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Friendship Breakups – We Can’t All be Friends!

There are few things in life that are a given – the sky is blue, the ocean is deep, pineapple does not belong on pizza, and friendships are forever. Right?

However, life is not always so straightforward. Sometimes, the sky displays a stunning array of reds, pinks, and purples; the ocean feels shallower; and yes, maybe pineapple does belong on pizza. Similarly, friendships can end, leaving us feeling as if our entire life has come to a standstill. That everything that was once beautiful and empowering, now feels dull and confusing. Emotions become like a bag of French fries being shaken, ready to burst out and scald the roof of your mouth. Indeed, friendship breakups can feel just like that—French fries burning the roof of your mouth.

So, how do you handle it? 1. Deal with friendship breakups, and 2. Break up with people you can no longer be friends with because that’s what’s best for you. Let’s unpack these two things together, recognising that these feelings aren’t mutually exclusive but can definitely arise together.

Dealing with friendship break ups – the dos, don’ts and full lowdown on how to deal with it

Step 1: Understand your feelings—there’s no rush to label, classify, or compartmentalise them. Just feel them.

Step 2: Once you’ve fully experienced your emotions, acknowledge them and find aspects of the friendship to cherish. Remember, it wasn’t all bad; count your highs.

Step 3: Confront the low points of your friendship. This isn’t to dwell in sadness, but to learn about yourself a bit more. Understand your boundaries. Know your limits. And set your standards one day at a time.

Step 4: Reflect on what friendships mean to you. Consider how you want them to make you feel and how you can best enjoy them—with flexibility, non-judgment, kindness and all! Reflection plays a huge role in allowing you to understand what you have learned from the relationship and how it will positively affect your future ones.

Step 5: Explore life again—maintain existing friendships, be open to new ones, and celebrate yourself. Yes, these steps are challenging, but remember, the good things in life don’t have an expiration date. Allow yourself to let go of the past, embrace new beginnings and keep adding memories to your life’s journey.

It’s time for a friendship breakup. How do I do it?

Just to preface this, you don’t often find yourself needing to break off a friendship. However, sometimes it is necessary for your own well-being and growth. I know I have had to let some friendships go through a clear breakup, sometimes let them fizzle out, and other times, a little distance and time allows you to pick up where you left things.

Step 1: Before you pull the plug on your friendship, reflect on what made you decide that the relationship should end. Has it been on your mind because you no longer share the same values, there is a lack of trust, or have you both just outgrown the friendship? Whatever the reason, it is helpful to have a clear reason to articulate to the other person. All reasons are significant enough if they make you feel uncomfortable in the friendship.

Step 2: You know what we hate more than breakups these days? Breakups that are sprung on you at the worst time and in the wrong place. So make sure that when you are having such an important conversation, you avoid public places or situations that could make either of you feel embarrassed, exposed, and/or vulnerable.

Step 3: Now here comes the tricky part – saying what is on your mind and saying it tactfully. You don’t want to come across as harsh, but you also do not want to let them walk all over you, make you backtrack on your decision, and leave you feeling lost. So when you are having the tough conversation, consider how you discuss the series of events or incidents that led to this moment. Use “I” statements over “You” statements. Articulate what your needs are, how the differences have gotten to a point that space and time are helpful and absolutely avoid placing blame. Trust me, it does not go down well.

Step 4: So what have we learned so far? We are going to be kind, but we are also going to set boundaries. It is important to listen to the other person, to allow them to express how they are feeling to make sure things are not left unsaid and everyone understands what this means for the future of the relationship. But once all the big feelings are out in the open, you need to set boundaries. Discuss the future of your communication—whether you’ll disconnect on social media, how you might interact in group settings, and agree to refrain from speaking negatively about each other.

Step 5: Go take a hike – not literally, just give things time to heal. Going through the feelings following a friendship breakup can be emotionally taxing so be open to the idea of grieving the loss of your friendship. While you are grieving, be open to the idea of maybe seeking professional help if things aren’t looking so nice and easy for you to navigate. And find moments to look after yourself, engage in self-care that brings you comfort and joy.

While in the moment it may feel like the sky is a little less blue, the birds are crankier than usual, the sun is not warm enough, eventually, you will feel better.  Congratulate yourself for getting through the process of making a difficult decision and setting a boundary that is absolutely necessary for yourself.