How-To: Process A Friend Break Up And Prioritize Your Relationships

There’s teachings from your parents that stick with you. They include life lessons that uncover truths as you navigate through childhood milestones and challenges. After a lost baseball game, grade school fight or heartbreak, the conversations circling the air were always the same. One topic that resurfaced every few years was friendships, and my mom would say that most serve a purpose. Some friendships help you grow and enjoy life, and some will last forever. Some exist for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

I used to despise the saying that ‘everything happens for a reason’. It’s vague, illusive, and requires you to over analyze everything. You’ll spend your life trying to understand it instead of living. However, some events do hold meaning, significance, offer lessons, and opportunities for growth. One of them is the end of a friendship. 

“Give Me A Reason”

Friend break ups are awful. Some would say that they’re worse than romantic ones. When you start dating someone, there’s a built-in expectation that the new relationship may not last forever. In friendships, that’s not the case. Marriage and family therapist Dr. Dani Moye says that sometimes, we underestimate the power of platonic relationships and expect a friendship to carry into our future. But, when that expectation disappears, it can be disorienting and disappointing.

Some friendships help you grow and enjoy life, and some will last forever. Some exist for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

Actively choosing to end a friendship is no easy feat. Though when negative interactions outweigh positive ones, when jealousy and competition run rampant, when there’s an unbalance in effort, when you feel controlled or manipulated, or when your self worth and self esteem are being threatened, it may be time to walk away. Like any type of loss, there’s a grieving period. It can feel foreign and confusing because unlike romantic breakups, there’s no real guide to getting through the loss of a friend(ship). There’s no go-to songs, movies, or television episodes that provide comfort in knowing that the pain of a friend break up will subside. Fact is, your brain doesn’t know the difference between a romantic and platonic relationship. A breakup is a breakup. There was intimacy and trust, and then… there wasn’t.

It’s not productive or healthy to assume that reconciliation and rehabilitation are inevitable, but with time, healing, and reflection, forgiveness comes too. Similar to how you can change from such an experience, so can the friend you left behind.

“Seasons Change, Winter To Spring”

Think of all of the friendships you’ve made thus far. Think about how they’ve changed, drifted, evolved, or strengthened through celebrations and hard times. Some survived and some didn’t, but they all served you at some point. Regardless of how short they lasted, their value is immeasurable. A recent study found that the more weak ties a person has, the happier they feel. So, the quantity of your interactions with friends matters as much as the quality of those interactions. Interesting.  

Best friends are important, but so are acquaintances. Low-stake, superficial relationships help us explore new interests, expand outside of our normal circles, and help us build a sense of community. They serve a specific need at a specific time. When you go away to school, these friendships are often found in roommates or classmates. They’re found in new co-workers, people you meet at the coffee shop, in restaurants, at parties, or spin classes. And yes, they’re even found on Instagram and Facebook. Common interests and similar circumstances bring people together, and as long as they’re shared, they’ll connect. 

For the most part, these kinds of friendships are lighter in nature and substance. There’s little to no hard feelings when plans get cancelled because life’s busy on your end. Some of these friendships will last months and others will span years, but the majority of them will fizzle out and expire. They aren’t friend break ups as much as they are natural dissolutions. Social media helps maintain these kinds of friendships by allowing us to share our lives with one another online. Now, we have the ability to reconnect if we choose, and notifications on our feed remind us that we shared something with a person that enriched both of our lives for the better.

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“Forever Your Girl”

Best. Friends. Forever. Those words, printed on heart necklaces and friendship bracelets, were handed out so freely when I was a young girl. My friends and I would collect them like trophies, but as we got older, our inner circle got smaller. Perhaps making intimate friendships gets harder with age because we start to understand our needs, our boundaries, and ourselves better. The people around you are there because you want them to be and like any successful relationship, you both have to put in the work. Some would even go as far to say that a healthy friendship is a skilled accomplishment.

Best friends are important, but so are acquaintances. 

When it comes to listing the attributes of a good friend, trust, loyalty, and communication rank at the top of my list despite the fact that psychologists identify the most important characteristics to be emotional support, high levels of self disclosure, and feelings of reciprocity. In other words, our best friends are there to help us get through the hard times and join us in celebrating the great ones. They’re there to talk to, offer transparency, and respect. As we share personal and intimate knowledge with them, our bond is deepened, cemented, and feelings of attraction and liking are increased. This only gets stronger over time, making many of us consider our closest friends our chosen family. 

“In My Life, I Loved Them All”

Have you ever heard the saying, “comparison is the thief of joy”? Well, it rings true when talking about friendships. No friendship is created equal and that in itself is beautiful. Different friendships provide us with different values, and we should be grateful for the uniqueness they bring into our world. Even the casual friendships that help fill our schedules and keep us sane. Deeper, invested friendships provide more stability, but there’s a need for both. And there’s room for both, until there isn’t.

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