By Ayisha Karim
Quite often we hear songs on the radio about love and about finding “the one”. Songs such as “Crazy in love” by Beyonce, or “I will always love you” by Whitney Houston are only a snippet of some of the best (in my opinion) love songs. On the flip side to this, we also hear songs about heart break from relationships, such as “unbreak my heart” by Toni Braxton or “so sick of love songs” by Neyo. But one thing we rarely hear about are songs about friendship break ups.
It’s odd, because unfortunately for most people, at some point in their lives they will have to experience some sort of breakup from a friend. When I say a “break-up” it may not even involve any confrontation. It may just be that the friendship naturally drifts apart, and people not seeing or speaking to each other anymore. It may be that there is a real reason and it had to be discussed. Or it might be that expectations have superseded what one person thought they were getting out of the friendship. Whatever the reason or style, friendship break ups are PAINFUL and we don’t hear enough about this.
Lack of understanding, not meeting expectations, treading on egg-shells, jealousy, backbiting, competition with each other, are only but a few reasons as to why a friendships can turn toxic. When we are younger, we have more time. At school when we meet our first friends, everyone is in the same boat. Even then, bullying happens, and isolation happens too. As we grow older, our time and commitments change. Our priorities change. Perhaps that room-mate you used to live with at university and had time with, now has a full time job and a family to take care of. The time to spend with each other, naturally lessens. Does this mean that the friendship will decline? Not necessarily, if that person is right for you. Friends are the family you choose. Friends are not just convenient, like how they were back at school. As adults, we need to decide who fits right into our lives and who is right for us, emotionally.
Now, working in my career, juggling motherhood and family, I have zero time to myself. The very rare spare time I get, I like to spend it- alone.
As a new mum, I know I have less downtime to myself. Before babies, I would travel long and far to see people and to ultimately make them happy. As a people-pleaser, naturally, when I had the time to do this, it was exhausting, but worth while as I had time to myself once I got home- before I had children. Now, working in my career, juggling motherhood and family, I have zero time to myself. The very rare spare time I get, I like to spend it- alone. I started to notice that some friends would take it offensively if I didn’t attend their social parties or if I wasn’t able to be the person I used to be. I understand it. But I realised, I cannot make everyone happy, and no matter how much I have done or tried for someone- it will never be enough- so I need to prioritise myself.
That is not to say that I would do this disrespectfully, I think if things are said peacefully and with respect, you can still be a good person and set boundaries. I had to have a confrontational chat about my decision to “sit back” and explained that I cannot always attend these events. Although it was hurtful for the person who wanted more from me, I explained that unfortunately I cannot meet her expectations. I also told her I understand if she’s upset about this as she has always been used to me being able to do so. It is important that we try our best to understand the other person and why they feel hurt. Although it was a conversation I did not want to have, I was thankful we had it, as it made us clear about where we stood with each other and our expectations for each other. Sometimes, being honest, even if the truth hurts, is better then “ghosting” someone, and then both parties can move on after getting closure. Confrontation sometimes, is good.
If you are not happy with how someone behaves with you, and notice it is a pattern of behaviour that keeps hurting you, it is ok to tell them that you cannot see yourself as close with them, after having tried to maintain the friendship before. If you believe that your friendship with them will continue to hurt you over and over, then it is ok to stop the friendship. In islam, yes, it is encouraged to forgive and try and promote peace everywhere. But you can still be peaceful with people without having to be close friends with them. There is also a hadith about how a believer does not get stung from the same thing twice. “A believer is not bitten from the same hole twice.” (Related by Al-Bukhari, Muslim, Ahmad, Abu Dawood and Ibn Majah). This means that we do not have to tolerate bad behaviour over and over from someone. Being patient does not mean having to accept being treated badly, it's about being respectful and remembering Allah in these difficult conversations and setting healthy boundaries in order to maintain a peaceful relationship. This could even be a simple “salaam” when having to cross each other, and nothing more.
You do not need to be best friends with everyone. You can still be kind from far, saying salaam at functions and leaving it as that.
I have coped with this by making dua for forgiveness for myself and my friends, and by also making dua for them that they have nothing but the best in their lives. I have also given sadaqah in their names so that it helps to “let it go” in my heart. Setting boundaries is a huge thing but it sometimes is the way forward to have a good relationship with some people. Do what is right for you and as long as there is no disrespect, then you can protect yourself and your mental health. You can choose who you wish to spend your time with. “A man follows the religion of his religion; so each one should consider whom he makes his friend” (Abu Dawud)
This hadith shows us the importance of considering who is a good friend. Equally, think about how we also need help from others too. It is ok to make mistakes, and we are all not perfect. InshaAllah, Allah swt will give us all friends who are understanding, who help us when in need, who love us for who we are and respect our boundaries.
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