I was out to dinner this week with a friend and we got talking about what she called “friend separation.” In my mind the word “trial” is the most common modifier of “separation” and that expression refers to something different from what we discussed … the permanent death of a friendship.
Friendship Death is not like marital breakdown or being dumped by your boyfriend. And however insane, my experience of being dumped by friends has proved more insulting than any of my tragic break-up’s.
In any case it got me thinking of a consolation story a friend told me when I was at the height of my upset last year regarding being dumped by the 2nd friend who has officially binned me so far. The consolation story went something like this:
Consolation story friend had a friend who suddenly evaporated and my friend just knew this spelt the end of the friendship so she spent an age trying to track down Missing Friend — to confront her about the obvious Friendship Death. Despite all calls going unanswered and unreturned, she persevered and months later she got through to her at work by pretending to be someone else. When she finally heard Missing Friend’s voice she said this: Listen, I know you’ve been avoiding me for months and that our friendship is over and I just want you to know that I agree with you. And then she slammed down the phone.
Now you may be thinking that consolation story friend is/was unhinged and that her missing friend was in all likelihood sane to dump her — but actually that missing friend had been a genuinely not great friend and my consolation story friend is more often than not, unnervingly well-balanced in the relationship department. That’s why it proved of such consolation. That my well-balanced friend had been a. dumped and b. chased her rejector.
A good few of us do mad things to track down people who don’t want to know us anymore and then some of us even try to pass this off as an attempt to prove we feel the same while blatantly behaving in a manner that suggests the complete opposite.
This behaviour might be explained by Attachment Theory. And in a brilliantly simple explanation of how attachment theory affects adult relationships (since most of attachment theory focuses on child-parent bonding), I recommend reading this new book by Dr. Levine and Rachel Heller. Whether you’re single, married, on the rocks, friend-rich, friendless or contemplating all of the above — the subtitle of the book is mis-leading, this is not just a goldmine for singletons looking to make better decisions about the people they date. It’s for everyone who values the friends and/or partners that they already have or sometimes wonders if some of these people should go.
People who have secure attachments might not be able to relate to Consolation story — it’s not indicative of secure behaviour (though what person isn’t driven to madness by loved ones at some point I don’t know). People who have anxious attachment styles might THINK they’d do what my friend did, but they probably wouldn’t. If they got Missing Friend on the phone they’re more likely to blurt, “Whatever I did, I am SO sorry.”
No, consolation story is an example of how to get an avoidant type person to show how much they care. Dump them.
Since I took a vow against self-help and now only let myself read it when in the bath, I haven’t finished the book. But there’s also another issue in the way of me committing to the book. While apparently 50% of us form secure attachments, 20% anxious ones and 25% avoidant — that leaves 5% who form anxious-avoidant bonds. And of course I had to fall into the 5%. That simple revelation alone has explained to me why I never get an interpretable score in any of those women’s magazine love quizzes.
You’d think the authors would have appreciated just how much that 5% needed their own chapter like everyone else got — and because I feel let down (and unloved and rejected) about that, knowing that the authors just expect me to read up on the 3 other attachment types and forever wonder how to manage my hybrid self, I can’t quite work out whether I can or should commit to reading the rest of the book.