Friends are, as a rule, among the most important people that we have in our lives. Since our childhood, apart from our families, our friends shape who we are and how we spend our time. I know people whose friends are THE most significant persons in their lives. So, how to get over a friendship breakup when things go bad?
I was in a situation like that three years ago. I broke up a friendship that had lasted for 27 years because I felt hurt by my friend’s lack of recognition of how much I was suffering.
We became friends when I was six. We met when my family moved from another country, running away from war. We had been inseparable since. A few years ago, nearly all my family members passed away within 2.5 years. To my grave disappointment, she repeatedly made insensitive comments about the material things I was inheriting. My friend was too emotionally selfish to notice how much pain I was going through. Her lack of empathy was too much for me at that point… so I had to initiate a friendship breakup.
Friendship breakups are common in life shutterstock/Dean Drobot
Living without her after decades of closeness was strange (to say the least). It took quite some time to get over the change. And, whatever the reason for breaking up a friendship, your life changes. So, you need to learn to overcome the hurt and thrive from that experience.
This article will help you design strategies on how to get over a friendship breakup and rebound.
Sometimes, a part of learning how to get over a friendship breakup is understanding why it has dissolved. There are as many causes as there are friendships. Nonetheless, it is possible to categorise common reasons into these four categories:
I have had friendships fall apart for each of those reasons. In every case, getting over a friendship breakup was a challenge. Friends are people we love and rely on throughout our lifespan. So, how to get over a friendship breakup?
Getting over a friendship breakup may be quick and rather easy, but it can also take you years to heal. Although psychology and sociology recognize the importance of friendships in times of distress as well as peace, there is little research on how we mourn a friendship breakup.
A recent doctoral dissertation revealed that we undergo a grieving process that can be life-changing and transform us into someone new. It is a loss we need to make meaning of and overcome the ambiguity of ending a friendship.
“Getting over a friendship breakup may be quick and rather easy, but it can also take you years to heal... we undergo a grieving process that can be life-changing and transform us into someone new.”
Therefore, when you ask how to get over a friendship breakup, you need to recognize the potentially immense impact the experience will have on you. Here are some strategies you can use to cope with the breakup and grow as a person in the process.
The grief following a friendship rupture is often disenfranchised. Not only do others fail to recognize our pain, but oftentimes, we do too. So, the first step towards healing is to acknowledge that you, indeed, suffered a loss. Expect different phases of the grieving process to pass by as you recover.
The study we mentioned above revealed that getting over a friendship breakup, same as with any other loss, requires you to have a support system. Let your family and other friends know what is going on and express your needs clearly.
As with any crisis, in order to rise up to the challenge of getting over a friendship breakup, you need to engage in self-care. Mind the content you consume, respond to your emotional needs, and be self-compassionate. Take care of your body, too — exercise, eat healthily and sleep well. It may not be at the top of your priorities when finding out how to get over a friendship breakup, but proper self-care was found to help emotional recovery tremendously.
One of the main outcomes of a friendship breakup is the disruption of habits and routines. Precisely because of that fact, one of the chief coping strategies is to maintain the routine as much as you can. Try to design ways to keep, for example, visiting theatres, camping, and socialising as you used to. It will help you stay in touch with the things you enjoy and limit the loss.
Chances are, you are going to still meet your ex-friend here and there. You probably share social circles, at least some of them. Whatever the cause of the separation between you may be, when you are thinking about how to get over a friendship breakup, you ought to get ready for the occasional awkwardness. Think of ways to minimise the uneasiness, such as how you will greet the ex-friend, how you might interact with others, where you will sit, and such.
When you start figuring out how to get over a friendship breakup, you might be ruminating over what went wrong. However, it is best that you leave this phase of getting over a friendship breakup for when you feel more level-headed. Once some time passes, and you reclaim your stability and centredness, you can start exploring the causes of the breakup.
“Whatever the cause of the separation between you may be, when you are thinking about how to get over a friendship breakup, you ought to get ready for the occasional awkwardness.”
Try to aim for an impartial stance. Acknowledge both your and your ex-friend’s perspectives. Chances are, they will have their version and might feel equally hurt. The reason why it is important to understand exactly what triggered the rupture is this — you need the insight so that you can forgive and self-forgive. It is a crucial step towards the final phase of getting over a friendship breakup.
One of the final stages of thinking about how to get over a friendship breakup is to make peace with what had happened. Psychologically speaking, you need to integrate the loss into your psyche. Learn who you are now after you have lost a friend. See how you have grown. What did you learn about yourself? Accept the new reality and the new You — and new paths will open.
Making new friends may not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you are trying to get over a friendship breakup. Especially considering the science-backed fact that we peak at making friends at the age of 25, after which our social circles tend to decrease.
However, humans are social creatures. We need others for bonding, support, and a sense of belongingness. Loneliness can lead to a decline in physical and psychological health. So, how to make new (quality) friendships after your friendship has dissolved?
You can explore whether your existing contacts bear the potential of a deeper connection. Invite a co-worker or someone you knew from school to the movies or for a drink and see if you will click.
Also, make sure to use the possibilities opened up by modern technology and seek out people who share your worldview. Apart from social media, you can create a profile here on happiness.com and reach out to people around the world who have the same interests as you do. In the happiness forums, you can start conversations and engage in discussions with people you may want to connect with more deeply.
In my case, things went back to normal after two years of no contact. My friend and I started exchanging messages again when she was pregnant with her second child. I felt I had to be there and support her.
After that, she took the initiative to help me find my way out of some serious problems I was experiencing. I feel that she has truly given some thought to how she so indifferently expressed a complete lack of regard three years ago. She stepped up as a friend.
However, many of my past friendships never recovered.
Getting over a friendship breakup was always a challenging experience. In the end, I can say that I ended up a slightly different person after each ruptured friendship. So, use the experience, no matter how painful or confusing it may be, to learn. To get to know yourself (the good and the bad). To understand others better. In this way, you can give meaning to what has happened and turn it into an incentive for growth. •
Main image: shutterstock/lightwavemedia
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Stanislava Puač Jovanović has a master’s degree in psychology and works as a freelance writer and researcher in this area. Her primary focus is on questions relating to mental health, stress-management, self-development and well-being.
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