Breaking Up is So Hard to Do
Ending a friendship can be wrought with pain, uncertainty and sadness.
Have you ever felt conflicted about ending a friendship?
Chances are you have. The end of a friendship can feel loaded with feelings of loss, hurt, and even guilt. You may feel betrayed or blindsided, or you may feel like you’ve failed to live up to your expectations of what it means to be a friend.
But a friendship, like any deep personal connection, often has shared experiences and feelings of trust that can extend way beyond the friendship, per se.
What we mean is this: The longer and the closer the friendship, the deeper the ties and connections go, and sometimes, there is more to lose. For instance:
If two mothers are friends, their children are likely to be friendly with one another. Dissolution of the mothers’ friendship can have a profound effect on the friendship of their children as well.
Will they still feel comfortable having playdates? Will you?
How will you feel when you run into your ex-friend in the neighborhood, a PTA meeting, or the soccer field?
If you break off with a work friend, it can make every day uncomfortable.
Will you lose her support on work matters, or might she say something, out of anger or hurt, to damage your reputation?
If she is in a supervisory role, will it pose a threat to your position?
Will you feel uncomfortable if you’re assigned to work on the same project team, or each time you pass her in the hallway?
Will other colleagues, when they notice something is different, ask questions, or feel awkward?
Ending a friendship is not so simple, we know. A knee-jerk reaction becomes a lot tougher once you begin to weigh the pros and cons and the unintended consequences, or fallouts, of your decision.
There are exceptions, of course: We realize that some friendships just need to end, and the possible fallout might be well worth getting rid of the angst or unpleasantness the friendship is causing.
Once you decide to end a friendship, it’s always prudent to do everything you can to mitigate the damage:
Leave gracefully without harsh words or recrimination. Treat your ex-friend with respect… simply because she once was your friend, after all..
Let her down easily by distancing yourself gradually. Perhaps you can cut back on your time together from once a day to once a week, or you can downgrade a close friendship to a more casual one.
Try to make it easier for the people around you by communicating what's happening, if appropriate, without going into details.
In a perfect world, every friendship would be flawless and forever; sustainable and smooth. But that’s not always the case.
And as for breaking up with a friend? There’s no one-size-fits-all advice, since no two friendships are the same, nor are the circumstances surrounding that breakup.
Breaking up can be so hard to do… but going about it with forethought, sensitivity and compassion helps everyone better adjust to the loss.