The Friend Ship Has Sailed
When the season ends, what do friends do?
A Bit Much is a reader-supported publication. Consider becoming a paid subscriber for the price of a coffee a month. It shows you appreciate my work.💖
“People are in your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.” – a Then-Friend of mine
This quote, like most repeatable phrases, is reductionist. People are rarely in your life for its entirety, and the way relationships begin and end is as nuanced as the parties involved.
But I still like the idea. I like the idea of explaining why people come and go, especially when I didn’t want them to. I like reasoning out that friendships, like all love, don’t have to be forever to be important.
Friendships are love. Close friendships are true love. That, too, can end.
What if we normalized breaking up with friends?
I’ve been thinking about this lately. The phenomenon of being close friends with someone and then never speaking to them again. Obviously many friends come and go over the years; that’s a given. But I’ve always fancied the idea of a squad. I love the concept so much that I built an entire book series around a group of ride-or-die friends.
Please do not read this as me sobbing into my coffee about how I have no friends!! I have many friends. Wonderful friends. Long-lasting friends. New but true friends. International, largely virtual, but very real friends. Friends who I can go ages without speaking to, then call them up and ask them to help me bury a body. Friends who have loved me at my worst and celebrated with me at my best, and vice-versa.
It’s just that I also have a lot of then-friends. People who I thought were My People. Groups I thought were my Squad, only to abruptly find that that was no longer true. That even if I reach, ask, and want to remain friends, no. Goodbye. Sometimes not even goodbye. Just no more replies. I’m left wondering what went wrong. Why we couldn’t fix it. What I’d done that made our bond so easy to discard.
The source energy for unpredictable relationships in my life is my sister. I look at it as a soul lesson I’m meant to learn in this lifetime. So many rounds of closeness followed by sudden falling-outs. Sometimes, I knew what had gone wrong. Often, though, I had - and have - no idea what happened. I’m only happy that, now, we have a steady if distanced dynamic.
My nature is to want to fix things. Understand what I have done that has led to someone pushing away from our bond. Do anything to resolve the issue. That’s childhood programming. I have learned that I cannot decide for people. I can’t make them want to work it out. I can’t fix everything. Sometimes, I wasn’t even the one who broke it. Arguably, if I’m the one making the effort, I was not the one who broke it. A love that cannot withstand disagreements–is it really a love?
We can only control ourselves. I can’t fix or change other’s minds. I didn’t make friends become then-friends. In the same way, they didn’t have to keep me in their lives. They didn’t have to talk it out with me, and they didn’t have to explain themselves, no matter how much I would’ve liked the dialogue.
But, dammit, why did it have to go down like that?
My higher, enlightened self says you be you. My 3D self doesn’t understand why it’s so hard to talk through tough times. Why the love we shared wasn’t enough to work for.
Thanks to therapy, I am aware that the way I process events and emotions isn’t typical. I understand that discomfort is something many avoid at high cost.
This confuses me. I see discomfort as the catalyst to growth. It also confuses me when I know someone to be a hard worker because that seems like a form of discomfort. But it’s not. Discomfort is the ability to be in a completely unfamiliar or vulnerable state and wade through to the other side. Determination and patience are discomfort’s cousins, not twins.
Fair to say that disagreements require expressing raw emotion, uncertainty, and awkwardness. Being vulnerable enough to voice your feelings to someone when your feelings might not be clear to you. Fair to say that this is a discomfort many simply cannot bring themselves to face.
Easier, isn’t it, to just move on. Easier to name a single event or annoyance and let that be a linchpin for toppling relationships. Easier to ignore requests–from your supposed friend and, I would warrant, from your conscience–than to have to tell her why you can no longer show up for this dynamic. Easier to forget. To ghost.
When I put it that way, what goes through your mind? Your emotional body?
So I return to my suggestion that friendships deserve breakups*. If indeed there is no love left to fight for, then tell someone! Do friends who you’ve shared life, love, and time with not deserve to know you’ve moved on? Most agree that ghosting someone you’ve been dating is callous and rude. The longer a romance lasts, the less acceptable it is to just move on without an official breakup, right?
What if we applied that same logic to platonic relationships? “It’s not you, it’s me. I need to take a step back from us.” Why don’t we say that to friends?
A reason, a season, or a lifetime.
Wouldn’t we all trust a little more if everyone agreed to face the discomfort of a breakup? If the karma we wanted to take with us included admitting when the season was over?
I realize no one probably will start doing this. That’s okay. It’s still worth thinking about.
In my post, Love, Always, I wrote about what it means to tell someone you will always love them: “‘always’ means, It will always be true that we shared love. That’s enough. That’s everything. All we ever have is this moment.”
It will always be true that we shared love.
It will always be true that then-friends were real friends. Losing a friend does not negate the bond that you once had or the joy you experienced together. Friendship itself is a reason. Lifetimes contain many chapters. Most people will not follow you through all of them. But what was shared in a time and era remains valuable.
Friendships are love. Close friendships are true love. That, too, can end. Consider the care you give everyone’s heart, not just your partner or spouse.
Have you been ghosted as a friend? Do you ghost friends? Drop a comment below!
*(Obviously, there are the friendships that drift. Time separates us. Schedules and life pull us in different directions. There is no breaking point, only gradual cooling. That’s normal and fine. I hope by now it’s clear that’s not the dynamic I’m discussing.)
A Bit Much is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a paid subscriber.