Friendship breakups: The most untold love story - The Indigo Project

Friendship breakups: The most untold love story

We’re BFF’s! So that means besties forever right?

Friendship breakups are the most untold love story – and with untold stories, we can be left feeling lost and overwhelmed with what to do next

There are a lot of unhelpful myths about friendships. The biggest myth being that a friendship with your “BFF” will last forever. Unlike our romantic relationships, where there is an understanding that it may not work out, generally, we all assume that our friendships will always be around. We expect that will be old biddies retiring together. This means that if there is a break-up we aren’t just grieving the present loss of the friend, but also the loss of that friend in our imagined future.

Especially during lockdown, the added stress of disconnection and feelings of loneliness may have changed the dynamics of your friendships post lockdown. You might be feeling distant from someone you used to be super close with, or you may have had a friendship break up.

So why did the friendship end?

Great Q! Friendship break-ups can be really confusing and complicated – and just like a romantic break-up, we may view a friendship break-up as a personal failure of our ability to maintain close relationships. We may feel intense shame that can be a pretty damn painful experience. From here we might believe that we are unable to connect with others and I mean…feeling like you can’t connect with others fast-tracks us to feeling lonely.

However, aside from having an obvious fall-out with a friend, there are many factors that may be at play for why your friendship didn’t work out. Our social context, i.e., your school, university, job and suburb play a HUGE role in determining the evolution of our friendships. This means that when our social context changes, so do our friendships.

Are friendship break-ups common?

Yes! Research suggests that up to 70% of close friendships AND 52% of our broader social network fizzle out after 7 years! So, we can see that it is pretty common for friendships to fade out, get messy and yep, even break-up. This means we should be careful not to harbour a sense of guilt that it didn’t work out. Changes in our life means that friendships organically come and go! There’s some truth to this saying that my grandma says: “People come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime”

Healthy relationships are what fulfils and sustains us as humans. Life is straight up better when we surround ourselves with good people. Making friends and maintaining them is a skill, and just like any skill, we can build on it overtime. Remember to give yourself compassion when it comes to navigating relationships. Adopting a growth mindset can help. It might also be useful to speak with an Indigo practitioner to gain a deeper understanding of your relationship patterns.

What if I want to break-up with my friend?

Ending friendships can be just as painful on either side. Annoyingly, there are no social guidelines to help us navigate this. Sometimes we may be too afraid to overtly end a friendship because don’t want to hurt the other person. We may be tempted to indirectly end things, such as by ghosting, denying there’s a problem, not making time for them or suddenly ranting about all of the unspoken betrayals you feel have occurred. These actions can leave both parties feeling extremely hurt and bewildered.

These actions are also ways we avoid conflict or let our emotions run the show. Instead, here are some suggestions that might help you and your friend in the long run:

Indigo’s suggestions for a healthy friendship break-up:

  1. Ask for space – this can give you time to clear your thoughts and gain insight into where you would like to take this friendship.
  2. Communicate how you feel – it’s important to let your friend know exactly what’s on your mind so you both have the opportunity to mend things. Sometimes we aren’t aware of the way that our behaviours impact others until it’s brought to our attention! To effectively communicate, try using “I” statements rather than “you” statements. E.g., instead of “You have been so untrustworthy” try “I value trust in my friendships and I feel I can trust when X, Y, Z happens.”
  3. Listen to your friends’ side – Allow your friend to share their version of the situation. It’s amazing how our subjective experiences can be vastly different from one another. Seek to understand where your friend is coming from without judgement. Be curious and empathetic.
  4. Reflect on your behaviours – sometimes WE might be the one who needs to check on our own actions. Take ownership of your part that may have contributed to the disconnection in the friendship. If you can do that, it is far more likely that your friend will reflect on their behaviour and do the same. After all – it takes two to tango!
  5. Suggest a break – If you have made efforts to communicate your concerns and take ownership of your part to play in the relationship, it might be best to suggest to have some time off. This will give both parties the emotional space to think clearly about the future of their friendship and make a more informed decision about where to next.
  6. Seek advice from a trusted person and/or psychologist – decisions about our relationships are difficult and navigating friendships can be really tough. So, you may feel that you’d like guidance. Chatting to our Indigo practitioners can give you that direction. They may decide to do some values-based work with you to help determine what is it that’s most important to you and go from there.

Ps. Just because your friendship isn’t working now, does not mean your paths won’t cross in the future. Things can always change because people can change.

This post was written by @laurabeddoe Provisional psychologist and Indigo’s freelance content creator. If you have any requests or suggestions for blog content, you can get in touch with her here.

EMILY SINGLETON
Psychologist

SHAUNTELLE BENJAMIN
Psychologist

LIZ KIRBY
Counsellor & Coach

The Indigo Project