“Failed” friendships

Two friends

Two friends

I used to think that a failed friendship meant personal failure.

A failure to maintain a long-standing relationship.  A failure of the other person.  A failure to work through disagreements or issues or perceptions. A failure of personal culpability, a failure of that “mistaken so-and-so” (insert your own judging term), a failure of two selves to make things right and keep the friendship on track.

And, yes, perhaps a failed friendship can mean all these things.  Perhaps we said or did stupid things.  Perhaps the other did not understand what we meant to say, or why we acted that way.  Perhaps we shut her out of our sphere.  Perhaps she closed the door on us.  Perhaps misunderstandings abounded and multiplied due to our different ways of understanding and existing in the universe. Perhaps we didn’t nurture our bonds, be present in times of need.

These days, when a thought arises about a missing-in-action friendship, I still often attempt to assess what possibly went wrong.  But I also call in a wider eagle view.  To look beyond the personalities with their right and wrong and nuanced pictures.

Calling in a different view

Calling in a different view

Perhaps Life itself engages us in friendships–for a day, a month, a year, three decades, six decades, a lifetime–and pulls the plug when Life Itself wants to move in another direction.

Perhaps Life directs the show more than we imagine.  Perhaps it’s not all about our limited perspectives of who we think should be our friend.  It may be about who Life wants to put on our path, engage with, interact with, dance alongside, for six hours or sixty years.

Nowadays I’m more likely (at times) to look at a picture of a distant friend who emotionally moved away–or I moved away from her–and think, “Oh look at that precious being!  How lucky that Life allowed us to meet and love each other for a time!  And who knows–maybe someday Life will move us back closer together again. ”

And that has happened, a few precious and grace-filled incidences.

Perhaps there’s no such thing as a “failed” friendship if our heart remains open with love…what do you think?




About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in May 2018 and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

58 Responses to “Failed” friendships

  1. I’ve been thinking along these same lines lately, so was pleasantly surprised to see your thoughts on the topic. I let friends in to my life, just as if they were family. I can’t imagine a time and place where I would then just shut them out. There certainly have been friends that I step back from, just as I would from a racist uncle or an obnoxious brother. But, just as family is always family, to me, a friend is always a friend. But, I am traveling along my own winding road. Sometimes, others are walking right beside me; at other times, their path may have taken them curving off into another direction. That’s understandable, and okay…except for the ones I hold closest to my heart. Then it feels hurtful, and like a rejection of my own path. That’s when I have to struggle to look at the wider view, and remember that each of us has to go our own way, and hope that maybe our paths will converge again. Thanks, Kathy, for a thoughtful post!

    • Kathy says:

      Cindy, it often seems that when we write about a certain topic–others of our friends or readers are contemplating the same subject. I know what you mean about how it can be really challenging when it’s someone who is very close to our heart. It can feel devastating. I love that the wider view is available to us during times of hurt, although sometimes we need to step back to see it. Thank YOU for YOUR thoughtful comment!

  2. Carol says:

    I have had many friends in the past who were in my life for various periods of time – some long,others shorter – but who now are only in occasional memories. I have other friends, few in number, that have lingered in my life for a very long time, and I think will be there until we are no longer on this earth. Our lives take us in different directions and I think friends are there when needed and on the same road we’re on – then we reach a fork in the road, and my fork is not right for the friend, so we branch off. It’s more difficult to maintain friendships when your life takes you miles away every few years, or even months, as was my case in my growing up years.

    • Kathy says:

      Your words sound like wisdom to me, Carol. Those forks in the road can signal that Life is moving in a different direction for a while (or for a lifetime). I once thought I wanted to be friends with hundreds of people because everyone can be so darned interesting. But learned that nurturing a smaller number actually prevents overwhelm. Thank you for commenting with your perspective and wisdom.

  3. Tammy A Thompson says:

    Such great blogging, what you wrote so makes me feel better and honest about a friend I distanced.

    • Kathy says:

      Tammy, you made me smile ear-to-ear to see you here! Thank you for commenting. All of us seem to have these situations from time to time (or most of us anyway) so it felt important to ponder it this morning. Glad it helped you.

  4. Janet Zahn says:

    I love this perspective. It’s an issue that is up for me currently in a pretty big way, so thank you for sharing these thoughts. For me, I really strive to have “good endings”, and that’s often not comfortable or easy. And sometimes it ‘s not possible. But then, am I putting too narrow a definition of what makes a good ending? I know it doesn’t have to be “happy”… but what is the broadest definition that I can live with? Maybe just knowing that I did the best I could.

    • Kathy says:

      Janet, oh man, I get it about wanting to have “good endings”. I mean, why can’t we, always, or at least most of the time? What the Universe keeps saying to me: look larger than you’re looking. There’s something more going on here than the individuals. Know that we did the best we could—and maybe there’s something else going on. So nice to see you here today! Am seeing a few dear friends stop by…

  5. Actually, my comment is on the responses – I am impressed with the way you invite responses. I’m impressed with your responses to their responses. I am impressed because, as always, you are open to people, open to their perspectives, open to their thoughts and articulate in communicating those things.

    • Kathy says:

      Sherry, how utterly LOVELY to see your comment here–and how you turned it around to the commenting and responses! I always think that writing the blog is only half of blogging. The other half is listening deeply to what the commenters have to say/teach/share and then write another mini-blog thinking about their comments! (And, to think, it’s almost been a week since we had lunch…)

  6. Christie... says:

    Okay this one got my attention my friend…Many years of friendship here….now you need to come and visit me…or me visit you, or meet half way…

    • Kathy says:

      Christie, I never think of ours as a “failed” friendship! Have been planning to ask you to come over to Yale next time I visit, maybe at the end of July or in August. Will send you a message when things firm up. 🙂

  7. debyemm says:

    Hi. I just stopped by to say “Hi, Friend”.

    • Kathy says:

      Hi, Debbie Yemm! If I were to think of you, I would imagine you never have experienced a “failed” friendship. Because you are always so present, no matter whether the person is present or absent. It’s something I admire in you.

  8. Lori says:

    I do not believe in failed friendships. We just learn and grow in different directions sometimes. We usually don’t keep most of our childhood or even high school friendships. Strangely, I’m struggling with a 35-year friendship right now. I trust that we’ll work things out eventually, even if we just need some space for a time. Thanks for the friendly subject matter, Kathy. 😉

    • Kathy says:

      I hope it works out for you and your long-term friend, Lori. The trust you have will surely help you until you find common ground again.

      • Lori says:

        I love this friend unconditionally, and she knows it. Short of abuse, she really can’t do anything to lose me as a friend. It’s in her hands whether she wants to work it out, because I’m willing. I’m “trusting” that she’ll come around eventually. She tends to distance herself on occasion.

  9. Ohhh, I needed to read this. Yes, I’ve felt as if I failed with some friendships. But mostly I’ve succeeded, so the few that have diminished seem that much more distressing and not understandable. But your post here resonates with me. Perhaps Life brings two friends together for the time they need, and it fades, not fails, when that need is gone. The problem is the hurt that occurs when the friendship fades. If we all just felt grateful for what we received during the friendship, we’d be more joyful for that gift. 💜

  10. Robin says:

    Wonderful post, Kathy. ♥♥♥ I agree with you. I’ve had some similar thoughts with regards to some family relationships, realizing that love is the important part, not attachment to time, space, or outcomes.

    • Kathy says:

      Robin, it makes my heart sing that you resonated! Gosh, life isn’t always easy at times, is it? Wishing we all–in the whole world–could be friends. Yet it seems that something “larger than us” has more wisdom and directs us to the next unfolding. xoxoxo

  11. Bonny Kinnunen says:

    Kathy this article is quite curious. I remember when we were much closer than we are now. I value our friendship always and I do miss our closeness. But life and distance has separated us. That distance change as I continue to consider you my friend.

    • Kathy says:

      Bonny, how very interesting that you showed up here today! I was not thinking of you when writing this post–but you’re the perfect person to illustrate what this blog was about. You and I were once much closer, but you’re right, Life moved us in different directions. There was a part of me that once thought that if Life moved a friend in different directions–then there must have been something wrong with me. These days that false belief has been replaced with just what you described. I am thinking of you laughing and sharing now, and filled with quiet happiness. Thank you for taking the time to share this, dear friend.

      • Kathy says:

        Also, Bonny, I have been thinking this morning. Sometimes there feels like “unfinished business” in a friendship that has moved on or out. Something that we need to learn or see or understand. That can be interpreted as that “failed” feeling. Lately I have been thinking about that and seeing that so much has been wrapped up internally and that there is no longer the feeling of unfinished business. That feels so freeing!

  12. I love what you say about life’s plan. Often we try to force things into life that maybe just doesn’t fit at this time. Sorta like trying to plunge a square into a round whole. Often we think if at anytime we don’t have friends that something is wrong. Isn’t it a natural assumption that we are supposed to have friends. I think it is by most people. But who says, why, must we, and maybe the lesson to learn is to lean on yourself or just be by yourself for a while. Well there is a reason and that we are social creators we need human contact to thrive but that doesn’t mean we cant take some time out and learn to be our own friend before we go and learn to be someone else’s. I often ask my girls “if you were stranded on a deserted island would you be with a friend?”

    • Kathy says:

      Kristina, I so agree with you! There are many different times and seasons in our lives. Sometimes we just need to know how to be with ourselves. We need, perhaps, to learn deeply how to be our own best friend. This is a very deep and true wisdom. Blessings to you and your journey.

  13. Barb says:

    I think there are changes in every life and some of those changes involve friendships. I have some long-term friendships that I cherish, but I often don’t see these friends for months or even years. I don’t think friendship necessarily requires you to be in constant contact. I have a couple of friendships where our lives were once entwined and then we mutually pulled away a bit. Other friends have drifted away because our interests no longer coincided. I kid my best friends that I can’t lose them because I don’t have enough to spare. I always enjoy your thought-provoking posts and the responses of your readers, Kathy (my friend).

    • Kathy says:

      Barb, I am smiling ear-to-ear about kidding your best friends about not losing them due to “enough to spare”. I actually kidded my friend about that recently! Thanks for liking this post. It felt like it wrote itself. There has certainly been more readers than usual! For me, writing this brought things into clarity and it feels like something deep inside healed–something I didn’t even realize needed to be healed. xoxoxo

  14. Hi Kathy, A few weeks back my friend and I closed a day with tight hug and when I got home he sent me an Instagram post I told him my opinion on it, he didn’t like it then he told me not to ever speak to him again, I wasn’t wrong but I apologized to him but he still told me he wants nothing to do with me. I really miss him and it bothers me how we went from best friends to nothing overnight, to him its like I never existed… but I’m slowly letting go as hard as it is.

    • Kathy says:

      Oh my dear, that sounds so challenging. When all you did is offer your opinion. It sounds like you did everything you could to apologize and see the larger picture. Perhaps, even though it’s really hard, the Universe is pointing that it’s time to let go, to move in another direction. Many blessings…

  15. match74 says:

    Thank you for sharing this. I see my own life reflected here, which I think might be the point. Many once close friendship seem to have faded over time and some new ones appeared in their places, but not as replacements. I always felt like I was the one standing still while others drifted away from me, but perhaps it is the the opposite or even a bit of both. While sometimes I mourn those lost relationships, I still treasure what they brought to my life and the richness of those experiences in making me more myself today. I’m quite glad I ran across your article. All the best to you!

    • Kathy says:

      Match74, thank you for taking the time to post your comment. I think it’s interesting that you’ve revised your opinion about who has been standing still and who drifting apart. I like that you are both mourning and treasuring your past friends. I am doing the same. Blessings!

  16. bigworldsmallfeet says:

    I myself have found many sinking friendships. I plan to write about this in my blog as well.

    • Kathy says:

      I can’t believe, bigworldsmallfeet, how many people have resonated with this blog post. It seems so many of us have been in situations where we’ve lost friendships that once meant a lot to us. I hope your blog writing reveals more to you about this. Writing this post has opened my eyes even more.

  17. Your blog immediately made me think of two quotes: ‘People come into your life for a reason, season or lifetime’ & ‘In life there are no friends – only moments of friendship.’ People change and move in different directions and that’s ok.

    I love your positive slant on looking back with fond feelings. See your experiences with that person/those people as a season and ditch the word failed; too many negative connotations.

    I’m inclined to echo @bigworldsmallfeet (is that how you refer to another blogger? New to this social media thing 😩). I feel inclined to write about this too. Thank you for the inspiration! Stay blessed.

    • Kathy says:

      I am so glad this post was inspirational for you! You are right–friendships that are lost often create so many negative feelings. I haven’t always looked back with fond feelings. But it seems, more and more, is that when our heart closes in situations, we end up needlessly suffering. Hope you learned new things about your friendships when you wrote your own post. I love how blogging so often opens up new insights for us!

  18. Excellent… At times also the ego about who will break the ice first keeps the distance smouldering between two friends. But afterall if our hearts are filled with love and we feel the same things about the other and have the firmness in our minds that we shall be there when need arises, i guess the friendship is still present and right it can never end.

    • Kathy says:

      You have an excellent point, Hrishikesh JC. Sometimes we need to make that first effort and break the ice, and then the situation resolves. Wonderful insight about love-filled hearts and steadiness of intent to be present. Thank you.

  19. ashley819 says:

    Thanks for sharing!

  20. Kathy says:

    It’s hard to figure out answers to questions like these. Because Life may have been telling you that you need a two year break. And it may or may not feel right to attempt to rekindle the friendship. It is OK to move on if that feels right. If the energy feels like it wants to move in other directions. Or perhaps you just might need a few meetings to wrap up your friendship in a good way. You may get into the friendship again and realize you don’t want to be with her in the same way. I had a friendship that ended for maybe 20 years, and now it’s like we never parted. I had another friendship that ended…and I saw that it was simply time to say goodbye. No easy answers. I wish you the best in listening to what your heart is telling you.

    • Thank you. Should have clarified…the 2 years already passed without us speaking…. just now starting to have very light but friendly interactions occassionally. Moving on just feels right for now. Open to what the future might bring though.

      • P.s. The advice waa very helpful to me! But do you mind eventually deleting my original post… having second thoughts about it being on the world wide web and realize now it had some errors. Thank you so much…I really enjoyed what you wrote…and your philosophies on friendship are spot on!

  21. dawnkinster says:

    I have friends in different areas of my life. Band, photography, blogging, truck safety, highschool, college, grad school, running, life in the UP, Little Brothers. Sometimes I am talking to one of them about someone else who is in another group and realize midsentence that the two don’t know each other and are from different parts of my world. In other instances I haven’t been a very good friend, and let some friendships slide away because I didn’t try hard enough. I miss those friends and hope they miss me. Still, I don’t consider these failed friendships, just friendships that are, at the moment, less active.

    • Kathy says:

      Dawn, I like that we don’t have to consider “missing in action” friendships as “failed” friendships. I wish I had learned that lesson much earlier in life! Enjoyed reading your thoughts about this.

  22. Stacy says:

    I suppose in many “lost” friendships, I am the one who let go. First of all, I am an admittedly poor correspondent, and I have moved hither and yon most of my life. I also don’t need a big collection of people – I have only a couple of friends who know everything about me, in whom I can confide, whom I miss when we’re apart. I’m ok with letting people become a memory because if I weren’t, they would still be a fixture in my life. Thanks for your insight, Kathy. XO

    • Kathy says:

      Stacy, what you wrote is so interesting to me. It makes total sense, considering your frequent moving around. I used to think I never let others go (voluntarily) but now actually do when it feels right. Thank you for pausing and sharing your thoughts. xoxoxo

  23. Reggie says:

    Dear Kathy, what a thought-provoking article this was… I can relate to your questions too…. I think the prevalence of social media and ‘friending’ people on Facebook, for instance, has changed our understanding of friendship in a subtle way. I remember how I used to feel about the whole issue of having friends when I was still at school – it was sooo important to have ‘a best friend’… but you could only have one ‘best friend’ at a time, or the other ‘best friend’ would get mad at you, so juggling ‘friends’ became really difficult, particularly when ‘your’ best friend became ‘best friends’ with someone you didn’t like. Things could get rather heated. 🙂

    Luckily, my views of friendship have changed since those stressful early days. I have a handful of ‘best friends’ who date back to early childhood, school days and varsity – and even though we don’t see each other every week, or even every month, every time we *do* see each other or speak on the phone or on Skype, the bond is as strong as it always was. The world also feels like it has become much bigger – and at the same time much smaller – because it has become so common for family and friends to emigrate to other countries, far away, and we lose track of what they are doing, but as soon as we re-connect with them by email or whatsapp or skype, or when we think of them, the old feelings of love, affection, compassion, kindness, appreciation, gratitude – those all return.

    I think we sometimes mistakenly think of friends who have drifted away as ‘failed friendships’, or that we have done something or *not* done something… I think all our lives have become so full and cluttered with conflicting demands and expectations, that it takes a much more conscious and deliberate effort to remain ‘close friends’, and to nurture that sense of togetherness and affection.

    Sending you lots of love from the far-away tip of Africa. Hugs!

    • Kathy says:

      Reggie, what a thoughtful and lovely comment. I agree with you–social media interactions have subtly (and sometimes overtly) changed our understanding of friendship. It’s not quite the same as it used to be. And you are also right that there are many conflicting demands in our lives and that it takes that conscious effort to stay connected. Hoping you are doing well, and that you have more available water in your life these days. Hugs back!

  24. c2justice says:

    Wow! This is great for me. I have always blamed myself for friendships long gone. I did or said something wrong. Big baggage to carry. That’s me.

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