How to Deal With Being Dumped when You Want to Remain Friends

One Methods:Writing a letter

You shared a wonderful friendship. Somewhere along the way, friendship turned into love. For a little while, it was even more wonderful than your platonic relationship - for you. Then the hammer dropped and now your best friend wants to return to your platonic relationship. How do you purge your romantic attachment, but keep your affection for your friend alive? It's all about "Compartmentalization" and "Processing."


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    Keep all recriminations and pleading to yourself. Let's face it: done is done. You knew there was a risk getting involved with your pal, but you went ahead anyhow, and now she/he has cold feet, or wants to go back to the ex before you, or whatever. Take the news as gracefully as you possibly can. Cry over it if you need to. Just don't call names, express bitter regrets, or plead and beg for another chance.
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    Understand that making this transition will not be easy. Let your friend know that you regret his/her decision, but will respect it out of love for your friendship. Tell him/her that you'll need him/her to respect your need for some space for a little while.
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    Cut contact with your friend for now. View this as something that must simply be endured, like a broken arm. Time away from your friend will help you make a line between your hope for what could have been, and the reality that now must be.
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    Recognize that you need to talk about it so much more than your family or friends can stand to hear about it. You know you're obsessing, but you can't help yourself and even though you see their eyes glazing over, you're helpless to stop. And you notice, after awhile, that talking about it doesn't really help anyhow. Do allow yourself to talk it out for the first two or three weeks, but if you're still hurting after that: Find one good friend - your sister, brother, or pal, and talk to her/him from time to time, although not every time you see them, if you can help it. This way, you will allow yourself one or two people you can occasionally vent to, rather than exhausting everyone you know.
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    Allow yourself at least a half hour every day to grieve your loss. You have to go on with life, otherwise you will lose your job, flunk out of school, lose all your other friends, or have other personal failures in life. Knowing that you will give yourself at least half an hour at some point today to think about your loss will help you get through the rest of the day until you can sit alone with your grief.
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    Come up with the mental image you will use to box up and eventually purge your emotions. This is the Compartmentalizing part of the exercise. We're going to give these emotions a safe place to go so that you can get on with life as best you can. For some, it can be collecting images into a box and throwing them overboard from a ship. For our example, we will use a mentally conjured bonfire, on a mentally conjured beach, as described just below. It is here that you will allow yourself to feel and grind on your emotions over and over for the next little while. Try to confine your grieving to this scenario, while going through the rest of your day without dwelling on it excessively. Here is the mental imagery process to try:
    • Sit in a room alone, preferably a dark one, and begin building a mental image of being on a beach at night. Now you're all alone in your room, in the dark. You have the time to just sit and process your grief and loss, away from others, away from the world. Imagine every detail of that beach as vividly as you possibly can. Hear the waves pounding the sand and the cry of seagulls. Feel the sand, damp and slightly cold on your bare feet, let your toes squish down in it. See a fire pit in front of you. Hear the seagulls crying as they fly over. Imagine the smell of the salt water and sand. Feel the breeze coming from the ocean. Make it seem as real and vivid as you can.
    • Build a bonfire. Now light your bonfire in the fire pit. See the reddish orange glow illuminating the lifeguard stand nearby, feel the heat on your legs and body as the fire builds. Hear the crackling and popping. Smell the smoke.
    • Feed that fire now - images of you and your friend when you were together, snapshots in your mind of all the places you went, all the things you did as lovers. Add artifacts (gifts you gave, or were given) mentally, see these things go up in smoke, burning away. Watch as the photos you mentally lay on that fire burn up. Put gifts on the fire, let them burn. Favorite articles of clothing. Smells you associate with your friend.
    • Let it burn. Let it out. Cry if you feel like it. Let your tears flow as you watch these things burn away. It is key that you 'burn' only memories that have romantic attachments - not the things you do together as friends. You want to feel the love and affection of friendship when you're through, but you want to rid yourself of the unwanted romantic attachments and associations. Allow the fire to be as big as your love - let it be huge. After all, this is a mental exercise, you're not going to physically burn things (unless you really want to - and if that is what you wish to do, definitely do it in a firepit or other safe place).
    • Repeat as often as necessary until you feel "Burned Out." That's right. If you need a week, that's fine. If you need a month of nightly 'bonfires,' fine. Or a year. You take the time you need to repeat this process until you no longer feel a need to do it. 'Burned out' is a great way to look at it. This is the Processing part of our exercise. While some may consider this an obsessive approach, allowing yourself to feel your emotions obsessively, if necessary, to the extent described here can be healthier than keeping them boxed up inside, never faced. It allows you to give yourself permission to process your feelings, really feel them without repressing or suppressing them, and to symbolically purge yourself of them eventually, while still allowing you to go about your everyday life.
    • When you're done, let the fire die. As you realize you no longer feel a 'burning' compulsion to talk about it, dwell on it, or continue your meditations on your feelings, you will know it's time to let it go. Picture the fire getting smaller - you have run out of fuel to feed it. Allow yourself to continue watching as the fire dwindles and becomes small. It may be helpful for you to now think of the beach beginning to be lit by the coming dawn - imagine a pinkish tinge in the sky, and encourage yourself to feel the hope of a new day being born. As the sun rises above the sea's horizon, see the fire going out, and all the embers turning to white ash.
    • Send the ashes to heaven or upward to space. See yourself reaching into the pit and retrieving some ashes. This is the last time you're going to allow yourself to dwell on this - you want your friend back now. Not as a lover. As your friend. So it's time to let it all go. Take the ashes in your hands, and walk to the surf. Feel the waves lapping at your ankles, the cool of the water against your skin. Imagine the wind gently blowing at your back. Hold your hands out. They contain the ashes - this represents What You Leave Behind. Open your hands, and let the ashes begin to be blown. Lean forward and blow them into the wind, into the surf, let them fly to heaven. Let your tears flow if you need to - this is the end of this chapter in your life. To give it a more final feel, wipe your tears away, sense the ashes mingling in your tears. Then reach down into the clean water of the ocean, and wash them off. Splash some water into your face, feel the coolness, the feeling of being cleansed, taste the salt, smell the tang of the salt. Stand up, hold your head up. Think about your friend, and how you love him or her. Do not allow yourself to dwell on any painful feelings of attachment, only on your now friendly affection.
    • Walk out of the surf, turn your back on your fire pit, and walk away down the beach. This is the final, deliberate mental image you want - you have had your time to grieve. You've indulged your anger, sense of loss, and need to obsess by picturing every detail, every memory of that romance you ever had cross your mind burning away in that cleansing fire. Now you see yourself leaving it behind as you walk into the dawn of a new day. Picture your heart, no longer raw, no longer bleeding from a huge wound. Think of it with a little white spot - a scar; you were hurt, but now it's healing. Let yourself feel clean and ready to move ahead. If you need a little time to acclimate to this new feeling before contacting your friend again, take whatever time you need.
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    From this point on, do not engage in destructive memories. When you feel tempted to remember the failed romance, replace that memory with a good memory of your friend as a friend. Remember a time you laughed together, or s/he came to your mom's birthday party, or you told him or her a big secret about some other crush you had. Allow yourself only constructive thoughts about that relationship - do not revisit the romance again. You're done.
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    Call or write your friend. Tell him or her you're ready to resume your friendship. It's going to feel a little awkward when you first come together again. That's to be expected. Give it time. Meet someplace neutral, and keep it short for the time being. Have coffee or pie - maybe lunch, so it isn't open-ended. Keep the first few visits brief so you have time to re-establish 'normality' with your friend.
    • Plan semi-regular outings so you can get used to being friends again.

Writing a letter

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    Another thing you can do is to write a letter with any things you felt have been left unsaid. Make it as long and sappy as you like.
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    When you've finished it, store it away somewhere far. This will let out some of your feelings and may help you understand them better. When you feel no need of it any longer, burn it in a fireplace or fire pit. Don't leave traces of a romance that will never be again behind to torment you (or embarrass you) later.


  • If you and your ex-lover realize you're both having the same romantic feelings again, really think it through and about what's going to happen before you jump into anything a second time. If you try again and it doesn't work out, there may be no way to recover the friendship again.
  • Any talk of "Sorry about the way it ended, we should never have done that," etc., must be dismissed immediately, and both of you should accept responsibility (not allow just one of you to take the blame). Say, "Done is done. We both knew that was a risk, we both took the risk. It didn't work out for us that way, but we're still friends. Let's just acknowledge that and move on."
  • If the tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife, acknowledge it. "This is going to be tough, but I'm not letting you go. You've been a good friend to me. You will be again, I know it. I'm still your friend, and I'm here for you. Let's just not give up."
  • It may be so awkward or stiff at first that your friend's guilt may prompt him/her to try to opt out of the friendship. This can take the form of you being the one to call all the time, him/her not returning calls, etc. If this happens, just wait a week or two, and call again, leaving a nice, amiable message if they don't answer. Don't pressure or push, just let them know you miss them and want to get together soon.
  • Start another relationship before trying to re-establish your friendship. You'll avoid interference from fresh emotional baggage and prolonged torture to your self esteem. You ex should respect this temporary distancing (it was their decision after all) and may even come to appreciate you more in your absence.
  • Any self-recrimination your friend does should be met with calm reassurances by you. "I feel so bad, I know you got hurt..." You say, "It's okay. I'm flattered you had enough feelings for me to even try that type of relationship with me - we didn't make it, but it's enough for me if we can just be friends."
  • Don't rule out the "ebb and flow" of life. Many friendships are close for a while, then drift away for awhile over your lifetime. If this is "ebb time" don't force it. Just let it drift and send a Christmas card. It may be that the friendship is un-salvageable, and if that turns out the be the case, it's okay to let it go. You tried.


  • Do not entertain the notion of being "friends with benefits." If you were in love, and your friend wasn't, this will only end in tears, and you will lose your friend.
  • Do not get possessive or aggressive when re-establishing your friendship. This is going to take patience for both of you, and if you rush it, you'll blow it. If your friend seems to be 'ditching' you at times, let him/her. Just as you needed time and space, your friend may need some breathing room, too. Just leave a nice message, like, "Hey it's me. Hadn't heard back from you, so I'm guessing you're busy. No worries - give me a call when you have a minute and we'll chat. Maybe have lunch, whatever. Talk to you soon." The less possessive and anxious and intense you seem, the more your friend will relax and feel good about re-claiming the friendship.

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