A couple of weeks ago I caught myself worrying about whether one of my closest friends will abandon me. I have mentioned this friend on this blog a lot over the past year. I read some of her poetry before she submitted it; she took me out to dinner in DC when she visited; together, we’ve talked about how we feel about our friends, we’ve eaten Jeni’s ice cream, and we’ve shared our hopes for the future as well as for our friendship.
What is this friend and I break up? I thought to myself a couple of weeks ago. What if she changes and becomes more man-obsessed? These thoughts did not feel all that irrational, given how much we prioritize heteronormative monogamous romance in contemporary society, as well as my past experiences with friends who started to prioritize men. I noticed these thoughts, and some minor feelings of worry, crop up at random times: when she shared her feelings about one of her other friends on one of our Skype calls, during my drive on my way to therapy, in the evening, after a day of research, as I sat down and drafted an outline of this post.
I first tried to logic my way through it. This friend has such a strong sense of self and such high yet not cocky self-esteem, I thought to myself, she would never lose herself to a man. I compared her to the few friends I have had who prioritized men. I made mental notes, tracking how this friend has more consistent hobbies than some of my past friends, how she and I have had explicit conversations about prioritizing one another, how we have never gotten into a serious fight or argument because we align so well and have taken steps to prevent that type of conflict.
At some point though, maybe in between a tennis point or after a jog to BlackPink’s “Boombayah,” I faced it: Thomas, this is literally all your fear of being abandoned. I sat with this emotion of fear, and I felt it, the twist in my gut that comes with knowing no matter how empathetic, or social justice-oriented, or self-aware I may be, no matter how much I invest in this friendship, I could be abandoned. It made me think of someone I know who got engaged to her boyfriend after less than two years of dating him, how that path – the dating, the engagement, the marriage, etc. – can provide such a comfortable reassurance, this society and state-sanctioned form of commitment, a notion that this person will never, ever leave.
But there is no guarantee. Divorce happens. Death happens. People change. It feels both terrifying and freeing to acknowledge that no matter what, any relationship, and potentially every relationship, will cause me some pain. Every relationship will inevitably end.
Sometimes I remind myself that I could avoid all of this pain by closing my heart. If I never opened myself up to anyone, I would never, ever have to get hurt, ever. And I acknowledge that, if I closed my heart, I would also lose out on what makes my life the most worth living: human connection, human relationships. Because even my relationships that have ended brought me so much joy. I remember feeling safe and cared for when my grandmother laughed as I played with her pink floral scarf as a toddler. I remember obsessing about a cuteish Harvard boy with my former therapist, then how hard my therapist grinned when I told him that I had asserted my needs and blocked the boy on my phone. I remember giggling with one of my former friends until it hurt, until we felt out of breath, about pornography and our tastes in men, lying on opposite sections of her worn, comfy couch. All these relationships may be over, yet the feelings of warmth they elicit stay with me to this very day, this very moment.
I’m committed to opening my heart, even though it hurts. Later today I’m talking with one of my bffs Bri, who I spent the past weekend with in Seattle, and I’m probably going to cry to her because I’m feeling really moody right now. On Sunday I’m Skyping with another one of my bffs, the one I mention at the beginning of this post, and we have so much to debrief on tbh. And I have a trip scheduled with both of these friends on my birthday this year, so I can celebrate the heck out of these friendships as I turn 25 on May 25th.
I have no idea what will happen with these friends, whether we’ll be friends forever, for the next ten years, for the next ten months. So I’m breathing in the now, the sweet, warm love these friends give me and I give them. I’m sending gratitude up to the sky for my grandmother, who taught me the importance of love, the first person to ever do so.
Reactions to this post? How do you cope with fears of abandonment or relational struggles and concerns overall? As I’m about to post this I recognize that people abandoning you and relationships ending are not necessarily the same; I’ve had several relationships that ended (some in positive ways too, like with my former therapist) in which I or the other person weren’t abandoned necessarily. Anyway gonna go be a therapist, listen to “no tears left to cry” by Ari to feel my feelings, then talk to Bri bye! I will respond to comments on my most recent post soon.