3. Group therapy.
Some of the toughest friend breakups are the kinds that take place among more than two people. Maybe you’re trying to slip out of your group of friends, or you don’t like a member of your group with whom everyone else still wants to hang. Either of these situations can be totally insane-making, since you’re not just dealing with your own feelings—you have to respect everyone involved, even if what you really want to do is just start freaking out and yelling GOD ENOUGH OF YOUR DUMB OPINIONS AND ALSO FACE GET AWAY FROM ME ALREADY at the person or people in question whenever you see them. As a rule, that is never really a good idea, just so you know.
In the first situation, you might want to start exploring other friend groups for any number of reasons—you think your current pals exclude, alienate, or are rude to people outside the group, you find yourself no longer interested in the stuff you all do together or talk about, you start developing different opinions from the ones you all used to share, etc. and etc. and etc. These are all valid motivations to not want to hang as much or at all. Leaving a group is one of the only cases in a friend breakup where I think it’s OK to start by doing a slow fade (usually, I think it’s better to try and talk it out first, except in extreme situations)—just start gradually spending less time with your original group of friends. Sit with other people at lunch a few days a week, or go to different sleepovers on the weekends. If your old friends ask you about it, you can tell them that you feel like you haven’t been socializing with other people enough lately. That’s reason enough. Eventually, the old group will get used to doing things without you, and it probably won’t be as hard on them as it was for you, because they all still have one another.
OK, but what if YOU don’t want to leave your group, but you really want someone else to do so? One of our high school Rooks is finding this REALLY annoying right now: “I am currently trying to break up with a friend but it’s sooo hard because she’s good friends with my core group. It’s one of those situations where we’ll be hanging out and I literally can’t relate to her at all and she says these things that are totally against my philosophy. She’s also super-ridiculously pretentious. I don’t even know why I am/have been ‘friends’ with her.”
If you’re in a situation like this, is there someone in the group with whom you’d feel comfortable discussing how you feel? Tread carefully, though: by “discussing,” I mean “being honest about your reservations about this person while respecting that your confidante might not feel the same way,” not “goading your friend into a smear campaign against this person that ends with you two instant-messaging her that she is ugly.” I’m actually very serious about this—no matter how bad a breakup can be, no matter what this person has done or does to you in the process, DO NOT BULLY PEOPLE, not even a little. Take it from us, you will feel HORRIBLE about it later in life, if not immediately.
If your confidante agrees with you of their own volition that the person in question is bringing down your collective friendship, boom, you now have someone to support you in moving away from that person. Another Rookie who is in high school and at the tail end of a similar situation breaks it down thusly: “It’s so helpful [to talk to others] because we feel exactly the same way about some of the things [this girl] does, and it makes us feel like we are not going mad. You are not alone and you won’t have to feel torn between two people like I was before [I talked to my friend about it]. There is a line that you have to be careful not to cross in terms of gossiping about her/him or actually being mean, because it’s not about payback, you know? We’ve talked about it a lot and gotten a lot of how she made us feel off of our chests, and now it’s good to not even mention her and to stop dwelling on it.” Word to exactly all of this.
4. Being the dumpee.
What happens when you find yourself on the other side of all of this—when you are the reluctantly broken-up-with person? Oh, man. I am so sorry if this is the case, because it can be so, so heartbreaking, whether or not your friends mean for it to be. What you need to realize, though, is that happens to EVERY SINGLE PERSON at one point or another, for real. Most friendships don’t end because you are defective in some way, which is sometimes what people think after it happens to them (I know I did)— it’s just what happens, eventually, to every person at least once, especially in middle and high school. If someone doesn’t want to be your friend anymore, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you—it means you are a human being.
If you really examine your behavior—did you do anything resembling the stuff we mentioned above to your friend(s)?—and find that the answer is no, you’re probably going to feel pretty confused and hurt for a little while. Luckily, there are ways to come out of these painful times gracefully while growing into an even better person than you already are in the process. It might be hard to believe right now, but these experiences will help you EVOLVE, like a beautiful and strong Pokémon who can only level up after a battle (god, I am such a poet sometimes). The result of most friendship breakups is this: you end up happier than you would be if you’d stuck with these relationships that no longer fit, no matter how difficult it can be at first. I can personally vouch for this.
In the meantime, you are going to be hurting a lot, and you might be tempted to cling to your ex-friends even though you know they’re not invested in the relationship anymore. Don’t do this, babe, really. (A) It doesn’t work. (B) It’s a misuse of your energy. (C) It distracts you from making new and better friends. (D) It’s…well, embarrassing for you. Really.
How do I know? Well, oof: In the eighth grade, my friends pushed me out of our group. They started ignoring me completely, as well as making fun of me online and spreading nasty rumors about me. It came out of nowhere. I was suddenly completely alone, and so I freaked. Instead of accepting the situation and trying to move on, which would have started my ~healing process~ much sooner, I threw myself at the nonexistent mercies of the person I was once closest with in the group by writing her a three-page letter. In it, I apologized over and over (for what, I didn’t and still don’t know), and was just generally like, “WHATEVER I DID I CAN CHANGE I CAN BE WHOMEVER YOU WANT ME TO BE PLEASE DON’T DO THIS.” Yikes, right? Years later, I’m still kind of cringing about it.
No matter how painful it is when someone ends a friendship with you, what’s even worse is when you GROVEL like I did with that letter, which of course received no response at all. This kind of desperation doesn’t have to take the form of a letter, and your friends don’t have to have been as mean as mine were, to make a similar, too-clingy misstep. Maybe you keep trying to sit with your ex-friends in class, or calling them long after you’ve drifted apart, or writing on their Facebook walls even though you know it’s no use. Stop doing these things immediately, because what IS useful is being a gracious and strong person who is able to realize that even though some people might not want to be friends with you, there are plenty of people out there who do, many of whom you already know.
I began coming to terms with the split by starting a conversation, funnily enough, with someone else my old friends hated. I fell in with her and her friends, who were, thank goodness, infinity times more fun and intelligent than the old group. They became my best friends throughout high school. That never would have happened if I had stuck to writing insecure letters to a person who thought it was awesome to joke about the fact that my family was poor. Instead, KEEP IT MOVING and I promise you will be so much happier, so much sooner. If it’s difficult to make new friends right away at school, get involved in organizations outside of it, which I found hugely helpful as well.
5. General helpful addenda to apply to any/all of the above.
The internet is basically the devil in any friend break-up sitcheation. You might want to do a little Facebook stalking after the break-up at first, and that’s understandable, but try to keep it to a minimum. As Anaheed says, “You should try to limit your internet stalking to, let’s say, 15 minutes a day, then 15 minutes a week, then you realize you forgot to internet-stalk her for a month, and you know you’re over it.”
Don’t be passive-aggressive. Tell someone honestly how you’re feeling whenever possible, because manifesting your frustrations in ways like muttering “YOU WOULD” under your breath while your friend is telling you about their weekend doesn’t actually accomplish anything besides making you look like a whispery weirdo.
There can be a certain awkward variable that I like to call the MOM FACTOR in some older friendships: maybe you are close with your ex-friend’s parent, or your parents are also friends. Be as respectful and friendly as ever to your ex-friend’s parent(s) if you still see them occasionally. If you ever have to field questions like “Now, what’s going on between you girls??” just chirp, “I’m just so busy with school and stuff lately!” and then, like, bustle off. It’s not rude—you totally have homework to do! You just explained that!
All told, no friendship breakup is going to be a perfectly clean split, even if you’re really mature and awesome about it. Sometimes, you’re just going to miss the person who isn’t in your life anymore, and that part really stinks. Although, as we pointed out, these kinds of breakups are really different from the ~romantical~ ones in most ways, there is when it comes to getting over them, the process is the same. You need distractions from your hurt feelings, as well as a way to express yourself. Do you draw, or write, or make awesome collages out of tabloids in your spare time? Well, now is the time to do all those things, and more. You can cry, for sure, but also make time to put together all-new playlists (they can even be about the ex-friend, that’s fair), put pictures of flowers on your Tumblr, or work on an actual garden! Most importantly, spend more time with or talk more to your other friends, or work on making all-new, non-terrible ones. They’re out there for you. ♦