Should you "break-up" with your best friend?

Becky Roehrs
Circular broken hole in a glass windowImage by Michael Gaida/Pixabay

It can feel like you’re breaking up with your family.

I broke up with my best friend of over twenty years and did it poorly.

  • I’m not good at loving people.
  • And I’m worse at breaking up with people.
  • Just ask my ex-husband, ex-boyfriend, my biological family, and now my ex-best-friend.

I’ve been to tons of therapy, and it has helped.

  • I can be assertive at work.
  • And I was assertive with my long-term boyfriend, but I can’t seem to be assertive with my close friends and family.

I tried to deal with my family for many years, but it was too painful, and I would come home a wreck.

  • For my sanity, I had to stay away, as far as possible, in every way.

Maybe that’s the problem. My best friend felt like family, like a sister.

  • I tried to back away, to see her less, since our relationship had changed over the last few years, in a way I didn’t like.

But she would call me, email me, ask me over and over to chat, even for a bit.

  • But that was the problem. I didn’t want to chat — it was the last thing I wanted to do.

In the beginning…

We had always done activities together, usually canoeing or sea-kayaking and camping.

We went on lots of outdoor trips together.

Usually, she had been in charge, organized the trips, made the decisions.

In the middle…

Over the years, I started organizing the trips, setting up the events, deciding what to do and when.

Over time, we did less canoeing and sea-kayaking and biked together, or walked/hiked.

Finally, we met for brunch and talked.

  • I would have liked to have chatted once a month or every couple of months.
  • But she wanted to meet every week unless she didn’t feel well or something came up.

Near the end…

I tried to make excuses, see her less, but I didn’t know how to say that our relationship had changed, and I didn’t enjoy it.

  • She’s older than I am, has some health issues, and struggles with depression.

Even though it doesn’t seem like it, I struggle with depression and anxiety, but I don't talk about it.

  • Frankly, I’m tired of talking about it.
  • And that’s what she wanted to talk about, how miserable she was, how awful her life was.

I made the mistake of trying to cheer her up or come up with solutions, but that isn’t what she wanted.

  • But I couldn’t listen to it, as a good friend should.

For a while, my boyfriend guilt-tripped me, too. I wondered how I could give up on my best friend when she didn’t seem to have anyone else.

  • And who needed me so much.

So I tried to keep listening to her, tried to be a supportive friend.

But I was getting angrier and frustrated, and of course, I felt guilty and downright evil.

I knew she liked the way things were and didn’t want our friendship to change.

I wrote her an email and said I needed to spend more time with my boyfriend, as he was ill.

  • It was true, but it made our relationship worse.
  • My boyfriend was dealing with serious health issues. He was in incredible amounts of pain but didn’t complain about it.

Here was someone who had every reason to complain, get depressed, be upset. He did get angry and frustrated, which I expected. But it didn’t last long.

A bad ending…

I didn't see my best friend for a few weeks, and it was such a relief. I had more time with my boyfriend, walked more, did yoga, felt better.

  • And I didn’t want to go back to our weekly sad/depressed “chats.”
  • I felt guilty, angry, and sad.

So I sent another email, saying that I didn’t want to see her at all.

  • She emailed back and wanted to see me and talk about it or call me and talk about it.
  • But I was a coward. I was afraid I’d break down and see her, talk to her, and give in to the guilt, and go back to the way it was.

I wish I was stronger and could have seen her, talked with her, been a decent friend, and dealt with this like an adult.

  • But I didn’t trust myself.

She wanted to know what the heck was wrong with me, which she had every right to ask.

  • So I told her by email. And she emailed me back and let me know that she was hurt and angry, which I understood.
  • And she thought I had more support than she did and that it wasn’t fair. And it wasn’t.

And she wished I could have just talked with her about this and given us a chance to work this out. I do too.

  • I hope I can grow up a lot more and be a better friend.
  • Learn how to work out differences like an adult, if not shortly, then later, and be the friend I wish I had been.

Why do we break up with our friends?

I decided to do a little research.

I wanted to figure out where our friendship had gone wrong (or, more accurately, where I had gone on the wrong path).

This article (which is supposed to be for “young people”), Dealing with a Toxic Friendship, made me feel better. It had a few questions that you should ask yourself about your friendships. I had been asking these as well:

Do they stress you out?
Do you generally feel worse when you hang out with them?
Do you feel drained of energy any time you spend time with them?

I wish I’d found out more about friendship. And if a friendship fails, it would have been good to know how to end the friendship, respectfully.

I wish I had found this advice earlier!

Can we be friends for life?

The ideas shared in the article Should Friendships Last Forever? helped to ease my guilt over ending the friendship, too.

My best friend and I had expected to be friends for life, which probably is not realistic.

Heck, if my marriage didn’t last a lifetime (not even close..), why did I think this friendship would?

  • Also, for various reasons, lots of my friendships have ended in the past.
  • Some friends moved away; others got into a serious relationship.
  • Some had children, others drifted away, which hurt at the time, but I realized that’s what they wanted, so I accepted it.

What do we do after breaking up with a friend?

I liked these fifteen Ways to Survive a Friendship Breakup. They can help both friends feel better, especially these three tips:

“1) Write out your feelings
2) Be really good to yourself
3) Do things that make you happy, without revisiting memory lane”

Hopefully, when I’m ready, I’ll find a new friend.

But I’ll cherish the friendship, and treat my friends with kindness and respect.

Especially when things aren’t going the way we had hoped…

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I write about local events, politics, education, relationships, online dating, and humor. Sarcastic and silly. Loves coffee and canoeing. I've been a computer programmer, outdoor guide, and taught programming at Fortune 500s and community colleges. Now, I help folks teach online.

Cary, NC

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