When To Say Goodbye to a Friend for Good


Friendship can be hard especially when balanced on a perpetually spinning wheel. I liken military friendships to a roller coaster; the ride can be a thrill, circuslike enjoyment, spinning all sorts of directions with extreme highs and extreme lows. But the second you get off, queasiness and uncertainty set in.

Don’t get me wrong- friendship in military circles can be quite lovely, deep, authentic and beautiful. I tend to maximize by diving deep quickly because I am keenly aware of how short our time is. If you have the luxury of finding your person/s, you likely hold nothing back.

Instead of, “How’s the weather?” It’s more like, “How’s the divorce?” As a military spouse, there are so few of the typical formalities when you first meet. There isn’t a tendency to hide pieces of yourself because there just isn’t time for such nonsense.

Time is limited, and we’ve learned to maximize it.

I’ve been extremely blessed by so many great friendships in the military, but those aren’t the friendships I am here to talk about.

Once in a while, you meet that one friend, the one who leaves the relationship before she leaves the location. The one that sets sea before the orders come in. These are the friendships that hurt the most.

These are the friends I want to talk about because you can spend months of your life wrecked by these broken friendships. You may attempt to move on but get caught up in the same wreckage of uncertainty. You retrace steps on the map of confusion in an attempt to understand where your paths diverted away from each other. You finally land on that map in the deep waters of the ocean, drowning. You can’t breathe there because it’s impossible to understand how you got there … and that dear friend, the one we’re talking about, leaves you there splashing about, wondering how you got in the middle of the ocean without a life-preserver in sight. And you feel with certainty if she could throw you one, she wouldn’t.

What happened with that friend?

Restoration- the action of returning something to a former owner, place, or condition.

I long for restoration. It’s in my nature to restore. I ache over broken relationships. How can you restore something that’s been completely cut off?

You can’t.

It reminds me of a recent purchase I made with Zulilly. I purchase items from Zulily every year at Christmas time, but this year it didn’t go so well. They didn’t honor part of their initial shipping agreement, but also the shipment wasn’t one that could be returned (that part they, of course, honored)! That didn’t sit well with me, so I stopped doing business with them. I quit Zulily because they didn’t honor their agreement. I ain’t gonna lie, I miss my seasonal Zulily relationship.

These friendships can be comparable. When you’re part of a business transaction, when you’re a costly investment and you don’t meet the expected return on the investment, you become dispensable. There are ‘a dime a dozen’ easier friendships available to invest in, so they wash their hands of you and move on to the next willing and able project because this one is causing them too much trouble. 

Not all friendships can go deep and stay there. 

When deep water comes, and it will, some friends will feel safer staying on the surface, nearest to the shore.

These friends aren’t lifelong friends, they are transients on the same journey, just not the close-knit community out in the depths of the ocean with you. The sooner you relinquish that relationship to what it actually is – a ship in the night, the sooner you will swim strong again. That relationship was beautiful in its time but it was temporary.

This is how I was finally able to let my ship pass by:

  • I gave thanks for the time we had. There was beauty in that passing ship, sailing sweetly by. I am thankful it came. It was majestic and larger than life, but I am also finally able to say I am equally thankful it went.
  • I reconciled with myself. I know I am like a strong coffee and I don’t intend to water it down to be more palatable to some. I’m at peace with the fact that I can be a bit much at times and that I am not for everyone.
  • I listened. So many friends attempted to console me or help me understand it wasn’t worth the pursuit of pain this particular friendship brought. They were right, it wasn’t. In moving on, I’ve been able to confidently restore who I am and was before this person caused so much doubt.
  • I went deeper in the ocean with those who are fearlessly out there with me. Those friendships are a lifeline and they aren’t going anywhere. I trust in the assurance of our love for one another. I don’t have to worry about the storms sending them adrift because they will fight to be out on that water with me. Cling tightly to these friends.

Some friendships must be fought for. Some friendships drift away in the night (sometimes quickly). Let them. Not every relationship will last, but the ones that do will never even consider uttering the words goodbye.