- How to Break Up With Your Friend (and When to Know It’s Time)
- There’s been a serious betrayal
- There’s unrelenting conflict
- You’re in different places
- How to actually end a friendship
- Distance yourself
- Change the terms
- Be straightforward
- Get practical
- Leave it open
- How have you ended a friendship in the past? What strategies worked (or didn’t work) for you?
- How to Get Over a Best Friend Breakup
- Acknowledge what happened and allow yourself time to grieve
- Know that not all friendships are meant to be “forever.”
- Don’t forget the good parts.
- Accept that there's no such thing as “getting over it” or “moving on.”
- Appreciate the support system you still have.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about it.
- Be realistic about your role in it.
- Set boundaries for yourself.
How to Break Up With Your Friend (and When to Know It’s Time)
- Copy By:Miriam Kirmayer
- Feature Image By:Elle
Stability matters when it comes to the quality of our friendships.
The best friendships are those that stand the test of time and are characterized by security and comfort, instead of conflict or turbulence.
It’s the reason so much of my work as a therapist and friendship researcher has focused on helping others meet new people and maintain their existing friendships.
But the reality is, not all friendships will last. Changes in relationships and social networks are normal. Expected, even. If you’re one for quotes: People come into our lives for a reason or season. So how do you know when that season has come and gone and it’s time to let go? And, even more confusing, how do you actually go about ending a friendship?
Un romantic relationships where it’s typically pretty clear (Read: text messages or post-it notes are not an acceptable way to end a relationship), the same cannot be said for friendships. Here are some tips that might make navigating this friendship challenge a little easier.
There’s been a serious betrayal
Deciding to remain friends after a serious betrayal is a personal decision. One that ly depends on the severity of the betrayal, your friend’s commitment to change or make amends, your willingness to forgive, and the history you have together.
That said, there are some betrayals and transgressions there’s just no getting over.
When the foundation of a friendship is broken and beyond repair, when your trust has been ruptured or you feel chronically used or underappreciated, it might be time to reevaluate your relationship and willingness to remain friends.
There’s unrelenting conflict
There are ups and downs in any close relationship. Even the healthiest friendships aren’t totally immune. And while conflict itself isn’t necessarily a reason to end a friendship, it can become something more serious when the same issue comes up repeatedly and you no longer enjoy spending time together.
Minor conflicts can turn into more serious betrayals when you’ve expressed why something is important to you and your friend continues to act in a way that violates your need, preference, or request.
In these cases, the real issue is no longer the original conflict, but a feeling of being chronically disrespected or underappreciated.
You’re in different places
It’s not always a big blow-up or betrayal that leads to the end of a friendship. As we age and evolve, so too do our friends. And we can sometimes end up in very different places where we no longer feel connected.
You might feel you have less in common than you used to and that your interests, values, or schedules just don’t match up as well as they did when you initially became friends. One of you might also become less invested in your friendship than the other.
But healthy friendships are reciprocal. And in order for a friendship to work, both friends need to be equally invested and motivated to see it continue.
Once someone has “checked out,” it can really take away from the benefits we’re actually getting from that friendship and make it much less ly that the friendship will survive.
Of course, being in different places doesn’t automatically mean you need to end your friendship; there are absolutely ways to maintain a friendship when you’re in different life stages. But every now and then it’s important to evaluate how your friendship is evolving and if you’re both still committed.
How to actually end a friendship
There is no blueprint or rulebook for ending a friendship. It all depends on you, your relationship, and the reason for the break-up.
Ghosting is the ultimate form of rejection. But distancing is something very different and can be a good place to start when thinking about ending a friendship.
Not calling or texting as often, or finding ways to gradually withdraw your effort, energy, and involvement, can give both of you a chance to get used to the change in your friendship without making it overwhelmingly personal or uncomfortable. It’s also a way to let your friendship run its course organically.
Change the terms
Sometimes, a small change in the terms of your relationship can help you keep your friendship while establishing some boundaries and protecting yourself.
Deciding to see your friend in a group setting but not one-on-one, only doing certain activities together or speaking about certain topics, or moving your friendship to more of an “online” format can preserve some of the healthy aspects of your relationship while creating a distance that works for both of you.
When it comes to ending romantic relationships, we expect people to be upfront and direct. We want clarity. We want closure. This isn’t necessarily true for friendships. At least not always. And yet sometimes, the most straightforward option is the one that brings us the most clarity and comfort.
Instead of making it personal or blaming your friend, focus on the reasons why the dynamic of your friendship just isn’t working anymore.
Rather than saying “You aren’t trustworthy,” highlight that trust and reliability are important to you and that, right now, you’re not ready to start re-establishing that trust.
The message ends up being the same, but one of these is significantly easier to stomach and makes it more ly you’ll end your friendship on better terms.
It can also help to be clear on what you actually mean when you say you want to distance yourself or end your friendship. It’s not always obvious what these things actually mean or look in real life or practical terms.
Do you want to cut off all communication? Are you open to communicating through text messages and social media? Or are you happy to keep in touch and just don’t want to get together as often? Whatever your version or vision is of your friendship break-up, make sure you are clear, both with yourself and your friend, to avoid miscommunications or misunderstandings.
Leave it open
Just you might never have expected to grow apart, you might be surprised at your desire to reconnect. That’s why it can help to keep your options open, either by being direct (e.g., explicitly sharing that you never know what the future holds) or by staying connected (e.g.
, on social media) and checking in with each other from time to time on meaningful occasions, birthdays, anniversaries, or big life events. Of course, you don’t want to give someone false hope or mixed messages if you are clear in your mind that your decision to end your friendship is a permanent one.
But there’s usually no harm done by leaving the door open for a future relationship, as long and both of you understand the current status of your friendship.
How have you ended a friendship in the past? What strategies worked (or didn’t work) for you?
How to Get Over a Best Friend Breakup
Breaking up with a best friend can feel worse than splitting up with your partner—at least after a tryst ends, you’ve got your confidante to turn to. And while everyone acknowledges the trauma of romantic breakups, people don’t really talk about the fall a platonic separation.
But your brain doesn’t know the difference between a romantic or platonic relationship. A breakup is a breakup. There was intimacy and trust, and then there wasn’t. And it takes time to deal with the devastation of losing someone you always thought you’d have by your side.
Surviving a best friend breakup isn’t easy, but here’s how to start the process.
Acknowledge what happened and allow yourself time to grieve
“Sometimes we underestimate the power of platonic relationships,” says Dani Moye, PhD, a marriage and family therapist. But, you expect to share the future with your close friends.
And when that expectation disappears, it can be disorienting and disappointing. “Take the time to reflect on what this shift means to you and sit with the discomfort of sadness,” says Moye.
“When we don’t grieve the relational losses we’ve endured, it may take us longer to move on.”
Know that not all friendships are meant to be “forever.”
We use the phrase “best friends forever” because, in the best of times, we expect that person to always be around.
But the reality is, “we are attracted to, and connect with people during particular time in our lives,” says Dena M. DiNardo, Psy.D., a marriage and family therapist.
“If we're doing our best to live consciously and to grow, we have to recognize that that means we might not always grow alongside someone or in the same direction as someone.
“What originally brought us together isn't necessarily the thing that will hold us together.” That doesn’t belittle or negate your friendship in any way, but if your relationship doesn’t evolve, that’s okay. And accepting that is crucial to finding closure.
Don’t forget the good parts.
When a friendship ends, you might look back and question the entire relationship, wondering where you went wrong.
“We replay time and time again what transpired and how we would do things differently,” says Moye, when we should be focusing on how that relationship fulfilled us while it lasted, and what you learned from it.
“By simply shifting the way that you look at the breakup, it becomes easier to move on from a place of gratitude,” she adds.
Accept that there's no such thing as “getting over it” or “moving on.”
When a relationship ends, it’s understandable to shove those emotions about that person in a box and never let them bother you again. But, “while it’s not nearly as recognized as death, divorce, and diagnosis, the loss of a dear friend is very painful and leaves a hole in your life that can never be filled in the same way,” says Shelby Forsythia, a certified grief recovery specialist.
“There will be moments going forward ( weddings, anniversaries, and hard times) where you’ll probably miss having that friend to lean on, and that's perfectly normal.” The idea of “moving on” doesn’t mean erasing this person’s memory from your life.
Appreciate the support system you still have.
You’re going through something hard, and the kick-in-the-face aspect of it is that you don’t even have your best friend to discuss it with. That doesn’t mean you don’t have support.
“Relationships are just as unique as people are, and one friendship cannot be swapped for another,” says Forsythia.
“That being said, there are people in your life (your spouse, your family, your coworkers) that might be able to bolster you and support you in navigating this new life without your friend.” But you have to reach out to them and let you know you need them.
Don’t be afraid to talk about it.
Hiding your feelings is a surefire way to a) let them fester and b) isolate yourself from the people who could help you cope.
“Whether it's with other friends, your family, or your therapist, it's important to talk it out to understand how you feel, what went wrong, what each person's responsibility was to the ending, and to receive honest feedback from people who know you well and truly care about you,” says DiNardo.
Be realistic about your role in it.
You know the old adage, “it takes two to tango”? It’s a cliché because it’s so dead-on. “A breakup is rarely ever just one person's ‘fault’, but it's easier to be angry with the other person than to feel any of the things that might come up if we have to realistically look at our own selves,” says DiNardo.
But you won’t get the closure you need if you don’t acknowledge the part you may have played in the breakup. “Seeing your role brings you one step closer to finding peace in your heart as you continue along the journey of learning about who you've been, who you are, and who you want to be in the future,” she says.
Set boundaries for yourself.
This is a kind of self-care, and may be as simple unfollowing your former friend on Instagram or blocking them on so you’re not still getting a window into their life.
“Take an inventory of all of the ways and places they're bound to pop up, and figure out where you need to step back or disconnect to keep your boundaries and heart safe,” says Forsythia.
These boundaries can change over time as things feel less raw, but there’s nothing wrong with protecting yourself from triggers that will disrupt the progress you’re trying to make in moving on.
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