In my lifetime, I have broken up with a couple friends. In some cases, it was a mutual breakup, in that we both sort of outgrew each other and only had the past in common, while in other cases it was one-sided. It was in those instances that I broke up with a friend because they were toxic or, more specifically, we were toxic together, or simply because we didn’t make sense anymore — similar to any other relationship, even a romantic one.
According to a 2010 study by Manchester University, friend breakups, especially for women, are really difficult. Not just because you have such a deep emotional attachment, but you have feelings of guilt, too. As Sadie Stein wrote for Jezebel, “It's not that you're incompatible or don't see yourselves getting married; it's that you just don't like someone enough to keep her a part of your life, end of story. The fact that there's frequently a complicity and intimacy to the friendship in the first place makes it even harder.”
While society focuses on breakups between lovers, they rarely focus on breakups between friends. And, if they do, these breakups are never permanent; there’s usually a resolution. But IRL friend breakups, that’s not the case. And you know what? It sucks and hurts like hell.
Here are seven things I wish I’d known before breaking up with a friend.
1. Other Friends Would Take Sides
Although friends taking sides after a breakup with a partner always made sense to me, especially if their friends and your friends became all intertwined, I didn’t expect it to happen when I broke up with a friend. But there I was, after breaking up with one friend in particular, watching two others take her side and disappear from my life, too. Sure, they had been her friends first, but over the years we had cultivated friendships that were separate from her. It forced me to realize that they were never really my friends after all.
2. It Would Be Harder Than Breaking Up With A Partner
Breaking up with a friend teaches you a lot. One of those things is just how hard it is to say goodbye to someone who, in many ways, was almost more important than a partner. I have always been of the mindset that men come and go, but friends are forever. Because that thinking is so ingrained in me, breaking up with a friend was absolutely harder than breaking up with a partner. It also involved the similar drama of having to collect things from each other’s apartments, making it all even worse.
3. I Would Feel Like I Was Failing Them
In one particular case, I broke up with someone who was negative ALL THE TIME. I’m not saying I’m some ray of sunshine 24/7, but being around her was exhausting. She’d shit on everything I did, she did, and everything everyone in our social circle did. She also harbored this intense jealousy when someone we knew had a breakthrough in their writing career. Unlike other people who would be happy for that friend (with maybe a dash of envy while quietly asking, “Will I be next?”), she just straight-up hated on them for it. And when I brought all this up to her, as one of the main reasons I just couldn’t be friends with her anymore, she didn’t even see these aspects of herself. Instead, I was failing her, she said; I was walking away from our friendship and she saw it as a betrayal.
4. We’d Have To Break Up On Social Media Too
No matter what kind of relationship you have, when it comes to an end, it needs to be ended on social media, too. It’s just the world we live in these days. If you still have daily reminders of them, just like in a romantic relationship, you’re bound to second-guess your original decision instead of sticking to your guns. Before you know it, you're trying to make a go of it with your friendship again.
5. I’d Actually Feel Bouts Of Jealousy
Before I unfriended my former friend on Facebook and stopped following her on Instagram, I found that I would get jealous seeing her with her other friends. While I tried to differentiate the jealousy I felt from the jealousy I experienced in the same scenario after breaking up with a partner, I just couldn’t. Honestly, the jealousy was the same: Here was this person I loved, lost, and they were smiling and happy with people who weren’t me.
6. There Would Be A Fight About It
Whether I’ve been dumped or been the dumpee in a romantic relationship, a fight always followed. Whoever was being dumped would ask 30 questions, demand answers, pass blame, and, of course, hit below the belt with insults. Rejection, naturally, brings out the worst in people. When I have broken up with friends, it’s been the same exact thing — including the angry follow-up emails; the ones that I have sent multiple times after being dumped by boyfriends. And, yes, it even dragged on for a couple weeks. There's no such thing as a clear break when one person thinks the other is in the wrong.
7. It Would Be Completely Devastating
Although I know that the couple of times in my life when I had to break up with a friend were necessary, the loss of that person was devastating. To this day, one friend in particular, who, if I stayed friends with her I’d probably be dead now thanks to our recreational behavior, I miss on almost a daily basis. When I cut ties with her, I knew it was the right thing to do, but the pain I felt when I lost her was deeper than the pain I felt when losing a partner.
My heart still aches over that one. And while she eventually got her life together, years after the fact, too much time had passed to revisit the friendship we had and try to make it work again. I’ll definitely never regret letting her go, but I know, for a fact, I’ll also never completely get over having lost her.
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