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Saturday, 9 August 2014

Broken Friendships.

In my life, I've been through several messy break-ups. Not of the romantic kind, however, but with people I've felt most connected to and trusted with very personal matters. Arguably, breaking up with friends is harder and more painful than ending things with a partner. Us girls are raised on the belief, 'hoes before bros', right? Girlfriends are supposed to stick around forever, while guys come and go. Popular culture taught us that. Incredibly successful shows like 'Sex and the City' and 'Girls' became so popular because they are based on that principle. But what happens when things don't work out with a best friend? We're not prepared for when things go wrong.
I first learnt that 'Best Friends Forever' didn't really exist when I was about thirteen. Jessie* and I had been attached at the hip since we were practically toddlers. I still remember the first time we played together as kids - I went with my Mum to pick my sister up from Jessie's house as Alice was already friends with her older sister. After that, we did everything together - we were like sisters. We stayed close even when my family moved to Seattle in 2002, but when I moved back something felt a bit different. The class bully had moved onto my best friend during my absence and was trying to 'steal' her away - at least that's what it felt like as an insanely jealous ten year old girl! I managed to cling onto Jessie until secondary school, still taking pride in my BFF title. But Jessie wanted to be included in the 'popular' gang - I know, it sounds stupid now but it felt like the most important thing in the world back then! So I naturally stood by her and hung round with the same group. After about a year, I realised that I didn't want to be friends with these girls anymore. They were incredibly bitchy - gossiping about anything and everything. It made me feel guilty and incredibly insecure. So I distanced myself. The hardest part was leaving Jessie behind. But she chose a 'cool group' status over our friendship, so in that respect, she wasn't a friend worth having. I wanted her to choose me but I knew in my heart of hearts that we had become different people. And that's okay. Surely it would be weird if we didn't grow and evolve as people over time.
It always feels strange when I see her around and about. It's like looking at who I could have been. The last time we spoke was when we were at the same party. She was standing in the middle of two of her closest friends when she said 'Lydia was my first best friend, Lucy was my second, and Chelsea was my third.' That comment stung at little but I also found it quite funny. She is still climbing some obscure social ladder that I'm not sure really exists. At the age of thirteen, I was more interested in real friendship whereas Jessie was more concerned with being involved with the right people and being seen at the right places. From what I can see, not much has changed.

The only other friendship-gone-bad experience that really affected me was at university. I became very close to a girl I was living with. At first, it was great. We cooked together, partied together, and wrote essays side-by-side. I was really struggling getting to grips with university life and having a good friend there made me feel a little bit more secure. Until it didn't. It would be unfair to lay all the blame at her door, but living with someone in such an intense environment can be overwhelming. I felt like I was carrying the burden of her problems and couldn't get away when I was also struggling. Towards the end, I felt like she didn't care. Things became quite tense between us - she would take things too far and wouldn't bother trying to understand my point of view. I think it's fair to say that she became a very self-absorbed person. I found it too much, especially as I was so unhappy at the university anyway. The final straw was when she cancelled on my birthday plans to hang out with some course friends at the pub. That's when I knew the friendship was over - I withdrew from the university within a week. This sounds dramatic, I know, but in my final weeks there when I was so frustrated with my course and the university I'd chosen, my friendship falling apart was the real nail in the coffin.
Again, it would be completely unfair to blame my old friends entirely for the relationship ending. Usually, it's no one's fault. People change and life gets in the way. We all make our own decisions that ultimately have an effect on friendships. But with Jessie and my university frenemy, I feel like I tried my hardest to keep them in my life. It's about knowing when to stop trying, that's the hardest part. Without sounding cynical, I try not to expect too much from people. We're selfish creatures really. But the friends who are there through the ups and downs are the ones to treasure. When one of my closest friends had major unexpected exploratory surgery in 2012, I was right by her side the next day painting her nails while she was in a hospital bed. Equally, when I was going through a tough time in my final year of school, she was just as supportive. I've also got a couple of friends who I've known since I was three, when Jessie and I were inseparable. In some ways, I wish I had known back then that they would be the ones who would turn out to be the most amazing friends. 
Breaking up with friends is incredibly tough. I lost one of my closest friends a couple years ago when I found out she had been bitching about me to anyone who would listen. They weren't just little rants, but she exposed some deeply personal things to people I hardly knew. That was heart-breaking. But what that experience, my losing Jessie, and my university friend have taught me is to stand up for myself. When you've been friends with people for a long time, it can be so easy to excuse their behaviour - especially when they're treating you badly or violating your trust. I cut the girl who was spreading rumours out of my life. It meant I lost a few more 'friends' because of it but it meant I no longer worried about idle gossip. Jessie taught me being 'cool' really does not matter in the slightest, but real genuine friendship does. I learnt from my university frenemy not to let people walk all over me - because being abandoned on your birthday seriously sucks. And that food-shopping with another person destroys that relationship - it may save money in the long-run but it'll make you want to kill eachother! 
Navigating friendships can be tough at times, but I've learnt a lot about myself and other people in the process. Plus, I've come out with an amazing group of people who I know I could trust with my life. Those are friends worth having - and I wouldn't trade them for anything.

1 comment

  1. Claire Gillespie11 August 2014 at 18:06

    I can relate to this post so much and I feel like it gets talked about so little when you're an adult, but friendships breaking up can still be really hard even after you've finished school!

    On a nicer note, I nominated you for the Liebester Award - check out my post at:



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