Sometimes, your relationship with your best friend hits a wall and can’t move forward. How do you get over/move on from a best friend breakup, which can be just as traumatizing as a real breakup?

Most of our lives are spent looking for connection – warmly embracing a parent, looking into the eyes of a partner, laughing with a friend. Humans’ social inclination has allowed our species to build cities, globalize, and feel pleasure. Deep bonds are both an irresistibly innate longing and difficult to find.

But what happens when a connection is more harmful than helpful?

While ‘defining the relationship’ is a part of most romantic bonds, it often goes unacknowledged in friendships. Therefore, when friends have different implicit expectations for one another, it can lead to serious confusion and hurt. The dissolution of a friendship can feel more taxing than a breakup with a romantic partner.

First, understand what is going on for both of you.

Knowing how you feel and why you feel that way is paramount. What is your friend doing, or not doing, that is bothering you? How is this making you feel? Are you saddened, offended, or frustrated? Have you expressed that you’re feeling this way? If you are confused by your feelings, it is going to make them difficult to articulate. Try objectively describing your friend’s behavior and how it makes you feel. For added clarity, write it out!

Then, try to understand your friend. This friendship has been in your life for a reason. Why? What were the positive things they brought to your life? Have those changed? Have you changed as a person? Have they? With some space, try to gain an understanding of where your friend is in this moment – what they’re going through, working on, and dealing with. Again, write these down.

If you’ve decided to move on…

Experience your emotions. It is likely that you have been reeling over this decision for quite some time. Thus, once you have committed to it logically, you may feel a rush of emotions – relief, pain, sadness, longing, embarrassment, guilt, and liberation. No matter the reaction, give yourself a non-judgmental space to feel the emotion without escape or distraction. Once processed, which may be helpful with professional guidance, you will have a better appreciation for your limits and essentials.

Conduct a friendship assessment. With your newly held insight, take a look at who and what is important to you. Which friendship qualities do you value (Hint: it may be something that the ex-friend wasn’t able to do)? This will help you consciously navigate your behavior in the friendships that matter most. Write down your favorite people along with their best qualities. Then, you can begin to acknowledge and appreciate all that they do.

Try something new. The human condition is not a solitary one. Everyone yearns to be understood, cared for, and valued. Beyond deepening your sound connections, exploring what else and who else is out there is a good way to challenge yourself. This is not about leaving your comfort zone as much as it is about expanding it. Appreciate art? Try taking a pottery, sculpture, or painting class. Like staying active? Look in your neighborhood for running clubs, tennis leagues, or softball teams. From book clubs to volunteering, the possibilities are boundless! Invest in yourself and, in turn, open the door to expand your community.

Remove reminders. Virtual boundaries can help make our online space feel warmer. Taking a ‘pause’ from ex-friend updates, photos, and quips will allow you to focus on the networks that are bringing joy to your life. Why keep someone in your online community who isn’t a part of your life? Disconnect and progress.

Though it feels counterintuitive to move away from a connection, it can be even more painful to pour effort into a harmful one. You deserve to be cherished and appreciated just the way you are.

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About the Author: Easton Gaines
Dr. Easton Gaines is a licensed Psychologist practicing at MindCare Psychology in Manhattan. She’s passionate about integrating mindfulness, neuroscience, and wellness approaches to help build a meaningful life.

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