The 3 Reasons Friendships End

When you’ve been friends for a long time, it can be hard to imagine one day that your friendship would end. However, not all friendships last forever and sometimes the people involved just drift apart. This article will explore three reasons why some friendships end…

The “ending a friendship without explanation” is when someone decides to end their friendship with you, and they don’t give you any reason why. They just stop talking to you.


The causes for the breakup of many partnerships are obvious.

Two individuals who are dating discover they aren’t compatible in some aspect and can’t see themselves together in the future.

A married couple determines that they can no longer live together.

Business partners break apart to pursue opposing objectives.

A manager may dismiss an employee for stealing from the firm, whereas an employee may resign if he is not given the promotion he desires.

While there is a clear moment, a specific event that terminates the link in the aforementioned relationships — a DTR, a divorce, the revision of a contract, etc. — there is no such sanctioned rite in friendship. 

It might consequently be difficult to determine why a friendship ended and if it is still alive or not. 

I met with Bill Rawlins, a professor of communication at Ohio University who has spent his career researching the issue, to help me solve this riddle and assist all of us better grasp the mechanics underlying the unique, too-little-considered bond of friendship. (If you haven’t already, I strongly suggest listening to the friendship podcast I recorded with him.) It’s a personal favorite of mine.)

Friendship and Its Ambiguity

To comprehend why friendships seldom have a clear, unambiguous termination, it is necessary to first comprehend the essence of friendship.

“Friendship isn’t sanctioned in the same way that other types of relationships are.” Friendships are built on a type of mutual agreement, although it’s seldom expressed directly,” Bill said.  

Explicit covenants exist in marriages and commercial relationships. All parties are aware of when the connection began and the parameters of the partnership. They have explicit beginnings and endpoints because they have explicit beginnings and finishes. 

Friendships, on the other hand, are a different story. 

“Hey, we’re officially friends now,” you don’t say, “and this is what I expect of you, and this is what you may expect of me.” Instead, friendships develop over time as a result of constant interaction between two individuals who value one other. There’s an unsaid (but mutual) agreement that you’re pals at some point. 

It’s difficult to determine whether a relationship should be terminated, or has ended, without a clear understanding of what the duties of a friendship are, and whether or not they are being met. As a result, friendships come into being and then fade away. 

If you go further into this uncertainty, though, you’ll discover that there are usually three reasons why your friendship has deteriorated — even if you’re not 100% sure you and someone else aren’t friends anymore.

Friendships End for Three Reasons

Commonalities are being lost.

Friendship is unlike any other kind of connection in that friends pick one other based only on shared interests, admiration, and love. The connection isn’t for profit, as in commercial partnerships; it isn’t based on blood links, as in family bonds; and it isn’t fueled by physical desire, as in romantic relationships. People don’t become friends with someone for “categorical reasons,” as Rawlins said on the podcast, but simply “because of the person that they are.”


“Friendships are usually about something,” Rawlins adds, which is an essential point. Friends have similar interests, experiences, and/or ideals, which creates a feeling of equality and belonging that is essential to friendship.

In light of the above, friendships may be divided into two types depending on how deep the subject of the relationship goes.

The first kind of friendship may be described as “circumstantial.” External pressures — becoming roommates, taking courses together, hanging out with your wife’s friend’s spouse — bring you together, and you establish an easy, comfortable familiarity with the person since you see them regularly. 

Coworkers are excellent instances of haphazard buddies. You could get along well with someone at work, feel like you know them well, and even get out with them outside of work on occasion. However, if you change jobs, you will see this friend much less frequently, and when you do, you may feel that you no longer have much in common because you no longer share the context of work and can no longer converse as freely about projects and watercooler gossip as you once did. As a result, the friendship may fizzle out. The friendship ended when the relationship was mostly about work, and when you no longer share that job. 

The second kind of friendship is what may be referred to as cosmic, for want of a better term and to keep with the “c” motif. This is a friendship that is founded on a strong felt connection rather than extrinsic factors that brought you together. You share similar viewpoints, are dedicated to similar values, and are enthusiastic about comparable hobbies. This kind of relationship may be described as founded on a common understanding of what makes the philosophical “Good.”

Even if some circumstances between you and a cosmically connected friend change — for example, one of you moves away or gets married — and even if you don’t see each other very often, if your principles and passions remain the same, you’ll likely remain friends and be able to pick up where you left off whenever you do. This type of friendship can still deteriorate if one party abandons the values that the friendship was founded on; this can be a simple shift in perspective that the relationship can weather, or outright betrayal of shared values, which will likely cause the relationship to end more abruptly — a situation that will be discussed in greater detail below.

Whether the connection is accidental or divine, the more commonality two friends have, the more likely they will be friends, and the more commonalities they lose, the less likely they will stay friends. Two friends who have some personality differences but are in the same stage of life and run in the same circles, for example, may find that the latter factor compensates for the former; on the other hand, two friends who share the same values but are married with children and live on the East Coast and the other is single and childless and lives on the West Coast may find that their bond weakens.


“We become divided by time and geography, or by how our lives are ordered,” Bill said in a recent chat, “and it may not seem like we’re friends anymore.”

The way some of the connections you had in high school and college eventually dissolve is perhaps the finest illustration of how a friendship may end due to a lack of commonality.

When you were in school, the depth of your friendship with a best friend probably made you both believe that you’d always be close. But then you got your diploma. You each went your own ways to begin your new lives. Perhaps you remained in your home state to attend school, while your friend moved out of state. You’ve both married. Different professions were pursued. Beliefs have shifted. I had a family. I’ve made some new buddies. 

Sure, you remain in contact with your high school best buddy now and again, but you’re probably no longer “best friends.” Although you may still consider each other friends, the nature of your friendship has changed. You haven’t had the frequent, in-person contact that a solid relationship requires. In everyday situations, you don’t share. You don’t have the same social circle or have the same interests. You have a history together, but not much more. Neither of you needed to express your dissatisfaction with the friendship. It has just faded away due to time and circumstance.

According to Bill, this is how the bulk of friendships end. With a whimper, rather than a boom. “Most friendships fail when there is no anticipation of seeing or being seen by that person.”

Expectations that don’t meet

Bill’s statement that “people stay friends to the degree that they satisfy each other’s expectation of the connection” was one of the most memorable parts of my discussion with him.

Because, as previously said, the “terms” of a relationship are never expressly written out or stated, two friends may bring different expectations into a connection and have different notions about what a friendship should look like.

One buddy may be more self-contained, put a low value on physically getting together on a regular basis, and respond to SMS inconsistently.

The other buddy may want for a deeper friendship, as well as greater contact and communication; but, since he is always the one to begin the latter two, he progressively becomes disillusioned by the difference in effort and investment. 

Friends may have different ideas about what it means for someone to be there for them in a tough situation. In a crisis, one friend may expect the other to give enough emotional and material assistance, while the other may not anticipate or provide such treatment to others.

Friendships may be strained as a result of misaligned expectations, especially when friends are unwilling to bring up and address these concerns. People are unclear of what to anticipate from a buddy, and so aren’t sure whether their expectations are acceptable. And having a friendship “DTR” has no genuine blueprint or societal legitimacy. The buddy who wants more from the friendship doesn’t want to seem strange or needy, and the more independent friend is probably unaware that the other person is feeling ignored. So, although Bill recommends discussing expectations with your friends to address such conflicts, if such talks don’t happen, the relationship would most certainly dissolve. The friend who wants more is likely to feel disappointed and even angry of his friend’s intrinsic flakiness, and to conclude, “Well, if he doesn’t care, I don’t care,” and to cease reaching out to him. The buddy who had already set low expectations for the connection and had taken little action in the first place fails to reach out. And then the friendship ends.



While most friendships fade away over time, others end abruptly, with someone directly declaring, “This connection is done.”

The most prevalent reason of a bad rupture in a friendship, according to Bill, is treachery. There are two types of betrayal. 

The first is a violation of a common notion of what it is to be a decent person. 

“We become friends with individuals because we believe we have a same perspective of the world and what it means to live well,” Bill explains. “A friendship enables two individuals who have a common understanding to live according to their shared understanding. When that shared understanding is directly violated, friendships often dissolve. “Rapidly and vehemently.”

Bill used the example of two guys who were friends and had a belief in the sacredness of marriage. But then one of the pals confesses to cheating on his wife one day. He is called out on it by his other buddy. A quarrel ensues.

“Man, it’s no big deal,” an adulterous pal says. Lacy and I have had a difficult time in our marriage, as you are aware. “I assumed you’d get it.”

“You know that’s wrong,” a non-adulterous buddy says. You must come to a halt, dude. If you can’t, I’m sorry, but I can’t respect you any more, and I don’t want to be friends with you.”

“Some buddy you are!” says the adulterous pal. What about trustworthiness? “Doesn’t that make a difference to you?”

You’ll see a feeling of betrayal in both sides over what they believed were shared viewpoints on morals and the nature of friendship if you read carefully. 

The non-adulterous buddy believed that their connection was founded on their common conviction in the value of marriage. When one of his friends cheated on his wife, he felt betrayed by that shared ideal. 

Because he believed his non-adulterous buddy had breached the ideal of friendship loyalty, the adulterous friend felt betrayed by his non-adulterous friend. 

A painful split in the friendship occurs due to an irreparable divergence in what each perceived to be a common concept of the good life. 

We saw how the betrayal of a common sense of the good life can rip a relationship apart during the last US election. And, owing to social media, we’ve seen some of these heartbreaks play out in public. 

There are gradations, according to Bill. Some problems are so fundamental that any disagreement with a buddy will result in the friendship ending immediately. However, some difficulties aren’t as critical as others, so you ignore them. If you’re a Democrat and your friend is a Republican, you may argue about it, but because you share an ideal of a love of excellent books and the knowledge they provide, you put aside your political differences. Or, as Bill puts it, you don’t get deep into some subjects with a buddy because you love the bond too much to risk it being strained by the ensuing conflict. In general, it seems that if you both share similar opinions about what is good, but differ on how that good is best attained policy-wise, a friendship has a greater chance of surviving. However, if you truly disagree on what constitutes the Good, the friendship will be more difficult to keep.


The second sort of betrayal that leads to a painful rupture in a relationship is the type of betrayal that most people associate with treachery: So you don’t get in trouble or earn a promotion, you throw your coworker under the bus. Talking nonsense behind your friend’s back. Cheating on your friend’s wife. Basically, you’re doing things that will get you eaten up by Satan’s teeth in Dante’s seventh tier of hell. 

While betrayal often results in a difficult breakup of a connection, it may also result in the friendship gradually withering away. Instead of confronting a buddy who has been disparaging you behind your back, you may just cease communicating with him and let the relationship die organically. Because of the ambiguous nature of friendship, there is always the chance of an uncertain termination.


Because of the highly changeable character of this form of connection, reconciliation is always a possibility, whether a friendship falls away gradually or abruptly. “Friendships are sensitive to circumstances,” Bill points out, “but that fragility is also what makes them adaptable.” Perhaps you haven’t seen your high school best buddy in years and no longer consider each other best pals. If he returns to your area, though, the friendship may be revived by frequent communication. If you’ve had a rocky relationship with a buddy due to a dispute, there’s always the possibility of forgiveness and making apologies. Friendship’s ambiguity and flexibility make this kind of reunion simpler than resuming a failed marriage or a shattered business relationship. Friendships, as Bill points out, may be both aggravating and exciting due to their independence and entirely choice nature:

This is what has attracted me about friendship for decades. It’s a partnership with a lot of promise for honesty and strength. The only thing holding it together is your and my mutual regard for each other, as well as our ability to satisfy each other’s expectations.



“The 3 Reasons Friendships End” is a blog post that explains the three reasons why friendships end. These are lack of effort, not enough time, and lack of trust. Reference: ending friendships quotes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are three reasons a friendship may end?

A: One, a friend may stop being friends with you and start treating you badly. Two, one of your friends might move away or die. Three, people can also get sick of each other after awhile and want to break up the friendship.

What things end a friendship?

What are the 3 elements of friendship?

A: The three types of friendship are the cognitive, relational, and affective. In order to have a good friendship you need all 3 elements present in some way.

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