June 2021 Issue | Dealing with Friendship Breakups in Adulthood
By Carla Delgado
Breaking up with a friend is just as common, serious, and painful as ending a romantic attachment. Many people find it difficult to get support, especially if the friend they broke up with was their go-to person when they had problems. There are no hard and fast rules about the terms of the breakup, so platonic separation becomes even more blurry and painful.
Not every friendship gets the chance to have some closure, so it’s also possible to be on a completely different page with your (ex-)friend. Some remain civil afterward and extend holiday greetings now and then, but others block on social media and purposefully avoid the places where they might run into each other.
There’s hardly any guide on how to handle feeling untethered from someone who has always been there, but maybe these tips can help you cope.
Unpack what happened and learn from it.
Friendships can end because of a major disagreement, but sometimes, people just grow apart until they don’t fit into each other’s lives anymore. No matter the reason for the breakup, it’s important to reflect on what went down. View the situation from a different perspective and try to understand why the friendship didn’t work out. Maybe you can learn something from this experience about improving your other relationships, like setting more boundaries, changing certain behaviors, or standing up for yourself more often.
Allow yourself to mourn.
Losing a friend is a difficult experience, and it’s alright to admit that. Some people tend to sugarcoat what happened or downplay their emotions, but pushing feelings down doesn’t help you in the long run. Acknowledge that there was a sudden shift in your life and let yourself grieve the loss of a friendship. Don’t invalidate your feelings and force toxic positivity on yourself. Allow yourself to feel sad and wallow in your emotions because distracting yourself from it only prolongs the healing process.
Lean into the support system that you do have.
Though you may have lost one friend, there are still plenty of people in your corner. Reaching out to them can help you feel better, even if you simply want to enjoy their company. If you’re comfortable talking about it, you can also confide in them about what you’re feeling. They might even be able to give you a fresh perspective on everything that happened. It’s really difficult to maintain relationships, especially during major life transitions, so instead of focusing on the friendship that didn’t work, turn your attention to the friendships that are still thriving.
Understand that they’ll always be a part of you, even if you never reconnect.
Everyone is a mix of everybody they’ve ever loved in any way, shape, or form. You probably have some mannerisms, habits, or favorites that you picked up from someone who isn’t in your life anymore. In the same way, all the friends you’ve ever had will always be a part of you. The good memories you have with your friend didn’t magically disappear. Sure, there will always be things that remind you of them, but it won’t always be painful. Moving on and healing doesn’t mean erasing their memory.
Part of dealing with a friendship breakup is forgiving yourself for the role you played in it. The end of a friendship is rarely one person’s fault, and you may be feeling guilty and overthinking everything you’ve done. There might be some part of you that feels like you should have been more patient, or less clingy, or more understanding. You’re only beating yourself up if you’re dwelling on the “should haves.” People always say that you can’t move forward if you’re always looking back, so be kind and forgive yourself for your shortcomings.
Cutting ties can be for the best especially if you’re unhappy or if your trust was betrayed. In some instances, friendships just naturally run their course. There’s no “right” way to go about friendship breakups because it’s not the same experience for everyone, so focus on what will help you the most in dealing with the situation. At the end of the day, you should prioritize your needs and seek out whatever brings you peace.