Let’s Talk Break-Ups

It’s Wednesday! Does it even matter! What is time anymore?! I’m on the home straight to be free from isolation. Luckily, no symptoms have manifested, but we aren’t out of the woods yet. Keep your fingers crossed, kids.

Today I want to talk about break-ups, and not in the sense you may think:

I want to talk about friendship break-ups.

The hardest break-ups in my life were with friends. Women, that I deeply cared about, that I had always imagined would be by my side as we grew old together. Then, almost overnight, that friendship ended. They were no longer in my ‘most frequently contacted’ on Whats App. We no longer followed each other on social media. We don’t even know where the other lives anymore.

When I was young if I fell out with a friend we would be mad for a day and then make up singing ‘make friends make friends, never never break friends, if you do I’ll flush you down the loo and that will be the end of you.’ However, it’s more complex as we get older. We start to know ourselves more and what we will stand for. Friendships are not just based on proximity of who’s close enough to bike ride with on the weekends and who won’t choose to be the same spice girl as you. Friendships in my teens and 20s definitely had a foot in who would drink and/or take drugs with me. However the ones that lasted where the ones who transcended this and stuck around longer than the hangover. At times spanning not just cities, but countries also.

It’s something rarely spoken about: friendship break-ups. We all know the pattern of romantic-relationship break-ups. The image of crying, watching sad movies, eating ice-cream, getting blind drunk, getting ‘under’ someone else. I’ve done it all when a love interest or partner’s time with me has come to an end. However, when I lost friends, I didn’t know how to deal with it.

How do we handle the end of a friendship? Do we have the ‘I’m breaking up with you’ conversation, or do you just realise one day it’s been a year and you have no idea where they live/what they’re doing. When once upon a time you could list off what they had for breakfast/where they would be that evening/how many tinder swipes they had remaining that day. Sometimes people are left hurt, with no closure. Sometimes behaviour is so shocking it rips apart a friendship in a way that an amicable conversation cannot be had. It leaves a void and a gap, a ‘what happened?’ a question that we may never get the answer to. It is a heartbreak. It is grief. There is a period of mourning. That one person you thought would be by your side through all of life’s ups and downs are no longer at the end of the phone.

My friendships are always pretty intense. When I love, I love hard. I am fiercely loyal, and expect the same in return. There is a codependency in a lot of my close friendships. I’m working on it. My Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) has my brain wired differently. I am aware of this, and I want to manage it. I also need to be kind to myself and not beat myself up when I am reacting differently. Somethings are an overreaction, and some things are a big deal to me. I’m allowed to have things be a big deal to me. I have my boundaries; I have my expectations. So do my friends. If we cannot have an equal partnership without toxicity then I don’t want it in my life. This goes both ways; I want my friends to point out when I am being toxic and I need to be able to do the same. If we can work through it, great. If we can’t then it’s time to move apart amicably.

The image of break-ups is a betrayal. The action of a betrayal gives reason as to why a relationship ends; therefore, we can explain and communicate why it has come to that end. However, in friendship break-ups there sometimes isn’t anything to pinpoint. There’s no betrayal as such, just a change, a growth.

A common expectation exists that romantic relationships don’t need to last forever, this needs to be normalised with friendships as well. In order to reduce the shame associated with their break-down we need to truly accept friendships don’t have to last forever. Many people who have had friendships end feel shame. They see others making friendships work and berate themselves that they have not been able to do the same. I know I am guilty of this. A wider normalisation of friendship break-ups would enable people to talk more openly about this, and in turn garner support and an understanding that they are not alone in this. It is something we will all experience sometime in our life, there is nothing shameful about it.

There is nothing wrong with you because a friendship didn’t last. People change and grow all the time, it’s not something we can predict or control. So let’s normalise ending friendships that don’t serve us anymore. Normalise talking about it too. Normalise boundary holding as admirable rather than uncompromising. You wouldn’t be in a romantic relationship if you didn’t have romantic interest in the other person. Therefore don’t have friendships with people you have no friendly interest in.

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