The heartbreak may look different but it still hurts.
Words by Jenna Clark. Photography by Lisa Valsenko.
Although breakups are unfortunately part of life, we often only think of them as the end of romantic relationships. However, friendships are substantial and important roles in our lives, and those breakups can be just as heart-wrenching even though they are frequently overlooked.
While breakups of any kind may ultimately end up be liberating or freeing, there are typically different emotions and experiences around each. ILY spoke with five women about their friendship breakups and how they differed from their romantic relationship breakups. Here are their thoughts.
After suffering the loss of both parents, Carmen needed a friend, but her best friend of nine years couldn’t be that for her, so they parted ways.
“The friendship had been waning in the last year. I relied on W frequently for advice – almost treating him like a sibling or a surrogate parent after my parents died. He didn’t clue me in on how he felt about that. Instead, our conversations became strained, and we texted less and less. It came to a head during a conversation when I thought he was dismissing my feelings about a particular topic. That conversation led to the end of our friendship.”
Through therapy, Carmen came to the realization that despite the ending of this particular friendship, she is still deserving of it.
“I processed the end of the friendship during therapy (there are times I still revisit it). Healing for me means understanding that even though that friendship ended, I’m still a good friend and worthy of friendship. Some people may not be the right friend for you, but it doesn’t mean either person is at fault. Some things just don’t fit.
Similar to her friendship, Carmen’s relationship with her ex of seven years came to an end when she broke up with him after realizing they didn’t see eye to eye on things.
“My ex, J, and I dated for a little more than seven years. I loved and still love him very much, but I wanted to get married, and he didn’t. He came close to proposing once, but then backtracked just as quickly. I realize his fear of marriage – or more accurately, divorce – was his issue and I’ve finally stopped internalizing it as mine.”
Both breakups were difficult, but processing the breakup of her romantic partner was more difficult.
“Letting go of my romantic relationship with J was more difficult than ending the friendship with W. Part of the reason it was much harder was because J had been there with me in person through the worst of my parents’ illnesses. However, having lost my immediate family, I realized I didn’t want to live alone and unmarried forever.”
After nearly four years of friendship, Katie felt blindsided when her friend suddenly mentioned a plethora of issues she was having to then stop talking to her.
“She had been holding in a lot of residual issues she had towards me and let them out over a FaceTime call. The way she spoke to me felt really unfair and it felt like she didn’t understand feelings I was having. I was very genuine in apologizing to her for hurting her in any way I did and expressed how much she meant to me. It was also tricky because I felt like I was always very open with her and sometimes she would seem like closed off towards me even though we were so close. It ended up that we just stopped really talking.”
Although Katie is very sad the two are no longer friends, she has used the breakup to think of ways she can be a better friend moving forward.
“I think I learned to really self reflect and really try to look at myself and my actions in different circumstances. I learned ways I could be a better friend. I learned that I could’ve supported her more in moments where she would push me away.”
Unlike in her friendship breakup, Katie broke up with her boyfriend and first love because she wasn’t being treated properly.
“Things ended because he would be very manipulative emotionally and mentally. He would make me feel like I was crazy in moments where I was just expressing myself and my feelings. He would make jokes that would be at my expense and put me down. He would try to issue ultimatums to me. He would allow his mother to get involved in our relationship and would create fights with me out of nowhere. He would make me feel really bad about myself.”
Both Katie’s friendship and romantic relationship breakups her hard, but taught her a great deal.
“I was in love for the first time in my romantic relationship and then really felt like I got my heart broken and got so hurt. The healing process was a lot of learning to love myself again and finding my way back to believing in love. The healing process in my friendship breakup was a lot more based in mutual respect and still caring for that person, but knowing maybe we weren’t meant to be close friends and that’s ok.”
After having what she thought was a lifelong friend in high school, her best friend left her for a boyfriend who influenced her to do things she said she wouldn’t.
“We met in freshman year. We did everything together. We scrapbooked together and watched movies. She came on family vacation with me. I went on her family vacation. In senior year, she started dating this new guy who smoked and influenced her to do the same. When she started changing and being more interested in the things he was doing, I found it to be the most confusing thing.”
Then, when Amy got sick and was frequently in the hospital, the support she had from her best friend lessened and lessened.
“In the beginning, she was always there to support and be there for me. Then, she kind of just stopped showing up for me. It was really upsetting to me because I was confused as to why she was smoking and drinking now, hanging out with her boyfriend all of the time, and not being there for me when I needed it most.”
When she finally had enough, she decided to end the friendship.
“It got to the point where we couldn’t agree on things. I just put her stuff in a box and took it over to her house to basically say ‘I don’t want to be friends with you anymore because I don’t know who you are.’ She didn’t really have a reaction to it and just said it was ‘cool.’”
The two are still connected on social media, but never hashed out the situation in real life.
“We are friends on Facebook. She is actually married to the guy she ditched me for. I don’t talk to her directly. We’re friends on social media. I’m happy for her and we like each other’s posts, but we don’t talk anymore. We never hashed it out.”
Throughout the healing process from the breakup with her friend, she learned not to take things personally.
“I learned that everybody is going through a different stage in their life and sometimes they can be there for you and sometimes they can’t. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything specific about you. It’s more about them.
Similarly, Amy’s breakup from her first serious ex-boyfriend who treated her poorly taught her a great deal about her relationship patterns and how to positively move forward.
“I think the healing process from him was just looking at the patterns that I’ve had in my life and realizing that I have a say in making better choices for myself and putting myself first in any relationship whether that is blood family, romantic, or a best friend. You have to give energy to the people who give energy back. If they are not matching that energy, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person for walking away from the situation, you’re just making the best choice for you.”
After 5 years of friendship with someone she viewed as a sister, Dan lost one of her best friends in a sort of mutual way due to a lack of communication after both girls went to college.
“Things ended honestly because of lack of communication. She never responded to my texts when I would check in on her or ask to hang out. She would take weeks or sometimes even months if she responded at all. It was kind of mutual because we don’t really talk to each other anymore and both have different interests now. We only follow each other on Instagram. We don’t comment on each other’s posts or anything.”
Shortly after the two drifted apart, Dan started to feel sad and insecure about herself and her interests.
“At the moment it was happening, I didn’t really realize it at first. I just thought she was busy, but after talking to family and friends about it, I realized she was distancing herself from me because I didn’t like to engage in the same activities that she started to participate in. That kind of made me feel a bit insecure about myself, my interests, and certain things that I experienced in college.”
From this friendship breakup, Dan learned one of the most important lessons that she still carries with her to this day.
“I learned to not be ashamed of myself, my interests, and how I like to have fun. Just because I’m not the typical person and don’t do the same things that she would do with her free time, doesn’t make me any less of a person and is not a means for anyone to ostracize me.”
Dan’s mom really helped her a lot through this loss of a friend.
“My parents, specifically my mom, helped me a lot through that healing process because she knows that it was hard for me and that I wasn’t happy about it.”
Just as she was hurt from her friendship breakup, her first boyfriend took advantage of her vulnerability, put her in a love triangle, and ended up really hurting her.
“He broke up with me and I was devastated. He then proceeded to put me into a love triangle where he ended up choosing his ex-girlfriend.”
Dan learned to be more careful when it comes to dating
“You don’t really know what people’s intentions are and you have to be extremely careful.”
Although she was heartbroken, Dan’s friends and family were there for her to help her get through it.
“My family really supported me during my healing time because they knew what happened and that I was heartbroken. My friends at the time also helped me by taking me to the mall and making sure I was okay and I am really grateful for that.”
In both her friendship and romantic relationship breakups, Dan was devastated since she is someone who cares deeply for others, but luckily had friends and family by her side in both situations.
“I learned to surround myself with good and supportive people because if you don’t, you’re going to feel lost when you need people to help you.”
During the time Abby and her friend were friends from college orientation to junior year, she was routinely being manipulated.
“We had a lot of problems when we were friends, because my friend at the time would be manipulative and I didn’t like that. It obviously made me feel hurt at times and I felt it was becoming a toxic relationship. He would make me feel guilty if I wanted to hang out with other friends and not just him and he would always think I was talking behind his back. I told myself that I need to end this friendship or definitely change the kind of relationship that it is.”
Abby initiated a conversation with him during junior year about how she was feeling.
“At the end of junior year, I had a discussion with him telling him that I didn’t like the way he was treating me. He was kind of upset about the whole situation. I was upset about the situation. Our words kind of collided and it wasn’t great.”
Abby decided it would be best to stop talking and largely remove herself from the situation.
“He was upset and I was upset because I was losing one of my best friends. However, I thought it would be the best thing for both parties.”
It’s definitely not the way it was, but we check in on each other once in a while.
“Now, about two years later, we speak once in a while. I haven’t spoken to him in a year. I wished him a Happy New Year. Then, he checked on me when my pet passed away. We definitely don’t have a friendship anymore. It’s definitely not the way it was, but I feel comfortable continuing the friendship in this way.”
As for my romantic relationship, we started as friends and then decided to see if we could turn it into more than a friendship which ended up not working out.
“We were friends and then we started dating. We got along and it was good. I’ve known him for a long time, so it felt like a comfort. We were friends first. I think in every relationship, you should have a friendship of some kind before a dating relationship. A relationship is a friendship at the end of the day. It also helps so you can have things in common and they can support you.”
We were together for about five months until we both felt as though it wasn’t working out because we were almost too good friends and he didn’t do the things I wanted him to.”
“I feel like he never put me first, or never reached out and asked if I was okay during certain moments where I felt like he could have done that more.”
We still talk and hangout sometimes, but it’s not the same as it was.
“Our friendship is healthier now because we’re not dating anymore. I feel that it was good that we tried it out because at the end of the day, I feel that I would always wonder ‘what if’ if we didn’t try.”
It took Abby a longer time to heal from her romantic relationship breakup than it did from her friendship breakup.
“It did take more time because it was a relationship and I did care for that person. Breakups are never easy, and that healing process for me took a bit longer. I cared for this person. I even can go so far as to say I loved this person, so it hurt me a lot more when he wasn’t a part of my life anymore. The difference was the person I was in a relationship with was someone I loved. So it felt personal, unlike the friendship. It also made me question being vulnerable with this person because it’s hard for me to trust people in the first place and I trusted this person so it was hard to just get over that. ”
From both breakups, Abby learned to have more respect for herself.
“I learned to have more respect for myself. I learned that I am allowed to have certain wants and allowed to want someone to care about me. My feelings are valid. I had to learn that the hard way, but these relationships taught me that I shouldn’t stay in any kind of relationship that is toxic, just because I don’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings. I learned that sometimes you have to hurt other people’s feelings to do what is best for yourself. Even though that is hard, your own life matters and you should be happy and not only live to please others.”
Disclaimer: The last names have been withheld at the requests of the sources.