A friend once said to me that she thought it was easier to ‘break up’ with a friend than a boy. Because if you breakup with a friend, it’s really more a case of easing off on hanging out with them, it can always be picked up later, but when you break up with a boy, it’s final.They are out of your life, and there’s nothing left of them. That’s that.
I didn’t really think about it at the time. Didn’t have any strong opinions either way. As I get older, and maybe a little bit wiser, and definitely a lot more savvy about these things, I’ve realised that I don’t agree.
I’ll take your stories about heart break and old boyfriends and raise you a friend breakup.
I mean, sure, heartbreak is terrible. I’ve had my heart broken. I’ve had boys turn me inside out and confuse me and hurt me, but I don’t think about them now. Years go by and I don’t miss them, or wish I could talk to them when something reminds me of them. They’re just memories.
But the friends I’ve lost? Be it through drifting apart, disagreements or horrible arguments, they’re the people I think of on occasion. The people I wonder about. The people I sometimes miss. Some of them are definitely better out of my life, in that the friendship didn’t feel healthy, or stressed me out. Some of them I’ve just drifted from, and don’t feel comfortable getting in touch with. Some of them can be traced back to a horrible argument and a lot of pride on both sides. Some of them are just mysteries. I’m not saying every friendship breakup is hard. You meet a lot of temporary people along the way, especially in your teens and early twenties. You’re never going to regret every one of them.
In my mind, there are six types of friend breakups.
THE ONE YOU DRIFTED FROM
These are the awkward ones. The ones you used to chat to every single day, but then you went off to uni, or graduated, or just went in a different direction with your life and that started to happen less and less. There was no solid falling out. Just a gradual absence and an awkwardness. You try and remember birthdays and feel glad when they remember yours, but you don’t feel comfortable inviting yourself over for tea and a chat. There’s nothing wrong with that. Some friendships don’t go the distance. Some of them might surprise you if you get in touch, you’ll find that conversation flows just as easily as it ever did.
THE ONE WHO STOPPED TALKING TO YOU
I only have one person in my life who’s done this, just cut me out of their lives, deleted me from Facebook, stopped answering text messages and generally acts like he’s never met me when we pass on the street. I remember it was the summer after I graduated from University. I was getting ready to move to Nottingham for my PGCE, had a reading list as long as my arm and was absolutely terrified. I mean, completely terrified, that I wouldn’t make any friends; that I would get lost/mugged/stabbed on a night out in an unfamiliar city; that I would fail. In hindsight I was probably more than a little bit depressed, although I’d convinced myself that I wasn’t, having just come off my antidepressants. Then, before I knew it I was moving, and this guy had deleted me from Facebook and stopped answering my messages. And I was in England, trying to settle in and not cry on a daily basis, trying to convince myself I hadn’t made a huge mistake. I never found out why he stopped talking to me. At the time I was afraid I had done something absolutely terrible, and ashamed that I couldn’t even think of what it might be. Then I was too proud. Now I just chalk it up to experience. Not everyone is going to like you. And not everyone is going to be your friend. And if someone cuts you out like that without talking to you about it, and you genuinely have no idea why, they probably didn’t think that highly of you in the first place.
THE ONE YOU STOPPED TALKING TO
We all have them. Those people that we just couldn’t stand anymore. The people who have wronged us, or just plain annoy us. There’s not much to be said about this one. They might not be a terrible person, they might be crazy, they might just not be the right fit for you. You make your mind up about someone and that’s that. End of story.
THE ONE YOU HAD THE GODAWFUL ARGUMENT WITH
You know the one. The one that you swore you would never speak to again. The one who’s name would annoy you. The one who hurt your feelings so badly that you swore off close friendships forever. I’ve only had two arguments like this in my life.
One was in school, and we patched it up after a few years, ended up living together in University halls and now she’s one of my closest friends again. I helped her boyfriend pick out her engagement ring and I’m a bridesmaid at her wedding.
The second was probably the worst fight I’ve ever had with anyone, ever. It happened the summer after I graduated, when I was stressed about moving, depressed and incredibly anxious, and she had her own very valid problems that were making her stressed and incredibly anxious. It was based on, what in hindsight was a misunderstanding and miscommunication.The fight was pretty explosive, fuelled by our individual situations. I had never ever, in my life, cried in public until that point. After this fight I spent a 20 minute taxi journey in floods of tears, with an extremely uncomfortable driver trying to cheer me up. Anger and pride, the ability to delete and block people on Facebook and a move to England ensured that I never saw the girl again.
It’s easy to look back now and feel pretty zen about all of these fights. But at the time I was furious, heart broken and in a worse state than I was after any breakup.
THE ONE WHO WASN’T GOOD FOR YOU
They might not be a bad person; they might be horrible; they might be selfish; they might be an absolute drain on your time and energy who gives nothing back to you; they might just make you feel horrible about yourself, whether they’re trying to or not. These are the people that make you wonder what the hell you were thinking when you decided to be friends with them. The ones that you get absolutely nothing from, unless it’s a feeling of vague inadequacy or emotional fatigue. It could be through the absolute lack of interest and respect they have for you and your life (it’s all about them). It could be that they have a habit of making snide remarks and you have a sneaking suspicion that they enjoy putting you down.
The thing is, the people that drain you now might not always have been like this. There might have been a time when you enjoyed their company, or had amazing craic with them. The good memories can cloud your judgement and make you reluctant to let them go. But if you get to a point where you dread having to spend time with them, cut them loose.
THE ONE YOU WEREN’T GOOD FOR
This one is difficult to acknowledge. It’s one I wouldn’t have owned up to a few years ago. But sometimes it happens. Sometimes you make a friendship about you. Sometimes you’re thoughtless. Thankfully, I only have one (old) friendship that I put in this category. I suppose part of it is that I wanted a friendship, they didn’t; I leaned on them, maybe (definitely) a little bit too much, when I was going through my depressed years. These things happen. Thankfully, it’s something that I learned from. You move on. You wish them the best. You hope they don’t hate you too much but accept that they might, and maybe you deserve it.
So there you have it. My take on friendship. Breakups can be messy, but I have never, ever, regretted a breakup more than I’ve regretted a friendship.