friendship breakups

  • When a Group of Friends Falls Apart


    In this month’s HerTake question, Nina is tackling the sticky issue of maintaining individual friendships when a group of friends falls apart. Have you been in this situation as an adult or even in younger years, perhaps? We love that our community helps each other in the comments section. Don’t be afraid to add your two cents.

    Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.


    Dear Nina:

    I’ve shared a close friendship with a group of women for several years. However, the dynamic of the group is evolving and the group of friends is falling apart because of external and internal reasons. I’ve maintained individual relationships with each woman; however, now I feel like I am in the middle, because although I get along with each person individually that isn’t the case across the board.

    Should I address this with the group or let it go? And if I choose to let go of the group, how do I continue to maintain individual friendships without stepping on anyone’s toes?

    Any advice is appreciated.




    Dear Confused,

    Without knowing the details of why your group is falling apart or any of the other micro issues, I know others will relate to the problem of being connected to a group of friends that is long past its expiration date.

    Before I go on, I want to address the people reading this question (and answer) who are silently asking themselves, “Why is an adult part of a group of friends anyway?”

    Reasons Why Adults End Up in a Group of Friends

    • The group is a carryover from high school or college with some new configurations, but it started “way back when.”
    • The members of the group all met in a common setting like a class or in a work environment that no longer meets regularly so the group formed to keep the individuals together.
    • There can be a bit of mystery to how and why a group forms. Frankly, sometimes the group can feel manufactured, which is usually the first kind to fall apart.

    I’m not going to say all groups disintegrate because I couldn’t possibly know that, but every group I’ve been a part of has gone through significant permutations over time. Some of those permutations have led to an ultimate disintegration, but in each case, the new reality has been more of a relief than a problem.

    In other words, I’ve never been part of a group that was worth keeping together under all circumstances. The group’s history should never become more important that its current health. (By “health” I mean, the members of the group are kind to each other and as free from drama as possible.)

    Ultimately, the individual relationships are what matter most, especially when the group dynamics feel forced at best and unpleasant at worst. Sounds like you’re in at least one of those positions right now so let’s get practical.

    How to keep your relationships strong with the individuals you like:

    #1. Based on your question, this needs to be said: It is not your problem whether other members of the group continue to stay friends or whether they form a new group. At this point, you need to focus on who brings out the best in you and vice versa. I wouldn’t make any formal announcements about your desire to step away from the group. This will be a case of actions speaking louder than words, or you simply slipping under the radar, which is probably for the best.

    #2. Make consistent plans with the women you enjoy. Lunch, walks, coffee, tickets to a show—anything that means time spent with one other person. Personally, I find walks the best way to catch up with one friend at a time. Also, there’s a natural end time, which is a nice plus (in my opinion).

    #3. Be careful to avoid allowing the growing bonds with certain individuals to revolve around a common frustration with the former group. It’s tempting to get others to feel the way you do about the group or to commiserate with individuals who already share your aggravation, but too much of this chitchat will create a false sense of closeness. Don’t fall for it!

    By the way, these group permutations happen in families, too. Sometimes different groupings of siblings and siblings-in-law are closer and sometimes they’re in a moment (or years) of drifting apart. Same goes for cousins and other relatives. David Sedaris had a great essay recently in the New Yorker that is seemingly about shopping in Tokyo, but is really about these shifting group dynamics. Other than enjoying the standard cleverness of Sedaris, I also liked the matter-of-fact attitude in which he talks about how relationships morph again and again.

    Thanks so much for your question, Confused. I hoped at the very least I helped you see how normal the shifting dynamics are.

    Good luck!



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  • HerTake: Feeling the Loss After a Breakup With Another Couple

    Have you ever experienced the breakup of a friendship with another couple? Today’s question comes from a reader who thinks there is a definite lack of resources available on this difficult situation, and we agree! Fortunately, we have Nina to tackle another challenging subject: a couples’ friendship breakup.

    Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.


    Dear Nina,

    My long-term partner and I, both women, were close friends with another lesbian couple for about 30 years until a difficult breakup occurred following a conflict. If info is somewhat lacking about one-on-one friendship breakups, it’s sorely missing when it comes to two couples ending their relationship with each other. The events leading up to the breakup, the process of trying to sort things out, and the decision-making regarding letting go seemed so much more complicated!

    Have you run into this before, whether with LGBT couples or heterosexual? Know of any resources for working through the feelings and the loss?

    Thank you for your consideration.


    Double the Loss


    Dear Double the Loss,

    You’re right! When it comes to the subject of couple friends most of the information I’ve read focuses on how to handle the “custody of your friends” after the couple in question has broken up temporarily or divorced, which is not what you’re asking about in your letter.

    You’re also not asking me or The HerStories Project’s astute readers to consider what happened in this particular situation. (Though we’re here to listen if you ever change your mind.) It sounds like you and your partner have resigned yourselves to the fact that the friendship with the other pair is over, but you still feel a sense of loss and want to know how to move forward. And to answer your other question, yes, I have been there, too.

    Losing the friendship of another couple is difficult, and you’re perfectly justified to wallow a bit. Whether you and your partner tried to distance yourselves from the other couple or the other couple distanced themselves from the two of you, it can be extremely awkward and painful to figure out what to do next. For example, what happens when anyone in the former foursome runs into each other? What if the four of you share other friends? (In both cases you will rise to the occasion because you will have no other choice. Always take the high road and avoid trying to get common friends to take sides. Be the first to say hello when you’re at the same event. Try to listen more than you talk since anything you say in that anxious state is something you’ll question later.)

    The hardest piece of all is what you already mentioned about loss. The feelings of loss, and I will add, rejection, do not disappear with the end of the friendship. If anything, those feelings can get worse before they get better.

    I think there are some solid standbys that are helpful when there’s any break in a friendship. Remember, I’m saying “helpful” tips, not easy ones. I realize the type of thinking I’m advocating below is easier said than done, but we all have to start somewhere when we find ourselves in this position of loss, no matter if we instigated the breakup or find ourselves on the receiving end of someone else’s decision to call it quits.


    #1. We never know what is going on with another person—make that double for another couple. This means that if a couple needs a break from you and your partner, accept that whatever has been bothering them may be a temporary situation and could have nothing to do with the two of you. The same applies when you need a break from another couple. Perhaps the way one or both people in question have been bothering you is really more about changes in your life or your partner’s life and not a reflection of anybody’s direct wrongdoing. How is this assumption that it’s not only about you supposed to make you feel better? It won’t, but it might help you take things less personally, which is a start.

    #2. Each individual involved in a friendship breakup may be simultaneously in the right and in the wrong. There’s usually more than one issue at play when it comes to the ending of any sort of friendship. Since we’re talking about four individuals here, the possibilities for blame, overly taking offense, or problematic self-righteousness are endless. Holding on to the need to be right can become a bigger problem than the original schism if there was one particular instance that set the four of you on a bad path. What’s my point? It won’t help you move on to dwell on why you’re right, which leads me to the next thought.

    #3. Use any friendship breakup as a learning opportunity. Ask yourself what went wrong in the relationship on both sides. Where can you take responsibility and plan for a different outcome in the future in your other friendships? Part of dealing with this particular kind of loss is learning from mistakes. How can you and your partner protect the relationships you have with any other couples and single friends you enjoy?

    #4. Speaking of other couples, is there now room in your lives to meet a new couple? I hate to say “when one door closes another one opens,” but . . . I had to say it because it’s true. Time is finite. Now you have a sliver more time to give to all your other friends and to extend yourselves to new people.

    #5. Keeping tabs on your old friends will not help. Try not to cyber stalk; try not to overtly ask your common friends how those two are doing; try your hardest not to speak ill of them. (That can be tough, I know.)

    #6. Almost every friendship letter I receive here boils down to unmet expectations, leaving me to wonder whether unrealistic expectations are the true source of all friendship issues. This is a good lesson to take into the next friendship. Be careful about pinning too many expectations on one person (or on two people in this instance).

    #7. Acknowledge that chemistry between friends ebbs and flows for many reasons, few of which we can control. When someone moves, enters a new romantic relationship, starts a new job, or has new responsibilities like taking care of a sick parent or has children—all of these factors and many more will change the time and effort that can go into a friendship. Sometimes the change in chemistry is personal and sometimes it isn’t. We can only control what we can control.

    #8. Finally, never say never when it comes to the end of a friendship. Unless we’re talking about an abusive or dangerous situation, I think it’s good to stay open to the idea of a reconciliation. The time apart might even strengthen the friendship, which is something that has happened to me.

    So, Double the Loss, since I don’t know about your specific situation, I can only do so much to help, but I hope some of the above “random thoughts” address what you’re facing right now.

     Best of luck,


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  • When to Stop Saving the Friendship

    If a friend starts pulling away while claiming nothing is wrong, how far would you go to save the friendship? How far should you go to get an answer about why she is no longer interested in being friends?

    Do you have a question for Nina? Use our anonymous form. You can read Nina’s answers to past questions here.


    Dear Nina,

    I became friends with another woman in my community two years ago. Our kids went to the same camp and we instantly hit it off. Over the past two years we’ve spent tons of time together individually, with our kids, and with our spouses. We even took a trip together with our kids (sans husbands). We used to email or text almost every day and saw each other at least once a week, often more because we’d walk together several days a week.

    Lately I’ve been getting the brush off from her. Over the last few weeks, she’s stopped initiating plans. We still see each other often because our kids do several of the same extracurricular activities and we have mutual friends who get together once or twice a month for dinner and other activities. When I do see her, she’s very polite, but completely disengaged. It’s a stark contrast to the connection we had before.

    I asked her in person if everything was okay and told her I was getting the feeling she was upset with me. She sidestepped the question then redirected our conversation to other surface topics. Later, I texted her reiterating the vibe I’m getting and admitted that maybe I was being oversensitive and needy. I asked if everything with okay with her, thinking maybe she’s going through something. Again, she talked around the question then said, “I wasn’t upset with you when I saw you today. I was actually upset about work.” She never directly answered to tell me if she’s been upset with me before that day though because honestly the cold vibe started way before the “work” explanation.

    I don’t know how much this plays into what’s going on right now, but we’re about as opposite as you can get. I’m more emotional; she’s more logical. I’m drawn to literature and arts; she’s drawn to science and math. I enjoyed this aspect of our friendship a lot, but now that something doesn’t feel right between us, I realize that we probably approach conflicts like this very differently. I feel the need to address issues when they arise, and she clearly doesn’t want to.

    Is there anything else I can do to address her coldness, or have I done what I can? Is she just politely brushing me off and clearly doesn’t see the value in discussing it with me? I guess I’m most scared of this. I’m starting to doubt the depth of our friendship, and I feel silly for thinking we were ever “close” friends. My husband says that I need to move forward and accept that this might not be the friendship I thought it was, but I’d still like to salvage it if possible. I don’t know if I can discuss it with her again. I’ve tried to bring it up twice and her responses (or non-responses) make me feel bad. It feels like I’m asking her for constant reassurance, and I don’t want to be that person. Do I stop trying on my end? I feel like I’m losing friend, and I’d like to at least know why.

    Thanks for your insight.

    Just call me Needy Nancy!


    Dear Needy Nancy,

     In last month’s question about whether to unfriend an ex-friend on Facebook, I heard from a woman who was equally frustrated about a close friend’s unilateral decision to end a friendship without an explanation. The two women had been best friends for thirteen years before the letter writer’s friend starting fading away in the same way you’re describing.

    But what happened next is something I would like to help you avoid. The letter writer spent the next five years attempting to communicate with her former best friend with the purpose of hearing what had gone wrong. She never quite got the answer she was looking for, and I’m not convinced that hearing a list of reasons would have made the end of that friendship any easier for the letter-writer. We (as in most people) generally do not like getting left behind and no explanation makes the abandonment more palatable.

    I have a feeling that there is nothing your friend can say to make you feel better about her decision to cut you out of her life. The reality is that you’ve invested time and emotional capital into the friendship and her sudden decision to fade away feels like a rejection. And I’m not making light of your feelings. I think many woman would agree (including me) that the rejection of a friend can feel significantly worse than a romantic breakup. In a monogamous relationship it’s understood that we can only have one special partner. But in friendships we can have many close relationships, even several “best” friends. It’s easy to obsessively ask yourself, “What’s wrong with me?,” when a friend, who can have many friends, decides to cut you out of her life.

    You’ve asked me and yourself an important question: Is there anything else I can do to address her coldness, or have I done what I can? It sounds to me like you’ve done what you can. It really does. We simply do not get to decide how another person behaves, nor do we get to decide the fate of our friendships. Your friend certainly has her reasons, and I bet only some of them fall on your shoulders. If she’s not returning calls or answering questions directly when you see her in person, then your only other choice is to write an email or a handwritten letter explaining your hurt and disappointment. But you should only do that knowing you may never get a response, or at least not a satisfying response. She may not tell you the truth. Or, more likely, she will tell you her truth, which could feel far from your experience of the friendship.

    I’m not saying you shouldn’t try one last time to talk things out with her, but I am urging you to keep your expectations low and to use it more as a chance to potentially learn something useful for your other friendships. I happened to read two personal essays in October about dealing with the end of friendships and both illustrated how we can learn from our part in the endings, even if we’re the ones left behind. Check out Laura Turner’s, “How Do You Grieve a Friendship When You Never Wanted to Let it Die” in Jezebel. I also liked Kaitlin Ugolik’s, “How I Realized I Was the Toxic Friend,” in Refinery29. I would read all the comments on both pieces, too, which are full of women (and some men) commiserating about being the friend left behind. Most of us have been there.

    There is one area where I hope to alleviate some of your worry. You said, “I’m starting to doubt the depth of our friendship, and I feel silly for thinking we were ever “close” friends. My husband says that I need to move forward and accept that this might not be the friendship I thought it was . . . ”

     I only agree with half of your husband’s statement. Yes, I think you have to accept that the friendship as you knew it (and by the way, it was a really intense one in my estimation) is over, but that doesn’t mean this friend was not a close and intimate person in your life. It doesn’t mean that the friendship was fake. I want you to decide that two truths can exist at once. Yes, you two were important to each other and the two years you had together mattered to both of you because of the depth of the friendship. But also, the friendship as you knew it is ending and it rightfully hurts.

    Finally, “Needy Nancy,” I’m sorry you’re going through this loss. It is most definitely a loss and it’s okay to wallow in the pain of it for a while. But then (soon!) you have to look up and notice your other friends and think about the potential of future friendships. Each relationship, even the ones we can’t save, offers us the chance to grow and change for the better. And remember that this one friend drifting away does not make you an unworthy person.

    Thank you for sharing your experience here. I have no doubt that many readers will relate.




    Readers: How have you successfully moved forward after the end of a close friendship?

    **Mothering Through the Darkness: Women Open Up About the Postpartum Experience released last week! You can buy a paperback or e-book here.

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  • Sharing Common Friends With an Ex-Friend



    Today’s question for Nina is about dealing with a friendship breakup when the two parties have many friends in common. What is your advice for a reader about how to share friends with an ex?

    Nina is always accepting anonymous questions so keep them coming!

    Dear Nina,

    Jocelyn and I recently split for good. We were part of a much larger online and real-life friendship group, but the two of us were particularly close. The specifics of our breakup are not pertinent. I also wanted to mention that I’d be willing to try again with our friendship, but she’s not.

    Here’s the reason I’m writing: I now feel awkward with the rest of our mutual friends. Jocelyn and I have not been together in the group since we split up, and I’m afraid that no one knows we’re no longer friends. (I haven’t told anyone.) However, I’m also afraid that if they do know it’s because Jocelyn told them, and I don’t know what she said about me.

    How do I get beyond this and just feel comfortable with all my other friends whether or not she’s there, or if I fear she’s talking beyond my back? Should I be up front with our other friends that our friendship is over, or should I just never mention it?

    Worried About Post-Breakup Fallout

    Dear Worried About the Post-Breakup Fallout,

    The first and most helpful piece of advice I can give you for this particular situation of how to share friends with an ex is one that will come to play often in your life, and it’s probably harder to implement than anything else I will say here today: You must accept that you cannot control every person’s opinion of you.

    That fact goes beyond controlling other people’s behavior, which is also true. No, you cannot dictate what Jocelyn says about you, or to whom (her behavior). You can only work on how much you worry about others’ perception of you based on what she says or based on their simple knowledge that the two of you are no longer friends.

    There are two ways to let go of that worry:

    Do not say anything unkind about your ex-friend.

    Keep treating your friends well, and if the subject of Jocelyn comes up, I think it’s fine to say, “We haven’t spoken in a while.” If someone asks you directly whether the two of you are no longer friends, I’d say, “Unfortunately we’re not, but I hope you understand that I don’t want to get into the details.” This way you’re being honest, but you’re also showing that you’re not going to bring the group into the issue between the two of you. This is the part you can control. You get to dictate how you act and not getting people to take sides is the classy route to take.


    The other way not to worry what others think about you (once you know your behavior is in check) is to engage in some self talk. I will often tell myself that exact message: “I cannot control what anyone thinks.” Say it to yourself before you go out with these friends. Remind yourself a few times while you’re together. It often takes an actual effort to force your mind to think in a more positive way. This new way of thinking will not happen magically; you have to teach yourself to alter your thoughts.

    Now let’s talk about the reality of what happens when two friends have a falling out, but they still share common friends. If we’re dealing with adults here, I’d like to think that most of the friends in the wider circle would feel bad for both of you that things did not work out. Any decent person (and they’re your friends so I’m assuming they’re decent) would not revel in the pain you and Jocelyn are feeling. Perhaps they’re even hoping that the two of you will work things out one day.

    Is the Friendship Really Over?

    There’s one final issue to address: I wonder if things with Jocelyn are truly finished, or if there’s a chance to turn this breakup around. Could you write her a letter (not an email, a letter) reiterating your willingness to take responsibility for your part of the falling out and to forgive her as well? I would tell her that you have no expectations in the near future, but that if she were ever open to it, you would be interested in a friendship in the future.

    Once you’ve put your feelings in writing (a powerful act), you can feel confident that you’ve done your part to rectify your mistakes and forgive Jocelyn for her mistakes. I say this because right after college my best friend and I “broke up” and about a year later I wrote her a long letter. It took her a few years to respond, but we became even closer than we were in college, and now she’s been an important person in my life for the past 10 years. To tell you the truth, the breakup made us even closer than we might have been. My point? I wouldn’t write Jocelyn off forever.

    Good luck to you! And I’m sorry you’re dealing with the pain of ending a friendship and the dilemma of how to share friends with an ex-friend. I know it isn’t easy.


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  • Book Club With The HerStories Project

    Are you in a book club? Book clubs aren’t always quite as easy or fun as they sound; even our own advice columnist, Nina Badzin, has struggled with book club drama! Some book clubs run into trouble when members disagree about the “terms” (you know, whether or not your group actually reads the book or whether they just sit around and drink wine and talk about their kids), and some book clubs can’t seem to agree on a book that interests all of them. I’m embarrassed to say that every single book club I’ve ever been part of (three!) has dissolved for one reason or another.

    But maybe you are one of the lucky ones and you have the perfect book club. Now all you need is the perfect book! (Do you see where I’m going with this one?) Not surprisingly, we think My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends would make a fantastic book club book. Here are just a few reasons why:

    1. Essay collections make for an easy, enjoyable read: you can put the book down and pick it up as often as you like, reading a whole section of the book in one sitting or just an essay or two at a time.
    2. These stories are real, which makes them even more compelling and relatable. We think you’ll find yourself somewhere in these essays, if not over and over again throughout the book.
    3. Friendship breakups and loss are universal; everyone can relate to the loss of a close friendship, whether it occurred recently or many years ago, and whether you were the one who was left behind or you did the walking. Reading about the friendship endings of others is sure to stir up some memories and feelings, and that makes excellent fodder for book club conversation.
    4. You might actually experience some relief, a catharsis, or an “aha” moment by talking about friendship loss with other women. One of my best friend’s husbands always says, “Have fun at therapy!” whenever we get together. It’s true: women gathering together and talking about the richness, complexity, and pain of relationships can be extremely therapeutic.

    And if that’s not enough to convince you, we have one more fun reason why we think My Other Ex would make a great choice for your book club. If your book club decides to read and discuss My Other Ex for its next meeting, you can have a complimentary Skype call with one of the editors! During your book club meeting, either Jessica or I (Stephanie) will be available for a Skype call where members of your group can ask us questions about the book, the publishing process, the essays, or friendship breakups in general. We already have one lined up, and we think it’s going to be so much fun! Send us an email at if you’re interested in setting up a chat for your book club meeting! You can buy the book here, and we’re including some Discussion Questions below to get you thinking:

    book club HSP

    Book Club Discussion Questions for My Other Ex

    • How old were you when you experienced your first friendship breakup? Who ended it? Did it take a long time to recover?
    • Have you had many friendships end? Did they fade away or were the breakups more dramatic?
    • When was the most recent time a friendship with a close friend ended? How did you feel?
    • Have you ever broken up with a friend? Why? Did you feel guilty?
    • Has a friend ever badly hurt you by ending your relationship?
    • Have you ever had a friendship end unexpectedly? Was it more painful than a gradual ending? Why?
    • Have you ever had a friendship end because of a romantic relationship? Did you lose friends after a divorce (yours or a friend’s) or after ending a romantic relationship?
    • Have your friendship breakups affected other friends in your circle? Did people have to take sides? Have you ever been “left behind” when your friends chose another friend over you?
    • What do you wish you’d done differently in the breakup? What do you wish your friend had done differently?
    • What would you say to your friend now, if you could?
    • Did you ever have a friendship end and it brought you relief?
    • Have you broken up with a close friend only to reconnect later? How did it change your friendship?
    • Do you think friendship breakups are more or less painful than a romantic relationship ending? Why?


    We would love to hear your reactions to the book! If you’ve read it, please consider writing a review on Amazon– it means a lot to us! And please spread the word to other book clubs you know! Happy reading!

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  • My Other Ex’s Publication Day Is Here!

    Jessica, Stephanie, and our amazing contributors are thrilled to announce the publication of My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends! To buy the book from Amazon or Nook, click here.

    It's Here!

    It’s a collection that all of us involved in the project are proud to release to you. We hope that you are engrossed by these stories and by these women’s wisdom and experiences, as well as comforted.

    A book like this is certainly not the work of one or two women. This was truly a community effort. We had the help of a gifted designer for our covers and marketing material, a fantastic copyeditor, an organized and efficient blog tour coordinator, and so many others. All of the writers in this collection participated in shaping the book and providing us with guidance and support, and we are eternally grateful.

    We hope that you love these stories of friendship and loss as much as we did. And if you do, you can help us to spread the word by sharing what you think of the book on Amazon or GoodReads. Reviews are critical to the success of independent authors and publishers.

    And please stay in touch with us by subscribing to our newsletter and getting updates about our next project, Mothering Through the Darkness: Stories of Postpartum Struggle, our call for submissions for that project, and our writing contest!

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