illustration of lady trying to make new friends
Wenjia Tang
Wenjia Tang
Relationships

I've Given Up On Making New Friends

Why I'm living in a permanent state of loneliness.

I’ve given up on having girlfriends.

While I’ve had my share of romantic heartache throughout the decades, those breakups will never hold a candle to the anguish I’ve felt over the collapse of female friendships. I’ve spent hours upon hours of therapy analyzing my friend implosions, working through long bouts of depression and self-loathing. Though seeking professional help has provided a balm for my pain, it doesn’t change how these negative experiences have placed me in a permanent state of loneliness.

Because I am now terrified of making new friends.

It’s hardly news that many women would prefer to walk away from an uncomfortable situation rather than working things out. But by taking that approach, I find that it makes us no different than our high school-aged selves. When we were teenagers, we had a pass on this behavior, because we were still figuring out who we were. I thought that by the time we became seasoned adults, we would know that cutting people off without discussion is counterproductive and hurtful.

Take Amanda*, a lifelong pal from elementary school (that is, since the 1980s). I thought I could say anything to her. Nope. When she announced her engagement and a very fast-tracked wedding — so fast-tracked I couldn’t attend due to a scheduling conflict — I excitedly asked if she was pregnant.

Next thing I knew, I had been blocked from her social media and deleted from her guest list. I assume she was insulted by the pregnancy question, but since she refused to communicate with me (my email of apology and a request to talk out our feelings go unanswered to this day), I can’t know for sure. While I can see how my question could’ve been deemed insensitive, I would never ghost a friend of multiple decades if the roles had been reversed (and I did have fertility issues!). If I hurt Amanda with my question, I feel I should have been given the opportunity to hear her side of the story, thus allowing us to become better, stronger friends as a result.

I just don’t think that my “punishments” fit the so-called “crimes” I’ve committed. One of my biggest heartbreaks came from Liz*, who kicked our BFF-dom to the curb because I made a dumb comment in anger that got back to her. (Though I give Liz credit for telling me exactly what I did wrong.) I didn’t hesitate to apologize, but I was still blacklisted from her life forever. "I told you, I'll be good to you until you cross me," she said to me with all the conviction of a high school sophomore. This toxic reaction to my faux pas confirmed that I’m better off without Liz, but I still mourn our curtailed friendship.

I have always welcomed open communication with my friends to try to hash out our differences whenever there was friction. But these conversations never happened, because the females in question preferred to cease all contact with me instead of embracing the harder task of talking things out. Like Natasha*. Natasha was my professional champion: We had our babies within six months of each other, and she was a fantastic support system as I navigated the minefield that is life as a working mom. Since I was a hormonal bundle of emotions during those first years of parenthood, I couldn’t help but, well, latch on to her advice and friendship.

Then one day, I noticed that Natasha had unfriended me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. When I emailed her to inquire why — and to ask if we could talk about what I could’ve possibly said to hurt her — she wrote back with a vague, boilerplate response that offered no real clue as to what I had done. If I messed up in any way, I’m still in the dark about it, because she won’t talk to me.

I get that one might ask, “Maybe you should be the one to rethink your approach to friendships?” That’s fair, but if no one is willing to tell me what I’ve done wrong, or at least discuss our differences, then how can I work on self-growth?

The decision to close myself off has made me sad, but I am also tired of living in fear that one misstep will cost me a friendship. We, as women, should be able to have frank, critical discussions with one another — like we would in any long-term relationship — without fear of things disintegrating.

After all, aren’t we old enough to know better by now?

*Names have been changed

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illustration of lady trying to make new friends
Wenjia Tang