At primary school, friendships were easy. You befriended the person who sat next to you in registration. This secured your bond for the next seven years through the alphabetical order of the British schooling system. You slowly killed your Tamagotchis together. You traded Pokémon cards illicitly on the playground. You stole pick ‘n mix from Woolworths, thus ensuring the collapse of the franchise. Then, breasts, Twitter and iPhones happened. We’re not on the playground anymore, Dorothy.
As you grow older and wiser, the number of fucks at your disposal diminishes rapidly. If you’re emotionally maturing each year, you will eventually stop worrying about meaningless validation from others. You will stop caring about the number of likes your profile picture receives, or whether people like your hair. You will care about more important things. I do still like to receive validation and please tell me how lovely my hair looks today, thanking you. But when I was 15? Ho boy, I gave exponentially more fucks than I do now. Once, I cried because a boy said he didn’t like my dress. The Topshop dress I’d bought specially to wear while sitting on a street corner, drinking vodka with him and his mates. That dress was killer and that boy now works as a corporate drone in “consultancy”, so the universe comes good in the end, my son.
On the one hand, friendship can simplify with age. As friends, you experience the good and the bad together. During the bad times, you learn who your true friends are. Your social circle nicely narrows with zero effort required, as you discover who really understands you. Casual friendships form a wider circle of enjoyable background noise; the true pals occupy a higher plane.
But life is also more complex than it was on the 90s playground. Adulthood brings with it baggage which can affect the quality of your friendships. Your work, your romantic partners, your mental health, these can all cause friction in friendships. So what happens when it goes wrong? What happens when you lose someone who you thought was going to be by your side until the robot overlords enslave us all?
Friendship breakups don’t get enough air-time. You know why, Susan, because of our societal preoccupation with romantic love. Friendship breakups can feel confusing and hurtful like regular breakups. They can create insecurity, make you feel betrayed, lost and isolated. But we’re not given the guidebook on how to deal with these feelings (until now, you’re welcome). We need to work towards creating a broader love in our lives (see: Girls 4 Realistic Love, a blog). We deserve to experience empathy and love in all its guises, romantic and platonic too.
Friendship breakups can happen in a number of ways. There are the explosive falling-outs, where a friend has committed a terrible betrayal, like ignoring your witty tweet. These can sometimes be salvaged depending on the closeness of the friendship, the “crime committed” and the ability of both parties to forgive.
In most cases, friendships end more insidiously. Two people have been friends for years, but underlying tension has started to creep into their relationship. This eventually leads to one person walking away from the friendship, because there is no longer a shared understanding between both parties. The initial tension is generally about conflicting values. If you have different values about money, about work, about sex, then you can find your friendship under strain when one of these issues comes to the fore.
Just like romantic entanglements, some “friendships” can be purely toxic and damaging to your self-worth. If your “friend” continually belittles you, acts unkindly or ignores you, then there is no friendship to be lost. Take the giant comedy scissors and cut that shit out. But what to do when a genuine, close friendship ends and you’re left feeling hurt:
- It’s not you, it’s them.
In all relationships, there is a collective responsibility. There is a shared responsibility for a relationship going well; there is a shared responsibility if a relationship falls apart. But if you have been a consistent, loving friend and somebody ditches you, it has more to do with them than you. That’s not a way of shifting blame, but rather an assurance of your own value. Unless you’re losing friends all over the shop, then you can be sure that you are still a top pal.
Your worth has not changed because they no longer want you in their life. In all likelihood, they have their own issues and their values don’t line up with yours. That doesn’t make it hurt any less, it doesn’t stop your pride from feeling wounded and it doesn’t cure the loneliness. You have to let yourself feel those feelings while still being sure of your own value. As if that’s as easy as pecan pie. Just know it to be true even if you can’t feel it yet. We’ll work on the rest Dorothy.
- Leave it to Old Master Time.
Old Master Time is a funny fellow. He just sits there minding his own business and watches you lurch from terrible haircut to terrible haircut. If you’ve lost a friend and are feeling hurt, you have to give it time to heal. You won’t be able to replace them, but it’s important to keep spending time with your other friends and meet new people. This will help you to move on if the friendship is irreparably broken.
If you truly believe that there is a valuable friendship to be salvaged, you still need to give it time. It’s always best to avoid saying angry words in the heat of the moment. If some time has passed (think months, not days) and you still want to talk to them with no expectation of a guaranteed reconciliation, you can explain how you feel with a considered email, letter or message.
Time will allow you to see things more clearly and to express yourself better. If the friendship is truly valued by both parties, reconciliation and a slow rebuilding can then happen in a calmer set of circumstances. So let Old Master Time work his lazy magic as he sits around on a cloud drinking a Rubicon.
- Gaze into the mirror of self-reflection.
A friendship breakup, like a regular breakup, is a great time for self-reflection. Losing a friend can make you reflect on the type of friend you are yourself and whether there are things you could be doing differently. Do you ask too much of your friends? Do you talk about yourself and not ask them how they’re doing? Do you look after your friends when they’re not doing well? Do you respond to their messages when you can? Are you loyal, empathetic and sensitive to their differences?
While gazing in the shiny surface of self-reflection, you can find out what type of friend you want to be and work towards that. You can also look at what type of friend you want to have in your life. If you’ve lost a friend who doesn’t embody the type of friend you want to be yourself, then they probably aren’t the type of friend you need in your life either. Try and see losing a negative friend as an opportunity for positive personal growth, as well as feeling the initial loss. Then, go and find a new person who wants to steal pick n’mix with you until Odeon also goes into administration as a result.
Thank you for voting on Twitter (@G4RL_blog) for this week’s topic. Special thanks to those who shared their stories about thorny friendship breakups to plug my knowledge gap. Go follow the account to be part of the G4RL universe! You should also follow my personal twitter account (@NikkiS4) if you’re looking for the funnys. I promise to deliver “good” jokes with a 65% success rate. Next week will be more hard-hitting stuff, so girder your loins. Then we’re back on our bullshit the following week and there are some exciting, collaborative posts coming soon too. Subscribe via email below to read posts before everyone else, keep sharing the blog online and get your mum to like the page on Facebook.
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