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What they don’t tell you about adult friendship breakups

“True friendship isn’t about being inseparable, it’s about being separated and nothing changes.” – Unknown

Friendships are often celebrated as lifelong bonds, promising support, laughter, and shared memories. But what happens when those bonds break?

Adult friendship breakups are rarely discussed openly, yet they can be as painful and significant as romantic separations.

Firstly, let’s acknowledge that friendship dynamics evolve the older we get. In our youth, friendships often revolve around shared activities and proximity, like school or neighborhood.

But as adults, life takes us down different paths. Careers, relationships, and geographical relocations can strain even the strongest of friendships. What they don’t tell you is that sometimes, growing apart is a natural part of this process.

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It’s not about beef or bad blood, it’s an inevitable part of life.

However, when we talk about breakups, there is an element of bad blood involved, and they can stem from a multitude of reasons, some of which may not be immediately apparent.

Have you ever had a friend with whom you grew apart, but with no traceable reason for it? Over time you just notice that things are not the same with them, and even your communication has deteriorated over that period of time.

Many of the reasons that commonly affect friendships could be due to diverging values, jealousy, or simply drifting apart due to lack of time or effort invested in maintaining the relationship.

Unlike romantic relationships, where there’s often a clear catalyst for the breakup, friendship endings can feel more nebulous, leaving both parties questioning what went wrong, and where.

Speaking of some common reasons why adult friendships come to an end, Maryann Somba, a counseling psychologist and an expert in personal relationships said, “Adult friendships can end for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s due to changing life circumstances, like moving to different cities or prioritizing different goals. Other times, it may be a result of unresolved conflicts or growing apart due to diverging values or interests. Jealousy, competition, and lack of communication can also contribute to friendship breakdowns.”

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One aspect that often goes unspoken is the grief that accompanies the end of a friendship. Losing a close friend can evoke feelings of sadness, anger, and even guilt.

You might find yourself reminiscing about inside jokes or shared experiences, mourning the loss of someone who was once an integral part of your life.

It’s okay to mourn the end of a friendship, just as you would mourn the end of a romantic relationship.

Ms Somba went on to divulge why adult friendship breakups are not talked about as much as romantic breakups saying, “Adult friendship breakups tend to fly under the radar because they lack the societal expectations and rituals that accompany romantic relationships. There’s no official “breakup” conversation or closure process. Friendships are often seen as more casual and disposable, which can lead people to downplay the significance of their endings.”

One truth about adult friendship breakups is that they have significant impact on your social circle. Mutual friends may feel caught in the middle, unsure of how to navigate their relationships with both parties involved.

You might find yourself excluded from group gatherings or forced to choose sides, adding another layer of complexity to an already difficult situation. What they don’t tell you is that navigating these social dynamics requires grace and diplomacy.

Adult friendship breakups can force you to confront aspects of yourself that you may have been avoiding.

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Perhaps the breakup revealed underlying insecurities or communication issues that need addressing. It’s an opportunity for self-reflection and personal growth, albeit a painful one. Learning from the experience can ultimately lead to healthier future friendships.

It’s important to recognize that not all friendships are meant to last a lifetime, and that’s okay. As we grow as individuals, our needs and priorities change, leading us to outgrow certain relationships.

What they don’t tell you is that it’s okay to let go of friendships that no longer serve you, even if it feels uncomfortable or sad at the time.

Speaking of the psychological impact of adult friendship breakups on individuals, Ms Somba said, “People often experience a range of emotions, including sadness, anger, and guilt. There’s also a sense of loss, as you’re mourning the end of a significant relationship and the shared experiences that came with it. Friendship breakups can erode trust and self-esteem, especially if they’re accompanied by betrayal or abandonment.”

However, just because a friendship ends doesn’t mean it wasn’t meaningful or valuable. Cherish the memories and lessons learned, but also allow yourself to move forward without holding onto resentment or bitterness. Closure may not always be possible, but acceptance and forgiveness can help facilitate healing.

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Lastly, remember that the end of one friendship doesn’t mean the end of all friendships. It’s easy to become disillusioned and hesitant to open up to new people after experiencing a friend breakup, but closing yourself off emotionally only prolongs the healing process. Keep an open heart and mind, and trust that new friendships will blossom in due time.