Friendship Breakups Can Be More Painful Than Love Breakups, According to Therapists

Here's why the ever-changing and (possibly) dissolving friendships on The Real Housewives of New York City resonate with so many people.

Hearing the good old phrase, “I don’t like you anymore,” from someone you’ve been dating can feel like a slow and painful jab right to the center of your heart. But often times, hearing it from a good friend of yours, someone who you thought would be part of your squad for life, can feel a hundred times worse. Then, what if you don't hear it — and just feel it — and know (deep down) that it's your fault?

Season 10 of The Real Housewives of New York City has had plenty of ups and downs between Carole Radziwill and Bethenny Frankel, and now the trip to Cartagena finds Dorinda Medley and Luann de Lesseps on the outs (as seen in the clip above). 

“Friendship breakups are at times more painful than a romantic partner breakup because there’s a lot of emotions that can go unsaid,” says Shannon Kalberg, LMFT, a marriage and family therapist and an adjunct clinical professor at Pepperdine University. “It’s common to have a blow-up fight or build up to the demise of a romantic relationship versus a friendship breakup where honest emotions are (at times) hard to discuss.” 

Ending a friendship can feel like an extremely hard thing to do, which is why some people “ghost” (stop responding to communications from that friend), claim they are always busy, or simply handle it the very wrong way. 

“When a friendship breaks up, there is a deep feeling of rejection,” Kalberg says. “However we are conditioned by society to believe that we should “move on” or that it’s not as painful as a romantic relationship breakup which is simply not true. Rejection hurts and cuts you deeply — especially when we are told that our emotions aren’t valid.” 

On top of rejection, losing a friendship might make us feel even more alone. 

“Our friendships serve many purposes such as: support, sister or brotherhood, laughs, new experiences, memories, overcoming challenges, growth, and the list goes on. Our friendships also serve as a support to our romantic relationships,” says relationship expert Stephanie Lee of Successfully Me. “When our friendships dissipate, we may experience an emptiness that supersedes friendship almost in a family oriented way because of the depths of that particular relationship.  

So how in the world do confront a friend that you feel is starting to ditch you or act like they can’t stand being around you

Kalberg suggests an open and honest conversation, even if it can feel like a challenge to do. 

“As a therapist, I encourage my clients to confront their friend on their relationship if they feel the person start to pull away,” Kalberg says. “We have to be action-oriented with our communication in order to help save the friendship. If communication doesn’t help the situation and you experience a friend breakup, be kind to yourself and process that loss with the help of loved ones who will build you up.”

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