Friendships are part of the bedrock of life.
Even the more casual friendships can bring colour and humour and help with perspective. The banter (the type that is convivial and teasing and not the Yorkshire Cricket Club racist brand), can help us to not take ourselves too seriously and lighten our moods amid the stresses and strains of everyday life.
The deeper, long-term friendships can get us through the rockier periods; grief, physical, emotional and psychological hurt, periods of self-doubt, fear and anxiety. They can also be a voice of balance when we veer too far from reason and into a potential path of harm or self-indulgence.
A good friend is someone we build shared memories with and also share our closest confidences, and is ready to forgive when we occasionally take them for granted or step too far across the boundary. A friendship that encapsulates all of those ingredients is priceless and needs to be cherished.
What happens then when a cherished friendship suddenly gets damaged beyond repair?
Indeed, what happens when, as in my recent experience, three of my friendships implode over a relatively short period of a couple of years?
Have those friendships, all long-term and therefore seemingly strong and familiar, simply all ran their course at coincidentally a similar time?
It’s right to acknowledge straight off, that I am the common denominator in all three cases, and all three friends don’t know one another. Just me. So be free to make up your own mind on that one! But it is a serious jolt to the psyche, to think a trio of invested friendships have all stopped in their tracks.
SHOUT IT OUT OR STEW IN SILENCE?
Only one of my three friendship breakdowns have had the drama of argument, of throwing back the shackles on a to and fro of disagreement to a divide that can’t be bridged.
So is argument better, even if it leads to separation? Does it at least feel as though we were both passionate enough to shout/talk it through? Does that have more value than something that just fades away, or, as in one case, closes the door immediately after an apparent line has been drawn?
Writer Mariam Khan wrote recently in the i Newspaper that during Covid lockdown she lost a long- term friendship not due to a big, anger filled argument but because of a series of small misunderstandings that grew bigger due to not being able to see one another face-to-face in an attempt to talk things through.
And the lack of face-to-face conversations that Covid has enforced has had an increased negative impact on friendships, with the University College of London reporting more than 20% of people have had some kind of relationship breakdown during the pandemic.
THE DESTABILIZING SHIFT
Friendships are built very much on balance. Sometimes that can mean a balance that leans slightly in one direction and it can operate somewhat successfully on that level for years. However, when suddenly, or even gradually, the equilibrium is shifted back even slightly it can expose crack lines beneath the surface that may not have anything directly to do with the friendship but can have a massive impact upon it.
In my experience a movement in one direction can unintentionally cause someone to feel more acutely aware of frustrations in their own life that the friendship had previously served in some way to balance out.
But the notion that anyone’s life needs to stand still or keep quiet about changes and/or progress we make doesn’t serve anybody well. Eventually those changes will out and the relationship can be the casualty.
As I try to reconcile myself with the loss of these friendship’s I am grateful for their place in my life and I don’t regret them for a second. And I am fortunate enough to have other attachments with people that are still standing the test of time.
However I have also become more increasingly aware how quickly things can change, and how much importance should be placed on their preservation.