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The three types of friendship break-ups and how to survive them

The three types of friendship break-ups and how to survive them

So you thought the bond between you and your BFF was stronger than a shellac manicure, but now the gloss is well and truly wearing off.

Can you salvage the situation, or are you better to start fresh?
Friendship is a truly special thing. And whether you and your BFF bonded at age six over jungle gyms and juice boxes or age 26 over politics and prosecco, you probably think that this person who loves you unconditionally now will do so forever. I mean, hello, it’s in the job title!
But according to psychotherapist and member of Youthline’s senior clinical team Beth St Claire, friendship break-ups are a common outcome of the unhealthy aspects of a friendship coming to a head. And the key cause of pain? “The fact that the very person you’d usually go to for support and comfort when you’re feeling bad is the one person who’s caused you this distress.”
Feelings of loss and betrayal are totally natural, but Beth says we shouldn’t let our fear of these feelings trap us in relationships with people who aren’t adding value to our lives. Likening friendship to a security blanket, she adds that FOMO or habit isn’t a good enough reason to stay, either. It all makes sense, but how do you rip off the band-aid?

The Slow Fade

Think of it this way: you have a favourite pair of shoes, but you only ever wear them for nights on the dancefloor. Recently, you’ve stopped going out so much. Will you keep those shoes, or would you rather make room for something that’s a little more you?
You and your bestie may have been inseparable in high school, but as you’ve got older, you’ve gone down different paths. She moved to London and pursued a high-powered career, while you’re so close with your family you can’t imagine living more than a few suburbs away. Or maybe you’re hustling full-time, working towards a solid five-year plan, and she’s floating through life with no thought for the future, putting all her trust in the universe to provide.

All of these options are fine — that’s the beauty of being a modern woman. But if her choices don’t reflect your lifestyle any more, you don’t have to end things on a bad note. Having  a connection with someone doesn’t mean that relationship has to last forever. In fact, it’s healthy to let go of the past when you know it no longer serves you to hold onto it.
If you’re both already making plans with each other less often and letting time lapse between texts, don’t fight it — move on. But cherish the fond memories and don’t delete all those selfies; when it comes time to wish her happy birthday on Insta, it might be nice to have a cute #tbt up your sleeve.

The Detox

Sometimes, ending a friendship is more a matter of necessity. Think of The Detox as the equivalent of consciously swapping your full-fat lattes for soy. Like dairy, this friendship really isn’t worth it anymore: it’s not nourishing you, it’s not great for your (mental) health, and you feel noticeably better without it.
Of course, flushing toxins can be a dirty business, so consider keeping everything above board and vocalising your feelings before going cold turkey on your friend. If you’re sick of her gossiping more than your favourite trashy magazines — tell her. If you don’t like the way she talks down to people — tell her. If you don’t agree with her political views — tell her. Chances are high that you’re not the only person who feels that way. There’s also a chance she’s never been called out, and you’re doing her a favour.

Best-case scenario: you and your bestie could actually rehab your relationship from one based around co-dependency to one in which you can comfortably coexist in social settings, minus the huge hangover every time you hang out.“Relationships can be rocky,” says Beth “[But] if tough patches are managed with consideration and respect, the breakdowns can sometimes be repaired.”

Assured Destruction

This one is messy. It’s Cady versus Regina, Taylor versus Katy, Selena versus Bella — all gal pals who went from BFF to RIP in very public and shady ways.
A best friend is someone who knows absolutely everything about you. They know when you need saving from a terrible conversation; they know the difference between “I’m fine!” and “I’m fine”; they know when you’re about to get your period (’cause you’ve been synced since you were 13 years old) — and they also know exactly what hurts you. We’re not talking about the searing pain of those stilettos you thought you could brave, but the insecurities that cut you deep. And they cut both ways — that’s what makes it so painful. Like Blair and Serena facing off on the Met Steps, you both know exactly which buttons to push, so it’s never going to end prettily.

However unideal, sometimes Assured Destruction can’t be avoided. In such cases, Beth’s advice is “to act in a way that you will be proud of when you look back on this time”. You might not be able to control getting into these situations, but you can control how you respond to them. Make Destiny’s Child’s ‘Survivor’ your mantra and if nothing else, don’t diss her on the internet. Your mama taught you better than that.


1. Perspective

Not everyone in your life is going to be there permanently. “People come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime,” says Beth. Figure out what it was that brought you and your ex-bestie together. Could this be provided by somebody else, yourself included?

2. Lessons

A friendship break-up is a big learning moment. Maybe you’ve identified behaviour that’s a deal-breaker for you or learned that your tolerance and understanding could do with some work. Beth urges us to remember that every life experience “is an opportunity to [become] better, wiser and stronger than we were before”.

3. Reflection

Reflecting on the highs, lows and ultimate downfall of your friendship will give you the clarity you need to move forward. If you look back and realise you saw the friendship through rose-tinted glasses, your new-found distance will let you clear that right up. “It would be unusual for a friendship to end if it was perfect,” says Beth. Identify those flaws and keep them in mind for the future.

4. Healing

The dream outcome after all the drama would be to retain some semblance of friendship. A little bit of BFF boot camp can actually make you stronger, and making an effort to clear the air will give you both the chance to see the fallout from the other person’s perspective. Just don’t play the blame game — you’re looking for closure, not a criminal.

5. Moving On

Didn’t get closure? Time to break out the Frozen soundtrack and let it go! You may not have the answers you wanted, and you may not have a best friend anymore, but tomorrow’s a new day. Choose to keep the insights and say bye to the bad vibes.

6. Celebration!

You’ve just been on the world’s biggest emotional roller-coaster and lived to tell the tale: it’s time to congratulate yourself. Beth suggests getting creative and manifesting your happiness into a cute little mood board or collage, complete with an inspirational quote that you can look at every day to remind yourself where you’ve been and how far you’ve come. If scissors and glue aren’t you: Pinterest.
We’re not going to sugar-coat it: friendship break-ups suck. But like millions before you, you will get through it. Keep your head held high and your attitude positive, and if you’re finding that a bit of a struggle, be sure to reach out to family, friends or a counsellor. Look after yourself, too. You’re feeling fragile, so it’s important to give your body what it needs as you get your mind and soul back on track.

Words: Anny Ma
Photos: Getty Images and Giphy

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