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When It’s Your BFF Who Breaks Your Heart

Five fists centered in the middle of the frame, all showing off friendship bracelets on their wrists.
Amanda Venner
/
Flickr
"Best friends forever" is what some of us strive for in our friendships. But it doesn't always work out like that.

Friendship breakups can be just as painful as romantic ones, and we don’t talk about them nearly enough.

Host Anita Rao speaks with three guests about their perspectives and stories in relation to friendship breakups. Life coach, activist and author Michelle Elman shares stories from a time she calls the “mass exodus,” including what this period taught her about the importance of boundaries. Tony Liu, a medical student at the University of Chicago and former NPR producer, describes the relationship between friendships, friend breakups, and our health. KB Newton, founder of HEART Convos, shares strategies for having tough but necessary conversations with our friends and tells us why it’s important to check in regularly with those who make up our inner circle.

There’s plenty of common wisdom about how to handle a breakup with a romantic partner. But when the breakup happens with your friend, there are far fewer models for how to move forward.

Common Friendship Conflicts…according to our favorite TV characters!

Boundaries - in Euphoria

Jules + Rue

Rue and Jules demonstrate that establishing boundaries is important in any friendship. If you find that conflicts and resentments keep piling up, it's okay to take space from the relationship.

Life coach and author Michelle Elman shared that, in her experience, how our friends respond to these boundary-setting conversations is often just as important as the boundary itself.

“Setting the boundary and then seeing their reaction was the greatest test of it all,” she said. “It was not so much the boundary itself — it's how they responded to it that told me a lot about our friendship.”

Life Changes - in Scandal

Olivia + Abby

Differing career paths can get in the way of our friendships...as can high-profile scandals. Olivia and Abby's friendship shows that it's still possible to find common ground during times of change, but also that it's okay to find that you've "outgrown" a friendship.

KB Newton, founder of HEART Convos, said the pandemic was an opportunity to rediscover what holds our friendships together.

“For me, it’s the ability to communicate to you who I am, how I am and why I am — in a way that makes you feel like you know me more intimately,” she said.

Communication - in Sex Education

Otis + Eric

Eric is left in an unsafe situation when Otis stands him up to hang out with his crush. Their temporary split demonstrates that reconciliation is possible through open communication and being willing to own up to your mistakes.

On the topic of communication, first-year medical student Tony Liu said: “When it comes to friendships — the really strong and powerful friendships, the ones that are really nourishing — they require vulnerability, and they require us to express ourselves.”

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Audrey Smith is a writer, educator, and temporary producer of "Embodied" based in Greensboro, NC. She holds a Master's degree in Secondary English Language Arts Education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (2018) and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Nonfiction Writing from Oregon State University (2021).
Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of "Embodied," a live, weekly radio show and seasonal podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content.