Years ago I had this friend.
We were close, and spent a lot of time together. We shared a lot of cool experiences together, both domestically and abroad. We’d seen relationships come and go, and consoled each other through tough times. We’d drank a lot together, sang together, romped and played together.
We were friends for ages, and there was no real reason why we should ever stop being friends.
And yet, I haven’t seen or spoken to them in years.
No friendship is perfect; each has its faults and flaws. My closest friend right now and I fight all the time. She once lost her shit at me when I refused to stop eating a Twix whilst driving with my knees down an icy road through the French Alps. A total overreaction.
Thankfully her yelling at me about not wanting to die on the side of a mountain 10000 miles from home wasn’t going to end our friendship; It certainly put an end to the enjoyment I was getting from that Twix, but I’m over it now. She got over it too, about 6 hours later.
Any great friendship is like a relationship, and I’d argue that any close friends who don’t fight from time to time really aren’t that close (just like any relationship that doesn’t have fights isn’t going to last).
It wasn’t a candy bar that came between this ex-friend and I, nor was it any particular fight.
It ended because I chose to walk away from it.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone that went something like this?
You: “So I think my boyfriend is cheating on me…”
Them: “Oh my god, that sucks! I had a boyfriend who cheated on me once and it sucked sooooo bad!”
You: “Yeah, I found out he wasn’t out with his mates the other night, even though he said he was–“
Them: “Was that the other night where everyone went to that new club? I totally wanted to go but Dylan wanted to stay in and bake sourdough from this new recipe.”
You: “Cool.. so yeah, I just don’t know what to do, because I love him but I can’t imagine my life without –“
Them: “When my boyfriend cheated on me what I decided to do was set fire to his curtains and pour salt on his garden.”
You: “… ok that’s a touch extreme, I was thinking more about seeing if he wanted to do couples counselling or –“
Them: “Oh man, I went to counselling once and the lady there just wouldn’t stop trying to get me to talk about my parents but like, fuck those guys they sold our beach house and now what am I supposed to do for summer? Cause fuck going to Sandra’s her place is a peasant shack..”
You: “… I fucking hate you”
I realised after a while that every conversation I had with this friend went something like this. Even the serious times when all I needed to do was vent, they somehow managed to direct the conversation back to their own experiences.
It sounds inherently selfish to want a conversation to remain entirely about you, but sometimes that’s what friends are for. Those who don’t want to pay for therapy use their friends as personal therapists, and we should all be able to recognise when someone we love just needs to talk their heart out and simply require us to sit there and listen. This friend had no such awareness.
Still, this wasn’t why I stopped being friends with them.
The day I decided to stop spending time with this person was a day we caught up for lunch. There was nothing particularly special about this day, just two friends catching up for a yarn. As per usual, they did most of the yarning. They talked about their life, they talked about my life, they shared their thoughts on who I was dating, who I wasn’t dating, what our friends were doing, who was right and who was wrong. They just had so many OPINIONS; lots of them strong and many of them in opposition to mine.
We wrapped up and said goodbye and I walked away.. feeling like absolute shit.
Seeing this person for lunch had left me feeling sad and angry, and not just because my croque monsieur was a little overdone. Our entire interaction had been buried underneath an avalanche of their negative attitudes and complete disregard for any back-and-forth conversation. I was questioning a few aspects of my life when I had no reason too and overall had a sour taste in my mouth.
Why should you walk away from quality time with a friend feeling worse off than when you went in?
You shouldn’t, and I realised I didn’t have to put up with that.
I made the decision to ‘break up’ with that friend. I seriously contemplated writing them a letter informing them of my decision, and explaining my reasoning. In the end I decided against it, and vowed to just stop making plans to see them and gradually let the friendship fade over time. To this day I still don’t know if one path was kinder or crueller than the other, or if I chose correctly. The end result was the same though; It’s been years since I’ve seen them.
Do I miss them? Maybe. They were a fun person to be around and we had some amazing experiences together. However, I wasn’t about to keep someone in my life who actively made me feel worse about myself.
I see so many people bitch and moan about friends they’ve had since they were a child, or since high school, or from Bible Camp. When I press them about if they’d ever stop being friends with them they go, “Of course not! They’ve been my friend since forever!”.
And I ask… why? Why spend so much time with someone who you have so many negative things to say about? Why put your precious time and energy into a friendship that brings you more struggle and annoyance than it does compassion and care?
Friendships in many ways can be harder to let go of than relationships. Whilst we all acknowledge that romantic relationships can be fleeting, we seem to purvey the notion that close friendships are somehow exempt from an expiry date. Friendships are considered like a tattoo or HPV; you have them for life.
Just because something is old, doesn’t mean you should cling onto it forever. I stopped holding onto my hamster when it died, and they probably wouldn’t let me near children if I was still clinging to it. Similarly, it was probably a good call to put that friendship down as well.
My fear is that people will read this and think that I’m telling them to go dump any friend of theirs who doesn’t share their views on religion, or politics, or animal birthday parties; that’s not the case. Friends disagree about a whole host of things, and if you were to tell me you and your bestie agree on absolutely everything I’d say that one of you is lying about how much they love Biebers’ new single.
(I love the Biebs, but god damn, Yummy is a piece of shit)
The point is, you’d break up with a partner who was no longer good for you, so why not a friend as well?
Nostalgia and the status-quo can have us cling to things we should have put down a long time ago, and much like holding a decade-old dead hamster, you’ll probably make far better friends if you just let it go.