Breaking up is hard to do and given the number of agony aunt column inches devoted to boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands and wives becoming ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, husbands and wives, it really is. The sense of what could have been as you see the person that you once loved and shared some of the most special and intimate moments with, move on in their lives with someone else. Of course, there are plenty of fish in the sea and all that, but clichéd advice doesn’t make it any easier to take.
I was keen not to devote any more column inches to break ups, but then it happened to me. Before I start getting anxious calls, this wasn’t my wife and I breaking up. And before I get angry calls, this wasn’t my lover and I breaking up either (I don’t have one by the way). This situation as a 40-something year old man was completely new on me and I have to admit, I have really struggled to take it.
This was a male friend of over ten years recently informing me that he thinks we should “just leave it”. It was over an email, which didn’t come completely out of the blue, as I sensed things weren’t right from the previously sent emails. In fact, this wasn’t the first time that this had happened with this particular friend of mine, but I thought that we had sorted that out and were back on an even keel. But clearly we weren’t.
I was devastated and in fact I think whilst I have been over and over his “dumping” email probably a couple of dozen times, to read and re-read the lines and then to read and re-read between the lines, I still am devastated.
I have been left lost, angry, confused. When that email first came through, I instantly felt the need to respond. I was working at home on that day and I showed my wife and asked what she thought I should do. I wanted to reply to tell him that his assessment of me, my apparent neglect of him and his feelings, his criticism of my friendship were all unfounded. Completely unfounded. My first attempt started out jokily: “mate – what are you talking about”. My second attempt denying: “how can you think that way after all I have done and all we’ve been through”. My third attempt angry: “how dare you think that about me after the effort I make on our friendship”! Of course, I sent none of these responses. I was told to calm down, to sleep on it. “He’ll realise what he’s said, and he’ll come round after a few days”.
After a few days, I re-read the email and thought maybe to reply and try to clear the air. We all say things in the heat of the moment, don’t we? Perhaps he was having a bad day? Perhaps he actually needs my help, yes, that’s it – it’s a call for help. But I couldn’t bring myself to respond. I was so unbelievably hurt by not only the fact that I had been dumped as a mate but the words that were used to do the dumping. I started to really think about things I had and hadn’t done – working through my Sent Items for where I had tried to arrange things only to be ignored. Why was I so upset? I guess because I value friendships of mine – have always been more of a “quality over quantity” so I am always thinking that I must catch up with x or y and I actually feel that I put a lot of effort in. To be told otherwise was a total blow to my feelings, so much so that I felt the need to ask other friends what they thought of me.
It really got me thinking: no one ever talks about this! Column inches aside, when was the last time you heard about adult friends breaking up? Particularly male adult friends! Aren’t we supposed to just brush this stuff off, go for a beer, hug it out and move on? For the vast majority of adults, companionship is everything which is why the death of the pub is affecting the social fabric so profoundly – people need to interact with others, share experiences and memories. When those with whom you have shared highs and lows no longer want you part of their lives, it’s amazing how that can bring your life crashing down. In my case, it has really made me reflect on things very deeply, and I almost want to wrap my other friendships in cotton wool to stop the same thing from happening again.
As for the friendship that is over, I will keep the door slightly ajar for if he ever wants to grab a beer and hug it out.