The Hard Facts: Breaking Up Is (Really, Really) Hard To Do

It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.

“Experts at Manchester University claim the bonds of friendship are so deep that splitting with even unwanted pals leads to ‘terrible’ guilt. And women in particular find it more traumatic to dump their friends than they do their lovers.” (The Daily Telegraph, April 13, 2010)

Friendship breakups are a loaded topic. I haven’t broached them yet because I haven’t known where to start. I figured I’d wait until I had to break up with someone myself, and then I could come to you all for advice and a rousing chorus of “don’t feel guilty, you’re doing the right thing.” But the truth is that I don’t anticipate a BFF breakup in my future, just as there hasn’t been one in my recent—or distant, actually—past. Because even when there have been times where I thought, “I just need to end this,” I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Too stressful. Too…mean.

But then, two weeks ago, a team of sociologists produced the finding above from a study of more than 200 people. And here we are.

It doesn’t surprise me that, for women, breaking up with a friend carries more guilt than breaking up with a lover. When you enter into a romantic relationship there is an understanding, even if it’s unspoken, that it could end. (I’m thinking lovers=boyfriends/girlfriends in this case, not spouses. Though the study didn’t specify. Just said “lovers.” How European.) With friends, that’s not the case. Sure you might drift apart one day, talk once a month rather than once a day, but the friendship contract is, in theory, never ending.

There’s also the idea that with a romantic relationship, you’re moving towards something, hoping to one day cross the marriage finish line. (Marriage is not for everyone, I know, but the idea is that you’re progressing toward a partnership. It’s that “us against the world” mentality.) If you don’t see a future with a lover, you know you’ve got to end it (eventually). Not really the case for BFFs. With friends, you end it because you can’t handle the present. Because no amount of dodged phone calls or rescheduled dates will relieve the stress of having that person in your life. (The study says that, for women, “slinking away” is the friendship-ending method of choice. We avoid the whole break-up talk. I know that’d be my go-to. More cowardly, but so much less painful than a real confrontation.)

I think dumping a friend is undoubtedly harder than dumping a boyfriend. Telling a buddy that, sorry, I don’t like you anymore…just the thought of it ties my stomach in knots. There is no easy cliché, no “it’s not you it’s me.” With friend breakups, it’s definitely you. You’re toxic. Or you suck the air out of the room. Or you ask too much of me when I have only so much to give. But how in the world do you tell someone that?

Have you had to break up with a friend recently? Did you think it was harder than breaking up with a romantic partner? Do you try the “slink away” approach  first? Either way, was the guilt debilitating?

101 Comments

Filed under The Hard Facts

101 responses to “The Hard Facts: Breaking Up Is (Really, Really) Hard To Do

  1. Nicole Larsen

    I have a hard time because I have so few friends. I have several that I really cannot handle (they require too much, they are emotionally/ physically draining, negative types) but I cannot afford to “dump” them because then I have no one. The ones I really want to keep all moved far away, and so I find myself “settling.” Some would argue that it’s better to have none than bad ones, but I do want adult interraction sometimes (outside of work), and do occassionally need some people around. So I settle. I struggle in my own life with positivity and learning to reframe things mentally, embrace chances, roll with the punches. I’m not able to fall back to their “level” or even strong enough to pull them up to mine. So inevitably, I end up slinking. Then I get the slink-call-out from one of them, “gosh, I NEVER talk to you anymore,” and then have to create an impromptu, “things at work have been so crazy, and with only a few hours each evening to see my son, I lose track. I’m so sorry.”
    Then life comes full-circle (as it often does) and those a friend that I miss and wish to see more often, slinks me… Hmmm

    • Nicole Larsen

      Plus the HISTORY is the part that’s hard to give up. I don’t have to re-explain about my parents quirky habits, or my marital struggles (and achievements), tell them about my son’s personality, or that I don’t like ketchup or chocolate. All that ground work takes so much time and effort to lay out…

  2. This is a a tough topic. I did have to break up with a friend once, but it’s because she was the one doing the slinking away. As easy as we think that approach is for us to do, the person you’re doing it to often feels completely awful. I was blind-sided when my friend did it to me, and when I confronted her about it, it turned out she had all kinds of issues with me, but rather than talking about it, she just pretended things were fine until she started pulling away. Personally, I would’ve been happier if she had come to me with her issues, and we could’ve both made the decision to end the friendship.

    For me, it feels like the equivalent of a guy you’ve gone out with once or twice seeming like he’s lost your phone number, or totally dropped off the face of the Earth. I get it, you don’t want to go out, but at least do me the courtesy of letting me know that so I can move on too.

    I wonder if we feel like it’s okay to do this to our friends because we don’t place as much importance in friendships as we do in romantic relationships? I can’t imagine ending things that way with someone I’ve been dating for any significant amount of time.

    I don’t want to sound bitter here, it just really is a tough topic. I’m glad you brought it up though – it’s definitely necessary given the nature of your blog.

    • Anne, thank you so much for your honesty. What you say makes complete sense. Perhaps I didn’t think of it from that perspective because I haven’t (yet) been victim to it (that I know of). It does sound horrible to be on the receiving end–to have someone you thought you were close with suddenly disappear.

      You’re right that this is such a tough topic–as I said, it’s really loaded and brings up so much emotion for women.

      You bring up a great question of why we would do this in friendship and not in dating. There are so many posts just waiting to be written about this. Thanks again for your thoughtful feedback!

      • It’s a really interesting subject to discuss, but I hope that you never have to be on either end of it :)

        • Megan

          Um, I actually think we DO do it in dating. I’ve been on the receiving end of a dating relationship where the guy slowly stopped communication. Also, I’ve been on the giving end of it, too, I’m not proud to say. But, the guy wouldn’t call me, he would only text and often, only things like “Wazza?!” or “howzit?” so I just stopped responding…
          Point is, we do the “slink away” in friendship and dating…as for the “why?” We hate saying “no”? We want people to like us? We don’t want to hurt people’s feelings? We don’t want to admit our own weaknesses?…

  3. Fascinating! Unfortunately I would probably be a slinker. It’s one of those situations where just letting go seems the easier, less hurtful route, when in reality Anne’s perspective makes perfect sense — talking through the issues is the decent thing to do, even if the ending is the same.

    I need a shirt that says, “I [Heart] Research Wednesdays.”

  4. I actually broke up with a friend almost 8 years ago now and not b/c either of us were “toxic”…

    We had been friends for 10 years but then I got engaged and religion actually came between us. she’s an orthodox jew, and my husband’s mom had a reform conversion. To the orthodox that’s not valid and therefore my husband isn’t jewish in her (and to other orthodox jews) eyes so she “couldn’t” come to our wedding. It was horrible. It was the most painful thing ever – far worse than any breakup with any boy.

    We still have mutual friends and I actually saw her at a wedding a few months ago. It was the first time we had seen each other since everything happened and as much as we’ve both moved on with our lives it was horribly awkward. Big bummer.

  5. Wow. What a difficult topic. Especially as we get older, know ourselves a bit better and become more selective with our time and energies we surround ourselves with.

    I too was ‘let go’ and there’s so much shame and sadness that surrounds it. Lots of questioning ‘what did I do wrong’ and longing for our old friendship back, especially because we were very close friends. Then, if we don’t make new close friendships (as you’ve discussed in other posts), we’re left with a void.

    I’ve had to accept that she’s changed as a person or needs something from me that I couldn’t give her. I also know that I haven’t always been the best friend and I’ve had to take a hard look at how I can be better going forward. But I still think about it often and sometimes with tears.

    Thanks again Rachel for talking about something that is so hard to talk about.

    Lenore

    • Diana

      Just last night my BFF walked out of my life and told me to lose her effing phone number.

      She and I moved in next door to each other just two days apart three years ago. We have been to hell and back and have been there for each other through thick and thin, There was a lot of thick, and a lot of times that I thought I really needed to end the relationship but we share so much in common and when one of us needed someone the other was always there for support. We both have a son and a daughter who are best friends too.
      A year and a half ago she move two miles away due to an ugly divorce.

      She has a very ugly and volatile relationship with her son’s father. They went through a vicious court battle and I appeared as a witness for her. Unfortunately her ex won custody leaving her with limited visitation.

      On Friday evening I received a phone call from her son asking if my son could spend the night at his house. [I knew he was with his father this weekend and the entire week as she had already told me she would not have either of her children for the holiday and she was all alone for Thanksgiving] I agreed to let my son spend the night and made arrangements for the boys father to come and pick up my son. Let me say also it is 40 miles to the boys [father's] house. I also need to say that the father refuses to drive the son to his mothers house or even meet her half way for her weekend visitation].

      She came over Saturday night to watch a movie and have wine together with me. When she arrived she had brought crab to share with my son, it is both of their favorite. When I told her he was not home, that he is spending the night at a friends house and I left it at that. She kept on the subject asking where he is, who is he with?? and finally she asked directly”is he with my kid?”. My heart jumped into my throat and before I could think the words came out of my mouth. “yes, yes he is”.
      Her eyes got huge and she said “he can drive my son over to your house to get a friend but he can’t drive my son to ME??” She turned picked up her bottle of wine and the bag of crab and left without another word.

      The only communication I have had from her was the text message that said”lose my effing number”.

      I am sick over this, literally and figuratively. My heart is breaking and I have physical pain through my neck and back and a migraine that would bring a linebacker to his knees. As I sit and type this she is next door. I know this because her car is parked out front. I am praying she will come knock on my door so we can talk. I understand her anger at her ex and the situation, I just don’t understand her wanting to deny our son’s being able to hang out together “unless it is when her son is with her only”. This is way worse than when I caught my husband cheating on me, way way worse.

      • Anonymous

        You betrayed her. With someone who has done her irreperable harm. I don’t blame her for severing all ties with you.

        • carolyn

          Lose her number and be glad you did. Divorce and custody issues are messy, painful, and often childish, but that’s no reason for your son not to hang out with his friend. Although it will take you some time to heal, the fact that your so-called “BFF” wanted to put your son in the middle of her problems with her ex is awful.

          • I would echo what Carolyn said – I can understand that an ugly divorce is messy, that she may have preferred that you talk to her first, that she be very upset and need time… but to sever ties with you over it is unfair to both of your boys, not to mention the friendship you had together. I’m so sorry, and hope you find healing (and newer, stronger friendships).

          • Diane

            I agree with Carolyn. I don’t think you betrayed anyone by allowing your son to continue being friends with her son. Children should never have to pay for the drama in their parents’ lives. There was no malicious intent here, you were simply allowing your son to go to a sleepover at his friend’s house. I think you should heed your ex-friend’s advice and sever ties. Though it might be hard for your son at first, it seems like it will be better for everyone in the long run.

  6. Jen

    I’ve been through two friendship breakups. The first was with my inseparable best friend of several years. We were 18 by the time the friendship was over. She had already moved on to another group of friends from which she had decidedly excluded me (they were more fun, I guess) but we still had yet to put the final nail in the coffin of our walking-dead friendship. I needed closure; she just avoided me for months. So I, being 18, did what teens do when they want to end a friendship: I began dating one of her ex-boyfriends. She did what I knew she would do: told everyone we knew (among other trashy things) that what I did to her was unforgivable and, therefore, I no longer existed. We met up again a little over a decade later and talked through all that had happened. She still maintained that I broke up the friendship by dating her ex, which wasn’t a good sign to me since she refused to take any responsibility for how poorly she treated me before that. Because we had such a long history as friends, we actually attempted to re-start the friendship but I think we both knew it wouldn’t work. We had grown up to be too different to find any common ground other than our past. It was a lot less sad knowing that we just weren’t right for each other after all those years but when I was 18, the breakup had completely devastated me in a way that was far worse than any boyfriend breakup – ever!

    The second one was much easier because the woman turned out to be quite loco!

    • It’s so hard, I think, when we get together with friends we’ve fought or broken up with and still, all those years later, the hard feelings are still there and there’s just no working through it. This is all taking me back to a friend who, the summer before eighth grade, sent me a letter at summer camp explaining why she (and everyone she knew) didn’t like me anymore. I still can’t even look at her picture on Facebook without getting stomach cramps.

      • Jen

        Wow – I thought that only happened to me! I too have had the horrible experience of being told that basically I sucked and “everybody” agreed. And middle school is already the worst time in any human’s lifetime (I’m convinced; I could write a thesis on this) – add a little public humliation and tah-dah: instant low self-esteem!

        God, I’m glad I’m in my 30s.

      • Jen

        OMG – that’s so mean!! Did she ever apologize?

        • Oh, no. Certainly not. It was horrible… By the time the summer was over and we ended up back in school we just werent friends and never talked about it. But, out of that horrible experience, I made another friend who was there for me when I received the letter and is still a dear friend to this day. So, I guess in some ways the story ends well…

          It’s such a funny/horrifying story actually, now that I think of it. I will have to post it! Stay tuned..

  7. Jen

    I had a very messy “breakup” with a dear friend.

    When we were younger (middle school, high school), I was very insecure and turned to her for advice and direction – a lot. When I left for college, I came out with a surer sense of my self. This upset the balance of our friendship; my friend was still trying to lead me and I was no longer listening.

    It got uglier and uglier until one day I stormed out of the house screaming at her (oh yeah, we were post-college roommates at the time) and she screaming at me. Bad stuff. We didn’t speak for six years. It took the disasterous divorce of a mutual friend to bring us together.

    Because we no longer live in the same town and have such different lives (childless vs. two babies), it will never be the same, but we truly forgave each other and will always be friends.

    Hmm… besides being far too long for a comment, this might not be the sort of breakup you were asking about.

    • It totally is what I was asking about. And it’s so encouraging that in some cases, friends can “get back together”… perhaps it will never be the same, but given your description that sounds like maybe it’s for the best!

  8. kflevitt

    Being engaged and planning a wedding has really made me face this dilemma dead on. I’m currently in the situation of “if I don’t invite this person to my wedding, are we over as friends?” Having recently been excluded from a close friend’s wedding, that’s sort of what it feels like, especially being on that receiving end. I am honestly becoming the culprit of distancing myself from people that I don’t talk to regularly because I don’t have the capacity to invite them, but would still consider an old friend. However, if we don’t communicate all that much, the communication is one-sided, or they were important to you at a former stage in life, are they really a close friend anymore? Do I really want to see them among the closer family and friends at my wedding? Probably not. One friend example, is a girl I was close with in middle school, she moved away but we kept in touch, saw each other occasionally during college, and then she put me in her wedding. We’re in totally different stages in life, have opposite lifestyles, I haven’t spoken to her on the phone in a few years now, so therefore, I feel no obligation to offer her in an invite even though I was IN her wedding. Is that horrible? Wedding planning really does open up the question of who is really your friend and who isn’t.

    • I can 100% relate to this. When I was planning my wedding I was sorta of the “I can’t make new friends, I have no more spots at my wedding” mindset. (I know…. I totally set myself up for this search..) It gets so tricky–and then when you can’t invite people that your parents or inlaws want to invite, or new boyfriend/girlfriends… it gets rough and there is definite guilt. Weddings (and bridal parties!) bring a whole different drama to the friendship equation. I loved loved loved my wedding, but I’m so glad the planning is over…

  9. Leanne

    I am totally in that realm of wedding planning and looking at “axing” people who were close, but are not so close anymore. It is really tough! And I don’t want it to mean the friendship is done afterward because I still love seeing them on occasion, and they were certainly important to me for a time long ago. Tough calls must be made eventually. We shall see how it all unfolds.

    Otherwise, I don’t think I have ever dumped a friend but I sure have wanted to at times. I take the slink route usually as well. What a rotten thing to do, especially since when a guy does it, I think it is the worst way to break things off.

    Oh the double standard!

    I am going to sit on this one for a while today. Nice researching!

  10. Friendship break-ups are so tricky. A break-up with a boyfriend can be fairly clean; it’s not always the case that you share a group of friends. When breaking up with a girlfriend, it seems like more often than not, you are part of a group of friends. So awkwardness would inevitably ensue.

    I haven’t ever ended a friendship by actually confronting the issue head on. I parted ways with my childhood best friend. I think it was mutual, though. She had never really been that great of a friend to me, but when you have a graduating class of 28 people, your options are limited (I grew up in a hometown with 500 people…). We are still cordial to each other when we see each other – which is very, very rare. So there are no hard feelings.

    There have been times in my life where I have wanted to end a relationship with a certain friend – but slinking away isn’t really an option and I think the stress of a confrontation and the repercussions of ending the friendship would create more stress than continuing to maintain the friendship… Yes, this might make me a coward, but I just would prefer to ‘keep the peace’ in my group of friends v. taking the axe to a friendship. So instead, I have tried to speak up when she does/says things that bother me instead of letting them fester away.

    • It’s true. Sometimes the stress of a breakup is worse than the stress of seeing the person every now and again. I guess its just about what happens when you reach the tipping point. When the breakup seems the “easier” option.

      The group of friends thing adds a whole other element. When you cant break up, really, because you are going to see each other. Or when you never really wanted to be friends in the first place, but you were brought together by others…

  11. There are two other things that come to mind that make breaking up with “lovers” easier.

    First, you can blame it on chemistry – if you’re not feeling it, it’s easier to walk away. It’s a lot harder to tell a friend there is no chemistry. It’s not like you’re expected to get butterflies in your stomach when you think of a friend.

    Second, you can always profess you met someone better. This, of course, assumes people want monogamous relationships (which I realize is not for everyone). But, assuming that’s the end goal, if you’ve been dating someone and meet someone you feel more chemistry with, have more closely aligned life goals, etc., you can tell that first person you met someone else and would like to explore things with that person. The same usually doesn’t hold true with friends, as we are often open to lots of different kinds of friendships.

    • Yes! These are such good points. Especially number 2. We are expected to have only one lover, so if it’s no good we must break up to move on. But friends should be in abundance, so friend break ups are not about moving on to the next person, it’s that even though you’re open to tons of people, you’re not open to THAT person.

  12. A. Friend

    Rachel,

    First of all, I want to commend you for an amazing idea for a blog, great daily topics, and very good and witty writing. I wish you much success…

    I’ve been reading your posts for some time now, and have been wanting to comment, but never got around to it. This topic, of “break-ups”, however, hit closer to home.

    I recently had a “break-up” with a childhood friend myself; a friendship of close to two decades worth. It’s been over a year, but I don’t think I’ll ever really get over this one. Needless to say, at least I know I’ll survive any future divorce or boyfriend break-up that comes my way. Because you’re right, there’s that unspoken known that when we get into romantic relationships, there’s possibility for “break-up” should we not be compatible, etc. And, god forbid, should that happen, we have our BFFs to run home to. However, the whole BFF concept, in and of itself, somehow secures that we’ll be there for each other, forever. Right?

    Wrong. :(

    I didn’t slink away, I don’t do that. She didn’t necessarily slink away, either. The catalyst was when she dated a boy I had dated; a boy that meant nothing to either of us. But, it brought about a lot of repressed frustrations and ultimately changed the whole course of an already dysfunctional friendship. Everything happens for a reason. I’ve changed so much. It helped a lot to read that I wasn’t alone, that “friendship divorces” are real (Irene Levine’s book, for example). When we’re together for so long, we become family, and there are so many ties and tangles (emotionally, psychologically, and even financially) that no one really understands but us.

    I don’t know if I’m searching for a new BFF, I don’t know if I’m ready. Hah. I do know that quote to be true, how we become ourselves through other people. I don’t regret the years spent, and even with it’s downs, I would do it again in a heart-beat. However, I also wouldn’t change this past year either, for all the beautiful new friendships and growth. Who knows what the future holds, but friends, for the love and support they give us, or even the disappointment and heartache at times, we really do come out understanding ourselves a lot more. If nothing else, we realize our own capacity for this deep and real love we all call “friendship”.

    • Thanks for sharing this wonderful story and for your kind words!

      You are most certainly not alone… friendship divorces are very real and very emotional, as you can see from both these comments and the study. It’s always interesting how the thing we’re fighting about (the mutual boy) is not really the thing we’re fighting about (the repressed frustrations).

  13. I think that it is different breaking up with a friend than a “lover” because, for most of us, you can only have one lover. If you don’t see a future or if things aren’t quite perfect, breaking up frees you to move onto someone different. Not so with friends. A person can have many friends. Most people have different friends for different situations; one is the hiking and outdoorsy friend, another one is for complaining about work or relationships over martinis, one is crafty and likes taking art course, etc etc.
    Ending a relationship doesn’t mean that you really don’t like the person (let’s just be friends), it means that they are not meant to be your one and only. Whereas ending a friend relationship means that you really just don’t want that person in your life.

  14. Ana

    As others above have said, the difference between breaking up with a “lover” (ewww, I hate that word!) and a friend is that with a romantic partner, there are a lot of reasons it doesn’t work out. If you are dumped by a boyfriend, it sucks, but you can rationalize all the ways you maybe weren’t meant to be together.
    With friends, there are all levels, and you can have as many as you want. When you are “dumped” as a friend, its basically “I dislike you so much I cannot even have you anywhere in my life”—so HARSH!
    I don’t think I’ve ever broken up with a friend, because I’ve never had one that I just couldn’t hang out with or talk to ever again. I usually just pull back and lessen the DEGREE of friendship, which has been even easier given how much I’ve moved around jobs/cities/etc… I can just moderate the degree of effort I put into “keeping in touch”.
    I have been on the other end of this, though, and it really stung. A good (best?) friend from college stopped returning my calls & emails after I mentioned some money (around $50 or $100) that she owed me and another friend for something she bought from us when we graduated. (a TV I think?) It really put our “friendship” into a dollar amount. I guess I wasn’t worth $100 to her. Took me a while to get over that & colors my memories of college.

  15. JB

    My freshman year of college, I lived in the dorm with a girl that I sort of knew from childhood. It was sort of like going potluck (we hadn’t seen each other since we were eight) but we had enough background information to know that the other one wasn’t totally nuts. Things were mostly great for awhile. We spent tons of time together, made a group of friends in our hall, went on double dates, shared clothes–all the makings of a new BFF. But there were some things about her that really drove me crazy. Some of them were about our living styles (clean vs. messy, etc.) and some were more personality-related. I didn’t know how to tell her that I didn’t want to live with her anymore–so I didn’t. But I did start making plans to live with another friend and my roommate found out. It was HORRIBLE.

    She cried and yelled. I probably did too (ok, I’m sure I did.) I tried to tell her that I wanted to be her friend, just not her roommate–but she took it as a total rejection. She wouldn’t talk to me or even look at me for months. She told some friends some not-nice things about me. We tried to get together like six months later, but it was the most awkward lunch ever. I definitely felt like I had broken up with her. The thing that stunk is that I didn’t even want to break up with her completely–I just didn’t want to live with her anymore! I thought we could better friends if we could find happier living situations. Boy, was I wrong!

    Now, I just slink away from relationships. I don’t have the guts to out and out end them. So I just create space in them until we get to a comfortable place where it’s nice when we see each other but there’s no expectation that we see each other all that often. Man, writing that down makes me feel like a terrible friend!

    • Not a terrible friend at all. Real and honest. I think we have all been in that same place… Hence the study. Friend breakups are so hard and so stressful…. We never forget them. It’s easier (even though maybe not better) to just let them fall to the wayside…

  16. Thank you for posting this. I definitely think it’s true. I’ve only had one significant “break-up” with a friend. We became friends instantly when we met at our college orientation. We were very very close and spent all our time together; we were roommates our sophomore year. But something changed during sophomore year and she started bothering me a lot. She was very judgmental (in the moral sense; i.e. “I’m a better person than you”) and pretentious, so I distanced myself from her a little. Halfway through sophomore year she transferred schools. That was a year ago and we haven’t spoken since she left, she has even blocked me from seeing as much of her facebook as possible while still being facebook “friends.” The past few months I’ve thought about her a lot, because she is my *only* friend who I’ve been THAT close with and then gone to not even speaking. It feels like a bad break-up that never got resolved. It feels like I need closure or something.

  17. Brittany

    I dumped a best friend once in high school. Her negativity and high stress lifestyle was really dragging me down and I told her I had to stop hanging out. She took it well, but was terribly hurt. Twelve years later I still feel guilty about it. But it was the right decision for me at the time. It was much harder than dumping a guy.

  18. I read the pull quote at the beginning of the post and thought, “Amen to that!”

    I’ve never officially broken up with a friend, either, but I’ve had friendships simply fade due to time and physical distance. There have been times when I wondered if someone was doing the slink away or if, in fact, it was just a case of life moving on.

    No matter how it happens – or why – the loss of a friendship is horrible. Bad boyfriend? See ya. Maybe some heartache, but it ends and usually you realize you’re better off without that guy. Disappearing friend? Ugh. It hurts for a LONG time, even if you know the friendship wasn’t quite working.

  19. I think every friendship I’ve ended has been a mutual “slinking” away. No collective tears, no drama, no confrontations, just an eventual drifting apart that, as I’m reflecting on it, seems to have been preferred by all parties. (I’m not going to think too deeply about what that says about me and the kind of women I choose as friends!) =>

  20. Cathy

    Another great post, Rachel! Many years ago I deliberately distanced myself from my best friend from high school as we moved into our mid-20s. She married someone who changed her personality in very negative ways. She went from being a caring person to being just plain mean and attacking and mocking people I cared for. It was very clear at the time that we could not continue in our same relationship, but it was so hard to make a decision to back away. We had been in each others’ weddings and had a tight history with each other. Even decades later I still second-guess myself and rehash my reasons, wondering whether I should have confronted her rather than distancing myself. (I don’t like the term slinking away!) I don’t think there is a general right or wrong answer for that question–it depends on the people involved. I believed then and still do that a conversation about it would have completely severed any relationship with my friend forever because no matter how I said it, she would have been hurt and defensive. She would also have attacked me, and I admit that it would be hard for me to let that go. By distancing myself, I left the door open. I can now see her at high school reunions and stay in touch via Facebook. She is now an acquaintance, rather than a friend, but it is a relief to know that there is still something there. Some friendships have to end, but I think it’s really important to think carefully about how to do it to preserve the other person’s feelings and dignity as much as possible, even if you’re furious or hurt. Think about how both of you will view things years from now. Will you feel like you handled it maturely and with care? In light of the study results you’ve included, it’s really important for us to be aware that we might be reliving our decisions for years to come. I certainly have!

  21. Yup, seems the slinking away approach is how it works for adults…it’s the slinging away approach that works for teens. There was so much more drama in friend breakups as a teen…now, it’s just a realization that people grow and change and move on. Most of my friend breakups in the past 20 years haven’t been that there’s anything wrong with the other friend, necessarily, just that we were both moving in different directions. I am always amazed when I meet people who are still close friends with their friends from childhood. Amazed might translate to envious, I guess.

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  23. I ended a friendship this past January. I should have done it sooner; I guess I am a glutton for punishment?

    We’d spend time together. Something would set her off and she would slice off my head and hand it back to me. We’d meet another friend for lunch. She interrupted me as I told a story that had me near tears so that she could inform us that SHE didn’t believe in what I was saying, so that is that. I would always end up sitting there, afraid to say anything. The sad part is, I would then have to drive her home after.

    I don’t know what it was. I’ve been told it was jealousy of my kids. When I spoke about what my kids were doing, I could see a shadow pass across her face.

    After so much punching, she started to leave antagonistic comments on my facebook page. I had enough. I pushed back.

    Sometimes I miss our friendship. Then I try to remember the last time it felt like we were truly friends: back to 2006-2007. I know I did the right thing in ending it.

    Still, it hurts.

  24. Amy

    This post came at such a good time for me! I just broke up with a friend and it was surprisingly easier than I expected. She hasn’t spoken to me since November and I’ve tried to call her several times. She *just* sent me an email and asked me why I had limited her access to my facebook page. I have been so hurt by the break up and feeling so deficient as a person. On top of this, we are friends with the same group of people (luckily we do not live on the same coast!). In any event, I am feeling so much better now that I honestly decided this is a friendship that I do not need in my life.

    It’s hard to let go. As one of my favorite bloggers (zen habits) said “Letting go is letting happiness in.” I’m hopeful I will find another friend who can fill the void left from this friendship.

    Thanks for a great post Rachel! I hope this is the last friendship break up I endure!

    • Healing

      Amy – I know this was written almost 2 years ago but I can really relate to your comment “I have been so hurt by the break up and feeling so deficient as a person.”

      Apparently I’m in the middle of a breakup with my BF. She is going through a separation with her husband but they have had these issues for years. I’ve always been there for her, more than I should and it’s always been about her. She got married, she had a baby, my partner and I moved OS and she spent that time talking about how they were going to come and live there two for a few months and only spoke about that, never asking about how things were for us OS. We (partner and I) have helped them move several times (they’ve never helped us) and we’ve even dropped everything and taken time off work when she was in hospital cos no one else cared.

      A few months ago we bought our first home and she just didn’t even care despite how excited we were. That was so hurtful. She has never come to see our home as I don’t think she can be happy for us as they aren’t in a position to buy a home.

      I’ve been getting ‘the vibe’ for a while based on comments and non-replies. I’ve been i tears so many times lately and cried like someone had died a few weeks back.

      Then she’ll call (wanting a shoulder to cry on) and when I ask her if everything is ok with us she says it fine.

      Now I’ve just read a comment online that I’m sure was directed at me after not getting a reply from a msg. I have felt sick and absolutely “deficient as a person” since I saw the comment and I just can’t go on being made to feel like this. So, I’ve hidden all of her posts so I won’t see anything. I just don’t see any point in reading crap like that if she can’t even pick up the phone.

      As hard as it is though, I can now see clearer how things really were and if the attention is not on her she just doesn’t care. She expects everything from me but gives nothing in return.

      She is also incredibly negative, stressful and is always dwelling on things.

      Just as with a romantic relationship, a friendship should bring something good to your life and encourage / inspire you to be a better person. If all you’re getting is the opposite then I truly believe it’s better to end it.

      I don’t have many friends, just some ‘couple’ friends as I find it hard to put myself out there.

      I’ve recently met some positive people and the difference is amazing.

      This blog has inspired me to pursue friendships with those new people and to get out of my comfort zone and try to make new friends.

      Thank you to everyone for sharing, this has actually made me feel better and taken away some of my anxiety.
      I think it all

  25. Pingback: I’ve Bin Thinking About Your Ignerince « MWF Seeking BFF

  26. Jessica

    I can relate to all of your comments. I had a break up with a friend four years ago, and I am still dreaming about her, and think about her on a daily basis. I don’t think I have ever been so obsessed about a “break up” in my life, even when I was 15 and had my heart broken and thought my life was over…this is worse.

    The situation was very odd, but here it is. My ex-boyfriend dated her for eight years, they remained good friends and so I met her through him. She then got married and the four of us did everything together. From weekend trips, tropical holidays, home renovations, cooking, drinking, and then finally we bought a cabin for the two famillies to share. Her and I shared all of our dreams, hopes, wants, we both wanted children, we wanted to be more beautiful, we talked and talked and talked about everything. She was in a very happy and healthy marriage, I on the other hand was very unhappy in my relationship, but didn’t want it to end, because the dream of us all sharing our lives together was so wonderful. But after an intense three years, it finally came to an end. She sided with my ex, even though she knew the ins and outs of the relationship, even though she dated him for eight years and knew he was difficult, she still sided with him. All conversing with me stopped. She got pregnant, I heard, and sent her a gift and flowers, no response, I moved away, got married, emailed her the news, no response. I got pregnant and had a baby, no response. I feel so sad inside that we can’t share our happy news still. For some reason, I will feel better if I know that she misses me to, and that she thinks about me. I sound like a nut, I know, but I would not wish the break up of BFF’s on anyone.

  27. Bette

    I have to admit that it took me well over a month to even read this post, and another week to make it through the comments. As soon as I saw the topic, my heart started pounding and my stomach hurt…

    I lost my best friend of 30 years last summer. It was my doing, yet I was completely unprepared for the guilt and sadness I felt (and still feel) after ending the friendship. In some ways, the relationship still exists even though I have no contact with my former friend. I have an idea the bond is forever, even when unacknowledged or disavowed.

    Perhaps the saddest thing for me is that I never found a way to conclusively end the relationship… I still get calls asking, where are you and what’s up? Slinking away was and is hurtful, yet I could not bring myself to say the truth—that she’s self-absorbed, that she let me down, that I realized our relationship had always been about her and her life, that I wanted more reciprocity, etc.

    Instead, after a particularly egregious month last summer when I was going through hell both at home and at work, and she was focused solely on herself and her vacation plans, I decided I no longer wanted to be friends with her. After 30 years!?

    I questioned my ability to think clearly, but now, months later, I realize I reached a point of change and there’s no turning back.

    Yet, not a day goes by that I don’t want to pick up the phone and call my BFF and chat for awhile. I miss her in a way I imagine a long-married couple would miss their spouse if s/he died.

    Thank you for a thought-provoking, stomach-wrenching post and discussion…

  28. Pingback: Shedding Unwanted Baggage « MWF Seeking BFF

  29. This is a great post. I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of this – one abrupt breakup and some slinking away. Both hurt, even if I was one doing it. I think that’s one reason I’m having a hard time making friends here in a new city: I’m trying to be really picky about the people I befriend so that I don’t ever, ever have to break up with them. I’d rather be a little lonely for a while than go through that or make people feel like I just used them until I found some “real” friends.

  30. Lisa

    Fantastic post, awesome blog. I just wanted to share my story. I was in a youth support group for 2 years and there were these three girls I pretty much instantly “clicked” with…we just got along so well. Before I knew it, they’d organised a massive party for my 19th birthday, with a whole heap of other people from the group. Then, half an hour before class ended (they were picking me up from uni) they cancelled, saying “Something had come up” and not only did they never bothered to reschedule, they kept brushing me off. We saw each other since then and said they’d love to be my friend outside of the program. It’s now nine months later with no contact between us at all. Two of them have defriended me on Facebook and the one that’s left is never online, and if she is she sends very short messages, usually about her boyfriend. I was dangerously mentally unstable at the time that they “stood me up” (I was on Accutane and needed a little more emotional support through the volatile mood swings) and I think my instability may have contributed to the breakdown of the relationship. I was incredibly hurt and cried for days – petty, I know, but I’ve always had poor self esteem. I do have acquaintances at university – but they’re all young mothers, kind of flaky, or if they’re my age, I’m not interested in getting drunk and dancing and they hate books. So the more people tend to reject me, the more walls I put up to stop people hurting me and the more I stop reaching out to people…it’s starting to get to the point where I’m reclusive. I’m scared and lonely and at 19 years old I thought I’d be happier and more stable than I actually am.

  31. Lee

    So I am going through this now, and have done so in my past as well. I am sad right now, but i know it was for the best. The problem was….at the time of our friendship, we were BOTH depressed and unhappy. We had few other friends, and relied on each other WAY to much. It came to a point where we just didnt have fun anymore going out. The thought of going out with her, made me just wanna stay home and watch tv instead. The problem was, we were both so lonely that we just kept hanging out. After a while, we met others and got boyfriends/fiances and became different people. We had a big falling out and accused each other of being a “bad friend” which in truth, we BOTH were. She moved to another city to be with her long distance bf, partly bc she was so bored here i think. But….now we just remain friends on facebook. I miss our good times, but man, the bad times i will remember forever. I am now in a better place in my life, and am for once actively trying to make lasting relationships with positive women. Is soooooo hard, but I know it can be done. It just takes time. Im also a bit shy and have a hard time connecting with women, so its extra hard. I dont know why im like this……but i want so much to have a good circle of friends. I have friends, but i just dont feel the stron bond that people talk about. I have only felt that with men. However, I long for that, and am so envious of women that have that friendship bond.

    • Nicole

      I feel what you are going through with not having a group of friends. I to am going through that. I want to badly to have a core group of ladies that get together and we just know each other, we get each other. Have you started your search for a group yet? If so please tell me how you are going about it.

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  35. Nicole

    It’s quite funny that I read this today as I had a terrible fight with my BFF last night (we made up thank god, I don’t know what I would do if we hadn’t) and I’m having a hard time with another friend of mine. I’ve been thinking that maybe I need to break up with my “other” friend. She has pretended to be a certain kind of friend but never follows through. I feel like friendships are similar to romantic relationships. For instance, when you meet someone the courtship is similar. You call to hang out but not to often for fear you may seem over eager. You wait for them to initiate hanging out. You see if they invite you to hang out with their other friends and then you do that same. You wait for them to share personal deep information with you and when you reach a certain level you think “Are we serious?” Just like dating…so it’s friendship dating. But just like dating you can be lead on and that’s what I think has just happened to me. I’m hurt and upset and I no longer trust her. So do I break up with her? Or redefine the friendship? Which is not easy to do. I have in the past confronted friends and “broken” up with them but I have also just slid away. What’s a girl to do??

  36. Pingback: Can Men Write About Female Friendships? | MWF Seeking BFF

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  38. M

    The responses to this post are all so amazing. I don’t feel so alone anymore!
    I had a very bad friend break up about a year ago and it still stings. For months before the actual breakup, she would seem to slink away for awhile and then be back like nothing happened. She had a very volitile marriage so I chalked it up to that. Then she called one day screaming at me about something to do with her teenage son. When I tried to explain it to her, she called me a liar. When I asked to speak with her and her son together to get to the bottom of it, she refused. I think she was done with the friendship but couldn’t just end it for no reason and look like the bad person. I tried for a month after the fight to fix it but she only talked to me when she needed something. It was then that I saw that for the months leading up to this, she only came out of her shell when she needed my help. I tried several times to talk to her but she kept blowing me off so I sent the break up email. She then began her assualt on me and my family. At this point, I knew she was crazy so I kept to myself and let the storm blow over. During all of this, I spent hours, days even, wondering why she had done this. To this day, I still don’t know why. I mean, she told me why but something tells me there is something else. I’ve heard of friends drifting apart for whatever reasons and I get that. What I don’t understand is attacking the person you’ve decided you don’t like anymore. All I can think of was that there was something about me that she didn’t like anymore but to save herself the guilt, she had to hate me for some reason. I’m not perfect and I know that I’m not always the best friend in the world but I try.
    On a positive note, about the same time that this was all happening, my BFF of 30 years moved a town over from me. For the last few years, we had been an hour apart so it was difficult. Now, she’s close by and the truth is, ex BFF and old BFF didn’t get along so I don’t have to deal with that drama!
    One thing I do try to remember is that I do have several BFF’s that I’ve had forever, even before this other woman. This woman tried for a long time to get rid of these other friends. I always thought it was strange that she had grown up in this town (I’m an implant) and had no friends from growing up. Not even one. She also was estranged from her family who all live in town as well. I guess I know why now!

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  40. nora

    I can say that being the one who is getting the “slink away” treatment is extraordinarily painful, much worse than just being told what the problem is. It makes you go over and over and over what you might have done or said to be getting that treatment and can lead to an unhealthy obsession with the whole thing. Also, the person is treating you as if you do not exist, and that is the worst possible feeling. I can’t imagine doing this to anyone I ever cared about. It is truly unthinkable.

  41. Anonymous

    I came to this site because I’m aware that I’d like to make a few more “like-minded” friends. I am also aware that its time for me to let to slip (slink) out of a current friendship. I have broken up with two friends in the past 10 years and the guilt still haunts me. I’m hoping that if I limit the amount of time I see this friend, I’ll be less likely to ditch the whole thing… We’ll see.

  42. Anonymous

    I had what I thought was a very close friend of four years just up and move to another state with a man she met when we were vacationing together in London. No new address….nothing. It devastated me. I went into such a funk for about three years. It was worse than breaking up with a guy. Looking back, I can see that I was naive and didn’t see the friendship for what it was – a way for her to get her needs met, and whoever she used as a tool for doing so was totally expendable. Also, I knew a lot about her, including the not-so-good things that might prove embarrassing if her new beau were to find-out. Of course I would have never said a thing, but I can’t help but thinking that she was probably paranoid. Anyway, we reconnected a couple of years ago via Facebook, and this time around I could see her for what she is: A very selfish, judgmental, cynical and toxic person. I removed her from my friends list.

    Conversely, I made a friend a couple of years ago who was….well….strange. She was nice enough, but just so weird. Very socially unskilled and at times it was embarrassing to be around her. Like when we went to the movies and she arrived wearing a dress with elbow-length formal gloves. Trust me, this wasn’t trendy or funky. It was just awful. And this is only a tiny sample of the things she would do. I almost felt sorry for her so I continued to do things with her and be her friend. Unfortunately it all came to a head when she insisted on taking me to my favorite sushi place for my birthday, and arranged to have a man in a gorilla suit waiting to do a strip tease right. there. in. the. restaurant. I got wind of her plans beforehand and told her to please, please, please do not hire a stripper. I don’t like strippers and never have. Well, she did it anyway. I have never been so livid. The restaurant is pretty trendy and hip, and suffice to say that a dancing naked man was not appreciated by either the restaurant employees or its customers. I just got up from my seat and left. I never returned her phone calls.

  43. I have a REALLY hard time with friendship breakups mostly because once I am friends with someone, I am friends for life as far as I’m concerned. I don’t always have to “feel” like I like them to still be friends….I guess I think that we should be more mature than to let little things get between us. I’m sure my friends have often been like, why can’t I just get rid of you and move on? When I’m really good friends with someone, I usually put “all” into the friendship…which is fine until I can’t anymore for some reason. Then my friends get mad because I can’t cater to them anymore. Ha!! I guess I need to be more casual about my friendships instead of getting so “into” them that I am wearing myself out.

  44. Diane

    I have actually been on the receiving end and, more recently, the giving end of a “friendship breakup”. The former was about 3 years ago from a girl who I had been friends with for 10 years. She and I were inseparable, made each other laugh constantly, even did the embarrassing open mic night together. Our parents were friends, we had sleepovers together every weekend, went camping together, did everything together. We were completely best friends. Then one day, she literally stopped calling me. Yes, there was the aforementioned “slinking off” on her part, but we still talked on a semi-regular basis and I didn’t think too much of it. I was going through a relatively mild breakup one summer but still wanted her advice, so I called her. She didn’t answer. She didn’t call back. Ever. And here we are, 3 years later. So I dropped it. I didn’t call her incessantly, text her frantically, or wonder in anguish “why me?!” I just moved on, realizing it was not meant to be, however confused.
    Now I am the one who’s on the end of having to break off a 10 year relationship. The reasons I did it was because she was very unsupportive of me, telling me I put her on the back burner because I put my serious boyfriend before her (I am not only in a relationship moving towards marriage, but have moved several states away from my family, am going through grad school and barely have time to breath). She cannot accept that I put my family, relationship, and my hectic life first. She called to lay it all out one day, also citing the fact that it was terrible of me to not respond within 2 days to a very minor text she had sent (actually I did respond, but my reception was horrible so it never sent, but try telling her that!), basically telling me I am a poor friend, and “totally different now” (as if it were such a crime against humanity!).
    The other reason I “unfriended” her (thank you, Facebook, for a new verb) was because of the fact that she is totally emotionally draining, her life is more dramatic than the most raunchy Maury Povich episode and she actually has a warrant for her arrest (the kicker). Needless to say, no one in my family likes her, and it was completely exhausting to be around it all. I started “slinking off”, but she has not gotten the hint, first posting a mean comment on Facebook about me when all I had done was not called her in a few weeks (time warp to being 12 again…), then the Three Faces of Eve came out and she decides to tell me she “loves me”, “misses her best friend”, and that a song she heard the other day reminded her of me (cue horror movie violins here), all the while, I’m not responding to any of it, for fear of being verbally bashed. See what I mean about being emotionally draining?
    I have not gotten any benefit from her being my friend in the last 5 years, and feel like I am being judged and not supported for my life changes, so I think I need to open a new chapter in my life that she won’t be in. As harsh as that sounds, and as hard as it is to deal with and as GUILTY it makes me feel, it’s what I have to do. The fact is, people change, and sometimes, friends grow apart, and it’s hard to understand, but it’s not always the end of the world. I’m glad to know there are other ladies out there who know what I am going through. Let’s stick to our guns and do what’s good for us and start new chapters in our lives which might bring with it new friendships!

    • Healing

      Oh I’m in a similar situation! In fact it’s the second BF in 6 years for the same reason. I give my all and they just take. The selfish BF.

      I’d just like to know why I attract these people and let them walk over me when any other person I’d have no issue to tell them where to go.

      Time to open a new chapter and make sure we heed the warning signs!

  45. oooh, breaking up with boys is definitely easier. For one, my thing in the good old days was to find another guy quickly to get over the one. Good thing I wasn’t a serial dater :)

    the friendship stuff lingers for sweet forever – was it me? what did I do? and on and on. I’ve just posted about being dumped by friends on my blog!

  46. Anonymous

    This happened to me. And it was more painful then breaking up with that first love.

    I believed that the girls who stood beside me on my wedding day would stand beside me at my baby shower, my 30th birthday, my childrens wedding and through any other significant or unsignificant event that your BFF’s should be at. But as disheartening as it is two of them i’m not even sure will still be in my life by the end of the year. Five years ago I left my home town leaving my bestfriends behind (but not the friendship). Two years ago I returned for 8months with my new husband. On returning 2 of them and 2 mutual friends decided after waiting 3 years in silence they would tell me that they did not like who I was, did not think I should have married my husband and If I would like to continue the friendship and socialise with them I needed to apologise and change. Two years have passed since that event and I no longer have those 2 BFF’s as my BFF’s. Perhaps we are now christmas card buddies or birthday text messages but the girls I thought I would grow old with I no longer have that same relationship with. I still to this day question ‘the event’ – What happened? How did it get so far? And why didn’t they just tell me 3 years ago that they thought I was changing? We have talked about it all. Tried to move past it and continue the friendship but the pain is still there and the fear.

    Now married. And constantly moving around. I long for a new BFF. Someone who will text me when they buy the cutest outfit, share a cup of coffee with me, hear my irrational fears, plan a baby shower with and ultimiately accept me for who I am – bad and good. The problem is I wonder if i’ll ever trust someone with who I am, again.

  47. My BFF in high school broke up with me by ignoring me our senior year. We had been BFF’s since freshman year. I adored her. She knew things about music and art that I didn’t and to this day treasure. She was a cellist. Whenever I would stay the night at her house, I would have her play her cello until I fell asleep. She was funny, too. She once put mayonaise in her hair to make it shiny and all day I kept saying, “It smells like ranch dressing. I keep smelling salads.” She didn’t tell me until the end of the day…it’s a good memory. We were polar opposites in looks and taste but we were close. I think at the core of our friendship there was a mutual admiration for the other’s qualities that we didn’t possess. So, our senior year when she stopped talking to me, I didn’t understand. I thought I did. I had a falling out with a mutual friend and it caused another friend alot of distress so I apologized that our fallout was causing her pain. I mistakenly thought my BFF was angry at me for not extending her the same apology, so I did. She still didn’t talk to me. We graduated. We moved on. We didn’t speak for years. One day I tracked her down and called her. She called me back and after several minutes of conversation she finally told me why she stopped being my friend all those years before. She mistakenly thought I had told an aquaintance of ours a very personal secret of hers. I told her that I had not said anything. She wasn’t convinced. I couldn’t believe that all those years had passed and she erroneously thought I had deeply betrayed her. It had been at least 15 years. I told her again that I didn’t do what she thought and then told her that I wished she had said something back then. I told her I was sorry to have lost her as a friend over something that was untrue and told her that I missed having a friend like her in my life. Her response? Well, I’m very sorry for you. It was cold. I knew she would never believe me and at that point realized I didn’t have to listen to her accuse me anymore. I told her that it was a pleasure to speak with her again, wished her success with her career and told her that I wish her all the best. I hung up and have not spoken with her since. It really was too bad that our friendship ended the way it did and it’s just as sad that the possibility of our friendship renewing also ended. But to this day, I think of our friendship and the time I knew her as a good thing. A positive influence in my young life. I’m still glad I knew her.

  48. ghadaibra

    Reblogged this on .

  49. I’ve never in my life had to break up with a friend…until…last month. There is no good way to say that you don’t want to be friends with someone. I feel mean and I feel guilty. Ah! I feel so mean! I had good reasons and I didn’t really have a choice when it came right down to it, but still. Thanks for putting words to my recent experience. I feel a little justified now knowing I am not alone in my guilt.

  50. Reblogged this on karmaisnotjustreligion and commented:
    I’m going through this at the moment with my friends, they are driving me mad and I end up coming home in tears nearly every day because of the way they make me feel. I am actually trying the ‘slinking’ method but it’s harder than I thought it would be because the sixth form I’m in is a really closed environment so there is hardly anyone in it so it is noticeable when I do ‘slink’. I have a friend whose my ex-boyfriend surprisingly and he is helping me through it but I don’t want to have to rely on him forever because he has his own friends and people think things when they see us together. I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked the question ‘Are you back with him?’ ‘Why were you talking to him again?’. I don’t have a solution but I think time will hopefully work things out for me. Your blog has really made me feel like I’m not the only one it happens too, thank you.

  51. I’m going through this at the moment and everything you have said is true. I come home nearly every night crying because of the way they make me feel and I’ve tried the ‘slinking’ method but in college, it’s a really compact place so it makes it harder to do and more noticeable if I were to hang around with another group of people. I have a friend, my ex-boyfriend surprisingly, who is helping me through it all but I don’t want to have to rely on him forever because as close as we are and as much as we have been through a lot together and are still best friends, he has his own friends and I need my own friends who like me, who want to be friends with me, who don’t put you down and who listen to what I’ve got to say and make an effort with me too.
    Your blog has helped me realise that I’m not the only one in this position, thank you!

  52. I’ve lived long enough to have had good friends in my life, and when those friends have vanished for years and I thought about dumping them but lacked the courage, and now those friends are back in my life as a BFF now. I remember that when I think of the friend who has vanished on me, and I don’t dump her in the hopes that someday she will come to realize what a great friendship we had and we will reconnect. I don’t want to burn the bridges.

  53. I have experienced both and I say that knowing m friendship was over with my girlfriend felt unbearable. Several people that knew me and some that knew us thought that we were more than friends!!! I took that as others being able to see what we had. 10 years gone in one day. The pain lasted for 7 months before lightening up, breakup from long time boyfriend, whom I wanted to marry, lasted two months.

    We lose so much when we lose a friend. Especially, the friend who was the closest. The one that has been around and always there when you need them. Just thinking about it is too much.

    I haven’t experienced the “slink away” approach, and I never hope to, but I think it definitely has to be better.

  54. ThroughTheTrees

    Like everyone above me, I, too, have been through some very difficult friendship breakups. One in particular, though, hurt much more than the rest.

    Earlier this year, my ex best friend told me a very intimate secret about her sex life that truly shocked me: she’d been intimate with one of her ex loves. This guy had really hurt her in the past by saying that she was “worthless” and that he was “using her” by being in a relationship with her, so I (internally, at least) panicked when she told me her secret.

    Even though I did not voice the above concerns to her, things were really awkward between us after that conversation. I said that I still loved and appreciated her, though, no matter what. I also felt protective of her and needed to understand why she had done what she had done, so I talked with a mutual friend who had known her longer and offered to help me. I tried not to use her name, but he pretty much figured out who I was talking about anyway.

    The point is, I revealed her secret not to ruin her reputation or to create social gossip, but to protect her from a guy who I felt was no good for her and seemed to be the type who would further harm her. I think she may have felt betrayed, because she asked for space around the time I told my friend and — for the most part — has not spoken to me for about four months.

    What’s difficult is that we’re in the same social and Greek activities on a small college campus, so we literally see each other all of the time. I have tried calling her, Facebooking her, Skyping her, you name it, to say sorry and work things out. Partly due to what’s going on in her life and partly due to what’s happened between us, she has still wanted space. It’s been several months since she promised to talk to me, but I’m done with trying and hitting a wall every time. I blocked her on Facebook a few days ago, and have simply decided that I am sick of being ignored.

    On the one hand, I understand her feeling betrayed and needing space. But, at the same time, I did what I did to help her and because I loved her, not because I’m some backstabbing jerk who likes to create pointless drama. If I want drama, I’ll go watch Law and Order or something instead of creating it where it doesn’t need to be.

    I love her enough to want her to succeed in life and find happiness, but even seeing her around campus and online is draining at this point, so I’m letting go. Maybe this isn’t the best way to handle this situation, but I’ll give myself time to learn that. I just need to forgive myself and move on, I guess.

    Anyone want a loving BF who will support you, listen to you, and make you laugh sometimes, even if it isn’t for forever?

  55. I had to ‘break up’ with a then-friend a couple years ago (he was always wanting my attention, accusing me of not giving him enough time, making issues out of small things, AND trying to convince me to move away from home and live with him. In other words it was weird AND toxic, I couldn’t take it anymore, and now he stalks me on the Internet. -.-), and had a very recent ‘break-up’ a couple of weeks ago.

    The first time I said, ‘this is what’s wrong, I’m sorry, have a good life’ (but there had been a lot of slinking around beforehand in an attempt to ease away). The second time my friend had an issue with my belief system and very angrily cut things off. So…I have yet to ‘break up’ with a friend in that was not relieving in a way. That’s not to say that I don’t think about them and wonder if there could have been a way to patch things up, but both situations were, in the end, toxic and draining and not worth it in the long run.

    Breaking up with my ex was worse, because there was a pre-existing friendship before things turned romantic and I lost both the friendship and the romantic relationship in one fell swoop. That was a double-whammy I won’t forget. >.<

  56. It’s crazy that this should come up, but maybe not at all, because I just went through a friend “break-up” a couple of months ago. I suppose if it was a drifting apart or the “slinking away” that you were talking about, I wouldn’t call it a “break-up,” probably.

    The reason I would call this recent situation a “break-up” is because I confronted her and told her that I couldn’t be friends with her any longer. After being good friends for two full years, I found out that within our close group of friends that she had been lying to each of us about each other and herself and random situations and happenings. It was extremely hard to have to sit with her and tell her that I knew she had been lying and that I couldn’t understand it, but I knew that I couldn’t continue a friendship with her because of her lies and her control issues that was seriously wrecking our friendship. It was overall a bizarre experience, but I’m glad that I ended up standing up for the truth and that, as best as I could, leave the friendship with words of love- that I was praying for her and that I’m sorry it had to happen and end this way.

    Sometimes it’s really important to stand up for your side of things after you’ve considered and prayed and given time to the situation, even though it’s incredibly hard.

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  59. I recently had to break up with a friend who prior to a devastating break up I had with my partner I would have considered one of my best friends. They do say you know your best friends when you really need them – and I didnt know her at all. If your heart can be broken by a friend as well as a lover, then it happened to me. I tried to keep it going, despite being hurt, then after I went along to her wedding – one of the hardest days of my life for a few reasons, I decided I had done enough – I had put my neck out to be chopped off too many times. I didn’t cut her off entirely then, I gave her 6 months to come back to me – she didn’t. So I then very cowardly did the modern thing and deleted her off facebook! last week, 6 months after I did this – 12 months since I heard from her at her wedding – she emailed me – just to get the photos of her hens weekend off me – reinforcing why we are no longer friends.

    I agree completely though – I was dealing with the break up of my long term partner as well as with my BFF simultaneously and they were both really really hard.

    Breaking up is definitely hard to do.

  60. FIrst of all, I was meant to find this blog because yesterday (a) I happened to see an editorial on your blog from wordpress in my inbox and (b) was working out with a friend who mentioned this blog. Same day!

    Like many others, this topic resonates with me. I think the tricky thing with women is that we change so much over the years – and we expect all friendships to come along with us, but they just cant. As one bff put it, “it’s like running a race with dead weight around your ankles.” Also, we tend to volunteer ourselves to carry lots of extra burdens. Men don’t so much – in that way, we can learn from them. They are really good about not feeling guilty when letting go.

    I empathize with women who don’t have solid friends in their lives. That was the story of my life until I was blessed to meet and live with amazing, uplifting true friends in college. Twenty LONG years of not having true companionship in a buddy…but well worth the wait! Then life moved on, and now we are all spread out (still close at heart), and I have this really high standard that nobody can live up to…but lol I am searching, and inviting!

    I remember now that I did have a my share of very rough fall-outs with some friends when I was between age 17-23, but in retrospect, I think that is a natural part of progression in life. Dating drama, high school stuff. At that age, you and your friends are going to do stuff to piss each other off. Those friends are still around, some more than others, some not at all. I guess we all got over it in our own way.

    Wow, reading these comments makes me so grateful for the good friends I have!

    Now I want to read your book!

  61. Sometimes when we leave a friend, we do feel guilty, but at other times, we don’t because we know what we are doing is correct.

  62. Renee

    This post, and the mostly the comments, have been a real source of encouragement today.

    Yesterday, I was on the verge of tears and today after church I had the same reaction due to a friend breakup that happened around this time a summer ago. This breakup consisted of more than one friend and was due to an actual “breakup” with a significant other. *Sigh* it was very hard. Mostly because I didn’t slink away but I told my former friend group how I felt with no editing. If you will, it was the rated R version of my deepest emotions. Basically, I made very clear that in breaking up with said guy, I’d expected my best friends to stick with me but unfortunately, one did and the other didn’t. I am very grateful for that one because she has become such a sister to me but the other, I don’t have the words to say that could express how I felt or what I feel now. As it turns out, that did not turn out too well for me. My entire former friend group to this day has taken her side, which is “the guy I broke up with was her best friend too” (mind you, they became best friends during our courtship/relationship or whatever you would like to call it since we were never officially boyfriend and girlfriend). So for me, being upfront made me choose to alienate myself because I felt and still feel grossly misunderstood. My boyfriend constantly tells me to let go but it has been very very hard for me to do. As I see it, I only have one person on my side and everyone else sees what I chose as wrong.

    So yes, maybe slinking away is bad but there are many days I wish that I’d done that instead of putting everything out on the table and still getting hurt anyway.

  63. Breaking up with a friend is horrible; there’s no easy way to break up – do you leave a post it note? Do you meet for coffee and tell the friend why you’re ending the friendship? Honestly, that just seems cruel. Many times I’ve heard stories where friends “just stopped talking” or one of them stopped calling/texting. That’s what usually happens – the “slinking away” approach.

    And if you’re human, you’ll probably feel guilt because it doesn’t feel good to step away from a friend, especially when there is shared history and connection.

    However, something I think that many women forget is this:
    At the end of the day, it’s about your happiness, and if you’re not happy in the friendship, then that’s your answer. It may be difficult to figure out how to appropriately and respectfully end it, but wouldn’t you rather be true to yourself than be in a friendship that is causing you more pain and stress?

    • Belle Philippe

      I am deciding between a potentially only temporary Ross & Rachel styled “break” rather than the “breakup.” I have been stepping away from a friend lately– a friend of 10 years. It isn’t the first time. We’ve been on a break before, whether she knew it or not. Eventually i always restored my tolerance for her and could revoke the moratorium before it became an issue worth discussing. But lately, I have been wondering, when does the break need to become the break up? I am not willing to confront her, I am either too spineless or too selfish — I don’t want to face the fallout. There are mutual friends and professional crosshairs. My dad told me once that confrontation should be the welcome mat for reconciliation and corrective action, not the door slamming shut. I don’t think my confronting her is going to be able to change her nature. So why confront? Why slam the door shut when it is never going to hit her hard enough to induce the change I need to feel comfortable with the friendship?

  64. Very difficult topic for me considering that I did break up with a life long friend a number of years ago for real reasons, but now that she has passed on, those reasons don’t make it with me and the guilt is out of this world. I remember what I said to her in anger and we never spoke again. I left the ball in her court, but we were both too prideful. You know how people say don’t have harsh words with someone because it may be the last thing you ever say to them? You may never get a chance to say you are sorry on this earth and even if I could not stay friends, I could have been kinder as I usually was.

  65. I love this post! And of course your blog. I have tried slinking away recently, but I always end up coming back because there’s too much history. When it comes to friends like that I usually go through phases of how close I keep them. If it was easier to find people to relate to, I’m sure women would feel better about ending their friendships when they need to.

  66. Patti

    I broke up with someone. I tried to fade away, but she just didn’t let go. I finally had to be blunt, that I needed the friendship to be more of a two-way street, that she had to let me finish a sentence, a thought.

    She was a horrible interrupter, not at the beginning, but it became a problem over years; and when she interrupted it was mostly to change subjects. Once I was crying about my father’s death, and she interrupted me to ask if green or blue looked better on her. That was the end.

    I stopped calling, then started screening her calls. Then instead of calling on her way home, she started stopping by on her way home, never mind that I was cooking dinner, helping with homework.

    Eventually, I had to tell her the blunt truth, that I needed the friendship to be a two-way street. She asked why I didn’t talk to her about this; I told the truth, that I tried, more than once, but she interrupted me.

    We run into each other occasionally, it’s chilly. Other women have asked me if we are still friends, I shrug. And then they tell me how frustrating she is, she nevers lets you finish a sentence….

  67. Morgan

    I know you wrote this post years ago now, but I’m just coming across it. I got dumped last summer by my BFF who was “the one” all other bff’s could never compare to. We did everything together and our kids were like siblings. Then she stopped talking to me when I was in the middle of hell with my husband. Then I found out she was the reason I was in the middle of hell with my husband (aside from his part, of course, which I don’t discount but isn’t integral to this post) when I came across a stash of secret emails from her to him and learned of what had really been going on between them. Then just to make sure I wouldn’t be able to tell that story, she told the whole church which included all of my other friends that I was a liar and lied about things I had said that made me sound like a horrible person. I feel like I should be glad she’s out of my life. She made a play for my husband, then lied about it and spread all kinds of confidential things with the world. The only way I could have kept any other friends would have been to dish out the dirt on her, and I didn’t feel like it was appropriate to tell her secrets even if she told mine. So I lost the vast majority of my friends. I was horribly angry with her, although a lot of my anger has subsided by now. But a lot of days, I still just miss her, even though I would never want her back as a friend. Why doesn’t that take care of the feelings? I wish it did. But I still miss her and wish I didn’t. It was so different from my husband, though. I was still betrayed by him (they didn’t actually make to affair status but got dangerously close), but his betrayal was somehow more expected (although NOT easy to deal with). Hers I never saw coming and hit me in the gut with a solid yeah-but-we’re-best-friends punch. We expect our best friends to ALWAYS be there and to be more loyal than any guy ever could be. Seems like overly high expectations when you think about it, doesn’t it?

  68. Anonymous

    It’s a pity you haven’t touched on the pain of being ‘dumped’ by a best friend. It has happened to me – more than once, actually. And I found it very difficult to deal with, because you can’t talk about it to anyone. It’s not a recognized phenomenon like a break-up with a lover or romantic partner. The worst thing is that women do just slink away and disappear into silence. They don’t return your calls, they don’t explain what it is that’s made them decide to withdraw their friendship, and you can puzzle over this for months.
    After a great deal of anguish over the loss of an old dear friend, I finally wrote to her to try to get some closure on the matter (we’d had two years of minimum contact. She’d only kept in touch because she is my son’s godmother, but made it clear she didn’t want to engage with me in any way). I still don’t really understand what happened, but after two years of bad dreams about her, I had to have my say. She reacted badly to my directness – women are quite affronted when you cross the wall of silence – threw some hostile comments my way, and we agreed to sever all ties. It was far less painful this way, to end it with words and know that there was no going back.

    • JennyO

      You are so right. And as women, we know that daring to ask the question, “What happened?” is enough to allow the former friend to cast us in the “psycho-stalker” role. It’s as if we’re supposed to accept being tossed aside like rubbish, and if we dare to question that treatment, it merely serves to prove that the dumper was correct in dumping us!

      I do think that from middle school on, the dumpers learn to build a case against the dumpees – because admitting that you’re treating a former friend badly creates a lot of guilt. If you can list evidence of why the friend is unworthy, you can justify your behavior.

  69. JennyO

    Years ago, my BF did the “slinking away” thing. It was odd, because of all the people I’ve been friends with in life, I think she was probably the kindest and gentlest person – but she hurt me worse than any other person. The every-weekend get-togethers turned monthly, then only on vacations, and then one vacation, she e-mailed that she “wasn’t making plans for her vacation week,” but could she call me if she was “at loose ends?” (Grr. It was everything I could do to not reply, “No, please don’t call me if you absolutely can’t find anything better to do during your vacation week, and exactly how much of a doormat do you think I should be here?”)

    Probably the worst thing was my realizing how stupid I was. In the early stages of her pulling back, I had been telling myself, “People go through phases; don’t shut her out because maybe she’s going through some hard times right now and will need a friend.” I told myself that I would regret it later if I cut her out of my life because I was hypersensitive. Now, in my memory, that tracks as weakness and neediness. I’m ashamed of something that should make me proud.

    At least I was able to maintain my dignity: I eventually e-mailed her that she’d been very protective of her time recently, and that I wasn’t sure if she was interested in getting together. Gave her a dignified “out.” I saw her once after that, and then nothing. (Though… she did call me months later to tell me she was pregnant, and then again months later to tell me about her daughter’s birth – even asking if I would like to meet the baby. I said, “Sure, just call me,” and she didn’t. Just a little post-partum hormonal reflex, I suspect.)

    Now my parents have moved into an elderly housing complex, and I knew that my BF’s mother-in-law lived there, too. So, I’ve been dreading the knowledge that I would likely bump into the BF and husband in the dining room. Sure enough, yesterday the husband was there with the daughter. Mercifully, BF was away for the weekend. Husband was all like, “Oh, I’ll tell X that I ran into you!”

    Just seeing the husband honestly made me furious at my friend AND made me miss my friend, all over again. I miss the comforting feeling of belonging – of hanging out in their house, watching movies, eating take-out. And I am angry because my friend is the cause of this great loss in my life. Ten years have gone by, but I can feel it as sharply today after this reminder as I could back then.

  70. anon

    I recently recently cut off some friends via Facebook because I felt they weren’t being a friend back and didn’t have the nerve to check up on me while they were on their trip, yet they constantly checked up on other people… I guess that they were more important to them. I started to feel ignored and taken for granted. I didn’t feel reciprocated back. There were a lot of other things that led up to me unfriending them (small resentments I guess) but it was the last straw. Unfriending them was giving them the same treatment they were giving me. Also I was also wondering if they cared enough they would have asked me why I unfriended them. I didn’t take the decision lightly and although it was rash in a sense I admit I mostly did it because I was upset but thought it was for the best. I had a big cry afterwards. Didn’t hear from any of them, until one of them (the one that was most closest to me) finally wrote me a message after getting back from the trip. Didn’t really ask what the reasons were… but instead stated they didn’t know why the unfriend but was sure I had my reasons. Tried to text me for a party but said the person at the number wouldn’t know them. And “take care”. For a while I couldn’t wrap my brain around the texting part but then realized it was a way to say they didn’t exist to me anymore. I felt a bit bad for it but wrote a message back stating the reasons why. I guess it could have came off a little insincere but all the reasons were true. Didn’t say everything I had wanted to though, I’m not sure if it would have made a difference. Not sure how they are feeling, they never wrote back. I kept ruminating back with it. It’s as painful for me to have to let go because I know I was holding on dear to it. The person in particular I would have to say was one of my closest friends ever, but it just can’t be. I have never felt so sad, depressed, and guilty in my life. I kept crying like someone had died. They were a friend I wished no harm to ever and it just seemed like I let them down even though they probably don’t understand where I’m coming from. I had fell in love with this person but they can’t ever be with me… and I think that’s another reason I feel it’s best to let them go. :( I didn’t write this to them though. Cutting off this friend was like cutting a big part of me off. Not sure if they would ever forgive me either. I want to write another message to them or talk to them, but don’t know if I should? It’s been a week or so after since I sent the last message. Can anyone please advise me? I feel so bad.

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  72. With my friend breakup, I just wish we didn’t work in the same building. It’s like the whole thing hurts all over again, every time she walks by me, chatting away with some other person, like I don’t even matter. Or worse, looks straight at me with a cool “hello”. I say hello back as politely as I can, but I feel kind of pathetic that I still feel…hurt. It’s been months. I wish I could somehow never see her again.

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