Ending friendships due to a breakup…

There is so much emphasis in our society put on ending romantic relationships but very little about friendship. Recently a client was discussing how after her divorce  a friend commented that she was also divorcing her friends.  This came as a shock to her system. She knew that some friends would pick sides but she never thought that she might also be acting in a way that would push some away.

All parts of our life are interconnected. Hence it makes sense that when we have a major event (like a break up) happen that it will blend into everything else. Our emotions are not on a solitary island just sitting around in the sun reading a good book. They are moving around and brought up based on our thoughts, environment, sense data,  situations, and our whole mind/body connection. The truth is… just about anything can trigger us when we have had something big happen in our lives.

During a break up we feel a mix of feelings and at times it can seem overwhelming.  We often take a look back and forward and get a little scared at the choices we have made and will contintue to make. Many of these fears are based on lessons learned from our family interactions. Still, even if we are not aware of what is exactly going on when we see multiple shifts in our lives all at once, there is usually something that strings it all together.

For example, you have a break up and then you find yourself having a big blow up at work or more specific to this is the idea that you and a friend are at odds.  You have a hot and cold relationship with a friend for years and now you finally can’t take it anymore. You have ended your romantic relationship and it just seems like too much to keep on with a friendship that isn’t really working.  Numerous factors come into the situation here. It is possible that you are just overloaded with other emotions and need a break to center and it has nothing to do with your friendship. It could be that your friend is overwhelmed in his/her life and needs a break to center and all will be better once you two take some time apart.

And there are other potential issues … those focusing on internal struggles from the past and present.  If your friendship mirrors your most recent romantic relationship there is a good chance that you will naturally see those problems areas as something that is in need of change.  Also, if you have a past template (perhaps from a parent) of this relationship, you will most likely need the desire to make a change as well. Very rarely, are we conscious of these triggers but we tend to react in a dramatic way that creates a shift.

Many times the initial “spike” (as I tend to call it) has little to do with the current relationship but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a part of it.  No matter the context, being able to see your pattern and make change is crucial.  You can have a big-knock-down-drag-out-fight with a friend as a way of getting away from your past romantic (and/or familial relationships). However, I would encourage a more thoughtful and gentle approach.

If you are experiencing some overlap with relationships after a breakup then write them down. Really take some time to investitage what areas feel as if they are really hard right now (or perhaps always have been) and consider how your friendship works to deal with these concerns.  Then when you are in a calm place emotionally think through addressing these issues with your friend. Imagine what it would be like if you had an adult-healthy interaction with this person …stating your needs and things you would like to change between the two of you.  Assuming you can envision something positive then take the next step and talk with your friend. Explain that some areas have come up due to your recent break up that makes the friendship strained and that you would like the two of you to work together to change this dynamic.

Now if you don’t see the possibility of working through the issues, then you can take some space. You do not have to create and all or nothing situation in the friendship. You can suggest that you need some time to sort through some recent emotions and that you will be in touch with the person when you have worked through them. This creates a boundary for yourself, which is important, as well as not burning bridges of the friendship. You may never change your mind but then again with time you might be in a different place to want to be closer again.

The main points are not to just react… make conscious choices, look at what is upsetting you, consider the patterns, and then work towards change within yourself. You have the strength and skills to change your relationships. You can not control what the other person does but you can control yourself. Acting in the most honorable, caring, and calm way possible allows you to feel as if you have done all you can to handle the situation.  This means that if you do have to walk away from the friendship you can hold your head high knowing that you treated the other person as you would want to be treated if the situation were reversed.

—I recommend also looking at a recent article about how to get closure on friendships that have ended.

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