Breaking Up With Your Best Friend

There are some people you think you’ll be friends with for life. They’ll be a bridesmaid in your wedding. They’re the one you call when the tampon string breaks. The only one who knows about the boob exercises you do before bed. Or the sex dream you had about a Walker from The Walking Dead. Or how much you liked it. And then, though your friendship seemed perfect, it ends. Breaking up with your best friend is the worst.

The absolute worst.

Even a romantic breakup isn’t as bad. You’re vulnerable in a different way with a best friend than you are with a SO. You share a different part of your heart. And while a tiny part of you expects a romantic relationship to end – how many people really end up with their first love – breaking up with your best friend can trigger months of anger, bewilderment and ugly-cry mourning that will scare small children.

I went through it a few years ago and still haven’t quite recovered. My friend accused me of something I felt positive I hadn’t done. So positive, in fact, that I didn’t even respond. I was sure on further reflection she’d see that she’d been unfair.

MISTAKE.

It’s always better to resolve situations quickly. Yes, I thought she had made her accusation in haste … and was wrong … but she saw my silence as an admission. And rather than blowing over, the rift – and her resentment – grew.

I compounded that error by trying to pretend the “fight” never happened. I mean, it hadn’t, right? A cold war, sure, but no shots fired. No real casualties. We didn’t see each other all the time – the way you might see your friends in homeroom or at a party, so my “Happy birthday” or “Miss you” posts on social media did nothing to heal our relationship.

MISTAKE.

Ignoring someone’s feelings, no matter how wrong you think they are, seems dismissive and glib. It says you can’t be bothered to repair the friendship. You may hope that the message you’re sending is “Let’s get past this, it’s not worth fighting about.” But what they hear you saying is “I couldn’t care less.” Wait till you discover how wrong you were.

When I finally ran into her to an event – a year later – I was finally ready to put this fight to rest, let her vent, defend myself and resume our friendship. At this point, my mom had died and my friend’s perfunctory “sorry for your loss” post on my Facebook page fueled my self-righteous indignation, as well as my desire to be the bigger person. I love being the bigger person.

MISTAKE.

She’d had a year to crystalize her anger. And was in no mood to hear my defenses. Which didn’t stop me from spelling them out in vivid detail.

MISTAKE.

Sometimes it’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about who cares enough to save the friendship.

She didn’t really weigh in on my defenses. (Because they were rock solid, I consoled myself.) Instead she said that keeping score was toxic and dangerous, and no way to be a friend. She said she’d forgiven me – not because I needed her to – but for herself, so she wasn’t carrying around the weight of her grudge.

MIS…ERY.

That’s when I knew that our friendship was over for good. I am NOT toxic and dangerous. Not in that situation and not in the context of our friendship. I’d been a great friend to her, as she’d been to me. But for reasons I didn’t fully understand, still don’t understand, it was over. And there was no getting it back.

All that was left for me was to mourn the loss of my friendship, inventory my other friendships to see where I could do better and finally, to learn from my MISTAKES.

Here are my five ways to avoid or survive breaking up with your best friend:

Try to fix things, quickly and sincerely.

Again, it’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong. It’s about showing your friend that you care enough about their feelings to hear them out and resolve the situation.

Don’t #sorrynotsorry

If you don’t want to apologize, that’s your call. But don’t give a half-hearted non-apology. A sincere apology starts with “I’m sorry I …” The #sorrynotsorry begins with “I’m sorry you…” As in, “I’m sorry you thought…” Or “I’m sorry you felt…” You can’t apologize on someone else’s behalf. So don’t even try.

Know when to let go.

Sometimes breaking up with your best friend is inevitable. Believe me, you’ll know when the problem can’t be resolved. This is a close friend, remember? You knew before anyone when she fell in love, when she had a fight with her mom. When she needed a hug. When it’s over, it’s over and you can’t talk her back into the friendship, which sadly, would be a pale, uncomfortable version of what it once was. Better to let some time pass and hope to reconnect somewhere down the line.

Don’t let any of your other friends take sides.

It’s so tempting to defend yourself against whatever she might be saying. But you run the risk of protesting too much and looking guiltier than ever. Let your actions speak for themselves. When you’re a good friend, hopefully your other friends will give you the benefit of the doubt. Show the world … without drama or overdoing it … that you mourn the loss but have moved on.

Then truly… move on.

As soon as you can, turn the corner. The one that allows you to look back on the friendship with affection, even as you accept that it’s over. Then work on establishing new friendships that are like a greatest hits version of the last one. All the good, without the downsides. Need help, there’s even a new app called Vina, which is like a Tinder for finding female friends.

You will have other friends, ones that make you stronger, broaden your horizons and help you define the best version of yourself. You just have to start looking.

So have you ever had to get over breaking up with your best friend? How did you cope? Tell me everything.

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