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How to handle Friend Break-Ups

Friends are often the family we choose for ourselves, and in some cases the bonds can feel even deeper than family. They can be our confidantes, our champions, our shoulder to cry on & the ones who can make you snort laugh out your nose!

Friendships carry alot of the same agreements for respecting each other, honouring each other, & honesty with each other as our deepest intimate relationships. And so when any of these, unspoken but yet accepted, agreements are broken, we might find ourselves on the loose end of a friendship breakup.

When a relationship ends, people can see it as a character flaw, or look for where blame lies: Someone betrayed or let the other person down. In reality its more like people change and no two lives follow the same path. So why does it hurt so much in these no-fault occurrences? Could it be that some friendships simply have expiration dates?

If you’re the person who has been happily invested in a friendship with someone you thought would be your best friend forever, there’s no easy way to swallow the feeling like you’ve been unceremoniously dumped when contact is cut without much explanation. Friendships like all relationships are voluntary and unfortunately, sometimes they become one-sided, which can can cause considerable psychological distress. People will describe feeling as if they have been kicked in the stomach or blindsided. Feelings of rejection and self-doubt are common.

Many people find it difficult to let go of toxic friendships because they feel an obligation out of shared history together or the uncertainty of something new feels just too risky. No matter how many times we hear that when one door closes, another one opens – we can still want to hold onto the door handle of the recently closed door!

So why does it hurt so much? It appears that our brains process relationship breakups similarly to physical pain. There may be an evolutionary reason for this. The function of pain is to alert us to danger or harm so we can take protective action. In the animal kingdom, our chances of avoiding predators are much higher as part of a group than on our own, therefore social rejection may have been an actual threat to physical survival for our early ancestors. If this is the case, it might partially explain how difficult it is for many people to let go of the friendship & move on (Greenberg 2011).

Ultimately, each of us has a line in the sand which we consider a true friend should never cross. Our personal values inform all the relationships decisions we make, for better and worse and we have to rely on our intuition and gut feeling to know when to pull out of a relationship because to stay in it would be to our detriment.

Through valuing ourselves we will be able to encourage similar esteem from others or be able to let go of friendships in which we get short-changed. There are no simple rules for this – except to remember that at one point at least, there was connection and affection between you – and remembering this can assist us in handling falling out in a way that is sensitive, graceful and kind. Reference: The Neuroscience of Relationship Breakups: Is the Pain All in the Brain? Published on April 17, 2011 by Melanie Greenberg, Ph.D. in The Mindful Self-Express


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