Fights with friends are inevitable. Sometimes, it’s just a simple misunderstanding that you can let slide. But other times, it becomes a much bigger deal than you expected. And soon enough, you’ll find yourself in the middle of an unspoken standoff—a cold war wherein neither you nor your friend make the first move to fix things and go back to normal, even if that’s all both of you want, anyway. That’s what happened when I had a falling out with one of my closest guy friends two years ago.
In my defense, I literally didn’t know what I did wrong.
In my defense, I literally didn’t know what I did wrong. My friend—let’s call him John—just stopped talking to me out of nowhere. For context, John and I were hanging out almost every weekend with our friends and sometimes even after work on weekdays. And yes, it was all completely platonic. We’d routinely talk to each other about who we were dating, career updates, and personal life problems.
At first, I thought that I was just imagining it. I was making excuses for him in my head that maybe he was just busy. Or maybe he just didn’t feel like hanging out. But because we shared the same group of friends, there inevitably came a point when we had to see each other.
It was a despedida for one of our mutual friends. In a way, it was also sort of my despedida as well because this friend and I were going to study in the U.S. for two years. John arrived at the party and we were even seated beside each other at the same table. But no matter what I did, no matter who tried mediating between us, John simply didn’t notice me.
I remember just breaking down in a private room during the despedida instead of happily drinking with my friends.
At the time, I was also nursing a fresh heartbreak. The pain doubled when John, one of the people I always confided in, wouldn’t even talk to me—even if it was just to say that he didn’t want to talk to me. It was like I didn’t exist. I remember just breaking down in a private room during the despedida instead of happily drinking with my friends.
Given that I was going to live in a different country, I thought it would be best to just leave the situation and friendship as it was: confusingly but decidedly over. I didn’t want to bring the heavy burden of it with me to what was supposed to be a fresh start. So for two years, John and I didn’t speak to each other at all—save for one time I messaged him when he got into a serious car accident.
We entered what I call in my head a “friendship limbo.” We were still watching each other’s Instagram Stories. That is, until I decided to hide my Stories from him. I didn’t want him to have access to me after he denied me of knowing what I did wrong. I still heard stories about him from our mutual friends. I still talked to his brother every now and then. But we weren’t really friends in the full sense of the term. All this while, I still had no idea at all why he just stopped talking to me.
Then, the pandemic happened.
The pandemic’s impact varies from person to person. But I think that no matter who you are, it definitely affected how you relate with other people in one way or another. Personally, I’ve never felt more isolated. I no longer had the freedom of going out with friends when I felt down. But at the same time, I didn’t have the will nor energy to go out anyway. I just wanted to be alone even if being alone made me more lonely. It took some time, but I thankfully got myself out of that mindset and started reaching out more to my friends and letting go of old grievances.
Our individual experiences and personal resolutions brought us to the same place—on a Sunday-night Zoom call the day after my birthday.
I would later on find out that while I was feeling these things, John was having his own realizations about friendships, too. Our individual experiences and personal resolutions brought us to the same place—on a Sunday-night Zoom call the day after my birthday.
John had greeted me for my birthday for the first time in two years. He said that he wanted to talk and catch up in person. I waited a day to reply. Not because I was being pabebe but because I wanted to make sure my response was the right one. I didn’t want to ruin things before they were even fixed.
I thanked him and agreed to meet up, all the while thinking that past me would’ve just seen-zoned him out of pettiness and as a sort of revenge for never telling me what I did wrong. But a lot has changed still then. And since we’re still living in COVID times, our supposedly face-to-face conversation ended up being a Zoom call because he had a close contact who tested positive.
Not gonna lie—it was awkward.
If you’ve ever had a serious sitdown with a loved one in person, then you already know the anxiety that comes with it. Now take that energy and put it into a situation where you’re gonna virtually meet with someone and talk about serious things that could make or break your friendship.
There’s no coffee-shop white noise that would drown out the uneasiness between you two. You can’t do the, “Oh, what are you ordering?” icebreaker. You have to use earphones so your family won’t overhear the conversation. Is it okay to wear pambahay or would that imply that I don’t care? But also—won’t it be weird to cry in front of my laptop? Not to mention, an unstable Wi-Fi connection will make you have to say, “Uhh, can you repeat how you decided to cut me out of your life? Your Wi-Fi’s choppy.”
We powered through the pleasantries and how-are-yous—albeit nervously. We filled in the fraught air with new-normal questions like, “Are you working from home?” or “Did you get your vaccine na?”
Then he got straight to the point. He immediately acknowledged being in the wrong for handling it the way he did and not telling me what I did wrong. Then he went through what happened from his point of view, while repeating that it could and should have been dealt with more maturely.
I shared everything that I felt so that I no longer had to carry the heaviness of it and so that it won’t cause any friction or sama ng loob in the future.
On my end, I also owned up to my shortcomings that caused the misunderstanding. And I also went through what happened from my perspective. I shared everything that I felt so that I no longer had to carry the heaviness of it and so that it won’t cause any friction or sama ng loob in the future.
After we both shared our sides of the story, we gave each other a rundown of our lives for the past two years. We talked about our mutual friends, who we were dating (or more accurately, not dating), and our can-this-pandemic-be-over plans. This was how I realized that we experienced different things on our own but they still led us to the same destination of finally making amends and fixing our friendship. There was no rush from either of us to fix things or to decidedly end things. The fight just had to run its course, as did we.
Throughout our conversation, I noticed that we were gingerly throwing in a joke or two to see if we were on the same level of ease with each other. Our 9:30 p.m. call ended at 4 a.m. so I guess it’s safe to say that the jokes landed pretty well.
I thought it would be difficult to be exactly like how we were. But we’re actually franker and more open with each other than before. Now we can actually call each other out when the other’s being difficult. It’s going to be a while before we truly go back to normal—in the form of our after-work drinks at a bar with the rest of our friends. For now, though, our weekly Zoom calls are a great re-start to our friendship.
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