dealing with friendship breakups

I have had many types of friends. Close ones, ones I thought were going to be around forever, ones that were fleeting, ones born from convenience, ones I hardly ever speak to but are always there. During the course of my life, many of these friendships have changed.

I found a diary that I wrote when I was ten. It is littered with pictures of “my best friends”, and I looked through the pages and the stories written in there and the smiling faces of people who I am no longer in touch with.

Breakups with friends are different, aren’t they?

Some people may laugh at my use of the word “break-up” as often this is a word reserved for romantic relationships. But, I think the same applies.

They just happen in a very different way. They tend to disintegrate or shift, rather than having a definitive end. You can’t really get away with (or you really shouldn’t) just phasing out communication in a relationship with your partner. This is because in a romantic relationship, there have been clear expectations and boundaries set out and if those lines are crossed then things have to change.

Friendships are more nebulous but can be just as full of expectations. It’s hurtful when friendships end. And they can end in so many ways. It can happen naturally, as two people drift apart. It can happen thoughtlessly because the rest of life gets in the way: new jobs, moving, new friends etc. It can happen intentionally, a pullback from one side and the other person is left in limbo – unsure because they don’t feel like they can ask.

I used to have a friend who I knew from primary school, and when we were thirteen we broke up.

I was told I was holding her back and we had to be apart to grow. At the time, I was devastated and kind of shocked.

Looking back now, it was the kindest thing she ever did for me.

It was clear. I knew I was no longer wanted in her life. It was hard to accept at first, but I was able to move on with certainty. And she was right. I grew without her.

Recently I’ve had friendships change again, and the hardest part is not knowing where you stand. I kept pushing and pushing for connection until I realised the reason I felt so unhappy with it all was that I was expecting something that wasn’t there.

Sometimes people change, and you don’t change with them, or they don’t know how to change with you. Sometimes you have to let them go and you never know when it may swing around again. But friendships are just like any other relationship, they require you to be heard, they require effort on both parts and communication.

So my method is to always try because it is important to know from your end that you have communicated what you wanted to communicate. If nothing comes back from the other side – then at least you know you did your best and you have to let it go its own way.

It comes back to expectations again, doesn’t it?

I can’t expect closeness from everyone, I can’t expect to be the most important figure in their lives, I can’t expect from them more than I am willing to give myself, or the same that I am willing to give to them. Annoyingly, I learned it comes down to me how I choose to feel about it.

I can’t control the other person, I can only control what I do.

I think the most important thing is that you have to learn what you are willing to bring to the table, and what you are ready to walk away from. Because you have to be open to receiving whatever they have to give, and if that isn’t enough for you, you also have to be willing to walk away and recognise that this can be your choice.

Your choice to deserve more.

Or your choice to expect less.

Your choice to let someone in again or let them sail past. Even if it hurts for a time.

You are the one that gets to decide.

Isn’t that a terrifying and freeing thought?


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