As a teacher of adolescents I often end up teaching pastoral lessons about choosing healthy friendships over unhealthy ones, peer pressure and the like. However, those lessons all are so simple and black-and-white in comparison with the complexities that seem to be the reality of adult friendships. I’m not talking about the easily identifiable dysfunctional friendships. I’m speaking of the healthy ones that just seem to go wrong, have run their course and die.
I was prompted to write this blog because I’ve had two friends discuss friendship difficulties with me in the last few days. A good friend got in touch with me this morning and told me about how he had just discovered that one of his friends had been lying to him for the past six months. And another friend complained to me last week about how she feels like she is receiving a brush off from a mutual friend of ours in what seems to be an almost rude and very deliberate manner. So, in the first case the friendship ending was pretty clear-cut, but in the other case it’s a bit nebulous.
However a friendship ends, in my opinion, it’s worse than a romantic break-up. You expect friends to be there for you and stand by you a bit more than you might expect romantic relationships to…well at least I do. So, when a friendship ends that sense of betrayal and wondering if it was something you did that caused it to die is even more intense. When you realise it’s all gone wrong, how do you end a friendship?
When I have a non-responsive friend, I tend to operate on the “three strikes and you’re out” rule. I’ll make the effort to suggest we meet up and if I get no definitive response after my third attempt, I do my best to not take it personally and just stop trying. Usually said person will get in touch with me eventually and all will be well again. However, in the case of my friend who felt like she was being ignored, she has not just given our mutual friend three strikes; she has given her six. So my friend will not be contacting our mutual friend at all any more and I can’t really say that I blame her. They have had issues in the past and it’s plain that the one who is doing the ignoring has not really gotten past their prior difficulties. So, in that case it might be best to just let that friendship die a natural death. Perhaps it’s just run its course.
When you discover a friend’s been lying to you or has been dishonest in some way that is when you feel the deepest sense of betrayal. There’s nothing much to do but confront that person about what they’ve done and hope that they can offer a reasonable explanation for their behaviour. That is exactly what the first friend I mentioned had to do today. Sadly the explanation wasn’t sufficient and so now he says that friendship is over. What he went through this morning must have been awful. Then again, I hate confrontation and he’s much better at that than I am. Sometimes certain friendships need to be killed quickly and as painlessly as possible.
So perhaps those two friendships are dead, but perhaps not. There’s a great quote by Bronwyn Polson which says, “Whoever says friendship is easy has obviously never had a true friend!” Thus, I remain an eternal optimist about the immortality of friendships, because frankly true friendships are immortal. Those that aren’t true will die when their time has come in whatever manner that is. But, true friends are like the mythical phoenix. They may have their difficulties causing them to burn-up in flames but they are always reborn even more beautiful than they were before.
And it is here that I would like to say that I think I’m the luckiest woman in the world due to the true friendships I am fortunate enough to have.