Adventure Girl learns a lesson in friendship
‘Does this mean I’m dumped?’
In relationships, there are commonly accepted ‘rules’. There are statuses like ‘single’, ‘in a relationship’ or ‘f-buddies’. You form a ‘relationship’, you break up, and sometimes you make up. You have ‘the talk’, assign the appropriate label from the drop-down menu, and alert the rest of your social network via Facebook. All of this is clearly defined. We even have laws and ceremonies dedicated to officially sealing two people together.
Friendships aren’t so clear cut. The boundaries from ‘acquaintance’ to ‘colleague’ to ‘friend’ to ‘BFF’ are more subtle. They are also more fluid.
Friends can step into your life suddenly and intensely, or they can shift gradually into focus and back out again. A friendship can become strained, or a shared experience lost, causing distance to stretch between you.
Where a friendship does come apart, there is rarely a single event you can point to as the end. You don’t ‘break up’ with a friend; you just stop calling, but this can mean you both drift away, assuming a slight on the part of the other, when they are thinking the same as you. Leave it too long and the silence stretches into awkwardness and you may never know if they felt wronged or just got busy.
And if your friends are friends with each other (you may recall my post on mixing friends from a few months ago), there’s a whole extra layer of grey to worry about. There are issues of confidences, sensitivities when discussing one friend with another, entire areas of taboo which can place a strain on that friendship, too.
Post-rift, it gets more complicated. Social gatherings can become awkward when there is an issue left unresolved, especially when there is no rigid boundary or expectation that you will take sides, as you sometimes divvy up friends when a relationship dies.
With so much murkiness, it can be difficult to know what is reasonable to expect from the other person, and what they can reasonably expect from you.
There are rules, but we don’t speak of them. There are expectations, but we don’t acknowledge them, except as we navigate their fragile borders… oops, she got pissed off, I won’t do that again. And sometimes by then it’s already too late.
Forgiveness is important, but for me it’s one of those paradoxes. The more you care, the more you are prepared to let things slide, but something can hurt more because you care so much. And then you get the flip side, where you let things go because you don’t care enough, or you forgive less because it’s not worth the effort when you can simply walk away.
In the absence of defined rules, it can be more difficult to acknowledge jealousies and rivalries, slights and injuries. You suck it up and you move on, together or apart. You withdraw, or you extend, but it is all unspoken, at least between the two of you.
Most of the time when a friendship does end, it’s like an old jumper pulled out of shape, or worse, a borrowed jumper, stretched until it fits neither of you. You accept your time has come and gone, the season has past, you slip it into an unused drawer.
And when that happens I mourn its loss. Others come along and fill their place, but it’s never quite the same shape, like wearing someone else’s slippers. A lesson learned too late, or sometimes not learned at all.