Broken Bonds: Why Friendship Break-ups Hit Different

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One night while home from college I foolishly got into a car with a Big Homie who’d had one too many drinks. It was storming. Heavy. He denied my request to drive, reminding me of all the times he used to drive me around as a kid and that I wasn’t “too grown” to be telling him what to do. Minutes later, we were hydroplaning. We spun out and smacked into a wall on the freeway. We sat there, dazed, trying to gather our thoughts and breath as the emergency police lights were approaching. Big Homie sat up real quick. He cleared his throat, looked at me, and said, “A yo, don’t let them in the trunk.”

Some friendships are inherited by growing up together on the same block/neighborhood, attending church/school, or you’re actually family. Other bonds are built later in life as college roommates, coworkers, or via random meet-ups. Either way, how/ why/ when or if the connection is broken, it can release a psychological weight and leave an emotional imprint.

Loyalty is the heartbeat of friendship. Whether a duo or a group, the loyalty between and among friends creates a safe place for all parties to let their guard down and be their authentic selves. In many cases, loyalty comes from a debt one may feel is owed to the other from a past favor(s). When a friend helps another in need, there’s an unspoken obligation between them. But what is the expiration date on a loyalty debt?

What happens when the same person who paid your rent throws it in your face with every argument? How do you continue to work at the new job a college friend helped you get once you discover they sexually harass coworkers daily? What is there to do when you find out the once-close confidant is telling your business to anyone who will listen? Loyalty may be the foundation of any healthy relationship, but it can also be the demise of your well-being.

To grow together as friends is a beautiful experience, but growing apart as friends is sometimes inevitable. The interests that brought you together are what lead you on different paths. Life throws boomerangs that force you to make decisions based on your respective circumstances. A friend starts hanging with different people you may not get along with, and the relationship becomes territorial. A friend may start pursuing illegal means—for greed or survival—and they become a risk factor with each meet-up. Friends move away, get married, have kids (and not necessarily in that order nor all three), but either way— in most cases life hurls them onto unplanned paths. And those journeys take most of their time and all of their attention.

You attempt to keep in touch, but the dry tone is felt through each text conversation as you scratch your head trying to figure out what went wrong. Inside you wish and hope that all the years you’ve known each other will be the saving grace, but like a canoe with too many holes, you can feel the bond sinking. The love may exist, but the presence is dissolving leaving no other choice than to accept what is happening.

Blood makes a relative, but relationship makes family. Bonds are real, and when they’re broken some feel it forever. Some relationships peak and serve their purpose. Some friendships end internally years before they’re over publicly. Some fallouts are so severe that neither party can recover. Time, forgiveness, and growth are the tools to repair, but only insight will tell who’s worthy.

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CULTURE