Why Friend Break-Ups Are Worse Than Actual Break-Ups
Friend break-ups, almost everybody goes through them, but people rarely ever talk about them. Think about it. How many songs are out there about a broken heart or the end of a romantic relationship? Now, how many are out there about losing your best friend? Very little. Yet most of us have realized by now how valuable and rare a good friend is.
Your best friend is your person. The one you turn to for everything. The person who knows your lowest lows, your highest highs, and everything in between. But when you lose that person, you can feel lost, angry, scared, and confused.
After a year of isolation, friendships and relationships have become more important than ever. We have realized that connection is not just a want, but quite definitely a need. It’s time to start being more mindful in our relationships and working towards maintaining them better. The most painful thing about friend breakups is that more often than not, one side has been sitting in this feeling for a bit while the other side has no idea it’s coming.
Why Does This Happen?
Growing apart from your friends is a natural part of life. As we grow older our lifestyle changes and we realize who we really want to be (and who we want to be around to become that person). At the same time, many friendships are that of convenience. I.e, the friend goes to school with you, works with you, or lives near you. Most of the time, we drift apart when we move away, change schools, or leave jobs. Think about your high school friends or old co-workers you grew close to. Why are they no longer in your life even though nothing bad happened? Chances are you grew apart or it was no longer convenient.
When it comes to your closest friends, the story is a little different. You might still grow apart from them due to circumstances like a new relationship or starting a family, but it’s likely you will still stay in touch throughout these life changes due to the nature of your relationship. However, sometimes you have a friend who feels they aren't treated right or that the relationship is taking a toll on their mental health, and instead of talking to you about it (or maybe they tried to and felt they weren’t heard) they might start distancing, or completely remove, themselves from your life.
The pain can come from feeling blindsided, or feeling like you have lost a piece of you that makes you whole. After all, since your best friend is the one you can go to about anything, you may feel a heavier weight on your shoulders.
How To Prevent A Break-Up
If your friend’s decision to end the friendship is set, there might not be much you can do. But, most times people just want to feel heard, seen or cared for.
Here are some things you can do to prevent a break-up if you feel one of your relationships might be rocky:
Make time for your friend(s): Life is busy, right? We all have things to do. But, it's not an excuse. If you are too busy to hang out with them physically, a simple text to check in and let them know you are thinking about them can suffice. You never realize how great a “thinking of you” text can feel for someone who feels isolated or uncared for. It's important to understand what your friend might need and to also be open about what you need.
Communicate openly and effectively: If something is bothering you, just say it. Miscommunication is the number one cause of break-ups. If your friend said something that bothered you, intentionally or not, address it. Sometimes it might have not meant to be offensive but came across that way. Starting a conversation can help your friend acknowledge your boundaries and behaviors that could trigger you. Confrontation can be tricky, but it’s important to only address issues when in a good headspace and as kindly as possible. Coming from a place of aggression will only add fuel to the fire, which causes the situation to escalate out of control.
Acknowledge boundaries yourself: Is the relationship rocky because boundaries are being crossed? If you are unsure, go back to tip number two. Many people shut down when they feel their boundaries have been crossed or needs are not met. And this isn't just for you to communicate. It's also about understanding the other party, as well. Maybe you crossed an unknown boundary first. Maybe the boundary wasn't clarified in the first place. You'll never know until you talk about it.
Learn to apologize or forgive: Never apologize for something you aren’t truly sorry for. Instead, take a second to consider if you really are in the wrong. If the roles were flipped, would you expect an apology? Will this behavior really never be repeated?
Empty apologies are often worse than not giving one at all. If you truly don’t believe you are wrong, you can try phrases like “I understand where you are coming from” or “I am sorry that made you feel that way” versus “I am sorry I did that." It helps the other party feel heard without you apologizing for something you don’t think you did wrong.
At the same time, if someone is apologizing to you, take it for what it is. If a problem is being resolved, don’t hold it over their head six months later. Truly resolve the problem before moving on and acting fine.
Reflect: If you have gone through all of these steps and still feel the relationship is rocky or like it is one you don’t care for, take some time to separate yourself from the situation. Don't turn to distractions to fill the void. Instead, make more time for you. Use the time to clear your head and ask yourself “what do I see in the future for this relationship? Is it one I am willing to continue to invest my time and energy in? Is this a mutually beneficial relationship?”
As you reflect, make note of your feelings. Do you feel negative every time you think about this person or do you dread talking to them? The answers you come up with should help you realize where you stand and what you need to do. Remember to always do this with a clear head because a decision made out of conflict is often a rash decision you might regret.
How To Deal
Friend breakups can take years to get over, and who is to say that you ever will? We’ve been through some brutal friend break-ups and here are some ways we coped:
Box up the memories: Similar to a romantic break-up reflecting on what was is like pouring salt into a wound. Box up the old photos and cards and try avoiding the places that make you think of that person. It isn’t permanent, but replaying moments or memories when the break-up is fresh can be painful and prevent you from growing.
Stay busy: Fill up your free time with a new hobby, or doing something nice for yourself. Stay away from distractions that could create bad habits (I.e. drinking, smoking, partying). You can even try spending more time with other friends or family. Isolation is never the way to move on from a painful experience.
Normalize the idea that friendships aren’t always forever: As much as this one may hurt, it’s important to remind yourself that you are grateful for the memories you had. Not every friend you come across is meant to be a lifelong friend. Some are here for a reason and others are here for a season. Taking the break-up less personally and realizing it happens in life can help the pain sting a little less.
Make time for you: Make time to identify what you need to move forward. Whether that be closure, time to grieve, or a moment to assess your other relationships and boundaries. Take a step back from the break-up and a look into yourself.
A friend breakup is one of the hardest, most painful things we go through in life. It's important to remember that you will get through even your hardest moments. Think about it - how many painful moments have you overcome this far? At the end of the day, you can not control anyone but yourself. So as long as you know you have done the best you can, that’s all anyone can ask for.
Have any other tips that worked for you? We want to hear about it. Share them and how it helped you move on with us in the comments below!