Someone once told me that breaking up with a friend is way more painful than breaking up with your romantic interest. And yes, it’s most definitely true. I think it’s because we never enter a friendship thinking it will end, so we bare our souls. It’s a tremendous emotional letdown [to lose a friend]. Unlike marriages, which have a legal basis, there are no scripts or rituals like divorce for ending a friendship.
“It was kind of like a death. I actually mourned. First I was devastated and numb, then angry, then indignant, then civil.”
Breakup or even a divorce is a tough process. There’s a sort of “cultural script” for the end of a romantic relationship. (Which often involves ice cream, long cries with girlfriends and the search for a new partner.) But getting over The breakup of a long-term friendship can be very disturbing because, when a friendship dies, women are left hurt, ashamed, angry and confused. Unlike romantic relationships — in which there’s generally the expectation of monogamy — there’s no such equivalent in friendship. So, when your friend wants out of your friendship, does she say, “It’s not you, it’s me,” or “the magic is gone,” or “we want different things” — or any one of the dozens of breakup cliches that we’ve all heard? Usually not.
I’ve lost friends over the years and each time, it doesn’t make it hurt any less. It still hurts, and probably even more each time because of how much you learn to treasure someone over the years. Friends create a shared history that’s painful to even think about replacing. Also, over time, people become more emotionally invested in a friendship. They may have poured their hearts out to each other and have become keepers of each other’s secrets. Just don’t forget, friendships, even very good ones, are dynamic and tend not to last forever. It may be just 2% out of 1.8 billion people who has a friendship that lasts a lifetime. People’s lives and circumstances change over time and a friendship that worked at one stage of someone’s life may not work at another.
I’ve come to think of the idea of friendship as a train ride — friends getting on and off at different stations and sometimes multiple times. It is wrenching to have a long-standing friendship with someone explode. It’s like losing a part of our past. There is no one else in the whole world who is the keeper of those memories of you, no one else who knows the code words for the jokes. In fact, it tears me up — just as (the opposite) nothing lifts me like rediscovering an old, old friend and reliving that part of the past.
I think women’s friendships are so much more intense then men’s, so much more intimate and emotionally consuming. I have loved some men in my life but the love I share with my female best friend is different. They know the “true” me. So, of course there are going to be these minor fights and ruptures. It’s part of it. And getting back together is part of it too — the renewal, the joy to have her back. That’s the great thing about friendships — no divorce.
In case you guys are wondering, no, I did not have a ‘friendship breakup’ with my best friend. But I’d say something triggered this, I feel as if I lost something that has been part of my life for awhile, and writing it out makes me feel a lot better.
Thanks for reading.
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