course, I had started to make friends that were kind, loyal and, importantly, ready to see me win. I quickly realised friendship should not be steeped in betrayal and sadness, and certainly not at the expense of my mental health and confidence.

How do you feel about it now?
I feel lighter, happier and have been working on my confidence ever since. I have to say, letting that friendship go was one of the best things I've done.

If someone nearly pegs it and neither they nor their family think it’s important you know, it’s a big sign you’re not important in their lives.

Bee, 28

How long had you known this friend? What ages did it span? And what was it like?
We were basically inseparable from the ages of 15-19. We met in school and along with another girl were a strong trio who did everything together – we even had matching customised hoodies (the fact it was 2007 and shit was weird is the only explanation for that choice). We survived a lot of ups and downs together: awful boyfriends, moving away, normal teenage girl stuff.

Tell us about the moment you knew it was over.
I knew it was over when she got an infection while travelling, had a terrible reaction, nearly died, and I only found out when her mum happened to come into the shop I worked in three weeks after the fact. I had accepted she was travelling so staying in contact was hard. But if someone nearly pegs it and neither they nor their family think it’s important you know, it’s a big sign you’re not important in their lives.

How do you feel about it now?
I bear her no ill will. Being a teenager is a nuts time and you outgrow people easily. I used to want to tell her how much she upset me but that anger is gone and to dredge it up now serves no purpose. I found out recently that her infection was actually life-changing and has had awful long-term effects that have impacted her memory. I really feel for her and just wish her happiness (and to be honest that helps in not taking it personally). The result of our friendship ending was growing closer to the people who mean the most to me now. I wouldn’t change anything that has happened because it helped me discover who genuinely cares about me and values my love.

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I found out later that my friend had asked him to buy us drinks (when she knew I wanted him well away from me).

Lauren, 29

How long had you known this friend? What ages did it span? And what was it like?
Five years through mutual friends. It started very casually and then became quite intense. We both had bad mental health and she was more understanding than my other friends but by the end it felt like she only wanted to know more as a means of control.

Tell us about the moment you knew it was over.

I’d been dating a guy and it had gone really horribly – he acted in a really misogynistic way and abused my trust. I went to an event and he was there so I just avoided him, but towards the end of the evening he walked over to me with a shot of whisky and looked at me in a very intense/weird way. I found out later that my friend had asked him to buy us drinks (when she knew I wanted him well away from me) and that when we’d left she’d bumped into him on the street on her way home and told him the pub I’d gone on to. I found out because another friend of mine had seen her ask for the drinks and had been walking back to the station with her and had asked her why she had acted like that.

How do you feel about it now?

I feel quite sad because I thought we had been good friends, but the amount of stress she brought on made it worth leaving the friendship. It made me realise that a lot of things she’d done had a negative impact on me and my mental health. I tried to lie low for a while to assess my feelings but she confronted me when I bumped into her one evening and I realised I couldn’t handle the stress, and could avoid her if I wanted to.

Post-uni things got acutely existential so I was dumping on them about how shitty my life felt, admittedly without checking in to see if they could handle it.

Donna, 27

How long had you known this friend? What ages did it span? And what was it like?
We were friends for six years from when I was 18-23. Admittedly for one of those years I was clinging to hope and in denial about it being over so officially, more like five years. It was great, we really held and cared for each other in the best ways, we allowed each other to be fallible and laughed a lot. They were a really great part of a time in my life I am mostly trying to erase from my memory.

Tell us about the moment you knew it was over.

Post-uni things got acutely existential so I was dumping on them about how shitty my life felt, admittedly without checking in to see if they could handle it. Anyway, because they were kind and had a spare train ticket they invited me to Paris with them and I went. We had a mostly good time but then they had to do some romantic damage control which meant leaving me alone for an hour or two while they caught up with an ex. I overreacted because I didn't know the city, had no phone and didn't know any French. So I was wandering around not really knowing what to do or where to go. I was kind of frosty when we saw each other again, but later on realised how utterly unreasonable I was being and eased up. By that point it was too late, we had a very small argument about how distant I was being, pretended to be fine then we left it, tense. A long silent coach back to London followed and in retrospect I think it was somewhere along that journey that I knew. They ignored me for a bit and then we spoke about it via email and a lot about the dynamic of our friendship came up which they hadn't expressed before and made me feel terrible. They asked for space, which became distance over time and eventually not really speaking at all. It was devastating.

How do you feel about it now?

I feel mostly indifferent now, it has been five years. If I saw them again though that might change. In the immediate aftermath my response was shame-driven. I said that I wasn't ever going to share if I was struggling with people so it couldn't be used against me later. I was only ever going to be fun, and if I felt like the more "ugly" parts of myself were visible, I would withdraw from people. Still untangling myself from that mess. I wouldn't say I was glad that it's over, but that friendship was for a season and perhaps it needed to be, I've done so much growing up since.

In my eyes she's selfish and obsessed with money, although I'm sure I drive her nuts too.

Karina, 38

How long had you known this friend? What ages did it span? And what was it like?
I've known her for 13 years. We did our master's together and we've always been thick as thieves. It's been quite a close, intense friendship, we are so so different but I absolutely adore the girl.

Tell us about the moment you knew it was over.
After not seeing her properly for over three years (we live on different continents), I made a huge financial, physical and emotional commitment to visit her and the trip did not go as planned. I had noticed, as have other mutual friends, that over the past few years she seems increasingly self-absorbed – she rarely asks questions about my work, love life, or just life in general unless prompted, and she rarely initiates conversation over the phone or text unless she needs to offload. If something goes down in her life, you'll hear about it, otherwise radio silence.

Anyway, once I arrived it became very clear that the holiday was about her: what she wanted to do, meeting all her mates, and not once asking me what I'd like to do. It was very much just "see how amazing my life is", and after a day or two I was exhausted from it. We had a big falling out which we patched up for the sake of the holiday but when I got back home I realised I need a break from her, long term. We just don't see eye to eye anymore.

In my eyes she's selfish and obsessed with money, although I'm sure I drive her nuts too. But I've made a conscious decision to back off for now. Deep down I think the root of all this is that she's unhappy, and that hurts because I don't want her to be, but I'm not sure how I can help her, and to be truthful, I'm not sure I want to at the moment.

How do you feel about it now?

Relief that I've acknowledged I don't need to be at her beck and call, and it's okay to give a very long-term friendship a breather, even if that ends up being indefinite. Other friends are in the same boat and we've spoken about it. I'd like to think I'll always be there for her if she needs me, but the way she acted recently has really put me off so I need some time away. I'm just not sure how long.

She attacked my mental health, my break-up with my boyfriend and the fact that I had been raped. She said I deserved it all. That was when I launched at her.

Jessica, 26

How long had you known this friend? What ages did it span? And what was it like?
I had known this friend since I was 12 years old. We started secondary school together (our year group was a single class of 14 girls). We remained best friends until we were both 23, and we were thick as thieves. We did everything together: shopping, talking about boys, hair and makeup and sharing our deepest and darkest secrets. We wrote each other letters during class. We would always be on the same team during PE. We'd have sleepovers every weekend. But then she left to join another boarding school in year 9 and we vowed to keep in contact by writing letters to each other and MSN (back in those days). Our friendship remained intact but was later strained when she went to university in Southampton and got an on-and-off boyfriend. Despite our communication thinning as the years went by, each time we picked up the phone or arranged to meet, it was as though we had never been apart.

Tell us about the moment you knew it was over.
We were at Glastonbury in 2016. I was there on my own post-breakup and she insisted I came along with her, her boyfriend and her sister. I wasn't keen as I hadn't seen her for months, if not a year or so, but I went along anyway. I was still very sensitive about my break-up so seeing her being extremely rude to her then-boyfriend (somewhat of a doormat) angered me because I knew he did absolutely everything for her and she was acting ungrateful. It wasn't until we had finished watching Disclosure on the first night (Friday) when she turned nasty all of a sudden.

I had told her that the easiest way to walk through the soggy mud was to walk quickly so her feet wouldn't get stuck. She turned to me and called me a stuck-up bitch. Usually I wouldn't react to such a thing as it was quite a tame insult but it was her tone and her expression that threw me off. In response, I told her to stop acting like a cunt. We argued the whole way to the tent before we eventually went for each other and had a full-on fist fight, pulling each other's hair and calling each other names.

But then she got personal: she attacked my mental health, my break-up with my boyfriend and the fact that I had been raped. She said I deserved it all. That was when I launched at her and threw her head into the mud. I packed up my things (we were all sharing a tent) and walked around Glastonbury on my own, hoping to find somewhere to stay for the rest of the festival (which I did, I found my other friends and ended up having the best time of my life).

How do you feel about it now?

Losing a childhood friend can be traumatising but cutting those ties felt like taking off tight shoes. I do miss her but I miss her when we were 14 and we are not the same people now. The break-up taught me that toxic relationships can be straining and there's no point holding on to them because you are 'best friends'.

People change and time moves swiftly on. A great motto I live behind is: if you have to force a fart, it's probably shit. That's how I approach relationships/friendships now as an adult. If it's not natural, or if you have to make a strained effort to keep someone, it's not worth your time and will probably cause you more hassle in the long run. The whole situation taught me about trust, loyalty and how to manage female friendships and also how to and not to react in certain situations. In hindsight we were young, fickle and immature (22). I'd never react in the way that I did back then now and I would never want to be in a similar situation.

Despite having her blocked on all my social media accounts, I do still think about her from time to time. Certain things will always remind me of her and I have kept all of our letters, pictures and diaries to cherish those memories of when we were teenagers. I don't know what she is doing with her life now, but I only wish the best for her and hope she succeeds at everything in her life.

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