Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Platonic Break-Up

If you are to undergo a painful separation from a romantic or sexual partner, you will find yourself in no shortage of advice on how to deal with it. Much of this advice will be completely useless to you, but you'll certainly be able to find it. Friends will offer it, TV and movies will offer it, songs will offer it, lifestyle magazines will offer it by the ton. Getting over a break-up is hell, but you've always got options available as to how you go about it.

More importantly, it's accepted that you will go about it. When you break up, it's expected you'll undergo a period of sadness and misery and mood swings and over-eating. A mourning period is exactly what you're supposed to go through, and society will smile upon your emotional turmoil.

But there is no such formula when it comes to the platonic break-up: the break-up of a platonic relationship. What do you do to get over it when your friends dump you?

I seem to have become quite adept at shedding friends, much the same way as a snake sheds its skin, except snakes don't cry. Like, ever. They're really repressed.

Anyway, the point is in the past year or so I have lost a few friends. Not in the genuinely sad way, in the lame petty sense that they're not my friends anymore. I don't really know why they're not my friends anymore, because they didn't tell me.

And that's one of the issues. When you're sleeping with someone and they tell you that you can't sleep with them anymore, it's perfectly acceptable to demand an explanation. And they'll say "It's not you, it's me", or "We're just two very different people", or "Sex with my sister is one thing, but with my budgie?" You'll probably end up feeling like a total prick, but at least you'll know what it was that's driven them away.

Whereas in this case I feel like a total prick but remain unaware of just what variety of total prick I am. Look, I'm sure it was my fault. Believe me, I have no trouble imagining why someone might not want to be my friend - it's people who still do want to be my friend who persistently baffle me. But it's just that I wished I knew what it was that had caused the state of friendship to morph into the state of non-friendship. I might have suspicions, but it's impossible to know - I'm so obnoxious in so many different ways that it's difficult to determine which one they picked.

And the problem with being dumped by a friend is that you can't just ask them what went wrong. I mean, you can, but then you're kind of being a dick, right? I firmly believe nobody has an inherent right to friendship from anybody else, and if someone decides they'd rather not associate with someone, they're perfectly entitled to stop associating with that person, and they don't owe anyone any explanation.

So yeah, these friends of mine who aren't friends of mine anymore, they're well within their rights. There's no reason for them to tell me why, or let me beg them to take me back. Which I would never do, even though I want to.

All this is because breaking up with a friend isn't really "breaking up", is it? It's not really a thing. It's not a phenomenon that merits cultural recognition and respect. It's childish to even speak about it, really. When a friend stops being your friend, you're supposed to just dismiss it with a wave and cry, "Good riddance!" If you've lost a friend, they were never really your friend. You're better off without them. You'll be happier this way. And certainly, it's nothing at all like the agony of breaking up an actual relationship.

But oh lord.

It still hurts.

It shouldn't hurt, it's pathetic for it to hurt. But it does. Friendships are precious to me. I treasure them, even if by doing so I am deluding myself into believing the friendship is as important to the other party as it is to me. Friendships boost me, and sustain my self-esteem. Every friend I have I count myself fortunate for, and flatter myself over - if another human being likes me, I might be sort-of OK? This is what I tell myself.

And so, eventually they become fed up or bored or annoyed or whatever, and they ditch me, and fair enough. But that really bites deep - that flattering I mentioned gets turned on its head: if having someone desire friendship from me is evidence of my excellence, having someone cease their desire for that friendship is evidence of my failure as a human being. And obsessing over just what I did to put myself beyond the pale does not improve this state of mind.

So, I hurt, and I mourn, and I turn into a big fat sook. Well I turn into a sook, anyway: the big fat bit was already there am I right? High five!

But there's no routine, there's no procedure. There's no correct way to mourn over a broken friendship. You're not really supposed to mourn at all. It's a secret activity. I don't even know whether other people do it. But I do.

Every friendship I've screwed up, in whatever way, I mourn, Every friend I no longer have, I miss. And I apologise to the thin air they've left behind for the ways I wronged them.

And I just wish there was a way to do this properly. But then that's what blogs are for, right?


FiveFrogsBlog said...

I hate that feeling.

It's a very familiar one.


Bilby P. Dalgyte said...

It's not pathetic to mourn the loss of a friendship. An emotional bond is an emotional bond and though friendship has varying degrees of importance to a person you are still entitled to be upset when it ends.

You'll find more, but that doesn't make the previous friendship mean any less.

P.s. I hate it when people dump me for touching their pets inappropriately. I just have so much love to give.

sarah toa said...

You are right, it hurts ... and I mourn too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben. I broke up with a friend today. I told him via email and I told him why, and it was really hard. I felt like a shit for doing it, but I read your post and it convinced me I had to do it rather than let it linger.

He was a shit though. Like, I'm not even kidding, a real shit.

You, however, seem like a top bloke. I'm not kidding about that either. I think what you're experiencing is just peoples lives diverging. I've had that, and it's really really hard. I'm with you.

Christina said...

Hi Ben,
I read this the other day and just today I received an email from a friend telling me that she doesn't want me to contact her any more. Now I'm re-reading your post with this sickness in my stomach, knowing that I'm a terrible person and can never have this wonderful person in my life again. Nothing to add really, but I need to tell someone that I'm a failure. Love your work, anyway.

Bren + Lucy said...

Hey Ben,
Breaking up is hard to do I recommend moving house or flat so you have a new environment to clear the space and make it less hostile and about the past.