Here’s where I am. Here’s my honest, vulnerable self. It isn’t pretty, in fact making this acknowledgement makes me want to run for the hills, but I’m here so you’ll have to deal with me for now. I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed that I have friends that I no longer call friends. I am more ashamed that I have friends who no longer want me to be a part of their lives. I am confused because a friendship “breakup” was something no one ever prepared me for. I am ashamed that this makes me feel as though I am a little girl searching for something, searching for my own sense of adequacy. More than that, I feel alone.
I am not even ready for my own honesty as I constantly try to reframe this so it doesn’t seem that I am a friendless loser. But to a degree, I am. To a degree I am that person who has been cast aside by another, who has been found lacking in some fundamental way and no pretty language or clever metaphor is going to change that. The truth is that friendship is important to me, deeply so. When I love a friend, I love them unconditionally. I am fiercely protective, and I try and show up for them no matter what. I don’t always get it right, but I do try. With a close friend, I am vulnerable, I am me. Not the me that needs to drive a deliverable or needs to say the right thing, I am the deeply flawed, often-puts-her-foot-in-mouth version of myself. The version I like the most. It’s hard to think that someone sees you at your most real, sees the real you and then decides “well this isn’t for me”. Hard, but no less true.
The funny thing is with that when you’re part of couple and things go sour, you’re allowed to demand answers. You’re allowed an explanation at the very least, even if it’s a load of rubbish. But with friendship breakups, its slightly more sinister and a hell of a lot more subtle. We live in the unsaid. Maybe I was not designed to be susceptible to the mild hint, maybe I was designed for direct conversation. I’m the sort of person who needs you to blunt, mainly so that I can complain about your lack of tact later, but also because it helps me understand you. Perhaps that’s why this whole thing is so complex for me. Friendship breakups sometimes don’t even have a “breakup”, you know the awkward “it’s not you, it’s me, but let’s not be friends” moment. I’m weird in the sense that I need things to be explicit, so if you’re trying to get away from me you’re better off just telling me to leave you alone instead of just hoping I disappear. I won’t. What I will do, which in the history of all things ever has never worked, is confront you. After you’ve ignored a few of my messages or made up some lackluster excuse why we can’t meet up, I’ll ask you why you’re behaving strangely. And this is where the wheels fall off. Maybe you’ve already made up your mind about our friendship and I’m not clever enough to have gotten your subtle hints. So, I’ll ask because I genuinely want to fix things. I’ll ask to see if you’re okay. And you’ll respond out of politeness, sometimes you may even apologise but most often you’ll pretend there isn’t a problem and that will frustrate me because I’ll feel like I’m being lied to. Unfortunately being lied to, or rather my belief that I’m being lied to, is a massive trigger and this starts the journey towards a path where you fail me in a way I can’t bring myself to forgive. If you think the situation pans out differently if you do apologise, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news. Unfortunately unless you apologise and genuinely want things to change, an apology is worse than an outright lie because it allows hope to survive. See all that muck, all that fear and insecurity and my strong desire for clarity? No wonder I don’t have many friends.
I really don’t feel like we give enough attention to the trauma of a friendship “breakup”. Can I talk openly about what a colossal idiot my ex was? Sure, I can. In fact, you’ll probably pour me a glass of wine and commiserate with me. But talking about friendships that go wrong seem taboo somehow and to me feel like a bigger failure than a “relationship” breakup. What’s even more weird I suppose is that friendships are relationships but that I can’t really talk about my “ex-friends”. I suppose talking about my “ex-friends” cuts to close to talking about my failure, it cuts to close to the shame of not being liked. A friendship breakup hurts. Not the kind of hurt that is good or the kind that brings growth. This is the hurt that makes you wonder if you’re worthy. It’s selfish and melodramatic. Maybe friendships weren’t built to last through your entire lifetime, maybe you’re meant to walk with different friends on different journeys. And as much as I don’t want to, maybe that’s just something I need to come to terms with.