• Keeping Friends

Maybe Friendships Aren’t Meant to Last

Published: August 26, 2010 | Last Updated: January 29, 2023 By | 20 Replies Continue Reading

By Jen SInger

I remember sitting on chairs in my driveway that frightening Tuesday afternoon, watching our kids play while my friend Lynn and I listened to the radio for the latest news on the World Trade Center terrorist attacks.

Lynn was waiting to hear what had happened to her cousin, a Staten Island firefighter who was among the first to respond to the scene that morning. I was wondering what to tell my children.

The world, it seemed, was falling apart.

Lynn and I didn’t know what else to do. We couldn’t – wouldn’t – watch the news. Not in front of our kids, who were all preschoolers at the time. So we did what we often did on warm, sunny afternoons: We had a playdate.

Our sons – between us, four of them- oblivious to what was happening just 30 miles from my house, tooled around the driveway on tricycles and ride-on toys, stopping now and then for snacks and bathroom breaks. Lynn and I opened juice boxes, adjusted bike helmets and kissed boo-boos, occasionally turning up the radio for a news update. We noticed that there were no airplanes in the sky.

Later, we found out that her cousin had died, one of some 350 firefighters to lose their lives in the Twin Towers attacks. And then we heard that one of our neighbors, too, had died, leaving behind a wife and three children. A few mornings after 9-11, Lynn and I huddled together at church at a mass honoring the victims, while our youngest sons sat in our laps, unusually still. We were both crying.

Since then, Lynn has had two more kids, and our boys have found different interests and different friends. I see her car pass by my house on her way to hockey practice, and she sees me when I’m coming home from soccer games. Now and then, we find ourselves at a barbeque or Back-to-School night, where we take a moment to catch up on things. Mostly though, we just wave as we pass by.

We used to talk to each other every day, mainly to set up carpools and arrange playdates, but also to talk about our fears, our families and our futures. But we simply don’t talk all that much anymore. We live right down the street from each other, but our lives have moved farther apart.

And while that could, perhaps should make me feel wistful for the way our friendship used to be, it doesn’t. We were close when we needed it most, when our lives ran parallel, when we needed someone to pick up the kids after a birthday party or preschool.

We’re still close when we need it, like when her father passed away suddenly and when I had cancer. Lynn arrived one day the summer I was in chemotherapy with a tray full of delicious food and yellow flowers in a little vase. And for a moment, it was 9-11 again; we were there for each other.

Perhaps friendships aren’t meant to last, at least not all of them are meant to endure at the same intensity, or at all. Kids seem to know this. My sons’ friends often come and go, and yet none of them seem to care about it. “He’s not really my friend anymore,” my son told me last week when I suggested a playdate. And he was right. What’s more, he was okay with it.

I prefer to think of my relationship with Lynn not as a friendship lost, but as a fond reminder of our days as young mothers. When I wave to Lynn, I’m indeed waving to a friend, but I’m also saying hello to how we used to be, to how we were there for each other when the world was falling apart.

Jen Singer is the editor-in-chief of MommaSaid.net and the author of the Stop Second-Guessing Yourself guides to parenting. Thanks, Jen, for sharing your warm and wise post—it felt as cuddly as a visit from a friend!

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Comments (20)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Iyamacat says:

    Not acknowleging behaviour seems to be a common theme in the ending of friendships. I had a long time friend who was very verbally abusive. This behaviour got worse over time, until I began to dread the nightly phone call and going out with her yet I continued and had to be drunk or high to be in her presense so the nicely said jabs wouldn’t hurt. Being the type who avoids conflict like the plague, coupled with the fact that she had been a huge support during a very difficult part of my life, I let it continue for way longer than it ever should have. Her public and family persona is like america’s sweetheart, and with me the jabs were very nicely injected into our conversations, yet a barb coated with sugar is still a barb. I was weary of the nightly phone calls and dreading to go all the way across town to have her be late, as she always was, and to have the jabs. After trying to address the problem only to be dismissed and called negative and crazy, that was it and I left without looking back. I dream of her from time to time and even in the dreams I cannot talk with her.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi…I am dealing with all of this now..over the past few months with someone that was my best friend for the past 7 years. We were like sisters, families were close, etc…over the past few years, things have frayed, more disagreements, etc…I believe the disagreements only escalated and became more frequent, as she never wanted to discuss issues or problems…she felt discussing things would only rehash it and makes things worse..I saw it as discussing them and clearing the air and moving on..there was always this elephant in the room that we both pretended wasnt there…till eventually you cant see beyond it…a few months back we tried once again…she made sure she told me in her own words that she wanted open and honest communication…put it all on the table whenever there was an issue, big or small, so we wouldnt have any problems…well, one day I needed to talk to her about something, and she totally spun it around, told me I was looking for drama and problems, even though I was respectful and nice in the manner in which I brought it up…my question now, how can I ever have a friendship with someone I cant be open and honest with?? Even though she told me this is what she wanted, she has made it impossible…I was punished for doing exactly what she asked for. Now, she will text me every once in awhile..I no longer call her as I only get text messages back, never a phone call. Not sure where to go from here??

  3. Anonymous says:

    I think that it is likely that your friend became more and more jealous of you as the years have gone by. Instead of internally congratulating you on your successes, her envy and jealousy just festered inside of her until she couldn’t stand it anymore. Ask yourself honestly, do you really want someone like this in your life (selfish, fantasy-ridden, enormously fat, cluttery, and a failure in every area worth succeeding in in life)? Be really honest here. You didn’t mention in your post but I’ll bet she’s lost most or all of her friends; she sounds like a real loser… Look into the future instead of the past and enjoy the functional people in your life. This woman is truly not worth spending one more minute of your life on- be grateful she cut you off cold turkey. She needs professional help and a lot of it!!

  4. Anonymous says:

    My best friend in my 20’s was like the sister I never had- we could (and did!) talk about everything. She was the one person in the world who “got me” and she frequently said that she felt the same way about me. I thought we would be friends forever. However, decades later, we’re not close at all. At first, she told me that she was not interested in the things I talked about and then she stopped talking to me altogether. I was deeply hurt at first as I cherish my female friends. Our lives, which were so similar when we were young, have diverged quite a bit. I have a wonderful husband, children, and a vibrant career. She never married or had children, and although she’s very smart, she didn’t pursue her education. Although she’s lived more and more in a fantasy world as she’s aged, become a scary hoarder and is now morbidly obese and an indigent, I still miss what we once had. She’s in declining health and I’ll be sad if she passes and I never find out the real reason she withdrew from our friendship. Anyone with a similar situation or advice/reflections?

  5. Irene says:

    Your experience isn’t that unusal. And yes, when one minor misunderstanding undermines a friendship, there’s usually more going on than meets the eye.

    Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Any friend of Jen’s is a friend of mine.

    Best, Irene 



  6. Anonymous says:

    What an interesting blog post and comments — and so important because I now realize that I’m not the only woman who has let go or lost friendships.

    A good friend got upset with me several years ago because I would not pick her up so we could go visit our children at college. Her house was 40 minutes in the opposite direction. I was really hurt that this minor issue led her to stop speaking to me. I had done a lot for her over the years when she was in need. But then I realized there must have been issues going on with her at the time that had nothing to do with me at all, and she transferred that to our relationship. We tried to work it out a year later thanks to her daughter who wrote me a note saying she wished we were friends again. So I reached out to my old friend and said how brave I thought her daughter was to get involved so we could repair our friendship. Well, she took that the wrong way and never responded again. When I asked her about it, she said my email sounded cold. It was then that I realized I had to let go. For good. It was painful for me, but I knew there was no pleasing this woman ever again.

  7. Irene says:

    You have plenty of time to make new friends….remember that friendships build slowly over time. Put yourself in situations where you meet new people by following your interests.

    My best,



  8. Irene says:

    I’m not sure what type of input you want. It sounds like it was a satisfying conversation for both of you. If you are asking whether you can resume the friendship after 16 years, only time will tell. I suspect that you both are two different people today than you were then but I’ m sure you share many nice memories.




  9. Anonymous says:

    Irene, I decided after reading your book and post to reach out to my friend one more time on facebook. She replied within an hour after not speaking for 16 years and said that she forgives me and hopes that I will forgive her as well. She said that she wasn’t always a good friend. She also said that she really did value our friendship but that she can’t go back there. I replied, and thanked her for replying. I also said that I felt that we both paid a price that didn’t fit the crime. I wished her and her family well and signed it Love, Kathy. She said she wanted to give me closure because after all these years of friendship I deserved that much. I was shocked of course that she replied at all after all this time. Could you please give me your input. Thank you so much for your continued support.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Irene, I just got done reading Best friends forever and it was such a great book, it was so good I couldn’t put it down. Having a friendship end is not an easy subject to talk about with other people. They say, it didn’t work out, let it go you deserve better. If only it were that easy. When a long time friend becomes part of your life and family, then all the sudden you can’t figure out what is going on with them. You don’t know whether to give them time or to keep reaching out or just let them go. I know I felt a lot of guilt because I second guess myself on how I handled things. It’s hard not to take it personally but it does feel good not being in the middle of her drama anymore. I think you are right she probably did have stuff going on that I knew nothing about.
    I love coming to your Blog it’s been so helpful and your book is just outstanding!!
    Thanks, Kathy

  11. Irene says:

    When a friendship breakup is so not-understandable, there is usually "stuff" going on in the other person’s life that is so massive you probably can’t even fathom it.

    You reached out and did everything possible to communicate and it sounds like whatever closure there is, will have to be something you work on by yourself.

    Thanks for posting—because situations like this are more common than you might think. Luckily, it only happens to each of us once or very few times in a lifetime.

    Warm regards,


  12. Greenrainbow says:

    Everyday I feel the loss of old friendships that I tried to rekindle but couldn’t for whatever reasons. I moved away over 25 years ago to another state, and when I returned around 13 years ago, I tried to reconnect with some old friends, but it seems they did not really seem interested in reconnecting other than running into one another from time to time. Some are married with children, other one divorced after 25 years, one has a mentally challenged daughter, one is what I’d call a heavy drinker. I suppose we do change over time, and what brought us together when we were younger, is no longer there. I suppose once people get married, they commit themselves to their children and spouses, and their friends sometimes fall by the wayside. I have released them mentally and emotionally and no longer have expectations from these women. I think it becomes apparent that going out there and ‘trying’ to make ‘new’ friendships is necessary, albeit not always easy when you’re getting up there in years. (54)

  13. Anonymous says:

    I agree with this comments

  14. Kathy says:

    Good friends are hard to come by and I think for some friends it’s easier to walk than to take the time to solve whatever the situation was that caused the conflict. I know for me it has been hard to come to terms that my 20 year friendship ended and there was no trying to fix the situation. My friend’s life was falling apart and she felt it gave her permission to take it out on me. I wouldn’t accept that so the friendship ended. I’ve tried to reach out several times and received silence or I really really don’t want to talk to you. I even got a return to sender. I might not of handled the situation right but I did the best I knew how and have apologized for not being the friend I should have been. I tried to be kind and I was treated poorly and then I tried tough love and got thrown out of her life. I would of had to been a professional to understand what was going on with her. It’s been 16 years now since we last spoke, I tried again to reach out via the internet and still no response. I have never had any problems with any of my other friends. I feel with a little communication this could of been figured out but instead she chose the silent treatment which made things worse. I think with everything she had going on it was easier for her to shut people off. It just makes it difficult for the me to really understand what happened. I tried to be understanding of her situation but whatever I did or didn’t do, I didn’t deserve a life sentence. I have moved on but from time to time I still wonder what happened.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I agree with the person who wrote the article. If someone doesnt look at themselves, or ackowledge their part in the changing dynamics of the friendship despite you trying to identify what is going on… then you are okay to let go. It is very painful when the friendship is sliding and only one person is struggling to manage the changes. I recently went through this and found that she was pathologizing me and the relationship…it wass all my issue, in her mind she did nothing wrong. If only she would have acknowledged her role in the changes i would have continued to try, but when she put it all on me, I decided it was unhealthy and left. I have not locked the door, but it is closed. I can’t go back to the way it was.

  16. Gert says:

    I agree. I always try to ‘walk in their shoes’ to see how they feel, but they don’t seem to try on my shoes to see how I might feel. The road goes both ways. If they don’t give a little, then why must I always? Eventually, I stop. Yes, it hurts. I don’t have any friends and this may be why–when I make one, they use me up. I am unwilling to be used, so I walk away.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I agree with the comments in “fading friends”. My experience with letting a friend go is different than the author’s. You can care deeply for a friend and be unable to resolve the differences or distance between you. I recently let go of a friendship of fifteen years and it was difficult for me to come to terms with my decision. I kept wondering if I knew what it meant to be a good friend and whether or not my behavior was in line with my beliefs. I read all of the entries in this blog and everything I could find related to the topic of friendship. I asked my oldest and dearest friends to speak honestly about our relationships and the situation I was dealing with. I thought about what they said and then I came to terms with my decision to let the relationship go. A week after coming to terms with this decision my friend of fifteen years showed up at my house unannounced and confronted me about not speaking with her. She wondered if I cared about our relationship of fifteen years. I wasn’t surprised that she did this. I didn’t pick up three of her calls and I knew that her inability to control the situation would bother her. I was relieved that she didn’t show up at my job or start calling my parents or other friends–behavior that wouldn’t seem out of bounds to her. I told her that I did care about her and that I didn’t have a solution, so rather than hurt her feelings I decided to give the relationship the space it needed. I tried to talk about the breaking point and she said that she didn’t understand my perspective, that the problem had nothing to do with me and that it was in the past. She kept bringing up the fact that we have been friends for fifteen years. I told her that I felt that I had the right and the need to be honest in a relationship and that I should be able to speak freely and that if I couldn’t speak without being judged or punished then I didn’t see how we could resolve this situation. The conversation went around and around. She tried to leave, she tried to play the martyr. I told her I didn’t want to be emotionally manipulated. I hugged her and told her that I cared for her and loved her but that I didn’t know how else to resolve the situation. I told her I wanted to be left alone. She said “I wish there was something I could do to help you.” and then she left.

    I cried for a bit when I went back inside my house. It’s hard when you are the only one with the problem, but mostly I was relieved because our relationship just wasn’t working. She doesn’t understand my perspective and she doesn’t see her own behavior, but if you can’t be honest about your feelings or situation then it isn’t a relationship.

  18. Anonymous says:

    I agree with you!

  19. Anonymous says:

    I don’t like this. It may be true, it may be just human nature, and it may be the natural progression of things. But I object. A lot!

    Why do we just let close friends, people whom we love dearly, who bring us happiness and comfort, just slip away? I dont think women in general put enough effort into their friendships.

    I have let some wonderful people slip out of my life and I regret it. And I have been on the receiving end of a friend who has just let me slip out of her grasp because she wasn’t willing or able to invest the time and effort needed to maintain the close bonds we shared. This hurts so much and I hate it.

    Why do we do this? Someone needs to start spreading the word that this has got to stop!

  20. Anonymous says:

    Good friends are hard to come by. This one just naturally faded, and that fading was mutual, there is still contact and good will.

    Close friendships should be cherished, and hopefully adequate consideration and conversatoin and negotiation accompanies their ending.

Leave a Reply