Friendship Breakups: “It’s me. I’m the problem. It’s me.”
This is a touchy subject for me. I grew up seeing really beautiful friendships maintained by my parents for decades and somehow, it set such a high standard for me, and unfortunately, an impulse to repair and maintain even friendships that are lost causes. I am the kind of person that maintains the friendships I had from childhood. I love reconnecting, and I abhor cold contacts. It is akin to failing an important exam that affects my career. Once I discover that there’s an unaddressed pain in any relationship, I want to work it out. Either by glossing over it in a typically cowardly fashion or hashing it out like a properly functioning adult. These are confessions, so please do not expect me to lie and say I handle everything properly. I do not.
This has been a very long journey of being treated like an afterthought and a ‘she’ll understand’ in most relationships because I always assumed a ‘caregiving’ role. This very narrow lane leads one down the path of resentment or self-loathing, none of which are okay. With this epiphany, I decided to talk through issues with my friends and family, emphasising that outside my teary outbursts, I had feelings too, needs, fears and concerns. And I didn’t always want to be the burden bearer, sometimes I wanted to be carried. I wanted to freely have panic attacks late at night and receive prayers and reassurance. A solid plan right? Wrong.
I have lost a good number of close friendships in the past year. It has been a painful journey, but I realized that I was so hung up on saving those relationships that I didn’t even see what their dysfunctionalities were doing to me. I became a shadow cast kilometres off the main object. I remember telling someone many months ago that I am far from the woman I want to be. I have always wanted to love loud, live unafraid and without reservations. But the unhealthy balances in some of my relationships affected me so much that I started measuring how much love to give or show the people in my life. I was trying to be safe once again, lest I overdo it again and end up with another badly broken heart.
Now it is false to say I was a victim in all these relationships that went awry. It wasn’t so. Some were not working out because of unmet expectations, expectations that were non-negotiable for me. Others were cut short because of dishonesty (I have a big issue with dishonesty). Others simply ended because I had outgrown them or at least that level of intimacy. Others died slowly because I decided to starve them of oxygen. Yes, I killed some. I wrestled with this for a long time. I felt guilty walking away. Like I was a failure. I mean, aren’t friendships for sticking it through thick and thin?
How do you choose a friend and then divorce them just because they were no longer serving you? How selfish is that? But guess what? Some days, you serve breakfast, other days you are served. What matters is that you do your serving for the right reasons. Not out of spite or resentment. Not in a bid to punish someone because they hurt you. But because you know that continuously fanning the flames of that dying relationship might give you both carbon monoxide poisoning. It is totally okay to walk away from friendships that are not edifying. Those that bring nothing but performance anxiety, panic attacks and a second-guessing of your self-worth. My most recently liberated one is the gaslighting friend. This one is the most subtle and dark. It is always an emotional blackmail or guilt trip, a minimising of your concerns and making you feel like you’re crazy. No, thank you, darling, I’ll pass. I’d rather be friends with five people that genuinely like me and are deliberately loving me than have a horde that does not want me to ever voice out how I truly feel because it makes them accountable.
One time, I was talking to a very good friend of mine about some friendship woes and he asked me what my oldest friendship was. I told him it was someone I knew from age five. He chuckled and said, I see you have a problem letting go. I wanted to argue but paused and defeatedly said yes. The Christian in me doesn’t want to give up because love never gives up. The messiah complex wants to feed me stories that if I am no longer in xyz’s life they cannot cope without me in abc. False.
Listen, you are nobody’s saviour. Jesus is. And if you are not in friendships that replicate Jonathan’s heart for David or Naomi’s concern for Ruth or Jesus’ heart for Lazarus, uhhm I think you might need to check your drawing board. I am not saying they need to resurrect you from the dead to prove their loyalty or ‘pimp’ you for lack of better words to your kinsman redeemer or even stand up to a king on your behalf (even though this won’t hurt if you catch my drift).
I am the last person to be giving anyone advice on this because I seem to be making a mess every step but one thing I am sure of is that I hurt a lot less now. I am more confident about what I want, what I need and comfortable with those. I am also relearning to maintain my best friendship with the Holy Spirit. Look, it is okay to be needy. I think I am saying this to myself as some sort of reassurance I wish I got earlier in life. It is fine to get mad and to feel hurt. It is essential you also talk through things lest they fester and get worse. Don’t chest it, talk about it. Don’t process it mentally and make excuses because the behaviour is going to repeat itself unless you tell your friend how their actions or lack thereof are affecting you.
I just saw this on a blog and these words caught my attention.
So these divorces happen when essential needs are not being met or if the existence of the said relationship is harming you. Be it mentally, spiritually, emotionally or even career-wise. So permit me to disagree with Taylor Swift’s popular tune — It’s me. I’m the problem. It’s me. Just kidding that’s not true. It’s us. We’re the problem, it’s us. And that’s okay. We are all Works-In-Progress (WIP). We will stumble, we will offend, we will hurt, we will be hurt, we will cry, we will laugh and we will die. So let us love.
If you enjoyed reading this, please help make this post more visible to those who may like it or learn from it by clapping as many times as you can (50x). I want to hear from you on this. Have you ever had a friendship divorce? How did it feel?
I want to thank my friend Yayrator for jolting me back into publishing. I am sorry I was gone for 8 weeks +. It is great to be back!