The Type of Breakup We Don’t Talk About Enough

When I think about break-ups, my memories usually drift to the situationships I’ve had with men who just weren’t ready to commit. Many of these endings resulted in crying over broken trust and loss of intimacy. It’s your classic heartbreak. However, within the last year and a half, when I think about breakups, I now have the memory of breaking up with my best friend–a chosen sister. I believe women can bond so quickly and build sisterhood after only spending a few hours together because we’re naturally attuned to our hearts. We love to converse and connect. We take turns sharing our life stories, witnessing each other’s vulnerable expressions, and offering supportive insight. Well, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll experience this! 


Based on science, women actually produce higher levels of oxytocin than men do (“How Men Fall in Love and How Their Brain Responds”, Kate Skurat), therefore, we bond easily through intimacy. When you bring women together who desire closeness, authenticity, and just full-on sisterhood, intimacy is bound to be born. I’ve had the blessing to have women in my life who are best friends, but actually soul sisters. These women have held me as I cried from earth-shattering grief. These women have inspired me to show up fearlessly and open-heartedly. These women have celebrated my wins and milestones. These are the women I trust to love me in my darkness just as much as in my light. These are the women I plan a future with–seeing the world together, raising our kids together one day, growing wiser (and older) together, becoming better together. 


When you’ve built and nurtured these kinds of friendships, losing one of them can be just as heartbreaking as ending a romantic partnership. There are endless coaches, books, and podcasts for soothing your wounds from romantic breakups, but I feel like friendship breakups aren’t talked about enough. 


The best friend I broke up with recently was someone who was an integral part of my life; we constantly celebrated life together and we were each other’s trusted support systems as we navigated challenging seasons. She was the friend who encouraged me to make the temporary move to Barcelona (a childhood dream of mine) from LA. She was also the friend that I cried to in a voice note about how homesick I was. Looking back, I would have never thought we’d reach a point where we’d become so distant and different. 


Here’s what I’ve seen and have experienced personally with friendship breakups: they fizzle out and we don’t acknowledge the change or they end with drama. The mainstream media also doesn’t shy away from pitting women against each other and depicting us as “catty”. Endings of any kind of relationship don’t have to end in bad blood. My theory as to why breakups can be messy is because as a modern-day society, we were never taught at a young age how to process big emotions and, therefore be capable of having emotionally intelligent conversations throughout a breakup. This is something we usually get to learn as adults (hopefully) through self-awareness along with trial and error. 


You hear the term “conscious uncoupling” casually used in the mainstream spiritual communities to replace“breakup”. Conscious uncoupling can simply be understood as the amicable ending a relationship–no bad blood. What does this process look like? Well, most of the time there’s space to have an honest conversation where reflections about the relationship, the challenges, and clarity on the path moving forward are all shared. 


Let me be clear. 


This conversation isn’t a time to make someone feel the pain and hurt that you experienced throughout the relationship/friendship. This is most definitely not a time to throw digs and punches. These approaches will not result in an amicable ending. To experience any kind of “conscious uncoupling”, it takes personal responsibility and self-awareness from both parties.


The term “conscious uncoupling” doesn’t feel entirely resonant when I refer to a breakup with a best friend. However, I did take some pointers from this conscious uncoupling process and applied it to my bestie breakup. The process I experienced with my then best friend is unique to us and our friendship. You’ll know what works for you and your co-created dynamic. However, I’d say there are 3 foundational pieces to this process: personal responsibility, self-awareness, and healthy communication. 


The bestie breakup process I experienced didn’t happen all at once. Tension in our friendship began to build because a valuable piece in our friendship was broken–trust. Time after time I felt as if this best friend wasn’t showing up anymore. Whether it was not hearing from her for weeks after a message was sent or her words being inconsistent with her actions, I could no longer rely on her to be the quality of friend I wanted in my life. 


Just like in dating, you have certain standards (as an adult, you need them) and values. If you’re building intimacy with another person, standards and values are essential. I believe this same perspective applies to friendships. I know without a doubt, I value trust, integrity, and consistency. Within this friendship, I felt as if these pillars were being dismantled one by one. We no longer had a foundation to stand on. 


We had 3 options: 

-avoid the obvious and let the friendship fade & fizzle (not entirely possible with a best friend, especially if you have a shared friend group)

-suppress the way I was feeling and let it build into passive aggression, ultimately ending in bad blood

-be honest and have a conscious conversation


Let me tell you: I did a little bit of the first 2 before I reached the desired experience which was the conscious breakup. At the end of the day, we needed to have a “clearing conversation” because we shared a tightly-knit friend group.

We had 2 FaceTimes and a few voice note exchanges about the state of our friendship. The initial stages of this process required me to feel the anger from our trust being broken multiple times. After that anger, came more anger. I felt all of this until it moved into waves of grief. I prematurely grieved our friendship based on the obvious factors–our friendship values were misaligned. Eventually, the grief settled on the shore and became neutrality. I was at peace with whatever outcome arose. This is where I wanted to approach the conversations–not from anger or any other deeply triggered state. Yes, I was triggered– taken back to the experience of being bullied by my “best friends” in middle school. This is the part of me that wanted to rage at her and let her know how betrayed I felt by her. However, this approach wasn’t going to end well emotionally for either of us. 


Our first conversation didn’t go very well. We had to take a few months to process the emotions it activated and bring awareness to what we desired next. The second live interaction was gentler on the nervous system–it was still challenging, but it was set in a container with a stronger foundation. Before our scheduled FaceTime, I suggested 3 points to keep into consideration before we started the conversation (take these or make them your own). 

  1. Purpose of the conversation 
    • Is it to end the friendship? Is it to feel closer? Is it to be seen or better understand the other person’s experience? 
  2. Boundaries (i.e. I don’t want to be talked over or yelled at)
  3. Powerful/clarifying questions 
    • It’s so easy to take turns talking at each other, but what if you asked questions that clarified the other person’s experience so you can better understand? (i.e. what does it mean to you to have trust in a friendship?) 


Setting foundations like this is a part of conscious communication; it allows everyone involved to be seen, heard, and understood. Fortunately, my ex-bestie felt comfortable with this as well and I made sure to encourage her to add any other pieces that she needed. We were in some ways creating a conversation contract. Through this approach, we were able to clear so much miscommunication and assumptions that resulted in us taking literal breaths of relief. 


I will say this–people will only meet you as deeply as they can meet themselves. Maybe you’re aware of your boundaries, but the other person isn’t. Some people aren’t comfortable being vulnerable; conscious communication does require someone to be able to see themselves so they can witness others AND let themselves be witnessed. Just know, that this won’t always be received with an open palm. 


And that’s ok. Maybe through that, you learn how much you do value intimacy in friendships or the space to have vulnerable, albeit, challenging conversations. If you do decide to end the friendship, you’ll know you both had space to honestly express your hearts. My friend and I chose to rebuild the friendship to ultimately realize we were in very different stages of our lives that couldn’t sustain the commitment and attention our connection needed. I grieved our friendship, but I gained undeniable clarity about the types of connections I choose to welcome into my life. 


Maintaining friendships as an adult does require commitment, just like a romantic relationship. You might find that others aren’t ready to meet you beyond surface-level connection or you might find that you’re not ready to go there yourself. When you outgrow a best friendship, letting go might not happen all at once. 


Naturally, you’ll miss them. You’ll have photos of past favorite moments that become distant memories. You’ll only experience updates about their lives from temporary posts on Instagram. That’s a breakup. It’s all part of the process. 


If you choose to have a clearing conversation or a “conscious bestie uncoupling”, you’ll hopefully reach a state of neutrality; resentment and repressed emotions won’t scar into a sisterhood wound. This conscious bestie breakup taught me life-long lessons, reflected where I can still grow, and made space for more aligned sister-friends. 


As you continue to evolve and change, so will your friendships. You’ll come to find that some friends will continue to walk alongside you on a co-created path and others will veer off in another direction. You might find your way back to each other at an intersection, but if you don’t, you can at least move forward knowing that your farewell was rooted in nothing, but love and gratitude for the friendship you once had. 

by rebeccaespinoza

Rebecca is an LA-based writer. She's a student life, constantly inspired by lived experiences or by the curiosities of her heart. She has a passion for learning which has led her down a beautiful path of self-discovery through art, spirituality, and personal development. At the end of the day, she loves having new life experiences and getting to write about them .

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