Nothing ever really prepares you for friendship breakups. They can be messy and complex, but sometimes also a blessing in disguise.
There’s a plethora of advice on social media regarding what to say to someone who might be crossing your boundaries and how to notice the red flags in friendships. However, the idea of tackling this with a rule book is too rigid in comparison to how fast our lives are constantly changing.
There may not be a recipe on how to fix or resolve these friendship issues, but there are events to look out for, which may lead to the break up of a friendship or perhaps provide insight into why it happened.
Here are some of the causes of friendship breakups:
Communication does not come down to one person being ready to talk, it requires readiness from both people, and we need to be accepting of the fact that we might not get the answers or resolution we want. The situation is more than about you. Sometimes people aren’t ready to talk because they need time and a safe space in order to express themselves. In situations like this, we need to assess why we communicate poorly in our friendship dynamics.
With everything becoming digitised, it’s easier to communicate via text, but also easier to forget that there’s another human being on the other side of the phone. Text messages sometimes misconstrue the context of the message being passed across, and without your usual visual cues like body language, the recipient may misunderstand the message, or your messages may come across harsher than intended. Whereas, if the person was in front of you, you’d be a lot more careful about how you speak to them.
Also on social media, there’s been a rise in posts on communicating clear boundaries, and while having boundaries is important, the tone these posts adopt can sometimes make us robotic in how we address one another. We can become so fixated on standing up for ourselves, we might forget empathy in our speech. Kindness is easier when there’s mutual care and respect between you and your friend, and being in their physical presence should evoke a reminder to speak to them with gentleness and care as you approach any subject matter
Ego also plays a big role in friendship breakups. As mentioned previously, social media perpetuates the notion of us knowing our worth and standing up for ourselves, as well as writing people off if they don’t put as much energy into a friendship as we do. However, it’s essential to know that you can take ownership of your self-worth and needs without losing empathy while communicating this. We need to be careful not to see ourselves as superior and deserving of more respect than anyone else because we feel we’re the only ones who’ve been hurt in the process. Focus on the most respectful approach to take while being honest with yourself.
Honesty with yourself is knowing when to remove rose-tinted shades away from the memories you have, as well as knowing what you deserve and want in a friendship. Once you know this, you can be truthful in how you communicate. For people pleasers, this can prove difficult as you’ve been taught to stay silent and not question what’s happening in front of you. When your home environment is like that, it translates into other relationships in your life too. You say yes to others at the detriment of your wellbeing. You choose others’ happiness and comfort for fear of causing upset in a group, which can lead to you feeling frustrated with yourself, and therefore use unhealthy communication techniques to stay silent and avoid conflict.
Through books and movies, we are taught that friendships are self-sacrificing, and we should always put the other person first and stand by them no matter what. However, this can be detrimental. You can value someone without having to devalue your beliefs in the process.
Your breakups in your teens will not be the same as in your twenties. During teenage years, everyone is in the same boat as you see each other regularly and have no room to avoid the inevitable conversation. But in adulthood, people grow apart and are usually on different journeys, at different points of their lives. This might make it harder to keep in touch or have a dynamic like you used to. Understand what your values are and ensure you are surrounded by those who support and provide a safe space for you to discuss them.
Overall, there are so many layers to the causes of breakups, and each friendship breakup has its reasons, though some aren’t easy to identify. Learn from the experience, and identify that you don’t have to change your view of yourself. A friendship breakup is not always a reflection of your character and where you’ll go from there. Bouncing back and connecting with others will feel difficult at first, you might even begin to question whether you can maintain new friendships. But one or even several breakups are not a definition of your ability to take care of other people and yourself.
My name is Nabilah Ali, I am 23 years old currently a student and a part time Physiotherapist in NHS. I love to read and write poetry in my free time, and watching my unhealthy long list of TV shows. social media handles: @comfort.in.me and @nabilahxali