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Breaking up is hard to do – especially with a best friend

Posted in Life & Love, Relationships, Uncategorized, and Women's issues

friendly-casualties-13238608937kHThe voice mail or e-mail arrive punctually every few months. “Have been thinking about you so much lately. I miss you. The reason why I haven’t been in touch is blah blah blah” and, at the end “I don’t even remember what happened between us but we should get together”.

My reply, mostly out of guilt and an inability to let go of people I loved, is a subtle variation on “we should definitely get together, this is what I am doing blah blah blah. Call me!”.

About four years ago I broke up with one of my best friends. Definitely the best friend I had in LA. It happened at a Pain Quotidien, over expensive bread and lentil loaf and, in a fit of rage, I told her what I thought and stormed out. All very dramatic really, but, in my (feeble) defense, I was not at my best, going through a rough patch in my private life that my friend had done her best to ease. She said the wrong thing and I jumped on it. And then I let go, regardless of the 13 years of steady friendship, a friendship I courted and that she, not often able to open up completely to even the closest people, trusted. I am sure, in her eyes, she felt betrayed.

Can't we all get along?
Can’t we all get along?

In my eyes, everything I found hard about her and had swept under the carpet, suddenly became apparent. As months went by without the daily phone calls that would take up so much of my time, the recounting of perpetual (and funny) disasters that befell her life and her benevolent obsession with everything hip and celebrity driven, I realized I didn’t miss any of it. Or her. And I felt terribly guilty. This is a good person, a generous person – she is introduced me to my husband, she helped me in many ways more than once – how could I feel that way?

Four years in, I still feel ambivalent about not seeing her anymore. Discussing this with sofagirl a few weeks ago, she – more pragmatic in these matters than me – rolled her eyes and said “Why can’t you accept it’s over?”. Why indeed?

For a long time I operated under the premise that if I fell in love with someone, or was attracted to someone, for good reasons, what was the point of letting them go completely? Most of the important men in my life are still in it, in some form or another: the occasional e-mail or phone call or, in the case of one in particular, a close friendship carried on long distance. Just because love ended, it doesn’t mean I don’t still admire the qualities I was attracted to at the beginning.

When it comes to friendships, it’s a bit more complicated. Some friendships are born of shared circumstances or geographical location and you know going in they will die a natural death when circumstances or location change.  My deepest bonds have survived moves, oceans, time differences and the like and are still going as strong as day one (sofagirl and my childhood friend Silvia are two cases in point). Recently I reconnected with my best friend in elementary school and found out we have more in common than I thought at 17, when our lives took different paths. I  thrive within friendships, especially female ones, to the point of being incapable of letting them go when they are no longer healthy. It happens but, in my fairy book of friendships, it shouldn’t.

From a practical point, if we held on to every person we ever liked, life would be too crowded. It’s a matter of natural selection and survival of the fittest. Relationships are not immune to this evolutionary theory and recognizing when something has run its course is a blessing. The telling tale, in the case of my LA friend, was that I did not miss her chatter. Or her. At a remove, I looked at the circumstances she constantly complained about, as being caused by herself which I was complicit in perpetuating by indulging her stories. I loved her very much, and I still think of her as a beautiful person, inside and out, generous and smart and caring who taught me a lot. And it might be this perceived debt that makes it so hard to let her go completely. I can’t find the words to say “Our lives have moved on. It’s ok if we do too”.

In a conversation over a year ago, one of those phone calls I cram with facts and figures to skirt around the issue, I told her I had started blogging. “I don’t read blogs. On principle” she replied. I am sure for good personal reasons. But yet another passive aggressive sign we are not willing to share our daily occurrences anymore.

So, why pretend? The step from friend to acquaintance is an awkward one.  I could do the cowardly thing and e-mail her this post. But, better still, I should pick up the phone and express my feelings with candor and love – if nothing else to lighten the load of things that sometimes keep me up at night (and to avoid sofagirl’s Skype eye rolling).

Images found in the public domain

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24 Comments

  1. CompariGirl…one word…deep! Love your writing (and SofaGirl’s too)and can completely relate to this post. Many years ago a friend called me to her home for tea. When I arrived she sat me down and proceeded to tell me she thought I was a terrible friend and didn’t want me in her life any more. Struggling to maintain composure, I asked her straight out if that’s really how she felt. To which she replied, “Yes.” I thanked her and left and cried all the way home. A few days later, I wrote her a note to explain how sorry I was that she felt the way she did and to say that I never intended to hurt her in any way. I didn’t say it but the kind of friendship she wanted was not the kind of friend I have ever been. Anyway, some months passed and out of the blue she phoned me to ask if we could get together. I thought about it for a split second and then decided otherwise. I declined her invitation and explained that she had made it clear she didn’t wish to be friends any longer and I felt she was right. It took courage on both our parts to end our friendship…even if it was for different reasons. As always, thanks for sharing…glad to know I’m not the only one who has had this experience.

    September 7, 2013
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    • Wow! She ambushed you! How cruel! Sounds to me like you’re better off without her. And then for her to call and want to get together again?! That doesn’t show much respect for you or insight into how she hurt and embarrassed you! I think I would have slammed the phone down. With friends like her, who needs enemies? She could have given you the chance to be the friend she wanted but she never asked for what she wanted – she just attacked you.

      Sometimes people just grow apart and their life experiences are so different that they don’t have much in common anymore. I’ve tended to let those friendships die a natural death. Less calls, less emails, less letters, etc. I’ve never formally told anyone I didn’t want to be their friend anymore although I have had a childhood friend who was my maid of honor at my wedding tell me a few years ago that she couldn’t keep up with our friendship anymore because she was overwhelmed with sick parents. She definitely had more than her share of sick people in her life. But I wrote her and reminded her about our past and how much her friendship meant to me. She caved and since we are many miles apart, we only write at Christmas and sometimes interact on Facebook. I’ve come to realize that I should have let her go so I haven’t been interacting with her on FB lately but will continue to send updated letters at Christmas. She recently told me on FB that she was always jealous of my hair in high school! Wow! I couldn’t believe that she was still holding on to that one! That comment is kind of what opened my eyes! She seems to always be bragging about all the friends she has. I wonder who she is trying to convince me or herself! She also bragged about her big house on the lake and is not shy about her wealth. She discussed this during a time when so many people lost their homes in NY due to the hurricane. (She is from NY like me.) It sounded so insensitive and thoughtless. I got a whole new perspective of her that I didn’t like at all. She made it a lot easier for me to let go. She doesn’t know I made this decision, but she’ll figure it out eventually. We just don’t have the same values and that’s about the size of it ; – )

      September 8, 2013
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      • One of the reasons I stay away from Facebook – real friendships stay true whether we communicate through it or not. The rest end up being pretend friendships. Always love your thoughts Marcella.

        September 8, 2013
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    • I wonder if we realize how we sometimes end up manipulating people while trying to assuage our guilty feelings? Isn’t this what your friend tried to do? But sometimes is too late and there is no going back. You were smart and brave in recognizing that.
      Thank you so much for sharing. All your stories made me feel less alone in this.

      September 8, 2013
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  2. Nici
    Nici

    Like you and Sofagirl I have lived in many different places and away from family, to me my friends become my family and therefore its very hard to let go of a ‘family’ member! My life would be empty if I did not have so many amazing friendships, each offering something different. So yes it is incredibly hard to let go of a person that has become such an important part of your life but as Sofagirl once told me “if it is not right for you or its bringing you down and its just hard work let it go move on girlfriend”.
    My oldest & most treasured friendship is with Sofagirls sister we have been through everything together, we have been friends for 37 years now I was 6 she was 7 when we met, we live on different continents but we are always there for each other. Trust me we have been through some nightmare fights and patches where we did not speak but we have always been there for each other. We are both hard work, we both have our own little ways that irritate the other however I don’t think I would ever get over or be able to move on if I lost her friendship permanently she is my sister not in blood but she is!
    I have another amazing friendship again it meant the world to me but in the last 2 years it has changed and our friendship is not like it was, I have had to let go and move on but it has been hard I have cried many tears over it wondering what I did or didn’t do!! I have woken up in the middle of the night wondering should I call/text or email her. Finally I started to morn the loss of our friendship. We do talk every now and then via text or instant messenger etc but its not the same and I miss her but I have to let it go and run with what we do have now, it was just to much hard work.
    Good luck Camparigirl be true to yourself! (another enlightening bit of advice given to me by Sofagirl many years ago). xxxx

    August 30, 2013
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    • Dear Nici,
      I love that so many of you felt compelled to share your tales of friendships gone wrong. I know that every experience in life is not unique, even if we at times think so, but it is comforting to know we are not alone. Thank you for sharing.

      August 30, 2013
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  3. I can relate on so many levels.You wrote this with such a lot of love and compassion, I just wish she deserved your love and worry. That “I don’t read blogs- on principle” response is so egotistical and standoffish, that my dear, I think you can safely close the chapter on her…….Soooo totally not worthy.

    August 28, 2013
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    • Thank you girl! I have to admit I was hurt by her comment. There I was, talking enthusiastically about my new venture….ok ok I hear you all…I am letting go!

      August 28, 2013
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  4. My closest childhood friend and I also struggled to let each other go. We had known each other since we were about five and then this wierd thing happened when she went on the group holiday with some other friends and I didn’t. After she came back, she was having loads of fun with the others and her and I didn’t speak for weeks. I eventually called her and restarted the friendship but a few years later it started to sputter and die. I tried to cling to the threads by sending some dramatic “You’ll be my best friend forever!” text message. To which she said something like, “Alright, calm down.” I saw this as a sign she didn’t care and the friendship ended again. We tentatively started it up a few months later but we were 18 by this point and I was leaving for my gap year soon so we kind of let the distance finish it off naturally. The friendship was fabulous fun and we were like a double act but we grew into different people, no longer on the same wavelength, like you said about yours. The final breakup was actually worse than any of my other memories from when I was younger! Thanks for writing this post and helping me let it go.

    August 28, 2013
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    • I appreciate you sharing this. Goes to show sometimes you just have to bang the head against the wall before realizing nothing other than a bad bump will come of it. Funny how all your comments were able to give me the final push.

      August 28, 2013
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  5. Oh wow! This totally rang a gong in my heart… I am the same way about friendships, never wanting them to end… well, that’s not true, sometimes I’d rather they did. It is SO complicated… I would rather dwell in the past of good than wake up in the reality of friendships lost and little replaced.

    Time and distance do have a way of showing the type of friend and family member you are. So many in our family (husband and I) live far away now and do little to maintain the relationship then wonder why our kids don’t really know them. We’re trying on our end, but they’re dropping the ball and missing out.

    Oh well… I guess that quote of saying “Friends are in your life for a reason, season, or a lifetime” seems true to me, although maybe 2 will probably make it the entire lifetime route. 🙂

    That’s my blah-blah, maybe you’ll understand me, but I really enjoyed your blog, 2 cents! 😉

    August 28, 2013
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    • Thank you ministry mama – yes, it made total sense. I am aiming for more than two to make it a lifetime but it think you are right, having two close friends following you through thick and thin for the best part of four decades, should be good enough.

      August 28, 2013
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  6. i can totally relate to this post – thanks for writing this. my best friend and i drifted apart for 8 years and she finally contacted me one day and said her therapist thinks it is good for her to make amends… huh? you are right, it is not the same ever, even after we meet up for dinner again.

    August 27, 2013
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  7. Having done the intense friendship stuff, I am now at a point of seeing everything as tidal-e.g. relationships, enthusiasm, passions all ebb and flow. That`s the natural way. These matters depend on so much more than just ourselves-timing, location, circumstances, need-so we cannot control them. Let them be.

    But that`s just me.

    August 27, 2013
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    • I hear you all! Blogging as therapy. That is kind of new for me. But after reading you all, yes, I think the kindest thing is to stop dwelling and just let it go to the ebbs and flows of life. Thank you!

      August 27, 2013
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  8. Oh please: “I don’t read blogs – on principle.” I hadn’t heard that particular bit of bullshit. Let’s face it, that’s just code for “I don’t focus on anything unless it’s me, me me.”

    I think the rot set in on this particular friendship a long time before the Pain Q incident. The difference was that the way you were feeling that day – you had no tolerance for her nonsense. Which, let’s face it – had been going on for ages. The rolling of the eyes is more to do with you trying to hold onto something because letting go would make you a failure. We both know that isn’t true. She was just too much like hard work. She always will be. You’re a good friend and Silvia and I can both attest to that. Candor and love my ass. Delete that message and move on.

    Oh by the way .. bread and lentil loaf???

    August 27, 2013
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    • And that is why I can count on you to cut to the chase. I hadn’t thought of the failure component. Maybe. I am beginning to think it’s time to move on and not even address it.

      Lentil loaf – she was on a vega thing. I don’t remember eating.

      August 27, 2013
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  9. silvia
    silvia

    Come on my love pick up that damn phone and talk to her as you would with best friends.
    It’s always worth especially for someone who meant so much to you.
    Besides what have you got to lose?
    For me key word here is straightforwardness which might be a hard task in consideration of her being very peculiar in many ways.

    August 27, 2013
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    • You and I are so similar. No, I have nothing to lose if not time and effort. After reading all of your (helpful) responses, I might be more inclined to let go. I can’t see the point anymore.

      August 27, 2013
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  10. Wow. Interesting post. Please don’t ever take me to Pain Quotidien. Jk.
    In all seriousness, I have only gone through this once. It was hard to “break up” with a childhood friend. We didn’t talk for five years while I was overseas, but now she is back in my life. I appreciate her friendship and still care about her a lot, but after a long separation, it’s never the same. I do feel it was a necessary split and if we didn’t take “time off,” we couldn’t be where we are today. And it’s a good, simplified place. Hope you find that comfortable place with your friend. . . acquaintance.

    August 26, 2013
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    • She took me to Pain Quotidien – so no worries there if I ever suggest it!
      I am glad you got to a comfortable point with your friend. I am not sure I can be so “gray”. It might be easier for me to just break it off. But we will see

      August 27, 2013
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  11. Another post of yours I could have written myself. Cant give any advice as I am stuck with the same inability of letting go of past loves and friends 🙂

    August 26, 2013
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    • I am beginning to wonder if it’s a syndrome of some sort!

      August 27, 2013
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