Friendship Breakups: Navigating the Ebb and Flow of Relationships

Friendship breakups—they’re an inevitable part of life. At some point, we all experience them, whether during a specific life stage or at multiple points along our journey. But how do we navigate these tumultuous waters with grace and understanding?

First and foremost, it’s essential to be kind to yourself. Remember, a friendship should be a two-way street, just like any relationship. If you find yourself investing more than your fair share into a friendship, it’s time to reassess. While it may feel like the friendship has ended, perhaps it’s just a temporary pause due to life’s busy nature. Especially in adulthood, juggling family, career, and friendships can feel like an uphill battle. Keep in mind that maybe it looks like a friendship breakup at the moment, but maybe it was just a break (not referring here to Ross and Phoebe on Friends), and you will find yourselves both return to close friends.

Personally, I’ve found solace in friends who understand that life can get hectic. They don’t expect constant attention, and they reciprocate the same understanding. But before reaching this stage of enlightenment, I’ve weathered my fair share of friendship storms. One friendship breakup, although it occurred quite some time ago, hit me hard. It wasn’t just about the duration of the friendship but the shared experiences we had—from navigating early adulthood to building our careers and relationships.

I have to say that I really tried hard to keep that friendship alive and didn’t feel the same in return, which was hard on me because I had to learn what real mutual friendship is like. You don’t necessarily have to see each other constantly, but at least trying to keep up with each other is important. Mentally, it was hard because I truly would talk about almost everything with that friend, and to some extent, that friendship was also my security blanket. And I still think about that friend, wishing for a good life. I do like to believe the feeling is mutual because we still interact even if it is just on social media or a short rare text, it shows that we still have some type of respect for each other. Although I wish that friend well, I have come to respect that we were friends during a time where we shared life experiences together. I wouldn’t say that we outgrew each other, but simply our paths have changed or perhaps we both wonder how we should reconnect.

I strongly believe that one should not force things because mentally it would just be hard on yourself if you constantly are the one reaching out. But it also means if the friend is reaching out to you and you have no time, there has to be mutual respect and understanding that you cannot drop everything just because that friend reaches out once a year. I also chose not to address the friendship breakup situation because there is no reason for me to be dramatic. I try to view it from an understanding perspective; perhaps that friend is going through a lot. Despite me having tried to reach out, all I wish is that my friend is good, and I know this wish is mutual because we both, although we parted ways, still keep in touch. Closure doesn’t always require a dramatic confrontation. Sometimes, it’s about silently acknowledging that paths have diverged, leaving the door ajar for future reconnections.

I’ve also been the one to pull away from a friendship. It wasn’t easy, but for the sake of my mental well-being it was necessary, I was the one not investing equal time and effort. And although it felt harsh at that moment, I have to admit it was liberating because I knew that it was not fair of me to be invested in a friendship that didn’t feel right and not mutual. Because I also know that I only want to be friends with people where I am respected. Ending that friendship was about respect for the other person because when people spend time, you still need to value that they spend time with you. I understand that this sounds to a certain extent harsh, but if you want to have a respectful relationship with others, you also need to sometimes make the decision to end a friendship. Although it may be perceived in a not understanding way, it is truly a sign of respect also, a sign of respect that the former friend can invest more time in friendships that are more worthy.

This brings me also to friendships that re-enter your life. I have had those friends too where life just got busy. Nobody was trying hard enough to keep that friendship alive, so there was nothing dramatic, just simply life happening. And then realizing that you truly were good friends, and it took some time to realize that, or it could also be that your interests are again the same. I am grateful for those friends because as an adult, you have a lot more understanding and forgiveness towards friendships. I am appreciative of these friendships because you learn to continue to be friends during different life stages. But I also have to add that those types of friendships where you re-enter into each other’s life are also the ones that are mostly only possible where you check-in with each other every now and then, whether that is once a month or every few months, even if you were just communicating with each other verbally but not being able to see each-other.

I also admit that friendship breakups can be equally as painful as a breakup because friendship breakups that truly hurt are the ones where you share so many experiences with each other, and even years of experiences with each other, or as an early adult, perhaps not decades but many life experiences at once together. It is understandable that this happens. 

But there is one thing I learned, that it is possible to form close friendships as an adult and find new friends as adults, especially if there is mutual effort. With maturity comes a deeper understanding of ourselves and others, fostering authentic relationships based on mutual respect and understanding. It may be harder to form closeness as adults, but it truly is possible because people are simply more mature and simply value friendship more the older one gets. You have a much better understanding of your own feelings and thoughts and more understanding of each other. The more you mature yourself, the more you realize that real friendships are the ones where you can share life with each other and truly where you can be your authentic self and have different opinions and life goals. So, as we navigate the complex landscape of friendships, let’s remember to be kind, both to ourselves and others. Cherish the memories shared, embrace the lessons learned, and welcome new connections with open arms. After all, the beauty of friendship lies in its ever-evolving nature, weaving a tapestry of experiences that shape our lives.


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