Breaking Up With A Friend Is Just As Serious As Ending A Romantic Relationship
As the depressing cliché goes: Nothing things last forever — which is why friendship breakups sometimes happen.
Try as you might to fight for it, mend it, and preserve it, even those we’re-practically-family friendships can run their course. This doesn’t mean they were any less meaningful in their prime, just that it’s time for everyone involved to move on.
Because friendship breakups are — more often than not — painful, even after you’ve realized it’s time to cut ties, you might stick around and avoid pulling the trigger. Trust, you wouldn’t be the first person to do so. “But, you owe it to your relationship [to break it off] even if you’re not in a good place with the person,” says Dr Andrea Bonior, clinical psychologist and author of The Friendship Fix: The Complete Guide to Choosing and Losing, and Keeping Up With Your Friends. Otherwise, “they’ll be left lost and confused if you don’t say anything.” And both you and your soon-to-be-ex-bestie deserve the chance to move on and cultivate the friendships that do spark joy.
Look, it’s no secret that all this is way easier said than done. Breaking up is hard to do, but it isn’t impossible — not when you’ve got an expert walking you through it. Here’s everything you need to know about breaking up with friends, keeping things civil for the rest of your friend group, and moving on.
There are a few reasons to break up a friendship.
“It really runs the gamut from life transitions taking people to different places to feeling like they don’t have much in common anymore,” says Bonior. The most cited reasons actually have nothing to do with a big, nasty argument. Instead, friendships typically come to an end because there’s a disconnect that one, or both of you, feel is beyond repair.
“People grow apart and their daily lives don’t mesh anymore,” she adds. As a result, you might feel like the friendship’s off-balance, with one of you giving more to the friendship than the other.
Of course, sometimes friendships end because of a rift. Maybe your friend’s habits — whether they’re related to substance abuse or romantic choices — have been concerning, and they refuse to hear you out. Or maybe you don’t feel like you can be your best self with them because they regularly put you down, gossip about you, or they’ve betrayed your trust (all signs of a toxic friendship, btw).
Whatever pushes you to cut things off — even if you can’t quite put your finger on it — if you simply don’t feel good about yourself or your friendship when you’re together, that’s reason enough to go your separate ways.
Friendship breakups can sometimes feel even more complicated than romantic ones.
As important as friendships are, romantic relationships tend to get all the glory while platonic ones are undervalued. Without the weighty expectation of monogamy, people have a hard time ending friendships. Think about it: You have to breakup with a partner in order to move on to someone new, but there’s nothing stopping you from avoiding a friendship breakup indefinitely, putting off the confrontation, and hanging out with some other buds instead.
But you owe it to yourself and your friend a clean break if you’re unhappy, says Bonior. That way, neither of you wastes any time — even the few secs it takes to send a text — on someone who is no longer receptive.
And though “people often underestimate what a big deal it is for a friendship to end,” friendship breakups are just as uncomfortable and sad as romantic ones, Bonior points out.
Breakup conversations might escalate into arguments; your friend might get defensive or try and convince you to stick around. But, if you don’t feel like you’re a good match anymore, you need to let them go—the same way you would a significant other.
How you end a friendship can go any number of ways.
If you’re pulling the plug, whatever you do, make it easier on yourself by not leaving the door open to ambiguity, says Bonior. “Be as clear and as gentle as possible.”
She’s not saying you need to get into the nitty-gritty of something your friend said on a Wednesday morning three months ago, but make sure they can walk away from the conversation with a definite understanding for why you broke things off.
Try: “You probably noticed I haven’t had as much time to spend together lately. To be honest, I feel my life is moving in a different direction these days, and I wanted to be honest with you and tell you I won’t be hanging out as much. I’m glad we’ve had a friendship, but I don’t think we’re a good fit anymore.”
If the two of you hadn’t already and noticeably drifted apart, you might get some pushback. Your friend may promise to change and do better for you. If you think you can work things out and trust they’ll do their part in repairing the friendship, great.
But, if you’re not willing to devote any more time to this friendship and are certain you want to breakup, don’t budge. Say: “Look, there isn’t anything more for us to do here. I just wanted to let you know that I’m not looking for things to be different; I’m just telling you I’m in a different place.”
Coping with a friendship breakup is tough, but not impossible.
Now, if a friend breaks up with you, one of the best things you can do is take some time for self-reflection. Try and pinpoint patterns in your other friendships or former friendships, Bonior suggests. “If you notice you’ve had friendships come to an end in a similar way over and over again, it’s important to pay attention to what might be going on. It could be that you’re picking people you’re not compatible with. It could be that you’re all hot and heavy in a friendship for a while, and then you duck out when things get boring,” she says.”Or, it could be that you are doing something within the relationship that’s causing conflict.”
Remember, friendships naturally wax and wane. There’s no hard and fast rule that says people have to have the same friends their whole lives. “And when they end, that doesn’t negate their positive aspects,” says Bonior. “Just because a friendship ended doesn’t mean you have to pretend it never existed or wipe it from your life story because you can still find it very valuable.”
Leaning into self-care rituals can help with this. Journal, meditate, talk to another friend or a therapist about what you’ve appreciated and will take away from this now-former friendship, Bonior suggests. Yes, you’ll miss them a ton, but you’ll find doing this will make it easier on you to move forward.
There tends to be a lot of shame and embarrassment around grief when it comes to friendship breakups, but they’re significant losses. You might downplay your feelings and think, “well, it’s not like I just got divorced or something,” but friendships carry a lot of emotional weight—something you might not realize until it’s over. So, “give yourself permission to feel and don’t beat yourself up if it affects you more than you expected,” says Bonior.
A breakup doesn’t have to make things uncomfortable for the rest of your friends.
Realistically though, you’ll have to readjust. Because you’ll both need time and space to heal, you might have to back out of certain events because it’ll be uncomfortable. Or maybe, some of you might end up breaking out into smaller groups for a bit. But if you and your ex-friend can eventually get to a place where you can keep your cool in group settings and respect each other’s space, make it known to a mutual pal that you don’t mind going to that group brunch as long as they’re cool with it, too.
“Just be careful that you’re not putting mutual friends in uncomfortable situations,” says Bonior. Don’t make them choose between you two, and don’t pressure them into seeing things from your perspective. “Be cognizant that people have the right to keep up the friendships they want to keep up, and they might be seeing things from a different lens than you are,” she adds.
As long as you can maintain respect for each other’s decisions, you shouldn’t have a problem maintaining your other friendships.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com