Two years ago, I went through a breakup. You must be wondering what the hell I am talking about since I am still very much with my husband. I broke up with one of my best friends (Hari, being the only other one) and that was as much a breakup because, while the term is mostly used to talk about ending a romantic relationship, it can most definitely be used in the context of ending a very close, long-standing relationship/friendship, as the feelings involved are similar in a lot of ways. In the months that followed, I realized that I am not the only one who has done that and called it a breakup, because out of the blue I started seeing online posts in which people described their own breakups with their besties or close friends, and how they felt in the process.
While a lot of people talked about a phase of grief that followed the breakup of a friendship that they were desperately holding on to, a lot of others had written about how it felt just like a natural transition in an already dead relationship. Mine was neither here nor there that way. We had been best friends from the time we met somewhere in 2003. Although there were slumps and downtimes once in a while, we would somehow find our way to each other and see that we were exactly where we left off the last time we spoke. And at times when we were feeling hopeless, the other one would somehow be around suddenly as if that was the most natural thing to happen.
What happened to us was that, unlike many best friends who grow together with time, there was a huge part of us that was growing apart. I totally understand that two people, in any relationship, will and should grow in life having a lot of similar and equally, a lot of absolutely different perspectives. Embracing each other’s differences adds to a healthy relationship. However, there would be a core thread of values that they share, which makes it normal and easy to never bother about the differences. When that thread breaks, the relationship starts decaying. It doesn’t make one right and the other wrong. But there is no longer a common ground where you can accept each other for who they are, and while you can continue to hang out despite the differences, there are no real feelings, no real warmth there. It becomes either a pretense or too much of hard work.
I still cherish the 17 years of friendship that we shared. There was always a belief that what we had was for life, that despite the months and years of not seeing or talking to each other, we would always remain best friends, who would find each other, stay by each other and just be there. But somewhere in the last few years of our run, there was a part of me that knew that it was wishful thinking. Rather, I was desperately trying to prove that it was true. The truth was, I was still best friends with the guy who I met in 2003. And while I went on to love a lot of things about him that changed with time, I realized that somewhere along, he was no longer the guy I loved and held close. That, in different circumstances, if I had met him now, we wouldn’t even be friends.
As I said, that doesn’t mean we both had to approve or disapprove of each other’s lifestyle, choices or perspectives. It just means that, at least for me, the common thread went missing somewhere down the line, and from then the title “best friend” sounded hollow every time I used it to refer to him. I hated it and did everything I could to convince myself that I meant it. The fact that the last phase of our friendship coincided with a very difficult time in his life didn’t make it any easier. I was genuinely and sincerely by his side because I knew how much he needed me at the time.
I was also going through a horrible phase mentally at that point. My priority for a long time though, was making sure that he was strong enough not to crumble down completely yet again. I’m sure he wanted to be my support too, but he was broken beyond words back then to do that. And that knowledge made me disregard what I really felt and instead focus on how it would affect him if I was honest about what I didn’t like. Except for once or twice, when I thought that maybe being honest could take our friendship back to its true old self, I chose to ignore the things that irritated the hell out of me and not talk about it, in my effort to keep him positive and happy, while the same things rotted in my mind and eventually killed the last bit of wanting to stay best friends.
Looking back, I know that even if I talked about it, it wouldn’t really have made much of a difference, that things would have turned out the way they did at some point. I still kept at it a little too desperately even when he had pulled through, and somewhere that took a toll on me, but I never regretted it even for a minute. I was happy that I saw him through what was the bleakest phase of his life and stood by his side when he won the battle. I was and I will always be happy that I was there, the same way he had been there for me all through our 17 years.
But one fine day, when I knew that his life wouldn’t shatter even if I wasn’t around to cushion his falls or make him feel good about his wins, I just decided to stop lying to myself as well as to him. I am not proud of how I ended it. I simply ended it, without a long talk, without any real explanation, without thinking one last time of how and whether the friendship could be saved… nothing. I was done with it and I did not have even a single ounce of energy left to even want to save it anymore. We had a rather trivial spat, which to any outsider wouldn’t look like reason enough to walk away from your best friend. I guess that was probably just a reason I wanted, to finally say “I am done. We are done. And I am leaving.” That sounds cruel and selfish, I know. But I have never felt guilt or regret in it. I know that he waited for a while thinking I was taking some time off and would come back. That way, maybe he went through the grieving phase a little, and I am sorry for that. I wish we just went our ways when we both were on the same page of knowing that it was over. Eventually he must also have accepted the fact that this time, we were really done.
There are things which sometimes remind me of him of course and I remember him with a smile. But I haven’t thought even once “I wish he was here” or “I wish I could talk to him”, because I took the leap of leaving only when I really knew in my heart that “we” weren’t and wouldn’t ever be the same again. And it’s okay. Unlike what we believed as two naïve young “besties”, we can live without each other and we are doing exactly that, very well too I believe. I do wish that he finds only happiness and more happiness in his life ahead and I know that he now has the strength to rise all by himself, any time he falls again. Thank you so much for all the good times, and goodbye! 🙂
Also published on Medium.