Those fading friendships

Mar 31, 2012 :

Even BFFs grow apart, the physical or emotional distance resulting in a split. There is always the olive branch… provided you need one, writes Sheila Kumar.

Let’s begin with a true story. Shylaja and Hajira  had been best friends, closerthanthis from the time they both went to the same primary school.

They saw each other through the intricacies of algebra, the first crush, semester exams, the first ciggie, boyfriends, bad haircuts, disastrous parties, everything that constituted the growing up process.

Their social circle saw them as a twin-headed entity, rather than two very different young women. Both sets of parents rolled their eyes but put up with the constant presence of the friend in their homes.

Then they split up. Without recriminations, without a fight. They just drifted apart. When they met, the estrangement  loomed like a thought balloon above their heads and to cover their awkwardness, both smiled like sharks at each other. Like lovers, they heard of other BFFs taking their place and stifled a wince.

Today, two decades on, both talk — separately —  of those days with heartfelt wistfulness. All these years later, there is still a movie, a poem, a painting one would like to share, to discuss, with the other. Both  women remain in some kind of time warp, refusing to accept that their erstwhile friend would inevitably be another kind of woman now.

‘If only’ is a constant refrain but neither of them have done anything to cross that bridge. Truth to tell, they don’t want to ‘go back,’ either.

Analysts will tell you that friendships oftentimes run a course parallel to true love: there is affection that deepens into love, there is competition with its flip side, jealousy. There is openness, concealment, a slew of petty and not-so-petty lies. There is betrayal.

There is a lot of putting-up-with.  The friendship has becomes a steadfast habit and both parties try feverishly to paper over the cracks that keep appearing, until finally the whole fabric is hopelessly rent. Sometimes, you need to just let it be, other times, to let it go.

And yes, women have a harder time letting it go. The truth is, men don’t mope. However, one need not reach the particular place that Shylaja and Hajira have reached, sitting amidst the detritus of a faded friendship. All it takes is some clear-headed thinking, some determination to give the relationship a fresh try. Or, to end it quietly and move on.

For starters, there is the pressing need to look any major crisis in the face, to deal with it intelligently, not emotionally. There is no point in covering up for oneself or for the friend. The offender needs to know how he/she has offended, the offended has to make clear his/her grouse.

Some amount of pride-swallowing is also par for this course. Pride, apart from coming before the proverbial fall, also seals the lips, makes one bite the bullet. Sometimes, there is no need to bite the bullet.

Sometimes, the need of the hour is to speak up, reveal one’s vulnerability, as a calibrated strategy to repair the relationship. If one is too proud to admit one has been hurt, the friend cannot be expected to gauge the full depth of the problem. Persevere…up to a point. When that point has been breached, let go.

And then, there is forgiveness. Easier as a cliché than a precept to be put into practice. But it has to be done and this has more to do with figuring just how badly one needs to be in the relationship. How willing one is to really and truly forgive, and attempt to forget. Once those priorities fall right, the rest falls into place.

Open lines of communication are essential. Good friendships sometimes come apart in a series of small tears, not with one big dramatic denouement. This is a person with whom one can lower one’s guard, can say anything to. Yes, but there are unwritten tangible rules to every relationship and no one is exempt from this set of rules.

There should be an underlying respect for the friend, for the friendship, and what’s more, that respect should surface ever so often. It is essential to the wellbeing of the relationship.

Jealousy, now, is a vicious fabric-renter. Along comes another person and takes away one’s best friend. At which point, one needs to face up to the fact that if the relationship was stable, the entry of another person would not have affected it. If it has impacted the relationship, then it’s time to re-evaluate the friendship, put it on another plane (less intense, less exclusive) or else, move on.

External deal-breakers include boredom with the relationship (yes, it happens!) or when one or the other friend has actually moved on in terms of likes, dislikes, lifestyles, ideologies. Or, when one finds fault all the time with the other. The balance is askew and needs to be re-set. Sometimes, the friends cannot be bothered to set the balance right and that spells the end of the friendship.

The big break. It could be anything but there is no mistaking it when it happens. This really is the end. No amount of apologies, discussions or papering over will do the trick any more. At this point, the wrong thing would be to grimly hang on.

The right thing would be to acknowledge, to accept the reality.  To be prepared for a fair amount of sorrow, regret, confusion.  To just go with the flow. To take the best of this faded relationship into the next.

There is a sagacious if anonymous quote that goes: “It’s sad when someone you know becomes someone you knew.”  But then, that is life.


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