An old photo from an old friendship.
Have you ever broken up with a friend? It is common fact that break-ups are the worst, but I feel we don’t talk much about friendships that fall apart. And aren’t they just as bad sometimes?
Why friendship break-ups are the worst
First of all, the notion of a friendship break-up is rather uncommon, I think. With dating, you are aware of the possibility, but in platonic relationships it is not something you take into account much. These are usually casual relationships, so there’s no reason to think about where it might go and possibly end.
Secondly, there usually isn’t an ultimate break-up moment. Again, with dating, it makes perfect sense to have an ongoing conversation about the relationship and where it’s going, but in friendship there is no such thing. So perhaps the friendship fades and slips out of your hands, or one day you’ll suddenly find yourself disappointed in how the other person let the friendship fall apart.
Another issue is that it’s more difficult to discuss the state of a friendship. It feels a little dramatic to sit someone down, we need to talk style, and tell them you’re worried about where the friendship is going. We don’t do these talks with our friends. We aren’t conditioned to evaluate friendships the same way, perhaps not even at all.
I don’t do it myself, either. I hardly ever take the time to reflect on what I “want” out of a friendship with someone, because it’s just not something you think about with friends. I think there is an expectancy for friendships to flow naturally. Personally, I find that with romantic relationships, we are much more focused on our wants and needs for a partner. But why lower the bar for friends?
Lastly, I think the most frustrating thing about it is that it’s hard to get closure on a failed friendship. Especially if you’ve been on the other end of a one-way-traffic road for a while, what are you going to do? There is no etiquette for getting over that. At least with dating there’s the occasional cliche “the best way to get over someone is to get with someone else“, but that really doesn’t work for friendships, does it? This is probably what has bothered me the most personally. There isn’t really opportunity or space to articulate the begrudging feelings you may be stuck with after losing a friendship. On top of that, not having this final terminating moment where you can talk things out has me worried sometimes. What if the other person repeats their tricky behaviours with future friends to come?
Let’s talk about friendships more
This is a call to talk about friendships more openly and often. In the past few months I noticed these struggles are a lot more common than I thought, but it’s just not talked about as much. On Twitter I also got a fair response and understanding when I brought it up.
It doesn’t just have to be the bad and the ugly, of course. Let’s talk more about the good, too. When moving abroad, and also upon return, I found that some of my friends were a lot more honest about what our friendship meant to them, and those were some extremely meaningful moments for me. However, I don’t think we would have had those moments if I hadn’t moved away, which is really such a shame! Of course we all love to hear how much we mean to someone, even if it’s an out-of-the-blue message. Let’s do more of those.
Some of my coolest friends!