Wednesday, 4 November 2015

THOUGHTS ON: Friendship Breakups

While relationship breakdowns have been heavily documented in our culture (with all of us knowing that the secret is to sob in your slobby pyjamas while devouring trashy films and too much ice cream) the friendship breakup gets far less press. This said, I would argue that the latter can be just as painful as the former, with many of the same emotions surfacing in both experiences. Whereas we can't move for tropes and stereotypes on how to get over an ex-lover, there is almost no guidance to be found on moving on from an ex-friend... So how do you go about it?

I'm not much of an expert on any kind of breakup, but like most people I have gone through this particular situation as both the "dumper" and the "dumped" (or as Facebook might put it, the unfriended). Neither end feels particularly pleasant, so I thought I'd round up what I have by way of "advice", with some suggestions for getting you through that raw, foetal-position-adopted-friend-loss stage and the oh-crap-I-just-don't-see-us-as-friends-any-more-what-do-I-do stage.



First of all, please don't overreact and assume a friendship has died because someone hasn't texted in a while. I know that this may sound like the most non-advice advice ever, but it never does hurt to remind ourselves that we all maintain our friendships in different ways. I'm someone who may not get in touch for any length of time, but it rarely means that I'm upset with my buds. Your pal's pace of friendship may be slower while your own may be faster... It's something to bear in mind.

Test the waters. Whereas relationships tend to end with a clear sense of separation*, friendship breakups can be murkier. A couple of attempts to extend the hand of friendship should suffice; if you find that attempts to arrange meeting up get blown off repeatedly or that messages and calls go unanswered, it's wisest to step back and leave things. As the other party in this scenario, it's not nice to receive a massive, accusatory message outlining where they have failed to maintain contact with you, so don't bother. True friends will come back without you needing to ask.

Accept what is. Seeing a friendship dwindle away is totally normal. It's often not about either of you having done something wrong, but more about changes of circumstance; you may have simply grown apart or literally moved further apart from one another. In these instances, it helps to simply accept this and not let the hurt get to you too much; by maintaining a level head, you may even find that a bond gets rekindled later down the road (and boy is it great when it does).

Friendships ending in betrayal are less common, and it's often harder to see these ties being repaired. Even in this situation, take the high road. My family is big into saying the expression least said, soonest mended, even if it's not something we can always stick to... but it really does help to do your best. A few years ago I ended up losing some of my dearest friends at the time and I still wish I'd handled things with more dignity; now I am that little bit older I can see that things could have ended more easily.

Let yourself heal. It may involve multiple sadness baths, millions of late night phone calls and more Parks and Rec marathons than you can shake a stick at, but you'll get there. Allow the loss of one bond to give strength to others, by making the most of the buds that are looking after you while you get through your friendship breakup.

*unless you are Ann Perkins




Don't beat yourself up too much. We all need to move on sometimes and especially from friendships that bring us down instead of up. Sometimes drawing a line in the sand to say that enough is enough really is the kindest thing; struggling on with a bond that is just making you unhappy can lead to toxicity and real misery. It is okay to say no thank you to something that is no longer healthy for you.

Withdraw quietly. Again, writing an accusatory letter just isn't an option. Writing that letter and keeping it may prove cathartic, but any interactions with one another should be gentle and respectful. With a close friend, I truly can't imagine anything more hurtful than being told in detail, blow by blow, why they no longer want to be your mate, so don't do it to someone else no matter how justified you might feel. If you can't drift away quietly, perhaps a more direct interaction is necessary, just saying that you feel differently but that you wish them well. Don't have another friend do your dirty work and don't say anything that you wouldn't be comfortable hearing yourself.

Let them feel their hurt. They are likely to react with upset and our unhappy selves are not our best selves, so a thicker skin may be needed. Accept that they may feel lost and betrayed, but don't forget that you are doing so for the right reasons.

Feel your pain too. It is still an awful experience, even if you are the one who instigated a friendship breakup, so be prepared for your own upset. You may miss them and feel angry at them at the same time; this is again normal and just needs to be felt and dealt with patiently and with lots of chocolate based snacks.

Do you guys have any advice on this subject? Are you going through a friendship breakup at the moment? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments...


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