Whenever a friend has a bad breakup with their boyfriend or even just a new crush fizzles out, we make such a fuss over it. We talk about it, we go out and take tequila shots to forget our feelings, we indulge in a pint or two of ice cream and SATC reruns. It’s a cultural ritual we do. I’ve been there, I’ve done it. I’ve been both the participant to the ritual for a friend and the sad puddle of emotions on the receiving end. But why do we only do this for the romantic relationships in our lives and not the friendships?
Why don’t we ever check in on people who had to end a major friendship?
Last year my girlfriends and I experienced a major friend breakup. I’d say I took it the hardest as she was one of my last single friends and someone I did so much with. And once the friendship ended, no one really knew about it except for us. But friendships that end are emotional. Depending on what exactly happened, it can also be traumatizing, upsetting, depressing. You can be hurt and disappointed. And honestly, those are all the same words I would have used to describe any past romantic relationship where things didn’t work out.
But why as a society do we not acknowledge them? Why don’t we ever check in on the people who had major friendships end? Why is there no empathy for the space and emotion that’s needed to deal with it? The number one thing I heard from any friend of mine who realized this person and I were no longer friends was “oh that sucks”. And yeah it sucks. But it has truly surprised me how we don’t treat these two life events more similarly. They’re major relationships in our lives and ones you imagine having for years and years, sometimes, even a lifetime.
Part of the problem is we tend to not necessarily make a BIG fuss about it.
So no, the blame isn’t on everyone else for not caring. The blame is on us too for not saying “hey I’m really sad that my friendship is over” and ask for emotional support. However, simply saying “so and so and I are no longer friends anymore” should be enough for people to say “I’m so sorry to hear that, how can I help”? None of that ever happens though I’ve found. It’s as if we’re just supposed to move on and find more friends as if they grow on trees.
I think the mentality might be that you are more likely to have more than just one friend, so you’ll be fine! A romantic breakup is a bigger deal because you have one partner at a time. And once that’s over, you have to embark on the dreaded search all over again.
That’s where I think the mistake is. A friendship can mean the world to someone. Something even more meaningful at times than a romantic relationship. Almost like a sister. How does one deal with that kind of breakup?
What To Do If You Broke Up With A Friend
If you’re experiencing this, to me it’s very similar to a real breakup. Get out and start meeting new people. Expand your friend circle. Focus on you and your current friends and strengthen those bonds too. Stay busy with things that bring you joy and help to distract you from the emotional pain you may be experiencing. It may not solve your problems, but it sure will make you feel better. That’s a guarantee.
It’s Easier When You’re Not Alone
I’m thankful that several of my other girlfriends were a part of this friend break up. This meant that we had the ability to lean on each other and talk about it as we went through the emotions. It felt less isolating to be hurt by a friend and just have to move on solo. On top of it all happening at the start of a pandemic, it was a blessing to be able to have them for support.
But if you are…
If you don’t have the rest of the friend group to sulk with, this does make it SO much more challenging. Having to play the whole “will they be there” game is miserable. And again, no different than when you don’t want to run into your ex at a gathering. It’s emotionally taxing. Plus, misery loves company so it’s hard to not have people to lean on. In those cases, I recommend reaching out to those who are close to you to try to talk it out if you can. Or even talking to a therapist can be helpful.
What to Do If You Need To End A Friendship
The other side of this that I’ve noticed after chatting with other friends and even the girls in the Facebook Group, is that it’s hard to figure out how and when to end a friendship. When you’re dating someone you can more precisely say that you need to end something. It can be a clearer line in the sand. But friendships can be more challenging. Not only on deciding if the friendship needs to end, but also how to handle.
Deciding on ending a friendship can be as easy as just ghosting them. But I’m not a fan of that technique. We’re grownups. Sure there may be drifting away from one another and it just organically falls apart without needing a conversation. But if you’re in the situation where you need to make a definitive decision and say “this friendship needs to end I can no longer be in this friendship” well, that’s tough.
Friendship breakups aren’t always black and white. Some friend breakups are, and that’s almost a blessing because there’s more closure that way. But if it’s a more gray area it can be so difficult. It can turn into a long drawn out time of drifting apart and having issues. Which sometimes, is more painful. The one thing I can tell you is this. If this person is no longer bringing joy, value, happiness to your life, it’s worth having a conversation to end the friendship and avoid the drawn-out drifting.
Having this conversation is also tough. But can help to bring closure. Which just like a romantic relationship, is so valuable in being able to move on. You know you’ve laid everything out on the table and tried to save a friendship if it was really worth saving.
This is also my reminder to you that not all friendships are designed to last a lifetime. As someone who prefers to have few very close friends, this was a hard pill to swallow. But something I have to remind myself of when I feel down about the circumstances.