How to Deal with a Friendship Breakup Like an Adult

Step one: honor your integrity.

By Phoebe Neuman
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When it comes to friendship breakups, there’s really no getting around the fact that it’s going to hurt.

Isn’t it ironic that we spend so much time and energy figuring out how to navigate the end of romantic relationships, when often a friendship breakup can feel just as devastating? After all, our friends are our rocks. They’re the ones we turn to when the going gets tough – and the ones that celebrate our wins the most. So it’s no wonder seeing one of those relationships come to an end can make you feel totally lost.

That’s where intimacy and life coach Jules Webber comes in. Through her work, she helps women own their stories and step into themselves — and guides them through all of the messy emotions that can come with opening a new chapter in your life. She’s also navigated a friendship breakup or two of her own, making her an expert in coming out the other side feeling whole, confident and loved. Here, she shares her top tips (and a sends a virtual hug to you if you’re in the middle of a friendship breakup yourself!)

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How do you know when it’s time to end a friendship?

If you’re having thoughts about ending a friendship, it’s likely because you’ve already gone past your boundaries and have compromised your well-being in some way. After all, we gravitate towards those friendships that mirror the truth about who we are – no people are inherently toxic, but we can create toxic dynamics with them. If a friendship is making you feel anxious or getting in the way of feeling healthy, it may be time to re-evaluate.

So think about what you need to experience to feel happy, healthy, and whole. Get clarity on what boundaries may have been broken, and be committed to meeting your own needs. Feeling sure about this will help immensely when the fallout inevitably comes.

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How can you respectfully end a friendship?

My number one tip is that respectful communication is everything. If you’re initiating the friendship breakup and asking for some space, always own what’s yours to own. If you’re in a relationship that needs to end or shift gears, you’ve also played a part in creating the dynamic that isn’t working, so own it. That doesn’t mean, however, that you have to explain yourself.

We know that not giving an explanation may hurt the other person more, so our impulse is often to say too much. This is why I think sending an email to ask for some space is often the best route – having that conversation in person can be overwhelming, making it easy to say things you don’t need to or don’t mean (like promising to get back in touch). What you do have to acknowledge is what was good in the relationship, and you have to honor your integrity and your own boundaries.

You want to be able to look back and know you were gracious with yourself and the other person.

If your friendship existed within a larger group, your integrity as that friendship comes to an end is everything. Don’t vent, don’t tell negative stories.

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How can you deal with feelings of guilt that come along with friendship breakups?

What’s really important to understand is where that guilt is coming from. As women, many of us have been taught to be boundary-less, so when you set them, the guilt will always come because it feels like we’re taking something away from someone. But remember: You’re never taking anything away from someone when you’re setting boundaries.

What I like to do is to think of it as a trade-off. Acknowledge that you are choosing to develop trust in yourself and take care of you. Choosing to honor that will remind you that the feelings of guilt are momentary.

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How can you cope if you’ve been dumped by a friend?

This experience can be especially difficult, because it often pulls up our childhood wounds and shame. When you get broken up with, it’s easy to take it personally and think “what did I do wrong?” But  recognize that someone is making a choice for themselves, and that it’s ultimately not about you. You have to reframe rejection – just because they’re choosing something else doesn’t mean that they are rejecting you. They are choosing something for themselves, and you simply may not fit into that anymore.

The best thing you can do is to have compassion for the parts of you that feel hurt, and own your vulnerability. When you don’t, you can create a destructive negativity that won’t serve you – or anyone else. Ask yourself these questions: Were you lying to yourself about this relationship or person? Were there moments where things started to feel off? If you were blindsided by the end of the friendship, it’s probably because you weren’t honoring your boundaries in some way, so this is a great time to start doing just that.

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How can you kickstart healing after the end of a friendship?

The healing process will begin in deep discomfort. In between setting any boundary and feeling awesome about it is a space you’ll want to fill with stories. Steward that season with integrity when it comes to writing the story of that friendship. Honor the fact that both of you are human, that both of you have hurt each other and yourselves, and that both of you need to heal. Allow the space for healing to be messy and remember that all healing happens in an intentional practice of being kind to yourself.

So take the time to turn inward. Ask what you need to learn. Discover the patterns in your relationships that may need to shift, and pay attention to where you need greater compassion. Journaling can be a great tool for this, but but resist the urge to write and cling to negative stories that can be destructive. If you’re in that headspace, find a different release – a kickboxing class may be just what you need.

It also helps to be very clear about who your safe people are in this process. Mutual friends will not be the people you can process this with, because it can too easily become gossip that deepens divisions. Look for someone removed from the group that is prepared to carry this with you — this could be your mom, your sister, another friend or even a coach like me. And remember, you are beautiful, worthy, and whole. You’ve got this!