I get asked this question a lot. Women find themselves in friendships where suddenly they’re doing all the work, and they want to know if, and when, it’s time to give up.
My answer is always the same: It’s different for everyone. I don’t feel comfortable telling one friend to give up on another, and while I have an “I’ll initiate plans 3 times and then I’m done doing all the work” rule for brand new friends, there’s no such easy formula for old pals. Someone who’s been in your life a long time has earned more consideration, and sometimes it’s easier to keep making the phone call or sending the invite than it is to say goodbye.
I have (who hasn’t?) found myself in this pickle before, and it’s really a “you know when it’s time” situation. Generally, I don’t mind being the one to reach out. I try hard not to keep track of how often I’ve called versus how often she has, since sometimes I will be the one touching base over and over, and other times I’m swamped and am only lucky enough to catch up with pals because they contact me.
But, I’m human. I notice if I have been contacting a friend over and over and she has suddenly stopped responding, or has avoided making plans. And, bottom line, it’s hurtful. That’s why we consider giving up, right? Not because we don’t like the person anymore, or because there is some specific rule about how much work one person should do in a relationship. Because every time we contact a friend and don’t hear back, or we get an evasive non-committal answer, our feelings get hurt. We feel like our friend doesn’t care about us–at least not as much as we care about them. We feel that our friendship is not a priority.
But the question, always, is “when?” When is it time to give up? And people ask me this because they are torn–they want to keep up a relationship, but they don’t want to get hurt. They don’t want to be heartless (and we know ending friendships causes lots of guilt) but they don’t want to be a sucker, either. And I think, ultimately, they want a clear cut answer, because they’re conflicted.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the magic solution. It’s too big a responsibility for me to tell someone else when to break up with a friend. It’s not my call to make.
So I’m wondering: When you’ve let a friendship go, what has been the final straw? How did you know it was time?