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How To Heal From A Broken Friendship

Sometimes, heartbreak comes from platonic relationships. Here's how to get through it.

What About Your Friends?

One of the reasons why I think that it is so important for romantic relationships to have a foundation of true friendship is because, it's been my personal observation that, a lot of us are far more down for our friends than our significant other. What I mean by that is, while I constantly hear people come up with a list of all of the things they will and won't tolerate with their long-term partner, I rarely hear that when it comes to their bestie or homies.

Process what I'm saying for a moment.

When's the last time you thought to yourself, "If my girl hurts my feelings, I'm out." Typically, with our friends, there isn't much of an "out criteria". It's weird, but it's like there's an automatic acceptance that they are as human as we are, they are gonna mess up sometimes and, when that happens, we'll find a way to work through it. It's almost automatic that we'll take on this kind of approach.

I think that's why, when a friendship gets to a point where it looks like it has run its course, it can be particularly devastating. Since we didn't put a "this is it" line on the relationship on the front end, when we do get there, it can feel like a real death; one that we're not sure how, if or when we'll fully heal from.

I've been there, a few times. On this side of those experiences, there are two things that I know, for sure. First, while you're in the process of actually going through a friendship break-up, the pain is like no other. And second, if you purpose in your mind to not remain stuck in bitterness or pissed-off-ity, if you choose to heal instead, 8.5 times out of 10, you'll see that some friendships either weren't really friendships at all or, the break was necessary in order for you both to move forward to what and who are better for you.

If you've currently had a friendship to end, what steps should you take in order to come to these conclusions?

Really Process What Caused the “Break”

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When I stop and think about the broken friendships that I've experienced over the years, if there's a common thread, it was my codependency and being more invested, topped with them offending me and expecting me to grin and bear it. You know what that means, right? That means that things were all gravy, so long as I was doing most of the work and didn't have much of a voice in how things were going. And you know what that means, right? This usually comes as the result of trying to be other people's friend without being a friend to yourself—first.

That's why, when you and a friend have a falling out or decide to go your separate ways, before doing anything, it's always a good idea to take a moment to process why things played out the way that they did. Try and be honest. Try to not only see it from your side either. Also take a moment to assess if it's a pattern that has been happening with multiple individuals for a while now.

Once I realized what was up with me—that I wasn't really choosing my friends but I was letting people randomly decide when they wanted to enter into and exit out of my life—friendship dramas started to subside, healthy and stable friendships began to emerge, and less "breaking" transpired.

The moral to the story here is this—don't just chalk the friendship ending to "it is what it is". Really ponder where the cracks in the foundation started so that you can process, heal and prevent similar things from happening in the future.

Is It Love or Loyalty?

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If I've said it once, I've said it a dozen times before. One of my favorite lines from the movie Love Jones is when Nina told her ex-fiancé, "All we have are all these years" in response to him asking her how she could throw their relationship away. Listen, I'll be the first one to say that there is much to be said for loyalty in any type of real relationship. At the same time, wisdom has taught me that there is also something to be said for staying loyal to something that is causing you to be disloyal to yourself by remaining attached to it.

Here's an example. There's a friendship that I had for a really long time that, for the five or so years leading up to its end, it turned toxic. Extremely so. Not because of us, per se, but due to an affair that the individual was involved in. It caused them to lie a lot and become totally self-involved. It also caused them to make consistent reckless choices. When it got to the point where I realized that I cared more about saving their marriage more than they did and I brought that to their attention, they ghosted. Even though they knew the abandonment and abuse issues that I experienced in my childhood, they bounced without giving our friendship the respect of talking things through.

At first, I responded by trying to assure them that I would still stick around, believing it was being loving. But a friendship is to be a mutual thing. Therefore, if your loyalty is causing you to not get your own needs met, that loyalty can become counterproductive and unhealthy. Loyalty can be unhealthy? I think so.

As a wise man once said, "Even the excess of a virtue can be a vice", and if you are holding a friendship down alone, it's time to love yourself enough to love them enough to let them go so that you both can receive…better. And more.

Seek Out One or Two Other Perspectives

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As a marriage life coach, there is nothing like meeting one spouse who tells me their side of the story, deciding to take them and their partner on as clients and then hearing the other side. Boy, oh boy. It never fails that when you're able to see both people's perspective, the layers totally alter the narrative.

It's the same thing with friendships. The last one that I decided to end, I had been in it for so long that decided to ask some other people in my life for their perspective. A couple of people knew both of us and a couple of them didn't. One thing that everyone said was a constant thread is the individual wasn't emotionally reliable. Not only that but a part of the reason why I wasn't satisfied in the friendship anymore is because I had outgrown them.

It was good for me to hear all of that because, for a while, I was so steeped in my disappointment that I wanted to lash out at this individual more than anything else. But once I heard other people share that, "Although she's done some selfish things, she's always been that way. You're just pissed now because you've changed and she hasn't", that helped me to release her rather than cut her off and remain angry.

When I see her now, we hug. I ask her how she is and I sincerely wonder. But it pretty much stops there. Just because a friendship has ended, that doesn't mean that you and them can't come to a place of peace. You know that you're on the path to real healing when you can accept this as a part of your reality. Sometimes other people's perspective can get you there.

Think About What You Need in the Present

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One of the things that I respect so much about married couples is how committed they are at learning how to evolve as individuals while still trying to keep their relationship intact in the process. It is so true that there are times when you grow in one area faster than your partner does and vice versa. And, if you don't make a point to nurture your union in the process, it could cause you to become strangers; strangers who share the same living space.

That said, some friendships end because they just don't fulfill you anymore. Neither of you did anything wrong or bad. You just used to need them in one way and now…you don't. Sometimes this happens when a person gets married or has a child. In theory, you both say that it won't change the friendship but how can it not? Priorities shift. Interests expand. And unless both people involved are intentional about and committed to keeping their friendship, they can grow apart too.

To stay on top of scenarios like this, something that my closest friends and I do on an annual basis is take inventory of where we are with one another. We ask each other what we need and get really real about if those needs can be met or not. If they can't, some restructuring-in-love has to happen. And you know what? That is totally OK. Remember that the root word for relationship is "relate". If a friendship is coming to an end because the two of you can no longer relate to one another, that is easier to heal from because it's not about any drama or even a lack of love or respect. You're simply freeing up space so that both of you can get what you need rather than resenting one another for not being able to do it for each other.

Get the Closure That You Need

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I know that closure is a controversial topic for some, but personally, I think that when two people share something as special as a relationship or friendship, they owe it to one another to give it closure. Closure honors what once was, provides clarity and gives both people an understanding of what to expect moving forward. Another reason why I'm such a big fan of closure is because when you don't officially end things, it can give people the impression that they can fade in and out of your life at their own leisure. And, because you did not require closure, your roller coaster emotional state about the entire situation can let them.

So yes, if it really is time to transition out of a friendship, request a formal meeting, preferably in person, to hash everything out. It will prevent both of you from making assumptions. Plus, it's a sign of basic-level respect—something both of you should give each other, if there was ever a true friendship there to begin with.

Forgive. Grieve. Release.

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Nelson Mandela once said, "When a deep injury is done to us, we never heal until we forgive." He's spot-on. As someone who personally believes that forgiveness is not an act, so much as a process, I feel that when we struggle with not forgiving someone, that is a form of self-abuse.

Unforgivingness is typically about trying to punish someone for the pain that they caused and then taking control of the situation. But while we're over here still not forgiving, they are out somewhere living their best life—or at the very least, not putting in nearly as much energy into us as we are into them by not letting the offense and pain go.

No one said that forgiveness was easy (at least no one who has actually done it before), but if you want to heal, you have to pardon the pain and work on letting go of the resentment—not just for your sake, but the sake of your other relationships and the future individuals who will come into your life (two great reads about not forgiving someone are "8 Signs You Have NOT Forgiven Someone" and "5 Tests to Determine If You've Forgiven Someone").

The reason why I recommend forgiving before grieving is because forgiveness helps you to grieve in a healthier space. If you're trying to mourn something or one while you're still mad or bitter, it will prevent you from fully processing the situation in a productive way. As a result, you could remain stuck in the cycle of grief for years to come.

And finally, release them. I'm pretty open about the fact that I like the word "release" because, to me, it takes the pressure off of having to decide what comes next as it relates to a broken relationship. Rather than trying to control the ultimate outcome, I fully let God do it. I focus on learning what I needed to, developing healthier boundaries and bettering myself. The rest, I leave the rest up to him. If life sees fit for me and a past friend to reunite for some point or purpose, the forgiving and grieving that I did keeps me from totally closing myself off to that. At the same time, if I am to truly leave what was behind me, healing makes that possible too.

Broken friendships are difficult. But they are not impossible for you to heal from. With time, intention and self-love, you can get through the end of a friendship and come out all the better from it. Because, if you really immerse yourself in the healing process, it can make you a better friend to yourself and others. I am living proof of that.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

10 Things You Should Absolutely Expect From Your Friendships

Losing My Best Friend Taught Me Authenticity

How I Overcame The Hurt Of Losing My Best Friend

Should You Take An Ex-Friend Back?

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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