Donna Stambulich – Body+SoulClinical Psychologist
This is why it hurts so much when an adult friendship ends
he end of a friendship can be tough, with many people claiming it hurts more than the end of a romantic relationship. Here we unravel why they end and how to cope with the farewell.
Remember the days when we swore we’d be best friends forever? She was the Thelma to your Louise, the Monica to your Rachel… and yet, as adults, we often find ourselves navigating the bittersweet terrain of a friendship ending.
But why do adult friendships come to a close, and why does it feel like such a punch in the gut, especially for women?
There are a myriad of reasons this happens. As we grow older and our life circumstances change, we often take different paths from the people we grew up with.
Some of the main reasons why friendships end include:
Career changes, family responsibilities, and geographical relocation
These can all create physical and emotional distance, making it challenging to maintain the same level of connection we once had.
A shift in values and priorities
Over time, we develop new interests, values, and priorities that no longer align with those of our friends. These shifts can lead to a disconnect and a sense of growing apart.
Conflict and miscommunication
Like any relationship, conflicts and misunderstandings can arise in adult friendships, if these issues are not addressed and resolved, they can create emotional strain and eventually lead to the friendship ending.
Lack of effort or time
Busy schedules and demanding responsibilities can limit the time and effort we can invest in maintaining friendships. If both parties are unable to nurture the relationship, it may naturally just fade away.
Betrayal or broken trust
Instances of betrayal or broken trust can significantly damage a friendship, making it challenging to rebuild the bond and leading to its eventual end.
Outgrowing the friendship
Sometimes, we outgrow the dynamics of a friendship. This means we seek deeper connections or friendships that align better with our current needs and aspirations.
Unresolved issues from the past
Unaddressed issues or unresolved conflicts from the past can linger and create emotional barriers, ultimately leading to the breakdown of the friendship.
Differences in expectations regarding the level of emotional support, communication, or commitment in the friendship can create tension and strain the relationship.
Life transitions and milestones
Major life transitions, such as marriage, parenthood, a divorce, or career changes, can lead us to prioritise other aspects of our lives, causing shifts in the dynamics of our friendships.
Drifting apart naturally
Sometimes, friendships simply fizzle out as both people naturally drift apart due to changes in their lives and interests.
But why does it hurt so much when it ends?
As women, we’ve been blessed with a sense of intuition and the power of empathy. But, sometimes these attributes backfire when it comes to our friendships.
When a friendship hits rough waters, we dive deep into an ocean of self-doubt, blaming ourselves for not being enough – were we not enough fun? Not understanding enough? Not available enough? Not cool enough? The list goes on.
We’re conditioned to believe that friendships are meant to last a lifetime, like those classic rom-com movies where friendship is all sunshine and rainbows. But when reality hits and friendships change, it feels as if we’ve failed.
The truth is friendships, like life itself, are an ever-changing tapestry. It’s not about the duration but the depth of connection and the beauty it adds to our journey.
Navigating the rollercoaster when conflict arises
It’s the C-word nobody likes to hear: conflict.
But truth be told, conflicts are a natural part of any relationship, whether that’s with your BFF or your partner. When conflict arises in adult friendships, we’re put to the test, and it’s our ability to resolve it that shapes the future.
Avoiding conflict like the plague may seem easier, but that leads to bottled-up emotions and potential resentment. Be open, honest, and willing to listen, and remember that true friendships are built on a foundation of authenticity and vulnerability.
Is it time to say goodbye?
If you’ve come to the end of the road with a friend, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Here’s how to navigate a friendship farewell with grace and empowerment:
Embrace the bittersweet
Acknowledge that endings can be bittersweet, like the last bite of your favourite dessert. Cherish the memories, and celebrate the growth you’ve both experienced.
Give yourself permission to grieve
Allow yourself to grieve the loss of a friendship. It’s okay to feel sad, nostalgic, or even angry. Emotions come and go, and that’s perfectly normal.
Be open to new connections
Just like love, friendships often appear in your life at exactly the right time. Embrace the joy of meeting new people and forming connections that resonate.
Embrace change and growth
Life is ever-changing, embrace the evolution of your values, dreams, and aspirations.
Remember the magic
Don’t forget the magic that friendships bring into your life. Relish the inside jokes, late-night talks, and adventures you’ve embarked on together. It’s essential to remember that the end of an adult friendship doesn’t necessarily mean that the friendship was a failure.
Friendships, like any relationship, have their seasons, and it’s natural for them to change and evolve. What matters most is the growth, joy, and support that these friendships provided during their existence.
The end of a friendship, whether natural or otherwise is an opportunity to cherish the memories, learn from the experiences, and embrace the new possibilities that life has in store for you.
Donna Stambulich is the clinical director and founder of North Perth Psychology Centre. Donna has over 13 years of clinical experience in the treatment of alcohol and other substance abuse and misuse disorders, co-morbidity, trauma and general psychological disorders.