A young lady called me a few days ago in tears because she had broken up with her bestie. The pain she felt was gut-wrenching and very real. We talked through the anguish of her loss.
I gave her time and space to reflect on their long-standing relationship, all they had been through and how, in many ways, her best friend was closer to her than her biological sister. I advised her to mourn the loss, wallow in her tears for a while and dry them and get ready to move on to better, healthier relationships.
After the call with my young friend, I thought about a couple of best friend breakups I’ve experienced. I have experienced three such breakups in my life. Sadly, one will probably never be reconciled. I wondered, are there etiquette rules, guidelines or protocol for breaking up with your best friend?
As I’ve done on many occasions, I consulted with the “experts,” those knowledgeable and experienced on the subject. And, as with previous life etiquette subjects, I received much more feedback than I can include in this column. I will, however, summarize my findings by offering a few key tips on the subject.
First, I’d like to share with you a few reasons why best friends break up. Then I will leave you with five life etiquette tips for breaking up with your bestiewith dignity and respect.
Most common causes for bestie breakups
- Betrayal and broken trust – This includes talking behind your friend’s back and sharing intimate details of your bestie’s life. Our best friend may know more about our secrets than our siblings or our life partners. I’ve been blessed with five really good besties. We have talked about everything under the sun — our parents, siblings, spouses/partners, jobs, health, wealth and yes, sexuality, and relationships. Our best friend is the person that we can be open, honest, and totally raw with, so for them to betray our trust cuts like a knife.
- Envy and jealousy – This can range from your bestie becoming more popular at school, work, church or in social circles or attaining a higher level of educational or career advancement. Perhaps your bestie dresses better, make more money, marries or has well-behaved children? Whether you think this is fair or not, true or not, it’s all about perception.
- Having an affair or becoming too emotionally involved with your best friend’s spouse/partner.
- Growing apart – Life changes, interests change, we move away and move on; we grow distant either physically, socially and/or emotionally.
Regardless of the reason for the “break-up,” it’s an emotional experience and oftentimes, an emotional rollercoaster. After being betrayed and broken-hearted, after the hurt, anger and emotional pain you felt or may continue to feel, you can still maintain some semblance of self-respect, dignity, and honor by applying these 5 etiquette tips for breaking up with your bestie.
- Mourn the loss: Cry, weep, throw an all-out “hissy fit.”
- Talk it out with a “trusted” friend; better still, seek counsel from a licensed professional or your faith leader.
- If you can, and if your former bestie is open to it, talk it out with him or her. Only the two of you can decide if this relationship can be saved.
- Don’t bad-mouth the person. I know it’s hard because you may really want to, but I advise you to take the Michelle Obama approach and “go high” instead of low. In other words, even if you heard that your friend has said some negative things about you, don’t dignify or give energy to it. Remember, you are better than that. Take the high road.
- Seek inner healing; take time to make sure you are emotionally healthy and reflect on what you may have done to contribute to the “break up.” Then, get ready and make room for your new best friends.
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Juliet Mitchell welcomes readers’ responses to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more of her work, go to www.mannersarememorable.com.