It can be hard not to blame yourself when a friendship ends. The minute you realize someone is no longer a part of your life, you may feel the need to question everything you did and didn’t do. However, agonizing over a friendship breakup won’t do you any good. Not only will it not bring your friendship back, but thinking this way can also prevent you from healing.
Nowadays, many friendships end without a clear explanation. When a friendship isn’t working for one person, they may slowly step away or ghost the other person completely. And with social media, this seems easier to do than ever.
“I think one of the less positive consequences of the anonymity that we feel with social media is that it makes it easier to simply ghost someone when a friendship isn’t working for us. But the truth is, people have always done a form of ghosting in the past, and you never knew why,” Diane Barth, psychotherapist and author of I Know How You Feel: The Joy and Heartbreak of Friendship in Women’s Lives.
While it might be hard to understand why a friendship ended in the first place, it’s important to figure out the next steps you need to take so you can grow and learn from the situation. So to help, we tapped Barth to provide some guidance. Here are five reasons why you shouldn’t blame yourself over a friendship breakup:
1. The friendship wasn’t a failure.
This relationship came into your life for a reason. While it might be hard to see it now, you may later realize that this friend taught you how to love yourself or provided comfort during a specific moment in your life.
“We learn something in every friendship—something about ourselves, and something about others—and we can take that new knowledge with us into the rest of our lives and our future friendships,” says Barth.
2. You can learn and grow from it.
Just because this friendship is no longer a part of your life doesn’t mean the time you spent with that person was a waste. Instead of trying to shun that relationship out of your life forever, try to examine what you’ve learned from it so you can take that information into your other relationships.
“You can learn from it, grow from it, and, no matter whose ‘fault’ the ending might be, you can move forward into different friendships. But harsh self-blame makes it hard to take these next steps in life,” says Barth.
3. The friendship served its purposed.
According to Barth, friendships usually have a lifecycle. A friendship typically ends not because of what someone did or didn’t do, but because it’s not serving either friend anymore. And while that might suck, it’s the nature of the beast. However, Barth also states that “when a friendship ends, both parties could secretly be relieved because the friendship was not giving either of them anything anymore.” So try to see this as an opportunity to learn to let go.
4. Social media is a lie.
When a friendship ends unexpectedly, it can be easy to create stories in our heads of what went wrong—especially when we’re still “friends” with this person on social media. Only seeing our ex-friend’s highlight reel on Instagram or Twitter can make us second-guess ourselves and spiral into self-blame when in reality, that’s probably far from the truth.
“It’s important to protect yourself and your friends from over-exposure on social media—it’s a lesson people often learn the hard way when something they have posted comes back to bite them later,” says Barth.
5. The friendship taught you to take responsibility if you did do something wrong.
Let’s be honest: Making mistakes sucks. But we’re human, and it’s not realistic to think we’ll never be the cause of a friendship ending. However, that doesn’t mean anything is wrong with you; it could just mean that you two weren’t a good fit for each other. Either way, Barth suggests that it’s a good idea to take responsibility for your own actions and apologize when it’s appropriate. If your ex-friend accepts it, great. But if not, don’t beat yourself up. Unfortunately, this won’t change the situation or make you feel any better.
“Taking responsibility, whether or not the other person can accept your apology, is a way of growing,” says Barth. “Trying to understand what you did and how you can stop yourself from doing it again is also a way of growing. But sometimes, a spiral of self-blame can actually be a way of avoiding taking responsibility. Beating yourself up will also not change the situation.”
Friendship breakups suck. If you’re going through one, try not to be too hard on yourself. You will get through it, and hopefully, these tips will help you make your other friendships even stronger.