How to cope with a friendship breakup

Ronny Maye 25 May 2021

There's a million and one romantic break-up guides, but friendship breakups are spoken about much less. Here's some advice on how to cope with one

In my early twenties, I found myself daydreaming quite often about my future wedding. I knew the exact date I wanted to be married on. I had a list of potential locations and colour schemes. I knew what my signature drinks would be and what items would be on my menu. With every episode of Say Yes to The Dress and Four Weddings that I watched, another entry went into my dream wedding plans. So much so, that I had to create a Google Doc to organise every possible detail of my nuptial wishes. And of course, there was there was the list of people that I planned to have by my side to witness me laying down “my pimp card” for good.

The only thing that would need to be edited was the groom’s side—or so I thought. Never in a million years did I think the edit to my future wedding plans would be to remove some of my best friends. And although I’ve seen it play out for dozens upon dozens of other people, as far as I was concerned, never would some of the most monumental moments in my life not be shared with the very people who encouraged and supported me to go after all I wanted in life. But I was no exception. For many of us, breakups among the best of friends seems to be an inevitable part of life.

"Never in a million years did I think the edit to my future wedding plans would be to remove some of my best friends"

A sad and frustrated looking woman holding a phone

Much like the ending of romantic relationships, platonic break-ups can occur for any number of reasons, such as lack of boundaries, unresolved conflict, dealing with personal matters, a break of trust, non-reciprocal support, miscommunication or simply outgrowing each other.

As we grow older, we unlearn old habits, create new ones, experience things that gives us a new perspective and ultimately shape who we become. Our childhood, habits, behaviors, and mannerisms (among other factors) all contribute to our interpersonal relationships. But just as you are changing and growing, so are the people around you.

"But just as you are changing and growing, so are the people around you"

In an ideal world you would grow old with the people you grow up with, but sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. For these reasons, you may find yourself having to be the one to end the relationship with your best friend. There’s never an easy way to do so, but the decision points below can help lessen the blow. 

  1. Decide why you want to break it off.
    Is your failing relationship with your best friend truly worth severing or can a candid conversation (or even therapy) help you mend what’s broken? Sometimes, we only see things from our own perspectives. Consider presenting your point of view to an unbiased or neutral party to ensure you are indeed making the right choice.
  2. Decide how you will end things between you and your best friend.
    Will you send a text? Invite them for drinks? Schedule a video call? Or simply go awol? While no one who has been an intricate part of your life deserves to be “ghosted” or “left on read” ultimately the power is in your hands. Ending a relationship can bring about pain and heartache, therefore you should do things in a way that makes you the most comfortable.
  3. Decide if you want reconciliation.
    Depending on your reasons, you may just need some time away from your best friend. Let them know if you’d be open to reconciliation in the future after you’ve processed the events leading up to the break-up. Try something like, “I need some time, and when I’m ready, I’ll reach out to you.” This keeps the ball in your court, and you won’t be forced to mend a relationship before you’re ready.
  4. Decide if you will prepare the others.
    Of course, there may be some mutual connections between you and your best friend. It’s no one’s business why your friendship is ending or on a break, but to keep those mutual people from having to choose sides or creating awkward environments, make a decision on which of those connections you want to keep and ask those connections to let you know ahead of time if you have to be around “the ex.”

It may seem that grief would only fall on the person being broken-up with but truthfully being the person to end a friendship is equally painful. For both parties, its natural to find yourself in a grieving process. From celebrations to vacations, helping you get ready for a first date or a wedding day to the birth of a baby, supporting moves across county and everything in between, before you knew it, your best friend was a part of almost every aspect your life.

Two women angry with each other and sat on a sofa but facing away from each other

As with the end of any other relationship, it can be hard to move past what may now feel like an emptiness. To me, it’s hands down harder than the ending of a romantic connection. So how exactly do you grieve or move past “the other breakup?”

  1. Feel those feelings.
    You may find yourself going to call or text that person just from habit. When things happen-good or bad, it will take some time to remember this person is no longer accessible to you, which may bring bouts of sadness, hurt, anger, confusion, dismay, etc. All those feelings are natural when a relationship of any kind ends. The breakup with your best friend won’t be any different.
  2. Reflect on your contributions to the demise of your relationship.
    If you were the one “dumped” how could you have been a better friend? Take heed to the things that caused your relationship to end, and then do the work to salvage it or prevent other friendships from going down the same road.
  3. Hobbies can help feel the void.
    Suddenly there is a change in your schedule. Wednesday nights are no longer for karaoke and Sunday brunch just isn’t the same anymore. Take this shift in your free time to recommit to things that you find interesting and get to know who you are as a person again.
  4. Delete and block.
    As the old saying goes, “you can’t heal in the same environment you got sick in.” It’s tempting to see what’s happening in someone’s life, especially someone who has been a large part of your life for so long; but until you’re healed, removing them from social media platforms is necessary. The delete and block buttons are your greatest assets.

There is no timeline on grief. It can take weeks or years to come to terms with life altering circumstances. But I have found, that as you accept things for what they are, there is an overwhelming sense of peace that eventually washes over you. I’ve had friendships end with people that I love dearly-and truthfully, I still do.

"I’ve had friendships end with people that I love dearly-and truthfully, I still do"

While the friendships may have ended because we outgrew each other, our interest changed, or I prematurely aligned myself with people before truly knowing who they were—there will always be pleasant memories. Memories that come to mind randomly, and it brightens my day to know that I was able to experience some of the greatest moments in my life with these people.

I am thankful for each of these connections because it allowed me to become a better person. It taught me how to establish boundaries and most importantly, I learned how to genuinely be a friend. There is no desire to reconcile, but these are women that I am rooting for and I hope all their wildest dreams in life have come true.

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