Funny things, aren't they; friendships? When they're good, you feel like you're wrapped up in a lovely emotionally supportive and hilarious bubble, but when they go south, it can be tricky to know how to handle it, devastating, even. A lot of friendships are ones that we have from childhood, we've grown up thinking that this person has to be in our lives forever; if that friendship ends badly, we have failed. I'm here to let you know that a friendship breakdown doesn't need to be a dramatic stand off, and that you are not a bad person if you decide you don't want to continue to have a person in your life. Here are ten things that you should know if you are in the difficult situation of ending a friendship...
1) They happen. To everyone.
It's so easy to forget when we're in the middle of one, but everybody has ended a friendship, and they are lying if they say they haven't. This could be that you've drifted apart (in my mind a polite way of admitting we had nothing left to say to each other), that the person has done something awful to you, or that you've just felt a sudden change. It happens to the best of us, and it doesn't make you a bad person or mean that you've failed. Sometimes, for self-preservation, we need to cut negativity out of our lives, or even just take a sabbatical from a friendship to figure out what it is that we want.
2) If you find your self doing more forgiving/excusing than having fun; it's time to rethink.
You may have heard of the saying "Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, just surrounding yourself with assholes." I found myself in a similar position to this a few years ago; I was feeling awful about myself. My friends were telling me I was oversensitive, and that the fault definitely lay with me. For a long time I believed that, and I made some major changes to my life; exercise, career, healthy eating etc. But then with all of these things heading in the right direction for me, I started to wonder why it was that my friends weren't congratulating me? Why actually they were making jokes about me trying to sort things out for myself; limiting my potential and making it known that they didn't think I would get to where I wanted to be? Why, when we met up, did the question 'How are you?' not come out of their mouths? I have to say, I'm a lot happier without having to tell other friends 'They were just making a joke', or 'I am very sensitive, I've been told.' It took a very kind and patient friend to point out that sometimes others will try to bring you down to make themselves feel better, and it is very limiting. What you want is people that give you compliments, people that make you laugh, and people that will tell you your shortcomings in a way in which you know they love you and are saying it to help you.
3) People will give you far more of a hard time for breaking up with a friend than for breaking up a relationship.
Nobody warns you about this, and I found it out the hard way. The breakup of a relationship is an age old cliche; I sat around drinking wine and singing along to Gladys Knight while my friends pointed out why my ex was a belligerent douche bag, how they never liked him, and how in reality I should be going out with Louis Theroux (one of my major crushes). When you break up with a friend, however, you suddenly become seen as selfish, unkind, cold, ignorant to another's pain, and having failed yourself personally by not being able to work out this friendship that is on a hiding to nowhere. People you didn't even consider will tell you that you are awful, everyone has their two cents to put in. Ignore them, this is not their experience, and none of their business.
4) Things could get ugly, but they don't need to.
In times like these, people tend to 'lose their shit', for want of a better term. This is understandable; any form of rejection won't necessarily be taken with a smile and a curtsey. You need to keep this in mind, and you need to act accordingly. Do not lose your cool, and do not raise your voice, that will not help anybody. You can explain how you feel accurately and calmly, but sometimes that won't do any good, sometimes you just have to listen to somebody shout at you. If this does happen, just remember this question 'Do I really want to be friends with somebody who speaks to me like this?'.
5) Avoid involving anyone but the two of you.
Being ganged up on is not fun, and should not happen to anybody once they have left primary school. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon among adults. As the situation is between you and a friend, that is how it should stay; if you share a friendship group, do not call up all of your friends or get them to write on your Facebook wall with messages of support, all this will do is alienate your friend further, and quite possibly cause an extreme response. Handle it like adults and keep it between the two of you. Obviously you can ask friends to support you, privately, and calmly, and without provocative statements being made that will be visible to the other person. We are all adults, let's act like it.
6) Remember at all times what you think a friendship should be.
To me, a friend is someone that I:
e) Sympathise/empathise with
And Vice Versa. If you're starting to feel like you don't know someone; is that a friendship? If you don't feel like you can trust someone; is that a friendship? If you don't necessarily like that person; is that a friendship? Do you feel supported? Do you support your friend in what they are doing? Does your friend understand how things are from your point of view? Can you see things from theirs?
If any of the above are faltering, I'm afraid your friendship has cracks in it's foundations.
7) If you'd rather not be around that person, you have to listen to your instincts.
If you can think of a thousand places that you would rather be, there is a reason for it. If you shudder when you receive a message or a call from a friend, there is a reason for this. If you drift off when your friend speaks, there is a reason for this. If you get an inkling that your friend doesn't believe/respect/understand/like you; there is a reason for this.
As my old friend Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Trust instinct to the end, even though you can give no reason."
8) Always keep in mind how the other person will be feeling, even if it is the last thing you want to do.
This one doesn't mean that you can't stand up for yourself, but it does mean that you have a duty as a human being to know that what you say to a person will have an effect. It is easy to forgive a person, but we can never forget how that person has made us feel. Just because a friendship with this person is not working out; that does not give you free reign to insult/humiliate/shout at that person.
9) Remind yourself how positive friendships can be by spending time with people who make you smile.
This is such an important point, I've had some hard times with friends over the years, and when these times are happening, it's easy to forget that you have friends that will drop everything to have you laughing, or to listen to you spill your guts out and still see the good person underneath the snot and wine. You need to remember those people, and you need to make them feel as good as they make you feel, as friendship is a two-way street.
10) Admit your mistakes.
Just because you have decided a friendship isn't working, it doesn't make you infallible. What will help that person part from you and get closure, is often the fact that they have seen that you have covered all angles. Telling someone that it was a mistake to have told them you hated their shoes and that you understand this will have hurt them is OK; you don't suddenly need to become self-righteous and defensive, as I would like to hope that that is not who you are or how you behave in everyday life.
I've simplified it massively, but I do believe that this list, or even just a few points from it can help you to remember that the end of a friendship is not the end of the world. It is OK to recognise that a platonic relationship isn't working just as much as it is with any other relationship.
I've done it, and I've lived to tell the tale. Just about.