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Understanding Why Friendships End

Danielle Bertini, LPC

Just as in romantic relationships, breakups can happen within friendships as well. Why? Similar to romantic relationships, friendships are often an influential part of our lives. Friends are there to listen to us, encourage us, and help us. They can improve happiness, confidence, worth and coping. It is also important to note that many friendships often outlast romantic relationships. All of these factors combined can make it especially difficult to cope with the ending of an important friendship. Although sometimes these endings are mutual, there can be other situations in which the ending is sudden, unwanted, and unexpected. Ali (2018) outlines some examples of imbalances that may contribute to a friendship breakup.

Caring & Sharing

A large and important aspect of a friendship is caring about the other person and being compassionate. With this, there can often be varying levels in how love is provided and received. Although both friends might be sharing and caring for one another, crossed signals can cause a misinterpretation in affection. Over sharing can also be a factor. If a friend trusts and values another and hopes to share to seek insight or comfort, but the disclosure falls flat, this may rupture the bond. Additionally, a friend may over share consistently, which can be overwhelming. Although it is important as a friend to provide support, a constant cloud of negativity can be harmful to your connection.

Time & Energy

Another factor that can lead to friendships fading can be due to a difference in investment of time and energy. Although it might seem like time and energy are the same, when looking at the quality of friendships you can begin to see the differences. It can be as direct as recognizing a difference in measurable time. However, aside from that, the quality of the experience may vary. Just because one set of friends has more quantifiable time together, it does not mean that the quality of the time they spent together is good. For example, one friend might be on their phone the entire time they are together.

Affiliation & Lifestyles

We are typically drawn to people on the basis of commonalities. For example, little kids in school might be drawn to one another because they share the same lunch box. As adults, we might be drawn to others due to them working in the same office as you or liking the same restaurants that you do. Nonetheless, people change over time. Similarly to romantic relationships, the things that previously magnetized us to our friends may no longer exist.

Distance & Connection

Another way context can change is increasing distance. Are long distance friendships automatically doomed? Of course not. With todays technology, calls, text messages, and Facetime are just a few of the many ways that friendships can continue to flourish even miles away. However, it can still be hard to adjust to a screen bond from a face-to-face friendship.


According to research from Tel Aviv University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, we have poor perception in assessing who our friends are (Ali, 2018). This may be one of the most common endings for friendships: mismatched expectations. Things such as caring, sharing, energy, closeness, and reciprocity may vary from friend to friend. Even if you are both giving your all, a mismatch can be impactful. On top of that, we may never make these intentions clear with our friends. Due to this, our expectations may evolve into guilt, pressure, and entrapment, ultimately destroying the relationship.


Ali, S. (2018, March 15). Why Friendships End. Retrieved from friendships-end.

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