Holding on to the Friends Who Matter

And learning to let go of the ones whose time it is to leave


As we get older, we tend to lose things: Hair. The ability to recover from a hangover. Our minds.


It’s one of those shitty consequences of growing up that no one warns you about until it’s happening.

Friendships, like metro cards, are vitally important to hold onto but sometimes, without even realizing it, they become misplaced and lost. You can’t keep everybody.

Not realistically.

Life gets inside the small fractures in our relationships and creates chasms we can no longer hurdle; things like living in different cities, opposite schedules and shifting priorities all widen the cracks.

It’s daunting and sad to think that the people you surround yourself with now may one day be the distant acquaintances you’ll introduce your children to during a coincidental run-in at an obscure location that only the magic of statistics can explain.

But it’s also not a terrible thing.

Letting go of certain friends as we get older is healthy. We want to be friends with people who share our values, who make us feel whole, who challenge us and who respect us. These things aren’t static. They change as we change.

Certain friends will become “friends” as their reactions to life’s obstacles show us facets of their personalities that we can’t un-see. They’ll fail to call when we need them most, disapprove of someone new in our lives, make decisions or form opinions with which we’ll never agree.

So we shed these “friends” to help us grow and to make space for the new ones. The ones without quotation marks. Ones who build us up, give us strength, make us laugh, help us breathe.

These are the friends to hang on to. The ones who mirror qualities similar to our best friend from kindergarten who has stuck around for far more than talent show dance combos. Hold on to those who let you grow independently from them, yet side-by-side.

And when you find those people — or realize which old friends are those people, you’ll know. Like missing puzzle pieces they fill voids we may not even have known we had. They make us warm. Celebrate them in their triumphs, listen to them when they speak, and hold them tightly when they break.

We learn a lot about ourselves as we move along in our twenties. I think we start to realize that we are the best, most real version of ourselves with some people, and with others, we play a character that we’ve developed over time to fit into that specific friendship. But friendship isn’t a too-tight dress. We shouldn’t need personality Spanx.

Shed the people who emotionally constrict. Say goodbye to anyone who has hurt you or casts a shadow over your light. Then let the good people in. The ones you plan to keep around. And let them know you.

Like, really know you. Simple and raw. Because they’re going through all of this, too.

Not everyone is going to stick around forever. You’ll drop some people and you’ll get dropped yourself. And the latter reality might suck. (This is definitely the point at which I should insert a quote from the Wonder Years. I’ll spare you.) Keeping friends as we go along is hard, but keeping the right friends, I have a feeling, will be easier than we expect.

Want more from this author? Read “I Changed My Tinder Settings to Girls” and follow her on Twitter here.

Photographed by Krista Anna Lewis; featured bracelets by Venessa ArizagaArme De L’Amour and Christie Nicolaides


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  • Thank you. I really needed to read this. Though it is unavoidable, it still hurts, especially when you are the ‘left friend’.

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  • Benny

    Is the arm on the left Leandra’s? Asking out of sheer curiosity.

    • ChiefCC

      I think it is Elizabeth’s.

  • Weird I’ve been thinking about this a lot…it can be hard to come to terms with, but as we all mature you realize who ever is meant to be in your life will be. I’m grateful that I’ve realized who my people are & am rid of toxic friendships! Thanks for the great article.
    xx http://www.nuunablog.com

  • Such a great, well written article. Letting go of people you were once close to is the hardest thing to do, but inevitable. Life goes on


  • BK

    So true. I was recently having lunch with two friends from high school (which I finished 8 years ago) and it hit me that they were still saying and doing exactly the same things that we did in high school namely, bitch about people we also went to school with and flat-out accuse me of being a lesbian (a. I’m not and b. being gay isn’t a crime). At the end of the meal, I thanked them for their company, but suggested that it probably wasn’t best for us to spend time together anymore, because they were moving in one direction and I was very firmly moving in another. After several days of not replying to their outraged texts that I could dump THEM, they stopped texting, I haven’t heard from them since and my life is significantly the better for it.

  • Georgia Booth

    This is exactly what I needed right now, my friendship group from high school is experiencing shifts and we are trying our best to stay in touch and be honest, open and communicative with each other so little issues don’t become big, unnecessary dramas. This article really spoke to me in terms of it’s okay to let someone go when it’s the best thing to do but I really loved the last line that keeping the good friends is easy.

    Leandra, I have heard you say/ write many times about how you want Man Repeller to be to people what Sex and the City was to you, like a big, informative sister. You have achieved that with me, I feel like Man Repeller’s articles always seem to mirror what’s going on in my life and I learn so much from all your incredible writers. I know I’ve met no one who works there, but I turn to you all for advice so thank you so much for that. X

  • anoni81b4u

    Its good to have friends.

  • Sigh…I miss the days when the only requirement for friends was that they were a kid. Now I have to care about dumb things like core values and stuff!

  • Runway Renegade

    Nicely done Rachel. These are the kinda thoughts you think and don’t say out loud thinking there’s no need. But in breaking it down and understanding equations as ever evolving, gives one some peace and clarity. Well-timed read for me. Thank you!

  • Lola

    as a quick caveat- good friends can also hurt us (or what we perceive to be hurt)- but actually they’ve just called us out on something. And sometimes it hurts for a bit because it’s true. So let’s not be too quick to cut people who give us back some truth.

    • Lil

      Sometimes we really do just have to forgive good friends. But sometimes we have to draw the line.

  • Thank you for this, it was just what the doctor ordered.

  • EmilyWilson

    There are many things I really love about this article, and I mostly agree. But I would also add, as a note of balance, that even the best relationships take work, and most relationships go through some pretty low points. If you “say goodbye to anyone who has hurt you,” you might end up saying goodbye to too many people. By all means, let go of the toxic ones! But don’t neglect the power of understanding, empathy, and forgiveness in those beautiful friendships that matter.

  • Liz

    Yeah. I needed to hear this. After a few out-of-state moves (the latest two time zones away), I suppose the friend-filtering is inevitable, but it doesn’t make it any less painful. I love the romantic idea that someone from your distant past can just pop back into your life unexpectedly, so it’s hard for me to let go.


  • badseaweed

    The cuff on the right is so beautiful. Who designs it?

  • Nicole

    “We shouldn’t need personality Spanx.”
    *clapping hands* *praise hands*
    I love the idea of friends challenging me to be my best, even when it hurts. I’m also here for the pals who have stuck with me through all my haircuts and loved me the same.