Back in June we did a couple of episodes about how to make friends. We thought we’d follow up with one for our Patrons about being intentional in ongoing friendships, and one for everyone about friendship endings.
Here’s our podcast https://soundcloud.com/megjohnjustin/friend-break-ups
Here is a summary of our thoughts on friendship break-up.
First we agreed that for anything in life to be consensual we have to know that we don’t have to do it – now or ever. Being able to conceive of breaking up, or leaving, is vital in any kind of relationship, otherwise it’s hard – if not impossible – for it to be fully consensual.
When might be a sign that we need to break-up a friendship
On the podcast we suggested the following might be good reasons to consider ending or changing a friendship:
- If the friendship doesn’t feel nourishing and fulfilling for both people. If it’s not good for everybody it’s not good for anybody
- If either person in it doesn’t feel free enough to be themselves (in the friendship and their wider life) and/or safe enough that they’ll be treated well – and treat themself well – in the friendship
- If you notice that you’re not looking forward to time together and/or feel bad after time together
- If someone isn’t ready for the kinds of communication that feel necessary to us to deal with issues or tensions that have come up
- If there are stuck dynamics in the friendship which feel tough and are difficult to shift (e.g. one person being very dependent on the other, or one person being controlling)
- A big power imbalance between you
- A big imbalance in the emotional labour that you’re both doing in the friendship
How can we break-up a friendship?
- First we might want to think of a spectrum from friendship change to friendship ending. If it doesn’t feel good for one/both of us, are there changes we could make to the structure and/or rhythm and/or understanding of the friendship which might help? Is everyone up for that conversation and able to hear each other? If so, trying to shift it into another form could be a useful thing to try. If not then ending make be easier and/or safer
- It’s useful to remember that if the dynamic between you isn’t working for one of you then it’s not good for either of you to remain in it – it’s not good to be the one who is hurting or getting hurt – so staying in it for the sake of the other person isn’t a great idea for you or for them
- It’s okay to end things in the way that feels safest for you. Ideally it’s good to get a kind and clear message across to the other person about what’s happening rather than ghosting/drifting, but this can be in whatever form feels manageable to you. You don’t have to explain yourself beyond it not working for you, and you don’t have to receive a response
- It’s good to recognise that it’s likely to be hard for both people, rather than trying to minimise the impact on either of you
How can we deal with the aftermath of a friendship break-up?
- Recognise that friendship break-ups can be just as painful as other kinds of endings, if not more so in some cases, and that our feelings are always valid whatever our role in the break-up
- Focus on looking after yourself
- Try to allow all your feelings, rather than imagining that only some are appropriate. If you feel it, it’s a sensible, understandable feeling
- Get support from compassionate people in your life, letting them know how you’re doing and what helps you
- You don’t have to get caught up in thoughts of blame and shame – it’s okay that this happened and that it is painful without believing that they – or you – are a terrible person. However it is useful to recognise where you have been badly treated – or treated another person badly – and work on that part
Find out more
MJ wrote about break-ups in their book Rewriting the Rules
Justin’s BishUK guide to how to break-up is here
Here’s our podcast on how to break-up a band
© Meg-John Barker and Justin Hancock, 2020