When I say “relationships” I am speaking not just about romantic relationships but friendships as well.
Some of us are blessed to not have too many falling-outs with people or breakups or fights. Some of us seem to attract volatile people and through (only some) fault of our own, tend to face the brunt of anger, fights, passive-aggressiveness and bitterness. We are then left to pick up the pieces, recuperate and then try again. Some of us are blessed (though I don’t know how much of a ‘blessing’ it is) to never have been actually heartbroken. We carry on, thinking that we have only to find ‘the one’, live happily ever after, and never know that kind of devastation or the kind of perspective change it brings about in time.
I have experienced friends doing awful things to me and I’ve been heartbroken. And the lessons learned about yourself and human nature from those experiences is sad yes, but invaluable in carrying on with your life as an adult. Among the most important are the following:
- It’s not (entirely) anyone’s fault.
The reality is that sometimes relationships are wrong for you because you bring out the worst in each other. You are jealous of each other and compete with one another so you are incapable of being happy for each other’s success. You tend to influence each other to make poor choices; you influence each other to be snide and snarky and rude. If someone brings out the worst side of you, a side you prefer not to let out of the bag, and if you don’t like who someone is when they’re around you and you don’t like how they treat you, it is what it is, but it shouldn’t last.
- True friends will NEVER, ever, ever ruin the sanctity of your dignity, or the dignity of your relationships with others. They will never belittle you or make you feel stupid for being in love with that loser; they will never use times you have been vulnerable around them to their advantage or to prove a point; they will never downplay or use your relationships with other friends, boyfriends, family members, etc. for personal gain. They won’t flirt with your ex, they won’t usurp someone you saw first, they won’t legitimately make you feel guilty for the time you spend with other people, and they won’t make fun of you for deeply personal aspects of your life, history and mental wellness.
- In retrospect, you can see bad friends coming a mile away.
The falling-outs I’ve had with friends started the day I met the person I’d eventually fall out with. A boyfriend who loves you as much as you love them won’t make you wait for them, won’t make you feel insane and crazy and needy because you don’t see them as often as you need to. Similarly, a good friend won’t make you feel small or belittled even in the early ‘honeymoon stage’ of your friendship. You may have forgiven them for all these little grating things in the past that made you question loyalties, or you may let feelings trump logic. But at the end of the day, it was bad from the start.
- If something seems too good, too strong, too intense, too passionate to be grounded, adult and realistic… it probably is. How obsessed do you need to be with people? How often do you need to see and talk to them? How often do you need to proclaim your love for someone in public? If it gets to a point where everyone else around you is so tired of your constant communication and your constant grandiose proclamations about how so-and-so is “the most important, amazing, beautiful/handsome, incredible person in the whole entire world”… maybe they have a reason to be. This kind of passion is fun and fills us with this joy and validation that we may seek – but it’s not sustainable. And we probably don’t need to express it publically every minute of every day. Some things are meant just for you and your person.
- Friendship breakups are harder than relationship breakups.
I can’t quite articulate why this is, but it’s simply the truth; a friend breakup isn’t something where you sit down with someone and can tell them you ‘don’t see this progressing anymore and we should see other people’. The reality is that we have more than one friend and various friends will come and go in and out of our lives. We don’t need to break up with someone or end things in a formal way because usually, friendships run their course for one reason or another (usually time and distance and being not-so-amazing at keeping in touch regularly). Sometimes though, a friendship meets its catastrophic, colossal, end-all-and-be-all finale. And then it is over.
Describing the pain of this scenario and why it hurts so much is difficult,but let me try: It is like every memory you have is over and done with, and soured by this ending. It is like every time you were ever vulnerable and open and expressed these scary girly truths was based on this huge disingenuous lie; you feel this loss not because you lost the intimacy of love, but you lost the intimacy and faith in a constant companion that you could even tell more to than your own significant other; you feel like you lost a sister; you feel like you are mourning the death of something that you honestly put hours, days, years, and countless amounts of effort into not because you had to, but because it made you happier than anything. Those pie dates on snowy Sunday afternoons, those late night martini girl talks, shopping excursions, birthday girls’ trips… it’s gone. It’s all gone. And everyone hates you for feeling this way. At least a breakup is only really between the two of you.
- You should un-plug.
Nowadays we live in a world where you can constantly check in on someone without their knowledge. When friendships end or relationships end for whatever reason, we want to look at people and see who they’re dating now, what they look like, and what’s happened to them since things ended.
Why do we do this? What are we hoping to find? Everyone knows that for the most part, we broadcast and focus on representing our best selves online, especially if we’ve recently broken up with someone. So all you’re going to see is the best of someone. So then, what’s the point?
I’ve done this and I’m guilty of it and it’s never made me feel good. In fact, it’s made me feel vengeful and frustrated and lost. So, I’m done. I’m done with playing this stupid passive-aggressive game of “who’s winning” on social media. I’m done and I’m over it. And I’m unplugging. I hope I can expect the same from others.
- Lastly… who you’ve broken it off with doesn’t say anything about you as a person.
We all get involved with people we can’t handle. But conversely, we all (well, most of us anyway…) have others that we have wonderful, healthy, productive and valuable relationships with and who we share mutual love and memories for… they may not last, but they’re there for now. And that’s enough. Just because you’re out with one person doesn’t mean you’re an unfriendly, undateable, awful person. The reality is that sometimes we’re right for each other and sometimes we’re wrong for each other. It’s the courage to be vulnerable, keep trying, keep loving, and keep making connections that matters.