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How to Navigate a Friendship Breakup

You can honor and respect a friendship while still letting it go.

Details

We’re primed to think that romantic relationships may not last forever, while friendships are advertised to us as being for life “BFFL.” As a result, we don’t expect our friendships to end, setting us up for disappointment when our expectations crash into the reality that, just like us as individuals, our friendships change. 

Female friendships, in particular, have a greater impact on our overall life satisfaction than our romantic friendships, according to friendship coach Danielle Jackson. The hard truth is that friendships will change, grow, and sometimes end, like everything else. Learning to cope with that transition can help us maintain our appreciation and respect for the friendship while still allowing it to end. It doesn’t have to be a binary decision. We’ve outlined our top advice for getting through these tough periods, below. 

How to Navigate a Friendship Breakup

Normalize friendships ending (it’s healthy)

First and foremost, some conflict in friendships is normal and healthy. So before you cut someone off, consider another option: recategorization and reduction. Recategorize your expectations of them and reduce the time or energy you are investing into the friendship to mitigate those feelings of disappointment. Every friend can’t offer us everything, and expecting them to can set us up for frustration. Knowing what you can rely on each person for, and what their limits are, is a healthier way to view friendships. However, sometimes you truly outgrow a person or the relationship is toxic – if it does end, know that that’s okay. You can honor and respect the friendship and let it go; those are not mutually exclusive. Research shows that we replace half of our friendships every seven years. Rather than perpetuating a “best friends forever” narrative, be present and grateful in your relationships and honor each phase they pass through. 

Treat it like a real breakup – give yourself space to grieve 

Letting go of a friendship can be even more painful than a romantic break-up, so make space to feel your feelings and process the end of the relationship in whatever way feels best for you (buy the chocolate). Allow yourself time and space to process what happened and feel whatever may come up. We form a big portion of our identities through our friends, so when the relationship is over, we may feel like we’ve lost certain aspects of ourselves, which can be a blow to our self-esteem. Express yourself to neutral people (not mutual friends) or journal, make art, or dance it out. Seek support in whatever way feels right to you and then lean into the activities, hobbies, and other friendships that fill you up with joy. 

Use it as a check-in to assess your boundaries in current friendships

While you’re processing the breakup, use this as a check-in for other friendships. Take stock of your other friends, the expectations you have of them, and the boundaries you may have set (or need to set). Consider how you two could grow together rather than apart. You can shift your expectations of them to mitigate any feelings of frustration or set new boundaries. Remember: not all friendships have to look the same, and they each provide us with different things. To get better clarity on where each friendship stands, try our Friendship Journal Prompts and revisit our How To Set Healthy Boundaries With Friends Toolkit.

SOURCES

TED, How to Get Over a Friendship Breakup

Friend Forward Podcast,” hosted by Danielle Bayard Jackson

Goop, Moving on From Adult Friendship Breakups

Psychology Today, How to Handle a Friendship Breakup

Keep the conversation going by commenting on this story below. You can also connect with us about whatever’s on your mind by texting The Local Optimist Hotline at 310.299.9414 and subscribing to our bi-monthly newsletter here.