Holding hands.
Holding hands is a sign of friendship in many countries, and is totally gay in others. Make your choice.

A lot of people spend time thinking about their partners and how to make their relationships work out and get better, but I wonder how many of us really put as much thought and effort into our friendships? I don’t think it is any secret to those of you reading this who know me personally that I have had a lot of drama llama this year over my friendships, and a lot of the people whom I have spoken to about the issue seem to find it quite hard to understand why I have been so deeply affected by the actions of my friends.

But why the hell wouldn’t I? Your friends are going to outlast most of our partners at this age, and you have more of them to manage. But for some reason friends are dropping of our to-do list of things that are important. The Naked Photo Test, or, to whom would you be prepared to confide a photo of you doing something utterly shameful and embarrassing, shows that most people have two people they really trust. But 25% of people don’t have anyone.

I just say this to make the point that friends are important. In fact, I think you should all stop reading here right now, and go tell one of your friends that you love them. I’ll wait right here. Go on.

No, actually go do it. Text, email, FB, just go do it.

Ok. You have no doubt made someone feel quite happy and quite confused. If you couldn’t think of anyone you would be prepared to say that to, you should stop reading this article and go make some friends immediately. Actual friends, not activity buddies.

A Friends' Meeting House..
A Friends' Meeting House. Nothing to do with this article, but it was a funny search result.

And the reason that I make that distinction is because what I really want to talk about is not how to make friends, but knowing when you need to lose them. See, I had a friend, whom I finally got round to blocking a year and a half after I realised that our friendship was screwed, in June. We were not very nice to each other in that time, with particularly memorable nastiness from them including:

* breaking into my computer and my email
* threatening to use confidential information obtained from me via my flatmate to try to break up my best friend from their boyfriend and boasting to me about it
* telling people that I was supporting in an election that I was publicly telling everyone to vote for their opponent
* telling me they had never received an important document that I needed them to fill out when they had actually opened it in front of my flatmate and left it in his room
* telling a work colleague that I am mentally ill

And I kind of just put up with all of that out of some folorn hope that they would stop being a twat, because I loved them, a great deal. And also because I was a moron – looking back at that list, it seems almost incredible that I harboured some desire of rekindling a friendship with someone who had no qualms about hurting me in every way imaginable for a fleeting second of gain.

Because it seems despite what we’re told by our culture and media, that love conquers all (amor omnia vincit, for you geeks out there), that all you need is love, that if you just communicate your feelings, everything will be fine with everyone – well, it seems that’s just drivel sometimes. (Particularly if, as I suspect, your friend happens to be a psychopath – but that’s not relevant to you. Update: link changed because the Guardian one died)

Nail polish.
This was what came up when searching 'psychopath' - I'm using a better search engine form now on, I swear.

What finally made me metaphorically shut the door in the end was the discovery that this person had deleted me from Facebook (I will not pretend that I was all love and bouquets – I gave as good as I got, but I do claim self-defence). By bizarre coincidence, I saw them in person about twenty minutes later, and we spent the entire evening getting drunk and discussing our “issues”. We talked about “respecting each other’s space” and “not being a twat” anymore. We said we wanted to be friends. I went to bed hopeful, if somewhat skeptical. I woke up the next day to greet a hangover and the news that they’d been planning to screw me over the next day the entire time we’d been talking (I’d call being able to get on with someone superficially and promising to repair your relationship whilst simultaneously preparing the opposite deeply psychopathic, actually – but we’re not talking about that right now). I was devastated.

It turns out that relationships that you have with other people that are “ambivalent friendships” – i.e. you have some good times with them but they also take every opportunity to kick you when you’re down, then swear they’re sorry and make it up to you, then kick you again – are actually far more harmful to people psychologically than if you just hate someone. You know where you stand with people who just plain despise you. What I’ve learnt from this experience is that letting someone continue to drain you of your energy and happiness because they’re a short-termist selfish pathological liar, albeit one that you’re quite fond of, is ultimately going to leave you with depression in the short term and stress-related health problems in the long term. True friends are people who are worth fighting for – friends that you sort of keep around because they’ll mutter nice things to you when you want to talk about the fact that they’re making you miserable, are not.

Cast of Friends.
Remember when Joey made Chandler sit in a box over Thanksgiving as a way of proving their friendship? That's what I like to see.

After finally ridding myself of the expectation that I would ever have a meaningful friendship with this person again, I swore to myself in July that no friend of mine would get to string me along again with nice words whilst ultimately hurting me with their actions. I looked up non-violent communication, I read about dealing with difficult people, and then I assessed who among my friends was getting me down.

Some of those people have been deleted and forgotten (deletion from Facebook being the ultimate sign of disfavour…). Some I’ve realised that the way that I talk to them is causing the friendship dynamic that is getting us down, and I have talked it over with them to sort it out – that’s ongoing. Someone with whom I was developing a business idea was told in no uncertain terms that I was no longer prepared to tolerate the way they behaved towards me – they continued, and I duly ended that aspect of our friendship, to their surprise. I am hopeful that that particular friendship will now be much stronger without any more resentment laid upon it.

I feel like I now have a lot more control over my life, and I no longer have any “ambivalent friendships” that I think have no future. I cannot help but regret that I had to trash a friendship that had meant so much to me in the past, but what I really understand now is that you cannot allow the past to draw a veil over the fact that someone is being an irredeemable arse in the present. Life’s too short.

I invite you all to look at your friendships, and see who you would entrust your Naked Photo to (maybe if you haven’t told them you love them already, you should just go quickly do that now, this article’s nearly done), and who you’re ultimately friends with because you don’t want to face up to the reality of the fact that they make you miserable. Don’t let someone get you down because they only say they like you.

Oh, and if you’re reading this and I haven’t sent you an email telling you I’m not happy with our friendship? I love you.

Me and my motley crew of chums. God love 'em.

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