While plenty has been said and written about romantic breakups, which are terrible in their own right, knowing how to deal with a best friend breakup can be a lot more difficult. Friendships feel like they're forever in a way that romantic relationships don't. It's easy to assume your closest friends will always be your closest friends, and so when one of those friendships comes to an end, it can be really, really hard to recover from. If you're going through a BFF breakup of your own, you aren't alone. They're a terrible thing most people go through at some point in their lives.
Cosmopolitan.com spoke with five women about their own friendship breakups, how they tend to hurt worse than romantic breakups, and how it's very much possible to get over them.
"I got broken up with by my three best friends, all around a similar time. It was the three of them against me. At the start of our freshman year of college, the four of us were inseparable. But sophomore year, all living together near campus, things really started to change. The girls were very cliquey, rude, and overall just not very good friends to me. But because we were best friends, I was willing to stick it out.
We had a lot of conversations about how we treated each other. But toward the end of the year, the three of them decided having me in our group wasn't good anymore and I got dumped. There wasn't one big fight, it was more of a progression. The three of them started going out more and not inviting me, talking about me behind my back, things like that. When I confronted them, they said there was no reason for this and that people had just changed. At the end of the year, when school was over, it was clear that the friendships were done. It was like being left high and dry without friends for the next year of school.
I think a friend breakup is way worse than a romantic breakup. Because if it's a romantic breakup, you still have your friends to turn to and help you get through it. But once you lose your friends, there's no one there to help you. You are literally left all alone, and there's no worse feeling in the world. Friendships are the most important thing, and once they're gone, it's very hard to pick yourself back up.
For people going though similar things — know that if the friendship ends, it was for the better. A friendship shouldn't be one-sided. Holding on to something because of how great it was at one time isn't a good enough reason to be in an unhealthy relationship. People change and things change, so letting go is the best thing you can do, no matter how hard it is. Just know that, eventually, you will find your people." —Grace*, 20
"My BFF breakup happened right at the beginning of high school. Annie* and I had been friends since we were babies — we grew up right down the street from each other, and spent most days together until the end of 8th grade. Late that summer before high school, Annie used my phone to text an older student about buying weed. My mom found out and told her mom, and Annie never spoke to me again. It was a big scandal for a small, suburban town.
This breakup absolutely tore me apart. I spent weeks waiting for her to call me and for things to go back to normal, and when I started to realize that wouldn't happen, I spent every night locked up alone in my room because I didn't have any other friends to spend time with and I didn't know how to spend time alone.
Breaking up with Annie was so hard because I hadn't known life without her, but also because I didn't know whose fault it was that our friendship had to end. It hurts now thinking about it because of how shattered I was when it happened. It also hurts because I can see how the way my friendship ended with Annie has affected almost every single relationship I've had since. She was the only consistent friend I had ever had, and she constantly put me down, made me do things I never wanted to do, and very obviously didn't like having me around. But I spent most of my time with her trying to be what she wanted and needed me to be. When I started making friends again in high school, I had to teach myself that I was allowed to be someone other than a sidekick. I still have to remind myself sometimes.
Not all friendships have to last your whole life. I'm still trying to teach myself that it's ok not to be friends with every person I've ever been friends with before. If you can get past how much it hurts to miss the best in someone (even if the best is so minuscule you find yourself sometimes doubting it ever even existed), it makes it a lot easier to appreciate them for who they were to you back when you were friends and things were good." —Brittany*, 21
"I was the one who ended the friendship initially, but he said he felt the same way, so it ended up feeling mutual.
This friend wasn't supportive of what I had been going through — I had some mental health struggles and if I tried to tell him about how it was going, he would steer the conversation back to himself. It was hard because he was just coming out as gay at the time, and I had been supportive of him. He is finally comfortable with his sexuality, and I'm so proud of him. But I didn't receive the support I needed in return, and that was very difficult for me.
Ending the friendship was one of the hardest conversations of my life. It was very bittersweet. It was, unfortunately, a pretty unhealthy friendship. When he needed someone to talk to, he knew he could text me. But the same respect wasn't given to me.
When we went away to college, we only really talked over text, which can definitely skew things. I would get a text that started with, "Hey! How are you?" and when I didn't have anything interesting to say, the conversation would shift to his new problems. I was happy to help, but it became too draining. Especially while trying to adjust to college life.
Friendships are a lot more stable than relationships in my opinion, since there are different feelings involved. So when a best friends is just gone from your life, it's so jarring.
It's super important to put a lot of consideration into your decision to end a friendship. Don't be impulsive. Also, remember that there are so many people out there who are suited to be your friends. We are constantly changing, and so is what we need from other people. It's unlikely that the people we meet in our little hometowns growing up will satisfy what we're looking for. Life is, unfortunately, not that easy. You'll end up where you need to be, with the right people by your side." —Erica*, 20
"My friendship breakup was kind of a straw that broke the camel's back situation — it wasn't just one thing that ended it, but a pile-up of negative experiences. Back in college, when she went through a rough few months where she lost her job and housing, I housed her, made her food, paid for everything and basically tried to do everything I could to help her out of her funk. She was verbally appreciative, but all the while I was helping her, her social media posts and texts with people were happy-go-lucky and it felt like I was doing everything I was doing for nothing. Knowing her better than most people, she clearly needed help, but on the outside, she seemed super happy and fine.
She went back home after that school year ended and had a steady job, so her finances were back in order. She never reached out to show thanks. It made me feel used, taken advantage of, and just really bad. I kept telling myself that I didn't help her just to get something in return, but I still couldn't help feeling upset.
There were some other bad experiences, too. My last text to her felt like a relationship breakup text. It was: "I just wanted to say that even though it's clear from your silence that our friendship is done, I wish you the best. I hope you enjoy your new job and your life and that everything continues to go well for you." I knew, deep down, that the friendship wasn't good — in hindsight, it was toxic. Since she kept telling me how much she appreciated me and needed me and how grateful she was for me, I overlooked the negatives and stayed her friend. It was hard. I did the whole Facebook profile creeping thing, and generally felt bad about losing her as a friend.
We 'broke up' right before I went abroad for two weeks. I texted her when I got back something like, 'We didn't really get to talk things through last time we texted, so if you're up for it, let me know.' She responded a day later and we apologized to each other. But then she wrote pages of text about her life and how everything had become negative in it.
I felt bad for her, but it reminded me of why it was better that she wasn't in my life anymore. It's brutally honest, but she was just a constant heavy weight that dragged me down with her. No matter how much I tried to help her, she would always have something else to complain about or be angry about and talk to me about it.
My advice is to be open to talking through things after time has passed, but to also be aware and truthful to yourself about why the friendship ended in the first place. It sucks, but time really does heal most things. And this is one of them." —Dani*, 23
"I don't make best friends easy. I'm a horribly, terribly socially anxious and my self esteem, though a little better now, has always been very low. In my sophomore year of college, everything was falling apart. I had two deaths of loved ones within a week of each other at the end of September, and I just collapsed. My clinical depression went into overdrive on top of the grief, and I just didn't know how to function. I failed a class for the first time, and felt more isolated from my friends and peers than ever before.
That's when I met Adam*. Adam was a year younger than me, which helped make him less intimidating, and he is gay, eliminating all of my stuff about feeling horribly inferior next to 90% of other women, and, especially then, still having no sea legs for talking to straight men. We matched wits, and could talk for hours about anything and everything. We could be snide and sarcastic together, intelligent and thoughtful, ambitious and adventurous, or lazy and floppy. He felt like the friend I'd needed for my entire life, and had finally shown up. The first semester we spent every minute together, and the second semester decided to share a room.
But I didn't get better. There's a grace period for grief in which people expect you to climb out of it. Depression really just had a firm grasp on my life and I had no idea how to navigate it, and the more I talked to people about it, the more I just felt like they were mad at me, or sick of my story. Things with Adam started to go downhill, and he grew irritated with my small social group, and my inability to leave bed or do my homework. One night, out on the school lawn, we finally got into a fight about it. 'I don't understand why, if you know that depression is the problem, you can't just fix it!' he boomed. This was a pivotal moment in my mental health fight — it was the first time I decided, or recognized, that what I was going through was hard, that I was trying, and that it made me strong. 'I fight it every single day of my life,' I yelled back, 'don't you dare tell me I'm not trying just because you can't see it.'
Things stayed rocky from there, understandably. We tried to pretend everything was fine, but it wasn't. Finally, the straw was broken. Adam came back to our dorm one day late in the semester, and sat on his bed while I made some iced tea. 'You know,' he said, 'I think it's weird that you're not cooler than me. I usually have a closest girlfriend, but she's usually cooler than me. You're not, though.'
That was it. There wasn't a fight. I just decided it wasn't worth trying to mend what was broken. Not so much because he looked down on me, but because I decided that social ranks and perceptions of cool were so important to him, our friendship could only be toxic. I was fighting an uphill battle on my own, and needed friends who could support me and not rank me based on my struggle.
For other people going through a friend breakup, I would say to put yourself first. Be kind, be empathetic, and care about others, but if the relationship is toxic for you, if it's making your sense of self worth plummet, it's okay to take a step back. Set limits for yourself and what's okay. If a friend breaks those limits, talk to them — let them know you have those limits, and why they're important to you. If they keep breaking them, take space or end it — they clearly need time and room to work on how to support others, and you need time and room to find the support and friendship you need. There is NOTHING wrong with that.
If you have a mental illness please know there are so many people out there who recognize that you are strong, and that your struggles aren't your fault. If you have a friend who is shaming and blaming you for it, try to help them understand. And if, again, they can't see it or won't hear it, boundaries and space are okay and important." —Jenna*, 24
*Name has been changed.