Hear me out.
Have you ever broken up with a friend?
Break ups are bloody awful, no surprises here, but break ups with friends might be even worse.
When you begin a romantic relationship, you’re aware that if things don’t work out, the whole thing might go belly-up. That’s a risk you take. Of course it’s not something you focus on unless you need to, but it’s an understood potential and facet of entering into that kind of close companionship with another h.o.o.m.a.n.
When you forge a friendship, though, there’s no real understanding of a potential end point—no real sense of risk. Friendships (when they begin, at least) are intended and—more importantly—expected to last. BFFs, right?
(In all seriousness though, get me a pair of matching butterfly clips, a broken-heart necklace, a terrible garage band name and a weekly sleepover, and I’m yours.)
But should things happen to crack and crumble, with broken-heart necklaces being thrown in faces, then you might be facing a friendship break up… and friendship break ups are as tough. as. guts.
When you break up with a friend, there’s no emergency response team. Your friends and family aren’t equipped with that unwritten support manual they do so well with at the end of a romantic relationship. The “you’re so much better than them”; the “now you can finally spend time focusing on yourself”; and the “fuck that, let’s get this pal a bottle of campari at 10:00am, a facial, an airbnb in the country, a long lunch and a bucket o’dildos”. *wow emoji*
When you break up with a friend there’s none of that. Instead there can be fissures of quiet and back-door opinions that run through your friendship circle. There’s consolation, to be sure, but generally only from friends that are pretty separate to the affected relationship… and fair enough. Even when the consolation comes, though, it’s often light-handed, because, “at least it was only a mate, right? You’ve got tonnes of them, so losing one ‘doth not herald the apocalypse’, as they say…” (they don’t say this.)
In reality, though, when you break up with a friend, it can take longer to get over than a break up. It’s shocking—genuinely—because we don’t expect it to happen, we don’t anticipate the hurt that it causes, we don’t quite know how to react to it and society hasn’t prepared us too well to deal with that or prevent it from happening in the first place.
Friendship is meant to last ‘forever’.
Could this understanding of friendship, as perpetual in nature, mean that we have no sense of risk when we’re forging it? With no sense of risk, is there then no sense of needing to fight for it?
More often than not, we won’t fight with our friends, because, well, we’re not in relationships with them… they’re their own people, and they can do as they please, just as we can.
This is true, in part, but it’s also untrue, because we are in relationships with them. Friendships, just like romances, are relationships—they’re just different iterations of human closeness and connection.
This means that just like any functional romantic relationship, they need this whopper of a thing to work: trust. Trust builds connection and community, and brings us out of isolation. Without trust, we slip away from what might be the most significant part of our human experience: the fact that we’re all in it together, and that we shape it, each other, and ourselves in concert with the rest of the world.
So fighting with your friends (respectfully, duh), and committing to an honest, open and sometimes difficult dialogue that is continuously evolving, is yep, confronting, but it will only serve to build the trust between you and inevitably give your friendship the best chance at making the leap to real life BFFs.
At the end of the dizzle, what are our friendships for, if not to connect, enjoy each other and help shape each other to grow as people? So, without committing to honesty together and the potential hardship of that, are we really committing to each other as friends at all?
Get your boxing mitts on folks!
This article was originally written for Chronicles Of Her as part of Friendship Week.