I spent a long time arguing with myself about whether I should forcibly end friendships with people I’ve previously dated. Several useful realizations came out of that process.
The original reason I had the impulse to do this was based on my belief that the best path forward in challenging scenarios is usually the least desirable one. The last thing I want is to end a good friendship with someone I care about, so I began considering the possibility that I needed to do exactly that to conquer this pattern. I initially posited that continuing this kind of friendship was perpetuating my tendency to focus on someone else.
The immediate counter-argument was that I could actually be sabotaging a very constructive friendship, sacrificing a connection with someone whose perspective I sincerely value and who has provided immense support in times of need. This side of me pointed out that my attachment patterns could also have been motivating me to end these kinds friendships, that I could be seeking the response where they try to convince me not to, and then I would know they really care about me. This would validate my attachment further.
Then a part of me I saw that such an argument could easily be my attachment talking, convincing me not to sacrifice the very thing it is attached to. This inspired me to begin planning conversations in more detail. I considered how it would affect them, but because I was in a place where I was fairly convinced they were more or less indifferent to my presence in their life (hence the validation-seeking mentioned earlier here), this was quickly transformed into extra impetus — I would be removing an unnecessary burden from their lives.
Then I realized that the end result would be my ability to just look away from this pattern entirely. Focusing my attention on other things doesn’t equate to transferring my attachment to those things. If these people aren’t in my life, I lose the most valuable tool at my disposal: a means of measuring the intensity my attachment pattern has at any time. Without this, it would be easy for the pattern to just lay dormant until it had someone else to glom onto.
My final epiphany was that maintaining these friendships is actually harder for me at this point than not maintaining them. What I had been maintaining up to now wasn’t friendship, it was obsession. That took little effort, and blinded me to a simple truth: I matter to these people. They wouldn’t talk to me or help me out when I’m in a bad place if that weren’t true. To cut them out of my life wouldn’t benefit them, or they would do it themselves. Maintaining the friendship means working on telling them what they need to know, and not telling them what they don’t. It means considering what is best for them, and trusting them to be responsible for that. It means letting them help me when I’m stuck, but not dumping my every complaint in their lap. It means giving them my love, not handing them my heart. This balancing act is significantly harder when attachment is involved.
And I do love a good challenge.