The power of friendship
They’re our rocks, our ride-or-dies, and every bit as important as our romantic relationships. Here, three Cosmopolitan writers celebrate the power of their platonic bonds
The friends that mended my broken heart by Amy Grier, EXECUTIVE EDITOR
Heartbreak is not the blindness of the final conversation, or the recriminations that come before
or after. It is what happens in the silence of a Sunday morning. In the undented pillow, the empty drawer, the faded scent of another’s washing powder. These were all things I found out two years ago when, aged 33, my relationship of five years came abruptly to an end. I had not factored a world without him in it. He was the man in all the milestones
I had pictured for my future.
Crumpled into a snotty, hyperventilating mess in the back of an Uber home from the “final” conversation with my ex, I called Meg. She and I have been friends since the first day of primary school. Meg talked me down for the entire journey home.
That weekend, she came over to my mum’s house, where I was camping out. She called, texted every day, and left voice notes. She arranged small gatherings with only people she knew I’d feel safe to cry in front of. She made fun plans for the weeks ahead, so I did not worry about who I was going to go on holiday with. She did not ask me if I was OK, because she knew the answer. She did not wait to be asked if she was needed. She just knew in her bones that she was.
Meg is one of a group of life-affirming, loyal and wise women who gathered up my pain as if it was their own, so that I didn’t have to carry the load by myself. There was also Geri, who made me laugh from my belly when I physically didn’t think it possible. She let me cry and talk myself in circles as we stomped through the mud on Hampstead Heath. She stayed with me the night before my birthday so I had someone to wake up and celebrate with. When I moved back to the flat I had shared with my ex, she turned up with a bottle of prosecco in one hand, and some witch’s sage to cleanse the negative spirits in the other. Together that night, me, Geri and Meg put the world to rights over wine, lasagne and 30-something years of shared consciousness.
I can’t forget Anita, who sent a break-up care package to my office, including more sage, a beautiful red lipstick to “remind me of who I am”, and a journal to help me remember what I’m grateful for. Then there’s my colleague Catriona, who walked beside me through St James’s Park one lunchtime as I bawled my eyes out.
After that day, she developed nifty little ways of checking in, knowing that work was the last place I would want to be visibly unsettled. Now, over two years since my break-up, I look back and it is these women (and so many others) who loom large. I see friends who held me as I wept in a pool in Croatia, or on a rooftop at sunset in Mexico, all the while my Instagram sparkled with envy-inducing images of me in bikinis, hiking up mountains, or posing in gym kit. But good friends can see beyond the filter. They are not remotely fooled by your outward displays of “OK-ness”. Friendship is sometimes in the saying, but as you get older, it is more often in the doing. Thanks for everything you did, girls. I will never, ever forget it. ›
The friend that made me feel being gay was OK by Grace Walsh, CONTRIBUTING WRITER
When I came out, aged 17, I had reached the point where I couldn’t pretend that I liked men any more.
What’s more, I couldn’t hide how infatuated I was with women. But
I was the only gay person I knew. It was as revolutionary as it was terrifying. As free as I felt, I was anxious about other people’s reactions and there was a part of me that hoped it was a phase.
But when I met my best friend Belle on my first day of university, the fact that I was gay was the first thing she knew about me. Walking over to the pub, someone asked if we had boyfriends. Belle replied that she did, and I said, “Well,
I actually just like girls.”
Immediately, my mind flashed with worries that the girls would think I fancied them and keep me at arm’s length, and the boys would be awkward around me. Luckily, neither of those things happened. As our first year drew on, Belle and I got closer. We went to lectures together, had movie nights, and shared more bottles of white rum than either of us want to remember. Where she went, I did too. Although the anxiety surrounding my sexuality had subsided, I hadn’t come out to my parents yet and, as time went on, my worries lingered. One night, I kissed one of my male friends. It was a moment of panic, a test for myself that didn’t work. I left the bar straight away and met up with Belle, sobbing as I told her how I’d been feeling, realising that this was really it.
Belle is straight so I wasn’t sure if she would understand my reaction but, without missing a beat, she said that while she understood, I needed to accept I was gay, because I’d do more damage to myself in the longterm trying to pretend otherwise. Having someone sympathise with how I felt was a huge relief. There is no doubt that having LGBTQ+-identifying friends is important for queer people and, today, I’m lucky to have many. But those friendships are few and far between when you’re growing up, as people realise they aren’t straight at different ages. Young queer people often have to rely on those who don’t really understand what they’re going through. But allies like Belle want to learn: they don’t tell you what matters and what doesn’t, they listen to you, and they don’t treat you any differently. Belle and I have stayed as close as we were at 18 and continued to be each other’s first point of call – whether that’s in a crisis or to arrange plans at the weekend. I’ll be forever grateful that our friendship helped me gain the confidence to be who I am.
Aside from the odd Friday-night drinks or industry event, work friendships rarely exist outside of the office walls.
My experience was exactly this until Katie joined my team.
That was two years ago. We had a mutual friend who’d always insisted we’d get on (that’s what you get when you both work in London and come from the North), but before that we’d never met. Our friendship began as most workplace interactions do; asking each other how our weekends had been, or what we’d been up to the previous evening. Coming from similar backgrounds (Katie is from York, I’m from Leeds), we soon learned we had a lot in common. We were both in long-distance relationships – mine of nearly 10 years (a year of which we’d spent engaged) – and both our partners lived back in Yorkshire. We shared the pain of only seeing them once a month and chatted about how hard we sometimes found it to relate to our friends back at home. They all seemed to follow the same happily-ever-after checklist: buy home, move in, get engaged, marry, have babies. Meanwhile, Katie and I had taken a different path, focusing on securing our dream careers in London. We’d daydream about moving back home and being the good girlfriends we thought we should be – knowing that giving up the jobs we’d worked so hard to achieve was something we’d never do. We understood how each other felt.
The moment our friendship changed came when, one day, a week after a picture-perfect holiday with my fiancé, he told me in a Facebook message that he didn’t feel the same any more. Two weeks later, I learned he’d left me for someone else. I felt humiliated.
Everyone – including me – believed we were a happy couple planning a wedding and a future together, despite our unconventional long-distance set-up. I didn’t know how to face telling people – I was too embarrassed and heartbroken. My friends and family felt a million miles away and I was overwhelmed with loneliness.
The following day, Katie and I went for lunch and I poured my heart out to her. She listened, then proceeded to say all the things I desperately needed to hear. She was there for me like a best friend, giving me perspective and encouraging me to stop blaming myself.
Katie became a huge part of how I managed to drag myself out of bed every day, cover up my puffy eyes and go into work with a smile. Sometimes I could laugh all day, mindlessly gossiping about celebrities; other days I’d sit there, silently crying at my desk, hiding my face in my hair. She didn’t need to hug me, just having her next to me and knowing she knew what I was going through was enough.
Nearly two years later, our work friendship has blossomed into what I like to call “weekend friends”. We hang out outside of work, going to gym classes, trying out new restaurants or going out-out. When she’s not at work I miss her – we joke, “How would we get through the week without each other?” Now, she’s the first person I want to confess all my innermost thoughts and fears to. You never know when you might need to lean on that colleague sitting next to you, but
I’m glad I found out.
The friend who went from colleague to work wife by Jessica Lockett,