“It’s a myth that friendships last forever,” says Irene S. Levine, a psychologist, professor of psychiatry at New York University’s medical school and author of “Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend.” We are tied to our family by blood and our spouses by law, so we are often more attentive to those relationships. “Friendships are relationships of choice, so we tend to overlook them,” she says.
As a result, many friendships die from neglect, Dr. Levine says. And this in itself poses a very sticky problem in friendship breakups: How do you know if you’re being neglected—or dumped? What if your friend is always too busy to get together but always seems to have a good excuse? What if she never calls you, but seems happy enough to hear from you when you call?
And there’s the rub. There are no rules or even societal norms for friendship breakups. Friends who want to split don’t go to counseling or get a mediator or a lawyer, as divorcing couples do. And there typically aren’t a bunch of nosy relatives willing to intervene and relay messages, as there are when a split is within a family.
Also, dissolving a friendship is harder than ever these days, with so many digital ties holding us together, from social-networking Web sites like Facebook to stored numbers in cellphones.
Dave Nadkarni can tell you all about it. When he decided to end a relationship a few years ago with a close female friend he felt was spreading rumors about him, he stopped returning her calls, defriended her on Facebook, blocked her on his instant-message list, stopped following her on Twitter and changed her name in his cellphone to “Do Not Pick Up.” “It was cathartic,” he says.