Breaking up is hard to do – the end of a friendship

Break ups are always difficult for both parties involved, but while this is often acknowledged for ending romantic relationships, the same can’t be said for parting with friends. How do you break up with your bestie? How do you cope if you’ve been dumped by a friend? What are the rules in this scenario? Is it okay to feel sad or guilty over losing a friend or are we supposed to just move on and never think about it again? I’m afraid I don’t have the answers to those questions and can’t produce a handy ‘5 steps of how to deal with a friendship break up’ blog post. What I can offer is my own experience of attempting to deal with the end of friendships with close female friends.

female friendships

That experience is fairly messy and complicated, as I feel female friendships can often have their own very complex and intense dynamics. Especially in my late teens and early twenties relationships with other women could get very close very quickly. Suddenly there’s this one friend in your life you want to spend all your time with, you don’t want to share them with anybody and wherever you go you show up as a team. You’ve got your inside jokes and references that nobody else gets, you’re relishing the special bond you have.

At that age (around 17 to 23) I found I was seeking out friendships with women who I was aspiring to be like. Women who seemed much more confident and outspoken than me, who didn’t care what anybody else thought of them, just generally much more interesting than I perceived myself to be. I guess by being friends with them I hoped I’d turn into one of them eventually. Of course as I grew older I realised that these women weren’t perfect either and that maybe those kind of friendships, of one-sided admiration, were quite unbalanced and not sustainable over time. On top of that life often leads you into different directions and, without any hard feelings involved, people just change, develop new interests, gain different perspectives and with that new friends.

female friendships

In my case, moving countries also lead to reassessing old friendships as distance and new experiences not only changed me as a person, but also gave me an opportunity to view my existing relationships in a different light. With that also came the realisation that it was time to part ways with the woman who had been my bestie for a couple of years. Nothing terrible had happened, no fall out or big argument, just a series of small events that in their sum had slowly grown into a lingering resentment against her that I couldn’t shake off. Not to go into too much detail and bash someone who can’t defend themselves here, suffice to say, the one-sidedness of our friendship had finally caught up with me and I didn’t feel like there was enough to salvage to give it another go.

But how was I going to break it to her? I really dreaded having that conversation with my soon to be ex best friend and didn’t know how to approach it. Especially since we’ve been so close and normally, when we were still living nearby, would speak and see each other every week. I would like to tell you that I’ve dealt with the issue in a mature and constructive manner by addressing the problem head on, but I didn’t. I simply ignored the whole situation and blanked her. Surely she’d get the message eventually and stop texting, right? I displayed the same kind of behaviour I despised in guys that have dumped me. Ignoring her wasn’t working of course, she wanted to talk about it. How annoying, why do women always want to talk it out?! Girl, just move on, it was nice while it lasted. I know, I’m such a bitch.

After ignoring her for a while and being very monosyllabic and general in my emails and texts to her (which was made easier for me since we weren’t living in the same country), the face to face confrontation couldn’t be avoided. Once again I handled it badly. My long pent up resentment against her was splurted out in accusations which I didn’t even try to disguise as constructive criticism. I was out to hurt her feelings like she had hurt mine. Not surprisingly we didn’t speak after this and it was all over.

female friendships

In hindsight I wish I would have acted differently and at least attempted to part in a civilised manner. I should have put myself in her shoes. She must have been wondering why her best friend was suddenly so distant and never available to meet up or talk. Maybe she was worried she’d done something wrong or said something to upset me. I should have explained to her how I had changed and given her a chance to explain herself. I don’t think though that would have changed the final outcome, as I’ve had pretty much made up my mind not to continue our friendship. As harsh as it might sound, I feel if a friendship is generally making me feel down about myself a lot of the time, I don’t see why I should continue to stay in it just to be polite to the person.

Of course there are always ups and downs in a friendship. Everyone goes through tough times and sometimes you might need to give a friend more support than they can give you back. I don’t mean to suggest that you need to pack your bags and leave as soon as things get difficult. But sometimes that might be the best decision in that moment of time. What struck me the most though during that experience, was how I didn’t seem to have any tools at my disposal to handle the situation properly. I guess since I’ve experienced an incredibly strong bond in my friendships with women, it’s tough to break that bond especially when you know you’re going to hurt someone’s feelings. What I’ve learned from it, however, is that friendships change over time and sometimes might even disappear but that doesn’t mean there won’t be other best friends along the way.

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  1. Anne

    It seems you’re setting some trends here! The Guardian has just written an article about loss in female friendships! There’s has a different angle, about how friendships have to change when life gets in the way, but makes for an interesting read! Glad to see the subject of close female friendships are finally being given the attention they deserve!

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