Friend breakups, though often just as difficult as romantic breakups, are a mostly unsung story. Endless books and poems and blogs and websites and articles and songs lament the tragedy of breakups and how hard they are, but no one talks about being the dumper of a friend (or the friend being dumped) and how freaking hard both of those positions are. In this case, though, I’m mostly going to discuss the position of the dumper and the difficulties that entails. I just want to know why we treat these two situations, similar as they are, so different. For example, it’s completely socially appropriate to break up with someone if they’re really nice because you can’t force yourself to have feelings for them. However, “being nice” seems to be some sort of magical argument people use to explain to you why you should really be friends with so-and-so even though you have no spark with them.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m sort of like a robot sometimes in the sense that I’m all Logic Logic Logic Maximum Output blah blah. Well, I only have so much warmth, nurturing, support, love, kindness and generosity to give, and it pains and frustrates me to waste it on people that I don’t feel all that attached to just because it seems socially unacceptable to break up with a friend who is nice but not for you. It’s like unless there’s some huge betrayal you mutually drift apart, there’s no kind way to pull the slow fade on a friend.
Look, friendship is all about what you get out of someone. Sometimes you might reluctantly stay their friend because after years of friendship you feel obligated and dutiful about it or whatever, but in that case you have a shared history and memories, etc. I don’t mean to say you’re using the other person or they’re using you for like a hot tub or something, that’s not a friendship, that’s just the façade of being friends so you can use their X-Box or whatever, and those “friendships” are pretty quick to fade once the Playstation 3 breaks or you no longer need them to buy you alcohol because you turned 21. What I mean is true friendships you get something out of like laughter, romantic advice, you both really love to rant about the same things, same taste in TV, same taste in music, creatively similar etc. But what happens when you have a friend who you used to get something out of and vice versa but now you don’t? Well, if it was a romantic relationship, you’d probably break up when you’re not getting what you need. But in the case of a friendship, you just seem like a total dick.
“Hey, look, it’s not like I hate your or anything. I think you’re a decent person and all that, but when we’re together I feel vaguely uncomfortable, I have no idea what to say and everything seems all forced. I care about you though in the sense that if you had a tragic accident I’d feel bummed and think about the good times a lot and attend your funeral, but I don’t want to meet up for drinks all the time or watch movies with you…but can we still be acquaintances and have brief but pleasant conversations when we run into each other when we’re out?” Clearly you’d tidy that up a little, but even the tidier version would still be cruel and also random. Like the Spanish inquisition, no one expects an actual friend break up to be so upfront. You expect the drifting apart thing or maybe a big fight to be the ending, but no one actually ever comes out and has that honest conversation.
I get why, I really do, if someone told me they were no longer getting anything out of our friendship it would hurt. I appreciate honesty a ton but in a way the slow fade is way easier than actually dealing with emotions and shit. I’ve had friends confront me about stuff, and I’ve confronted friends about stuff, but in those cases I wasn’t setting out to end the friendship because I just wanted them to fix that one thing or apologize for whatever, and if I had let the wound fester I would have ended up doing the drift away thing in the end. But what about when you aren’t mad at the other person but just don’t feel anything at all? And if I feel better about having the slow fade done to me rather than being directly told my friendship is no longer needed, then why do I feel so bad about slow fading other people out?
I’ve reached a point in my life where I just know and understand exactly what I need out of friendships and what I have to bring to the table, what kinds of people work for me and what kinds don’t, and I hate wasting time on people that I already know in the end will never amount to more than just a vague memory. Sure, sometimes temporary friends are great, but what you’re getting out of those friendships is often just pure fun, much the way you might date someone who is just fun but you don’t see a future with. I’m talking about the people you hang with, aren’t really having fun, and don’t see a future with when I’m talking about friend breakups.
I used to be a girl who liked to hang with the boys; it was how I defined myself for so long. Then I realized that the kinds of guys I was surrounding myself with were often incredibly intelligent and funny, but they were so interested in making each other laugh and being the funniest person in the room that they couldn’t give two shits about who I was, what I had to say, my personal life, my triumphs and tribulations (nor did they share those details about themselves), they made me feel unfunny and unintelligent, and I stopped feeling good around them. But they’re my friends, I told myself, and they were at one point, but it hit me that it was okay to let go and drift away because I was no longer getting anything out of the friendship and consequently was not contributing anything worthwhile. I held onto a few of the ones that I individually had a fantastic bond with, but overall, I was much happier when I set off on my own. No big break up necessary in this case because there was the mutual drift when we all went to college. But it taught me that the biggest things I look for in friendships is laughter and appreciation on both sides. Sure it’s great when people and make you laugh, but if they don’t think you’re funny too it doesn’t feel so good. Also, despite what are considered my more “guyish” qualities, I’m actually really in touch with my feminine side. I fucking hate when girls are like, “Ug I hate other women. I just hang with the guys.” Yeah, I used to be you, and you’re an idiot. You’re hanging out with the wrong women, stop generalizing. So many women are drama-free, intelligent, sensitive, thoughtful, inclusive, warm, supportive, hilarious, raunchy, loyal, and passionate, and they are the most rewarding friendships of my life. I have guys in my life that are fantastic friends, too, but I gotta say, right now I have a much larger network of women that are incredible.
It may seem like I veered off course a little, but I’m bringing it back around. Because I have so many incredible people in my life, both ladies and gents, it makes me totally aware of all the different strengths people bring to the table, and when I’m not seeing that in people, I just don’t see the point in trying. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to break up with a friend when the drift isn’t mutual and isn’t getting through. What do I do? Is it time we start treating friendships more like romantic relationships and quit using the “but they’re nice” excuse to keep wasting time on someone it’s not going anywhere with? Can you still be acquaintances when you’re no longer friends or do you do the awkward ignoring thing every time you run into each other?