How many of you have ever lost a friendship?
The way I think of it, there are really only two ways this happens:
- The friendship fades naturally.
- You actually come up with a concrete reason why the relationship needs to end in order to preserve your sanity, and do everything you can within your resources to get out cleanly.
Two really sucks.
In a recent case of option 2, I found myself completely dumbfounded that there’s no handbook for this cluster of a situation. Just as I began feeling like I’d lost a family member, I questioned why we give so little thought to the gut-wrenching reality of a lost friendship.
As I stood in my feeling-really-empty apartment, I asked myself, is there really no legal contract here? Do I not get to write something off or give you back some of your stuff that’s at my place? Are there really no airline fees I need to reimburse you for? Do we really just go on living?
How is it that in the world of business, where there are so few emotional exchanges, we have mile-long legal contracts that outline exactly how things will be distributed and dealt with if the relationship doesn’t go as planned, yet in friendship, there is no such thing? How is it that after romantic relationships, we go on yoga retreats and take trips to India, yet in friendship there really is no Eat-Pray-Love breakup protocol to go by? How is it that in the case of a lost partner-in-crime, we merely take ourselves out of the picture without so much getting into down-dog?
I felt like I owed a debt, like for all of the phone conversations and pillow talk and crying and laughing and crying all over again that there had to be some kind of compensation I was either owed or required to distribute. How could this not be the case, I asked myself. How, when someone has seen my insides inside-out, can there be no lawyer involved, no damages collected, no ashram to speak of when the relationship falls apart?
We can find pre-written breakup speeches on Google but almost nothing to lead us through the loss of a friend. We hold these people’s hands through every boyfriend or girlfriend who walks in and out of our lives; we let them stand by while we Google how to let those people go for good. Then, when our Googling, champagne drinking, chocolate-eating partners in crime are no-more, we don’t so much as get the post break-up haircut.
I was mystified.
Friendships gone awry can be very much like relationships gone awry: everything is going great, you’re madly in love, until one day you realize you’re still telling people you’re in love but you haven’t actually felt that way in a while. In fact, as much as you were thriving with this person’s companionship at the beginning of your relationship, you’d probably be just as well off now, if not even better, if you were to abandon the relationship entirely. When you finally decide to pull the plug, memories of the good old days come rushing back, memories that can leave one thinking “hey, wait a second, it wasn’t really that bad…was it?”
This is where the mind plays tricks, and where the mind has tricked me many times during the end-of-relationship grief process. Since there’s not nearly enough written on the case of the lost friendship, here are my two cents:
- Trust your gut. This can be absolutely terrifying when you’re worried your gut is going to tell you what you don’t want to hear, so be gentle with yourself.
- Surround yourself with people who nurture you, inspire you and uplift you.
- Make the space around you safe enough so that you can acknowledge any feeling that might come up and let it be okay.
- Tell yourself that no matter what happens, you’re not going anywhere. Remember that the universe has your back.
- If something is telling you that friend might be pushing you down instead of up, find someone you feel safe enough to talk to and explore that feeling.
- And, if in the worst case, you do find yourself needing to make a clean break from the friendship, set up a support network of people around you that can remind you why you decided to call it quits when you’re stuck in a rut and can’t remember.
Then, once all is said and done, remember this:
Of all the people that may come and go in your life, you are the one who will always be there. Trust yourself enough to know what’s right for you, and don’t let anyone else tell you any differently.
Because of all the best friends you’ve ever had, you were the first.