Last week I wrote a post about how it feels when a friendship ends; the heartbreak and how that may actually look, in terms of behaviour. That was mostly about endings of friendships that were ended mutually, loudly or quietly, or that were ended for you, by the other party, leaving you blindsided, alone, sad and insecure. This week I wanted to follow up with a post about how it feels to be the one who calls it quits on your friend. Afterall, there are 2 sides to every story!
So, despite my tendency to play the victim in many of my fractured friendships, there have been a few times I have been the one to end things with someone else. To assume that this caused me no guilt, shame, angst, grief or loss would be easy, but it’s simply untrue. Even when I have ended things with a friend, for whatever reason, there has still been an emotional grieving process, before and after the event.
My last post started with denial, and that is where this one starts too. I struggle to admit to myself when a friendship is unhealthy, or leaving me drained. My intuition, or gut, if you will, raises the uncomfortable feeling, but I try to ignore it and carry on. I make as many excuses for my friend as I can, and justify to myself that she is having a hard time and she needs me to keep doing what we have always done, and being to her whatever I have been. My friend may start to notice in this stage that I seem somehow distant, emotionally unavailable, although she can’t quite explain how things are different because at this point I am still showing up…. Physically at least.
Typical to the grief process, the second stage is anger. I feel weighed down by this friendship. I usually know why, although the reasons vary from one friendship to another. Everything my friend does irritates me, because deep down, my heart isn’t in it anymore. Everything my friend expects of me feels like she is asking for blood, and I am reluctant to offer much assistance. I am full of excuses. I cancel plans, take longer to respond to communications, and get quite busy… sometimes with other friends. Maybe it’s easier to be angry with you so I can blame you and feel less guilty? It wont work, but I’ll try!
Still following the grief plan, the next stage is bargaining. I think of all the reasons I liked my friend to begin with and mentally list all her wonderful qualities. I think of all the happy times we have shared, and try to convince myself that I still want to be friends. I reason that time with her isn’t as bad as I’m making it out to be and that perhaps, if I just see her less often, we can be somehow less than friends. I agonise over the thought of ending it. It seems so messy and hurtful and even thinking about it makes me feel uncomfortable and guilty. Plus, I don’t know how to explain it to my friend. I like her, she is a great person, so why don’t I want to continue on?
I write more letters unsent. Mostly. If I send something it is my last hope to salvage things, or respect you enough to give you a chance to try. I try writing direct ones where I explain what is upsetting me, and polite ones where I dance around the issue, trying to make it clear that I want to end things, or take a step back, without directly saying so. I struggle to find middle ground between the two. I wish that my friend would understand what I am saying without making me say it. I don’t want to have to tell her, so I feel annoyed that she does not meet my distance with her own. Many times my friend has been desperately trying to save us, which only makes me feel worse. And to be really honest, only makes me want to get away more. (It’s not that I don’t understand this, I have been on the other side enough times to know she means well and likes me enough to try…) I’m sorry. Honestly. I am and I say so, but that just confuses the issue. Sigh.
The next stage is depression. This starts when I accept that I want to end the friendship, or that I don’t but it cannot continue as it is, and I don’t see any way to change things more favourably. I’m sad, and guilty. I know I have to hurt someone I care about. I don’t want to do it. I will take as much space as the person in question will allow. (There have been times when the person in question met my distance with her own, and in years to come we were able to rekindle as though nothing had ever happened, or even talk openly about what we were both feeling back then…. Once the raw emotions of it all had passed. And they will, by the way. I promise.) If the person makes aggressive moves, such as demanding answers from me, deleting or blocking me on social media, or trying to provoke an argument or fight, I usually walk away. I tell them it’s over, or they tell me and then that’s that. It’s done. If however they are sad, depressed or needy, expressing that they miss me or that they don’t understand… I will ask that person for space.
I need time away from them. I need to compare how I feel without them versus how I felt with them in my life. I need a chance to miss them. And I always hold hope that I will feel that. That I will miss them and realise how much they did add happiness to my life. Unfortunately though that isn’t always the case. I feel guilty to even write here, but sometimes I just feel relief. That doesn’t mean I am happy that the person is gone, but happy I have done what I needed to do for myself. I still stare at the walls, ugly cry and rehash things over and over. I wonder if there was any way I could have made it work, and feel like a terrible person. I hang my head when I see her other friends, and try to avoid places I may see her. Leaving people, hurting them and letting them down doesn’t make you feel good. You feel just as miserable as the other person that you couldn’t find a way to make it work or a friendly way to end things. You are grieving the loss of the friendship, but also the version of yourself that you wanted to be, and for people to think you are. It’s hard knowing that person is sad because of you and you didn’t do anything to make it better, and lots of people are judging you for it!
Acceptance. Once some time passes and the depression fades, and I start enjoying my time with other people again, I notice, the heaviness is gone. I feel freer. I think of my friend with twinges of sadness, but I know I made the right choice for myself at the time. I don’t know if we will be friends again or not in the future, but I genuinely hope we both find happiness. I hope my now ex friend can forgive me in time and find people who love her the way she deserves and I couldn’t.
Your Best Friend ForNever