The New Heartache: Breaking Up With Your Friends
Way back in Girl Scouts, I learned the song, “Make new friends, but keep the old; One is silver and the other gold.” These lyrics, made relevant again when Diane Keaton recited them for her long-time pal Woody Allen at this year’s Golden Globes, seemed to cover it all. Welcome new people into your life, but don’t let the old ones slip away—simple enough.
True, as kids we were probably more focused on selling Thin Mints and Samoas than questioning the intricacies of platonic love, but what my scout leader failed to even hint at was the possibility that these bonds could evolve into something, well, not so golden.
That’s where I find myself today: reevaluating an old friendship that’s soured over the years. I met my friend—we’ll call her Sarah—when I was in my early 20s and new to NYC. Back then we ran all over town, stretching our meager post-grad salaries at street fairs and happy hours, and generally having a great time. But now that we’re both in our 30s, the air between us has become strained. Feelings are easily hurt and we’re less willing to be vulnerable around each other.
Sometimes I come home from hanging out with Sarah and feel exhausted. I’m hyper aware of small jabs (or at least what I perceive as jabs), and I feel the need to constantly shield myself. I’m not sure exactly how we got here. There’s no dramatic story to tell about her stealing my boyfriend or me tossing a cocktail in her face after a drunken argument. I suppose it was a series of small disappointments that have added up over the past 10 years (I know, totally boring).
So here I am wondering, do I end things with Sarah? Is it possible to break up with a friend?
For all the advice we hear about breakups of the romantic variety, friendship usually gets the shaft. Maybe it’s assumed that we’ll all be great Girl Scouts and just stick to the song. When we do shine a spotlight on adult friendship, it usually doesn’t play out in a meaningful way. Rather than inspiring stories, words of wisdom or stories of the nuanced phenomenon of breaking it off with a friend, we get all-out spectacle. Just look at the Real Housewives of…any city, really. Bickering besties fuel nearly all the drama on those shows, whether it’s NeNe vs. Kim, Bethenny vs. Jill, or Teresa vs. everyone. Are we to only explore female friendships that end in a fury of weave pulling and insult slinging?
This may explain my male coworker’s reaction when I asked his advice about my potential friendbreakup. “Drama!!” he replied. I tried to explain that it wasn’t about drama; It was about being genuine in my relationships and surrounding myself with only people I truly enjoy. “Look,” he said, “I have three good friends and they’ve been my friends since I was 10 years old. Once you’re my friend, you’re my friend for life.”
Read more about letting friends go at YourTango.com