lessons in friendship

This is one of those things that no one ever teaches you about, and you kind of have to learn as you go. It’s just so hard to learn…

I think people and society in general have come to accept that break-ups and divorce are things that happen. People accept that not all marriages last forever, and if a couple decide to part ways because it’s better for their well-being, then that is the best decision. Perhaps it’s just me, in my own sheltered corner of the world, but I don’t think we’re there yet with friendships.

I say this because whenever I see a blog post about ending a friendship, it feels almost like a revelation. And the point is that it’s almost always in a blog — people don’t explore this as much in other media, and it seems people do not talk about it in real life. Not people I know, anyway. It’s almost like if a friendship ends, you’re just supposed to get on with your life like nothing happened.

I tend to think these things start from a young age: Children are always taught to make friends, be kind to other kids, play nicely with others. Television, books, movies and whatever all praise the strength of true friendships, and paint this wonderful picture of the forever friend.

But life isn’t like that.

People change, situations change, people move, new people come.

Yes, you can find inspiring posts on Instagram and wherever about how you should leave “toxic” people behind, cut them from your life, and move on. But what if that person is not toxic? What if there is simply nothing left where once there was plenty?

Part of me doesn’t like the way people say “true friendships will last the test of time and/or distance” because it increases the sense of loss and guilt when what was once a strong friendship disintegrates.

How could I have believed so much in something so impermanent? Is it my fault that this has slipped through my fingers? Was I wrong from the start?

And what of all the mutual friends and overlapping social circles? If a person separates from their spouse, their friends are (usually?) still their friends, and their social network implicitly understand what is needed without asking too many questions. Having ended a significant commitment, people understand it must have been serious and well thought-out.

But there’s no contractual agreement in a friendship — no ceremonial commitment, and no formal parting of ways. In the absence of any obvious dispute, people will question what went wrong (although I suppose that may be true of divorce/separation too), or people might simply ask you about your old friend, not realising you no longer have answers for them.

And no one tells you what to do when the friendship feels irrecoverable but you still can’t help looking back, wondering if the pieces can be put back together again. How many times can you keep trying before the pieces just don’t fit anymore?

Would this hurt less, would I stop looking back if I’d always been taught that people come and go, and that’s ok? Should children be taught that some of the best friendships only span a few years (or a few months or weeks) but that’s ok too?

Not every ending is a failure. Not every ending is a loss. 

Some friends come back (and they might leave again). New friends are always coming.

Where were those lessons?

I know only this:
You were so special to me.
But now I’m not sure.


5 thoughts on “lessons in friendship

  1. Your point about people not talking about this – and how it might’ve been easier if we were taught “people come and go” are spot-on. Friendships matter even more, I think, for single people. I still grieve for people long absent, even when I knew the friendship could no longer be.

    • In a sense, it really is a grieving process, so I suppose there isn’t really a fixed timeline to follow. Could be different for everyone.

      And I guess you started the conversation, and prompted me to think maybe I should also write about my thoughts and experience with this in case there’s someone else out there who needs to read about this stuff. So, thank-you 🙂

  2. Some friendships are deep and lasting, cemented with a common watershed experience or years of shared life. Most friendships are contingent: people you saw and talked with every day at work are gone after you switch jobs. Not always, but often. The friendships that last are gems. The ones that don’t can slip away unnoticed, or can hurt. I’ve recovered a couple of prematurely mourned past friendships on Facebook. That made me very happy, but I wonder if they would slip away again if Facebook becomes a thing of the past. Good post. Provokes my thought.

    • That’s true, some friends do come back. And social media does make it easier to keep in touch and reconnect, but I feel like it’s usually quite superficial unless there’s regular contact/ conversation as well.
      I like how you describe friendships as contingent. That’s a good word for it.

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