Let’s Talk About Friendship Breakups

This post is long overdue. I started writing it back in January but got very distracted with some things I’ve been dealing with in my personal life. I actually ended up writing most of this at my friend’s home in Connecticut – the same friend I recently went through a friendship breakup with. Life is wild and that moment definitely felt surreal. Let’s go back to the beginning so I can explain what led to us reconnecting.

I’m usually pretty open and transparent about my life on social media. I have shared many different struggles and challenges that I have faced, although there was something I kept to myself for over two years. It wasn’t until a couple of months ago that I talked about this openly on Instagram stories and the messages I got prompted me to write an in-depth post about it all.

I went through a very difficult friendship breakup with my best friend from high school from the summer of 2019 until the fall of 2021. We met when we were 13 and 14 years old and shared over 20 years of our lives together. Our friendship wasn’t perfect, of course, but she was my bestie – the Salma to my Penelope. We were there for one another in all of the small and big moments. She supported me through the difficult time of my father’s passing. I was her maid of honor in Italy. This friendship always felt more like a sisterhood and when it ended it hit me very hard. She always had such a big presence in my life and when that disappeared, I could feel her absence so strongly. 

Why don’t we talk about friendship breakups more often?

In my experience, this was even more difficult than ending a romantic relationship. When someone is so present in your life on a daily basis for such a long time and then you suddenly stop talking, it’s almost as if you’re grieving the loss of this person. It seems that when a friendship ends it is not talked about nearly as much as romantic breakups. Why is that? I think for me personally, I felt a little bit of shame around what happened and I carried a lot of guilt because of it.

Every friendship has such a different dynamic and comes with its own set of challenges. Only you know if it’s a friendship you want to rekindle or if it’s best to love the person from a distance. Let’s be honest. Not everyone is meant to stay in your life forever. That can be a hard truth to accept at times. I definitely believe that people come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I have had to walk away from friendships in the past that no longer served me. Some were toxic and with others we naturally grew apart as life took us in different directions. There are many reasons that can cause a friendship to run its course. 

There wasn’t one big thing that happened between us to cause the distance. It’s not as if one of us did something terrible to the other. It was a culmination of little things that built up over time, and ultimately, we didn’t know how to properly communicate that with one another. We were both in very different stages of our lives and I think that also took a little bit of a toll on the friendship. We also didn’t have any boundaries with one another either. Instead of talking about these things, the distance between us continued to grow until we each reached our breaking point and stopped talking. There wasn’t a conversation or a big blow-out argument. There was only silence and because of that, there were a lot of unanswered questions for both of us.

How could a 20 year friendship suddenly end without a word?

I won’t get into all of the specific details, but I will say that something I personally have had to work on is learning how to deal with confrontation. I’ve always tried to avoid it. Difficult conversations are not easy, but they’re a necessary part of any relationship and they’re worth having with those you love. When you internalize and try to hide what you’re feeling it only pushes people away. Things had gotten to a point where neither one of us knew how to communicate what we had been feeling or the reasons why we felt hurt by the other. It seemed easier to not say anything at all and by doing that the friendship ended.

Neither one of us reached out for over two years, except for when my grandpa passed away. It meant a lot to me that she sent me a message even though a year had already gone by without us speaking. I thanked her and then another year passed by without any contact. At that point I was not in the right headspace to even think about having a conversation with her. For a very long time, I viewed things from a place of blame and resentment without taking accountability for my part in things. There was a period of time where I did not think I would ever talk to her again. It honestly wasn’t until I started talking about what happened in therapy last year that I began to see it all from a completely different perspective. I was then able to realize where I had gone wrong and how I could have handled certain situations in a better way.

My therapist at the time had recommended I write her a letter expressing everything I needed to since I never had that opportunity. The intent was not to actually send her the letter, but it was meant to be a form of closure, giving me a safe space to say whatever I needed to. I wrote the letter, read it back and then tore it up. It didn’t give me the closure I had been hoping for. I contemplated writing another one and actually sending it to her, but that didn’t feel right either. It was in that moment that I started to plant the seed of reaching out.

Several months went by and mutual friends told me she was looking at houses in Connecticut. I immediately felt this intense feeling of sadness wash over me. How could I not be a part of such a big milestone in her life? If she moves we will probably never speak again. Those were the initial thoughts that went through my mind. She lived in NYC for 14 years and I had created so many memories with her in this city. I spent most of my 20s at her apartment on the weekends. The thought of her leaving New York and us not speaking did not sit right with me.

I looked back on everything that happened and really started to acknowledge how poorly I had communicated my feelings. I was trying to avoid an argument and by doing so helped to end a 20 year friendship with my silence. My feelings were valid, of course, but was it worth never speaking to her again? The anger that I once felt had now turned into sadness and regret.

How we reconnected 

Once November hit before our birthdays (they’re two weeks apart) I had made up my mind that I was going to send her a message. I was finally ready. I remember a conversation I had with my sister. I told her that this friend had been on my mind a lot lately and I had been thinking of reaching out. My sister said to me, “If she’s on your mind it’s for a reason. Send her a text. The worst that can happen is she doesn’t reply but at least you’ll know you tried.” 

I felt a little nervous at first because I had no idea where she was at mentally and emotionally with all that had transpired. So much time had passed by and I wasn’t sure if she would even want to hear from me. A few days after Thanksgiving, I sent her a text. I stopped overthinking it and said what was on my heart in that moment. I acknowledged that so much time had passed by without us talking, let her know she had been in my thoughts and that I was open to communicating if she wanted to meet for coffee or a drink. I also let her know that I completely respected if she wasn’t open and ready to speak to me.

She responded the same day and it honestly put a huge smile on my face. After a few quick text messages, we met a week later at one of our favorite wine bars. It was a place that felt familiar for us both. I remember being anxious in the days leading up to this because I truly didn’t know what to expect. Things were either going to be awkward and uncomfortable or it would feel like no time had passed. I would either leave there with a rekindled friendship or maybe we would have come to the agreement that it was better to keep our distance.

I got there a few minutes before her and waited by the bar. The moment she walked in and over to me I could feel her warm and welcoming energy. I immediately cried these uncontrollable tears and we hugged. We sat at one of the tables for four hours talking, crying, laughing, sharing food and drinking wine. While so much space and distance had been created between us for those two years, once we were together again it really felt like no time had passed. We were both able to take accountability for our part in things and finally communicate in an honest and healthy way.

It felt like there were two very different versions of us at the wine bar having that conversation. There was a lot of self-awareness and understanding of one another. I’m actually happy I didn’t contact her any sooner because I know that neither one of us would have been ready for it. As much as I wish we hadn’t let those 2 years go by, I also know we both needed that time. We each had a lot of growth and inner work to do on ourselves and honestly, I’m so proud of us and how far we have come.

Our friendship is different now, but in the best way. There’s more communication, boundaries, respect and understanding. She invited me to spend a few days with her in Connecticut and it was wonderful. We are not the same people who stopped talking in 2019. So much has happened in our lives and in the world that has changed us and helped us grow into the women we are right now. I’m happy we found our way back to each other and I know she’s meant to be my friend for a lifetime.

This friendship breakup taught me so much. It shed light on a lot of things that I personally needed to work on, like confrontation and openly communicating my feelings. Communication seems to be the cause for a lot of breakups, both friendship and romantic. Make sure that you don’t avoid difficult conversations. They are definitely worth having. If you’ve gone through something similar and have been feeling the urge to reach out, make sure you’re 100% ready for that conversation.

Friendship breakups can be hard as hell and I wish they were talked about more often. When I was going through it, I felt very alone. It definitely took me awhile to be able to talk about this all so openly, but I hope it can help at least one person. I had gotten some questions on Instagram stories that I tried my best to answer throughout this post. If you have any other questions on this topic, please let me know below. Thanks so much for reading. And a huge thank you to my best friend, Vanessa, for letting me share our story! This photo is from our 2016 trip to Sweden and it will always be one of my favorites. ❤️

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  1. arely

    similar story with my cousin but sadly we have not reconnected. i don’t feel ready to reach out and i doubt she ever will.

    • Naty

      I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I wasn’t ready to reach out for almost 2 1/2 years. It can take time for sure. I also didn’t think she ever wanted to reach out but in reality she did. Every situation is different, of course. Sending lots of love and I hope things turn out the way you want them to. xo

  2. Kelly

    I am going through some similar feelings at the moment with one of my oldest friends of 28ish years. We have zero in common any more and most of the time he just annoys me with everything he says. He’s very successful at work, only enjoys the finer things in life and as a result is very stuck up and snobby (am not sure if that expression translates across the pond!) I have been avoiding spending time with him for a few months now. I don’t know whether to talk to him about it or just continue phasing out. I am constantly torn between am I crazy for feeling like this with someone I have known for this long or whether the longevity is the only thing we have left

  3. Kelly

    I am going through some similar feelings at the moment with one of my oldest friends of 28ish years. We have zero in common any more and most of the time he just annoys me with everything he says. I am constantly torn between am I crazy for feeling like this with someone I have known for this long or whether the longevity is the only thing we have left

  4. Mitzi

    I wrote a blog post myself in 2016 regarding friendships (I am going to email it to you). In the summer of 2015, a 40 year friendship had ended and it has been 3.5 years since we reconnected. Thank you for taking the time to share this friendship experience with all of us.

  5. Jeisy

    Thank you for sharing, Naty. I’ve gone through similar experiences with friendships. And I remember crying for friendships that ended and didn’t understand why. And you are so right, it is because we don’t talk about how friendship break ups affect us. One of those friendships, we were able to reconnect in a very different way, with no expectations that things would be the same way as before. Thank you for always being so open. 💕💕

  6. Jeisy

    Thank you for sharing, Naty. I’ve gone through similar experiences with friendships. And I remember crying for friendships that ended and didn’t understand why. And you are so right, it is because we don’t talk about how friendship break ups affect us. One of those friendships, we were able to reconnect in a very different way, with no expectations that things would be the same way as before. Thank you for always being so open. 💕

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