Surviving a friendship break up
Break ups suck. Everyone knows that. It doesn’t really matter who instigated it or how it came about and the Hollywood movie cliches – sweatpants on the sofa, crying into a pint of ice cream in front of The Notebook – don’t really touch upon the true grief that is saying goodbye to an important period or person in your life. But what happens when the person on the other end is a friend you’d assumed would hang around forever?
Nobody really talks about friendship break ups or gives them the air time they deserve. In all honesty, I think it’s often worse than the end of a relationship because whilst you may be able to heed the warning signs and appreciate that things just aren’t how they used to be, we often assume that our good friends are in it for the home run.
Not all friendships are the same, we bond with different people in different ways, often for distinct purposes (even if not consciously so). There are the friends you’ll introduce to your family, the one’s who’ll treat your little sister like their own. The friends that you’ll call up on a Friday evening because you know they’ll be down for tequila shots, and the ones who will be round in their pyjamas with a bottle of wine and the Sex in the City boxset instead. Sometimes I do believe friendships are only destined to last a period, perhaps borne out of convenience even, such as a work pal or a friend at school that you know you won’t really keep in touch with. That’s okay. We can’t be BFFs with everybody and it’s these perhaps less meaningful (but no less valuable) friendships that help us to gain perspective on our really close ones.
When a friendship breaks up that you expected would run the long course though, it really, really hurts. It’s not actually that different to a relationship break up: you wonder how you’ll get to know someone else so well, you’ll mourn your ‘in‘ jokes and seeing them move on to pastures new can make you feel jealous and bitter, or perhaps just really sad. This is, without the usual outpouring of empathy that often comes along with a newly single status. Maybe that’s because we’re less inclined to publicise a friendship break up, or maybe we just don’t recognise the platonic relationship as as important as a romantic one.
I’ve broken up with friends before. I’ve been broken up with by friends before. Sometimes friendships have just come to a sad but necessary end and other times I’ve barely noticed as they gradually melt away. I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason and often if a relationship of any variety ends, it’s for the health and happiness of both parties, even if it may not feel that way at the time.
Perhaps one of the other real difficulties and acute differences to a romantic break up is that often a friendship break up doesn’t come with closure. We allow ourselves to drift apart when actually, it’s far braver to have those difficult conversations if you feel that a friend isn’t treating you the way you expect to be treated anymore. Even the most blazing of rows or dramatic of romantic break ups come with some sort of ‘end’, if only because you’re likely to be tied to each other in some form, be it as huge as splitting a property or as little as giving back their stuff. I’ve only ever had one friendship end on the basis of a big, angry row and it took years before either of addressed those feelings and sought closure.
I went for lunch with a friend before I left London and she explained how she’d recently decided to break up with a friend. She explained to her all the reasons she felt it was for the best and I thought that was a really brave, and probably quite rare, thing to do. It really got me thinking.
Being someones friend is not unconditional and neither is the love that comes with it. Sometimes friendships become sour, sometimes they weren’t as strong as you believed in the first place, other times it’s simply part and parcel of growing up; something I believe we’re all constantly in the process of. We are not the same person year on year (at least, I hope not) and thus whilst some relationships may alter and adapt as you grow together, others may become fractured. Sometimes it’s a relief to feel unburdened from a friendship that perhaps has becoming damaging, or even just simply a chore. Maybe you realised you just aren’t quite as aligned as you once were and that’s totally fine too. Either way it’s kinder to have those conversations, even if they’re not always fun.
I don’t regret a single friendship, relationship or encounter I’ve had in my life. Even the more toxic ones have taught me something, be it about myself or about how to do better next time.