Breaking Up With Friends

I’ve been secretly struggling with something during the pandemic…I’ve been going through a friend breakup. If you’ve ever lost a friendship over the years you know how painful it can be. It can happen for big or small reasons, to short or long term relationships. But when it does happen, it almost feels like a death. It can actually be harder than a romantic breakup because in our society no one ever talks about friend breakups and it feels weird to say you’re even sad about it! There aren’t really movies about friend breakups, a ton of articles on “how to get over your ex friend”, or mainstream coping tactics like bingeing ice cream or going out on the town with the girls to get over it.

Breaking Up With Friends

Have You Ever Had a Friendship Breakup?

When my friend Helena shared the article, “Have You Ever Had a Friendship Breakup?” from A Cup of Jo, I felt a huge sense of relief. Finally someone was talking about what I had been privately grieving all year. The article is beautifully written and talks about both sides to a friend breakup…from being ghosted, to doing the actual ghosting, and just even having a falling out – it’s shitty either way. I’ve been on both ends, and it can be incredibly painful and confusing.

At least with a romantic breakup, you pretty much know what you both did wrong. You have a big argument or you just realize you’re not compatible, you talk about it, and then you part ways. There’s more closure you know? But for some reason, with a friend breakup there never really is. It’s not like you say to your friend after years of friendship, “I think you’re selfish and resentful, but let’s try and work it out and still be friends…” No, lol. Obviously that’s an exaggerated example of something you’d actually say. But what I mean is, it’s very uncommon for women to confront other women about what’s bothering them. And when they do, in my experience, it has resulted in the end of the friendship.

In a romantic relationship, there’s a different element where people are willing to change, take advice/feedback, morph…but in a friendship, that element isn’t really there. It’s more black and white if that makes sense?

Personal Experience

I felt like I needed to give a little more personal background on the friend break up scenario I’ve been going through. I know that when people have shared their own stories about this, it’s really helped me cope, so here goes…

The one I’ve been grieving and trying to process this past year was one of my oldest friends.

We had known each other for 20+ years. We had lost touch a bit over those years because we went to different schools and lived across the country from one another. But we always managed to check in periodically. We grew closer later in life when she got engaged because she wanted me to be a part of all of the wedding excitement and events. It was wonderful to spend so much time together during that year. But after that, we went back to our normal periodic check ins. As time went on, she became extremely unhappy at her job and always seemed down when I’d ask about it. I would try to share something positive or exciting about my own job. But she could never listen to it and would make an excuse to get off the phone or change the subject right away.

Over time, her resentment toward me became unbearable and extremely hurtful.

I tried to brush it off. But ultimately, we got to a place where we just had nothing in common anymore. And our calls or get togethers felt like obligations. We never laughed or had fun together…we were just stuck in the past, talking about people we knew 20 years ago. The last straw for me was when I confided in her about something really upsetting that happened. She was one of the only people I told because she had known me the longest/and knew the context of the situation. After I poured my heart out to her, I thought I’d hear from her about it, via a supportive call or a text, or just a “How are you holding up?” but nothing came and weeks went by with no contact.

I was devastated and embarassed that I had opened up to her. After that, I finally saw the writing on the wall. We were holding on to the past, but nothing else was holding us together. I never felt good after talking or hanging out with her. And if I could never share good news about my job or lean on her during hard times, what was the point of this so-called friendship? Months later, I did confront her about my hurt feelings after she asked where I had been. Unfortunately she got extremely defensive and tried to deflect. I had zero energy or desire left in me to salvage something that wasn’t working in the first place, so I let it be.

Today, I feel a huge sense of relief without her in my life.

I no longer have to live in the past and I no longer have to hide my happiness or joy to make her feel better. The best part is, that all of the energy and time I spent on that relationship has been put into so many other people and areas of my life that have blossomed during this time. Although I feel relief and have strengthened relationships around me, just the loss of someone who has been in your life (whether they were super supportive or not) is hard to wrap your head around. It’s still a shock to the system when anything like this happens. And it takes time to fully move on from.

Lack of Closure

I think the overall lack of closure that comes at the end of a friendship is what’s so hard. If you’re the one being ghosted, you’re usually clueless as to what you did wrong, and become hurt, confused, embarassed and/or upset. If you’re doing the ghosting you can feel guilty and ashamed for leaving them in the dark, but may not know what to say, and no longer have a desire to continue the friendship – even if the person changes. Even if there’s no ghosting involved, but there’s confrontation or an argument, it can often feel like there was so much left unsaid with a friend breakup.

A few of you were DM’ing me asking how to approach these tricky scenarios. And to be quite honest, I’m really not sure. Every case is SO different and complex. Which is why, in the past, I liked to talk about them with my therapist before making a hasty decision I may regret. What ultimately has helped me is…

My Advice

The best advice I can give you is this. Life is SO short and you need to focus on what makes YOU happy. If a friend no longer makes you happy, and repeatedly drains you, brings you down, puts you down, shows jealousy, resentment, or anything that makes you feel BAD, then it’s probably time to say goodbye. You don’t have to say goodbye forever though! Many friendships can grow, evolve and change. Be open to that and know that is perfectly normal. I’ve had friends who I’ve naturally drifted a part from for no reason other than we lived far away. And then we came back together years later like no time had passed.

I’ve also had friends who I just couldn’t relate to anymore so we lost touch. But years later found ourselves in similar situations and reconnected. I’ve also had friends who had been continually toxic for years and years. And who I knew deep down would never change. I made a pact with myself that I’d never let them or their bad energy in my life again. Sometimes people come into your life for a reason, but they’re not meant to be there forever. Cherish the good times you had, and let anything negative fall away. Every single situation and friendship will be different. But whatever your circumstances are, remember to trust your gut instinct.

If you don’t know how to tap into that instinct, ask yourself, “Does this friend make me feel good about myself when I’m with them or talking to them? Can I be my 100% genuine self with them?” The answer to those questions will be very telling.

It’s OK

Just know that it’s OK to outgrow a friend. It’s OK to put yourself first. It’s OK to pull away from someone that makes you feel bad about yourself. And it’s normal to feel guilty or ashamed around a friendship breakup because it’s HARD! It’s uncomfortable, sad, painful – regardless of which side you’re on. Do all the self care things to process and move on from it. Go to therapy if you think it will help you. Open up to your other girlfriends about it (they may be struggling and embarassed to say they are too!) And most importantly, give yourself time and space to heal.

I’ll end with this quote (source unknown); “The people who are meant to be in your life will always gravitate back towards you, no matter how far they wander.” If a friend is meant to be in your life they will, if not, let them go.

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28 Comments

  • Jessica Camerata says:

    Something must be in the air because I have my own friend breakup blog post going up next week as well. I think the pandemic has caused a lot of friendship changes. Mine happened right before and it’s just awful. Why don’t we treat these more like actual breakups?? I feel like no one really realizes we’re no longer friends and how hard it is. Sending you good vibes during an emotional time.

    xo Jessica
    an indigo day

    February 4, 2021 | Reply
    • kat@withlovefromkat.com replied:

      Sorry to hear you’re going through it too Jessica! Yes the pandemic really brought everything to light, and made us all re-evaluate our friendships. Thank you for the kind words <3

      February 4, 2021 | Reply
  • Orangemintpop says:

    Le sigh…. I really miss what I once had with my ex friends. I just let go and let things be if it does not feel right. I was once betrayed by my former best friend and she ghosted me afterwards. Worst feelings I ever felt. Years later I saw a mutual friend and she told me that she mentioned me recently and wanted to know how I was doing. I let her know through the mutual friend that i was doing great and I’m happy which is true. I also told her that she has my number and she should call if she really wanted to know. It’s been a year. No words. What I took from this is that she’s a fake person.

    February 4, 2021 | Reply
    • kat@withlovefromkat.com replied:

      I know how hard that is. Trust that they were in your life during that time for a reason, and now they’re not. Sending you lots of <3

      February 4, 2021 | Reply
  • Nazgul says:

    Thanks so much Kat, for sharing this topic, something that I am personally going through, it’s so sad but have to let go. Thank you💕🌹🌷

    February 4, 2021 | Reply
    • kat@withlovefromkat.com replied:

      It’s so hard to let go, but hopefully it will be for the better! <3

      February 4, 2021 | Reply
  • Ashley says:

    I went through two friendships breakups with the same person due to her negative outlook on life (and especially men in general). I thought she had change for the better but old habits die hard.

    I’ve also distanced myself from women who only want to hang out in a clique and talk about the one woman from the group who’s not at an event/share that person’s info. After being on the recieving end of having my business shared in the clique (when I wasn’t close with each person involved), I felt naked and alone. I slowly took myseslf out of that situation.. and guess what, those girls stayed in the same clique and none of them make any 1:1 effort with me.

    With that said, I have some wonderful friends who are women and we definitely share friends in common, but it’s more fluid with out we hang out (sometimes with others), but we always have strong 1:1 bonds.

    Kat, you are NOT alone.

    February 4, 2021 | Reply
    • kat@withlovefromkat.com replied:

      Thank you so much for sharing this – it is truly a huge relief to know I am not the only one who has struggled with this over the years, and recently! I can completely relate re: a clique, I run from cliques of women now haha! I experienced the same, when one girl would leave the room, everyone would talk about her behind her back, and suddenly I thought, well what are they saying behind my back when I’m not there?! So much better to have those 1:1 connections with people versus always running with a clique – more meaningful and less gossipy!

      February 4, 2021 | Reply
  • Linda Quinones says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your personal story Kat. I too am going through a friendship breakup. I haven’t gone through one in a few years and I’m typically guarded when it comes to friends and who I let in and since I considered this person a best friend it really hurt. I too tried to open up and say how I felt and was met with defensiveness and someone who tried to belittle my experience or claim it wasn’t true. I had to finally leave it at “your feelings are valid but so are mine.” It hurts and no one talks about it!! So I appreciate you opening up.

    http://www.basicallyamess.com

    February 4, 2021 | Reply
    • kat@withlovefromkat.com replied:

      Thank you for sharing yours with me! Yes – the “we can agree to disagree” scenario is so difficult but often times it comes to that and you just have to walk away. <3

      February 4, 2021 | Reply
  • Lorena says:

    Well written Kat! Tears going on over here! I have a friend of 33 years (basically like a sister) and more often than not, I feel put down and talked about behind my back.. we have nothing in common anymore. I feel the toxicity and just need to break away, but it’s so hard!

    February 4, 2021 | Reply
    • kat@withlovefromkat.com replied:

      So sorry to hear that!!! Thank you for sharing this with me – so nice to know I’m not alone!

      February 4, 2021 | Reply
  • Cindy says:

    Thank you for sharing this difficult experience. Your advice is spot on. XOXO

    February 5, 2021 | Reply
    • kat@withlovefromkat.com replied:

      So glad it resonated :)

      February 7, 2021 | Reply
  • Jenny says:

    I’m sorry you’re going through this… but thank you so much for writing about your experience. Definitely going through something similar, and it’s hard to let go of something that was once so special. Also, WHY DON’T WOMEN TALK ABOUT FRIEND BREAK UPS?!?!? Always remember, life is short and you really need to prioritize what makes you happy and surround yourself with things and people that make you feel good. Always easier said than done, but know everything happens for a reason and you’re strong for changing and recognizing this wasn’t what is best for you.

    February 5, 2021 | Reply
    • kat@withlovefromkat.com replied:

      Thank you – yes – truly – we need to normalize grieving the end of a friendship! xo

      February 7, 2021 | Reply
  • Kristen says:

    Hi Kat,
    This was exactly what I needed to read. I lost a close friend last summer because I realized that her friendship caused me more anxiety and discomfort than love and support. I was the one that generally left the relationship, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. I even dream about her sometimes, and in these dreams we are still friends. I miss her all the time, but I know that it was the right thing to do for my own wellbeing. It doesn’t make it any easier though. I’ve been grieving this loss, and I so appreciate you sharing your own story. It makes me feel less alone in this. I do hope you are able to be in a place of peace with this matter, but I agree that it’s important to acknowledge the pain that comes from such an unspoken topic. I’m still working on letting go, but your post helped me so thank you again.
    I wish you the best!
    Kristen <3

    February 5, 2021 | Reply
    • kat@withlovefromkat.com replied:

      So glad it resonated – and I can completely relate! So hard to not be pulled back in thinking about the good times, but you’re so strong and smart for putting your well being first.

      February 7, 2021 | Reply
  • Ahlam says:

    I relate to this so much, it’s crazy. I’m in my late twenties and naturally some of closest friendships that were built from college have drifted apart. Sometimes for good reason, but other times with no closure at all. It’s so incredibly painful especially when you’re left clueless with why a friendship just doesn’t seem to work anymore. I enjoyed reading this & it feels comforting to know that I’m not the only person who has struggled with friendship breakups.

    February 6, 2021 | Reply
    • kat@withlovefromkat.com replied:

      Thank you, so glad you can relate too <3

      February 7, 2021 | Reply
  • Ali says:

    I went through the same thing with my best friend from college. She was basically family to me for a period — even lived with my parents and I for a short time post grad before we got our own place. I moved away from the city we were in because for me the city was toxic and I needed a fresh start with grad school. I wanted to keep the friendship alive and keep many long distant ones going by being flexible and understanding that I don’t know what’s going on on their side 100%. But with this person it took me a few years/unanswered calls and texts a lot of hurt or frustration before I got that I was holding on to something that had changed and that was fine. We were great friends but we outgrew each other as I kept trying to hold onto something that wasn’t there (especially as we have mutual friends still). I have other great friends and she meant something to me / the relationship or history we had still does mean something. But I can move on. It’s a loss no one talks about or prepares you for and is worse than just not seeing someone due to kids or whatever. Sometimes friendships just go on hold as we’re busy but stay alive— but that’s not always the case and when it’s not and you’re trying it hurts a ton. Anyway— I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who has struggled with understanding and accepting friendships end even if not dramatically, sometimes it’s just reached a natural end. Thanks for this post.

    February 7, 2021 | Reply
    • kat@withlovefromkat.com replied:

      Thank you so much for sharing your story – so helpful and healing to read and hear stories like yours!

      February 7, 2021 | Reply
  • Lisa Autumn says:

    This doesnt get talked enough. thank you lovely!

    Lisa | lisaautumn.com

    February 7, 2021 | Reply
    • kat@withlovefromkat.com replied:

      Glad you enjoyed Lisa! XO

      February 7, 2021 | Reply
  • May says:

    Thank you for sharing such a personal story. Your blog post is the first one I’ve read about a friend breakup and honestly caught my eye. I think we all go through this and it was refreshing to see someone actually talking about it. Glad you are doing better!

    May || https://www.theluxurylowdown.com/

    February 10, 2021 | Reply
    • kat@withlovefromkat.com replied:

      So glad it resonated May – thank you!

      February 10, 2021 | Reply
  • Ann Elizabeth says:

    I can totally relate! I wanted to make / write a book about my journey with this and also perhaps include people’s submissions if they wanted to be a part of it (anonymously or not) just a thought I had.

    I lost a best friend I used to have for many years. Maybe we were too different to be friends. It was all so strange because as soon as she landed her “dream job” (her words) she started to change. Well that dream didn’t last long. The gruesome hours at a job she hated was something she wasn’t able to handle along with the emotional abuse from her boss. She’d routinely be demanded to work for no pay on weekends, etc. She’d often leave in the middle of brunch to tend to her boss. I kindly suggested she document the abuse she was experiencing at work and she flipped out at me. She started hanging out with different people, she got very uptight, and one day she flipped and said we couldn’t be friends because I didn’t understand her work environment.

    She was fired about a year later and still doesn’t speak to me.

    I often miss her and think of her and truly wish her the best in life!

    February 19, 2021 | Reply
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    May 11, 2021 | Reply