7 Tips to Heal from a Friendship-Breakup

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Friendship is an indispensable aspect of the human experience, carrying profound significance in our lives. These cherished relationships provide us with a sense of belonging, emotional support, and companionship, nurturing our overall well-being. Friendships foster a deep understanding and acceptance of one another, allowing us to share our joys, sorrows, and everyday experiences. The connection we establish with our friends promotes empathy, compassion, and the development of essential social skills. They inspire us, challenge us, and motivate us to grow as individuals. Through shared laughter, heartfelt conversations, and moments of vulnerability, friendships cultivate a sense of authenticity in our lives, reminding us that we are not alone on our journey.

Furthermore, friendships play a vital role in mental health, offering a safe space for self-expression and the opportunity to receive guidance and advice during challenging times. In times of celebration, our friends stand by our side, rejoicing in our achievements and encouraging us to reach for our dreams. They provide a sense of stability and consistency in an ever-changing world. Ultimately, friendships enrich our lives by creating a network of connections that extend beyond blood ties, helping us navigate the complexities of life and offering a profound source of happiness and fulfillment.

Friendship breakups, though painful, are an unfortunate reality that can occur in our lives. Just like romantic relationships, friendships can experience strains, conflicts, and irreconcilable differences, leading to the dissolution of the bond once shared. These breakups can be emotionally challenging and may leave a lasting impact on individuals involved. The end of a friendship can evoke a wide range of emotions, including sadness, grief, anger, and confusion. The loss of a trusted confidant and companion can create a void in our lives, leaving us feeling lonely and disconnected.

Friendship breakups can stem from a variety of factors, such as growing apart due to diverging interests or life paths, unresolved conflicts or betrayals, or a gradual erosion of trust and compatibility. In some cases, friendships may reach a point where the negative aspects outweigh the positive, making it necessary to part ways for the sake of personal well-being. Regardless of the reasons behind the breakup, it is essential to acknowledge and process the emotions associated with the loss.

Like any significant ending, friendship breakups offer opportunities for growth and self-reflection. They prompt us to evaluate our own values, boundaries, and expectations within relationships. It can be a time to reassess the dynamics and patterns that contributed to the breakup and learn valuable lessons for future friendships. It is crucial to give ourselves time and space to heal, seeking support from other loved ones or even professional counselors if needed.

Friendship breakups can also teach us the importance of communication, understanding, and forgiveness. While some friendships may be irreparable, others can be salvaged through open and honest dialogue, provided both parties are willing to work towards resolution. However, it is essential to recognize that not all friendships can or should be repaired, and acceptance of the situation is sometimes the healthiest path forward.

Should I be concerned about my friendship ending?

While it can be challenging to predict with certainty whether a friendship will last or not, there are a few factors to consider when assessing the longevity of a friendship. You can reevaluate your friendship by reflecting on these red flags and by pondering over the questions provided. (Levine, 2007).

  • Lack of Mutual Effort

A healthy and lasting friendship typically involves mutual effort and investment from both individuals. If you are consistently initiating contact, making plans, or putting in more effort to maintain the friendship while the other person seems disengaged or uninterested, it could be a sign of an imbalance that may affect the sustainability of the friendship. (Estrada, 2023). Sometimes we put constant effort into saving the relationship because we are afraid that we will lose the person if we do not constantly work to maintain the bond. It is essential to realize that this fear signifies a one-sided friendship.

Does scheduling time to see the friend feel like an obligation rather than a pleasure? Are you the one to initiate the conversation? Does your friend keep canceling plans? Are they there for you when you need them? Is there a healthy balance of give and take in this friendship?

  • Lack of Trustworthiness

If a friend consistently breaks promises, gossips about you, or shares your personal information without consent, it may indicate a lack of trustworthiness. Trust is fundamental to healthy friendships, and repeated breaches can be concerning. (Lebow, 2023).

Do they share or discuss the conversation that they had with other people? Do their words match their actions? Is there open and honest communication and mutual trust? Do you think your friend believes in you?

  • Manipulative Behavior

Manipulative friends may try to control or manipulate you for their benefit. They may use guilt, emotional blackmail, or manipulation tactics to get what they want, disregarding your boundaries and needs. (Joyce, 2023).

Does your friend justify their negative behavior? Do you feel like you cannot be yourself around them? Do you feel afraid of their reaction? Do you feel like they are controlling you? Do you apologize a lot to them? Are they difficult to please?

  • Constant Criticism or Negativity

Friends who consistently put you down, belittle your achievements, or constantly criticize you can erode your self-esteem and well-being. Healthy friendships involve support, encouragement, and constructive feedback rather than consistent negativity. (Davenport, 2022).

Do they criticize you privately or publicly? Do they make you second guess yourself? Has this friendship lowered your esteem? Do you feel energized or uplifted after meeting them? Are they self-centered, sneaky, deceitful, or disloyal?

  • Disrespecting Boundaries

Friends should respect each other’s boundaries and personal space. If your friend consistently ignores or crosses your boundaries, dismisses your feelings, or pressures you to compromise your comfort level, it can be a sign of a problematic friendship. (Newton, 2019).

Do you feel comfortable setting boundaries with them and expressing your needs? Do you feel like you cannot prioritize yourself around them? Are there patterns of constant conflict or unresolved issues within your friendship?

  • Lack of Empathy or Support
  • A lack of empathy and emotional support can harm a friendship. If your friend consistently dismisses your feelings, invalidates your experiences, or fails to provide support during challenging times, it may indicate a lack of emotional connection or care.

Does this friend consistently support and encourage me? Do you act quieter around them? Can you share your feelings and opinions with them easily? Do you feel understood? Do you feel valued and respected in this friendship? Do you think your friend cares about your happiness, likes, and dislikes? Do they shun your problems by comparing them with themselves?

How do friendship breakups affect us?

A platonic breakup, or the end of a close friendship, can have various side effects on individuals. Here are some common side effects that people may experience. (Pudelwitts, 2023).

  • Emotional Distress

A friendship breakup can lead to emotional distress, such as sadness, grief, anger, loneliness, and loss. The depth of these emotions can vary depending on the significance of the friendship and the circumstances surrounding the breakup.

  • Decreased Self-Esteem

The end of a close friendship can impact self-esteem and self-worth. It may leave individuals questioning their likability, friend value, or ability to maintain relationships. This can lead to a decrease in self-confidence and a negative self-perception.

  • Social Isolation

Losing a close friend can result in social isolation. The individual may feel a void in their social circle and a lack of companionship and support that the friendship once provided. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and difficulty in finding new connections.

  • Changes in Daily Routine

Friendships often involve shared activities, routines, and traditions. When a friendship ends, individuals may need to adjust their daily routines and find alternative ways to spend their time, which can be challenging and unsettling.

  • Impact on Other Relationships

The end of a friendship can have a ripple effect on other relationships. Mutual friends may feel torn between the two individuals or may feel the need to take sides. This can create strain and changes in the dynamics of other friendships within the social circle.

  • Negative Thoughts

Individuals may engage in negative thoughts and rumination after a friendship breakup. They may continuously replay the events leading to the breakup, question their actions, or obsessively analyze what happened. This can hinder the healing process and prolong emotional distress.

  • Impact on Mental Health

A friendship breakup can affect mental health. It may exacerbate existing mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. Additionally, individuals may experience symptoms of stress, disrupted sleep patterns, appetite changes, and a general decrease in well-being.

How do I emotionally heal from a long-term friendship ending?

Long-term friendships are harder to replace because significant memories are created over time. When a long-term friendship ends, we often contemplate what went wrong or how we could have fixed it. You reminisce about all the good and bad moments you shared, afraid to let the memories fade. You may even start doubting yourself and others, becoming hypervigilant towards everyone’s actions to prepare yourself when others may leave you. You learn to second guess your actions and words to ensure no one else hurts you. You may even choose not to open up again. Breaking up with a friend does change you as a person. Here are a few steps to help you heal from a friendship breakup.

  • Practice Compassion

You are the most consistent person in your life. Prioritize yourself by being kinder and patient with yourself. Do not blame yourself for everything. Accept that some people are essential to a chapter in your life, but they were never meant to stay. Engage in self-care activities by doing what you enjoy. Forgive yourself if your performance level lowers, your energy is low, and you cannot do your best. (Barkley, 2023).

The best thing about doing something for yourself is you do not need to get approval from someone; find out what activities you wanted to do but could not. It can be as simple as going for a walk, listening to specific music, watching a movie that no one else liked, being lazy, and making mistakes while trying out new talent. Take this as an opportunity to rediscover yourself.

  • Grief

Like any other relationship, grieving a friendship breakup is also very common. Recognize that the end of a long-term friendship is a significant loss and allow yourself to grieve. Grief has five stages, and you must be patient with yourself as you move past this pain. Permit yourself to experience various emotions, including sadness, anger, confusion, and relief. Allow these emotions to surface and process them healthily. (Tayloe, 2022).

Allow yourself to be vulnerable during this time. It’s okay to be in denial or angry, it’s okay to find a way to fix it, and it’s okay to feel depressed because all of this will lead to acceptance. This breakup does not invalidate the happy moments that you shared. You can love someone but not want them back in your life after they have hurt you. Cherish the memories while accepting that the friend has hurt you.

  • Avoid Self-Blame

You are not perfect, no one is, but it is essential to forgive yourself. Regretting what could have been done differently or replaying the event will only hurt you. It is important to reflect on the situation, but living in the past only harms a person. If you think you are wrong, consider apologizing.

You can discuss it with a neutral person for a second opinion on what should have happened. But remember that it is only hurting you this much because the friend mattered to you, and your emotions were sincere towards your friend.

  • Keep Yourself Busy

Our mind automatically goes to the past and most painful memories when we are not doing anything. Keeping yourself busy by doing different activities will ensure that your mind is occupied during the day, and your mind will want to rest at night instead of overthinking the stressors. Distract yourself with positive activities that uplift your mood and redirect your focus. Engage in hobbies, explore new interests, spend time with loved ones, or immerse yourself in creative outlets. Positive distractions can help you shift your attention away from the pain of the breakup and bring more joy into your life.

You can keep track of daily goals and activities and the progress you make. This will give you a sense of achievement and reinforcement to elevate your mood.

Coping Skills to Support Emotional Healing

There are a few strategies that may help you overcome the loss of a friendship.

  1. Refocus on Yourself

It is essential to realize that you can be the friend you want for yourself. Our reaction to a situation is dictated by how we were made to feel in the past, as that becomes our inner critic. Often when we want someone to make us feel loved, valued, appreciated, or understood, we want ourselves to make us feel that way too.

Whenever you want to share something with someone, you can write about it in a journal or a letter. Every time you want someone to stand up for you, you need to prove yourself for yourself. Whenever you want someone to be there, try to do something you like.

  • 5:1 Ratio

According to relationship researcher James Gottesman (1970), one way to overcome negative thoughts about yourself or someone else is to replace each negative thinking with five alternative positive reviews. (Marie, 2022).

If you feel unlovable, you can replace it by appreciating how sincere you are, how much you care about people, how you value relations, and how you would rather blame yourself than hate someone else.

  • 3 Cs of Cognitive Therapy

For every emotional response, identify the first thought that automatically comes to your mind, challenge the thought by determining if there is evidence for it, and then try to replace the thoughts that have no plausible explanation with a more positive one. (Marie, 2022).

Catch it: Self-blame (It’s all my fault, I should not have let this happen)

Check it: Brainstorm why this may not be your fault (I did try my best to be a good friend, I was there for them in these situations)

Change it: Acceptance (I was a genuine friend. This breakup does not define my value or worth)

  • Self-Reflection Questions

Ask yourself a list of self-reflection questions to create a positive perception of the incident and to move past the breakup. (Pearl, 2018)

What did I learn from this relationship and breakup? How can I create and communicate my boundaries? What strengths can I draw upon to help me through this challenging time? What patterns or behaviors do I want to avoid in future relationships? How can I practice self-care and self-compassion during the healing process? What goals or aspirations do I have for my future?

  • Gratitude Practice

It is natural to be disappointed, depressed, and upset at everything after a breakup; you may feel angry, sad, used, hurt, confused, or even socially anxious after losing a friend. Training your mind to be positive takes effort, but by reminding yourself about positive situations, you can prepare your mind to remain optimistic rather than dwelling on what has happened.

Start a gratitude journal or practice gratitude exercises to overcome negative emotions. Write down three things you are grateful for each day, even during your breakup. This will help you shift your mindset towards positivity and appreciation.

  • Podcasts

Podcasts are often more feasible as they allow multitasking while stimulating mental imagery of audible information. Danielle Bayard Jackson, a friendship coach has a podcast Friend Forward. The 100-episode long podcast specifically elaborates on different areas in friendship, including the qualities of a good friend. How to respond when you disagree with them? How to create boundaries? Red flags in friendship? What impacts deep emotional connections? When is it appropriate to vent, and what to do if you have become their therapist friend?

  • Seek professional help: If you find yourself experiencing continued distress due to the loss or change in the relationships in your life, there are professionals that can assist you in the healing process. At Serengeti, we will provide you with a personalized treatment plan, support, guidance, and tools to help you navigate the challenges of relationship strain with a focus on healing and resolution. To connect with a therapist, visit our website at www.serengetiwellness.co – we look forward to helping you live a life of ease!

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