I don’t know how many times I’ve lamented a breakup with a guy by thinking, “It’s like I lost my boyfriend and my best friend.” And somehow, no matter how many times I go through it, I always end up going back into the dating pool and finding someone new. So when it comes to breaking up with a best friend, why does it seem so much more final?
I am loyal to a fault. I’m loyal to the guys who treat me nicely for a few a months, but I’m even more so to all my girls who have let me vent, cry and vent some more over a bottle of wine when those guys just don’t work out. When those girls decide they no longer want to be friends with me, I’m even harder on myself. What did I do wrong?, I wonder. How can I make it right? We’re taught that when a guy doesn’t like us, it’s not us it’s them. But when a female friend rejects me, I find it hard to follow the same logic.
But no matter how much my ego has been bruised, I have learned that when someone leaves your life voluntarily — be they male or female — sometimes it’s best to let them. No good has ever come from me trying to reconnect with old flames, and the same can be said for good friends who have dropped off the grid. (That being said, I have organically lost touch with friends over the years and have had happy reunions with them years later. I’m talking specifically about ones who disappear through angry or mysterious circumstances.) You will probably not be surprised to learn that my most recent friend breakup was with someone who had dumped me once before. The fact that we had suddenly stopped talking always bothered me, and after more than five years of no contact I tracked her down on Facebook. So why was I so surprised when the same pattern repeated itself, and she stopped returning my calls and texts last year? I should have listened to all the cliches my mom told me about guys: “People Don’t Change” and “Don’t Take It Personally.”
But it’s just so much harder to lose a girlfriend. Boyfriends fill a particular role in your life, so it’s easier to compartmentalize the hurt and fill in the emptiness left by a breakup with other things: girls’ nights, work, wine, ice cream. But whether your lost girlfriend was the person who always invited you to the best parties or someone you could always count on to be down for a Saturday afternoon movie, it’s hard to fill up those things with other things. Instead, you’ll need other, better girlfriends. And, let’s face it, those are hard to come by. Still, here are some things to remember as you pick yourself up and move on with your life:
Get To The Root Of The Problem
Start by defining why the friendship went sour. You may not want (or be able) to fix it this time around, but you can at least avoid the problem in the future. This could mean being smarter about who you share your life with, or keeping better secrets, or not letting a guy get in the way. For example, I’ve learned that I don’t like unhappy or over-critical people in my life. If someone is making me feel bad about myself, no matter what I do, then I’m better off without them. I didn’t even realize my friend made me feel that way, until I took a step back and reevaluated our friendship.
Just Let It Go
As I said, sometimes you may not even want to fix a broken friendship. It’s my natural inclination to fix things, but like all relationships (even ones with guys) some friendships are inherently flawed. Not everyone is going to like you. And as for that adage of keeping your friends close and your enemies closer, all that energy you put towards getting along with those frenemies could be put to much better use elsewhere.
It’s Not You, It’s Them
Think of all the things that you look for in a friend: loyalty, openness, trust, mutual respect. Did you really have all those things with the friend who dumped you? Chances are, if you did, you’d still be close friends.
It’s important to remember that people come and go from your life. As we deal with different challenges — college, first jobs, new apartments, new boyfriends — we have different needs from our girlfriends. It doesn’t feel good to break up with a best friend, but like any break-up, it can be necessary and for the best. When you see can see that, you can move on, and work on your other friendships.
As for me, I’ve had friends come and go. It’s never been easy to lose a friend, and I always leave the door open to the possibility that someone could return to my life. But with each friend I lose touch with, another one comes in to help me through, and our friendship ends up being stronger and better than the one I lost.
Now, tell me your story. Have you ever broken up with a best friend? What happened? And how did you cope? Leave your stories in the comments below, or send me an email.