FRIENDSHIP BREAK-UPS DON'T GET THE ATTENTION THEY DESERVE
The demise of a friendship doesn’t carry the same appeal as the demise of a relationship. Relationship break ups capture the world’s attention - they’re full of who has or hasn’t got the moral high-ground, who cheated on whom, and who gets the kids, the house, or the dog. They’re tabloid and bold and can dominate conversation for weeks or even months.
But when it comes to friendship break ups - no one gives a shit.
“Friendship, is the redheaded stepchild of the social sciences,” says Atlantic columnist, Jennifer Senior. “Romantic relationships, marriage, family—that’s where the real grant money is.”
But losing a friend hurts. The whole process attacks your self worth - and makes you wonder if you’re interesting enough, talented enough or cool enough for anyone to hang out with.
From my experience, friendships in mid-life don’t end in fireworks. It’s not like your 20s when there’s yelling or even a punch-on. In middle age, friendships end quietly. They leave you like thieves in the night. And that’s the part of it I find most haunting.
Over the past five years, I’ve lost a few friends. There was the time I had the slightest political disagreement on the golf course with a mate. I thought it was fine. But he stopped returning my calls.
There was the friend I had an exchange of views with on Twitter. We were gently teasing each other and then he suddenly got nasty. 24 hours later he apologised, saying he’d been going through some personal issues. I took responsibility for my role in making him angry and we ended the exchange with big love heart emojis. A couple of days later, I went to message him on Twitter and found he’d unfollowed me. The unfollow is hostile. The unfollow means it’s over.
And then there was the guy I’d been mates with for over a decade. We’d hung out together all over the world. One day he was in a difficult spot and asked me to do a week’s work for him. I’m guessing he mustn’t have liked what I delivered. But I wouldn’t know. Because I never heard from him again. Days of silence turned into weeks. Months turned into years. He killed the friendship rather than give feedback. That’s how quietly it can finish.
Author Benjamin Taylor says that a great friend makes you feel that your best self is your real self: “I think that’s what happens when friendships succeed. The person is giving back to you the feelings you wish you could give to yourself. And seeing the person you wish to be in the world.”
But sometimes it ends. And it sucks. Because it’s hard to make old friends. Does anyone care though? Not even a little bit.
You can get Adam’s book Twelve Summers here.