What Is Friendship Cheating And Why Does It Hurt So Much?

There are lots of reasons why friendship cheating is never given the credit it deserves in the world of emotional grief. Usually, things like familial or romantic love trump that. Sadly, it’s just the way that society works at the moment. There are so many reasons why friendships are more valuable than relationships and therefore, the pain associated with said loss is even more acute. Here’s why.

What is friendship cheating?

  1. It’s a form of betrayal. Many people mistakenly believe that cheating can only happen in romantic relationships, but that’s definitely not the case. While a boyfriend or girlfriend is definitely held to high standards when it comes to being faithful, it’s certainly possible for cheating of sorts to occur in a friendship too.
  2. You get ditched out of nowhere for other friends. If you’re close with someone and they’re part of your inner circle, it sucks when they drop you like a bad habit without warning and suddenly start hanging out with other people. They don’t offer you an explanation and they also don’t call, text, or even speak to you much at all anymore. Then, when they get bored with the other people, they come back to you like nothing happened and expect you to be cool with it.
  3. The things you’ve told your friend in confidence get spread around. Another sign of friendship cheating is confiding in a friend about something really private/important to you and them swearing to keep it to themselves. However, the next thing you know, everyone in your wider circle and even people not in it and suddenly know your business and have things to say about it. This is one of the worst examples of friendship cheating because it shows your trust means nothing to them.
  4. You introduce your friend to another friend and they leave you behind. This is perhaps the most popular example of the trend. Have you ever introduced a friend to another friend only for them to hit it off and leave you in the dust? They don’t seem to realize that they wouldn’t even know each other without you and they certainly don’t care. It’s painful and sad and makes you not want to get close to people anymore.

Why friendship cheating hurts so much and things to consider

  1. Friends define our identity. They really are that important, so it makes sense that the betrayal will take some getting over. You’ve shared memories with them and some formative experiences, but what do those things mean without the people who were by your side at the time?
  2. You feel so alone. As with romantic relationships, in platonic friendships, if you can’t be alone, you put a drain on them. It’s not their job to entertain you, only to support you. Unpack how you approach that relationship.  This is one of the big hitters. A true tell of not trusting someone is by developing your own unhealthy attachment issues. If you can’t deal with time away from your friend, it probably means that you aren’t fully comfortable in yourself. The more you like who you are, after all, the more you will accept time alone. This is something that you can work on by yourself to make sure that you’re ready for a relationship because co-dependency is not good for anyone. Let alone when you start to smother the other person.
  3. Did you suffocate them? Do they complain, jokingly at the start, that you haven’t seen your own bed in weeks? Or that you haven’t seen friends and family in a while? That’s not a good sign. It might mean that you’re getting so needy that you only want to spend time with your friend. However, you risk isolating both parties from their well-rounded lives. You can’t be the only person in someone’s life. That’s too much pressure.
  4. Have you lost trust? Not only do you stop hanging out with other people, but you start to actively alienate them. Becoming so needy that you can’t enrich your mind with external perspectives and things to do is a bad sign. At best, you will get bored. At worst, you will burn some bridges that you cannot get back.
  5. You don’t see it coming. No one prepares you for when a friend betrays you. It might be that there are a few romcoms about how to get back on the wagon after someone cheats on your relationship, but there’s nothing out there about how to recover from a cheating friend. Or someone who you thought you could trust but it turns out you can’t.
  6. You feel like you were taken for a fool. This might not be all on you, and it’s not a personal failing that makes you any less worthy of love. After all, the friend might be guilty of inconstant affection or stringing people along, so don’t think that things are all in your head. That said, be mindful of the very real issue of gaslighting, if you’re never relaxed or happy in a relationship, what is it really serving you. If you can’t be yourself in front of your friend and if you’re always explaining yourself, or demanding more time with your friend in the hope that eventually you feel ‘known’ enough to be seen and loved, stop. Work on your own insecurities otherwise you will project them and neediness will develop into something worse.
  7. You didn’t get closure. It’s unlikely. While with relationships you have to distribute your stuff and return books and decide what happens with logistics like shared friends and prebooked holidays, that’s not the case with friendships. Often, our blended lives are already too well incorporated to try to separate them. They influence who we are, irrevocably. That’s the saddest thing. You grew into who you are because of your friends, in a less defined or obvious way as a partner influences you. People around you won’t necessarily sympathize with a loss of a friend because it’s just accepted as a part of growing up. But you can’t heal without closure. You just can’t.
  8. Think back: how often were you willing to compromise? When toxic relationships enter our lives we want to blame them. But think about your own actions. If you haven’t changed but expect them to, I smell a fault. You have to remember, it’s all about the give and take. It takes two to tango, after all. You’re allowing other people to take away your agency, and you’re making yourself vulnerable. The minute you realize you’re in charge of your own life, the minute you can feel in control and actually calm down. It will help you move on.
Hannah has a Masters degree in Romantic and Victorian literature in Scotland and spends her spare time writing anything from essays to short fiction about the life and times of the frogs in her local pond! She loves musical theatre, football, anything with potatoes, and remains a firm believer that most of the problems in this world can be solved by dancing around the kitchen to ABBA. You can find her on Instagram at @_hannahvic.