Not long ago, I had to end a friendship. I’m not going to name names or divulge details except to say that it was something I needed to do. Still, ending any relationship — whether it is professional or personal — is difficult and painful.
I usually turn to music to cope with situations like this. The song I turned to is “Leaving Line” by Kennedy Rose. If you listen to the song, it beautifully explains why ending relationships is hard even when it is necessary.
I entered this particular friendship, like most people enter relationships, with enthusiasm and optimism. We worked on a project together that was fun and exciting, and it gave me relief from other challenges I was facing. Sure, there were problems and misunderstandings, but they could be worked out. And working out those problems increased my enthusiasm and optimism.
But what happens when problems can’t be worked out? When the enthusiasm turns into frustration, and the optimism turns into despair? What happens when trust is lost, and friendship turns into hostility?
As the song says, “When does a heart cross the leaving line?”
It was hard for me to cross that line. I have quit things before and found that leaving made room for something better. Still, there was hesitation and self-doubt. What if I’m the one who’s wrong? If I could change this or that about myself, could I still make things work out? If I gave in more, apologized more, surrendered more of myself, could I save the friendship? There’s also the worry that if I quit too soon, I would be missing out on accomplishing something great. As it says in the song:
I’m coming closer and closer to gone,
But I don’t want to leave you and find I was wrong.
In this situation, as it has for so many others who ended relationships, it came to the point when the problems became unsolvable. Trust had become so broken that it couldn’t be mended. Staying with the friendship would be much worse than leaving. Even at the end, there is hope that things can end civilly and that the pain of leaving isn’t exacerbated by even greater hostility. I still have hope in this case, but I’ve seen too many other situations where the ugliness dragged on for years.
We need to remember that the leaving line is also a starting line. Ending one thing enables something better to begin. If we stop holding on to what no longer works, we are free to embrace something that does. For me, the leaving line frees me to pursue new and different projects. And I hope those I left behind realize that the leaving line frees them to pick the right person who can make their project successful.
And if you find yourself trapped in a relationship of any kind that is too painful to continue, remember you have choices. There is a leaving line.