How Do I Avoid The Negative Fallout Of A Friendship Breakup?
A woman realizes she needs to end a long-time friendship. But she worries about the impact on mutual friends.
When you end a friendship, you’re not only calling it quits with just one person. If you share mutual friends, the fallout may spread wider.
Recently, I’ve experienced a catastrophic rift with my friend of more than ten years.
Emily and I met in college, and we've been through lots of life changes since then. Over the years, I've introduced her to all of my friends and she has become a fixture at our social gatherings.
Our relationship began to sour after I met my husband a few years ago. Emily is resentful that he has "replaced her" and that I’m happy in life while she goes through a series of failed relationships and failed jobs. Increasingly, I’m feeling that I can never do enough to be a good friend to her.
So, after she said some profoundly hurtful things to me, I decided the best thing to do was make more room in my life for healthier friendships.
The only problem is this: I don't know what to do about our mutual friends. I have no intention of asking them to choose sides because that would be childish. But I fear that she will sabotage those friendships, and I don't know how to go about protecting them while I remove her from my life.
This Thursday, there's a joint birthday party for two mutual friends. We have both RSVP'd. What do I do?
Anonymous in Virginia
Of course, you should go to the birthday party. You may feel a bit uncomfortable at first, but we bet it won’t be too bad. Just say hello to Emily and focus your attention where it should be---on the Birthday Girls.
Friendships change as our life circumstances change. If you met your friend ten years ago at college, consider how you’ve changed and grown since then and all the other changes that have taken place in nearly every other realm of your life.
Isn’t it natural that the nature of the friendships you need and enjoy might change as well?
As one example, you met Emily before you met your husband. Prior to that, as two single women, you may have had more in common, and therefore, you may have been more patient in catering to her whims and neediness.
Now that you have insight, you have no choice but to end your friendship with Emily.
Over time, connections between close friends become tangled like vines. Friendships that begin as twosomes extend to relationships between families and groups---and the risk of collateral damage after a breakup is real.
The best thing for you is to try to forget and let go of the hurtful things Emily said. If anyone at the party asks what happened, simply say that you drifted apart. You need not go into details.
While you may suffer some losses, our hunch is they won’t be significant ones. If Emily is grating on you, chances are that she might also be just as grating on your mutual friends. (She may even be worse without you as a buffer.)
If Emily does anything to sabotage your mutual friendships intentionally, smart women will see right through her. Your true friends will remain your friends.
Like you, even couples who split---married or not---have legitimate concerns about subsequent fallout. But if you recognize your relationship with Emily is negative, you have no choice but to go forward with the split---or at least, to give yourself a friendship sabbatical. This will afford you the time and space to back off from a friendship without summarily ending it.
Please get the word “catastrophic” out of your head. Yours is not the first friendship to fracture and it won’t be the last. The relationship with your friend was a good one when it felt more reciprocal.
We know that the change feels painful but having lots of support in your life will help smooth it out over time.
Let us know how it goes and thanks so much for reading our newsletter!
Irene & Sheryl
Over time, connections between close friends become tangled like vines, impacting relationships with other friends and family.