My last post Not all friendships were created equal reminded me of another time where I found myself in a friendship, unknowingly, (or not, actually) of unequal importance….
We cannot talk about fractured friendships without talking about reconciliations, can we? Even if you feel far away from this stage, or it seems highly unlikely - the chances are you have at least given the concept some thought?
Could you reconcile? Do you even want to? Would you consider it if your friend approached you? Would you be brave enough to approach your friend? Is it too late? Has too much time passed? Are you even the same people anymore? Have you changed too much? Has she? Do you still have time for her in your life? What would you say? How would you react?
These are just some of the thoughts that might swirl around your head after a falling out with a friend. There is no time limit on how long these thoughts may last and no telling what may trigger them to pop up at any given moment. Also your answers to said questions may change from day to day, until you reach a more peaceful place about the situation.
As someone who has experienced my fair share of friendship endings, I also have some experiences with reconciliations. I wish I could say the ratio was equal, but that’s not quite true. There are friendships that have ended, which, at least for now, I feel should stay over. That is not because of the people involved particularly, rather because I feel peaceful about the situations as they are. When I hear a song that makes me think of them for example; I smile and enjoy the memory without feeling sad, or the need to reach out to that person. This is usually a pretty good indication that you are emotionally at peace with the ending of the friendship.
If constant thoughts of that person still plague you, or if you are still asking yourself the above reconciliation questions, then you probably don’t feel peaceful about the ending, and maybe reconciliation is possible because you are mentally open to it.
My most recent reconciliation was actually this year. I met and became good friends with someone in 2013, and we hit the ground running. We became fast friends and even faster enemies. By 2015 we were no longer on speaking terms. How was it possible that it could nose dive so fast, or that it could impact me so profoundly when I had only known this person for 2 years at best? I think it is fair to say that the length of a friendship is not always relevant to the pain experienced at the ending of it.
This person and I didn’t speak for about 18 months – almost as long as we had even been friends?! Maybe because we were still in a position where we had to see one another most days, or maybe due to the intensity of our friendship (that helped it burn out,) I never reached a peaceful place about our ending. Milestones like birthdays passed, and I wondered if I should reach out, or if she would. I wondered if she wondered the same thing. I don’t know how to explain it, except to say that it never felt over, despite the fact that we actually did discuss the ending and close that chapter, officially speaking. Still, the silence between us was so LOUD!
Around 8 months into our “fight” if you will, I went on an overseas holiday, and bought her a small trinket. I considered giving it to her as a peace offering perhaps. I saw it and it made me think of us and I took it as a sign from the universe that it was time for me to come forward and end this silence. Just after I got back from that trip, as if she also had some sort of sign, or epiphany, she began engaging me in small pleasantries. However instead of being happy about this, I wondered what it all meant? Were we friends again now? No mention of anything? I felt she couldn’t just start talking to me again as if nothing had ever happened. It felt like it was minimising both the importance of our friendship, and the pain we had each suffered at its fracture. Well, the pain I had suffered anyway. I assumed it was equally painful for her. It never occurred to me that she was talking to me again because it actually hadn’t been that painful for her and her indifferent conversation was a sign of her indifference towards me in general. This was a reality I would ruminate over for quite a while before I could swallow it! I put down my peace offering and put up more walls instead. A curious reaction, I agree!
I think I actually hoped she was coming forward to apologise and end the fight, and in a way, letting me off the hook for an apology I was all but willing to make the week before. I remember discussing it with another friend and saying “I wonder if she will contact me?” I waited anxiously by the phone for her text or call, but all that followed were more of the same empty, small conversations of zero importance. I have never been one for small talk. She knew this. I tried not to engage her whenever I could avoid it. Small things became more important than they needed to be, such as who ended a conversation when I was forced to politely engage her. I became disappointed, annoyed and curious at her lack of follow through on the personal friendship front. I wondered if her empty conversations were hints that she was wanting me to come forward and apologise, that she was open to reconciliation.
I decided to go back to hating her and not speaking to her. That’s mature, isn’t it? We went on like this, her trying to be friendly, and me trying to continue the fight for another good 6 months. My feelings would not be invalidated by her indifference. What happened mattered to me, and if we weren’t going to discuss it then we weren’t going to be friends. I forgot all about the trinket I bought her and any thoughts of peace offerings….. Until I found the trinket again one day and remembered who I bought it for and why. By HUGE coincidence perhaps, right at the same moment Jason Donovan was playing on my MP3 player (don't judge me! haha this blog is called confessions for a reason! Lol) and the song was "Don't let your pride stop you from saying sorry, remember in time, there's 2 sides to every story...." If that's not a sign I don't know what is!
Mulling over our friendship and the ending, I had to take responsibility. Regardless of what she did or said to me, it wasn’t without provocation from me. Accountability! (2 sides to every story) It dawned on me that the reason I had not yet reached a peaceful place about us was because I knew deep down I owed her an apology. I didn’t feel good about the way we left things. I wasn’t comfortable with the image of myself that I felt I had left her with. I was terrified, but I decided it was time to apologise.
I had no idea how she would react. I didn’t know how to steal a moment with her alone, as they always crept up on me by surprise. I started carrying that trinket around in my pocket so the next time she engaged me I could break the ice. When the time came, I was literally trembling and my voice was shaky. I couldn’t do it! I chickened out. What on earth was I so afraid of? Another rejection? Would she laugh in my face? Would she yell? Would she take it seriously or just fob me off with more small nothings?
I managed a more friendly engagement with her, but none of the things I planned to say escaped my mouth. The unspoken words mocked me....
At the end of that particular conversation, if you can picture this, I literally stood there making uncomfortable eye contact for an extra 10 seconds, (which felt way longer!) trying to will myself to say the words. She broke my silence, annoyed, with the words “Are you lost?” And I laughed and left very quickly. All the while scolding myself and being disappointed that I had not found the courage of my convictions. Again I was angry at her, for her harsh reaction, although to be fair, it was a strange uncomfortable encounter and she was right to end it! Lol. So instead I tried drafting her an email. Even then I couldn’t craft a letter I was happy with. My good intentions to apologise were quickly taken over by a need to justify my actions and blame her!! This was only going to add fuel to the fire and didn’t reflect well on me. I couldn't apologise because I still didn't fully understand what had happened between us. I needed to forgive her, but more than that I needed to forgive myself. To do this I needed to understand.
In countless therapy sessions I worked on understanding what happened between us and my own responses, reasons and triggers. And when I understood that my need for her was related to the friendships I had lost before her it all started to make sense. I was in NEED of friends (meaning I was a needy friend) because I had lost some important core friendships. When I lost those friends, although I felt peaceful about it, my self-esteem and self-worth had taken a hard hit. I was in a hurry to fill the voids left in my life, hence the fast intensity between us. When our friendship fractured too, it confirmed my worst fears about myself, that I was unlovable, broken, damaged and not capable of social success or fulfilment. Destined to be alone?! Sigh. Cue the world’s smallest violin!! Haha Although it was only subconsciously, I had been aware of the unequal status between us all along and it was triggering me like crazy - all my insecurities and fears about self all spilling out - only adding to our problems and my neediness.
Knowing this, helped immensely. I was able to challenge these inner beliefs and realise that just because one person didn’t find me friendship material, did not reflect on me at all. I was able to explore the changes and circumstances she was facing and acknowledge that her behaviour was never about me to begin with. I was forced to acknowledge that her indifferent conversation was in fact surface level! It wasn’t a hint that she wanted more from me, it was a sign that she was over it, whatever it was. She had been more important to me than I had been to her. Her indifference was just that – indifference, and I was only hurting myself by insisting on continuing this fight. It was still more important to me than it was to her.... but not for long.
I began to feel a calmness spread over me, and it was such a relief. I believe this calm was my own indifference. I still felt I owed her an apology and I wanted her to have it, but I was no longer caught up in her response. The urgency had been removed. I did not need to validate myself through her forgiveness or justify myself anymore. I didn’t need to blame her or for her to acknowledge her wrongdoings and take back harsh words. I didn’t need us to be friends again, although I did like her, if she didn’t feel the same way then I wasn’t going to waste any more energy forcing it.
Shortly after this epiphany of my own, circumstances dictated that I needed to ask her for a favour. (She had indicated in one of our casual conversations when I mentioned being stuck on something that I should have asked her, although I found this strange, I therefore I knew she was open to helping me and in a position to do so if asked.) I tried to approach her in person, but the timing was wrong for her, and I missed the window of opportunity. Without any anxiety, I took out my phone and I sent her a text asking for her help, and saying I understood if she wasn’t interested in helping me, but that I thought I would ask and I would appreciate a reply.
When I hadn’t heard back from her 2 hours later I wasn’t worried. (In the not so distant past this would have been anxiety producing for me) I continued on with my day and prepared for a friend’s birthday lunch. I admit I did jump when a text came in, but laughed when I realised it was a reminder for my next appointment with my psychologist! The timing was so ironic! Lol She eventually replied, explaining her delay and saying it was lovely to hear from me. I felt us both relaxing into a smile as we exchanged messages back and forth for the rest of the day. I told her I was sorry, no explanations or justifications and even made a joke about my grudge baring ability! Ha! She replied that she felt there was no need for apologies and I didn’t owe her one any more than she owed me one.
We exchanged facts about our respective circumstances and agreed to stay in touch. After a few weeks of messaging I extended an open invitation to catch up in person sometime if she wanted to. She said she did want to but the timing wasn’t right in her life right now and asked me to be patient. I took it at face value, instead of deciding she didn’t really want to be friends again because I am the world’s worst human! I know I am a good person and a good friend, maybe she just has her quota full right now. It doesn’t matter the reason.
Whatever her reason, it is ok with me. It has actually never felt more over than it does right now, as we have reopened the lines of communication! I have reached that level of peacefulness that allows me let it be what it was, what it is, and what it will be. In the end my battle was always with myself. And I won!
If you had of asked me about reconciliations in the past I would have assumed it would only reference a situation in which you resumed the friendship at the same or higher intensity than it had existed before. What if that intensity was part of the reason you parted to begin with? I never imagined a reconciliation to mean a more peaceful ending at worst or a downgrading to acquaintance at best. Reconciliation is just about you finding peace with yourself about the situation and in some cases that doesn’t involve contact with the other party at all.
Do I have any happier reconciliation stories? Yes! Thankfully I do and I will share all my stories in due course. This one, however, points out the less obvious outcomes that never really swirl around in your head at the beginning. If you are still thinking about it, you need to find a way to come to peace with it, regardless of the outcome. For me that meant taking personal accountability for my needy behaviours and the reasons behind them, and facing some insecurities and hard truths that have plagued me for years. It was HARD work. I am glad I did though, and I am a much better friend for it now. As a result my friendships are much more rewarding too! (Drumroll…. “and the winner of friendships goes to…” hahaha) Whatever you need to do, it’s got to be better than being stuck with a million unanswered questions; even if you are frightened of the answers. Going over hypothetical situations and having pretend conversations with people in your mind is fruitless because in real life the other person never says what we expect anyway, even if we do eventually manage the courage of our convictions.
It might be too late to go back to what was, but it is never too late to find peace with what has happened. Ask yourself what fears are being triggered by this situation and how you can face them… alone if need be. You got this. You had the power all along. Let me know how you go! Good Luck.
Your Best Friend ForNever