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It's natural when you've been distant for a while.

I recently called time on a two-year relationship. It was the “big one”. This guy had been at my graduation, my 21st birthday party and we’d even drunkenly cried together over Trump getting elected. But after some serious soul-searching, I realised the cons were out-weighing the pros, and we’d started to grow apart. As I tearily shared this news in my “main gals” WhatsApp group, I expected a flurry of support, offers of cooked meals and messy nights out. All I got was a few blue ticks and half-hearted emoji-heavy messages.

What I’d forgotten was that, while I’d spent two years in a relationship, I’d neglected the friends I now needed more than ever.


I expected things to fall back into place - just how they’d been when we were back at uni and all living in a one mile radius. Back when I was loving single life. The uncomfortable realisation dawned on me that I’d not nurtured the friendships I now suddenly relied on. My “main gals” had gotten so used to me not being present for them, that now when I needed them back in my life just as intensely as they’d been before, things couldn’t just slot back into place.


We’d all be lying if we said we hadn’t forgotten about our friends when we’ve been in relationships. 


It’s often that first big relationship that makes us most guilty of it. Those friends who were there all those years before - who listened to us moan on about the dearth of talent in the sixth form common room, or tolerated us salivating over some guy in the band from the other night - are dropped by the wayside. We deprioritise them from the picture as our significant other fills up the frame.


We’d also be lying if we said we haven’t been the forgotten friend. 


We’ve all lost friends to relationships. Weekend plans get cancelled last minute. You ask your friend when they’re next free and they give you a Monday night in two months' time. You ask your friend what they’re doing for New Year's and they’re off hanging out with his/her friends. It hurts, but you forgive them and you get busy making other plans and new friends.

The distance we allow to form between friends when we become immersed in new relationships makes it even more painful when the relationship ends.


On top of the existing loneliness of losing a partner, I now had to contend with not having my girls instantly back by my side. I felt confused, angry and hurt. But I also (eventually) understood. I was ready to burst back into their lives and fill my evenings with wild adventures across the city. Meanwhile, they were happily getting along with their steady lives. They didn’t want to stay out and get pissed; they were knee-deep in series three of The Crown and had a quarrel between Phillip and Elizabeth to get to the bottom of. 

It also takes a huge amount of emotional strength, experience and sensitivity to help a heartbroken friend. Some friends are great at that - especially if they’ve recently felt it too. But not all friends are - especially if they’re in the honeymoon period of their own relationship. For that friend, it can be easy to forget what heartbreak feels like if your main worry is cystitis from too much new-relationship-sex. Be thoughtful about that if you’re being left on “read”. In my experience, it’s not that they don’t want to help you, they’re just so far removed from your current circumstances that they aren’t being as sensitive as you need them to be right now. 


Don’t cancel people from your life if they aren’t there for you when you’re in a breakup. 


Well, that’s what I’ve learnt to be the best approach. This advice is just my take on things - not empirically tested or proved. Sure, you can note how that friend responded and hold a mild grudge if that floats your boat. But the healthiest thing to do is remember it for when one of your friends is going through it in the future. It’s only by being aware of our actions and how other people’s actions make us feel that we can learn, grow and improve as friends.


And finally, use this new-found time to focus on yourself.


It sounds like a stupid cliche, but it is so true that after you have a breakup, time alone is good. It forces you to confront things you’ve been avoiding for some time while you’ve been distracted by someone else’s needs and wants. Go on some long walks, soak yourself in deep baths and know that your friends ARE there for you....even if they are a bit slow on WhatsApp.

Image by unknown Pinterest artist.

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