Someone I Used to Know: Navigating a Friendship Break-Up

“Now you’re just somebody that I used to know.” It’s hard to believe that it’s been twelve years since that lyric held us all in a collective chokehold as we belted out the chorus of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.” The song laments about the loss of a lover and the pain that comes from being forced to let go. Loss. Grief. Sadness. These are all natural human emotions that we all inevitably face during some point in our lives. And although these subject matters are often understood within the context of romantic partnerships, there’s a type of break-up that’s especially painful and I personally feel doesn’t get spoken about enough: friendship break-ups. 

Friendship break-ups can be just as impactful, if not more, than some romantic break-ups because we often spend a great deal of time cultivating and nurturing these bonds that we typically envision never breaking. Although most modern media heavily focuses on the loneliness that can be felt due to the rejection of a paramour, it’s refreshing when platonic relationships are examined. The entire plotline of the recent Academy-Award nominated film The Banshees of Inisherin explores the impact of the demise of a friendship between two adult men and how one of the male protagonists goes to dire lengths not to lose his best friend.  

When we do find ourselves at a crossroads and either contemplating ending a friendship or in the aftermath of it, it can feel disorienting as well as disappointing. Heartbreak hits differently when it comes from someone you’ve shared your deepest and darkest secrets with. Our best friends can become so interwoven in the daily fabric of our lives that the weight of their absence can feel like a punch to the gut.  So how does one not only process such a loss, but also navigate the complex emotions that can follow? Here are three things that one might consider doing when navigating a best friend break-up.

Three Ways to Cope with a Friendship Break-Up:

  • Acknowledge, Accept and Grieve the Loss: As the old adage goes, sometimes the only way out is through. Repressing and suppressing your feelings is likely to make you feel more out of balance. It’s important to recognize the emotions you’re experiencing in order to process them and move forward. Whether you’ve known the person for twelve months or twelve years, endings can be difficult  and it’s okay to admit that this is something that is impacting you. 
  • Use It As An Opportunity to Reflect: Self-reflection and introspection are useful abilities in all types of relationships, not to mention life in general. Being able to take a step back and look at the role you may or may not have played in the demise of your friendship can provide a more balanced perspective and hopefully aid you in working on how to manage conflict in future situations. However, it’s also important to remember to be gentle with yourself. Hindsight is 20/20.  It’s okay if there are things you wish you’d done differently. None of us are immune from making mistakes.
  • Lean On Other Loved Ones for Support: When experiencing grief it can sometimes feel like an arduous task to reach out to others for help. Nevertheless, being reminded that there are people who are in your corner and willing to lift you up during moments of emotional uncertainty and turmoil, can remind you that you do have a support system. Being around those who affirm you, respect your boundaries and take your feelings into consideration never hurts either. 

Endings can be painful. Especially if it pertains to a bond with a person or people who you once held very near and dear. However, learning to cope and accept difficult realities is an essential part of life. Not every close tie we form will stand the test of time. Just because you miss someone or struggle with memories of them doesn’t necessarily mean that removing yourself from their orbit was a bad idea. There are many reasons as to why we may make the conscious choice to love them from afar. It may feel like a taxing process to go through, but you’ll get there.

 To learn more about how to deal with a friendship break-up email me or call me at 917.476.9381..

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Chamin Ajjan Psychotherapy


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