Emel Khan wearing a pink sweatshirt

5 Lessons I’ve learned from outgrowing adult friendships

May 17, 2021

Friendship breakups can hurt more than romantic breakups.

By Emel Khan, Contributor

I’ve lost more friends than I care to count. Some friendships end naturally, when one person moves away, some turn into mere acquaintances, and others are just as hurtful as romantic breakups, if not worse. Last year, I lost a friendship that I never expected to lose. Since then, I’ve done quite a bit of reflecting both alone as well as through therapy to learn why this happened and how to move past it. 

Losing and outgrowing friends as an adult shouldn’t be as taboo of a topic as it is. 

Friends are often people who shape our world views, have significant impacts on our lives, and the people we spend the most time with, share our thoughts with and attribute much of our happiness and fulfillment to. So when you lose a person who has played such a significant role in your life, it can be painful and your world can come crashing down. In some ways,

Romantic breakups are more widely talked about and accepted than platonic breakups.

The truth is, because of the lack of support and conversation around friend breakups, they can be much more complicated than romantic breakups. When you have a romantic breakup, people expect you to be heartbroken. With a friendship? Not so much. It’s less widely discussed, leaving you to wallow in your grief all alone.

There are some friendships that are such a big part of your life, that when you lose them, you feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself. The grief can leave you feeling heartbroken and torn. Unfortunately, you’re bound to lose friends, even some amazing ones in this thing we call life. It’s inevitable and it’s something that happens to everyone. Here are five of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my friendship breakups. 

1. Don’t place blame on either party

Things are not as black and white as we’d like them to be. The truth of the matter is, we live in the ‘gray area’ of life, where blame can’t be placed on solely either party. It might feel good in the moment to blame the other person, but the reality is, you both play a role in your falling out. Is that harder to accept? Yes, of course it is. But it’s also much healthier to see both sides of the coin, rather than becoming fixated on blaming one person. Hating them or blaming them won’t help you heal.

2. Embrace the blues

This was the hardest for me to accept. I wasn’t ready to look at platonic breakups as being just as impactful as romantic breakups. I kept brushing it off and pretending it didn’t bother me, which only caused the problem to bubble up inside me much longer. It wasn’t until my therapist told me that it’s perfectly normal and acceptable to grieve over a friendship that's ended, similar to how you would grieve over a relationship that’s ended. She helped me realize that:

Ultimately, I had lost someone from my life that I was used to having around, and it was okay to feel upset about that.

I had been pushing all of my emotions down and not allowing myself to feel sad because it wasn’t the norm. As soon as I embraced that feeling, and embraced the blues, I allowed myself to process the situation for what it was. It wasn’t much longer after that where I began to move on. 

3. Pour back into yourself

Similar to romantic breakups, you’ll now have more time to focus on yourself. Whether that’s exercising, yoga, or working on your hobbies and career, you have more free time to devote to yourself. Take the energy that you once would have poured into them, and give it back to yourself. Future you will thank you for it.

4. Do some self-reflection

No matter what the reason for the friendship breakup was, it’s always a good idea to reflect on who you were when you vibed really well with that person, and who you are now. Ask yourself:

  • How have you grown and changed since then?
  • How have they grown and changed?
  • What kind of people do you want to allow back into your life moving forward?
  • Did you like their personality and traits, and are those the kinds of traits you want the people in your life to have?
  • Did you outgrow them for a reason, and no longer need people like that in your life? 

It’ll help you select new friends moving forward. 

5. Don’t forget the good memories

It can be easy to write off a person completely when they’re no longer in your life, but don’t forget the good memories. There was a reason they were in your life for that time period, and the good moments were exactly that; good. Don’t taint your memories with your feelings about them now. Ultimately, At the end of the day, losing friends is a part of life. 

Some friends last for a season, others for a lifetime. 

Cherish the moments shared, and prepare to make room for new memories, with new friends. 

About — Emel is a Muslim Pakistani-American marketing professional based in Dallas, TX. She has an affinity for all things related to personal finance, stocks, self-improvement and, of course, writing. When she’s not obsessing over how to create generational wealth for her non-existent children, you can find her ranting on Running Late — a spoken diary podcast where she highlights societal pressures when it comes to careers, relationships, and everything in between. Occasionally, the podcast features badass women sharing their personal stories about paving their own path and defying societal pressures. Connect with her on LinkedIn, and listen in here.

Cover photo credit: Emel Khan, @itsemelkhan

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