I have always thought it was ironic that we hold onto this idea that a friendship will last forever, even with little to no time, effort or contact involved, while the term friend indeed includes the word end!
We have established by now that friendships do end and it is painful when they do. Sometimes they quietly fade away, sometimes someone asks for space and sometimes one person gets “busy” and basically ghosts the other. Sometimes you fight, and stop speaking… but very seldom do you sit down and officially break up with a friend.
I have started to wonder if that is why it is so painful when a friendship ends. While a break up conversation is awkward and confronting, it leaves no real questions or ambiguity over the status, or how you should behave. No; you shouldn’t text her, or wave to her, or attempt casual conversation… because you have ended things.
Like all break ups, it might be forever or it might rekindle one day but the sentiment is clear; one of you, or maybe even both of you, don’t like each other (or at least your dynamic together) anymore and no longer wish to waste time on the friendship.
Thinking about this in terms of my own experiences takes me back to my teenage years. I think I was 13 the first time I broke up with a friend. We had been pretty tight throughout primary school, but as we had grown she had developed a nasty habit of telling lies which bothered me, and was a bit of a taddle tale. She was the target of bullies in school and I was basically her only friend. I was also unpopular by association, however, I don’t think I would have been popular by any means either way.
By the time we reached high school we formed friends with a few other girls who I guess also didn’t find somewhere else to belong. Lol. I was able to blend into the background somewhat but the taunting and teasing followed my friend… and soon started flowing over onto our new “group.” I remember them sitting me down one day and saying they wanted her out of the group, and as I had brought her there it was my job to get rid of her.
Clear as day I remember the conversation that followed in my bathroom that same day after school; wherein I declared that I no longer wanted to be her friend and she could not sit with us at lunch anymore…. I remember her crying and asking why and being fairly cold as I told her I was sorry but I had nothing else to say. I remember going to my bedroom and closing the door and hearing her cry in the bathroom until she left without saying goodbye.
At the time (before mobile phones) I just wanted my new friends to know I had completed the task and was actually excited to go to school the next day! Awful right? Cringe! My now, ex-friend was not there. When she did come back, she sat alone and although it didn’t pain me to see her, I did feel guilty enough to go out of my way to avoid her. About a month later her dad phoned me to ask what had happened and if we could patch things up and I remember denying that we had any real issues but that I just had made some new friends. A few months after that she dropped out of school and got a job at the local takeaway.
Years later when I heard she had become a single mother at a young age, I was anguished with guilt as I realized how terribly I had broken her heart and affected the course of her life by breaking up with her. I was determined to get in touch with her and be the good friend I should have been…. Even if it was too little too late. Of course my motivations were wrong – I wasn’t trying to help her so much as clear my conscience…. And after it seemed she had forgiven me and didn’t blame me, I really no longer felt the need to be her savior after all. We drifted apart again although on much less painful terms.
Fast forward many years on; perhaps as Karma works her magic, I consider all the times a friendship has ended on more unclear territory and I start to identify that part of the problem is the vagueness surrounding the breakups. Yes they happen, but nobody really tells you directly....You have to be tortured by exclusion and emotional withdrawal (that you can sense, but that they deny) until you finally figure it out, give up and stop trying.
While I carried around guilt about this break up for years and years…. Maybe I actually handled it the better way? Can I really hold myself responsible for her life after me? While it was peer pressure that was essentially the catalyst, it was actually something I think I wanted to do. When we spent time together later in life it appeared her tendency for stretching the truth, blaming other people and playing the victim hadn’t changed all that much and I am not really sorry that she is no longer in my life.
In more recent times, when a friend broke up with me, directly, I appreciated the frank discussion. Although it did hurt like hell; in comparison to the slow fade out that many other friends have instigated over the years – at least it was clear. I knew where we stood. We were no longer friends and I needed to move on. In theory it is easier when there is a clear ending, and indeed I did move on, although we actually reconciled not that long ago. Which proves it may be the better option – and it isn’t always as permanent as it feels. Plus if you decide to reconcile you can have a clear discussion about what happened and how you can try and be better for one another this time around instead of guessing and making the same mistakes over again.
What is your opinion on “Ending a Friending?” Is it better just to be busy and fade away slowly; therefore keeping your options open for the future and avoiding both an ugly painful confrontation; or have the conversation and be done with it?
Please share your thoughts on this!