• Keeping Friends

Regretting the loss of a 20-year friendship

Published: June 13, 2012 | Last Updated: April 18, 2016 By | 4 Replies Continue Reading
While it’s sad to let go of a 20-year friendship, it isn’t necessarily a reason for regret.


Hi Irene,

I have been friends with someone for over twenty years. She’s remarried to a guy, whom I don’t think likes my husband or me. We use to be invited to her Christmas party every year. NO more. Last time I was there, she made sure I was not there when he came home, and our time was limited because she was going to a party with his friends.

She drinks a lot, too, and so does he. We don’t drink. She took me out for my birthday and I felt it was the last time she wanted to be around me. Is it time to say goodbye to her?

She has used me a lot over the years but giving up on this friendship really hurts. I was always there for her. She didn’t even invite my son or me to her son’s graduation party. She said she had to buy tickets, which was a lie, but all her other friends are going. I am so sad when I think about all the time I spent with her. Should I write her a goodbye letter? It’s just too much work to keep it going.

Signed, Sara


Hi Sara,

It’s always hard to give up on a long-time friendship that has a lot of shared history and your ambivalence is
understandable. When one or both friends marry or remarry, it can change the nature of their friendship.

Your impression that your friend and her husband are pulling away sounds accurate based on what you wrote. Another factor that may be playing a role: It is often tricky for individuals (or couples) to socialize when one party imbibes a lot and the other is a teetotaler.

Apart from the concerns you have about her husband, it sounds like you now feel uncomfortable being around your friend, sense that she is pulling away from you, and no longer trust her. Unless you feel strongly about giving it one more try, I would let go of the relationship at this point.

I wound not send a goodbye letter because that would likely have the effect of cementing the death of the friendship. Letting it drift apart naturally–as seems to be happening–allows for the possibility of getting together in the future, should circumstances or feelings change.

As I have said many times in the past, all friendships don’t last forever. In fact, the great majority of them drift apart with time. Presumably, you were involved with this friend for so long because the friendship was mutually satisfying. It’s understandable that you would feel sad about the loss but you shouldn’t feel a sense of regret.

Also worth thinking about: If upon looking back, you feel that you allowed yourself to participate all along in a one-sided friendship, you need to figure out why you did so you don’t place yourself in the same position again.

Hope this helps.

Warm regards, Irene

Prior posts on The Friendship Blog about legacy friendships:

Tags: , , , , , ,


Comments (4)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    I have a friend that I’ve known for 20 years. Over the years we’ve lived in different places and traveled great distances to visit one another. We were close. But for the last few years we’ve lived in the same town less than two miles away from each other and we’ve started drifting apart. It’s ironic that now that we’re physically close we’re so emotionally distant! I realized we were drifting apart a while ago, but when I asked her to help my family move to a new home in our neighborhood and she refused – that’s when I knew we really were not close anymore. Like I said, she lived less than two miles away. I said she wouldn’t have to move anything heavy – maybe just a few boxes – and then we’d treat her to dinner afterwards. She refused to help us in any way, saying she didn’t like moving so she didn’t want to help. (This is the woman I made godmother of my son! It bothered me that not only was she refusing to help me, who she knows has many issues I’ve struggled with, but my kid and my best friend – my husband. It was really rude of her.) Since this happened I’ve seen her rarely and generally haven’t told her much anything about my life. She’s continued to not tell me much either about her life. I know she’s noticed the distance between us and I doubt she likes it because she’s self-centered and wants attention a lot. But she could improve the relationship if she wanted to – and she doesn’t. So whatever. Moving on…

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Nancy for this comment…It gave me hope!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Can not agree more. Do not need to send a goodbye letter. At least, you don’t hurt her, and you won’t have regrets. What Irene suggested not to fall in a one-side friendship again totally makes sense. Friendship is two-side, and both of the sides need to contribute.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Hello Dr. Irene,
    I could have written Sara’s letter 10 years ago. Luckily, after much soul-searching I stumbled upon similar advice and followed it. Your are spot-on, as usual, Irene. In my heart I still consider this lost friend a forever friend, because I only wish the best for her. She lives a few doors down, but she may as well live three states over, so infrequently do we see each other. When I do see her, I am able to smile and wave, feeling genuine warmth toward her. Being cut loose opened the door for so many blessings! Not only was I freed from much drama, (noticeable most of all when it disappeared), but my husband and I have developed a highly compatible circle of friends with rich and varied interests who support our creative endeavors.
    Most of all, I’d like to say to Sara, please follow Irene’s advice. You won’t regret it.

Leave a Reply