Why a friendship break up can be hard and how to move on
When you enter into romantic relationships, on some level you know that it may work out -- or it may not. This person could be with you for the long haul, or perhaps you'll grow apart and figure out he's not "the one." We don't place the same expectation with platonic girlfriends, however. If you have a BFF, you think that she'll be with you through it all -- failed romances, lost jobs, and even across geographical distances. You don't think to ask "will long distance work?" like you do with a boyfriend. So, when a friendship break up happens, it can be devastating.
Whether it’s because of a fight over a specific issue, or simply because you grew apart over time, a friendship break up can truly cause a broken heart. You might feel like you’ve done what you can to repair the friendship and say “I love you”, but it takes two, and it’s easy to feel hopeless when your friend won’t put in her own time and energy.
Here are some tips for how to move forward with your friendship break up:
Consider Reaching Out One Last Time
When you think a friendship may be damaged beyond repair, you and your friend may actually just need some time apart. Let a cooling off period take place and then try to reach out one last time and talk it out. Make it clear that your intentions are to work things out, not cause more conflict. Maybe your friend will want to remain in the “ex” category, but she may surprise you by being willing to talk things out. Even if she rejects the chance to speak, you will know that you gave it one last chance which could help you achieve some closure. Sometimes friendships drift apart over time because one person’s life changes — such as becoming a parent — and they don’t have as much time. When that’s the case, you may simple need to redefine your friendship and the time you spend together, but you can still stay in touch. Other times you might decide you’ve hit a fork in the road because of a fight or different lifestyles and your friendship doesn’t work anymore, but talking about it can be helpful.
Let Yourself Grieve the Loss
If a friendship is officially over, don’t tell yourself, “it’s not a big deal,” or “I guess she was never a friend anyway.” Let yourself experience the pain that results from a lost relationship. You were friends, shared memories, and you may not have ever thought that you would lose this relationship. While losing a friend isn’t an excuse to mope around forever, it’s OK to let yourself feel sad and talk to other friends or family about the loss. Try to stay fair — bashing your former friend, especially to mutual friends, won’t do anything but drive a larger wedge. Keep in mind that if you really had a secure bond, you may find that you’ll run into her in the future and be able to pick up where you left off — in a good way. Still, the loss for now will hurt and should be acknowledged.
Don’t Let Your Memories Sour
While you are going to be hurt for a while, it won’t do any good to remain hostile towards your former friend in the long term. If you were very close, you probably have loads of memories together, photographs, and even shared friends. It’s OK to let yourself think fondly of your friend, and in fact it’s better for your health and state of mind in the long term. Staying positive — or at least neutral — will also make it easier to be friendly if you run into each other. Again, sometimes time apart or different lifestyles strain a relationship, but when the bond is secure you may be able to reconnect in time when your paths cross again.
If you have other tips, stories, or advice that might help, share in the comments!
About Jennine Estes, MFT
Think of me as your relationship consultant, I'm your neutral third party that can help you untangle the emotions and help you figure out what's really going on. I am a Marriage and Family Therapist in San Diego, CA. Certified in Emotionally Focused Therapy for Couples. Supervisor. I write relationship and self growth advice for my column Relationships in the Raw. Creator of #BeingLOVEDIs campaign. MFC#47653