Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Friends

6 Reasons Friendship Breakups Are So Hard

If you're having difficulty moving on, these reasons may play a role.

Key points

  • Research shows it takes over 200 hours to form a close friendship.
  • When that friendship ends unexpectedly, it can be difficult to move on.
  • There are several reasons why this might be the case, including not being ready to let go of the past.
Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock
Source: Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock

Contrary to a romantic relationship, a friendship breakup is something you may think will never happen to you until it does. What can make a friendship breakup even more difficult to cope with is that there is no protocol for ending a friendship or dealing with the resulting loss.

It's no surprise that the quality of your friendships affects your mood and well-being. Quality friendships take time to grow, which can make accepting the end of this type of friendship even more difficult.

Research has shown that it takes over 200 hours of spending time with someone to form a close friendship. If the friendship ends unexpectedly once that bond is formed, it can significantly impact your ability to open up and trust others.

If you've experienced a friendship breakup but are having difficulty moving on, consider whether any of these reasons may be playing a role:

1. You're not ready to let go of the past.

If your friend was someone you have an extensive history with, it can feel particularly heartbreaking and difficult to let this friendship go. Suppose this friend was present during a significant transition or stage in your life. In that case, you likely share positive memories with them and feel bonded to them because they were there for you during a vulnerable time in your life, which can make it harder to accept that the friendship is over.

2. The friendship ended abruptly.

When you become close friends with someone, they become an important part of your life, and the last thing you anticipate is that this friendship will have an expiration date. If your friendship ends abruptly or in a dramatic fashion, it can be shocking and prolong the healing process because you may feel that you weren't able to process the end of your friendship or grieve it properly.

3. You fear you'll never find a friendship connection similar to this one again.

You may have other friends or support, but this breakup can hit even harder if this person is your closest friend. If the same person you would get support from when you're struggling is the very person you are no longer friends with, this experience can often feel disconcerting.

Close friendships often allow both people to feel seen and accepted. Being vulnerable deepens your connection with someone, as does sharing memorable experiences and knowing you can rely on your friend through life's inevitable highs and lows. These types of friendships are not the kind that comes into your life every day, which makes it feel so special when they do.

It can be difficult to move on if it's been a while since the breakup and you haven't met a friend with whom you're as close yet. As a result, you may fear that you won't find a friend you feel this close to again. Perhaps you tried to put yourself out there, but your heart wasn't in it because you weren't ready to meet new friends.

Maybe you had hope that you would reconcile with your former friend, or you're comparing every new friend you meet to them. It's important to remember that it takes time and effort to form a close relationship with someone else, and this type of friendship is rarely formed if you aren't fully open to it.

4. You wonder whether your friendship would have ended if you had done something differently.

You may blame yourself for the friendship ending and wonder if something had been said or done differently, whether your friendship would have survived. If it is clear, the friendship is over, and nothing can be done to change it, or you have decided the friendship has run its course. In that case, fixating on what happened and engaging in self-blame may close you off from being open to other friendships and eventually moving on.

5. You believe others in your life may not relate or understand what you're going through.

By the time you become a young adult, you will likely have experienced at least one breakup. Since breakups are often a universal experience, there are countless songs and movies that focus on the pain of breakups, as well as books or articles that focus on dealing with a breakup and tips for coping. Most of this advice is framed in a romantic context, which is why if you're going through a friendship breakup, it's not unusual to feel isolated.

Consequently, feeling as if no one can relate to your experience can close you off from others and prolong the healing process. It's important to remember that although friendship breakups are not discussed as often, they are more common than you think and happen for a variety of reasons.

6. You're getting updates about your former friends or keeping tabs on them through social media.

Suppose you're still getting updates about your former friend through mutual friends or following updates about their life on social media. In that case, it can be a painful reminder of the friendship you once had and also contribute to feeling as if you are still a part of this person's life. Ultimately, keeping tabs on a former friend who is no longer in your life may contribute to false hope of reconciliation and prevent you from moving on.

Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute professional or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your mental health professional or another qualified health provider with questions regarding your condition or well-being.

References

Don, B. P., Gordon, A. M., & Berry Mendes, W. (2023). The Good, the Bad, and the Variable: Examining Stress and Blood Pressure Responses to Close Relationships. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 0(0).

Hall, J. A. (2019). How many hours does it take to make a friend? Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 36(4), 1278-1296.

advertisement
More from Roxy Zarrabi Psy.D.
More from Psychology Today