Exploring the very painful world of friendship breakups

Guest post by Erin KLG
Photo by Linhh-Los Angeles - CC BY 2.0
Photo by Linhh-Los AngelesCC BY 2.0

I recently went through a period where I thought a friendship of mine was dying. It didn’t, thankfully, and much of the anxiety I had about it was in my own head. I had never experienced an adult friendship breakup, and I had no idea how to handle it. Did I need to put a fine point on it, to pronounce it as dead? Did we need to have a talk, or could we let it die with the dignity of cowardly silence?

Whether because of a fight, distance, or natural causes, friendship death can be especially painful. Unlike romantic relationships, we don’t expect friendships to have expiration dates. There are no “where is this going?” conversations, no breakup war stories, no vows or pronouncements in front of friends and family. Friendships are what you turn to when you end a romantic relationship; they’re there when you begin a new one. Friendships can be forever.

But the most painful breakup I’ve ever had wasn’t with a romantic partner.

I was 12, and, at that time, had started rigorous figure skating training. I had been skating since I was 8 years old, but adolescence became the time to up the ante in order to show you were getting better, to prove your parents’ investment was worth it. It’s the age when many figure skaters quit, as the next few years become only more intense. Like every figure skater at that age, I had Olympic dreams and the injuries to show for it.

My best ice skating friend, Nina, was the same age as me but had started skating about six months earlier. It was understood that anyone who started before you would perform better than you in competitions. It was only natural, and everyone accepted it. Until you got to the top of the game, the narrowest point of the pyramid, could you expect those age and time differences to even out. But not at our level. Nina was always just a bit ahead of me — a better jumper, taller and stronger, better at dealing with thumps and bruises. She trained hard.

Nina and I took every class together, rolled our eyes at instructors we didn’t like. We listened to the same music (Paula Abdul was one of our favorites). I made her laugh. We had sleepovers together, lunches together. She was my favorite Marco Polo partner for the pool. Nina was an only child being raised by a single mother, and she was fond of telling me that if she could have a sister, I would be that person. I once worked on a friendship bracelet for her that was so involved it took me two months to complete it. She wore it to competitions.

You get the picture. As with many friendships, ours was based on the fact that we were isolated together, going through a unique experience most others couldn’t comprehend.

Nina was my best friend for two years. Then, in the summer of 1991, right before I turned 13, Nina and I both entered the same competition somewhere outside of Philadelphia. We had competed before — Nina always placing ahead of me, as was the natural way. But unlike those other competitions, I had recently started landing the Axel jump (arguably the hardest jump in figure skating), as well as a few double jumps, and they were incorporated into my program. In essence, Nina and I were now on the same level.

We both did okay in the competition. Not great, but not bad. I stumbled once, and she fell on a double jump. The results were posted on a wall across the rink. She grabbed my hand and we ran over together. We couldn’t see over the heads of the other competitors. But once they cleared, my eyes landed on the middle of list, hoping to find my name. I would never look to the top three — it seemed impossible that my name would be there.

Fourth. I was fourth. Fourth! I was excited — it was my best performance to date at this new, higher level. I looked closer. I wasn’t the only one in fourth place — there was another name there.

“Nina!” I screamed, turning to find her face, “We tied! We tied together for fourth place!”

I don’t know what I expected. Did I expect her to be happy because this was one more thing we could share? Her face was unreadable. She stared at the paper again. “There must be a mistake,” she said. Then she turned away.

That was the last time Nina ever spoke to me.

We would see each other at the skating rink every day after that competition, making it painful and embarrassing when our mutual friends asked what had happened. I didn’t know, and saying so turned my cheeks crimson. I quit skating one year later, right before I entered high school. I didn’t quit skating because of Nina, but the loss of friendship there certainly made the decision easier.

I never quite recovered from Nina dumping me. It took me a long time to understand how it could have happened, to understand what I might have done (or not done).

Today, I can understand why a 12-year-old might, under pressure from her mother to perform, cut off a friendship with someone who had caught up with her, skills-wise. She couldn’t afford to be nice to someone who might one day beat her. I understand that now. And if the roles had been switched, perhaps I would have done the same. I’d like to think not — but we were 12, and many 12-year-olds don’t know magnanimity.

But the experience created a blind spot in me. I can’t see how to bring a friendship to a gentle end. Maybe when you’re dumped like that, it’s too painful to think you might have to do it to someone else. Maybe there are no nice breakups, no matter how you view it.

I would love to hear your own friendship breakup stories — what worked, what didn’t, and how you coped.

REMINDER: Assume anything you post in the comments will be read by the person you’re writing about (and your mom… and your boss). Comment with integrity.

Comments on Exploring the very painful world of friendship breakups

  1. Urgh, I feel you. I’ve never had too difficult a romantic break-up, but a friend break-up remains one of the biggest regrets of my life. Well, I don’t think the friendship necessarily could have lasted in the circumstances, but I definitely could have handled it better. But I was 17 – what can you do. I think it took me five years to stop feeling upset about it.

    I don’t have much to suggest about how to make things easier. But she and I have run into each other a few times since. I very much wanted to be casual and friendly, since we were such good friends once, but it’s always been awkward. I’m not sure if it would ever be possible to get back into all the teenager-y stuff now, or if I’d want to. But I wish we could hang out for a non-awkward coffee sometime. I regret that I screwed up breaking up, and so we can’t.

    • I know right? I’ve been friends with this girl for a year now and a week ago she dumped me.
      I was at her house when this dog was loudly barking. (We where in her back yard.) She was throwing pebbles and telling it to “sut up”. The dog was scared of her and her brothers. I told her if she was calm it would understand that she was not a thret. She ld

      • (So sorry I accidentally hit post.) She wouldn’t listen. Then I said “If you had a kind heart and listened… OH MY GOD! I DID NOT MEAN THAT! I’M SO SORRY!” Then she said, “You can’t take that back, you jerk!” I tried to reason, but she wouldn’t have it. She just walked into her house and left me alone. I called my mom and left. She actually locked me out! I was done! She had been doing stuff like this to me for a while now, and I was fed up! I haven’t heard from her since. It’s been very depressing for me to open up. What I have learned is… it happens. You just have to keep those little happy memories and move on. I hope this help others. 😉

  2. Oh lord, yes. The worst I have ever felt in my life was when my BFF dumped me. She and I had been friends since 4th grade, and BFFs since middle school. When we got to college, I went though a really rotten period of depression that ended up in a couple of hospitalizations due to suicide attempts. She and my other close friend at the time made the best decision for them, which was to cut off contact with me. They said I brought too much drama & pain into their lives. I haven’t talked to her in about 5 years now, and it still burns me. I really don’t blame her for what she did, because I was a complete disaster and acted like a total sh** for a long time, but it still to this day hurts that she refused to have anything to do with me.

  3. I have been going through the tail ends of this for about two years. I didn’t realize that I was breaking up with my oldest friend and I wish I had. Those words would have helped me when I was hurting the most. Baskets.

    The bottom line in my case was that no matter how much history I had with my friend, or how long we were friends, or how much we both wanted it to work out, I didn’t and couldn’t trust her anymore. And no matter what we tried, that trust wasn’t coming back.

    I think in trying to fix the problem for so long we each made it worse and suffered longer. After all, a clean cut heals faster then a jagged tare right?

    I don’t blame her alone, I know I need to take my share of the blame and honestly, I think the buck really stopped with me. I’m the one who finalized the, “break up,” and it sucked, and it hurts, and I wish it were different. I still lose sleep at night wondering what else we could have done. I still think of new things to try, and have moments of happiness and heartache that I want to share with her. Moments when the phone is half way dialed and I have to set it down. But for me, I need to stop hurting over this. I need to stop loosing sleep, and stop wanting to make that call. Maybe when I’m over it we could try again, but not before. Not before I can forgive and forget – and I’m a long way from that point…and yes, I understand and agree, those are MY problems and 100% MY fault.

    Sometimes, there’s just nothing more you can do….

  4. My experiences of romantic and non-romantic breakups have been about the same — non-dramatic, and about as unpainful as they could be. I’ve never actually had a big break-up with a friend, we’ve just drifted apart without really talking about it or having a fight. (I’ve had plenty of fights with friends before, but we’ve always resolved our differences afterwards). When I see former-friends from whom I’ve drifted away, it’s easy to be acquaintance-ly with them. I guess I’ve been really lucky.

  5. I thought I was the only one! Distance, a new fiancé, and feelings of being left behind all contributed to my breakup with my best college friend.

    For me, one thing that helped was giving the relationship my all. Just like a marriage, I didn’t want to leave wondering if I had tried everything. Of course, that was tricky because it made the end less clear-cut, as I reached out a few more times.

    I’m so interested in other responses. Two years later she appears in my dreams (creepy much?) often, and I still
    Find myself wondering what I could have done different, and if I should still try….

    I also never went through any other breakup (romantic or otherwise), so I don’t know how much of this is “normal” when ending a relationship, or if my continued strong reaction means something else.

    • A couple of my high school friends (10 years ago now, 4 years since we last saw each other other than just bumping into each other) still appear in my dreams on a regular basis (once or twice a month that I remember). We didn’t “breakup” so much as slowly drift apart. Anyway, glad someone else has this, because it’s always made me feel like a bit of a creeper dreaming about them.

    • I get this a lot with some of my old friends where we had a really rough break-up. The attitudes and general feeling of the dreams shifted from angry and fighting to us sharing about what’s new in our lives. It’s a little eerie, but I’m also happy that subconsciously I can still love them.

    • I have friends, some I haven’t seen in years, appear frequently in my dreams. They each of them represent foils of their real selves, so I have one representing jealousy, one representing wisdom, one regret, one shame, etc. I feel nostalgic afterwards, but know that each of the friendships, while not ended as cleanly as could have been, were not healthy for me.

  6. This story made me want to tear up. I agree completely, “breaking up” with a friend is harder for me than a romantic break-up in many ways. I’ve had friendships that fade with distance and time, and those don’t bother me. One time though, I experienced the dreaded friend break up.

    My best friend was amazing. We were two peas in a pod. It all changed the first year of college. She didn’t go away for college and I did. I got a boyfriend at school and made new friends. So, I started coming home less on the weekends and she decided it was time to go our separate ways. I cried and told her I loved her, but she said it wasn’t enough. She deleted me off of myspace (Because that means it’s REAL haha) and didn’t respond to any texts I sent or calls.

    I too, like you, can see now what happened. She was jealous that I was off at college making new friends and she was still hanging out with our small, home-town group. I was at fault too; I didn’t answer her texts or calls as quickly as before. I made her feel unimportant. I didn’t see any of this at the time though.

    I stalked her on online and cried randomly when I was home alone. I actually even told people that it felt like a break up! It was just as painful and I never expected it. Our millions of inside jokes weren’t funny anymore. I was so upset, and, as a couple months went by, I started to get mad. I was mad at her. How could she? Well, like with most things, time heals. I’d say it took me about a year to stop thinking about it everyday.

    Guess what? We didn’t speak for 4 years and then, one day, she contacted me. She told me she was sorry and I did the same. Recently, we had a really fun night out at a bar creating super-intricate, fake identities. It won’t ever be how it was before, but it felt really good to come full circle.

  7. Oooh boy, memories. I was dumped & subsequently subject to verbal abuse by a group of friends in high school– of course we were in all the same classes, extracurricular activities, etc. Similar to your experience, Erin, the breakup was a result of my success in contrast with the struggles of the other girls. It was a very painful time for me and, looking back, I probably would have benefited from some counseling, but I was embarrassed and felt that somehow it must be my fault so I stuck it out on my own. To cope, I focused entirely on schoolwork and after-school activities (which served me well when I went to college, so that’s good). I never made another close friend in high school, so that sucked.

    I feel strongly that this experience really defined my character: I value relationships very highly, have an aversion to overly competitive attitudes, and even can trace some of my existing insecurities back to that time. For the most part I’m glad it happened. I’m definitely glad that it happened in high school, because at least I could leave it all behind after a couple of years!

    • I had a similar experience in HS right before prom where all my “friends” tried to have me moved to a different table. They weren’t successful so I had to sit with them as they pretended I didn’t exist. SO AWKWARD!

  8. Personally, my friendship break-ups have always way more painful than any ending relationship I have ever had. I have no advice, because there is not a day I don’t wish I can get those people back in my life. I cope just by telling myself we hurt eachother too much and they would not want to have me back in their life, and deep down, it’s better for me as well after all.

  9. ALLL of this, including the comments.

    I’ve had a lot of adult friendships that just faded, and some stayed faded, and some came back. Sometimes they came back out of circumstance, sometimes because one of us would make an effort.

    My now-husband and I had a friendship breakup long before we ever started dating (or met in real life, for that matter). We disagreed about something; I was so mad, I deleted every online account I had, changed email addresses and phone numbers. The only account I forgot about was MySpace (I wasn’t really using it anymore)…and he found me on there 2 years later with a message that said something like, “20/20 hindsight can be damning, but I wish we could be friends again like we used to.” It was just the message I needed, at just the right time, too — I’d just gone through a death in the family plus a romantic breakup.

    Having him do that changed how I approached my faded friendships. I evaluated who I missed having in my life, and thought: was it my fault? Was it theirs? Was it just circumstance? And I found them, contacted them, apologized if I needed to (usually for sucking at staying in touch), or sometimes admitting I didn’t know what happened. As a result, I’m now re-friended with my old BFF from elementary school, one from high school, and one from university. After a few hours of playing catch-up, it was like we never lost any time at all. And they were all REALLY happy to hear from me.

    I guess my best advice is: just because a friendship is broken now, it doesn’t necessarily have to stay that way forever. They’re better at bouncing back than romantic breakups, to be sure 🙂

  10. I don’t know that I’ve ever known when I was being friend-dumped, which I think is another way in which losing friends can be more complicated than the end of a romantic relationship. It’s generally considered bad form to end a romantic relationship worth the name “relationship” by just not talking to the person any more, but friendships can easily fizzle out this way. I’ve never had a friendship end with a fight, or even a specific incident like the one in the post that in retrospect could be seen as the cause. If a romantic partner moves away there’s an expectation that either you’ll agree the relationship is over or you’ll have a plan to make it work long distance. Friends don’t typically discuss what their intentions for the relationship are once they move apart. And since friendships aren’t exclusive, the fact that your friend is doing friend-things with somebody else isn’t a signal that they have moved on (or that they are “cheating on you” in some way and you need to either break up with them or get them to work on fixing the relationship with you). The beginning of my relationship with my husband was a friends-to-lovers situation in which it took us several months to figure out what the other’s respective intentions were, to the point where we can’t settle on what our first date was, and I’ve still had far less difficulty in my life figuring out romance than friendship.

    I found the book Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend by Irene S. Levine to be helpful. She also has a website at http://www.thefriendshipblog.com

    • funny enough, the only friend break-up i could think of was over whether friendships are exclusive. that was third grade. my “best friend” at the time (for what that’s worth in 3rd grade) told me that i couldn’t be friends with anyone else; i felt like not being friends with her was a better solution, and she stopped speaking to me. i’m kind of proud of that breakup, actually.

      all the rest of my friendships have just fizzled out over time, though.

  11. I had a really horrendous romantic breakup that was only as bad as it was due to poor choices I made, so I can’t fall into the camp of a BFF breakup being *the worst*, but I did have a huge falling out with the person I thought for a long time would be my forever friend.

    We were friends for roughly a decade, but the last 4 years were markedly troubled. We both were going through a lot of challenges, but hers were greater. We met in Jr High and were simply each other’s “people.” It was great. I haven’t really felt that at ease with another person, excepting my husband, since. But life took us different directions:

    I finished high school and started college, becoming extremely motivated in the process. I was motivated to study, to excel, to work out and get fit, and to stomp the competition. Looking back at that period, I admire myself but can’t imagine what I was like to be around. She dropped out of high school (for not terrible reasons), and kind of floated around a bit, moving and getting involved in relationships I didn’t understand (via the internet). We stayed close inasmuch as we were roommates, twice. Both times were rife with trouble.

    I don’t know why I thought we could live together after the first time ended as poorly as it did.

    Everything we did grated on each other, towards the end. I can only speculate as to how it was for her, but to me — at the time — I felt like we’d lost touch with each other. I strongly felt that she exhibited deep-seated and complex jealousy of my life and my relationship with my family. I resented the fact that my love of her didn’t seem to matter to her beyond making me a doormat. Now, I’m not sure either of these things explain what went on… and I don’t think I’ll ever know. One day we got in an especially heated argument and she moved in with her boyfriend and his mom in the space of an afternoon. After that, our relationship decayed to arguments about money she owed me (and that I actually *desperately* needed to be repaid, though I don’t think she was aware of that) via Myspace messages.

    I think about her fairly often. We still live in the same small area, and have a few mutual friends (on Facebook, anyway). I like thinking that her life is a lot better than it used to be. I sometimes think about contacting her, but always stop myself. I guess you could say I coped through the power of emotional distance.

    • Oh, the joy of making that living-with-each-other-twice mistake. I haven’t had a breakup with my best friend – she and I still talk and enjoy each other (probably because she lives two states away and we do much better with limited contact, it honestly likely saves our friendship). However, each time we lived together, we spent at least 6 months afterward not talking at all. It always ended in tears and sadness. Always. Like an idiot, I did it twice. But something in you always tells you it’ll be different the next time. We had another crappy roommate the first time, so we both blamed it on him. Lo and behold – it was just us.

  12. I have had friendships end in various ways. Some have renewed later, some ended gradually, some have remained acquaintances that still feel like friends when we see one another but we do not make that effort regularly.

    I had one spectacular friendship break-up that was a permanent end. There was an email airing grievances that resulted in some clarity that obviously things were not going well. I definitely had some resentment because there was not a lot of acceptance of guilt mixed in with the blame. We sort of tried to continue, but we were not close or comfortable anymore. Then I screwed up and, in telling my partner when he should book his vacation for our big trip to Europe, I did not factor in my friend’s wedding. I tried to fix it, but there was no changing the vacation dates and I made the decision that I would go on the trip at the same time, rather than waiting a week while he went on ahead, and miss the wedding that I was sort of dreading anyway (I had previously been informed that I was not viewed favourably by her other friends or family). This was unforgivable and we ended up having a “talk” when we went out for lunch after I had admitted this situation. After that, I was suddenly uninvited to her shower and I never heard from her again. I definitely feel that I made the right decision and that it was probably time the friendship ended but… it still hurts that I lost a friend who I had previously been close to.

    Most of my friendships that have ended did so through just slowly losing touch, thankfully, without major blow ups or fights.

    • The email of grievances oh I hate thee. I’ve had one of those and it was the most frustrating thing ever. And really, friendships are two way streets and if there’s no room for both sides to take some of the guilt how is it supposed to move forward from that.

      • I don’t totally agree with this. People are often unable to see their part in a problem, that’s true–but sometimes one person really is at fault.

        There might be mental illness involved (see the posts on BorderlinePD), or it might just be someone who “runs hot.” In my life I’ve known a few people who got abusive very easily. They would launch verbal or email attacks and then expect everything to blow over in a week or a month, without any kind of apology. I don’t keep those people in my life.

        Interestingly, I think people like that have a tendency to attack “safe” friends–people who are easygoing and very tolerant.

        If you want a peaceful and pleasant life filled with people you can trust, let the firebombers go! If you treat your friends really well, there are lots of people who will be delighted to do the same.

  13. I am still dealing with a friend breakup a year after the heart breaking moment in that friendship. I was a new mother with a 7 week old and she had 2 kids (1 is only 4 months older than mine). My baby had trouble gaining weight and I was flirting with postpartum depression. I guess I leaned too hard on her, but out of the blue she texted me that my son wasn’t being handled right, that I didn’t read my car seat manual, she had spoken to her pediatrician about how he was being handled and her therapist said to contact child protective services. Well, I obviously flipped out! I have so many instances where I wish I had the presence of mind to say something immediately along the lines of “you’ve got to be kidding me!” and that she put my ability to parent and trust my husband with my child at risk. I’m home a lot alone (both of our husbands are active duty military) and have lots of time to over think. I decided after we moved to just put her in the Xmas card friend only category and stayed her friend in Facebook. But she continually made me feel like something was my fault (after nurses, doctors, lactation consultants and my straight talking mom & grandmother said my son was safe) while commenting on my Facebook statuses, especially regarding my son, so I cut all of that off as well. On the upcoming anniversary (in the next few weeks) she has emailed me 2x and messaged me and I cannot figure out how to respond. It has been very difficult.

    • It’s strangely difficult to have a baby at the same time as a friend. One of my closest friends (who I adore) and I had our kids within days. Even our birth stories are wrapped around each other, though we don’t live in the same city. It’s been a really cool thing to share, but at the same time a really difficult this to share. Pregnancy was especially difficult as she kept giving me advice that I hadn’t asked for and telling me how things are/what to expect, and I’m sure I did some things to drive her crazy. It’s gotten better since we had the girls, but I still worry about it when we finally see each other in person. My main fear now is that we’ll be competitive, but we’re close enough that if we start to do that, we can talk about it (I hope).

      All this to say – having kids at the same time, with all the insecurity, competition, bossiness newness, etc that aren’t even always issues beforehand, is a really big challenge for friendships and it’s one that we don’t talk about.

      Funny thing – this just made me miss her and I’m going to set up a skype date, because while in some ways, sharing this experience has pushed us further apart, it’s also made us closer.

    • How to respond depends on the content of the emails and how that made you feel.

      If you are not ready to reopen the friendship door then simply say that.

  14. I had a very similar experience with my best friend since infant school (we’re talking age 4 here). We were very equally matched all through school, right until GCSEs. My friend was much more social and arguably had a better social circle and life, whereas I was more reserved and focussed on school work.

    I think things changed when we started A-levels. I seemed to be overly mature and wasn’t interested in the new going out scene that became available, whereas she was and becoming increasingly popular.

    It got to the point where I found her childish and she found me boring (I imagine). When I went into work rather than the typical student life that she chose, we drifted further.

    This was compounded by the fact our friendship group, that I initially branched out into many years before through extra curricular stuff, had become more centric around her. We were all one friendship group, but their preferences was for her largely because they had similar lifestyles.

    After I’d been in work a year and a half or so, we’d lost touch to the point we didn’t update each other with new phone numbers or the latest social network things we joined. Shunned each other essentially.

    Up until two weeks ago, I hadn’t seen her at all. Then we happened to be out for a meal and she was in the same pub. It wasn’t even me who spotted her, it was the friend I was with. Although we didn’t converse, cross paths or anything, I felt awkward just by her presence that I would otherwise been oblivious to.

    Although at times, it’s sad to remember just how close we were and for how long, I think it’s important to remember we’ve changed into completely different people now and I doubt that would have led to a healthy friendship.

    I think it’s important to remember that people change, not out of spite or jealousy or maliciousness, they just change and change is not anything to be blamed for

    • “I think it’s important to remember that people change, not out of spite or jealousy or maliciousness, they just change and change is not anything to be blamed for”


      It’s so true – and somehow it’s a really hard truth.

      • Yep, SO many times this. As I wrote in Will I stay friends with my wedding party members after the wedding?:

        At this point in my life, I’ve got waves upon waves of social circles and friend groups who’ve come and gone and looped around and drifted away and reconciled. Childhood friends, high school friends, college friends, raver friends, hippie raver friends, aging raver friends, media colleagues, web nerds, burner friends, parent friends, family friends… everyone at all ages is shifting and growing and moving and breaking up and having kids and falling in love and getting new jobs and ditching old hobbies and it’s just time and life and it doesn’t have to be drama.

        It doesn’t have to be a tragedy when people find themselves heading on paths that diverge. Send postcards back and forth — how are things going down that path I didn’t take with you? These communiques can be dispatches from a you who might have been. We don’t have to agree all the time.


        • y’know….I thought we avoided the whole “will I stay friends with our wedding party?” thing by only including siblings….six months after our wedding my sister and I were no longer speaking. Sigh.

          • My bridesmaids were my two cousins who I’d been close to since we were babies. Both of them hate me now and we haven’t spoken in 5 years. Just because you’re related doesn’t mean that you won’t go through those same changes, unfortunately. Actually, sometimes, I think family is MORE likely to be dramatic and shitty with you because they feel like you HAVE to take it because you’re related.

  15. In my mid-twenties it became painfully obvious that most of the women I had been friends with since high school didn’t actually give two damns about me, and that the only thing that had made us friends was seeing each other all the time in class. They’d pay lip service and act like everything was hunky-dory, but when it came down to it, they didn’t want to be friends and rather than just say that, they strung me along with platitudes. It was awful.

    • This is exactly what’s happening to me now. We left school 10 years ago, and over the last few years it’s become more and more apparent to me that we aren’t actually friends anymore – they just pretend that we are because it’s easier than the alternative. They don’t invite me places unless they absolutely have to, and then pretend like they haven’t noticed that I’ve noticed :/ I’ve also recently had it confirmed to me that I’m bitched about when I’m not there (something I’ve suspected for the longest time, but haven’t had confirmed til now).

      About a month ago I “broke up” with one of the circle after we had an argument about her totally inappropriate and massively racist attitude and since then none of them have spoken to me. Not one word. Funny how NOT being the racist asshole can make you the bad guy.

  16. I wish I could tell you “what worked”. Unfortunately, nothing did. A friendship with someone with BPD is very, very hard- I admire people who know how to manage doing that. I couldn’t. Maybe it makes me faulty, but I just didn’t have the emotional resources. The outbursts, the purposefully hurtful statements, getting cut off without a chance to respond (i.e. “If I leave first, she can’t leave me”). One of the cruelest things she could have said, she said. She knew it would hit hard.
    Then your friend cools off and calms down and thinks you’re crazy for not doing the same when you’re still hurting.
    There really was nothing I could do. I was scared to go back because I didn’t know what she was capable of anymore. What old hurts might get brought up. She wasn’t always like this, but the person I knew has gone. I think of her almost every day and miss our connection a whole lot. It isn’t like a romantic relationship, where one can maybe help you get past the other. That friendship was irreplaceable. The way I cope is reminding myself that at least for a good long time, I had that great friendship. And I always hold out hope that she’ll get treatment.

    • As the person who had BPD when I had my BFF breakup, you did the right thing. My friends couldn’t handle my unreasonableness or outbursts either, and they shouldn’t have had to. It was my problem to fix, and eventually, fix it I did. I do the same thing as you, and remind myself that I had a great friendship, and really am alive today because of that person. I hope your friend can get the help she needs.

    • I think this can be said about any mental health condition. There’s only so much that can be handled when you are attempting to stay friends with someone that is mentally ill. My BFF since 5th grade suffers from crippling depression and anxiety and refuses to get continuous treatment so for my own sanity I keep my distance and had to tell her why I wasn’t responding to every desperate text. I struggle with this so much, I used to be her crutch/therapist/punching bag and just simply ran out of energy to deal with that despite how close we were and how much fun we had. Sad, but at some point you have to put your needs first.

  17. Perhaps something to consider…

    Would any of us actually want to reconcile with someone that may be completely different to the memory you had in your head, given our tendency to exaggerate some things and forget others? Would it be possible to have the friendship in the same way at 30 as you did as teens? Would the relationship ever bloom had there been no previous history?

  18. I’ve had very few lost friends – the only notable one I can name completely dropped off the face of the earth suddenly, which really hurt me. Come to find out three years later that he’s in jail for Grand Theft Auto. Which has me even more confused because I didn’t think he was that kind of person. But it is what it is, and I guess I’ll see when he gets out in two years if we can rekindle our friendship.
    I’m notoriously bad about keeping in touch, but never defriend people I consider true friends on Facebook.
    That said, a couple years ago, right after I got engaged, I visited my fiance where he was then living – near where my best friend lived – and invited her to come over and hang out, so I could ask her to be a bridesmaid. When I asked her, she replied “Oh God! Here I was thinking we weren’t really friends anymore because I haven’t heard from you in forever!”

  19. For me, I experienced no so much the blatant breakups (I can only think of one such incident) as a gradual fading throughout the second half of high school with those friends with whom I’d been close for years–some since before kindergarten. What did it there, I think was that studying abroad changed me–and my relationship with my friends. We just started to drift apart after that. I don’t think we had as much in common anymore–just the fact that we grew up in the same town. We had different interests and priorities, and for me I just lost that bond with my group when I realized that they didn’t value the things for which I cared so much. I certainly do feel guilty, though, that I let so many friendships die, and that I’m not always the best at keeping up with people.

  20. I was dumped hard and ugly when I was in college. I’ve always been agnostic and my bff for years was Christian, but it was never a big deal. I’d even gone to church events with her a few times. I didn’t really think it mattered that we were different. Then one day, out of the blue, about 3 weeks after my boy friend and I broke up for unrelated issues I got an email from her that basically said she thought non-Christians were going to hell, and she “respected” me too much to try to convert me, but she wasn’t going to waste time in this life with someone she wouldn’t see in the next. I could believe she did it by email… So fast forward many years, and I find myself in need of ending a friendship. I’ve been torn on how to do it, so I’ve taken the chicken road… I’ve simply avoided her for weeks. Which seems pretty crappy, but would it be worse I broke off cleanly with her? I don’t know.

    • I think it’s like ripping off a band-aid.

      If you make a clean break, it will really sing, but then it’s just over. You can both get on with healing. If you try to just fade away and avoid her it won’t hurt as sharply, but it will take forever. I’m sure there are other perspectives but I think the only thing that matters is whichever option is better for YOU.

      I wish I had just torn off the band-aid. I wish I had just told my friend to her face, that I didn’t trust her, that we had grown apart, and that we should stop trying to shove a square peg in a round hole….it would have been VERY difficult and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, but in the end, I hurt her feelings anyway. Dragging it out didn’t spare her one iota….it probably made things worse.

      What’s better for the other party? I don’t know. But before you worry too much ask yourself if that’s your problem anymore? You are ENDING a relationship after all…

  21. It feels to me like I’ve had more friendship break-ups than some of the people on here… so maybe my perspective will help somewhat. They were all friends from college, and I kind of had bad taste in both friends and romantic partners back then, and I learned different things from each one.

    One friendship break-up was because both of us were suffering from anxiety and making a toxic environment for each other. She acted superior a lot, which made me feel constantly kind of inferior, jealous, and anxious because I thought she was so awesome. And I acted out my anxieties in ways I am not proud of. I appreciate her still, because she was a role model for me when I was just learning how to be a confident sexy woman. But she could only teach me so much, because she wasn’t one herself yet. Lesson: Don’t idealize your friends or put all your apples in one basket, no matter how awesome that basket seems, it’s still a flawed human.

    Another was a roommate who went away for a summer and came back acting really nasty to everyone. No one was sure what prompted the switch but it was widely acknowledged. The signs were there before she left, she was always a little condescending and always lovably nuts. But this was completely left field, and my reaction was to try really really hard to keep her around, including convincing her to room with me again when that never should have happened. My roommates and I had to kick her out eventually, it was that bad. Lesson: Know when to let go, just because you have a history with someone doesn’t mean they’re worth keeping.

    The final friend I became romantically involved with. This was a long saga that lasted years. Ultimately he was a selfish person who strung me along in all kinds of friend ways and romantic ways, and I tried too hard to make it work, and talking to him just never worked. And then one day I woke up and found myself completely vacant of fucks to give. I fell in love with my partner, got sick of being his go-to for negative interactions, and just quit talking to him. He was very hurt, and I eventually apologized and explained my actions, but he never replied. And I don’t regret doing it. I would do it again. Lesson: Friendships need to be reciprocal. And so does love. And if it isn’t, don’t look back.

    I’ve since pursued more positive and happy people, and used these lessons and warning signs to eject the negative influences from my life. And I’m happy to say I’ve had no more friend break ups since. =)

  22. I was in a codependent “friendship” with a girl at school; my homelife was horrifically abusive, and she had serious issues possibly due to neglect. I never did figure her out, but she seemed closest to Histrionic Personality Disorder. Anyway, we were practically inseparable at school, which to my small amount of shame was as much due to the big bullying problem there; being on your own much of the time was a really bad idea. But we spent a lot of time together outside of school too, and when I say codependent I mean codependent; she treated me like a doormat and I pandered to her because I needed her, but in many ways I was stronger than her.

    Thankfully she solved the break-up issue for me just after we left school, as her attention-seeking got more and more dramatic, culminating in her trying to persuade me to have a threesome with her and her boyfriend despite knowing for absolute certain that women are a turn-off for me, *then getting angry because I turned her down*. I just walked, she never called. Result.

    Now, that’s pretty messed up compared to some people’s stories, I know, but I mention it for two reasons. 1. I want anyone else reading this who’s been through something similar to know that they’re not alone. 2. I’d rather run into someone who bullied me at school than her, and I don’t know why. I want to say that for some reason, having been that close to someone like that freaks me out now far more than 10 years-ish of psychological abuse from classmates. Friendship, including seriously dysfunctional friendship, is powerful. Really, really powerful, and it’s hardly ever talked about in terms like this, so a massive THANK YOU for this article.

    These days I’m not really friends with anyone with whom I cannot have honest relationship-status conversations. I don’t see why we can’t have those for friendships too.

    ETA: I also once had a friend who to me was like a brother, who turned out to have been grooming me for rape (over about 10 months). I still miss the person I thought he was. I don’t know if that counts for this conversation, except as point one on “how not to end a friendship”: Do Not Sexually Assault Your Friend! Asshole.

    • I really just want to THIS! this: “Friendship, including seriously dysfunctional friendship, is powerful. Really, really powerful, and it’s hardly ever talked about in terms like this, so a massive THANK YOU for this article.”

      I was just thinking about how these stories could be considered the Awful Olympics, but they’re more important than that… Even the ones without clear resolution (like my own) are really insightful into the complexities of the close-friendship-dynamic that is rarely talked about.

    • As someone who also survived a seriously dangerous codependent friendship, my heart goes out to you.
      That shit is fucking hard to walk away from, and still hard to deal with years after the fact. I’ll still cross the road to avoid people who look to similar to my “ex”… and I’ve since moved *countries*.

      • Thanks so much for posting that, it makes me feel a bit less alone. So often when I try to explain why the whole thing freaks me out so much all I get is a bemused look. Maybe it’s one of those things people don’t get if they haven’t experienced it, though that idea makes me sad. I hope you’re getting through it alright.

    • I’ve been there. I’ve SO been there. It’s tough to break out of those unhealthy relationships. My friend was depressive/passive aggressive. Everything was about her. I called and had to cancel getting together one evening (dog was really ill) and the following day she asked for my address so she could mail back my stuff since “driving across town was too much trouble apparently”.

      It was the last straw and I finally had to tell her that I was done. After all that time walking on eggshells and worrying about her and constantly having to correct her assumptions about every damn thing I said, freedom is amazing.

      I miss her. A lot. But I know that there is no way to maintain that relationship and keep myself mentally healthy.

    • Great post. Sorry you had to go through this, twice. SO CREEPY!

      A lot of the posts have me wondering what the poster’s part in the breakup was. Yours doesn’t. It sounds totally honest.

      Hope you find better friends in the future.

      (And yes, it’s totally normal that you can’t stand the thought of seeing her again. It’s like food poisoning–your whole healthy system is telling you she’s toxic to you and you need to stay as far away as possible. I had the same reaction to a guy who dumped me. I was totally, completely in love with him, and to this day the thought of seeing him again makes me want to vomit.)

  23. Wow, these comments have made me feel so absolutely thankful that other people still have those feelings of guilt, regret, and sadness at losing a friend. What a great post, and set of comments. Well, not great, but they have made me feel better at not being alone (eye roll) so thank you everyone so much for sharing.

    I have had a few different friendships fade away, and a couple breakups.

    The one that I still regret (not at the loss of the friend, but how it went down) happened only a few years ago. We met each other in the summer after both of us had just gotten out of long-term relationships, and were in the need for some recuperating. We spent most the summer partying and boy shopping and filling each-other’s holes, basically. We were there when we each really needed a friend who were going through the same things.

    Fast forward a few years to me having another long-term relationship, a good job, and mostly on the right track. She was still partying and an alcoholic, basically. We’d had fights before but had reconciled, this one seemed to push it all over the edge. She was drunk so came to crash on our couch and generally obnoxious and loud while I was sleeping. I was tired of needing to go pick her up when she had been partying too much, and the next day was pretty furious with her. I wrote her a nasty email, I think. All about how much drama and a mess that her life was, basically, and to pull her shit together. I don’t even remember, to tell you the truth. It ended with both of us getting nasty, and then being mean and our ties being cut.

    I apologized later and tried to save the friendship, but it was too late. I had definitely “started” it, and she finished it.

    This was a horrible way to end the 4 year friendship we had, but in hindsight, my life is so much more drama-free now. She is still in the same place, doing the same things, while I feel I’ve grown up and gone down the white-picket fence road. We had fought before and having her in my life, while fun (she was a life-of-the-party kinda gal) I don’t need all that now. I don’t regret our time together, but I do wish we hadn’t ended on such sour notes.

    She actually reached out after the birth of my daughter and said a quick congrats, so we are at least both at peace with everything.

  24. These comments are amazing and painful and cathartic. Hugs to everyone, and thank you for sharing your breakup stories.

    I had no idea when I set out to write this article that friendship troubles and breakups were so common — at least more common than I imagined. For me, there was such a shame and guilt associated with ending a friendship that I consciously chose not to talk about it to others in my life or in my writing. That, of course, only compounded the burden and made me feel terribly isolated. I’m learning that I don’t have to approach it that way.

    All of you have offered different ways of coping with friendship breakups — everything from “ripping the band aid” to letting it drift to accepting that life changes and friendship death is part of it. I think these are all relevant depending on the friendship in question. It sounds like some of you knew it was the right thing to do and some of you still have regret. Sometimes it’s both right and you can regret it.

    Anyway, I’m appreciative of all of your comments. Know that I’m reading each one and learning from them.

    • Thank you for writing the original post too – it’s really meant a lot to me, and so have all the comments.

      I’ve felt a lot of shame and guilt over how I’ve dealt with a couple of friendships, but everyone sharing their experiences has made me realise that it’s not that uncommon. Thanks for bringing this out in the open.

  25. I’m so grateful for this post. I just recently experienced my first “adult” friendship break-up. It’s put me through the same hell each and every one of you is describing, and there’s something very comforting about that. I thought maybe I was the only crazy one.

    Z was one of the first people I met when I picked up my entire life and moved away from my hometown to live with my boyfriend (now husband). We became fast friends and did everything together. We loved all the same music (which is hard because of my very… eclectic tastes), we loved to do the same things (who else is going to sit around in a bookstore, drinking coffee, and making fun of passerbys with me?), and we had the same goals (get better jobs, get married to our significant others, have nice things).
    Year went by, things were awesome, I had my man and we were engaged, and I had Z and she was helping me plan the wedding and keeping me sane through the entire process. She also threw me a kick ass Bachelorette party! She stood by my side on our wedding day, she looked through our pictures from the honeymoon.
    Shortly after we got married, I was offered a job. It was a huge opportunity for me, and I took it immediately. I would still be in the same area of town, I could go see Z on my lunch break! I would have so much more money to go out and do stuff socially with her. It was awesome.. until I realized she was upset with me for moving on. She began talking to me less, she didn’t say anything positive about my doing something good for myself, she began ignoring my calls and texts. She cancelled lunch and dinner plans numerous times in a row. I began to see a change in her, I realized maybe there were more pros to her not being in my life than there were cons. She abruptly left her long time fiance for someone who really doesn’t have any ambition in life and who is definitely going through some serious struggles. She got pregnant, and she changed her circle of friends, big time.

    I miss her, and by that I mean I miss who she was when we were friends. The person she is right now, is not who I fell in friend-love with 7 years ago. I wonder if she acted out because of me? I worry about her all the time, is she eating right? Is she putting herself and her child in harm? Has she felt motivated to do better? It hurts to know that someone I knew was going to be around forever, and someone who will be in my wedding photos and memories for the rest of my existence, is gone.

    I understand changes happen, I’ve adapted many times, but losing a friend sucks, no matter how old you are. 😉

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