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The incredible sadness of breaking up with a friend


by Louise Bruton
19th Sep 2020
The incredible sadness of breaking up with a friend

Whether it’s a big betrayal or something small like an argument over a jacket, Louise Bruton writes that the death of friendship needs to be mourned.


Ever since we were small, the idea of friends forever was drilled into our heads. As we hoped to one day split heart necklaces with our BFF or pick up a Forever Friends mug adorned with those plush teddies (that will certainly outlive us all) as a birthday present, but no one is ever really prepared for the end of a friendship.

The end can land with a wallop or it can be a slow-burning demise but when it happens, it can have a more devastating impact than the end of romantic relationship.

a sturdy best friendship is secured with secrets, in-jokes, knowing glances and WhatsApp conversations that don’t really have a cut off point

Absolutely anyone can be your friend. You can know a person a few weeks or you can know them a lifetime. You can bump into them occasionally or know their parents’ home phone number – one that you haven’t dialled in approximately 20 years – off by heart.

It’s a loose title – one that evades time – but it’s a signifier that yes… you like this person. As time goes on, the small gestures and small interactions you exchange develop into a sturdy best friendship, one that’s secured with secrets, in-jokes, knowing glances, WhatsApp conversations that don’t really have a cut off point and the safe assumption that if this lunch is on you, the next one is on them.

Related: All my friends have moved away and I’ve never felt so lonely

Shaping who you are

If you’ve been friends with someone since you were in school,  you see a great deal of yourself in them. The beats on which your jokes land and the way you draw on your eyeliner has been learned in practice or absorbed by osmosis. If friends come your way in college or your early 20s, you attempt adulthood with them by burning frozen pizzas in an oven that’s never been cleaned, drinking an entire bottle of lukewarm wine from mugs and nodding along when everyone exaggerates the active status of their sex lives.

You see yourself in these people because they help shape who you are – and you them – so when you fall out, your identity feels disrupted.

The fun lessons we learn side by side, like knowing that dark rum is not your drink and vodka is definitely not theirs, can’t compare to the weight of the emotional ones because they’re the ones that bide us even closer or push us apart.  You see yourself in these people because they help shape who you are – and you them – so when you fall out, your identity feels disrupted.

Related: 30 questions that will strengthen your closest friendships

Frien

An unfixable rift

Fallouts can come down to two things: 1) the realisation that there are some lessons we need to learn alone and 2) when so much of your world orbits around one person, you can forget to stand up for yourself. If left unaddressed for too long, these things can cause an unfixable rift. If you feel overcrowded in your friendship or like you’re living in your friend’s shadow, it can be hard but necessary to admit that you need a break.  But if a friend has used you or used something they know against you, it can shatter your confidence and you have to weigh up your own worth against the worth of the friendship. 

with friendship, there’s the stubborn belief that these people who chose you to be their friend, couldn’t hurt you

If we were all perfect and mature to a fault, we could call things as we see them and ask for space when we’re figuring out that massive question of “who am I?” or calling someone up for regularly ditching you at the last minute whenever you make plans. But we’re not perfect. And with friendship, there’s the stubborn belief that these people who chose you to be their friend, couldn’t hurt you and we let the pain fester until there’s a breaking point. And there’s always a breaking point so it’s what you do next that matters most.

Related: ‘Stronger together than apart’: the incredible power of female friendships

Incredibly sad

You need to talk things through but what you say has to be received. This talk can result in a mutual sobfest or one of you can take on the stance of a brick wall.  If the issue isn’t resolved immediately, give your friend a period of grace because if someone is in the wrong, it takes time (and humility) to own up to that. If this rift goes to the point of  no return, well… It’s an incredibly sad thing to experience.

Even though it might feel easier to resent your ex-friend, you’re far better off placing the good memories into a metaphorical time capsule, one that you can visit without any bitterness.

Whether it’s a big betrayal or something small like an argument over a jacket (that’s how All Saints broke up in 2001), the death of friendship needs to be mourned. Like any romantic relationship, you need to give yourself time to recover from a friend break up. You might feel the need to hide them from your Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds or you might need to stare into space for a while and cry. Both are fine options but, like other break ups, you need to remember that some things just don’t work out. 

Even though it might feel easier to resent your ex-friend, you’re far better off placing the good memories into a metaphorical time capsule, one that you can visit without any bitterness.

And even if it feels like the end now, in a few years time, you might get a text asking to meet up. When that happens,  you might discover that time you spent apart has given you the space to be friends – friends that know their worth –  again. 

Read More: Four Netflix shows about female friendship you should start watching tonight
Read More: Is friendship appropriate in the workplace?

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