Let’s talk friendships. Female friendships in adulthood. These are the people we go to for hard hitting advice (Have I gained weight? Should I dump him? etc.) to genuine life altering problems. A reason we love F.R.I.E.N.D.S. two decades later (aside from the classic jokes and Rachel’s timeless fashion of course) is that that is the kind of friendships we all aspire to have in our lives. Maybe some of us do have it. But I don’t think its sustainable unless you work hard at it. There are bound to be big blowouts. The stronger the friendship the deeper the arguments. You don’t pull any punches with your soul sisters.
We celebrate friendships and romantic relationships but when something goes awry in either one, we only talk about the romantic breakup and how long it takes to mend a broken heart. We don’t talk about a broken friendship or give any importance to how that void affects us. Losing a best friend is worse than a romantic breakup. I’m not talking about childhood friendships or even early adulthood when you’re still deciding on your major or if sunblock is necessary as part of your morning ritual. At that time in your life, friends come and go and you’re trying to figure out who you are in the world. But after a certain point, when you’re settled and comfortable in your own skin and have this newfound confidence that mysteriously descends on you in your 30s, you look around at the group of people you choose to surround yourself with. Not all friends from school or college stand the test of time. You outgrow friendships with people you no longer have anything in common and that’s ok. Life changes, marriage, kids, moving away etc. are all natural progressions and sometimes the friendship peters out. But the ones that are left are those that have stood by you. They’ve cheered you on through all your accomplishments and seen your ugly cries and comforted you. They’re your sounding board when your own family gives you a hard time. You do the same for them and you believe this sisterhood is for life.
But sometimes, the closest of bonds break. It happens across all ages and to more than decade long friendships. Friendship burnout happens to the best of us.
Not all friendships last a lifetime
This is perhaps true for all relationships. I think friendships are built for seasons. It can weather a gamut of emotions over a lifetime, a couple of years or the course of a few months. Just because it lasts a shorter time or ends on a sour note, doesn’t mean that the friendship was any less meaningful. You learn valuable lessons from those friendships, and they were necessary to get you through that period in your life. Modern relationships also have the added baggage of having to delete the person from your social media lest you be reminded of your ex best friend every time you open an app. Conflict and disagreements happen in every healthy relationship and while it is important to have different points of view, if there is a huge shift there’s nothing you can do to fix it. Don’t blame yourself or your old friend harshly for the breakup. Whether it was a series of disagreements, one big fight or a friendship that turned toxic over time, you realize when it is time to break that bond.
I had to make that difficult decision with my best friend. There were cracks and differences in our bond for a few years and over time I realized how different we both were. We had evolved at different paces and had very few things in common. Our interests and priorities took us in different directions. The friendship that was supposed to be my safety net was emotionally draining me. I struggled to pull the plug on a decade long friendship, but it was time to wish each other the best. It still isn’t easy especially since we’d been in the trenches together, but it was the right thing to do.
Let yourself grieve
It sounds silly but you do need to let yourself feel the loss of your friend. It is after all a death of a friendship. Let yourself miss your friend for a while and any hurt, anger or sadness you feel and know that it’s ok to feel them.
Make efforts to cultivate new friends and keep in touch with your old friends
Making new friends organically as an adult is a lot harder than it looks. I’ve tried them all – attending networking events, bachata lessons and exercise classes. Perhaps it is different in smaller cities or towns but in New York it is quite different where everyone is always on the go and it is hard to find genuine friendships.
It is important to nurture your existing friendships. You may not live in the same city or country as them but keeping in touch often solidifies that bond. I have friends on the other coast with whom I talk to often and even if I don’t see them for years, we still know what’s going on in each other’s lives.
Do something out of your comfort zone and discover what makes you happy
The last couple of years I really went all out doing things that I normally wouldn’t do and found that I enjoyed quite a lot of them. It is only when you’re uncomfortable that real change and growth happen. I tried a friendship app called Hey Vina! when it was newly introduced in NYC a few years ago. I hung out with some cool women from different walks of life and professions. I’m glad to say that I ended up with a couple of people with whom I enjoy doing fun activities in the city and a few that I can confidently call my good friends. I dabbled creatively in a few projects, traveled and had new experiences. Traveling lets you engage with people on a whole other level. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people on my trips and have continued to stay in touch with them.
Spread your interests and emotional needs among your friends and don’t have one person be the keeper of keys. Don’t go looking for new best friends. Any kind of breakup sucks, romantic or friendship. But you pick yourself up and let new opportunities unfold and just maybe something or someone wonderful is around the bend.
Do you have a breakup story?