The long, slow and painful death of a friendship
The end of a friendship is a bewildering experience. Even talking about it feels taboo.
Perhaps that’s because it’s hard to admit there’s a problem in the first place.
Friends don’t cheat on you, or fight with you like romantic partners, but that doesn’t mean you must stay friends.
It’s like there’s an unwritten rule that you’ll remain loyal to your friends no matter what.
But just because platonic friendships don’t have physical intensity that doesn’t make walking away easier. In fact, I reckon it’s harder.
There was a list circulating the web yesterday of twenty friendships that you’re better off giving the flick. Twenty people seem an awful lot to be “rid of” and at least half of these examples are questionable and silly.
But there are some personality types that most people would recognise. Like, the “broke buddy” who always needs a loan, or the “pitier” who won’t let up with the life advice. Or the “hot mess” who is a heap of fun to go out with, but not exactly reliable.
The real problem with this list though is the dire lack of likely or achievable solutions to the problem it proposes. In every scenario the author suggests you just “cut all ties” with the problematic person and seek out friends who align with your life goals. Well here’s my question: how the hell do you do that?
Meredith Fuller, a Victorian psychologist, has written an entire book on how to sever ties with people in your life. Sounds serious doesn’t it? Yet Fuller says breaking up with friends is a normal part of the human experience that will affect everyone at some stage in their life.
That said, there are some very important rules about how you conduct yourself during this breakup and “walking away just doesn’t cut it.”
Being kind is the first rule. Fuller recommends meeting the person and telling them how you feel. Be honest about the ways in which your life has changed and the demands on your time and say you’d like some space for awhile.
“Frame it in a way that you’ve loved the times that you’ve shared together but life has changed for you and that you need some time to revalue,’ says Fuller.
She reckons this method leaves less room for misunderstanding or hurt feelings and also frees both parties of any uncomfortable run-ins in the future.
This is a gutsy move. One of those big, ugly adult kind of moments that are so hard to force yourself to do.
Plus, there are no guarantees that this meeting will go well, or that the person will actually understand what you’re trying to say.
I guess the real test in these things is how you feel afterwards. Fuller says in many cases the friendship that ends with open communication and honesty has every chance of rekindling again in the future.
“I’ve known plenty of cases where the friends meet up again eight or nines year later and are genuinely delighted in seeing one and another again,” said Fuller.
But there will also always be other people who you may never see again.
At the end of the day how we define a real friendship is entirely up to the individual.
To my mind, the best friendships are those that continue to grow. The ones where space, time or distance doesn’t seem to matter because every time you talk, you just pick up where you left off.
They’re also honest and open and accepting of changes, choices and the place of other people in your life. But above all, the best friendships are the people who just genuinely make you feel happier just by being around them. And they are rare beasts indeed.
Be my friend on Twitter: @lucyjk
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