My friends and I often discuss our friendships, both the friendships we share and those we enjoy individually. Sometimes we hash out problems, share funny stories, or discuss options like how to best support a friend going through something or what to get for her birthday. I really enjoy encouraging my friends to make their friendships a priority and hearing how things are going.
It dawned on me the other day, at a catch up with one of my closest friends, that she had not mentioned a certain friend or their friendship for quite some time. I asked how things were going, only to be met with an awkward mumbling that “they don’t speak anymore.” We did go into the reasons behind this falling out between my friend and her friend, but that is not the point of this blog post. What struck me, was that my friend did not volunteer this information at the time, instead holding back and only bringing it up when I finally remembered to ask about it.
When I probed my friend about why she hadn’t felt comfortable in discussing it with me, when it was clearly upsetting her, she couldn’t really answer me, except to say that she was worried that “she was somehow at fault” and perhaps I may point that out. What I pointed out to my friend, and what I would like to reiterate to you readers, is that fractured friendships are NOT failures.
The whole point in this blog is to encourage us to talk about how we feel and not hide away in shame if we part ways with a friend, temporarily or otherwise. How will we ever reflect, grieve or decide what we should do if we cannot discuss these things? My friend seemed sure that she was somehow “in the wrong” and seemed scared of accountability and unsure how to proceed to reconcile IF she decided she wanted to do that.
I cannot tell my friend what to do, nor should I, but talking it through with me did seem to help my friend identify what triggered her and why, and left her to contemplate if missing her friend was good enough reason to come forwards and make a move towards reconciliation. As in all these situations, my friend was not BLAMELESS, nor was she AT FAULT.
Let’s be real about this. These situations never bring out the best in any of us. We have all acted in ways we aren’t particularly proud of, said harsh things, or let a silence last a little too long. It always takes 2 to tango, and while we are busy getting bogged down in the ABC’s (avoiding, blaming and contempt and confusion) of it all, the space between us is getting wider apart, and the silence getting louder. Not only that, but our sense of isolation grows too, not only with the friend in question, but with the others too because we aren’t talking about what is on our minds and hearts.
Of course, if we go into the “D’s” of it all, we have to start with denial. So at first I’m sure it isn’t intentional that we don’t talk about it. It may take some time before we even acknowledge that there is a problem and by then we have already shamed ourselves for letting it get “this far.” The common opinion seems to be that one party needs to come forward to apologise, and we all know how vulnerable and weak that can make us feel. It also implies that we were wrong and the other person was right…. Which we know is never the case. So not only are we afraid to say I am sorry, we are afraid the other person will reject our olive branch, and that we will in some way justify their anger at us, at the expense of our own feelings or position?!
There is no denying this is no simple situation to navigate and there are so many conflicting feelings to muddle through. Which is the exact reason we need to talk about it with our nearest and dearest. Not so they can tell us what to do, but so we can sort through our feelings, separate the facts from the fiction and assumptions, get insight on what the other person may be thinking and feeling and decide if we want to try to reconcile.
To be clear there is NO shame in deciding you do not want to reconcile. If you have come to that conclusion and made an active choice to leave things as they are, then that is a valid choice. Not all friendships can or should be salvaged. However, more often than not, our choice to do nothing, which is reflected as a strong choice to each other, is actually just a refusal to deal with the situation at hand and make a clear choice about what to do, so we end up not doing anything. So many friendships could survive if we were just talking it through and making a choice.
In regards to my friend’s situation, she decided, as there was no clear ending, and neither person is automatically at fault, an apology is too loaded. As their friendship was always light and jovial, an “I miss you” would be too heavy and raw, so my friend may send something funny or light, just to end the silence and show her friend “I’m thinking of you.” It also tells her friend “I didn’t want to continue the silence between us.” Her friend may not respond, or she may respond in a way that demands a heavier conversation than the friendship can handle, so it is a risk. Only my friend can know in her heart of hearts if the friendship is worth the risk to her.
Regardless, I’m really glad she finally opened up to me about this and I’m sorry it took a few months for me to ask. If nothing else, it had brought our own friendship even closer because I was able to support my friend through something and reassure her she is not a bad person who did something wrong, regardless of what happens. My friend commented that she was a little hesitant because I write this blog….. but let me assure you all that makes me no expert. I write this blog because of the mistakes, fractured friendships, miscommunications, self blame and doubt and isolation I have experienced!
We are all figuring this out together, and we should keep on talking about it because it matters. Friendship matters!!!!
Your Best Friend ForNever