It’s a hard truth to hear, but the fact of the matter is not all friendships last forever. Sometimes you bond with people at a job, or in specific circumstances, and once you’ve left that situation, often the friendship deteriorates as well. Or maybe you’re just growing apart from someone that you’ve been friends with for a very long time.
However, it happens, deciding to break up with a friend can be an intensely tough decision. Here are some tips for dealing with a friend break up and its aftermath.
Identify a toxic friendship
If you find yourself fighting with the same friend over and over again, or feel exhausted whenever you hang out with them, chances are their friendship has become toxic. Sometimes, the cause is the person. Maybe they’re in a really terrible time of their life and are taking from you much more than they’re giving back, or sometimes the combination of the two of you just makes for a bad mix.
Whatever the cause, if you determine that their friendship is toxic, be the bigger person and take steps to remove them from your life.
Figure out what’s bothering you
Before you speak one word to the other person, take some time to yourself and figure out why you don’t get along with your friend anymore. Maybe your life circumstances have taken you far apart, or maybe you’ve both changed emotionally over the past few years.
Whatever the reason, make sure that your feelings are clear before you start a conversation with your friend. If you need to leave the friendship, be confident in your decision before taking any further action. You’ll be able to communicate your feelings to them much clearer if you’ve thought them out beforehand.
Figure out the next step
Once you’ve decided that you no longer want to maintain a friendship, the next step is to figure out what to do next. Sometimes, it can be appropriate to simply fade away from each other. This will often happen unconsciously, without either party needing to think about it.
People have even come up with a name for an extreme, one sided version of this – ghosting. If you’re feeling very troubled by the state of your relationship, or if they’ve done something that has hurt your feelings, you should have a conversation and formally end the friendship.
Don’t just keep ignoring the problem
If you attempt to “ghost” your friend, but they seem to not be getting the message, then a conversation is definitely in order. Even though it may be hurtful to your friend in the moment, it’s the kinder way in the long run – and the more adult decision to make.
Make a plan to sit down with your friend and talk about things. It’s possible to patch things up if you have an honest conversation about your feelings, but that will never happen if you keep ignoring the problem.
Be honest and kind
If you have a discussion with your friend about the state of your friendship, be honest and kind to them about where you’re at. Explain why you’re choosing to have this discussion, and what your hopes are going in. Then, at the end, be very clear about your plans moving forward.
Put your expectations about any future contact on the table, and don’t hesitate to state your feelings in plain language. Otherwise, you risk the possibility of them getting in touch with you in a few weeks, hoping you’ve changed your mind.
Understand what happened
There are times where you will not be the initiating party in the breakup. If your friend breakup was something sudden or the result of the argument, it can help to process what happened in that interaction first before deciding what to do next.
Often heightened emotional situations can make us feel muddled and unsure, so make sure you take the time to process your last discussion before taking any further action. Try and talk it out with a neutral party. Not someone who is friends with both of you, but someone who knows you well and will know how to support you through this difficult situation.
Avoid spreading gossip to other friends
It’s important during an argument or disagreement between friends to avoid gossiping about the other person. This can feel totally unnatural, but being the bigger person and avoiding gossip will only help you in the long run. Nothing is pettier than someone immediately dashing off to insult a person who used to be their good friend – it sends a signal to all your other friends that your loyalty is fleeting.
If someone asks you about what’s happening with your friend, simply state the facts honestly. You had a disagreement, and are taking some time apart.
Don’t feel guilty
Not all friends have to be in our lives forever. A lot of people get hung up on keeping their friends, and are afraid that if they move on from friends that they had in childhood, they’ll never be able to make new friends. The good thing about growing older is that there are endless opportunities to make friends.
Don’t stick around friends who make you feel bad just because you’re afraid of being alone. And don’t feel guilty after you’ve made your decision. Both of you are adults, and are fully capable of moving on with your lives.
Take some time for yourself
Many people feel like they shouldn’t care as much about breaking up with a friend as they would about breaking up with a romantic partner. This attitude is callous and doesn’t take into account how much our friends can impact our lives.
A friend breakup should be mourned just as much as a regular breakup. Take some time for yourself, figure out what this means for your life, and use this as an opportunity to grow. It’s important to move forward, but take a bit of time to process first.
One of the last steps in dealing with a friend breakup is to move on. If you sit around obsessing about the friendship, then you might as well still be in it. Take as much time as you need to mourn the loss of your friendship, and to honor the time that you spent in each other’s lives, but after that’s done, move on.
Think of the space that your friend took up in your life, and start imagining everything that you could do with that time – volunteer, learn a new skill, or go out and meet some new people.
Focus on your other friendships
Once you’ve left a friendship, you’ll probably find that you have more free time, which you should use to your advantage. Put more effort into other friendships that have sustained you through this hard time.
Chances are, you have friendships that have languished because of your focus on your other friend. Take time now to seek those people out, and pursue a better relationship with them.
Learn from your past friendship
Once you’ve left a friendship, it’s tempting to disavow everything that happened between you and your friend. Instead of being bitter and pushing all of your good memories to the back of your mind, use them as an opportunity to grow. Think of ways that you could have been a better friend, then incorporate that knowledge into your current friendships.
Being critical of yourself, in a loving way, allows you to grow and learn from your mistakes, instead of just pushing the knowledge away. If you think you need professional help with this, consult a therapist, who can help guide you through the process.
Make new friends
If you’ve changed your goals or your priorities in life, it may be time to make some new friends who can support this new side of you. A good way to do this is through your hobbies or interests. For example, if you’re looking for some new parent friends, start attending library story time or join your school’s parent council. If you want to meet people that share your love of the arts, volunteer at a theater or take an art class.
This is a pretty reliable way of meeting people with shared interests. You may not get along with all of them, but chances are one or two will be friendly and open to a closer connection.