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Oct 30, 2023

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Navigating Friendship ‘Break-Ups’ as an adult


Friendship brak-ups are a natural part of life. 


But no one really talks about the intense pain that they can cause.


Friendships come and go. One minute you think someone is your ‘ride-or-die’ and then something shifts.


At the end of the day, life happens. Sometimes life happens and it creates a seismic shift in who we are.


It’s natural.


But it doesn’t mean it isn’t painful. Sometimes even more painful than romantic break-ups, so it deserves a little attention because I know a lot of people are navigating these sorts of things at the moment. 


I certainly have over the last year or so.


So, why do friendship break-ups happen?


Sometimes it might be a betrayal, a move away, a lifestyle change. Fundamentally it tends to come down to one thing.


Different core values.


Our core values shift and change throughout our lives as we go through experiences and learn lessons. 


It’s not to say it’s for worse or for better but they definitely shift so it’s always a good idea to keep coming back to your analysis of them and being really clear.


The more clear you are on your core values, the easier you’ll find many situations to navigate because you’ll really understand why something feels off or awful. You’ll understand why you might value a brand new friendship more than someone who has been there your whole life. 


As we age and grow these things change and we also get less ok with tolerating someone pushing our boundary or value buttons. 


A lot of the time when we form friendships, particularly when we’re younger, it’s because people live near us and like doing the same things as us. 


It might be a shared sense of humour, interests, a number of things. 


When we get older it shifts to how we behave. What we value. Do we fundamentally behave in ways that we value, to ourselves and others?


When you want to change something about your life, it might be eating healthier or getting fitter, or starting a business or becoming a parent for example, the best thing you can do is to get around people who want the same things as you. Or already have the things you want. People who fundamentally share and understand where you’re at. 


But how do you know if it’s time to let go?


The biggest way is to be really mindful and conscious of how you feel around this friend. 


Do they add or subtract positive things in your life?


Do you feel judged or unimportant?


Name what you feel.


I think as you get older and your priorities shift you realise that you simply don’t want to be around people who don’t add value to your life.


You’re too busy for starters! It’s like taking a Marie Kondo attitude to the emotional side of your life. Does this person spark joy?


At the end of the day, if you value reliability, consistency, contact and you have a friend who delivers precisely the opposite of that then you’re signing yourself up for constantly feeling let down and hurt. It’s not that one or other of you is technically ‘in the wrong’ but you have a difference in your value system. No right or wrong, just a mismatch at this time in your life. 


It’s worth noting that friendships that end for whatever reason, doesn’t always mean it’s forever. I’ve had plenty of friendships where we’ve drifted apart, sometimes more dramatically than others, and come back together a few years later when we were more aligned again in terms of our values. 


Communicate, communicate, communicate. 


Listen, listen, listen.


SO many things can be sorted and changed through these two things, and they’re probably the very things that get missed out the most. They’re vulnerable. You need to be brave and speak your truth but also be open to hearing things you don’t like to hear about yourself.


Particularly because we put so many stories and assumptions on other people’s behaviour. Sometimes things are going on for people that we just don’t know about. Sometimes people’s capacity is totally depleted due to what’s going on in their lives and we might have absolutely no idea.


Compassion and understanding first. 


You don’t want to make a decision to end a friendship or distance yourself from one without being able to say you communicated everything you needed to and also heard their side and you did everything you could at this point.


If you feel you need some distance, that’s ok.


Remember that it’s normal to feel a profound sense of grief when a friendship ends. Allow it to be there. It makes sense!


Being able to take responsibility for your side of the fence is hugely healing and important, while it may not be fun. There can be important lessons hidden in there and it takes two to tango. It’s not about blame or fault but we will always have some sense of responsibility there that might be an opportunity to learn and heal.


There certainly was for me. 


One of the best things to come from my turbulent year has been the reconnection I've created with a lot of friends. 


I took responsibility for letting the friendship fade, reached out and I've got some incredible people back in my life now that has led to a huge amount of fun and gratitude and feeling supported. It really has been an amazing journey. It takes guts to reach out to someone and say ‘Hey, I'm so sorry it’s been a minute, It’s on me. I’d really love to see you and catch up if you’re game.’ 


The other thing I've done is made new friends. New friends are often more aligned to your values and they can come in all shapes and sizes. 


With the amount my life is going to continue to keep changing over the next year I'm so excited to meet all the friends I haven’t met yet. 


The same is waiting for you. There is always a new or rekindled friend right around the corner. It doesn’t stop friendship break-ups being incredibly hard and painful.  It does mean you have an opportunity to keep growing and improving and being around people who make you feel amazing and vice versa.


We all deserve more of that.