friendship

'I had to hide myself from her a little bit.' Breaking up with my best friend was self care.

I find the loss of female friendships almost as heartbreaking as ending a romantic relationship. When I've seen the light and shade of my friends' beautiful personalities and have shared so many experiences, I start to wonder how on earth I could ever leave them. Even though I know I can't hang on.

We each have that one friend, acquaintance, or family member who projects all their insecurities onto others. They are rarely happy for your accomplishments and feel constantly outraged with the world and anyone who is slightly different to them. It's like they've created a box for themselves and get so darn angry when you won't jump in it.

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Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about it once, describing a time when she was on stage with her friend Rob Bell, who shared his theory of "the crab bucket". Rob said, "Remember that a family is basically just a big crab bucket – whenever one of the crabs climbs out and tries to escape, the other crabs will grab hold of him and pull him back down."

Friendship, it seems, is just another type of crab bucket. But what do you do when those pincers start to nip around your ankles?

I once had a friend who was fun, kind and loving. If I needed help, she'd be by my side in a heartbeat, providing me with a glass of wine and a shoulder to cry on whenever I needed it. We'd been through breakups, marriage affairs, illness, births, and almost every experience you could imagine. But whenever I was with her, I had to hide myself a little bit.

At first, it didn’t seem like a big deal.

I knew she didn't like my spiritual side, so I just didn’t talk about anything spiritual when she was around. Once, when I did briefly open up, she told some mutual friends that she felt like she’d been "bashed over the head by a Bible". This was despite the fact that I have no interest in religion or the Bible.

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I knew she found my eating issues infuriating, so I stopped talking about those, too. This was back when I cycled between binge eating and under-eating, cutting out large food groups at a time, completely confused by the mess I’d gotten into. If I mentioned it she’d become exasperated and advise: "Just do moderation!"

I knew she didn’t like people who posted about fitness, or health, or cleaning their houses with natural cleaning products, only because mutual friends were referred to as "smug" when they did so. I didn’t want to speak about any of those topics anyway, but I kept this information in the back of my mind, just in case. I knew she didn’t like my writing, so I avoided posting anywhere she’d see it. I knew that she didn’t like people who posted quaint motivational memes, so I kept my motivational memes to myself.

Over time, I became exhausted. I was constantly thinking about how I needed to act around her, which parts I needed to hold back. I could never just "be".

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Eventually, there came a point where I could no longer stay trapped within the prison I was creating for myself by holding on to this friendship. I knew I had to choose: acceptance or freedom. As scary as it was, I choose the latter.

Kindly, softly, I let her fall away. I became less available for dinners and pub crawls. I initiated texts less often, then not at all. Eventually, we fell out of each other’s circles. 

In doing so, I realised the beautiful freedom in being myself. I realised the energy I had been wasting trying to hide parts myself; a precious energy which is better utilised elsewhere. I realised my uniqueness and perfect imperfection, too good to keep hidden.

Finally, I discovered there is no scarcity when it comes to friendship. Once I let go, I made space for new people to come into my life. People who love and enjoy me as I am, shitty memes and all. My energy levels have increased as I’m not attaching to what no longer serves me; I’m not placing my own soul at second best.

My old friend is not a bad person. We just changed as we got older and no longer meet in the middle. But even in friendship, love should never cost your freedom.

Feature Image: Getty.

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