Can your friendship handle a pause?
I scurried around the shop shoving essentials under one arm. Wine, chips, another bottle of wine (just in case). It wasn’t an extensive shop, merely the crucial sustenance for a girly catch-up on a Friday night. I paid and started walking to Sarah’s* house.
As I arrived at the bright green wooden door I stopped to take a long, deep breath before I knocked. I even squinted my eyes closed to make sure the calming effect of the deep breath worked. I felt strangely nervous. I’d been friends with Sarah for five years but hadn’t seen her for six months. Why? We had been on a ‘boy break’.
Rewind five months.
“What do you mean you’re cancelling?” she said curtly down the phone.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know he’d made a dinner reservation,” I replied sheepishly.
“It’s the fourth Friday in four weeks you’ve cancelled plans with me for him.”
She was upset. She was also right. I was cocooned in the romantic love bubble of a new relationship; so comfy, exciting and enticing, we’ve all fallen victim to.
“Do you know what? Do what you have to do. Call me when your bubble bursts,” she said, and with that a dial tone replaced her voice. She’d gone.
I felt guilty as I pressed end call. For about eight seconds. Then I was a whirlwind of pre-date jitters again as I chose a skirt that was short (but not too short), a top that was low (but not too low), and shoes that screamed sexy (but not too easy). No wonder we get pre-occupied with a new dalliance; we need an extra two hours in the day to get ready. Pre-date prep is a minefield.
In the book of girl code, shunning a friend for a guy is supposedly right up there in paragraph one, page one. Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves? Are our friendships so fragile that we have to water them every day, like temperamental plants that might fade away if we take our eye off them? Don’t we have a little more faith in our tribe than that?
We have jobs – we can’t put them on pause. We have a need to sleep – we can’t put that on pause either. That leaves us with a limited amount of hours in the day to throw ourselves into dating and seriously give it a whirl. Why add a terse tussle with friends trying to pretend we have time to do it all? We don’t.
I’m not saying ditch friends entirely, ignore their calls and abandon them if they need us. Of course I’m not. But didn’t we grow out of needing to see our friends all the time in our teens? As adults who are all time poor, we need to have a little more empathy when we don’t come first.
What’s worse than abandoning a friend for a new relationship? A demanding friend who lays claim on your time and attention.
I see some friends exhausting themselves trying to keep everyone happy. Every waking minute is an action-packed juggling act and unsurprisingly, they drop the ball. Something’s gotta give and girly nights out are not the law.
Sarah and I have a difference approach. We press pause on our friendship and start to play again (literally) when the love bubble bursts. Because nine times out of ten it does; maybe even nine point nine.
Boyfriends are seldom good best friends as well as lovers, so when the first throws of passion and fireworks of lust die down, we find ourselves pining for nights watching Sex & the City in pyjamas with face masks on. Or, we find ourselves rushing to the shops after work to collect wine for a girly catch-up on a Friday night.
My strange nerves were misplaced, as always. I melted into a hug from Sarah after six months. True friends are in it for the long haul. They’ll always be there; even if they’re on pause for a while.
*Names have been changed.