I’m going through a breakup. It’s like any other breakup, but somehow, this one feels worse. I’m desperate for answers, I’m angry, and worst of all, I can’t stop doubting myself. What makes this breakup hurt more? It’s a friendship breakup.
Here’s how it happened. It was a typical spring day and I was on my way back from my lunch break. I received a phone call — it was my best friend of 10 years, and she had some hard truths for me. After an unresolved fight, she called to pinpoint all of my faults and reveal how she really felt about me. Subtlety has never been a strength of mine. I have always been an incredibly upfront and honest person. So, when my best friend told me she thought my brutal honesty was mean, and that she was sometime scared to tell me things, I couldn’t argue. I sat down on a bench and listened to our friendship’s last dying breath.
Since this phone call, I’ve been going through the motions. I’m having eerily similar thoughts to those I have experienced when I’ve ended romantic endeavors. Where did this go wrong? How long has this been coming? How long has she been feeling this way about me? Were all those fun times I remember together a lie?
This breakup is more significant; I’m walking away from 10 years, saying goodbye to somebody I have shared so much with, and there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s more painful than any other boy I’ve parted ways with. Us girls are supposed to stick together to the very end; we’re supposed to stand tall in the face of hard times and oppression. What makes this breakup harder to process is how it’s making me face things I haven’t had to before.
I had my entire being challenged and criticized by somebody who meant a lot to me. My beliefs, mannerisms, things I would normally pride myself on are now things I’m not so sure about. The way I challenge things I don’t think are fair, the fact that I’m the first person to stand up for my friends, or the way I am a complete open book are all things I loved about myself. Throughout the phone call, my best friend told me that I share too much, get worked up over things I shouldn’t, and that I’m too intense. I tried to argue back, but I just sat there in utter disbelief. Was she right? Is this how others perceive me? Have I inadvertently become this horrible person she’s making me out to be? These were all things that she had previously admired about me. She even told me that she was trying to be more like me. We celebrated little victories such as her apologizing less and confronting a bad friend — I told her how proud of her I was. My advice to her was always “channel your inner me, but take it down a few notches,” so when she told me I was too intense, it was clear I didn’t have a leg to stand on.
The truth is, however, our friendship didn’t really end the day she phoned me. It had been over for years. I realized this when my mother asked me to name one good thing she had done for me lately. Instead of remembering a lifetime of joyous occasions and acts of kindness, I was dumbfounded. For years and years, I had gone above and beyond for our group of friends (not just her), and I started to realize how little I got back.
I had given thoughtful gifts, an endless amount of moral support (despite their dangerous and questionable decisions), as well as little things like car rides, and texts checking in on them when I know they’re sad, only to be met with no support back. Not once have any of these people ever taken the time to check in and see how I’m doing. Suddenly, I realized the majority of, if not all, of our interactions were very one-sided. I wouldn’t see any of my friends unless I arranged the meet-ups. For some strange reason, I thought I had to be friends with these people because we have been already for years.
Prior to this phone call, I had already started to expand my social circles. Not deliberately, it had just kind of naturally happened. I got a full-time job, met people through writing, and I moved out of my home town. As a result, I obtained some more adult friendships and realized life is too short for bad ones. You know something’s up when acquaintances ask how you’re doing after losing two family members and the people you thought were your “real” friends don’t.
Even though it’s been hard, I haven’t experienced such a strong sense of liberation in a long time; I feel more free than I have in a while. This particular breakup has reinstated some facts of life I desperately needed reminding of. I think when we have been friends with somebody for a long time, we end up excusing their behavior or overlooking it entirely. Suddenly the longevity becomes the focus and driving force of the friendship. Friendships shouldn’t be hard work — you should enjoy hanging out with each other. There’s nothing worse than being friends with somebody out of obligation. You should celebrate each other, instead of tearing one another down. Friends should support you and want you to grow as a person. But when it gets to a point where they want you to be something you’re not, it’s time to walk away.
It’s hard not to doubt yourself, but it’s important to remember that friendships fade for a number of reasons. I have since realized that a lot of what she was saying stemmed from problems she has with herself. A lot of the things that annoy me about her also stem from things I need to work on, too. It’s really easy to forget that it’s completely natural for people to drift. People change, humans enter and exit each other’s lives all the time. In this particular case, my friend and I are in different stages of our lives. I’ve moved out of my hometown, I’m fairly settled and I’m keen to further my career. She is going through something and doesn’t have the capacity to offer the kind of support I need. I am at a stage in my life where I have very little personal time, and I want to spend that time with people I feel at ease with. We have so much going on in our lives and really only have time for good quality friends and friendships you enjoy. In some ways, it’s easier to end a friendship, as maintaining one requires consistent effort from both parties. I don’t want to spend my spare time stressing out, arguing, or feel like I’m walking on eggshells with somebody. When a friendship becomes draining, it’s time to end it. Although it’s for the best, it doesn’t make it any easier. Guilt is a natural part of any breakup, we’re only human after all.
These new friendships have been really natural, reciprocal, and actually fun. I am celebrated, supported, and genuinely feel rejuvenated. I don’t shine unless my girlfriends shine, and there’s nothing better than hanging out with like-minded women.
While I’m still healing from this experience, I am also grateful for the opportunity it has given me. I feel like I’ve been given a chance to start over. I’m moving on from my home town, as well as some unpleasant memories and toxic friendships that live there. I’m learning so much about how to be a better friend myself, as well as what I deserve and want from other people, too.