Tuesday, February 1, 2011

How Do You Break Up?

Break-ups are traditionally used in the context of ending a romantic relationship.  Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of another kind of break-up going on.  It’s the breaking up of friendships.  These break-ups are not because of some terrible event, betrayal or anything like that.  They are break-ups of two people parting ways.

Perhaps you now choose to have different friends and start pursuing different interests than those you had when you were friends with your old friend.  Perhaps it is a gradual parting that happens over time.  Perhaps after your friend has talked to you for a good 20 minutes and you find yourself bored to tears and inattentive to what was being said, that you decide it has to end.  Perhaps you are going through different stages of life, she might be going through early motherhood and you might have chosen not to have children.  And who knows, things might change again.  Years from now, you might find yourself hungry for that old friendship again. 

We don’t have language or etiquette for this type of break-up.  We don’t have pop culture or the media showing us different TV or big screen versions of it and so when it happens to us, we are at a loss for words.  Typically, we ignore the person, avoid their phone calls, cancel out on them with hopes that they eventually give up.  Sometimes, we might actually want them in our life, but at a distance.  Perhaps exchanging holiday and/or birthday cards is all we want.  But how do we communicate our need to terminate or slow down?

I have seen many a heart breaks over broken up friendships.  These types of heart breaks are sometimes even more devastating than those involving the breaking up of a romantic relationship.  If it has been a long and meaningful relationship and if the break-up is not due to anything dramatic, it is a loss that most of us don’t know how to deal with.  There has been a lot of sharing and time spent together.  The friendship has expanded to families and other friends and so in a sense it is like a divorce.

Yet, unlike a divorce, there is no one word or sentence description that defines it for those in the break-up and those around it.  We can tell our friends and family that we are going through a divorce but to tell them that we are divorced from another friend is actually more awkward.  Whatever we call it or describe it to someone else, it is important to have closure with the person involved.  The more important the person has been in our life, the more important it is to find the words to say goodbye or express as best as you can what is happening.  Break-ups are hard to do regardless of the language, but closure is imperative in order to not drag around old pains and guilt.

So, if you are in the middle of a break-up or are considering one, please think about a proper goodbye for your own sake.  If you have already walked away from a friendship without closure, it is not too late to write a letter or send an email to clear things up.  Happy clearing!

Questions to Ponder:
1)    Have you ever ended a friendship that was important to you?  How did it happen and what did you say?  What do you now wish you had said?
2)    Have you been put aside by a friend?  How was the break-up communicated or was it?  How did that make you feel?  What would you like to have heard from your friend?
3)    How do you move on without holding any grudges or bitterness from a break-up?

If you would like to further explore how your break-ups may have affected your life or if you feel stuck as a result of a break-up, you might consider working with a spiritual life coachSpiritual life coaching is a process where you are the driver and the destination is yours to determine.  Please contact me if you are interested in a no strings attached consultation.


Anonymous said...

I had two 'friendships' that ended in college without real closure. For two decades I carried around emotional burden that felt like guilt because I never talked to my friends about the reasons I/they stopped calling. Fortunately, life brought one of those friends back to me shortly after turning 40 and I treasure the friendship on a much deeper level!

Sherry Bakhtian said...

Thank you Anonymous for sharing your experience! I am so glad for your re-found friendship!