HomeHealthy LifeBreakups from friendships are painful, but they can also be healthy, says author Patti Miller
Breakups from friendships are painful, but they can also be healthy, says author Patti Miller
August 5, 2022
The saying goes that a true friend is for life.
But what happens when someone has an argument with a close friend? How far can—or should they—go to restore and maintain that relationship?
Patti Miller’s new book True Friends explores her friendships,with particular attention to those that have come to an abrupt halt.
“I experienced the end of a friendship and I was confused about it,” Ms. Miller tells ABC RN’s Life Matters.
When she researched the topic, she realized that there was hardly any literature, song or film about the breakup of friendships.
There’s also a lot of silence around this topic, Ms. Miller says, as people can feel embarrassed that they may not be a suitable or acceptable friend.
Ms. Miller says of her own experience, “I was heartbroken.”
“You feel like something is wrong with you. And that you failed.”
Evolutionary science has a lot to answer when it comes to why we feel the way we do, she adds.
“[It stems] from the beginning, when we needed more than our family to make it through the jungle alive,” she says.
“When we lose a friend or are cut off from a friend, we feel somehow cast out from the tribe. So I think emotionally it goes back to that.”
Since writing on the subject, she has heard from many Australians who are conflicted over their own friendship breakups.
“Several times … older women have told me that they broke up with a boyfriend 30 years ago and it still hurts,” she says.
“I don’t think people go to counselors or therapists because of breaking up with a friend. So it’s something that’s unresolved.”
“Heavy Lifting” and “Self-Preservation”
Life Matters listener Katie from Melbourne dida friend through work, but the friendship didn’t last.
“A few years ago I met an amazing woman through work friends… [but] As we got closer, which happened pretty quickly, it quickly became apparent that she was having some kind of unpredictable behavior and some self-destructive behaviors,” she says.
At the time, Katie was faced with grief as her mother had passed away, due to addiction, and she had also recently split from a long-term partner who had a gambling addiction.
“At the time, for me, I couldn’t deal with the intensity and damage that was going on with her,” says Katie.
“And I feel like I’ve allowed things to drift apart in a way of self-preservation, like I’m not there for them. And I take the blame for it.”
A few years passed and then they both happened to move to the same town,So Katie decided to get in touch.
“She shut me up pretty quickly. So I really knew I had done something to her,” she says.
“But I felt like it wasn’t that easy doing it because I had to do it right for me.”
Chris, from Queensland, says he moved around a lot when he was young, so today he has few friends from his school days.
Now he often works away from homeand he feels he has to work harder to maintain those friendships.
“I did a lot of heavy work, both phone calls and visitors and … visits and stuff. And I’m always welcome,” he says.
“But I think the thing is, you end up on the fringes of people’s view. And when you’re not there, they don’t respond in kind as often, which is a bit disappointing.”
Ms Miller says friendship dynamics like Chris’s are common.
A self-proclaimed “caregiver,” she says she also often makes an effort to connect with friends.
“I think there are always people who initiate and maintain friendships and people who just want it, they don’t really do anything,” she says.
“But I think during the pandemic, for me at least, there was a real process of actually reaching out to friends more and realizing that I wanted to try harder.”
Sometimes friendships aren’t always lifelong — and that’s okay, she says.
“People expect friendships to last forever, but actually they’re probably more seasonal, they apply to specific stages in your life,” she adds.
Adrienne knows what it’s like to have friends for different parts of your life.
She’s part of the LGBTIQ community and says if she’s lost friends before,It can be difficult to navigate this community.
“It feels difficult when you go into social situations and see them, and it feels like a breakup even though there wasn’t a sexual connection in between,” she says.
“I’ve had a few friends that I’ve lost, and yes, it feels like a death … I saw this person around and it’s actually weird that we don’t talk anymore.”
Reflecting on her past friendships, Patti Miller says she was thereboth sides of a broken friendship.
As a teenager, she “circumcised” a friend.
“I use that word because circumcision is considered a good thing. And it’s because it’s for the good of the plant…. if some of it gets cut away, then maybe it’s not useful, has some sort of flaw, or is a burden on the tree, then it gets cut down and that’s wonderful,” she says.
“But for the juicy old branch lying on the ground, it’s not that great.”
Whether she is the initiator or the receiver, she does not hold on to guilt.
“It has come to my attention that every person who has spoken out about their boyfriend in any way still loves and cares for that person and that’s part of the pain.
“And part of that grief is that you care for her. And you don’t blame them,” she says.
“You know these things happen. And I think if you know why they happened – there was a specific issue that made you break up – then I think you heal better.
“But if you don’t really know why it happened … then I think the pain lingers.”
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