Our unspoken love for friendships

So, love is found everywhere, in different spectrums, types, ages, moments and forms. And it is ever changing, because as we grow, the kind of understanding we crave will change, and as we age and life acquires new responsibilities, love becomes more complex, more adult.

Some love stories might remain intact, but some are often put through the test of time, and those are friendships.

Friendships will be one of our main sources of wisdom throughout our life. Because friendships are based on connection and understanding and inspiration, and again, as stated before, they are a form in which we experience love. From childhood bestfriends, classmates, strangers that become familiar, acquaintances with whom we bond for the night, each friendship is unique and will challenge us in a new way.

La danse by Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse

Throughout my life I’ve had different friendships, however there was a long period in my life in which I thought that, to be myself, I needed of “a best friend”. The root of this thought was probably insecurity, low self-confidence, and feeling like it was too scary to be authentic on my own. So, one day in 2017, I met the girl that would be my best friend for the next three years. And it became one of the days I would so clearly feel love (in a non-family context) for the first time.

I am very sensitive and so I tend to be very self-aware of how stimuli make me react; I am conscious of how shifts in my environment make me tense, how certain social dynamics make me uncomfortable, and my awkwardness when silence becomes unbearable. Likewise, I also know when I find myself in harmony, when my body and my mind can slow down and take a pause from acting and simply exist, because in that moment, it is good enough. To me, that freedom which love gave me, made me feel like the luckiest person alive.

My best friend and I enjoyed the perks of our friendship and cultivated it to the maximum extent. We would do everything together, because we knew that this way we’d laugh the hardest. For example, if one got invited somewhere, it was the perfect opportunity for the other to get to know yet another piece of our life, and we did this so proficiently that in the end we succeeded in merging both our social circles; eventually, when someone thought of inviting one of us, they would immediately remember the “other half”, and so we never had to explain again that it was two of us. Nevertheless, there were also things we couldn’t do together, and in that case, we would just be each other’s biggest supporters, bringing flowers, letters and words of joy.

The relationship carried itself effortlessly for almost three years, it was perfect. There had never been a fight, a need to clarify, a need for communication regarding the friendship beyond expressing our gratitude for each other. One day, the pandemic decided that it was time for us to test ourselves on our own, and so, our friendship would be one of many that wouldn’t make it through the test of time.

When we first found each other, we were looking to be understood. We were fourteen, meaning two kids that were not willing to grow yet and needed refuge from the peer pressure and social standards that are pressing on your shoulders since you enter secondary school. At that time, having each other made us stronger, it gave each of us the boost to stand up and fall, to try new things and have somebody clap for our every act, and to wear the dress with flowers and pink that might have been out of date. We also felt like our every word meant the world, because we would listen when the other needed to speak, even if it were hours, even if just in silence.

After years of a healthy dynamic, we each internalised a thing or two and we became stronger, wiser, kinder and older versions of ourselves. We still spent the majority of our time with each other, but life was opening up different opportunities for each of us, and so more and more, we would have to support each other from a bit of a distance. It was scary at first seeing your other half take the lead in things you knew nothing about, or being invited to try out new things without her experiencing it by my side. However, it felt natural, new but expected, and so we would tell each other all the stories, with every detail, and so, it was as if she was always by my side.

The pandemic however, created a distance that was unnatural and threatening. Apart from the fact that both of us were already going through very different paths, the physical distance made it very difficult to find a space in which we could exist, because our friendship was about companionship, in the most ordinary of things, and sitting in front of a screen creates a certain pressure to entertain. So in this time, we both started operating as individuals rather than a collective. I didn’t like being alone, but having so much free time because of covid allowed me to try out every single possible interest. I exhausted them all, but I ended up finding a certain path in which I saw myself going through the next years. I made new friends, and reconnected with some people that I hadn’t talked to in a while, and suddenly, I realised that I actually had a lot of people that cared for me, that gave me new perspectives and promised valuable experiences. And so, our spell was broken, and the belief that we needed each other to exist, slowly faded away into the less romantic reality, which was that all along, it had always been the two of us, and what we gave each other, was love, not life itself.

After spending a suffocating amount of time alone at night with my thoughts, one might call it, introspection, I was able to internalise the lessons that life had taught me in the past years, and it was like “updating the software” in some way, like finally allowing my brain to catch up with who I was now, which wasn’t the same as two years prior. I grew, at least that’s how I felt about it, and I got to experience so many new things and relationships, which challenged me, and led me to newfound conclusions and changing attitudes. And all of this, my best friend would see it from a distance, which I got so used to, that it seemed as if the distance had become a characteristic of our friendship.

Eventually, the pandemic regulations retreated alongside the disease, and they declared that humans could finally abolish the distance that had us living as individuals in space. However, at that distance, I didn’t know how to take it away from our friendship. I tried so badly for it to be exactly the same, to laugh at the same jokes, to have the same plans, but one year and a half later, there were two different people acting in dynamics that now belonged to the past. Since I didn’t understand how to act anymore, and I didn’t want to disappoint, I lost the authenticity and transparency that characterised the love in our friendship. I didn’t feel light and silly and energetic, but I felt conflicted, numb and awkward.

As well, to my subconscious going back to the time of our friendship was in itself frightening, because it implied my lack of touch with myself, and nobody wants to go back in time, considering how difficult it is to learn at times. I wasn’t fully aware of what triggered my discomfort with our friendship, because it’s as if by its own accord, my body wanted me to stay at a distance. At that time, I didn’t get it, and I failed to analyse it, and most of all, I failed to respond and act to figure out this feeling. Part of me was so scared to lose her and wanted to put everything aside to make things back as it once was, but the other side made it exclusively its job to make me aware that the love we had shared years before, wasn’t there anymore, at least not in its original way.

At 17, I didn’t have the experience, nor the maturity to speak my mind, be brutally honest and communicate. And I didn’t feel like I had a point of reference on how to proceed with this situation. So much love advice everywhere, but so few regarding friendship and growth. Friendship is often disregarded in the media and relegated to a secondary, if not tertiary role, to the primary focus of the love story. In the shows I watched, I often got the impression that friends were your companion in figuring out life, they would help the protagonist through thick and thin, in their boy and family drama, be there for their adventures, but that friendship in itself was never the main focus. If the friends fought, it would magically be solved by an exchange in hugs; but what if it was not as simple as that, what if my friendship needed more than a hug to be resolved?

I was surprised when I found myself receiving more love advice on my two month childish romantic relationship, than for my three year solid friendship, that would be one of the most impactful of my life. For romantic relationships, everyone, the TV, podcasts, books, your parents, your friends, urges you to communicate, to speak your mind, to feel comfortable doing so, to salvage the relationship; because as a society we cannot tolerate a break up, it goes against our idea of a perfect and undying love story. But what about friendships? Why does society so easily disregard friendships? Are they not equally heart-breaking? Are they not worth fighting for?

Talking to one of my current best friends, with whom I had a similar experience with, he hypothesised that this gap of communication between friendships and relationships came from the pressure that exists to maintain a romantic relationship, rooted from success being defined as finding a life-long partner with whom to build a life. However, this objective portrays friendships as if they were meant to be nothing but disposable alternatives that you go through before finding the “one”; which I think, is false. Friendships can be more protagonistic than relationships in certain stages of your life.  

So, after long and careful reflection, when I was currently faced again with this uncomfortable situation of feeling like I couldn’t find myself in a friendship, I knew I couldn’t act with blissful ignorance like I had done once, and so against my own will, I communicated, far from perfect, but I manifested words. It was very weird for me to treat a friendship like I would a relationship, sitting down and discussing how I felt, what I wasn’t feeling comfortable with, what I thought could change, and vice-versa, listening to what my friend had to say, and reaching a compromise. It was strange because I felt like I could only ask that of someone who loved me enough to be willing to “commit” and “work” for a relationship. But after a while, I realised that in fact it made perfect sense. This was my best-friend we were talking about, meaning one of the persons I saw the most, with whom I shared unforgettable memories, and who was my most important confidant. If somebody were to ask who were the most important people in my life, his name would roll out my tongue in a matter of seconds. So, it only made sense that we should find ourselves again, redefine and rebuild our relationship, because it was one worth fighting for. As well as accepting that friendship, like everything in life, takes work and the desire to commit. Once you’ve felt love for someone, it will probably never cease, however you must be open minded to see this love transform as you grow, as love, like ourselves, can never be the same.

Even if you decide to love from a distance, or from the land of remembering, always make yourself clear, heard, understood. Love and friendship is too special to hurt those we have loved and will always love, for not understanding love ourselves.

By Aranza del Alcazar