Sara Schonfeld | In defense of the friend break-up

Sara, Struggling | Why are we so afraid to treat friendships like relationships?

· April 20, 2014, 7:34 pm   ·  Updated April 20, 2014, 9:47 pm

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T he re’s something they don’t tell you in kindergarten: You aren’t going to get along with everyone.

I used to think that everyone was nice and that if I was nice back, we would be friends. By this logic, I should have a million friends. I could also be biffles with people like Putin and Casey Anthony.

So I’m here to say what your kindergarten teachers were too nice to say: Some people are toxic. Maybe not in general. Maybe not to everyone.

But maybe just to you, this person is unhealthy, and being around them makes you the worst version of yourself — makes you so seriously unhappy that you consider becoming a hermit just to avoid even the most basic social interaction with them.

They may not start like this.

You may meet someone your freshman year, a genial boy from down the hall in the Quad, and he may seem like the sweetest person ever.

You could meet a girl in your writing seminar that shares all your passions for grapefruit smoothies and “The Magic School Bus” (the early seasons before it got bad).

But sometimes, not all friendships are healthy relationships.

For some reason, it’s perfectly acceptable to break up with a significant other. No one looks at you funny when you say, “Well, I really need to end things with him. He’s being really clingy.” But it’s frowned upon to friend-break-up with people. I mean, we don’t even have a functioning word for it.

I’m here to be a realist: There’s nothing wrong with self-preservation.

If you are in a friendship that is going sour, think about it like dating. You wouldn’t go on a second date with someone that makes you crazy — why spend your Friday night getting drinks with a “friend” who is toxic?

I can look back on all my romantic relationships and remember that one moment that I realized something had gone wrong. The relationship had been poisoned. Something changed. I think the same is true of friendships.

Friend-breaking-up is not only necessary for survival — I even recommend it.

We put such stock in social contracts that there’s a huge stigma attached to people who friend-break-up.

But when it’s necessary, it’s necessary.

Sometimes you fall out of friendships like you fall out of love. But sometimes you have to cut off a toxic friend . Remove that person from your life.

I’m not going to lie, this does make for awkward encounters.

I sometimes see ex-friends around campus, and we ignore each other. We divert our eyes. I pretend to text; they pretend to spot other friends on the horizon.

It’s like running into a hook-up the morning after, or an Eskimo sister during the walk of shame .

There other side effects to my definition of friendship, the most obvious being that my batting average isn’t the highest.

I don’t have that many friends. In fact, I have more pictures of myself on Facebook than I do Facebook friends. And when I look back on my college years, I’m not going to think of my flocks of friends because, to be honest, I don’t have a gaggle or a posse.

Maybe I have a boy band. An elite coterie.

The friendships I do have are with people I love — the people I want to hang out with all the time, the best friends I have ever made.

Trying to maintain a series of unhappy friendships made me crazy. I’ve had to break up with boyfriends; I’ve had to break up with friends.

So I suggest this: We have to remember that friendships are relationships. You shouldn’t feel guilty about failing to be friends with everyone.

We have such an obsession with meeting people and making connections that we forget that we are more than the number of relationships we forge.

To my kindergarten teacher: I’m sorry. To those I’ve had to break up with or who have broken up with me: no hard feelings. It just didn’t work out.

Sara Schonfeld is a College senior from Philadelphia, Pa., studying English. Email her at s.schonfeldthedp@gmail.com or follow her @SaraSchon.

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