Ending a Friendship Can Be Just As Bad As Ending a Romantic Relationship

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Yes, ending a relationship is extremely traumatic, but ending a friendship may be just as painful. That’s right: Even the closest friendships can end after a long period of time, no matter how long you’ve been best friends (especially if they become toxic). And even though you weren’t in a relationship romantically, the breakup of your friendship still hurts a lot. According to Akua Boateng, Ph.D., a psychologist in Philadelphia, friendship breakups can be particularly difficult because a close friend is someone you depend on for emotional support, continuity, socializing, and processing. Even close to being family, friends might become one another’s family. Boateng adds that “friendships might have a part in your overall mental and emotional wellbeing.” “Many people are unsure of how they will manage without the friendship’s support.”

Having said that, it can be challenging to quit a friendship when it starts to do too much harm. If you’re not happy with the other person, you owe it to your relationship to terminate it and to explain why, says clinical psychologist Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., author of The Friendship Fix: The Complete Guide to Losing, Choosing and Keeping Up With Your Friends. Otherwise, according to Bonior, “if you don’t say anything, they’ll be left disoriented and puzzled.” You kind of owe a friend that you regularly text or see every day an explanation if you’re putting distance between you. Though challenging, it is not impossible. According to relationship specialists, here is everything you need to know about ending friendships with friends, one-sided friendships, maintaining good connections with your friends, and more:

  • First of all, there are valid justifications for ending a friendship. There are probably several reasons why your platonic connection ended; friendships can be difficult. But frequently, poor communication can be a major factor. How? Each person communicates their wants, limitations, and relationship expectations uniquely. Boateng says, “Whenever there is a problem on either side communicating those things, it creates a schism that renders the connection not viable or useful moving ahead.” If it gets harder to stay in touch, especially as their daily activities diverge, a communication stall can also cause people to grow apart over time, according to Bonoir. You can even feel that one of you is contributing more to the friendship than the other, throwing the relationship off balance. This type of friendship is known as one-sided. According to Boateng, in relationships of this type, problems frequently result from one person’s wants not being addressed. For instance, a buddy could struggle to express their requirements, and Boateng warns that if “they cannot explain what they need, [you] cannot supply those needs.” However, there are occasions when you can express your requirements clearly, and your friend merely decides to ignore them, according to Boateng. Perhaps after you invite a friend over to hang out, they insist you visit them instead. Or, they fail to recognize when you need to communicate or are angry. Maybe they never inquire about your life, but they always expect you to hear about theirs. Overall, one-sided friendships are a one-way trip to unhappiness.
  • Here are some further indicators that your friendship with a friend should end: Another significant factor in friendships ending? Betrayal, claims Boateng. According to Boateng, “a line has been crossed in the relationship, and because of the anguish of that betrayal, it becomes very difficult to comprehend how trust can be restored.” This may appear as a significant, isolated instance of boundary-crossing, or perhaps you’ve been aware of their toxicity for some time. (For example, perhaps you don’t feel your best around them since they frequently disparage you or spread rumors about you.) Whatever makes you want to stop things, if being together makes you feel bad about yourself or your friendship, that should be sufficient justification for you to do it. But sometimes, making an effort to mend a friendship is worthwhile. Before saying goodbye to your buddy permanently, you might want to try talking things out with them to ensure you’re on the same page if you’re unsure whether you want to keep your friendship going. (They might not even be aware of your dissatisfaction with your friendship.) Give your buddy an opportunity to live up to your standards after you and your friend have discussed any problems, such as setting limits or working through a conflict or deception, and after you’ve given them clear expectations about how you want the relationship to progress. When this happens, you may want to limit that person’s access to you if you have given your friend several chances to provide either the kind of support you need or to attend to the boundaries you’ve set.” In other words, don’t expect your friend to read your thoughts. Instead, try explaining how you feel, then watch to observe how their behavior changes once they are aware of it or how they fail to. In the end, this will provide you with the knowledge you need to make a decision on whether you want to keep up that relationship.

Take note of this, however, in general: “If someone’s presence in your life causes you emotional, bodily, or mental harm, or if it is impeding your own growth, then it’s time to discontinue the friendship,” says Boateng. Breakups between friends can seem even more difficult than those between lovers. Despite how valuable friendships are, sexual connections frequently receive more attention than platonic ones. People find it difficult to discontinue friendships when monogamy burdens are absent. Consider this: You must finish a relationship with a partner to go on to someone new, but there is nothing to prevent you from delaying the end of a friendship, avoiding the conflict, and hanging out with some other pals instead. But if you’re unhappy, Bonior asserts, you owe it to yourself and your companion to make a clean break. By doing this, neither of you will waste any time—not even the few seconds it takes to send a text—on a person who has stopped being responsive.

Arguments may result from breakup discussions; your friend may become defensive or attempt to persuade you to stay. However, you must let them go if you no longer feel you are a good match, just as you would with a romantic partner. A friendship can terminate in a variety of ways. Make it easier on yourself by closing the door to ambiguity if you’re pulling the plug, advises Bonoir: “Be as explicit and kind as possible.” She’s not suggesting you have to dive into the specifics of what your friend said on a Wednesday morning three months ago, but you should make sure they have a clear grasp of why you broke things off by the end of the chat. Try: “I’m sure you’ve noticed I haven’t had as much time for us lately. Since I feel like my life has been changing lately, I wanted to be completely open with you and let you know that I won’t be hanging out as frequently. I’m happy we had a friendship, but I don’t believe it’s still a good fit.” You might encounter resistance if the two of you hadn’t already obviously drifted apart. Your friend might make a commitment to improve and change for you. Great if you believe you can resolve the issue and believe they will contribute to mending the friendship. Don’t budge, however, if you’re unwilling to invest any more time in this friendship and are convinced you want to terminate it. Say: “Look, there is nothing else we can do in this situation. Just to be clear, I’m not asking for anything to change; I’m just telling you that I’m in a different place.” Although difficult, coping with a friendship breakup is not impossible. One of the nicest things you can do after a friend breaks up with you is to reflect on your own behavior. Bonior advises attempting to identify trends in current or previous friendships.

It’s important to try to understand what might be happening if you observe that friendships terminate in the same way again. You can be choosing folks with whom you do not get along. It’s possible that after a while of being hot and heavy in a friendship, you drift apart when things get dull, she claims. “Or, you might be acting in a way within the relationship that’s creating friction,” she continued. Keep in mind that friendships naturally grow and fade. It’s not a must that someone has the same pals their entire lives. And just because they end doesn’t take away from their wonderful qualities, according to Bonior. You can still value a friendship even after it has ended; you don’t have to pretend it never happened or erase it from your life story. Embracing self-care practices can be helpful here. According to Bonior, you should write in a journal, practice meditation, and speak with a friend or therapist about what you’ve valued and will retain from this now-defunct friendship. Yes, you will miss them terribly, but doing this will help you move on more readily. When it comes to friendship breakups, there is often a lot of shame and humiliation surrounding mourning. It’s easy to deny your emotions and rationalize them by saying, “Well, it’s not like I just got divorced or anything,” but friendships have a lot of emotional significance that you might not understand until after they’ve ended. So, Bonior advises, “let yourself feel and don’t punish yourself if it affects you more than you anticipated.”

The remainder of your group doesn’t have to feel awkward after a split. But in reality, you’ll need to make adjustments. It may be uncomfortable, but you may have to pull out of some activities since you’ll both need time and space to heal. Or perhaps some of you will decide to split up into smaller groups for a while. Make it clear to a mutual friend that you don’t mind attending that group brunch as long as they’re cool with it, provided that you and your ex-friend can ultimately come to a place where you can maintain your composure in social situations and respect each other’s space. Just be careful not to put your mutual friends in awkward positions, advises Bonior. Don’t force them to pick between you and insist that they adopt your point of view. Remember that people have the right to maintain the friendships they choose to maintain, and keep in mind that their perspectives may differ from yours. You shouldn’t have any trouble keeping up your other friendships as long as you can continue to show respect for each other’s choices.

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