Having one friend is great, but do you know what would be better? Having another friend, and then another, and then another, and now you have your own gang of like-minded people. Friend groups are amazing spaces where you can feel safe and welcomed – a place where you can bond and share hobbies, along with some juicy gossip here and there.
However, with time and maturity, you begin to reflect on the past which you and your friends shared, and perhaps there comes a time when you consider leaving. This could be because they have changed into something you don’t recognise or that you’ve grown up and out of something you were so used to before. The real question is, should you? And if you want to, how do you do it?
Well, there are many factors that you should consider before making the final call, but some of the things you shouldn’t let slide are jokes and comments that are duplicitous in their meaning. However, friend groups aren’t always that clear-cut, because, more often than not, you are more likely to break away from the group because of small but multiple and repetitive mistakes than a big problem. It’s like a stream cutting through plains; the cut or channel it creates is small and insignificant at first, but over time, the wound would be as massive as the Grand Canyon.
In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to blame others for the problem, but you should also reflect on yourself and the actions you’ve taken leading up to that point, as the problems aren’t as clear cut as you may think. At times, when a member or you do something that’s a tad bit sketchy, friendships have a chance to devolve into tolerance; if this continues, it might transform into avoidance all together. If you find yourself avoiding a friend group, cancelling plans, or frequently making excuses for why you can’t join them, it might be time to peace out, as you’re simply prolonging the inevitable or the pain the group is causing you.
However, if you deem the relationship salvageable, sit down and chat with them about it. A key piece of advice is that if you’re going to enter a conversation expecting a fight, you’re going to get into a fight. So, tread lightly; don’t escalate the situation, but don’t be afraid to defend yourself when needed. It will be a daunting task, and the fear that it incites might be behind why you might be putting it off. But if you are sure it’s high time, then it’s best to start talking and working towards leaving that circle. If you still want to be friends, which is tricky but not impossible, that’s also an option.
Play your cards right, and you can leave a group without cutting ties. Have a heart-to-heart talk; be honest but tactful; be respectful but firm. Don’t lead them into pitfall traps that would antagonise them, as you’ll be there. Talk to someone on a human level. However, if the anxiety and panic of “the talk” are too much, there are other alternatives.
So how do you do it? How do you leave the group without causing major drama? The first and most common would be to let the friendship naturally die off. Life has a way of throwing curveballs your way, causing you to shift your focus from one thing to another. It’s akin to ghosting, to be frank, and no one really deserves to be left hanging. Though it is terrible to stay, if they really care for your presence in the group and in their lives, they’d make an active effort to make you feel welcome. If not, then it’s okay to let go.
On the topic of shifting focus, give some attention to other groups. Perhaps you have not gotten close to or opened up to anyone new since you graduated from college because you have been friends with the same people since then. Do it anyway. You can get rid of friendships that are unhealthy for you by fostering new ones. Though the readjustment to this new crowd may take some time, it’s a must if you want to unlearn all the bad habits and attitudes that you’ve gained from your previous group.
However, one thing you should never EVER do is just leave abruptly, like suddenly leaving a WhatsApp group or a Discord server. If you have a tendency to self-loathe and you think your friends won’t notice that you’ve left, you are so wrong, because they will notice — they always do. And this act is going to hurt them way more than you think. Think of the Grand Canyon analogy from earlier: instead of a river running its course and widening a divide, you decide to toss a dinosaur-ending meteor at it. That wound you just made will be the most painful thing to inflict on your friends, and 9.5 times out of 10, doing it isn’t worth it.
To sum it all up, just be human. Pay attention to their needs and wants without forgetting about yours. If you can still salvage a relationship, go ahead, but learn when enough is enough and when to step away from it all. If conflict is inevitable, don’t be the reason why the fight broke out because they will paint a bad picture of you that will stick forever. But most importantly, know that there are always a lot of kind people out there who may be more worthy of your attention; don’t settle for less. If you feel some regret, that’s okay, but remember to be sorry — be better.