How to Get Over a Friendship Breakup as an Adult

“I recently lost a close friend. After we had a big argument about their controlling behavior, they said that our friendship was over. I feel so lonely. Is it normal for a friend breakup to hurt so much? How can I cope?”

Most relationships don’t last forever,[1] so most of us have to deal with a friendship breakup at some point. In this guide, you’ll learn what to do when a friendship ends.

1. Consider whether your friendship is truly over

Some friendships end suddenly—for example, after a big fight or betrayal—and others fade away slowly, perhaps because you’ve grown apart. It can be difficult to know for sure whether your friendship is over, but here are some common signs:

  • Your friendship feels one-sided; you might always be the one who has to reach out
  • You have had a major argument or difference of opinion that can’t be resolved, and there is permanent tension between you
  • Your friend doesn’t want to talk about ways to improve your friendship
  • You realize that, on balance, the friendship doesn’t add anything positive to your life and isn’t fun anymore
  • You realize that you have nothing or little in common
  • You realize that you can no longer trust your friend to support you
  • Your friend is ignoring you; as a general rule, if you’ve tried to reach out twice and they aren’t responding, they aren’t returning your calls, and they avoid talking to you when you run into each other, they are distancing themselves from you
  • Your friend has told you directly that they no longer want to see or talk to you

If you think there’s a chance your friendship could be saved, these guides may help:

2. Acknowledge and respect your feelings

The end of a close friendship can be very difficult,[1] and it’s normal to feel a sense of grief and loss. Grief can include a range of emotions, including anger, sadness, and regret.[2]

There is no way to know exactly how long it will take you to get over a friendship breakup. Research shows that it typically takes around 6 months to go through the five major stages of grief: disbelief, a desire to reconnect, anger, depression, and acceptance.[2] However, everyone is different, and your grieving process may be shorter or longer.

3. Try to understand why the friendship ended

Research shows that working out what went wrong in a relationship can make a breakup less distressing.[1]

Make a list of reasons why you think your friendship ended. You might need to face the fact that your behavior played a role. For example, perhaps neither of you were good at apologizing after an argument. You could also write out the story of your friendship, including how you met, what you liked doing together, when and how your friendship changed over time, and finally, how it ended.

This exercise can also help you avoid making the same mistakes or repeating the same relationship patterns again. When you’ve figured out why the friendship ended, write down what you’ll do differently in the future.

For example, if your friendship ended because you slowly drifted apart and eventually realized that you had nothing in common anymore, you could resolve to be more proactive in reaching out and arranging meetups with your future friends.

4. Get a sense of closure

If you are on civil terms with your ex-friend, you may be able to have a useful conversation about why your friendship ended. This is usually best done face-to-face because in-person meetings tend to give a greater sense of closure than other forms of communication, such as text or email.[3] You could talk about how their actions affected you, apologize to them if necessary, clarify any misunderstandings, and wish them well for the future.

If you can’t or don’t want to have a conversation with your ex-friend, you may find it helpful to do some kind of closure ritual. For example, you could write a letter to your ex-friend in which you explain your thoughts and feelings, then tear it up and burn it.

5. Reflect on the breakup but don’t ruminate

Reflecting on what happened between you and your ex-friend can be useful and healthy. But if you are having the same thoughts over and over again, you are probably ruminating, which is not helpful.

  • Try meditation: Meditating for just 8 minutes can break you out of rumination.[4] Meditation apps like Headspace or Smiling Mind have short guided meditations that are good for beginners.
  • Schedule rumination:[5] Set aside 15-30 minutes each day to ruminate about your friendship. When you start ruminating at other times of the day, say to yourself, “I’m going to think about that later, during my Rumination Time.”
  • Use positive distractions: Try exercising, reading a book, watching a few episodes of your favorite show, or spending time with a pet.
  • Avoid co-ruminating: It can help to share your thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend or relative. But try to keep your conversations short; going over the same points repeatedly is unhelpful.[6] If you keep talking about the same thing, make a conscious choice to discuss a more positive topic.

6. Practice self-care

You may not feel like taking care of yourself or doing things you usually enjoy, but self-care can make you feel better after a friendship breakup.[3]

This means:

  • Making time for your favorite activities and hobbies (or trying a new pastime)
  • Eating well and drink plenty of water
  • Exercising regularly
  • Reaching out to family, friends, or a therapist for support
  • Sticking to a routine; this can help give a sense of stability

Some people like to write in a journal or express themselves in a creative way, for example, by drawing or playing music.

Verywell Mind’s guide to self-care practices for every area of your life has lots of practical advice for developing a self-care plan.

7. Stop following your ex-friend on social media

You can’t force yourself to stop thinking about your ex-friend, but you can remove unnecessary reminders, including their social media posts. Adjust your social media settings so that your ex-friend’s posts don’t show up on your feed.

8. Don’t try forcing mutual friends to take sides

Do not ask mutual friends to stop spending time with your ex-friend, and do not ask them to act as messengers or mediators. They have the right to decide for themselves whether they want to be friends with your ex-friend.

If you want to talk about the end of your friendship, it’s usually best to open up to someone who isn’t close to your former friend.

9. Grow your social circle

Every friendship is unique, so it’s unrealistic to look for someone who can fill your ex-friend’s place in your life. But focusing on your social life and meeting new people can improve your confidence, give you a positive distraction, and lead to new friendships. Our guide on how to meet likeminded people contains lots of practical advice on making new friends.

10. Prepare what you’ll do if you meet your ex-friend

Think about what you’ll do if you and your ex-friend might run into each other. As a general rule, it’s best to remain calm and polite. Acknowledge them with a nod and treat them as you would a stranger or acquaintance. If you need to make small talk—for example, if you have mutual friends and are both at the same dinner party—stick to light topics.

If your friendship ended badly and you’re worried they might confront you in public, prepare a few lines you can use to diffuse the situation. What you say will depend on the circumstances around your breakup.

For example:

  • “I’m not going to discuss this with you.”
  • “I am not going to argue with you.”

Speak in an even, neutral tone of voice. If you feel unsafe, it may be best to leave.

What to say to mutual friends

You could also prepare some lines to use in case someone asks awkward questions about your friendship, such as “Are you and [ex-friend] not friends anymore?” or “Have you and [ex-friend] had a big argument?”

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For example:

    • “[Ex-friend] and I don’t spend much time together these days.”
    • “Me and [ex-friend] aren’t close anymore.”

Keep your tone light and change the subject. If someone presses you for details, you don’t have to give them any information. You can say, “I’d rather not talk about that,” or “That’s private, let’s talk about something else.”

11. Get help if you feel depressed or anxious

If you feel so sad or worried that you are struggling with everyday tasks or can’t concentrate at work or school, consider getting professional help. Look on BetterHelp for a qualified therapist who can help you work through your feelings.

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Viktor is a Counselor specialized in interpersonal communication and relationships. He manages SocialSelf’s scientific review board. Follow on Twitter or read more.

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