Losing a friend can be even more devastating than watching a romantic relationship unravel before our eyes. We sometimes trust that our buddies are going to be there long after fickle boyfriends have come and gone — their love is unconditional, right? Ideally, of course. But the same faithful friend you made in kindergarten may have good intentions (or not), but may simply not prove to be your forever friend.
It's normal to feel guilty about breaking up with a friend, but sometimes it's a necessary part of life, according to Shirani M. Pathak, licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert for women. "Friendships are relationships and sometimes we outgrow our relationships, even with friends," Pathak said. "You were friends for a reason, so you owe them the respect of breaking up with them gently and kindly. Sometimes all it takes is a simple, 'I need a break right now'" or 'I am having a hard time and I need to take some time for myself.'"
Another reason why friends grow apart is because one person grows while the other stays the same, according to psychotherapist and emotion coach Michelle Bersell, M.A., M.Ed, author of F.E.E.L.: Turn Your Negative Feelings Into Your Greatest Allies.
"For any type of relationship, this causes a strain because the person growing is empowering themselves to change the aspects of life that aren’t working for them, while their friend continues to complain. It's natural for the person growing to want to surround themselves with people who are also empowering themselves to make changes in their life, in order that they feel supported. It is also natural for those who aren’t ready to change to be around people that go along with their complaints."
If you've decided you're better off taking a breather from a friend, remember: Your breakup has more in common with a romantic relationship split than you probably think. In other words: Now may not be the ideal time to jump into a coffee/wine/movie relationship with the first nice woman you meet. It is, however, a great time to get in touch with yourself so that your next new friendship better meets your needs in life.
"We all know that rebounds are never good," Pathak said. "If you are taking time out of a friendship, just like any relationship, it's important to work on how to make improvements, rather than diving into the next thing, which will likely just get you into the same old pattern after another few months or years. However, if you start to cultivate true, meaningful friendships that are more in line with who you are and where you are going, by all means, go for it."
If you are lucky enough to make a new friend who better understands your current path, the last thing you should feel is guilty — you should instead embrace change, according to Dr. Karin Abrell, psychologist and author of the forthcoming book, Single Is the New Black: Don't Wear White 'Til It's Right.
"We all need to interact with people who are experiencing what we're going through, for example, moms of preschoolers need to connect with other moms of preschoolers and single women need to dish about guys over brunch with other singles," Abrell said. "When your BFF is unavailable, it's healthy to make new friends and form bonds with those who can identify with what you're going through and validate your feelings. You can't expect your bestie who got married at 23 to understand the dating dilemmas you face as a 33-year-old on the dating scene. In fact, it's unfair of you to get frustrated with her for not 'getting it.' That's why we need to reach out to those walking along a path that's similar to ours."
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