Friendships enhance our happiness, confidence and encourage our self worth. Good friendships help us create a sense of belonging and influence our lives, making the good times better and helping us cope with the hard times.
We spend so much time connecting and investing in friendships that it it can be difficult, painful and even devastating when friendships go wrong and the bond comes to an end. Sometimes the cause is obvious and there’s a mutual feeling it’s right to end the relationship, but a sudden falling out, growing apart or even getting ghosted by our friends can be bewildering and hurtful.
When we grow apart from our friends, we try to seek out a reason as to why the friendship is drifting or why we no longer feel the same way. Understanding the reason can make a break up smoother or ease our guilt, but sometimes, there is no reason, leaving us to question whether we should keep it going and force the bond – especially if the friendship has been this way for many years.
Holding onto a friendship, however, can be more heartbreaking than ending it, reminding us of the good times and the closeness and bringing the realisation that things can’t go back to what they were.
In reality, our personalities evolve as we get older and, sadly, growing apart can often be the fatality of growing up. It might seem easier to have a full-blown argument to justify the distance between ourselves and an old friend; we care about each other, but we just don’t automatically need each other in this chapter of our life.
Occasionally, friends simply disappear. Known as ‘ghosting’ in the dating world, it also happens in friendships, with a friend suddenly ignoring you or not returning your messages.
Ghosting is an easy way for someone to end a friendship without ever dealing with what they possibly did wrong. If this happens, all you can do for peace of mind is to reach out to them one last time and then empower yourself to let it go, as hard and painful as that is to do.
Whether a friendship ends suddenly or runs its course, we need to grieve the loss in the same way as the end of a marriage or relationship. It hurts, regardless of whether it was amicable and the right thing to do. In fact, the end of a friendship shows all the tell-tale stages of grief:
Denial: You and your friend are growing apart but neither of you wants to admit it. It may be simply because you can’t find time for each other at the moment, or that the common bond that brought you together is no longer there; you just know the connection is not as solid as it once was.
Anger: If they don’t have time for you, what are they doing posting photos of a night out with other people? If you’re seething at their social media, you probably haven’t accepted that the friendship is drifting.
Bargaining: When the anger subsides, you’re left with feelings of regret, finding yourself going over and over what you could have done differently.
Depression: Sadness and loneliness set in as you play through all the memories of your friendship. Remember that these feelings are temporary and that the friendship ended for good reasons.
Acceptance: Over time, the pain of losing the friendship gets easier and you can move onto new things.
When we have a falling out with our friend, unfortunately things can sometimes get out of hand. You may decide to try to work things through instead of going your separate ways, especially if you have a long history together. Trying to restore a friendship isn’t easy, so ensure that you don’t leave it too long for the ‘friendship talk’ if you feel things are worth saving. If it’s not salvageable, give yourself time to process your feelings and grieve the friendship.
Here are some tips to help you renew the friendship.
Take a break
We need time to cool off and process our emotions. Giving ourselves time helps us to develop a different take on the situation. Writing a journal can help you understand the falling out, as it’s a way of exploring your thoughts and seeing things from a different angle.
Talk it through… And listen
Call your friend rather than send a message, as written messages can be misinterpreted and lack emotional tone. Agree a time with each other to talk either by phone or in person. As much as you want to air your feelings, remember to equally listen to your friend’s words.
Regardless of whether you were the one who was wronged, you should ask yourself whether you played a part, even unknowingly, that could have caused a problem. Could you have behaved differently? Doing this gives you perspective on how you interact with your friends and will make this, and your other friendships, stronger over time.
Rebuild the friendship
When, and if, you are both ready to repair your bond, you should recognise that rebooting your friendship will not be immediate and that you may need to ease back into it – perhaps initially in the company of mutual friends – rather than diving straight back in to a one-to-one relationship.
It’s imperative that, in order to rebuild the relationship, you both must leave behind what caused the fracture in the first place. Agree not to discuss what has happened between you with mutual friends; by standing together, you should put off any prying that could reopen relationship wounds.
It’s not enough to let bygones be bygones. If you truly want to build a better, new relationship with your friend, then you might consider doing some things differently and changing the way you interact with one another. For example, calling rather than texting, or meeting up for a coffee rather than messaging on social media allows you to show each other how important your bond is, and that you intend to put the effort in to rekindle the friendship. Remember that people do fall out; sometimes we can make up and other times we can’t. Fallouts can be upsetting, but friendships ebb and flow and the tough times can help us look at how we cope with difficult and upsetting situations in our lives. We might realise that we need to communicate more, express our feelings and not to bottle up emotions.
Having good friendships in your life provides a sense of comfort and security, with long-time friendships acting as a reminder of your most significant life experiences. Many factors determine whether a friendship lasts, fades, or even disappears, but acceptance is the key to recovery. Accept and understand that some friendships are temporary, and that friendships formed when you were young or at a vulnerable or impressionable stage in your life may no longer work as you change and grow over time.
Although the end of a friendship is painful, without even realising it you may have outgrown the friendship, and ultimately it may be the best thing for both of you to wish each other the best and go your separate ways.