I survived teenage adolescence and went off to college secure in the knowledge that there would be a romantic break-up or two in my future, but pretty drastically unprepared for a friend break-up. It never occurred to me. Meeting kids while growing up, we either immediately befriended each other or we didn’t. I met most of friends within the vicinity of school and my neighborhood, so we were constantly thrust into each other’s company. Same with the friends made in college. Even on a large campus, you exist within a different time bubble than the outside world. Relationships form so much faster. College is living together, eating together, studying together and going out together. A week of college relationships, whether platonic or romantic, is equal to about a month and a half of regular world getting to know someone time.
The thing about your friends is once you have that initial click and continue forward, you’ve created a specific space for them in your life. And sometimes you don’t tend to it as much as you should. But sometimes something more dramatic happens, and you’re suddenly not friends anymore. With that in mind, here’s how I handled dealing with a friend break-up.
Communication is key
Do they know why you’re mad? Do you know why you are? Have you let resentment over little things build up into one big explosive fight? You need to explain why you feel like the friendship should be ending and be willing to listen to their side of the story. Even if the end result is that you and this other person cannot continue as friends, you’ve laid out everything that’s bothering you and achieved some sense of closure.
Ask yourself if you have done everything possible to salvage the relationship (or if you really want to)
We all know the saying “it takes two to tango.” So if you truly believe that you’ve tried every which way to rectify a friendship, as hard as it might be to walk away, you might have no other alternative. It’s not to say that the two of you might find common ground somewhere down the line again, but like any relationship that’s not working, you have to know when it’s right to walk away. Was it just a squabble? A succession of arguments that never seem to stop?
It’s ok to mourn the friendship if you need to
Whether it’s a relationship that naturally dissolved due to distance and lack of communication or a falling out that can’t be fixed through apology, you’ve lost someone who was in your life who you considered important. We don’t have to feel great about it immediately or even for awhile. People who we share parts of ourselves with are not easily forgotten. Give the relationship it’s due.
Figure out where the breach occurred
Were you not willing to put in the time to sustain the friendship? Were they? Was it just unfortunate circumstances of geography and you didn’t have the kind of bond to always pick up where you left off if too much time passed? Sometimes these things are no one’s fault. Sometimes it’s shared. But accept responsibility for your part in it if you had one. It’ll make you a better friend going forward.
Forgive yourself, and them
Sometimes you’re friends with someone for years simply because of where you grew up and as an adult realize that you have nothing in common with this person. Guilt can accumulate for breaking off such a friendship because of all the years behind it, but if you’ve both developed into people who don’t have any desire to spend time together, it’s ok to move on. Our time is limited between jobs, obligations and other relationships, and the idea that we should force ourselves to spend free time with someone we no longer relate to shouldn’t leave us guilt stricken.
Remember that it doesn’t have to be forever
Sometimes friendships just need a break. Sometimes you can go through a horrible, nasty split and then find, years later, that you can be in touch again. Sometimes you just need to let some time pass and then try to mend the relationship. But again, that requires two willing parties, be sure you’re not doing all the heavy lifting. It’s the worst, I know, but take some deep breaths and you’ll get through it.
[Image via FOX]