As cliche as it might be, the holidays and subsequent New Years are always a time for reflection. The good, the bad, the indifferent. A hot topic around our house lately has been friendships. So much so that my husband, TheHometownZero, also posted a blog on friendships today. Check it out: The Resolution No One Makes But Should
We all know we need to put work into our romantic relationships. We need to nurture, feed and develop these relationships. But what about friendships? How much work do we really put in them?
At some point, we just expect them to happen and then go on auto-pilot. We all have those friends that we’ve had since childhood. Is time really enough to keep that friendship fire burning?
There are some friendships that have natural expiration dates. You hang out intensely for a period of time but as priorities and life changes, so does your friendship. You don’t have a fight, you don’t hate each other, you just drift apart. You’re still friends with them on social media, are genuinely happy for their life events and would even be stoked to randomly run into them.
There are friendships that we all have that never go very deep. You always have a good time when you’re together but it doesn’t go much beyond that. This isn’t about those kinds of friendships.
This is about those friendships where you can feel vulnerable. Let them see you at your darkest. And when you’re at your happiest, they are sincerely happy for you. And vice-versa. The only thing to gain for each party is a friend, a confidant, a person who you would trust with your life, just as you would with a spouse.
This is about those friendship breakups. The ones that sting. That hurt. And can even be more painful than a romantic relationship break up. In my adult life, I’ve had 3 significant friendship break ups. Each one under different circumstance, each one comes with their own lesson.
Shall we dive in? After all, I use this blog for therapy so let’s therapize – it’s a word…
Names have been changed, duh. The details haven’t been though, so if you find yourself reading this and think it might be you. It probably is.
Friendship Breakup #1: Jessica – The ship that never left the marina
I met Jessica through another friend (who ironically, will be the next breakup we discuss) and we hit it off. Her wife and my then-spouse got along great so we were a match made in game-night heaven! Eventually, we started developing our own relationship more. Going for walks around Zilker, confiding in each other, sharing fears and dreams, looking to each other for advice. For a period of time, we didn’t go a day without communicating. She was smart, had a sarcastic sense of humor and was amazingly grounded. Plus her kids were adorable, funny and not annoying.
I was really excited about this budding deep friendship. Then my life took a turn, I ended my first marriage. While it was a long, overdue decision that needed to be made (and the right decision as I am so grateful and lucky to have the life I have now), it was still a hard thing to go through. I turned to my newly minted best friend for support. At first she was there, she rubbed my back as I cried. But then as my break up proceeded (and it ended quickly, none of that long, dragging it out for me), her wife felt like they couldn’t be friends with both of us. They had to chose a side. And, I was not on the winning side.
In Jessica’s defense, she thought distancing herself from me was in my best interest. Her wife would use any information that she learned about me to create unnecessary gossip and drama. In the end, it was for the best but losing her friendship was the saddest casualty of my first marriage.
Even if on paper, our friendship should have lasted. Outside influences and circumstances ripped the roots out of what could have been a beautiful friendship.
Breakup #2: Ashley – The old ship that had a hole
Ashley is a girl that I had known since middle school. We were never super close but we had a ton of mutual friends in high school, and when we had classes together, always enjoyed sitting next to each other and cracking jokes. Then college happened and we didn’t see or hear much of each other until she ended up moving to Austin. It was natural to pick up a friendship that had been simmering for years and it was super convenient since she lived really close to me at the time.
We started hanging out more, drinking copious amounts of boxed wine (we were classy gals) and getting into 20’s shenanigans. It was fun and easy, as long as we had a glass or 4 of wine.
Then her husband’s job took them back to Houston and that’s when the relationship changed. We had to work at it. We would text all the time, sharing the minute details of our minute lives. And that’s when I started to see the cracks. But, I thought remembering the history we shared would help cover them up. It worked for awhile. I’d excuse behavior that otherwise I wouldn’t tolerate with the “oh but we’ve got so many years under our belts, you just put up with that kind of stuff.”
Big life moments have a way of opening your eyes in new ways. And the break up of my first marriage was a pinnacle moment for me, for many reasons. I stopped settling. I stopped tolerating bullshit and stopped pretending to fit into a life that I didn’t want to live. I don’t care about house size, what car someone drives or how much money your husband makes. But she wanted me to care about these things, and would tell me how each made her better than me. Obviously not directly because that’s not how women communicate (hello stereotype that holds some truth!).
She too had a pinnacle life moment, the birth of her first child. I was so excited for her, did all the things a best friend should at a time like that. But our priorities were so different.
And eventually, I became a dumping ground for her. If a woman cut her off at HEB then I would get a 4 page diatribe about how awful her life was. She had the privilege of living in a very nice home, a husband who makes more than enough so she can stay at home without worrying about bills, and a very loving/supportive family. Her life was not awful. Never mind, I was going through something pretty big myself, but this friendship wasn’t about me. Again, I excused it with the time = quality excuse.
Then I met my husband, got a career changing job opportunity, my world was in this amazing place. To say I was happy would be an understatement. And she didn’t like that. She wanted to remind me of my failures often. In passive aggressive ways. It became so toxic, I literally groaned and avoided my phone if I saw a text from her pop up.
I cut myself off from her and it sounds cold but I don’t miss her friendship. It’s been in the harsh light of reflection that I realized, it was not a two-way street of friendship. Time does not equal quality in a friendship. I don’t care if we’ve known each other for 20 years, you’re still a toxic person. And you need to leave my life.
Breakup #3: Betty – I shot my own battleship
Betty. This one is rough. It hurts the most to talk about and it’s all my fault. I met Betty in college, we were suitemates in the dorm. She was wonderfully weird and quirky. And we shared the same birthday!
We lived together our sophomore year and it was blend of getting to know each other but still having separate lives. Then, she went on adventures that took her to England and other places. We never lost touch. I was always excited to hear her stories when she returned back to Austin. She was free spirit who I admired, and was also a little envious of.
She met someone who moved her back to Austin and settled down for a bit. With her in one place, we grew closer again. We would chat for hours and before we knew it, it would 3 in the morning, the time had flown by. She was always there for me, as my relationship crumbled but I wasn’t ready to admit it, she was there. Listening. Never judging. If I told her I needed her, she would find a way to come.
Finally, it was my turn to do something. She needed a job. I had just gotten a job in sales and they needed a lead development person. It paid well considering it was entry level. I put her name in the hat and she got the job! Sounds like a great situation, having one of your best friends working with you! Ultimately, it’s what killed us.
I was in a dark place in my life. Unhappy with my situation, felt trapped, angry and stressed all the time. She showed up to work and didn’t quite blend in the bland corporate world. And people were noticing. I was worried how it was reflecting on me for recommending her. Yep, I was a selfish asshole. Instead of trying to help her or defend her, I distance myself and watched as she drowned in a world she was never meant to be in.
During this time, she had a good friend commit suicide. It rocked her world. And I wasn’t there for her. Then, as a double whammy, there was a RIFF and her name was on the chopping block at work. The second was a blessing in disguise as she is too unique a person to ever get stuck in the hamster wheel of corporate America.
I abandoned her when she needed me. I was the toxic person. She needed to get me out of her life. It is a break up that still haunts me.
If this finds it’s way in your lap, Betty, I am so genuinely and sincerely sorry. I hope you have the beautiful life you deserve.
In the end, all breakups suck. Some just suck worse than others but there is a lesson there.
Learn from it, become a better person. And try not to repeat the same mistakes…