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Friendship Breakup

Friendship Breakup: How to Heal

Friendship breakup: It’s over!

It felt like a breakup, and for all intents and purposes it was. Dina and Esti had been friends for quite some time, speaking every chance they got and spending hours of their free time together. One day out of the blue Esti realized that Dina was slowly becoming less and less available and not returning her calls or messages. When she had a chance to finally pin her down to ask what was going on, Dina told her that she felt like their relationship wasn’t working anymore.

Friendship breakup hurts!

Losing people, in whatever fashion, is painful. It hurts even more when it’s unexpected and perhaps seemingly purposeless.

We’re more used to the term “breakup” as it refers to the dissolution of a romantic relationship. Because romantic relationships tend to be more intense and intimate, the termination of such a relationship is inevitably and understandably painful. However, the termination of other relationships can be just as, if not more, painful. Longstanding close friendships, especially ones that have been through many ups and downs is one such example.

We’re social beings, and we’re hardwired for connection. In a study done at UCLA, it was found that disconnection is largely related to physical pain. This can be simply explained. A part of the brain, the anterior cingulate is linked to physical pain and distress. This same part of the brain is also stimulated in a situation of social disconnection and rejection.

But why did my (good) friendship breakup?

Sometimes relationships end because people, or their life circumstances, change. Often times people slowly drift apart, but sometimes it happens suddenly. There are various reasons why friendships break up, some of which include the following:

1Lack of balance and/or give & take

It’s extremely important that relationships have a healthy emotional balance of give and take. When there’s too much investment on one end it can become overwhelming. Sometimes the dynamic shifts after awhile, and what was once an equal give and take becomes too much taking on one end. The party doing all the giving will feel drained. Sometimes the person on the receiving end will feel uncomfortable at not being able to keep up his or her side of the relationship and will want to discontinue the relationship.

2Adjustment in priorities

Relationships take time and energy and not every stage of life affords people that time to be the kind of friend they once were. When some other life circumstance takes center stage, friendships can suffer.

3 Change in affiliation & life circumstance

Shared circumstances, such as school, a job, a neighborhood, a life stage, can bring people together, but once that changes the friendship can shift. People can connect over various things, and shared circumstances is a great connector. Often when that common link dissolves, the friendship changes.

4 Distance

Despite the technological age we live in, lack of physical proximity can greatly affect relationships. Physical proximity allows relationships to flourish and people to connect deeply. Even though the bulk of a relationship may happen via messaging or phone, when someone moves away, the change in context can make it difficult to readjust to a new way of relating to one another.

5Personal factors such as stressors or (mental) health issues

Personal issues affect an individual’s emotional capacity to be a good friend. Sometimes it’s as simple the person is dealing with too much of his or her own stress to be able to be emotionally present for someone else.

People deal with distress in various ways, and while some will “lean in” to a relationship and utilize their friends for the support they can offer, others “lean out” and shut their friends out.

This is where attachment style — how people create and maintain bonds in their life — also impacts how people manage their friendships.

How can I heal from a friendship breakup?

It’s important to realize that sometimes friendships end, and that’s okay. Wouldn’t it be ideal if we could keep everything in our life to a certain status quo? But, change, and unfortunately, pain, is part of life.

Sometimes a relationship ends because we make a mistake and end up hurting someone. In these instances, even if the relationship can’t be salvaged, hopefully we can learn a valuable lesson and evolve as a person.

In other situations, a relationship dissolves because we were desperately misunderstood and never given a chance to explain, or perhaps the other person doesn’t seem to want to understand. Maybe the breakup came out of nowhere and hit us really hard. Even if this is the case, it is important to remember that it will be okay. You can heal.

Some friendships exist to help us through a particular time in our life, and then the friends move on. It’s like crossing a bridge, and once we’ve benefited from the relationship we can move forward, stronger, without them.

It can be particularly painful when we’re the one on the receiving end of the breakup and we’re not ready to let go. Maybe we didn’t see it coming, or we thought the relationship was still worth working on. In these circumstances, it’s imperative to recognize our hurt thoughts and feelings and take good care of ourselves.

4 Practical tips on healing from your friendship breakup:

  • Mourn the loss and take time to grieve. It’s normal to be sad. Feel whatever you’re feeling, and don’t judge yourself for the emotions that come up. Talk about the friendship and the breakup if that’s helpful. Don’t try to shove it under the rug and pretend like it doesn’t matter.
  • Be kind to yourself. Whether that means treating yourself to that extra pint of ice cream or letting yourself have a day off to just relax, cut yourself some slack. You’re low on poker chips, so to speak, so take some time to re-up!

  • Talk about the loss with other supportive people in your life. Connecting with others and finding support in the face of sadness and pain can make all the difference in reinforcing that you’re not alone.
  • Find a new hobby and keep yourself busy. It’s not healthy to dwell in the past. Spend time with the people that are there for you. Do things that make you feel happy and fulfilled. Find people, places, and things that remind you that you’re fun to be around and a valuable friend.

Your friendship breakup takeaway reminder:

Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.
― Søren Kierkegaard

Things never stay the same in our ever evolving world. There are many reasons why friendships change or end, and although it can hurt deeply, there are ways for you to move forward and find fulfillment in yourself and other relationships.

For more community support on friendships & navigating relationships, check these out:

Friendship that ended

Surviving a Narcissistic Friendship

Symptoms of Borderline messing up relationships

The pain of maintaining really close and intimate relationships

Navigating Therapy Without Your Spouse On Board

Surrounded By Unhealthy Relationships This Pesach?

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Wow !! So well written and informative !! This is more common then ppl think and deeply painful ! Ty for shedding light and guidance on a topic most don’t discuss .

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