Even the very best of friends need space.
A few years ago, I decided to move in with a good girlfriend of mine. It was the worst thing to happen to our friendship.
Before I knew it, we were living together, working in the same building, and spending all of our time tucked in each other’s pockets. I woke up, walked into the kitchen to make a cup of tea, and she was there. I came out of the shower, she was there. When I finished a tiring day at work, she was waiting for me to catch the bus home before we sat and ate dinner together.
After she’d broken up with her boyfriend, she’d leant on me and we became incredibly close. Moving in together seemed to make perfect sense. But as the weeks turned into months, we forgot to unglue ourselves. She’d turned into my shadow and I felt like I was back at school, except I was in my early twenties. Without me realizing it, we’d developed a toxic friendship; one that was no longer fun or healthy.
Like a jealous boyfriend, she got offended if I spent any time with other friends, and expected to be invited everywhere I went. She was depending on me too much. I felt guilty, as if I always needed to give an explanation or excuse if I’d made other plans. It was draining, uncomfortable and made me begin to dread hanging out with her.
“But you two used to be so close. What happened?” another friend said to me on the phone one day.
“It’s just too much. I feel trapped. I want to move out,” I confessed.
And then it came; my passport out of the friendship prison.
I was offered a job abroad. A few weeks later, we hugged goodbye at the airport. It was the goodbye that saved our friendship.
After a couple of weeks of space and with a healthy distance between us, I couldn’t wait to pick up the phone to speak to her. I pined to be understood in a new city filled with strangers who didn’t know me inside out and hadn’t read my back story like she had. Our phone calls became longer, warmer, more frequent, and soon, we were laughing and back to our old selves as if the claustrophobic chapters had never happened.
When someone crosses our path in life and we click so strongly, it’s very easy to overdose in the ease of that connection. Good friends are so hard to find, so it’s tempting to put all your time and energy into fostering and nurturing that special bond when you’re lucky enough to find it.
However, it’s just as important to let a friendship breathe as it is a romantic relationship; to step away, and give them space so you don’t suffocate each other. In all relationships, you need to maintain your individuality, and time apart means you can then catch up and re-bond without going through every tiny twist and turn of life together so you become each other’s echo.
After the move, our friendship swiftly became as strong as it was when we first became close. When she was preparing for a new job interview, she called me for advice. She whinged about her new flatmate with me and soon we learnt to laugh about how clingy we’d let ourselves become.
Comment: Have you ever been in a suffocating friendship?