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The Friendship Breakup | When Friendships End

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Have you ever had to let go of a friendship that has ended? Then you, my friend, have experienced the dreaded “Friend Breakup”. Today, we are going to walk through the steps that you might experience when ending a friendship and help you find closure, to heal, and ultimately thrive. 

Your Friendship Ended

Whether by choice of yours or circumstance alone, your friendship ending is a lot like a romantic breakup. Your heart has become attached to this person, you’ve gotten used to their presence in your life, and have come to rely on them in many ways. Just like a romantic relationship, you have invested a lot of time, energy, and love… all of which are very precious to you. It makes sense that you may feel angry, sad, confused, or lost. You may even feel a sense of relief or guilt. However you feel is valid. Your friendship ended. You are mourning the loss of a significant person in your life.

There are steps you can take to move through this breakup to plant your roots firmly and rise through on the other side. We will talk about each of these steps: Reflecting, Understanding, Grieving, Accepting, Moving Forward, and Thriving. It is important to know that these steps are not always linear. Give yourself some grace while you move in and out of each of these phases because it is only natural. For instance, grief may walk along with you throughout a few of these stages. Or you may be accepting before needing to reflect.

There is no right or wrong way to process this.

Moving Through a Friendship Breakup

Reflecting.

Let’s try to analyze the reasons that this friendship has ended. Do you know where the friendship started to turn? Maybe you felt the energy start to shift, even if you could not physically see changes in the dynamics. Or are you able to point out the exact moment that led to its ending? There are many reasons that a friendship may end. It may have become toxic or you may have outgrown them. They may have become preoccupied and distanced themselves from you slowly over time. Their actions or words may have hurt you. You may have hurt them. Change and growth may not have been welcomed or supported in the friendship. Or are you still confused about where it went wrong?

Having some clarity on the ending is crucial for getting closure. But be careful, searching for that closure outside of yourself may not get you very far. Your friend may not be capable of having a conversation that will bring you that clarity. But you cannot control them, you cannot force them to confront the issue, especially not maturely. You are only able to control yourself, your reactions, and what you choose to do with the circumstances that you are given. Seeking those answers for yourself is your responsibility. And whatever the reasoning, it’s important to reflect on the ending to help you move into the next step…

Understanding.

To understand others, you must first understand the importance of not taking the situation personally. In one of my favorite books, The Four Agreements, author Don Miguel Ruiz writes, “Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally… Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves… Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you.”

You must throw away what you think their motives or meanings were. Those were based on assumptions. Sure, you may be able to make an excellent and educated guess at where they were coming from. However, without direct and honest communication from them, you will never fully know. What you need to understand in not understanding, is that there is always more happening beneath the surface. And that has nothing to do with you. Their childhood dynamics might be coming out to play, their wounded self may be reacting or putting up a wall, or it could even be a projection of their own insecurities and faults being shoved onto you. Whatever the reasoning is, you have to let that remain in their world. Trust me, it’s not yours to take on.

Understanding Your Role

When understanding yourself, look for the role you may have played in that friendship dynamic. This allows you to notice any possible patterns in your life. Be gentle with yourself during this step. Taking a good long look at yourself is never easy but it can help you grow. The immediate response might be to reject this, thinking “I didn’t do anything wrong! They did.”. While this may be the case, maybe you are attracting the wrong kind of friend. Maybe you are allowing toxic behaviors to exist within your friendships. Or maybe you are repeating relationship patterns. You can acknowledge this truth and it doesn’t mean you are at fault. Sometimes just being aware of the part that you can control makes it easier to understand. This will help you move forward on a healthier path.

My Personal Role

For instance: I have had a few friends who were so reliably there when I was at my lowest points in life. But… these friendships seemed to come undone when my life was in a season of happiness. Through analyzing relationship patterns, I realized that they had jumped into the role of the rescuer.

Rescuers find their purpose in helping others who are down, in riding in valiantly on their white horse to save the day. That makes them feel good about themselves, which gives them their worth and distraction from their own self. The outcome for them is almost like a nicer form of bullying. They can feel better about themselves by seeing someone else suffer without actually facilitating the suffering themselves. When you remove the need for their help, they feel as if they are no longer needed. Their sense of self-worth decreases and the comparison that used to bring them joy now reveals their perceived weaknesses. They will either react by withdrawing, working even harder to prove you need them, or a combination of both.

The Focus of this Exercise

The meaningful part to focus on in this scenario is not so much their role but the pattern that you allowed in the friendship. As hard as it may be, it is essential to review your position in this friendship role-playing. It took a lot of self-reflection and dirty digging for me to see that I had been playing the part of someone who needed rescuing. I was at my absolute worst, in my darkest times, when I met these friends. I didn’t trust myself to get by on my own. I relied on them for support and guidance to know what was best for me.

After learning that lesson, I have outgrown this role. I no longer need saving. And I no longer allow people to “rescue” me or cross those boundaries. But that lesson had to come through awareness. Now, I can have a healthy balance of receiving advice and support from friends while being able to rely on myself for that as well.

Roles can shift in relationships, and that is perfectly natural. However, both parties must be willing to shift for that to be successful. If the other side is not willing to budge in their role, then you have outgrown the dynamics of the relationship and it will no longer serve you.

Understanding all of this does not make the pain go away. The next step is crucial and has probably been walking along with you during this healing journey…

Grieving

In this pivotal step, you are allowing your feelings to be acknowledged and felt. And you are trusting that they will pass. Purge yourself of the pain, anger, and confusion. Cry it out if you need to. Vent to a loved one you can trust. Journal. Or my personal favorite, write them a letter.

Writing a Letter

They don’t need to see this letter, but you need to get those thoughts and words out of your head. Write it without a filter, completely uncensored, to allow these thoughts a healthy outlet. Otherwise, they will stay internalized and leave you spinning circles until they find their own toxic outlet to escape.

If you feel the need to send the letter, please remember that your intentions will be conveyed through your words. Review and rewrite your letter multiple times. Shift the intention to peace, clarity, and healing. If you are deeply hurt, you may have to work to reframe any anger or accusations in a way that will be better received. Attacking someone will only cause them to withdraw further or counter-attack. It will probably not give you peace or be productive for either of you.

Personally, I worked closely with a therapist on a letter that I chose to send. I focused on describing my experience and feelings in the situation. And reworked it daily for weeks until I was sure my intention was clarity and healing. I was incredibly proud of my letter and sent it off. Guess what? I never heard back. This is an outcome that you need to be prepared for. You may also receive an angry response back. In the ideal world, you would be met with peaceful intentions and a mature response but that may not be the case. At the very least, you’ve provided an outlet for your grieving. Once we have worked through the grieving process, we move onto…

Accepting

It’s time to accept the situation for what it is – the ending of a friendship. Don’t tease yourself by leaving the door open and occasionally peaking into their life or allowing that hope to linger. Stop checking their social media. It’s best not to know what is happening in their life. Cut contact with them. Set firm boundaries with mutual friends if you still wish to stay connected with them – do not put them in the middle and definitely do not allow them to treat you poorly. These decisions are all elements of self-love, and you deserve it right now

My goal with acceptance is to get to a point where you can actually thank them. Sounds wild, right? Thanking the person who hurt you? Find a way to see the lessons they have taught you and how they have helped you grow. That is definitely something to be grateful for, isn’t it? Because in some way, shape, or form, they have made you a better person. Personally, I thank my past friends for helping me find awareness in regards to my relationship patterns. For showing me I had the strength to stand up for myself and walk away from a situation that no longer served me. I also thank them for the space that they created for something better to set down roots in my life.

Hawaiian Practice of Forgiveness

Living in Hawaii, I have learned about the ancient Hawaiian practice of forgiveness: Ho’oponopono. The Hawaiian word Ho’oponopono comes from “Ho’o” which means “To Make” and Pono which means “right”. The repetition of the word Pono means “doubly right” or making right with both self and others. This practice is used to heal ourselves, others, and our world.

Traditional Ho’oponopono consists of four main phrases: “I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.” This is meant to guide you through repentance, forgiveness, gratitude, and love. Repeating these words can help you face the negative feelings that are preventing you from healing and is intended to walk you beyond those blockages. It’s normal to resist some of these phrases, especially at first. I have struggled with each individual one (and sometimes all of them) when practicing. Keep the translation in mind and let that be your intention “to make right with yourself and others”. I’m a big believer that if you keep infusing that intention into your practice, that you will be successful!

Congratulations on working through accepting the situation. Now what? We are…

Moving Forward

This is the transitional part of the process. You wouldn’t want to move forward and end up in the same situation, would you? We have put in all of this work for progress in our lives. So, let’s try not to repeat these patterns and dynamics! Be clear about what you want in a friendship. Write it down as if you are creating an “order” to the universe. List all of the traits that you want in a friend and the feelings that you want to receive from that friendship. Having this clarity will help you see whether or not others have these qualities.

Focus on your support system. Make sure you are filling your time with people who love, support and encourage you. They are the ones who deserve your time and attention. Not these people from your past.

Most importantly, support, and love yourself. You’ve probably heard the age-old advice to “date yourself” after a breakup, and that stands true for friendship breakups! Be your own best friend! Be there for yourself in the ways you are missing from your friend. Feel a need? Fulfill it for yourself. Talk to yourself the way you would a friend. Build yourself up and watch how you bloom!

You may think that’s the end of the healing process, but there is one last step after ‘moving forward’. If you’re moving forward, what is your destination?

Thriving

Thriving is the final phase, and it feels an awful lot like soaking up the sunshine. You have firmly planted your roots and risen through on the other side of the hardships you’ve endured. Love yourself and allow happiness to wash over you. But don’t just try to move on to your next goal, make sure you take the time to acknowledge and appreciate how you’ve grown. Be proud of yourself for all that you have overcome. Embrace the transformation and appreciate the new connections you will come to make!

Well, friends. You’ve just heard my take on a Friendship Breakup.

As always, I am so grateful to have you with me today. I hope that this has brought you some insight and inspired you to Root and Rise in your own life.

Do you have questions or thoughts about this post? Send me a message! I’d love to hear from you.

4 Comments

  • Shea

    Thank you so much for this article. I’ve been (slowly) growing through some pains of removing a toxic relationship from my life and I know I’m at the point of acceptance and moving forward. But I don’t want to haha. Where is that apology!?! Ho’oponopono might be what I need to get past this barrier. Keep writing and sharing! I look forward to reading more.

    • Root & Rise

      UGH! Removing a toxic relationship from your life is incredibly difficult. I totally understand not wanting to, even if you might know it’s the best thing for you to do! I have held onto my fair share of toxic relationships for too long as well. Ho’oponopono was exactly what I needed to move past that barrier as well. I really hope that it works for you! Let me know. <3

  • Laura

    Most of my friendships have ended gradually by drifting apart due to getting older and going our separate ways, and they usually end via social media (unfriending, blocking, etc.). When they’re not that great of a friend to begin with, it’s usually a relief, but there’s always that feeling of “what did I do wrong” or “why did they blow me off like that.” I think not taking it personally is key because you don’t usually know someone else’s motivations or if they were intentionally being malicious vs. unconsciously handling it poorly. We can drive ourselves crazy trying to figure out what scenario is correct without confronting them directly, and there usually isn’t an opportunity to do so. So, it’s best to just let it go.

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