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the former friend zone

the former friend zone


Don’t underestimate the pain of a friendship break-up, says Nadine von Cohen.

There are many, mostly unspoken rules about what adults can be openly sad about and for how long. For example, the death of a parent and the end of a romantic relationship are generally considered worthy of extended periods of overt grief, while the death of a pet and the end of a friendship aren’t. It’s almost like there’s some sort of invisible sympathy stopwatch that calls time on public displays of emotion about dearly departed pets, bust-ups with mates and other hardships after just a few days.

the former friend zone nadine von cohen frankie 92 inside piecture
snap by Eylül Aslan

I mean, sure, friends and family generally outrank pets in the grief pecking order, but not for everybody. For some people, a beloved animal buddy is their primary, if not sole companion. And why are platonic relationships considered undeserving of prolonged mourning? Who made these rules? Do they not know about Blossom and Six? Abbi and Ilana? Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince? Have they never had a BFF?

I take my close friendships very seriously, and try to be the kind of friend I want to have. So, if a bestie decides they don’t want to play with me anymore, I’m usually pretty devastated. This has only happened a handful of times, but a few friend break-ups have particularly stung. These were people I spoke to every day, many times a day, and rarely made a big decision without. So, when the cords were cut, I was lost and miserable.

A common assumption is that strong friendships are for life, but of course, many aren’t. Friendships end all the time. Sometimes they end because one friend does something that hurts the other; sometimes distance severs what once felt like an unbreakable bond; and sometimes friendships end for no discernable reason at all. People are dynamic creatures, constantly learning, changing and adapting to social, financial and environmental circumstances. So, it stands to reason that two people might grow apart over the years.

It’s possible that film and literature have sold us the same rose-tinted, happily-ever-after bullshit about best friendships that they have about romances. Thinking back to Blossom and Six, Abbi and Ilana, Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, sure, each duo had their differences and dramas, but they always made up by the end of the episode. Even gritty or dark comedies like Girls and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia posit that nothing can bust up true bosom buddies, which is just blatantly untrue.

Getting over a friend break-up is tough, and I hope you never experience it. Many people live long, full lives without ever parting with a pal, or going into full mourning when they do. I’m still hurting from the last two times I went through it, but I’ve also learnt from them. I’ve learnt to identify strains and anxieties caused by friendships before they reach critical mass. I’ve learnt that I need to address issues and stand up for myself if a friend is being unfair or unkind. And I’ve learnt that, unfortunately, some friendships aren’t worth saving.

If you find yourself in a friend divorce, amicable or otherwise, my advice is to focus on all the good people still in your life and nurture those relationships. Try new things and attend more social events that might lead to making new mates. And never let anyone shame you for lamenting the loss of a platonic love. It’s a cruel world, and making genuine connections with others becomes increasingly difficult as life progresses. When we find someone we click with, we grasp on with both hands and hope it lasts forever. It’s only natural, then, that we suffer when it doesn’t.

This bit of life experience comes straight from the pages of frankie 91, out now. Track down your closest stockist, or subscribe from $10.50.