How Do You Deal With Friendship Breakups?

June 14, 2022

Breaking up with a friend isn’t something we think about often. While most of us accept that a romantic relationship may not last forever, we seem to think every friendship should last for life. But as we grow older and our lives take on new needs, paths, interests and beliefs, the type of people we consider friends needs to evolve too. 

Otherwise, hanging onto a friendship that no longer serves you or both could end up causing more pain than simply ending the friendship. 

Breaking up with a friend is completely normal (it’s actually become one of my most requested podcast topics). While painful, ending a friendship can actually be really beneficial for both sides. This, I can tell you from experience – I actually just broke up with a close friend who helped me through one of the most challenging parts of my life. As I explain in this episode, I turned out for the better. 

If you’re hurting from having to let go of a friendship, or feel like you’re ready to call it off with a friend but don’t know how, you’re about to look at friendship breakup in a positive new light. 

In this episode, we’re talking about:

  • Why we treat romantic breakups different than friendship breakups
  • Why the last couple years have been particularly hard on all our friendships
  • Why we outgrow a friendship
  • What a friendship breakup may involve or require from you
  • Why a friendship breakup can feel worse than a romantic breakup
  • Why ending a longtime friendship can be beneficial
  • How to begin moving on from a friendship breakup
  • How to breakup with a friend carefully and amicably
  • Why every friendship, no matter how long it lasts, is beneficial to us
  • Tips for making new friends as an adult


Episode 256 | How To Genuinely Apologize And Not F*Ck It Up

Episode 138 | The Weight Of Expectations & Attaching To Outcomes

Episode 302 | Self Love & Loneliness: Learning To Like Yourself

Episode 305 | Re-Thinking Boundaries & Becoming An Energetic Match For Your Desires

Episode 316 | Regret Is Shame Disguised As Maturity


Book a private coaching call with Emily to work together.

Your FREE 15-page foundational guide Where Do We Begin.

Jump on the waitlist for Becoming YOU, my 6 week women’s group coaching program re-launching in June.

Men’s group coaching program coming in August 2022 – waitlist here.

Instagram: @emilygoughcoach 

Emily Gough Coaching

Room to Grow Podcast

Podcast Producer: Adam Liefl


I’m Emily Gough, a human connection coach speaker, and mental health advocate within insatiable sense of curiosity and adventure. Always asking more questions and using the power of stories to teach, learn, and grow. It’s about allowing for room to grow. And this podcast focuses on three main pillars, human connection, personal growth, and freedom. We cover topics like relationships and cultivating,

genuine, supportive connections with ourselves and others speaking your truth, shattering personal barriers, radical self-acceptance, and courageously leaning into your skillsets. Whether it’s a solo episode or bringing on highly curated guests with incredible stories, experiences, and expertise to share, we’re leaning in and taking the entire idea of growth to the next level all while still covering the uncomfortable topics that many of us like to avoid.

There’s always more room to grow. Let’s do this. Hey, Hey, welcome back to the room to grow a podcast. And today we are going to be discussing friendship. Breakups. This episode has been very requested, very, very highly requested. I’ve talked to so many people. I have. I, I cannot actually get over how many people I’ve spoken to who have undergone massive shifts in their friendship circles.

In the last two years in particular, I am one of those people. I have seen huge, huge changes in my friendship circles, and I’ve undergone more friendship breakups in the past couple of years than I have in any other time in my life by far. And there are just so many people who’ve been undergoing the same thing. And, and conversely,

I’ve also made a ton of new friends or had old friendships deepened during this time too, which is really, really cool. So the reason why I really wanted to talk about friendship breakups is because the events of the last couple of years have shown a light on differences between us in sometimes very divisive ways that have made it impossible to work past within certain relationship containers with,

with certain individuals. And it’s really brought to light the different sides of people that we may not have noticed before. Maybe it’s brought to the surface parts of ourselves that we’ve never even met before, or just created dynamics that have become unhealthy to it. That this whole situation has just been kind of like shaking a snow globe, and then everything is settling in different positions.

Or maybe you are in certain friendships where you’re kind of feeling like the puzzle pieces aren’t fitting together the way that they once were. And this is such a fascinating topic to me because we, we tend to hold friendships to a different standard than our romantic relationships. And we have a whole different set of expectations attached to them too. Like when a romantic relationship ends,

it’s more or less accepted, even though it’s incredibly people. We, we accept that and we expect that we usually expect romantic relationships to end. We often hope that they won’t obviously, but when we start to get involved with somebody new, we are very conscious of the fact that this, this can end. This can end. But for some reason,

we often have this idea that when we make a friend, it should be more solid, more, more consistent. Like we should be able to rely on that friendship, staying in our lives to a varying degree of closeness. And the expectation then can be particularly painful when things don’t go the way we would like them to. And the friendship doesn’t doesn’t last,

as long as we’d like it to, or the dynamic changes in a way that we weren’t expecting. And most of us don’t make a new friend and we wonder if it will work out. You know, we, we make a new friend and we, we make the friend and we just think they’ll be there until always, right. Like we really do.

We tend to have this expectation, even, even almost unconsciously a little bit. But I do think that as we age, sometimes we can start to, to have a little bit more wisdom that when we make a friend, we, we do sort of treat it a little bit more like a romantic relationship where w we’re we’re like, okay, we’re going to kind of bet this person,

like, see how it goes. And, and often we have lost friends before, and I don’t mean lost, like passed away. Hopefully not passed away. Lost just as in there has been a rupture of the friendship. So we, we do start to gain some wisdom around this, but it also doesn’t make it any less painful either. But sometimes we still can fall into the trap of feeling like we think as though each friend we make is some sort of soulmate,

whereas we’re much more particular when it comes to romantic relationships, the lines are blurred with friendships, because then if you start to notice that things, maybe aren’t working out as well between you and a particular friend, as you would like to do, we just downgrade them to acquaintance. Do we still talk to them? How often do we talk to them?

How deep do we allow the conversations to go? What parts of our lives do we let them into? Are there certain topics we need to avoid with them in order to keep them as a friend? Like, are we walking on eggshells around them? Because there’ve been some hot button issues that have come up between us and kind of exploded in our faces a few too many times,

do they fit in with our other friends? Or are they part of a particular group that we keep separate from some of the other groups of people in our lives? Like there are so many questions that we can ask around this and with romantic relationships, there’s, there’s much more of an integration or at least that’s kind of ideally what most of us want.

And I mean, integration in terms of integrating our partner into various areas of our lives. Like it’s just, it’s kind of expected a little bit more, but like, like it’s hopefully mutually expected a little bit more with friendships. That’s not as clear. And when a friendship ends, it can feel like an enormous personal feeling. And, and don’t forget to lik friendships take work just like any other relationship.

So it’s not, it’s not even that you’re just losing the friend and the, maybe the, the support that you receive from them, the memories you made together, all of those things, not that you lose the memories, but that you, you lose the ability to create more memories with that person. Let’s put it that way, but it’s also that you’ve invested your time in them and,

and they have invested in you too. Like there’s potentially for years, right there, there’s a lot there. And that’s why, when there’s any very established, romantic relationship, I’ve been in a position where it’s harder to walk away from because you’re, you’re almost doing a mental tally going, okay, but I’ve, I’ve invested and poured so much of myself into this.

Can we not work through it? And sometimes you totally can. You absolutely can. But this is going to be a little bit more about the, the, the breakup side of things. So like you’ve already, maybe done the things you’ve had the conversations and, and the friendship is, is ending. And what I want to stress the most is that it is normal for a friendship breakup to occur just like romantic relationships.

Some friendships are going to last longer than others, but it is actually very normal for a friendship breakup to occur, even though it hurts like hell and a lot of us don’t talk about it very often because we, we don’t really talk about friendships ending like a breakup, the way we would talk about a romantic relationship breakup, but it is normal because when,

when you think about it, how many people, and there are people out there who, who go through this, but how many people marry their high school sweetheart? And they’re, they’re happily married to them and stay with them for the rest of their lives. Right? It, it does happen. It absolutely does happen, but it’s not common, especially not in today’s world,

because there’s so much growth that, that both parties undergo like as individuals. And then therefore the relational entity undergoes as well. That it’s a lot tougher sometimes to that dynamic, with that same person, the same thing applies to our friendships, but we just don’t tend to look at them that way. One, one particular friendship breakup that I went through recently,

we, we had both sort of started to notice that the dynamic had become unhealthy on both sides for a variety of reasons. And we were no longer, really helpful to further each other’s growth. Instead we had kind of become incredibly draining to each other. And I found that I had, by the end, I found that I had completely detached from any particular outcome of the friendship,

because I recognized as the other person recognized around the same time that it wasn’t working, it just was not working. The dynamic was not working and it was not good for either of us. And this is a friend who saw me through the most turbulent time in my life, the past, like three or four years. And I think that they grew so used to being my fierce protector,

that I began to notice the stronger I became, especially in the last six months or so, the more pushback I was getting an irritation I seem to be causing because I was no longer wounded and looking to this person for help and advice, the way I had for a really long time. And my boundaries were being crossed and it was not being received well on the other end.

And they felt hurt by me and as well, in other ways like there, there were issues on both sides here. I need to be very clear on that. Like there were mistakes made on both sides, but I don’t think in this case that either of us could have done a huge amount differently. I mean, yes, of course there are things that both of us could’ve done differently,

but I think that ultimately the friendship dynamic that had been created that wasn’t working, it was the reason why it wasn’t working was a by-product of our growth, both individually and apart. And we, we started to become the puzzle pieces that were no longer fitting together. And we had many, many difficult conversations over the years to create this really beautiful sense of safety within the friendship that,

that only continued to grow until it didn’t. And we both grew so much stronger in different ways, both during and as a result of the friendship. And I’m so grateful to that, to that friend and, and for that friendship and having experienced that level of friendship, because I’ve never had another friend like that person. And when we undergo a breakup,

whether it’s friends or romantic, you’re going to need to grieve the loss. It’s interesting because by the time this, this particular friendship ended, I actually felt like I had been grieving almost in the background of this friendship for quite a while. And so it was funny, not, not funny, but it was interesting to sort of observe myself because by the time,

by the time the friendship ended, I had already detached from the outcome so much that I actually didn’t feel like I had much left to grieve, but I think there was a lot of grief happening. And I didn’t even really notice it within myself and, and probably on the other person’s side as well, that there was a lot of grief happening along the way for,

for quite a while, because the friendship was slowly turning into a dynamic that wasn’t really working for either party. And so, no matter what form your grief comes or when the grief comes of the friendship breakup, it may feel like a giant hole in your heart, especially if it’s a close friend. And because we often have a different expectation for how long a friendship will last compared to a romantic relationship,

the loss can be incredibly fucking painful because it’s also another version of grieving who you are with that friend and with that friendship versus who you are without it. This is part of the layers of grief. Anytime a relationship ends, I’ve talked about this before that we don’t just grieve the other person and the relationship itself and what it gave to us. We grieve who we were in that relationship.

And with that relationship to support us, we grieve those versions of ourselves. And some of your identity might be wrapped up and an entangled with this friendship, or at least with the idea of it. But ultimately you both might need space to grow in different directions and, and age. And as stages of life can have a really big impact on this as well.

Again, you know, kind of bringing it back to like the, the high school sweethearts situation, except we’re talking friendship versus, you know, instead of romantic relationship, I do actually have my, my best, one of my absolute best friends. She and I have been friends since we were 12, but that is unusual, like to be able to,

to grow with someone and to maintain a certain level of connection with somebody as you change and, and shift that much over that period of time, it’s really significant. It’s really significant. But when a friendship ends, sometimes it’s not personal in the sense that either one of you necessarily did something terrible to the other one. It can actually just be that the friendship and the relationship that you created together served as purpose and helped to fertilize your growth.

And then you start to grow in different directions. That’s not always how it happens. Sometimes you, you, you continue to grow together. Sometimes you are going to start to grow in different directions and the friendship served these, these other paths that you are walking. Sometimes we have to lose all kinds of things and people and attachments in order to find the parts of ourselves we’d forgotten or needed introducing to.

And someone reminded me of this quote the other day, I don’t know who said the quote. It is not, this is not my quote, but there is a quote that is sort of floating around in there about people come into our lives for a reason, a season or a lifetime. I want you to appreciate what that friend brought into your life and what you hopefully brought to the hearse,

like have, have some appreciation for that. Even, even if you are really in the thick of it right now, in terms of the grief and everything else. And if you’re really in the grief, like it might take a little bit longer to get to these stages, obviously, but think about who you were before you became friends with them versus who you are now,

and be appreciative of how much you grew with them and how much they helped to facilitate your growth. Because ultimately every connection in every relationship that comes into our lives, it’s, it’s helping us on our path or journey to get us where we’re going. And if we can spot the ways that, that it has helped further our path, even if it’s painful,

that can really help us to move through something to the other side. But I also really want to stress that, that when a friendship ends, again, this can be applied to anything like when any type of relationship ends, but, you know, right now we’re focusing on friendships. So when a significant friendship ends trust that it’s opening space for new people to come into your life.

And that is the other biggest difference that I noticed with this particular friendship ending, because I have been through so many endings of things of, of chapters in my life of relationships, with different people, both romantic, platonic, and everything in between. I have just gone through so many endings in the past few years in particular, And yet so many beautiful things have continued to come into my life,

even in really dark moments that I now just trust that process so much more than I ever could have before if I had lost a friendship. And, and again, there are multiple friendships I’ve I, that have ended for me in the last couple of years, particularly, but this, this particular one that I’m talking about that was the most significant by far,

if that friendship edit had ended even a year or two ago, eat me even just a year ago, I would have been in a very different mental head space about it, very different mental Headspace. I just have so much more acceptance for trusting the journey now than I have in any other period of my life by far, it’s actually almost surprising to me.

Like, I, I sort of keep, it’s almost new to me that I, that I have reached these levels of, of trust and acceptance and, and detaching from outcomes and all of these things, I’m still sort of adjusting to it. I’m like, oh, this is, this is interesting. I’m not actually used to this. This is this for real,

because there’s a lot of peace and ease that comes with it to be totally honest with you. There there’s a lot of peace that comes with it. It doesn’t mean I’m happy about everything, but it means that, that I can create a sense of ease from within and create that foundational piece for myself, no matter what’s going on around me. And I’m still working on that,

by the way, I will always still be working on that. But I have definitely reached new levels of it that I’ve never experienced before. And it’s fascinating to see the positive effect that it has had, but you were deserving of healthy, fulfilling friendships. And the other that I really want to stress that because when a significant friendship ends, we can,

that can actually almost serve as a barrier to creating new ones. We’re like, well, what’s wrong with me? What’s wrong with me? Why, why, why wasn’t I good enough? You know, a lot of these questions that we often have about romantic relationships can also come up in friendship breakups, but one friendship ending does not mean that you’re a bad friend and you’ll never have anyone new come into your life.

Now, there are still lessons to be learned in that friendship. So if you are able to take constructive criticism, that would be super helpful. If you can take some lessons that you learned and integrate those lessons into who you are and who you want to become, of course, that’s going to be amazing to fuel your growth, but just know that you are deserving of healthy,

fulfilling friendships. But this is a very lonely period that, that, that we can sometimes enter into when, when we’re growing, when we’re expanding and we’re we’re, as we’re growing, some of these other people aren’t fitting into our lives or vice versa, you know, or, or everybody’s growing, right. And we’re just all growing at like different rates and in different ways.

And it can be really lonely when some of these friendships start to fall away. These really like important sacred relationships to us start falling away. And we haven’t found our new people yet. And it’s tough to make friends as an adult. Sometimes I get it. I totally, it, I talked to so many people who feel this way, especially recently,

I’ve had some, some really significant conversations with people who are really having a hard time, because they’re like, how do I make friends as an adult? And that is really hard. And it’s going to involve you having to put yourself out there in new ways. And I know that that sounds incredibly cliche, but sometimes we, we walk around expecting people to just fall into our lives.

And sometimes that will happen. Sometimes that will totally happen. But sometimes we have to put in some effort and that’s going to mean trying new things, like checking out new places to go new classes, new, online communities, even, you know, you can meet so many of the people in my life that I’m close to. I talk to you mostly online.

Like there’s, there’s so many options now, like ever before that there are, there are people out there available to you who you could end up being great friends with and our friendships and relationships, they’re catalysts to our growth. And if I’m being straight up with you here, I mean, if you’ve been around the podcast long enough, you know, that I’m,

I’m very philosophically rooted in some ways, and it can end up meaning that I talk about things that kind of take people aback a little bit, but I’m just gonna be straight up with you. All of our relationships will expire at some point. That’s just, that’s just a fact of life. Like, even, even if somebody is with us, right,

until the end, whatever comes at the end of this life, you have to walk that journey on your, on your own. Like, no one is no one else is coming with you. At least not in the, in the physical sense. So if we can accept that, and then we start to notice that the relationships that stay for the long haul will need to grow and evolve.

If they’re to remain healthy, like if you’re not growing, you’re dying. Right. There’s, there’s that old saying too, again, I don’t know. I don’t know who’s responsible for that quote, but if you’re not growing, you’re dying. And if, if we’re to maintain certain relationships and friendships for the long haul, they have to grow and evolve with each person in the relationship and vice versa.

Right. But these friendship breakups, like they make us question themselves, am I good? Am I a good person? Am I a good friend? We, we have to, we have to still find ways to own our mistakes and to take responsibility as sometimes apologies are going to be in order to like, I have a whole episode about how to apologize and how to apologize.

Well, so I’ll, I’ll make sure to reference that in the show notes, because that’s a really important life skill, but I also just really want to assure you that these, these friendships that come into your life, they’re never in vain. They’re never in vain. Sometimes people will only come into our lives for a certain period of time. And I truly believe that people come into our lives as teachers.

And it’s up to us to, yes. Put in the work, put in the effort, but also to decide what we’re going to pull from particular relationships to continue to grow. And it’s very possible to part ways with someone amicably too. I also want to stress that because I I’ve had many relationships and in a variety of facets and nearly one, and I don’t want to say all,

but, but almost all of them have ended very amicably. And I forget sometimes that that’s actually not what a lot of people experience. A lot of people haven’t experienced close friendships or, or relationships that have ended amicably. Instead, it’s been a very like stressful experience where it just, you know, maybe there were like doors slammed and, and things were,

things were not going well, but it is possible to have these types of conversations with someone that you can appreciate what the relationship brought each of you and as painful as it might be, you can still part ways with care. But sometimes we hold on to relationships for too long. We hold on to some of our friendships for too long, even when they don’t feel good anymore,

because we can’t bring ourselves to detach from the person. We can’t bring ourselves to face the pain of walking away. And we have to learn to really like ourselves through this process, because that’s going to be one of, one of the keys to be able to move through to the other side, because when we’re holding on for too long, it’s usually because,

I mean, yes, we are trying to avoid pain. We don’t want to experience the loss of, of this person. Who’s dear to us. I, of course I get that. Maybe we also don’t want to lose who we are with that person, right. Who we are in their presence. And ultimately what that comes back to is what it always comes back to is the relationship with yourself and,

and learning to like yourself through the process. Even if maybe you did fuck up, maybe you made some mistakes, maybe you really hurt someone. It doesn’t necessarily mean like, it doesn’t mean that you’re bad human. It means that maybe you did something kind of shitty potentially, and you get to choose what to do with that. You get to choose to allow that to grow you.

And you can recognize mistakes that are made and still like yourself through the process. It doesn’t mean that you necessarily love yourself, especially in that particular moment. Right? If, if you’re really having a hard time with, something’s kind of right up in your face, like, wow, you fucked this up. And you know, maybe it’s, it’s legitimate.

Maybe you really did make a really big mistake. You can still like yourself through the process of learning from that. There’s, there’s a couple episodes. There’s several episodes. Actually. I’m gonna, I’m going to reference in conjunction with this one around like learning to like yourself and expectations and learn to apologize, communication, all of that. So go check those out.

But I would love to hear how this lands for you and, and how you have been maybe experiencing friendship, breakups. Have you experienced any friendship, breakups, have you noticed like relationships in your life really shift and evolve the last couple of years? I’d love to hear it. So let me know. I’m over at Emily golf coach over on Instagram,

and you can also email me. We can connect to there, whatever works for you, but I just want to really thank you for listening. And yeah, I just, if your heart is hurting from a friendship, breakup, just know that you won’t always feel this way and that there are other amazing humans out there who are going to be so delighted to be your friend,

and you will be delighted to have them in your life and you are worthy of beautiful, healthy, happy, fulfilling friendships. And to also just honor your process as you maybe grieve a friendship that has ended. Okay. So thanks so much for listening. We’ll be back soon. Thank you so much for listening to the podcast today. It means the absolute world to me.

And I’m so grateful for any references in the episode and all show notes. Be sure to jump over to room, to grow And if this episode touched your heart, it would mean so much. If you would take a quick second to hit subscribe, write a review and share on social media, over someone who really needs to hear today’s message.

It makes such a difference to keep this podcast going so I can continue to bring you amazing content and absolutely incredible guests. Be sure to tag me over on Instagram at Emily golf coach, that I can thank you in real time for listening and connect with you. We’re back every Tuesday and Thursday with new episodes, and I’m looking forward to growing with you.


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