The Heartache of Friendship

I’m not a very good friend. It would be wrong to say that friendship baffles me, I suppose, but I certainly seem to get it wrong enough to lead me to wonder if I shouldn’t be questioning myself a little more often. I mentioned in my post about Odette Johaar’s photography that I had in the last year befriended a group of women whom I found quite good for my soul. They continue to be so daily. These lovely ladies tucked away in my phone, always ready to help at the touch of a whatsapp message, even though our real lives seldom collide. I adore them. They make me feel sane. Calm. And honestly? Loved. I am lucky to have them. It worries me, however, that I possibly feel safe in our friendship because our lives are not so intertwined. Perhaps it feels safe to me because we all live our separate lives, and then whatsapp wave to each other on occasion, tell each other how awesome we are, and then carry on with those lives. I can’t hurt you, and you can’t hurt me. Because there isn’t a secret rulebook of expectations that any of us are failing to abide by. The only rule is that we’re nice to each other. And being nice is easy because each member of the group is so easy to like.

My friendship track record in general, however, is something of a minefield of confusion and mistrust.  And then a couple of weeks ago something happened with a very good friend of mine that made me realise something about myself…

You know how romantic relationships are often villainised by people who have been hurt one too many times? You’ll have the girl or the guy who had the love of their life break their heart so irreparably that they become cynical about love, building those proverbial walls around themselves and sealing up all the windows. I’ve never related to that. Not even a little. It’s not that I didn’t/don’t understand the sentiment. I get it. I really do. In fact I kind of used to judge myself a little for not being like that.

You see…. I have every reason to be like that. The heart I have today is a patchwork of romantic heartaches all stitched together with wine and time. And yet I was never afraid of falling in love again. I once moaned at one of those rebound-in-between-real-boyfriends guys that he was just going to break my heart. I was completely lying. I wasn’t afraid that he would break my heart. I was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to! Because I have never been afraid of falling in love, I’ve never been afraid of trying again. If anything, from a romantic standpoint, I have feared only that I might one day become incapable of falling in love. And I am thankful that so far this has remained untrue of myself.

But I realised, after this incident with my friend,  that perhaps I am not as immune to the kind of permanent heartbreak  that works its way into future relationships as I thought. Because even though I have barely any walls when it comes to romance, I am certainly building those walls when it comes to friendship. I have been doing so for years. Slowly, at first, but it has come to a point where I feel it so acutely now, this shutting down of the un-edited self. I am unsure of how to stop it. Every time something overwhelmingly familiar happens, I find myself building even faster. I worry that this time the construction has been completed.

The cheerleader, the encourager, the helper, the advice giver…. they’re all still here. But the truster? She has shrunken down to the feintest shadow. She is so squished that her very existence has come into question. I wish I could pour into her the hope that I have for lasting partnerships, in spite of my own experience to the contrary. I wish I could offer her evidence of why cynicism is the wrong choice, but I think I might be at the point where I can no longer find a convincing argument.

In reality, my husband is my best friend. He’s my partner in every way. But is it ok that my husband plays the only role of best friend for the rest of our lives? It was only in January – a mere five months ago! – that I found myself telling my family the story of how grateful I was to have “a bestie” in my life again. Now I go back to not having one? It sucks a little. And I can’t help but note that even when you’re lucky enough to consider your husband to be your most precious friend, a bestie is still something a little different.

I admit that what I do have in my life is so much more than enough. Great kids. A doting husband (who cooks). Siblings who I adore. The best parents. I want for nothing, really. I am spoilt. Anything above all of that is the most beautiful bonus.

And yet I cannot help but feel this loss so acutely. This piece of me that is insisting no more raw vulnerability is kind of alarming. But then, maybe my secret rulebook of friendship expectations has always been wrong. Maybe expecting to have a space where you are allowed to be your raw self without it ever being used against you is too much to ask. So I should just stop asking for it.

Maybe it’s just something that was never meant for me.

2 thoughts on “The Heartache of Friendship

  1. You’re not a terrible friend Nayes <3 You're an amazing one
    And it's not too much to expect/ask for a space where you are allowed to be your raw self without it ever being used against you. It's something everyone deserves. You deserve it as well, remember that <3 <3.

    1. Thank you, Odettie. It does get a bit hard to believe sometimes when the same sort of weirdness happens with the people I’m closest to. How do you feel worthy when someone walks away from 17 years of friendship? How do you feel worthy when you’re supposed to move in with a friend and when moving day comes she refuses to take your calls, blocks you on every conceivable forum, and you never hear from her again? No explanations. It still haunts me ten years later. The woman I thought of as a much needed “big sister” basically spent our entire relationship manipulating me, stabbing me in the back, andy lying to me. And that’s just in my grown-up life. There’s a failing on my part here. To detect patterns. There’s a lack of wisdom which prevents me from shying away from relationships that are not safe. I no longer trust myself in this regard. Because I so often find myself so inconceivably wrong.

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