How to let friendships die peacefully


It sometimes comes to pass, especially for the voluntarily isolated, that previously entertained friendships become difficult or unfair to maintain, largely due to one’s inability to perform the necessary tasks and obligations involved with the upkeep of most friendships, and because of how unsatisfying it will prove to be for the other committed party. While it can feel uncomfortable or callous to end such relationships – sometimes even prompting a rear-guard action from the friend in question – it is a necessary skill if one is to fully inhabit the quiet joys of the outsider or semi-hermit.

In some ways, the gentle act of unthreading a friendship involves as much skill as forming one.


My preferred method, the one I feel is the least hurtful, is the Increasing Distance Method. This involves a measured discontinuing of attention and contact, a kind of slow-release tactic designed to provide a steady and natural come-down. In most cases, this creates enough room for the other person to adapt to the change and, quite often, to feel as though there has been a mutual ‘drifting apart’ rather than a calculated and intentional severing.

There are of course some friendships which can survive long periods of non-contact. I have two or three friends scattered around the world who I rarely see but still consider close-comrades. We are friends beyond distance and fair-weather and whenever our paths do cross, usually when one is in the other’s city, there is an easy feeling of seamless continuation between us – no explanation or great effort is required to reconnect, for we are able to effortlessly ‘start where we left off’. These are examples of the kind of friendship that asks for nothing to exist and I value these friends dearly for they accept me as I am, and I them.

I was once told by one of these friends that a definition of freedom, particularly applicable to outsiders, is the ability to ‘say no to a request and not give a reason’. A very wise observation, especially in this weary age of excessive obligations and extroverted dominance.


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