Advice from the Arts Editor: Navigating friendship breakups

A group of PhD students take time after their stressful day of classes to catch up in UMass Boston’s Campus Center.

If you think back to kindergarten, you could just walk up to someone on the playground and ask them to be your friend. It was so quick and simple. Naturally, most kids in kindergarten could be friends with anyone because they have the same interests in toys and Disney Junior. 

Coming back to the present day, you probably aren’t still friends with the same kids you played on the playground with so long ago. I know I’m not. I still remember slowly losing touch with my kindergarten best friends in elementary school and the confusion that came with it. At that age, I didn’t really understand that those two girls wouldn’t be my best friends forever like the silver chains around our wrists claimed. 

As I grew older and friends came and went, it never seemed to get any easier. In fact, it got a lot worse. Relationships only seemed to get more complicated with age and usually, the longer the friendship, the harder the breakup.

After being friends with someone for a long period of time, they become ingrained into your routine. You already know their quirks, what they are passionate about or what ticks them off. You know all of their insecurities, flaws and weaknesses. This is how the ending of these friendships can easily get messy. 

When getting in fights with long-term friends, they know exactly what to say to make you hurt if they feel you did something wrong. Hopefully, after knowing each other long enough, you build a respect for one another where you wouldn’t hurt them, but that isn’t always the case.

If these relationships are built on anxious attachments, jealousy or insecurity, it can get toxic fast, and my advice is to fix that situation as soon as possible before it becomes too taxing on your emotional well-being. 

I recently listened to a podcast by Madeline Argy about friendships, and she said something along the lines of: If a relationship is preventing you from becoming the best version of yourself, why are you still part of it? Remember, you can be perfectly fine just on your own. It is an honor to allow someone into your life, make sure that the person is treating it as such.

Fights between friends are the worst, especially because they are the people that know you best. It can send you into a kind of spiral, wondering if you aren’t the person you thought you were. I find it helpful to take a step back and talk to someone who you can trust that knows you well before making any irrational decisions. 

Secondly, if you want to take another try at the friendship, reach out to them after you have both cooled down, but don’t feel pressured to if you don’t want to. Sometimes it’s comfortable to stay in toxic friendships because it's familiar but in the long run, it can truly be damaging. 

If you have decided that ending the friendship is best, then stick to your decision and don’t go back. If they try to convince you to stay, or if they say they will change, most of the time they won’t. If they respect you, they should respect your decision. 

Learning to recover after a friendship breakup is partly re-discovering yourself. You need to fill the hole that the person left behind. This could start with leaning on trusted people, but eventually, you just need to power through the emotions. Letting them out, whether it be through journaling or a therapeutic scream session in the car, is vital. After that, the only thing that can ultimately solve the ache is time, as cliché as it sounds. 

Adult friendships are complicated, especially because as people grow, they move wherever life takes them. This could be down the street, or on the other side of the country, but either way, they require work. I hope this provided some ease to those going through any difficult friendship times. Just remember whatever you’re experiencing won’t last forever.

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