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It’s Okay to Cut Ties

Maybe five years ago, losing a friend (especially a close one) is almost end of the world for me. So I tried to keep everyone close by shuffling between different groups organising meetups blah blah and it was really draining.

Now, I’ve come to terms with myself and I don’t mind losing friends. Not to the extend of becoming enemies, but just letting them fade away slowly.

I see no point to meet up once I find it a chore to do so. After rejecting them more than three times, most friends get the hint. But the most 不要脸 of all is what I term as ‘leechers.’ They only look for you when they need you, and come acting close to you (when you both are aware that you’re not) just because they want to leech on your benefits. Fuck off seriously.

I’ve encountered so many friendship hurdles over the years till I’ve become immune. Recently, I stumbled across an old magazine article while doing random browsing at a hair salon and it totally second my thoughts. Imma share it here.

Why I Don’t Feel Bad About Breaking Up with Friends

Several years ago, a former schoolmate invited me to her wedding. I was surprised because we had barely exchanged text messages for eons. I politely declined via SMS without revealing why but a mutual friend let the cat out of the bag unintentionally.

When the bride-to-be found out, she was furious. She sent me a nasty SMS telling me how upset she was and vowed never to speak to me again. Since then, she has ignored me whenever we run into each other. Honestly, I can’t say I care – that’s how distant we’ve become.

That incident showed me how people use different benchmarks to measure the quality of friendship. My ex-schoolmate considered me to be a good friend because we’d known each other since we were 13. But how long I’ve known someone isn’t a good gauge of closeness for me.

What matters most to me is being able to let my guard down and be myself with someone I call a friend. Yes, a fair number of my closest friends are from school but I have also forged friendship with people I’ve met in more recent years.

I firmly believe in being discerning when it comes to who I spend my time with. Why should I bother if I have to rack my brains to carry on a conversation with you? That’s my litmus test to determine whether you’re a “stay” or a “nay.” And if you’ve been tagged the latter you’re an acquaintance – that means meeting up once in a blue moon.

Mean? Perhaps. But if our once lively chats have degenerated into small talk, then I ‘m doing us both a favour.

Breaking up is hard to do.

I admit I wasn’t always this resolute about saying goodbye to friends, even when I realised we had grown apart. It is undoubtedly comforting to relive “the good ol’ days” with familiar faces. Public relations consultant Melissa Thomas, 30, shares similar sentiments. She treasures her friends from school because they were there for her throughout herkgrowing-up years. “We’ve shared many happy moments and also seen each other through tough times. They will naturally have a special place in my heart,” she says.

Katherine Ho, 24, a private tutor, agrees, adding that she fondly remembers sharing significant moments, like her first kiss, with friends from her teenage years.

These emotional bonds can be difficult to sever because people like familiarity and security, says Dr. Adrian Wang, a consultant psychiatrist at Gleneagles Medical Centre. “Furthermore, by the time you reach your 20s and 30s, these friends would have supported you through experiences like examination failures, break-ups with boyfriends and job problems. They will always be linked to these memorable life events.”

Clinging on to friendships is all well and good if you still are genuinely in sync with someone but it should never feel like an obligation to keep in touch. More often than not, friendships change, says Dr. Wang. “Friendships that met your needs then may not meet your needs now. If you’re a single woman, you may find that a friend who is now a stay-at-home mother can’t understand what you’re going through at work, and vice versa.”

I have accepted that this is a fact of life. I can’t (and don’t want to) talk about where to shop for the best diapers or baby formula. I value engaging conversations and gravitate towards people who are opinionated or share my love for yoga or outdoor sports.

Feeling bad no more.

So why have I become choosier about who I spend my time with? Because of a hefty dose of reality mixed with sheer social exhaustion. I often feel overstretched because of my packed-to-the-brim calendar.

Here’s the rundown of one of my recent weekends: Rock concert with friends, dialogue session with women entrepreneurs, cousin’s baby’s baptism, tea with my grandparents, volunteer work, yoga class and dinner with friends – all in the span of 48 hours! I think I managed to squeeze some sleep somewhere in there, too.

As you can see, I run the risk of spreading myself too thin. I wouldn’t have it any other way because weekends are the best time to catch up on personal pursuits and family time (and to go on dates). So I have no choice but to compromise on the friends I meet because there are a finite number of hour in a day.

Even research has shown that we can’t handle too many close friends at one go. UK-based evolutionary anthropologist Robin Dunbar says that we can only have five friends in our inner circle, while Mark Vernon, author of The Philosophy of Friendship, says the magic number is probably between six and twelve. Makes sense, doesn’t it? So, if I want to get close to someone new, I have to get rid of someone first.

The tricky part is breaking up with someone within a group. Case in point: Recently, some friends and I agreed that we’d had enough of a particular friend’s antics, like how she’s perpetually very late when she meets us.

But when I suggested ousting her from the group, everyone else protested. “She has a good heart,” they insisted. I rolled my eyes. Many people out there have “good hearts” (unless you’re a sociopath).

Eventually, we decided we’d include her in our monthly meet-ups but nothing more.

Being decisive and realistic.

Ironically, my best friend is someone I’ve known since I was in primary one. Our friendship has stood the test of time because we unconditionally accept each other for who we are. We also can be (and have been) brutally honest with each other whenever we need to be.

Premila knows I’m a hypochondriac and I am tolerant of her flaws (which I shan’t reveal here because I still want to be friends with her). We text and call each other several times a week and usually meet up once fortnightly. I appreciate her for being there for me through the toughest times in my life like break-ups, my paternal grandma’s passing and car accidents.

Still, I know I appear unsentimental (and ruthless) about friendships but I see my approach as being decisive – and realistic. It simply means I have more time for the people and activities that matter most.

Question how meaningful your existing friendships are, decide if they’re worth keeping and stick to your guns. I say Facebook is a good place to start culling your list of friends.

Written by Zarelda Marie Goh (I think!) in Her World, July 2011.

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