I’m feeling quite sad today because last night, I broke up with a friend.
It was really hard, one of the hardest moments I’ve ever had in a personal relationship. It was hard because I’ve never really broken up with anyone before, at least not in a mature way. It was hard because I loved my friend so much and I didn’t want to say good-bye to her. It was hard because it was actually a totally mutual decision that she knew needed to happen too. And ultimately, it was hard because it was so not messy. Fuck people and what they say about girls and drama; this was the cleanest breakup I’ve ever had. And that it was so clean was, to me, such a testament to how this friendship had helped us over the years. It was thinking, Wow, without this friend, I wouldn’t be able to break up with this friend. That thought just made me so sad.
Afterward, I tried to just have a normal evening, because really, I felt a little embarrassed about how sad I was feeling. I’ve never heard anyone say that crying into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s is standard behavior after you break up with a friend (because I’ve never heard anyone really talk about what it feels like to break up with a girl friend) so I didn’t know if it was OK to want to do that. I tried to be normal, but I felt awful. All I could really do was sit on the couch in my comfy clothes, holding my dogs and just feeling a very dull ache in my chest.
I actually know this feeling well. One of things I’ve always found difficult about modern relationships is the fact that we only seem to give credit to Official Relationships per the Ministry of Facebook.
Before I met Eric, I did a lot of dating and a lot of “is this dating?” I hung out. I was kinda into a guy who was kinda into me. These often felt like relationships because they taught me important lessons about, well, relating and brought real disappointment when they ended. But they were still hard to talk about. I could never say, “I’m sad that I broke up with my boyfriend” because, well, he wasn’t my boyfriend in the strictest sense, and so what right did I have to be sad?
But I still find this so unfair. Whenever a relationship like this ended, I’d think, This went on for a while! This was something! I want credit for what we had and sympathy for this pain I’m feeling, damnit. I felt really sad, but I also felt so embarrassed for being so upset over a guy who wasn’t officially anything to me. I never really knew how sad I was “supposed” to be or “allowed” to be, so I felt ashamed talking about how I felt or for putting time and effort into getting over it. Grieving a relationship was for people in real relationships, I always thought. If it wasn’t on Facebook, I shouldn’t feel this sad.
This morning, I woke up and still felt that dull ache in my chest. As I was doing my makeup, I thought about my friend and our friendship and I started to cry. That was the moment I knew that I had had the dull ache in my chest last night because I’m actually really heartbroken.
And then I realized to not be heartbroken right now, or to tell myself I shouldn’t be heartbroken, is as unfair to me now as it was when I was “sort of dating.” And further, it’s just an insult to friend relationships. But I had actually been insulting this friendship for a long time.
I had thoughts about breaking up, but I always shook them off and dismissed the pain we were causing each other because, well, I felt like it wasn’t that big of a deal if I stayed in a friendship that was essentially over. I would never let myself stay in a romantic relationship that was causing me so much stress, but for some reason, I’d stay in a friendship that was. Perhaps it’s because we can have so many friends that makes it a lot harder to walk away from a friend. Being friends with someone doesn’t mean you can’t be friends with other people, so the sense of urgency is gone. With romantic relationships, I always had a sense of, “I don’t want to waste my time on someone when I could be out there looking for something better.” But I’ve never heard that I’m “wasting my time” on a friendship.
The thing is, I feel like I’m wasting my time whenever I choose to stay in a situation that hurts me, whether it’s a romantic relationship or a job I hate. By acting like it was OK to settle on a friendship, I actually wasn’t giving enough credit to friendships. A friendship can be an extremely powerful relationship and to act like friends don’t have the power to hurt us so deeply that we have to walk away somehow cheapens the relationship. I didn’t realize until this morning that it’s because this friendship was so important to me is exactly why it was OK — and necessary — to end it.
So today I’m letting myself feel really sad. I don’t know what getting over a friendship looks like, but I know it doesn’t look like telling everyone I’m fine.