[Written By: Emma Reilly]
[Photographer: Gabriela Saldanha Blackwood]
While the mantra “all you need is love” has become something of a cliché, the vitality of our relationships with others cannot be denied. How we connect with others influences how we connect with ourselves, and thus how we experience life. We rely on our relationships for support and reassurance, and we naturally crave substantial connections to others. This is likely why we feel the sting so prominently when our relationships end, especially if one was not the instigator of the breakup. However, while the media often focuses on romantic breakups, the end of a friendship can be equally as painful and affecting and is arguably a more frequent, even universal, experience. So why are the impacts of lost platonic loves so overlooked and underplayed?
Well, for us to truly examine the end of a friendship, we must first examine how friendships are formed initially. Familial relationships have biology binding them together, but what is the cement with which we forge our platonic relationships? Who we share propinquity with is an obvious factor, as chance plays as much a part in our relationships as our innate desire for understanding and companionship.
However, it is apparent that this not the only component in the construction of a solid friendship (otherwise we would be friends with almost everyone we worked with or were in class with). Sharing common interests with those you interact with is another clear but important factor when forming the foundation of a friendship. It is these commonalities that allow people to connect with others and feel understood. They indicate that we can find true support and help during our times of need. This could explain why we feel such a bitter sting at the end of a friendship: our support system dwindles, who we would have turned to in our time of need has left, and we are left feeling more alone and misunderstood.
Therefore, if the function of friends is to fulfil our need for support and connection in a world where we can only see through our own unique but isolating vision, the idea that the end of these relationships is less significant than the end of a romance is ludicrous. Being vulnerable, as we are with our good friends, requires trust and faith in those we interact with. It strengthens bonds and our sense of support. Therefore, when these bonds are broken we understandably feel betrayal and regret for being so open.
Nevertheless, the fact platonic breakups are so often overlooked is merely a display of how humans react to and treat vulnerability. Despite it being something that we all possess and need to exhibit to find the connections we inherently desire and need, it is also something we associate with weakness and try our best to disguise. When we lose a friend and feel the hurt and betrayal of our trust, many of us isolate ourselves more in order to protect ourselves – and furthermore do not fully admit our pain, as doing so would itself be an act of vulnerability. This, of course, is paradoxical as it only causes an increase of the isolation we already feel.
While society teaches that romantic relationships are our most crucial connections and that they will fulfil our sense of solitude in the world, friendships are arguably even more imperative to our lives. Millions of people live, through their own choice, a life of romantic singledom, but only a small amount of people are able to live a life devoid of friends. So often we focus on our quests for romantic love, but perhaps we should focus more on platonic love. Perhaps we should appreciate the true value of vulnerability and of the support network our friends supply to us and that we supply to them. Maybe then we will see and fully appreciate the unquestionable value of our friendships. Maybe then we will understand why the loss of a friend can hurt just as much as the loss of a lover and we won’t feel the need to devalue our sadness.