‘It hurts more than romantic love,’ the untold pain of friendship breakups

Friends having a disagreement. PHOTO|FOTOSEARCH

What you need to know:

What you need to know:

  • Abigail Arunga: friendships are often far deeper than romantic relationships. They’ve seen romantic breakups come and go
  • My friend ghosted me even on platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook.
  • When a good friend cuts you out of their life, it can be more devastating as the end of a romance

I had a really good friend, once. The kind who I didn’t think would stop being my friend, really. The kind who had met my parents, and all my friends, and who had the down low on the friends I did introduce her to. You know, the inner circle that you gossip to about the outer one. Not only did she know my secrets, she knew everyone else’s, too. If something like torture or becoming my enemy would ever make her sing, she would sing like a canary and I would have gone down.

We met at university, almost on the first day of school. I felt like I knew her, well. I felt like she would never, could never, hurt me. We had pet names for each other, and WhatsApp groups. Every marker you could think of for friendship was there for us, to the point that it felt like I had known her for much longer than I actually had.

And perhaps, that was my folly. I gave her too much of myself, maybe. I trusted her implicitly. So when she stabbed me in the back, it hurt infinitely more.

Not that she did anything disastrous like kill my cat or get with an ex. No. It was one of those weird misunderstandings, where two people see something completely different from opposite sides of the spectrum. My reaction was to reach out to her, to try and talk about it, the way we had done many, many times before. Her reaction was to ghost me.

Yes, ghost me. And she ghosted me completely, even on LinkedIn! I could find the scammers in my LinkedIn inbox faster than I could find any messages we ever exchanged. I was shattered, to be honest. You always expect to be ghosted by a romantic partner … never a friend who you thought was going to be a friend for life.

And it is even weirder, also, when it’s a friend. For one, it hurts more, because —and I have always held this — friendships are often far deeper than romantic relationships. They’ve seen romantic breakups come and go. They were there before the mess, and they’ll be there after it. But now when it’s someone who was one of the ‘chosen’ ones? It’s much, much worse.

Then, you don’t know how to react. Whose tyres do you slash? Which (other) WhatsApp group do you share the picture in and warn poor, unfortunate women to steer clear? You can’t do that to your friend … can you? Because in the freshness of the wound, you feel like you can’t betray this person.

The wound still throbs today. It took me years to accept that she really was not going to talk to me again. Or even try to mend the bridge. Or allow us to sit and explain sides to each other. Every time someone talks about their friend breakup, I remember mine, with a dull ache. When a Facebook memory with her face pops up, I want to sue Mark Zuckerberg for making money off my nostalgia.
And then after I’ve gone through all the motions of blaming myself for letting everything go to hell (yes, I know it takes two to tango), after I’ve whined and moaned to the friends I have left since I can’t make new ones now that I am scarred, I ask myself – was she really my friend? If we were so tight, if we meant so much to each other, then how did it end? And am I ever going to get over it?


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