Part 1 and Part 2 of Do Friends Break Up? addressed the kinds of friendships that sometimes end in a breakup, how to have a godly breakup, and what reconciliation might look like. Part 3 addressed the question, “What if I'm the one being broken up with?” Here we’re talking about a pattern of breakups.
The Roots of a Pattern of Breakups
This is the most troubling category of breakups. What if this relationship breakup thing keeps happening? Part 1 of this series contains some categories of difficult behavioral patterns that friends may be responding to, such as the Toxic Friend, Debbie Downer, or the Imbalanced Friendship. Honest women will admit we've all been a little toxic or self-pitying and turned friends off at various times of our lives. Taking responsibility for my contribution to maintaining friendships is powerful and freeing. Maybe the only problem is I’m being too co-dependent on other friends and have too high a need to be needed and included. If you're really a sweetheart, the problem could be that toxic people are attracted to you. As long as you're pleasing them, the relationship is full on. Then when you set a boundary or cannot meet a demand, they drop you. Regardless of the reason, a pattern of people breaking up with you is worth looking into.
How to Look at and Resolve Your Friendship Issues
Friends and family members can be great sources of guidance and wisdom regarding our relationships. Get some feedback if possible. Left to myself, I'll never figure it out because I cannot know what I don't know about myself. So, for example, we can ask our husbands if they see relationship patterns and can point out the kind of friend that is drawn to us. Spouses see things about us we do not see and admittedly do not always want to hear. A trusted friend who isn’t breaking up with us can provide some insight too. Friends may want to help, but there are often so many distractions. When we're together, we may be busy discussing kids, committee work we do together, social gatherings, etc., so we don't have time to zero in on either of our problems and give the required focus necessary to actually resolve something.
If input from a spouse or friend is unavailable, find a counselor or professional therapist to talk to. It just may change your life. Professional counseling gets to the heart of the matter quickly because resolving the issue is the sole goal of the relationship.
One of the most common causes for a friendship breakup that calls for a more detailed discussion is hidden resentments. A resentment is a negative feeling that results from being hurt, wounded, slighted, abandoned, or betrayed. If I know I resent someone for any of the above reasons, I can work on it with the person I'm struggling with or get some help from a counselor, resolve it, and be free. This is more difficult if it's an old resentment from childhood or high school. Lots of layers of defensiveness, and/or irrational or ungodly beliefs may cover over the original wound. Sometimes a person can be unaware that they're carrying one of these toxic grudges. However, the people that they're mixing and mingling with are very much aware of it and they sense the hostility or negativity being put out there. They feel uncomfortable with these hidden resentments and try to put some space between themselves and the resentful friend or acquaintance. The person with the resentment issues does get dropped, uninvited, and otherwise ignored. Sadly, their expectations can be very self-fulfilling, "I knew I wouldn't be accepted, I never am. What is it about me that people are responding to?" It just may be a hidden resentment.
My Story with Hidden Resentment
I definitely had some issues with hidden resentment. The Lord exposed it through a friend I trusted with my heart. We were committed to a kind of iron sharpening iron relationship (Proverbs 27:17). She was able to show me my resentment as part of our journey together—we had agreed to deliberately be vulnerable with each other for the purposes of being more transparent before The Lord. She never even used the word resentment, but I had the blinders taken off in a Holy Spirit moment of clarity. We both knew The Lord stepped in. She wanted to help me but she was wise and kind enough to cover my heart. I can't say it didn't hurt. Back in those days, we coined an expression to describe the experience when The Lord pulled back the veil on something in our hearts to set us free from bondage. We called it, "hurt so good," because it was a complete paradox of feelings, much like a Band-Aid being pulled off very quickly.
Whether you’re considering a break up as we discussed in Part 1, figuring out what to do in a chronically toxic or imbalanced relationship as in Part 2, trying to understand why you’ve been broken up with as we did in Part 3, or determining the root of a pattern of breakups as we’ve done above, friend breakups are painful. Making some changes can be well worth the effort. It's helpful to get some validation and assistance figuring these things out. The Bible says there is wisdom and safety in a multitude of counselors. (Proverbs 11:14 )
Here are some resources to help you with friendship relationships:
Why Is it Always About You? The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism by Sandy Hotchkiss
"A how-to for disengaging yourself from the narcissists in your life, but also how to live with them." (If I'm really bold, this resource can also expose areas where I may be responding in a narcissistic way.)
How to be a Best Friend Forever: Making and Keeping Lifetime Relationships by Dr. John Townsend. Friendships are crucial to quality of life and mental health. They require work. Here’s some practical advice.
Susanne Ciancio, LPC, is a Licensed Professional Christian Counselor. She has been serving the Christian community as a professional Christian counselor in Essex county and the surrounding area since 1986. Beyond her private practice in West Orange, NJ she is involved in teaching, consulting, and pastoral supervision in various churches in the area. Click here for Susanne's website.
EDITORS NOTE: While Susanne can’t answer specific counseling-related questions, she welcomes your thoughts, comments, and suggestions about what kinds of topics you’d like to see addressed here at Circles of Faith.Click here to contact us.