Breaking up is hard to do

Here's how it plays out on a TV sitcom...
Man: "I'd really like to spend some more time with you. How about tomorrow night?"
Woman: "Well, I'm working pretty late."
Man: "What about the night after that?"
Woman: "Oh, uh, I've got a lot of stuff I need to get done around the apartment."
Man: "This weekend?"
Woman: "Um..."
Man: "NEXT weekend?"
Woman: "I'll call you."
(Audience laughter)

Characters' facial expressions and sheer awkwardness make these dialogues humorous. In real life, they're not as funny ... especially when they take place within the context of a friendship instead of a casual dating relationship.

I'm not going to lie here -- I've played both roles. But I like to think I did the "blow off" thing with casual acquaintances instead of long-time pals (not that that makes me an angel).

You get to the point in some rare friendships where you've shared similar intimacies to those of a couple that's dated for a long time. You laugh at all the same things, have hundreds of memories in common, and know how to push each other's buttons.

When a long-time boyfriend and girlfriend break up, there's typically a purging process in which they return valuable items to each other and, in many cases, some items are just thrown out. So what happens when you break up with a friend? There's no engagement ring to give back or abundance of photos to tear right down the middle. It's mostly just memories, and those are pretty unpurgable.

Perhaps what makes the end of a friendship so jarring and strange is that how matter how great, it's all you had -- not much room for downgrading. It doesn't end like a romance with the typical offering: "But we can still be frien ... oh wait ... hmmm."

I guess we're left to say, "We can still be casual acquaintances." But is that any better than a romance-to-friendship demotion? With experience as a "dumpee" in both scenarios, I say no, it is not any better.


girlfriday said...

You're not talking about drifting apart, are you? You're talking about a friend cutting ties. It is impossibly difficult to do. Sometimes it feels like it MUST be done. Other times the pain of alienation and rejection from a friend is unbearable. Almost invariably there is one side who wants the friendship to continue, one side who does not.

Everyday Anne said...

poignant. thanks for your thoughts.

The Relationship Journalist said...

Breaking up is breaking up, regardless of whether it's romantic or platonic. When a relationship ends it can be tough but pretending "we'll still be friends" just prolongs the inevitable. Walk away, my friends.

Lisa Steadman
Author, It's A Breakup, Not A Breakdown