While it might not get as much air time, a friendship break-up can hurt just as much — if not more — than the end of a romantic relationship. Unlike a break-up with a partner, you can’t vent your feelings to your mate over a bottle of wine if your break-up is with that mate. […]
While it might not get as much air time, a friendship break-up can hurt just as much — if not more — than the end of a romantic relationship. Unlike a break-up with a partner, you can’t vent your feelings to your mate over a bottle of wine if your break-up is with that mate.
Whether it’s simmering tension with a bestie finally boiling over, slowly drifting apart from a childhood friend or a work pal who won’t return your calls, it can be gutting to realise that not all BFFs are forever, despite what our playground friendship bracelets used to say. While friendships often end for healthy reasons, that doesn’t mean it’s a straightforward or painless process. This is how to start coming to terms with the end of a friendship and find healthy ways to move forward.
Seek closure — but don’t force it
One of the worst parts about a break-up is not always getting a resolution. Often, you won’t have anything as clear cut as a break-up conversation with your friend, making it tricky to understand why you’re in this position. Closure has to come naturally and when you’re both calm — you can’t force your friend to give you clarity or even discuss the situation with you.
If you feel a strong need to apologise then you could write to them about your feelings but don’t do it expecting a response (and don’t pester them if you don’t receive one). Maybe one day, with time and distance, you’ll be able to understand what went wrong. Maybe you’ll even rebuild your friendship so it’s stronger than ever. Or maybe you’ll never speak to them again. Either way, you can find a way to move on in the present.
Take time to reflect
It’s valuable to take responsibility for your part in the break-up but don’t beat yourself up over what went wrong. Instead, try to shift your mindset and see this as a chance to move forward positively. This is a great time to reflect on any patterns in your relationships and take stock of your other friendships. While it’s easy to take our friends for granted, friendships need maintenance just like any other relationship. This could look different for every friendship but a good general rule is to be honest with each other about any issues and find time to talk them out before they blow up in your face.
Talk with someone you trust
Loneliness can be one of the hardest parts of a friendship breakup. Fill the void by being honest with your loved ones about what you’re going through and giving them the chance to support you. Talking with another friend or family member can help you process what happened – plus who doesn’t feel better after a good vent? Just consider opening up to someone who isn’t a mutual friend of your ex-friend to avoid unnecessary awkwardness and drama. If you’re struggling to communicate honestly with the people in your life, therapy is another option. The right therapist can help you to process the break-up and give you tools to cope when you feel down.
Rather than putting all your energy into brooding, focus on caring for your physical and emotional needs. When you focus on yourself, it can help you build your self-esteem and acts as a reminder that you’ll be okay even without that specific friendship. Self-care could look like eating nutritious meals, getting a few early nights in, heading to a yoga class or out on a run, writing down your thoughts in a journal, binge-watching your favourite comfort show or spending time on any activity that keeps your mind occupied for a while.
Hit pause on social media
When a break-up is still fresh, nothing will feel worse than seeing your ex-friend hanging out at your local with the rest of your group or having an amazing time at the party you were meant to go to together. Remove the temptation to stalk their every move by unfollowing or muting them (plus whoever else you need to) until the break-up is less fresh. You don’t have to block them if you don’t want to but be kind to yourself by removing the frequent reminders of them until you’re ready. You could even consider taking a break from social media for a few weeks and dedicate the time you normally spend scrolling to some good old fashioned self-care.
Put a game plan in place
Unless you and your ex-friend existed in your own small bubble, it’s likely that you’ve got some friends in common. If the thought of bumping into them at a party or at another friend’s house is causing you to break out in a cold sweat, now is a great time to make a plan to avoid any drama. Don’t try to hide what’s happening but also maintain some boundaries within your friendship group. Try not to spend all your time ranting about how your ex-friend has treated you – it won’t do your other friendships any good. Come up with a straightforward response to any questions about your relationship (try “We don’t really spend much time together” or “I haven’t actually seen her in a while,” followed by a quick topic change always works well). And if you do bump into the friend unexpectedly? Wish them well and walk away.
Start making plans
Once you feel you’ve spent enough time reflecting, it’s time to start looking forward. The same techniques that help to boost your mood in other circumstances will also help here: think getting some exercise, spending time outdoors, learning new things, helping others and hanging out with your favourite people. This can be especially helpful if you’ve not stepped outside of your comfort zone for a while (with long-term friendships we can easily end up in a rut). Use this opportunity to create new habits and build new memories.
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