Week 4 of Healthy Friendships: How & When to End a Friendship?
As humans, social interaction and connections are essential to personal growth and well being. Conversely, bad relationships may take away from these things in our lives. So this summer, we wanted to talk about healthy friendships as a way to help us all make friendships that feel safe and supportive and how we can be safe and supportive friends to others.
We posted our Healthy Friendships series across our social media throughout the month of August, targeting children and youth navigating the ebbs and flows of friendships (though adults are welcome to use the tips, too!) We focused on 4 themes over 4 weeks:
Week 4: Learning When & How to End a Friendship
Week 4, our final week in the series focused on moving forward for all relationships in your life. Sometimes, it may become necessary for the friendship to end. Hopefully this won't have to be the case, but if you find yourself in a situation here's what we discussed:
Tip #1: Ask yourself; "How do I feel when I'm with this person?"
Does this person make you feel good when you’re around them? Or do they make you feel anxious/sad/less than? Is it that they treat you badly or maybe they don’t respect your boundaries after you’ve stated them over & over again? Or it could be that you’ve just grown apart or have different interests than when you first became friends.
All relationships have ups and downs, and those can be good, but if you’re feeling bad figure out what you want to do. Do you want to keep it and try to repair it through honest communication? End it respectfully? You get to decide what works for you.
Tip #2:"Is this Person Safe to walk away from?"
If you're thinking of ending a friendship but you're afraid of what this person will do to you or themselves if you do, you'll need to think about safety first. How will it affect your current life as it stands if you choose to walk away? Are they family friends? A classmate? Someone you just met? Think about your situation and take a course of action you feel safe with.
Ending a friendship by gradually losing touch may be safer than through a big dramatic explosion. If it's a classmate, it may be a good idea to bring in a teacher, or a school counsellor to make peace for the situation so that you can move forward. If you're not sure what to do because you're afraid, talk to a trusted adult - parent, counsellor, etc. to get some advice. Please don't think you have to handle an unsafe situation alone.
Tip #3: Choosing to be Honest & Respectful
Whatever you may feel now, this was a person who you chose to build a friendship with (& they did with you). If safety isn't an issue, take the time to break up with them respectfully. Don't ghost them or ignore them & hope they'll get the hint. Choose a time & place where they can be upset in private. Communicating why you're ending the friendship honours the friendship you had.
You can be sympathetic but be firm. Respect the distance they may need as a result of your breakup (taking your connections off social media, for example). As you move forward, it’s important to remind yourself of the reasons why a person was not beneficial to your life (especially if you're tempted to give them another chance!) It’s okay to allow yourself to walk through the emotions, even unpleasant ones. Just don't take it out on others (like your family or other friends).
Tip #4: Handling Friends Breaking Up with me
This doesn't mean you won't have other friendships or that you were a bad friend. Some relationships are specific to a time & place or just don't work out for a million reasons. Just as you might break up with a friend because it's not working for you, others may break up with you because it's not working for them. Hopefully, they are respectful & honest & don't leave you hanging or hoping you'll get the hint.
As hurt as you may feel, try to stay calm & avoid lashing out. Don't try to use their reasons for breaking up as a way to try & change their mind. Respect their decision. It's okay to say 'okay' or 'I got it' & walk away. It's definitely okay to be upset. These emotions & feelings are normal, & we all need to learn to how to sit with them/deal with them. Give yourself space & time to process them. Losing a friend is a loss & grieving the ending of a relationship is normal. Find healthy things to do that make you feel comforted - such as spending time with other friends, writing in a journal, watching cheesy movies, hitting the gym, etc. Just don't take it out on others (like your family or other friends).
Tip #5: New Beginnings
Once you're ready to get back to being social & doing things you love, connecting with people may be a chance for another friendship. Once you feel that you can move forward, you'll have space for someone new or you may be able to focus more on other friends you already have. Maybe there are ways that you've grown, changed, or simply have new interests that you want to cultivate with someone? Maybe you've reflected on how you can be a better friend or have a better idea of the kinds of friends you want? Remember: you deserve healthy relationships.
In our last week of the Healthy Friendships series, we discussed how to end a friendship safely & respectfully when it's needed. Conversely, we talked about being on the other end of a friend breaking up with us, how to deal with those feelings, and then eventually moving on when we feel ready. This part of having healthy friendships is a journey and it takes time - which is okay!
...And that's a wrap!
We hope that our Healthy Friendships Series provided you with some helpful tips and techniques for making and building great relationships. It's natural to want to be friends with people who share our values, beliefs, or interests. With a little time & effort, we can achieve that connection through getting to know others and being respectful and open to possibilities. With school just around the corner, it's a chance to re-connect with some old friends and possibly make some new ones!