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Letting go of a dying friendship

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By: Sasha Dhesi

Recently an old classmate sent me a private message to wish me a happy birthday. The message reminded me of how I felt when our friendship petered out. We had a similar sense of humour and shared mutual interests, but as time went on, we found that although we still enjoyed each other’s company, we weren’t running in the same social or professional circles, and fell out of touch. I struggled with losing her, especially because, for all intents and purposes, we were still friends. How was I supposed to deal with our relationship just dying like that? What does it say about us that our relationship ended?

There’s a lot of pressure during your early 20s to find that group of friends that will follow you throughout your life. We’re taught that these are the most important years in our lives to build relationships that last. Every once in awhile, this manifests on anonymous posts, like on Spotted at Mac, where an unnamed upper year stresses over not having a clique despite being at the school for multiple years. While this sentiment is understandable, there are legitimate reasons to why you should occasionally let a relationship die, as opposed to working to save it.

There is nothing wrong with hoping that your social circle will follow you through life; the problem is failing to comprehend that you and those around you are going to change. The person you’re going to be one year from now is going to have different expectations and needs than the person you are this year. Sometimes the people in your life change with you, but more often than not, they diverge onto their own paths and can’t give you what you need.

By going into a relationship with the assumption that it’s going to last a very long time, you project your own needs and desires onto a person, which they may not share. In doing so, you stop treating people as people, and instead as objects to satisfy what you imagine your future should look like. Not only is this unfair to your partner, but it’s unfair to you. You should be in a relationship with someone who wants to give you what you need, as opposed to waiting for someone else to change.

Likewise, by assuming you have to remain in a relationship with someone, you run the risk of remaining in a harmful relationship. You are always going to change, but some people may not want you to. My eighth-grade orchestra teacher liked to tell us that “misery loves company.” Although he just meant we should avoid kids who skip band practice, it still struck a chord with me. Every so often, you will run into people who promote unhealthy behaviour and will want you to conform to their desires even if it hurts you.

A lot of people in university feel pressured to stay in these sorts of relationships because they believe that they’ll lose out on that ideal group of friends you hear about in shows like Friends and How I Met Your Mother. But these are the exception to the rule, and in the case of TV shows, completely made up. Chances are, you’re not going to meet your best friend or true love during your first year of university. You’re probably not going to meet them for a very long time, actually. Psychologically speaking, the brain doesn’t finish maturing until you’re 25, if not later. This is particularly true of the critical decision-making portion of the brain. By this standard, you’re not going to be ready to make any long-term decisions until you’re at least two to three years out of your undergraduate degree.

By going into a relationship with the assumption that it’s going to last a very long time, you project your own needs and desires onto a person, which they may not share. In doing so, you stop treating people as people, and instead as objects to satisfy what you imagine your future should look like. 

So where does that leave us? Should you just treat every relationship as casual? The best way to balance your desire to change with your relationships is to let your relationships die when they need to. There will be times when someone you used to speak to everyday stops responding to your texts. There will also be times when you begin to dread going certain places because you have to see this person.

The key to maintaining everyone’s dignity and self-respect during these instances is to understand that it’s completely normal for relationships to die during this time in our lives. Be clear about your intentions with someone, and let them know if you’re not happy or satisfied with your relationship. From here, you can either work on your relationship or end it.

We are going through monumental changes, and different circumstances can mean different people are needed in your life. Some people may not be emotionally equipped to handle what you’re going through and vice versa. Treat this as a moment for self-reflection and not as a personal failure.

As for my friend and I, we’re still on good terms. Our relationship may have fizzled out, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t care about each other. What it ultimately says about us is that we were mature enough to understand that we grew apart. You will meet a lot of people and many of your relationships will die. It’s not a negative reflection on either of you, but a reflection of growth. Just make sure you wish them a happy birthday, at the very least.

Photo Credit: Matt Mullenweg

 

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