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By Faith Richardson

It’s an unfortunate part of life that not all relationships last a lifetime. Marriages break down, relationships fall apart, and great dates turn into nightmares without so much as a warning. However, one of the hardest relationship break downs can often be the ones you have with your best friend. Sometimes you never see it coming, or others you get “that feeling” that you’re starting to move in different directions and your friendship might not withstand the test of time.

The friendships you have throughout your life can help shape you into the person you’re becoming, but they can also stop you from becoming someone even better. As we grow, what we’re looking for from our friendships can change and not everyone that was in your life will be right for either of you forever. However, no matter how justifiable the reasons, it can be hard to let go of those friendships; especially ones that have been with you for years or during some really hard times.

So what should you do when your friendship feels like it’s cooling off? When romantic relationships fall apart, we always have our best friends to turn to – so how do you cope when the person you would turn to is the one you’re starting to feel distant from? Whether you’re the one having to call time on your friendship, or your best friend has started to pull away and ghost you for no reason, there are some good coping techniques to help you get through it, find closure and make peace with the end of your friendship.

Friendships shouldn’t be seen as second best to couple relationships – they form part of a wider network of relationships that all contribute to how we feel about ourselves. 

 Relate counsellor Christine Northam 

What to do if they’re ghosting you

There are few things more frustrating than being ghosted. But it can be even more upsetting when it’s your best friend that’s the one giving you the silent treatment – especially if you don’t know what you’ve done wrong. There can be a number of things going on – maybe they’re not great at confrontation, or maybe they’re just feeling like your friendship has come to a natural end but don’t want a big argument or discussion. Either way, it doesn’t feel great to be ignored. It’s possible that they are really busy or are going through a hard time, so be careful not to jump to conclusions.

Consider sending them a message acknowledging that your friendship seems to have taken a slightly awkward turn, and ask if there’s anything they’d like to talk about. If you still get no response, it might be time to consider letting things go. It can be hard to feel like you have no closure or real “reason” behind the end of your relationship, however forcing communication and pestering for answers can ultimately lead to arguments and a negative or angry end to your relationship.

You’ll be doing yourself a favour by accepting that your friendship has reached its natural end. Dragging out animosity and allowing yourself to be aggravated is only doing yourself an injustice. Try to be the bigger person and let the friendship go gracefully, and accept that sometimes it’s just out of your control. To them, your friendship has come to its end, so try to respect their choice. Besides – at least this way you don’t need to have a heated confrontation or end on bad terms. Remember, there are plenty of people who love you and love spending time with you, so give your attention to them instead.

What to do if you want to end the friendship

Sometimes it’s actually harder to be the “bad guy” in this scenario – it can be easier to have your feelings hurt than to be the one doing the hurting. However, don’t let this fear or guilt stop you from doing something that’s ultimately going to improve your life in the long run. Sometimes friendships turn sour, and sometimes there’s no real reason behind it, you just know that you are no longer compatible as friends. Figuring out the best way to address this break up is the key to ending it as mess and stress-free as possible.

Consider doing nothing. It might sound passive-aggressive, but sometimes your relationship is just naturally drawing to a close. You don’t need a big grand gesture or closing ceremony to officially draw a line under it, so doing nothing and allowing it to just organically run its course can often be the healthiest and most mature way of handling things. This way, if you ever run into each other or share mutual friends, there’s no tension or awkwardness to deal with. Similarly, try not to insist on closure. They might not be ready for it, and closure’s one of those funny things that you can’t force – it just happens.

Don’t beat yourself up about wanting to take a step back. Sometimes friendships are just outgrown and there’s nothing wrong with that. Be kind to yourself, and to your friend as best you can and accept that sometimes your lives just take a different route – there’s no need to keep forcing yourself to maintain a relationship that doesn’t bring you happiness.

What to do if you fall out

If there’s something specific that you feel needs addressing, try to do it in a calm and respectful way. Chances are they might not even be aware that they’ve done something to hurt you – after all, they’re your best friend for a reason, so you’d like to think they would never intentionally hurt you. Set some boundaries and layout your problem as best you can without sounding accusatory. If the relationship is worth salvaging then you can work through things – if not, call it a day and let yourself move on.

Getting into a heated back and forth does no one any favours. Acknowledge that you have differing opinions, and try to respect the fact that their perspective of things may differ from yours. You’ll never get anywhere trying to convince someone that you’re right – the age-old adage that there are three sides to a story; yours, theirs and the truth is pretty accurate here. People have different responses to things; what would bother one person may not be a big deal to another. Respect their boundaries and opinions, but don’t let yourself be guilt-tripped into changing your mind just to avoid confrontation. If you’re hurt – say so.

If you’ve ended up arguing and having a major falling out, give it some time before you reach out again. It can be tempting to try and squash things immediately, but everyone needs time to process things and you’re both more likely to say something you don’t mean in the heat of the moment.

After you’ve had some space, decide if you want to go your separate ways or move on from it. If you want to move on, you have to genuinely leave it behind you. If you think you need to call time on your friendship and go your separate ways, stick to your guns and make a clean break. Don’t keep returning to drag up the issues at hand – they’ll never truly be solved and it just makes it harder to find closure and move on. If you do have mutual friends, make sure that you don’t talk about it or gossip with them. It’s not fair to get them involved and make them feel awkward. 

Top Tips

Breaking up with you BFF is never going to be easy, but you can use some of these top tips to help you move on and let go of any negativity that’s holding you back.

Use coping techniques

Just like you would with a relationship break up, use your best coping and distraction techniques to help keep you busy so you don’t dwell on what’s happened. Exercise, watch your favourite film or TV show, get out and about with other friends and make plans to try some new things. Stay busy and positive and remember – it won’t last forever. 

Be as kind as possible

 Try not to have great big blow-up arguments. It can feel good in the moment to vent every negative feeling you’ve ever had about them, but it never really gets you anywhere. Take a deep breath before you respond to them, or leave it 10 minutes before replying to a text to try and keep yourself as calm and to the point as possible.

Consider unfollowing them

It can be so tempting to want to keep checking their social media. You want to see if they’ve said anything passive-aggressive, to see how they’re doing, or to try and feel like you’re still connected to them despite no longer being friends. No matter how good your intentions, nothing good ever comes from an Instagram stalk. You’ll just be left feeling sad, frustrated and lonely. Instead, consider unfollowing them so you’re not constantly bombarded with reminders of your friendship – or block them altogether if you don’t think you can trust yourself not to be tempted to have a sneaky look every now and then.

Doing nothing is better than doing too much

 If in doubt – don’t say anything at all. There’s nothing worse than saying something in the heat of the moment that you regret later on. It’s better to leave it a day or two to respond to an angry text or to ask to put a conversation on hold until you’ve both calmed down than to call them every name under the sun. You’ll only feel worse afterwards.

Don’t forget, you can always contact Relate if you want to chat with a counsellor. Find out more here. 

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