Friends Break-Up

So yeah, this hasn’t been a good month for me so far.  Not only were there layoffs at the company I work for, I’ve been going through a slightly messy friends break-up.  It started when I wished her happy birthday and ended today when she signed off an email with “Whatever.  Have a nice life.”

I don’t think that men have friends break-ups.  I can’t imagine it at least.  A friends break-up is something that women have the market cornered on.  It’s my perception that girl friendships are totally different than guy friendships because they operate on a whole different emotional level.  I can’t imagine a guy ever exclaiming “OMG!  You’re my best friend ever!”  Conversely, I don’t think guys have quite the same level of explosion when their friendships break up.

I also wonder if part of the pyrotechnics of girl friend break-ups comes from the false assumption that we will be friends with our friends forever.  I mean, when you’re in a really good part of the story of your friendship with any given person you naturally expect that things will be this good forever and that nothing could come between you.

Yeah, right.

Many years ago, when I lived in Alabama and was going to cosmetology school, I got into a super huge argument with one of my classmates over exactly this issue.  I had been fighting with my best friend, Kristine, who in school with me.  When our classmate Markanna told me off for not being supportive of Kristine I explained to her that my friendship with Kristine might be temporary.

Friends come in and out of your life, I explained.  They appear when you need them, and when you’ve run your course together they leave your life.  Sometimes that hurts, but that’s just what happens.  For any of us there are only a very, very few friends who will be there indefinitely.  Those are the people like my grandmother’s best friend Nancy.  Towards the end of their lives Nancy had gone deaf and my grandmother, suffering from Parkinson’s, couldn’t speak.  So they would just sit on the couch together holding hands because that’s all they had left.  And it was beautiful.

Markanna got so angry with my explanation!  She argued up, down, and sideways that she and her best friend, Tiffany, would be friends forever, no matter what, and that if I was angry with Kristine I didn’t know what it was to be a friend at all.  Granted, I was angry with Kristine over something unbelievably stupid and I was probably in the wrong.  However, nine years later Kristine is still my best friend, and since she’s been dating my brother very seriously for the last four years chances are that we will be sitting on a couch together fifty years from now just holding hands.  Markanna, on the other hand, slept with Tiffany’s husband.  They’re not friends anymore.

Me and Kristine

Yep.  Friends break-ups are something we’re all going to have to go through.  I stand firmly by my statement that the majority of the friends we have in life are our best friends for only a short time and beloved acquaintances for the rest of our lives.  Only a few reach the level of family, literally or figuratively.  And only a few explode out of your life with fireworks so devastating that you might as well have broken up with your soul mate.

Those kinds of friends break-ups have happened to me twice.  All I can say is that in both cases the friend in question and I were young and stubborn and neither of us was willing to budge an inch to see the other person’s point of view.  I’m actually on friendly terms with both of those women today, although I wouldn’t say we’re close at all.

The friend who broke up with me over this past week is far, far angrier at me than I am at her.  We drifted apart, that’s all.  She moved away.  It was hard to keep in touch.  We tried and it didn’t work out.  No harm, no foul.  On my side, at least.  I don’t know how many friends break-ups she’s had in her life because when I sent her a happy birthday email she exploded at me for losing interest in her and abandoning the friendship and being selfish and … and … and.  Whew!  I didn’t know what to do except say that I was sorry she was hurt and that I failed to live up to her expectations as a friend.  I wished her well and suggested we start to get to know each other again as we are now.  That’s when I got the earful ending with “Whatever, never mind, have a nice life.”

Sigh.

She’s young.  We were all young once.  We all once thought that friendships last forever and that it’s the end of the world when people grow apart.

Of course, here I am sounding calm as a cucumber about all of this when, in fact, I have a whole other friends situation that has me screaming on the inside.  I have a friend that I am deeply afraid I’m in danger of losing.  I’m terrified that I misjudged things and that she doesn’t care for me as much as I do for her.  That’s happened to me before too.  I really don’t want to lose this friend.  Really, really, really.  Just the worry over it has reduced me to tears once already.

So in a way I understand all too well how my young ex-friend of yesterday feels.  We’re women.  The relationships in our lives are of vital importance to how we function.  We need that kind of interaction.  So it’s no surprise that we lose it when we lose it.  I can only do my best to reach out to the friend I’m afraid I’m losing, and once that best is done all I can do is take a deep breath and remember that friends come into our lives for a time and that sometimes they leave.  But no one leaves for good.  We may never see some friends again, but they will always live on in our hearts and in the wonderful memories we share.

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21 thoughts on “Friends Break-Up

  1. Ever since I was in high school ( I went to an all girl high school which probably leads to the type of friends I have these days) I have never really had a “Best friend” or perhaps even really close friends of the male OR female kind. Even though this is the case, there isn’t one friend who I wouldn’t stand in front of and take a bullet for. The friends that I do have seem to have no set rules on how our friendship is. I have an email pal who I may not talk to for weeks, but if either of us has to share a problem or something special, we’re right there for each other. And I’ve always been a drifter. I think when I was in BA I had a multitude of friends, but no real close friend. It didn’t bother me in the least as I was happy just hanging with different people and never felt I had to commit to a friendship. Am I lazy in that sense? No, i just like things simple and the friends I have at the moment are the same. We’re there for each other when the need is there, but we never feel obligated to keep the friendship going because it will steer it’s course on it’s own.
    Much like a cat I think. Only less fluffy

    • I know this is a completely silly answer, but I’ve found too much truth in it to ignore…. I wonder if it has anything to do with astrology. I’m Cancerian, and everything I’ve ever read about Cancerians suggests we crave stability more than anything else and we want our friends to be life-long BFFs. I find that to be true of me, but I don’t know if the stars are really an explanation for it. Ironically enough, my for real BFF Kristine is also Cancerian, so maybe we’ve got that going for us. Of course, it also means we turn into emotional wrecks and get really bitchy with each other. But we also get over it quickly. =P

      And I would totally take a bullet for you too! =D I’m glad we had that time together in college and this time together on the Internet. And someday I AM going to get down there to visit you!

  2. My best friend and I have been friends for twenty-five years, beginning as freshmen in high school. Over the years, our friendship has morphed time and time again – particularly since we are very different people and out paths diverge more often than not. What we share is an instinctual understanding and acceptance of each other, despite our differences. It is easier to maintain the friendship now as middle age rears its ugly head. We’re past the worst of the drama, but we still butt heads pretty frequently. We are like sisters – driving each other crazy but never doubting that the love will still be there when we need it. What I have found is that having that sort of friendship is what every woman wants, but it can’t be forced and doesn’t look like we expect it to. Hollywood has given us a vision of female friendship that I have never witnessed in real life, but it does affect our perceptions of how we treat our friends and how they treat us in turn. I would have to say that, more than distance or maturation or other changes, it has been unrealistic and lofty expectations that has been responsible for the majority (although certainly not all) of my friend breakups over the years.

    • You know, that pretty much exactly describes my friendship with Kristine! Except that because it is extremely likely she will marry my brother before too long we WILL be sisters. 🙂

      You bring up a really good point about Hollywood too. It’s not just romantic relationships that they paint an unrealistic picture of. This could also be one of the reasons why I like British TV better than American TV. Jack Davenport once said that American TV is a bunch of beautiful people in fabulous houses living glamorous lives, whereas British TV is ugly people being mean to each other in the rain. So true! And a much better test of reality! =D

  3. Friends do come and go in your life, it’s a fact of, er, life. Things change and you have to recognise when something like a friendship is worth fighting for or not. Friendships are strange without a doubt. I heard on the radio that the average person has around 5-6 good friends. And then they described what a good friend meant – the sort of person who, when you call them up at 4am because your car has broken down and you need help, they will come and rescue you.

    It seems that in the age of the Facebook friend that ethos can spill over into our real lives, and that’s a shame. Gotta keep smiling though because you might meet a new friend/buddy/pal/chum around the next corner!

  4. “…The majority of the friends we have in life are our best friends for only a short time and beloved acquaintances for the rest of our lives.” I love this line. It also helps me to feel less guilty about friendships I’ve let fade to so much less than what they were. Life interferes (husbands, kids, jobs) and the intensity I had with my girlfriends before dissipated considerably. But “beloved acquaintances,” yes. Absolutely and always.

  5. I’m glad to see a post about this, cos its not talked about much. Romantic relationship break ups are done to death, but friend break ups are hidden and in a way more traumatic.
    I just got completely dumped by a ‘close friend’ last year. She just stopped contacting me and unfriended me on Facebook. I sent her a couple of ‘why aren’t you contacting me anymore?’ messages but tbh I was so upset I couldn’t do more than that, let alone phone her up (she lives a little way away and I don’t often have the car). So at Christmas, I sent her an FB ‘well, I was really hurt when you dumped me, have a nice life’ type of message then blocked her. Its just too painful. I have an idea that she dumped me cos she is single and childfree, I’m married with a little daughter who is quite delicate and often poorly, so we have nothing in common anymore.
    But anyway. It hurt.

    • I have to say that having kids is the biggest factor in causing two people to go their own separate ways. As a single person I just can’t wrap my mind around how much focus it takes to raise children, even in the best of times. So more power to you! My oldest friend currently has 4 boys between the ages of 10 and 1. I consider our friendship as on hold until the boys are old enough to take care of themselves. Although we did sneak out for coffee the other night. 😉

      • Thanks Merry 🙂
        Yes, I just can’t spare the time for friends as I used to. They are adults, they can take care of themselves. My daughter is 6, she can’t, its my job to look after her the best I can.
        I also think a lot of my friends felt I’d betrayed them- I was always dead set against having kids, never wanted them, but then we decided to try and see. Up popped our little girl, and I’d never ever be without her. I am MUMMY now, not the school or work friend they used to know, and its difficult for them to accept.
        Plus I also have lots of friends now who are mummies as obviously I need the support and understanding of them as they are going through the same things as me.

  6. I totally agree. Women ‘do’ friendships completely differently to men. I have a supposed BFF who is completely selfish in her time and communications, I have accepted this and put a lot of it down to her career (she is a singer songwriter which means she is never free when you are). When we do see each other and speak, we have a very deep connection and it’s like we only spoke yesterday. I value her hugely and she will always be in my life (we have been friends almost 24 years) but when my son was born I thought long and hard about asking her to be Godmother and decided against it because she is so unreliable.
    Lifelong friendships are to be treasured and are only possible if we are prepared to accept people as they are and go with the ebb and flow of relationships. The other thing is women take things far too personally, I don’t take my friends behaviour mean anything about me. This prevents any bitterness and resentment and allows our friendship to continue.

    And lastly, the story about your grandmother killed me. That. is. beautiful. And honestly, how I could see me and my BFF ending up.

      • I don’t think that’s true at all. Men can – and do – take plenty of things personally. Most of them just aren’t any good at expressing it. They repress it, shrug it off, pretend it’s no big deal, but it eats away at them, and they might not even necessarily know why. Be careful not to over generalize gender stereotypes.

  7. OK so before I was going to say that I bet gay men have messy friend-breakups. And also sensitive but straight men too. If I recall correctly, we had a bit of a not-so-nice break-up a decade or so ago, and may I just point out that we are now back to being friends as though that break-up never even happened.

    • … Was our friends break-up that messy? I do know that I was really upset after 9/11 and you had said something that pushed a button and I flew off the handle. =P That was totally about me and my ragged state of mind. I think before that though you had started dating Leslie, moved to Arizona…. But I am super glad we’re friends again now! 😉

      • Yes, it was because of some comments I’d made in opposition to the Bush administration’s retaliatory invasion of Afghanistan which you’d deemed to be offensively unpatriotic (particularly in terms of being unsupportive of our troops).

        We had quite a stormy relationship, though, if you look back even further. Do you remember how mad I got because you hadn’t consulted me first before writing about me on your old website (in particular that I was “independently wealthy”)?

        I also remember that you called me fickle once, possibly in front of my parents. It hurt at the time, although that may have been because it was true. I *can* be fickle. I certainly won’t deny that now.

        Now please don’t think that any of these things still bother me. Enough time has passed that I can laugh about them now. However, I think it serves to show that men *can* take things personally (enough so that they still remember many years later). That said, I am more in touch with my feelings than your average bloke, so maybe I’m an exception rather than the rule … 😉

        • Actually, that whole thing about 9/11 and the Bush administration’s policy is totally an example of transference and projection on my part. I remember it so well because that’s one of two times in my life that I remember where I was absolutely 100% upset about something else entirely but transfered all of my emotion onto an issue I didn’t really care about, thus overreacting in the extreme. It probably sounded like that’s what I was upset about from your end, but I can assure you that it was totally something else that had nothing to do with you, terrorism, or Bush. Remember, my mom had just died 5 months earlier….

          And you know what? I totally don’t remember the other two incidents. Not even a little. *LOL* I guess that’s how memory works. =D

  8. ‘I was absolutely 100% upset about something else entirely but transfered all of my emotion onto an issue I didn’t really care about, thus overreacting in the extreme.’

    I do that all the time, I’m glad I’m not the only one 🙂

  9. I can’t seem to reply to your reply, but anyway: Thanks for that. It’s nice to finally know what you were going through at the time. As for the other things, don’t worry about not remembering them. But it does go to show that a man can take things personally, enough so that he still remembers the slights 15 years later (even if he no longer feels slighted by them).

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