9 Effective Steps to Get Over a Friendship Breakup

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Romantic partners come and go, but your true friends will always be there for you. But what if something happens and you and your friend break up

A friendship breakup can (and usually does) hurt more than when you have your heart broken by your lover, and it probably feels like your heart has a gaping hole because your friend is sitting with a huge chunk of your heart.

During the trauma of the breakup, you wonder if you’ll ever get over it and if you’ll be able to move on and find a genuine friend again. The quick answers are that you will get over it and you’ll move on but it won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight. 

If you’ve recently broken up with a friend or know of someone who’s lost their bestie, follow or share these effective steps to get over and move on after the friendship breakup. 

What Is a Friendship Breakup? 

A friendship breakup is when your friendship with someone ends. It’s like a romantic breakup, but it is often worse. A true friend becomes your family because they are your safe space, your loudest cheerleader, your biggest supporter, and your partner in crime. 

There are various reasons why friends break up. Most often, friends are like seasons. Some come into your life to teach you or support you, and then they leave.

Others stay for a longer period. But when you break up, it’s simply because the season(s) has passed and it’s time to move on

Other reasons for not maintaining the friendship include: 

  • Moving away, and long-distance friendships don’t always work out 
  • Changes in values and interests
  • Getting married and having kids and no longer having time for your friends 
  • A breach of trust and broken promises 
  • Misunderstandings 
  • Having had enough of an energy vampire or toxic friend who leaches the life out of you 
  • Unresolved conflict and a falling out (or too many of these over the years)
  • Abusive behavior, such as name-calling, inappropriate jokes at your expense, and constantly borrowing money (and not paying it back)
  • A friendship that doesn’t add value to your life or serve you any longer
  • Drifting apart 

Why Does a Friendship Breakup Hurt So Much? 

When a friendship ends, it hurts. And it hurts badly. 

A 2017 study that was published in Personal Relationships stated that friends become increasingly more important the older you get. After all, friendships are a vital part of life. We all need friends because they meet a few of the fundamental needs we have: 

  • The need to belong 
  • The need for authenticity 
  • The need for social acceptance
  • The need for social interaction 
  • The need for recognition (and validation)

You aren’t meant to be alone; humans survived best as part of a tribe and that’s what your friends are – your tribe. 

So when a friendship doesn’t work out, some of your basic needs aren’t being met. Sure, you may have other friends, but you’ll only truly grieve the friendship from the one(s) you counted on the most and who meant the most to you. 

Plus, that bond’s been broken, and while you can find a new friend, will they really fill the void in your heart? And a platonic breakup means that things won’t be the same.

The meaningful connection is lost so you can’t call your bestie over for coffee or send them that funny meme (and know they won’t judge and think you are weird – in a bad way). 

Of course, the end of a friendship hurts in different ways depending on whether you are calling it quits or if you’re being left behind. 

Friendship Heartbreak When You Are Ending the Friendship 

You’ll always be the deepest scar on my heart.” ~ Cassia Leo 

It’s not easy to take responsibility and end a friendship. And it’s one of the worst decisions you’ll agonize over. 

Is it the right thing to do? 

Or should I keep this person in my life even though they … cheated with my husband, have been financially abusing me, or only ever takes and takes and takes some more

Then you have to decide how you are going to end things, adding to the hurt and stress you already feel. And when your friend isn’t part of your life anymore, they’ll be the deepest scar on your heart because it’s like you’ve had to cut your own limb off

Friendship Heartbreak When You Are on the Receiving End

The shattering of a heart when being broken is the loudest quiet ever.” ~ Carroll Bryant 

When you are the friend being broken up with, you may have had an idea of what was coming, or it may catch you completely off guard. Either way, when your friend ghosts you or tells you it’s over, you’ll feel like your heart is shattering into a million little pieces. 

And it won’t get better. Your friend may not explain the reasons behind their decision to end the friendship and they may not give you a chance to apologize or make things right. 

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Realizing a friendship hasn’t kept track with your personal development or has become toxic can signal that it’s time to cut a friend loose.

It’ll be done and dusted … except it isn’t, because your friend isn’t your friend anymore. And now what? Who do you turn to? What do you do? Your person isn’t your person anymore, and there’s suddenly a big sad empty space

The feelings of betrayal, anger, sadness, guilt, and grief can linger for a long time as you adjust to life without your bestie. 

9 Steps to Get Over a Friendship Breakup 

There is no easy or quick way to get over a friendship, and if you do, then ask yourself if it was really a friendship with genuine connection

To help you accept and move on when your friendship with that special someone is no more, follow these steps

1. Are You on a Break, or Is It a Breakup? 

A broken friendship can be a comma or a full stop. You choose.” ~ 

The first step to help you get over the end of a friendship is asking yourself (and your friend if you can) whether you are on a break or whether it is an actual, real friendship breakup.

And no, this isn’t like “the Ross and Rachel ‘were they on a break?’ situation” from Friends

You and your friend can decide whether the “breakup” is a comma or pause so you can both breathe and get perspective, or if it’s a permanent “full stop” end.

However, it’s always your choice to remain in the friendship, but that also means you should never allow an abusive friendship to continue. 

A worthwhile friendship can be saved with a greater investment and better communication from both you and your friend. Deciding whether it’s worth it is the challenge. 

Here are some questions to help you clarify:

  • Why are we breaking up? (Betrayal, fear, misunderstandings, lack of shared interest, etc.)
  • What communication steps did we take to openly share our feelings?
  • Is the breakup caused by toxicity
  • How is this friendship worth saving? And do we both want to save it and try to fix it no matter what? 
  • Will working at our friendship overcome our challenges, or just delay the inevitable? 

2. Make Your Mental Well-Being a Priority 

Your prime friendship is the one with yourself. All other friendships flow from that. When a friendship with someone else threatens your primary friendship with yourself, you risk your mental well-being. 

Realizing a friendship hasn’t kept track with your personal development or has become toxic can signal that it’s time to cut a friend loose.

However, this can be traumatic as you have a hole in your life that resembles the actual death of someone you care about. It can be compared to switching off life support for a loved one. 

The decision can be excruciating, but it’s ultimately about what’s best for them and you, especially when the friendship is already terminal

Try these ways of maintain better mental health:

  • Focus on self-care and self-awareness
  • Meditate to clear your mind and develop mental clarity
  • Develop new interests in outside hobbies that don’t involve friends
  • Prioritize your health and day-to-day happiness
  • Journal to stop mentally obsessing about the past

3. Seek Resolution (If Possible) 

The questions and “what ifs” of a breakup are what haunts us. You don’t always know the why, what, or how, which causes confusion and obsessive thoughts.

Only by working at developing a better understanding of what happened and why your friendship has broken will you begin to find closure

Resolution of your friendship helps you stand firm and move toward the goal of understanding and clarity. To do this, you need to bear in mind that:

  • You and your friend need to speak about what happened
  • Communication brings insight and compassion
  • Remaining calm is the best way to get to the bottom of things
  • Speaking your truth in a kind way can help you reclaim control if the friendship has felt out of control
  • Your and your friend’s lives have been intertwined, and that makes understanding each other individually difficult (especially if you were more an “us” than a “you and me”)

Develop a plan of action by:

  • Creating a list of things to let go of on paper
  • Write down why each hurts you
  • Now investigate each item on your list, plan how to find closure for this item, then move to the next item 

4. Validate Your Emotions 

A friendship fracture can leave you devastated. One of the ways we hide our pain is to deny it, but this is like sewing shut an ulcer and hoping it will heal if we forget about it. Only by validating your feelings can you begin to drain the pain from the wound and heal.

Own up to exactly how the breakup makes you feel. Do you feel angry, sad, rejected, shamed, guilty, or embarrassed? 

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Write a letter to yourself about your transgressions, and forgive yourself.

While people around you may tell you to “get over it” because it’s not like you were lovers, you have every right to be as devastated by the friendship “divorce” as you are about losing a lover. 

While you can’t always count on the support or understanding of people around you, you have to give yourself the encouragement, safety, and support you need to heal. You can feel what you feel, without needing to apologize or justify. 

It’s your friendship, your heart, and your choice

Self-validate your feelings by:

  • Recording your feelings as you feel them, as well as the thoughts you think at this time.
  • Gently explain to your inner self why you feel what you feel.
  • This is the time to be your own best friend – you need your own support.

5. Forgive Yourself 

It’s a natural reaction to want to blame yourself when your friend ends the relationship. You feel like you messed up, that it’s your fault, or that you somehow deserved this

Stop.

Ultimately, a friendship is a partnership, and you both contributed to the friendship not working out. So, while we should own up to our actions and mistakes, you’re not the bad guy here. 

Move from thinking about the breakup as a failure to seeing it as a learning opportunity. If you were not invested enough, you can learn to be more present and participate in your next friendship. 

You don’t have to keep reminding yourself that you caused this pain. Instead, let it go and let yourself off the hook. Your future friendships will depend on how well you learn from this breakup. 

Practice forgiveness of yourself and your friend. They wronged you, and you likely failed them too. But, not forgiving means you keep grinding at each other like the parts of a rusty hinge. 

Forgiveness can help you both move on and find peace. Learn to forgive by:

  • Writing a list of transgressions (yours and theirs).
  • Adding one sentence about each transgression to explain why it contributed to the friendship ending.
  • Now write a letter of forgiveness to your friend, explaining why you can now forgive them.
  • Next, do the same for yourself, writing a letter to yourself about your transgressions, and forgive yourself.

6. Get Some Distance 

When you are too close to a fire, you can’t see the flames, but you can feel the heat. The same applies to a friendship fracture.

You may find that if you are too close to the pain, you can’t see your way out of it. Instead of finding a way to carry on, you simply wallow in the agony.

Getting a little distance can help you get some perspective on what happened and the road ahead. So start small. You don’t have to move to a different city to get away from your former friend. 

Instead, begin packing up the things that remind you of them. Put their gifts into storage, place their photos in envelopes, and temporarily block them on social media.

Switch off reminders of activities you did together (like gym pick-up reminders) and begin doing new activities and go to new places. 

Withdrawing from shared activities, such as no longer coaching the local soccer team together, can help you breathe and distance yourself a bit. Stepping back lets you think with clarity and develop resilience. 

Of course, the questions from your mutual friends and acquaintances can be murder when you just want to step away from it all. 

Here are some great ways to avoid things getting awkward with family and shared friends:

  • Prepare a simple answer to the same types of questions. So if your friend asks what happened, you can have a vague answer ready, like “We decided to spend some time with different interests.”
  • Don’t slander your friend. You (and they) are better than this.
  • Don’t try to make your mutual friends choose a side.
  • Avoid discussing the failed friendship with outside people – this is between you and your friend.

7. Try to Find the Silver Lining and Lesson 

While you should learn from failures, there could be a silver lining to really being honest about what happened with your friendship. Does this happen to you a lot? Are your friendships all short term and prone to failing? Why?

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Leave your comfort area, taking up new and unexpected hobbies, and hanging out with new and unique people.

Find the patterns in your friendships, and you will find the way to get the answers. The painful lesson may be worth it if you can begin to do things differently so your next friendship is a keeper. 

To discover the lesson, ask yourself:

  • Is your friend prone to breaking up with their friends? Or are you?
  • Do you choose the same type of friends? Why?
  • Are you acting in a toxic way, or did your friend? How can you detoxify yourself

8. Make New Memories and Form New Habits 

The pain of a friendship fracture can lead to painful memories haunting you, and your daily habits and rituals may no longer make sense.

This is a great time to begin making new memories and building new habits that will have more value to you. 

Try leaving your comfort area, taking up new and unexpected hobbies, and hanging out with new and unique people.

You may find your old friend had been holding you back once you start to experience the world around you without them.

Get into the new memory-making business with this checklist:

  • Plan new hobbies to try twice a month.
  • List things you’ve always been too scared to try.
  • Make a list of skills you’ve always wanted to learn.
  • Read books on alternative topics. 
  • Call up old colleagues and invite your neighbors over to chat.

9. Invest in Healthy Relationships and Rebuild Your Ability to Trust 

A breakup can truly damage your ability to trust and how you view yourself and other people in your life.

You may find that you are hesitant to open your heart and get close to someone again after the shock and devastation of a friendship breakup. 

But take the time to move through the grieving process by taking it step by step and don’t close yourself off to new friends.

Work on rebuilding your ability to trust and emotionally connect and form new healthy (and secure) attachments (or friendships).  

Use these action steps to rebuild trust and invest in healthy relationships: 

  • Beware of unhealthy people and any red flags that pop up when you get to know a new potential friend.   
  • Learn to trust yourself (again) by believing you are enough, setting boundaries, being honest and kind to yourself, and working with your feelings. 
  • Make a list of great qualities in friends and ensure your new bestie ticks most of those (but be realistic!). 

Final Thoughts about Dealing with a Friendship Breakup 

A broken heart is the worst. It’s like having broken ribs. Nobody can see it but the pain is unbearable every time you breathe.” ~ Unknown 

It absolutely sucks when you and your friend break up, and it hurts like hell. You’ve just lost someone you’ve trusted and known for a long time, and there will be a huge empty space in your heart and your life. 

You can get over the platonic breakup by:

  • Prioritizing your mental health
  • Seeking resolution
  • Validating your feelings
  • Practicing forgiveness
  • Letting go
  • Getting distance between you two
  • Making new memories
  • Fostering new, healthy friendships

If you are a good friend to someone (and this is reciprocated), it isn’t likely that your friendship will die. So become an even better friend by following these steps. 

And if you think the friendship breakup was the worst idea ever, then check to see if your friend or bestie was your anam cara. Here’s a guide with 15 signs that someone is your true soul friend.

And if you're looking for more resources on friendships, be sure to check out these blog posts:

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