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The cast of characters in your life

by Dr. Amy Johnson on August 4, 2011

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Every once and a while I talk to someone who asks permission to end a friendship. They say something like, “Is it really okay that I stop calling?”, or “I can’t just ‘break-up’ with her…can I?” 

Here’s my view on relationships:

Life is like a play—there are many scenes and a rotating cast of characters.

Some characters are there throughout the entire play. Their roles might change; they might have a leading role in some scenes and a supporting role in others. They might even be a background prop in some scenes but they’re still written in, some how.

And others aren’t around for long. They might have a staring role in just one scene then they exit stage left and don’t return.

When you watch a play and notice that a character doesn’t come back, there’s no judgment. It just is. It’s what’s in the script, what makes sense in the context of the overall story.

New supporting characters come in as the main character (you) evolves. It wouldn’t really make sense any other way. It wouldn’t make sense to have every single character in every single scene just because they’ve always been there.

For the mere fact that “We grew up together” or “We’ve known each other so long”.

I get that in real life there may be emotional attachment when we’ve known people for a long time. But think about the play.  Would it flow as well if every single character stayed around just because they happened to be in the opening scene? Even if they’re not adding to the storyline or supporting the main character anymore?

And the characters are not arbitrary. Each one leaves some type of imprint on the main character (you). Characters are never written in without a purpose. The purpose might be to teach the main character something important. Or highlight her personality in some way. Or serve as contrast.  Their role might be as life-long friend or soul mate.

Or as a person who was once your #1 bestie in the world until things change.  That’s a massively important character. The importance does not fade when the character exits the stage. The imprint has been made on the main character (you) and that imprint lasts the entire play.

Every character has a purpose. Often especially the ones that aren’t around for long. Writing them into scene after scene even when the storyline has changed just wouldn’t make sense.

Related Posts:

We’re all connected

When your parent can’t give you the love you deserve

Moving forward by walking away

Please Share!
Liz Frisby August 4, 2011 at 1:30 pm

OMG! So very VERY true! I am currently going through a similiar situation with my best friend of 12 years! Our lives have changed (mainly mine being that I have a son and am in a relationship now) and boy oh boy so has our friendship. It has bothered me to no end over the last two years but lately I’ve been coming around to accept the distance and appreciate what we shared but I am no longer holding on.

Amy August 4, 2011 at 2:54 pm

I know, Liz–even when we can logically see how much things have changed it sometimes feels “wrong” in some way. You’re right on to appreciate what you did have!

Ned Rios August 4, 2011 at 2:11 pm


This is such a well thought out and creative article. I think it is much needed for those of us that believe long term friends mean they can’t exit stage right or left.

Thanks for placing a creative twist on emotional friendships that we sometimes don’t want to let go of.

You rock..Miss you.

Amy August 4, 2011 at 2:56 pm

Thanks, Ned! I think I heard this rough analogy somewhere years ago and the idea always stuck with me.

Miss you too!!

Piper Larson August 8, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Really great analogy, Amy! And what you said about, “Characters are never written in without a purpose,” is something I always come back to. I’ve had a few challenging relationships in my life and I try to do my best to figure out what I was supposed to learn from those experiences. There are still a few I’m trying to figure out…but I’m certain there’s a message in there somewhere. Thanks for such a great post!

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