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Friend breakups: Discuss

Friend breakups can be as painful and mysterious as romantic breakups, I think—Lord knows enough has been written about them. I’ve had a couple over the decades, and they’re brought their own unique pain, torture, and—in one case—relief. I’m curious how many of you have had a friendship hit the skids, and eager to know how you dealt with it. Did you mourn endlessly, move on quickly, or—as was the case recently with me—come back together after a certain amount of time?

Posted on August 23rd, 2017 60 Comments

60 Responses

  1. KHD says:

    Some former friends come back years later but the relationship is never the same. There’s usually a reason one stops being friends with someone (common interests, jobs, partner, etc change) or one person decided the other was annoying, in which case how can trust ever be regained?

    Move on quickly is usually the best idea IMO.

  2. Angela says:

    I had a good friend (at least 10 years of friendship) ghost me a couple of years ago. For seemingly no reason, she just stopped responding. I tried and tried and tried and tried, reaching out maybe 10 times over 4-6 months. I was terribly sad and thought about it frequently but finally I had to say screw it. For a long time I would still have been willing to resume the friendship, but now, unless she contacted me and said she is so sorry but she had a two year nervous breakdown and was physically incapable of an email/text/call, I gotta say I guess it was for the best! I’m still mystified, though.

    • Just Tina says:

      I had a friend ghost me after more than 25 years of friendship. It was really shocking and took a few years to process. In the beginning I tried to contact her to discuss and nothing. Truth is-I don’t need anyone in my life that treats me so poorly and can’t own and discuss it. Made me think who was this person REALLY. Good riddance.

  3. gk2829 says:

    I had a number friendship breakups over the last 20 years. These breakups were caused by a mixed bag of reasons – some more toxic than others and some were more or less benign. One of my “ended” relationships was salvageable after a 10 year break – two others are in an uneasy detente. I am still sad about them.

  4. Jenny says:

    A number of years back a friend dumped me. We had been growing apart, and it was clear she was not into the friendship (not returning calls etc). I recognized that and tried to talk about it– like, hey, it’s obvious you want to go your own way but thanks for having been my friend– which caused her to have a meltdown and tell me all the reasons she didn’t want to be my friend anymore and brutally dump me. It was unnecessarily cruel and took me a very long time to get over. In a similar circumstance now, I would not bother to try to talk about it. I’d just let the ghosting happen and go my own way.

  5. Kelly says:

    I’m sad to say I have had a lot of breakups. I have also left the vast majority of my friends behind – I’m not great at keeping in touch. The breakups were really about realizing that this person doesn’t share my values and perspectives.
    Here’s one breakup story: I was close friends with an older woman (mid-70s – I am 48) whom I met in AA. I helped her through several medical situations – surgeries, recoveries, about a million doctor’s appointments. She was a sweet person, but her experiences earlier in life – with an abusive father, then an abusive husband – left her with many trigger points. The hardest thing for me was her incredibly childish views on God. Because she had had an angry and abusive father, she couldn’t believe in God as a loving father. I think it’s fine not to believe in God, but I really believe in God, and I found it hard to deal with rants about how she hated God because God let babies die…I spend a lot of time thinking and learning about God, and I just felt I needed to be able to have a discussion about it with a close friend. It was just too important to me.

    Also, hanging out with her meant doing what she wanted to do, which was old-lady things like going to Denny’s (ugh) and going to Walmart to pick up prescriptions. And also, like a lot of older people, she hated my tattoos and piercings, and I’m sure she would have thought the music I listen to (I was a punk rock child) was horrible.

  6. Mimi says:

    I’ve gone through two friend breakups, both after moving to a small town. There’s kind of an editing process that occurs. At first, everyone wants to get to know everyone. In the next stage you realize that someone you thought would be a friend isn’t a good fit or isn’t someone you really value. In one case, someone I thought was a friend was trying to use me, and when she figured out that that wasn’t going to work, she ghosted me. But it took me a while to figure that out and at first it was painful and I wondered what I might have done to offend or hurt her. The second breakup was somewhat like Jenny’s. I was explicitly dumped, with the dumper telling me all the reasons she was firing me in an email, couched in insincere bull about how difficult the situation was for her. I recovered from both upsets in time and, happy ending, found better friends who I know I’ll be close to for a long, long time.

  7. c.w. says:

    I had to end a fifteen year best friend relationship with someone. It’s a long complicated story both sad and disturbing. When it was viable we could hang out together and for hours laugh so hard we’d be gasping for air. I haven’t had a friendship like that since and I do miss that connection, but…

  8. Melissa says:

    Yes. I’ve experienced a couple. The one that hurt the most happened after I moved to a new city about five years ago. I also moved away from my best friend and wasn’t as responsive to her emails and texts as I had been. I think I just couldn’t be the friend that she needed me to be anymore. I also think part of me probably resented her for wanting that too. She eventually accused me of not being concerned about some minor health issues she was experiencing, and I didn’t apologize. So that was it. She’s also brilliant and funny. It may be that she also represents a part of my life that I wanted to leave behind. One reason I wanted to respond was that I recently read Lori Gottlieb’s column on a friendship breakup, and it really spoke to me so am sharing it here:

    • Lindee says:

      Thanks Melissa for sharing Lori Gottlieb’s column. The person’s situation was similar to mine and Lori Gottlieb helped me see that there probably was more going on than just the one argument we had–being around someone for 50 years–issues do happen that can build up over time. That could have been what was going on as well–this helped me understand that.

  9. Suzanne says:

    Recently, when one of my oldest, dearest friends (27 years) & I ‘broke up’, it was heartbreaking. I recognize that too much had changed in our lives to continue but it was her choice to cut me out completely. I did try to connect briefly with her but felt it wasn’t a genuine friendship anymore so I guess it’s for the best. Saying all of this, I don’t do drama so am happy to close that chapter.

    • Dana says:

      Something very similar happened to me a couple of years ago. 30 year friendship… poof! I mourned for a while and still miss her, but at the same time, I can plainly see that she was going through something that absolutely wasn’t about me (or anyone else she cut off), and everything to do with her and what was going on in her own life. I miss her still, but I don’t miss having to walk on eggshells. Not sure we’ll ever be friends again, I haven’t closed the door, but I recognize it would never be the same.

  10. Kirstjen says:

    I had a friend who became very close very quickly with me when I was a young adult. We were nearly inseparable. My boyfriend (love of my life status – I’ve never entirely gotten over him 30 years later…) dumped me & I was an absolute mess. This friend looked at me the day it happened & said to me that she decided that she really didn’t like me. She walked away from me & never looked back. I don’t remember her first name any more – but her last name? Freund, which means friend in German…

    I also had a friend who I was very close with who was bipolar & would frequently stop taking her meds. I stopped spending time with her because her manias made me so anxious that I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. We are friendly with each other from a distance now.

    • Heather says:

      I also have a dear friend who is bipolar and entirely unmedicated. It’s hard. She lives across the country so we mostly talk on the phone. If we lived in the same city I’m not sure I would have been able to continue in the friendship — I also find mania really, really tough to be around.

  11. Jane says:

    I’ve had two significant friend breakups – both of which were really shocking and difficult emotionally. One happened when I was in my late twenties in NYC. Another while I was in my mid 30s in LA. In both cases, we were very very close, and in both cases, I’m do not know what precipitated the breakup. They remain a mystery. It makes me super sad to have lost these friendships, but I time has helped to heal the wounds.

  12. Mae says:

    Eighteen years ago, my best girlfriend and I broke up after 20 years of getting in trouble together. We had so much damned fun, but we were headed to prison if we kept it up.

  13. Francine says:

    I’m actually going through this right now. A super close friend (8 years or so) and I haven’t spoken in months. Why? All work related. She recommended me to her company (I head up a marketing agency) and did work for them for nearly a year. We had to interact in a business setting and it didn’t go smoothly. It strained our relationship. Last November, her former CMO moved to another company and sought me out for more work. Though she never said so directly, I could tell it bothered her enormously. In February, I had several, very upsetting, personal/family problems happen all at once. I made the mistake of mentioning in passing to the CMO. When my friend found out that I told him – and not her – , she was PISSED. Like 12-year-old-girl pissed. At that point, I thought, you’re kidding, right? I’m going through some serious stuff, but now it’s about you??

    Here we are in August and haven’t spoken. I sort of miss her, but not enough to do anything about it.

    If any GOACA readers live in southern CA, I’d welcome a new friend 🙂

  14. belle says:

    Hi All-
    I had a breakup with a friend (20+ yrs) about 5 years ago. It was quite confusing, still is but I figure it’s for the best, though painful. We’d became friends at a job, hung out a lot outside of work, drank quite a bit, drugged quite a bit(me). She had returned to the city where we live after living abroad and our friendship resumed, seeming without missing a beat. We had a lot in common.
    Then I sobered up. Within 11 months I moved across the country. We stayed in touch for nearly a decade of separate cities. Our friendship seemed strong. When I moved back everything changed. She seemed threatened by me. She argued with me and claimed my sobriety (“still”going to aa) meant that I was a conservative Christian.
    I was stunned. I’m so not that and actually cringe and tolerate the overly Christian overtones at aa in this city. But I will defend tolerance and the live and let live mantra. She did not like that. I was so sure she knew me better. I thought I knew her better.
    I chalk some of this up to the change that happened in me with my sober growth. I keep feeling that I wasn’t the “lesser companion” of the past and it showed. I wasn’t her “friend from NYC” anymore, which was another issue.

    I’m still sad about this, clearly. But with time, I realize that it may be for the best. Perhaps we really don’t have that much in common any longer. Oddly, I can tolerate difference more than in the past.(I think)

    Being in a peer based community like 12 step groups offers so much opportunity to witness growth. It’s kind of amazing. We often fail to express this aspect of those groups. I sometimes think that “normies” see these groups as a bunch of people jonesing and white knuckling from meeting to meeting, having no idea the freedom and expansion they reveal.
    Have any others found that when you are no longer a complete “fuckup” people have no use for you?

    • Ali says:

      Oh yes! When I was married to a well-off guy (who had a band, sold drugs,etc) I had lots of “friends” because I am generous. When I found out he was gay and cheating, abusive and putting us in massive debt, we divorced. All those women still kept hanging around him, even though they knew he had threatened my life. Why? $$$ and drugs: he buys his “friends”. Hard lesson there. It felt like betrayal, for them to excuse/ignore/condone his abuse.

      I tried to be friends with one of them again 5 years later, (our Xs are living together…) but she has no filters and can be so rude. Maybe it’s her history of addiction, maybe it’s the meds she is on now, or maybe she just doesn’t give one shit about friendship with me, now that I don’t buy rounds (I’m sober too). She has terrible manners; I tried to overlook it in the past, as a cultural difference? But now…life is too short. I’m going through some tough times, it makes no sense heap more trouble onto my plate. 7 years ago I had a post-it on my computer that said “do not call____”. I have just given up now. She isn’t going to call me…
      Ghosting the ghoster.
      It makes me really appreciate the decent kind friend that I still have (living).

    • Mika says:

      I think that people who are not yet sober can be really intimidated by those that are. You have spent intense, difficult time GROWING and working towards being more present in your life. Your friend maybe can see that, that you have changed in some fundamental way. Maybe she feels left behind.

      I also have a wonderful friend; the foundation of our friendship, however, was forged by getting completely blasted. I’ve changed, and she hasn’t. When she visits, she gets upset that I will not stay at the bar until closing, or do shots, or have inane conversations with all the bar people anymore. It is hard to remain compassionate, but I think, in the end, it is more about her. She wants me to participate in her behaviors, and now I don’t. We are working on a different kind of friendship, but it is new territory. I guess the fundamental question is, can the friendship survive when there is no “lesser companion?”

  15. Bex says:

    The junior high and high school friend break-ups were the most painful at the time. There was a lot of mean-girling and bullying involved, and I was so devastated that people I thought were friends could turn on me like that. As an adult, the friendships that have ended have mostly just faded slowly, as people move away or move on to new jobs and gradually lose touch. It used to bother me a lot more, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that it’s OK. Some friendships are situational in nature and aren’t meant to outlive that particular situation.

    I’ve only had a couple of adult friendships that ended because of a real fall-out with someone. The most baffling and painful break-up was with a dear friend who was slowly dying of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. She had moved away so we didn’t see each other in person, but we both made significant efforts to stay in touch via phone and email. She always had a great sense of humor despite her health, and we loved to make each other laugh. Then one day she sent me a crazy ranting email accusing me of saying something I knew for certain I hadn’t said. When I gently suggested that perhaps she was thinking of a conversation with someone else, she BLEW UP, accusing me of lying and all kinds of other horrible things. The more I defended myself, the angrier she got, so I picked up the phone and called her, and she was a sweet as could be. She admitted it was all a misunderstanding, we had a great conversation, and I thought it was all cleared up. Two weeks later, it all happened again, with the accusations of lying. I knew she was on a lot of heavy medications that were probably affecting her judgment, so I tried my best not to take it personally, but it still hurt. So I wrote her a physical letter and said that, as much as I loved her, I would not email her any more because it was clearly upsetting her, and that if she wanted to talk, it would have to be by phone to avoid potential misunderstandings. She thanked me for the letter and that was the last I heard from her. She died a few years later. I hate that we couldn’t stay in touch until the end, but I couldn’t think of any other way to handle it without risking antagonizing her again.

    • Ali says:

      That’s really sad. I am sorry for your losses there.

      Some of us are getting to the time when family members and friends do go on meds or have other conditions that affect perceptions and social skills. How frightening for them too! I suspect that she may have been really embarrassed, or wanted to not risk hurting you any more either.
      There is a symptom of some types of dementia where the patient just cannot see it. Tragic.

  16. Rita says:

    I had a friendship end because I screwed up. My friend’s mom died, and I flaked. I procrastinated writing her a sympathy card or calling, and then it just got harder and harder and harder. This was about 15 years ago or so. We’ve seen each since then as part of larger group gatherings, and there was no hostility or animosity between us. But we don’t keep in contact independently at all.

    I’m a big believer in mistakes being a good thing if you can learn from them, and I definitely learned from this (i.e., don’t let my awkwardness about not knowing how to respond in a situation keep me from being there for someone who’s going through something huge–because good lord, how self-centered is that). But it’s one of the few things in my life that I would take back if I could. I still feel really regretful about it. She was (and still is! just not to me) a great friend.

  17. DeDe says:

    You know, it depends on a lot of things – what the friendship was like, how old it was, whether we had a lot of other friends in common, how the breakup happened, etc. I’ve lost a fair number of friends due to weird misunderstandings and laspes in communication. One of those that I still feel terrible about ended 25 years ago when I met my husband. The friend in question had been living in another state for a few years with his boyfriend, so we communicated mostly via letters. I was so preoccupied with all the shiny happy newness of my relationship that I seriously slacked on the writing. Then other things in my life went to hell and I had to deal with that stuff, too. My friend apparently thought I was mad at him, which I wasn’t at all – I was just being a dumb love-struck twenty-something with a lot of unfortunate life drama – and to this day I wish I’d made the time to call him (not write!) and let him know that. He was like a little brother to me and was one of the most loyal, caring friends I’ve ever had. His father had a chronic mental illness (paranoid schizophrenia, probably), so I often wonder what happened to him, but am sort of afraid to go looking, you know?

    In the past couple of years, I’ve had to purposely end a couple of toxic friendships. That’s a whole other process – for me it involves mourning the friendship I wanted but couldn’t have with that person, and also being angry at myself for not taking the inevitable early warning signs seriously. And I will also say this: chronic illness can be a great help in filtering out assholes.

  18. Lynne says:

    I’ve had a number of friendships end. Some were due to life changes/growing apart over time, a couple were acrimonious over an issue or situation and a few that ghosted me. I still think of one friend who never called me back one day a lot and have actually looked her up on line but have never called. Partly because I’m afraid it would be weird and I guess I don’t really want to know why we stopped being friends, so I just try to remember the great memories.

    I’m lucky enough now to have a circle of women friends that I have known over 20 years; one from work and one from my bookclub. I can’t imagine not having any of them in my life, and while I know it’s a possibilty that things could change, I feel pretty strongly that we are in it to the end.

  19. Hick from Styx says:

    The sandwich generation thing has left me exhausted lately. It is very important to me to keep up lunch dates with friends who are mostly in the same situation. We’re pulled in so many directions that it can take months to arrange. There is so much stress at this stage of life. I am grateful to share whatever precious snippets of time these lovely ladies can spare. It’s time we just enjoy. Time for friendship is all too limited.

  20. Liz says:

    I’ve had my fair share of relationships end and when I was younger I blamed myself. If I’d somehow been better, kinder, more thoughtful, more everything, then we would still be friends.

    As I’ve grown older, I see that it wasn’t always my fault. Sometimes relationships ended because of a life change (a move, marriage, children), and sometimes they ended because I chose poorly.

    Two failed relationships still haunt me. One ended because I couldn’t give up on a bad boyfriend. That one was particularly painful because I was at a point in my life when I dearly needed a friend. Ten years later she got back in touch with me and now we’re friendly, but I’m of the opinion it was more to show off her children than to rekindle any friendship. Perhaps I’m cynical.

    The other friendship was false. I was still grieving over my failed marriage when I met this woman. At the time I had few friends (divorce can make people skedaddle), and even though I had a bad feeling about her, I allowed myself to get sucked into her world.

    She belittled me, intimidated me and, at times, even frightened me with her temper. Eventually I ended it when she left me a toxic voicemail after I inadvertently called her too early in the morning (8 a.m.). I don’t think of her often, but when I do, I wonder what about me attracted her to me.

    Now I’m much more cautious about people. I’ve found as I grow older that I don’t need people to distract me. I enjoy my own company and have found substantial peace in it. The friends I have now are the same way. Life is a learning process.

    • Ali says:

      That was the only bonus of an ugly divorce for me. I found out who my real friends were.
      Activity partners, entertainment sit-with-me company, other wives of our husbands’ interest groups: they may be fun to have around for the event, but they are not “friends”.

      That’s a really perceptive question too: why DO people seek us out? Very often, it is an ulterior motive. I realized that many of my early friends were carbon copies of a narcissistic mother. Then I married my “best friend” who was on the same continuum. I was just used to the abuse as normal.

      Now I know better. I’d love to make new friends, but it’s hard at 63. All I have to offer is my friendship: no money, services, status or connections. So I can’t be used…I am invisible. That’s OK with me. Without kids or grandkids, I seem to be from another planet to most women my age.

      • Liz says:

        Sadly, I’m with you about ulterior motives and women. My bad experiences have taught me to pay close attention to what new would-be friends say and do. To my dismay, I’ve discovered that women who want to connect with me do so more for their own reasons and not for friendship. Whether they’re lonely empty-nesters,or they’re dealing with the end of a relationship and they need someone to pass the time with until they find another husband…I usually back away. I’m not a flesh and blood Siri / Alexa. 🙂

      • DeDe says:

        Yes – this has happened to me, too. I’ve learned the hard way over the years that people who are aggressive about wanting my friendship, or who just assume friendship from the get-go (if that makes sense – it’s like a sudden “You’re my friend now” thing), are not people I need to have in my life. Luckily I’ve had some really wonderful friends too, so I know what a healthy friendship looks like, but man – getting through the narcissistic stuff is just such a slog.

    • Ali says:

      That’s a good question to ask: why DO people connect with us? I too have gone from being flattered to being cautious.
      With no money, status, connections, or services to offer, I am invisible. Add to that, I have no grandkids (or kids) so I am truly an alien!

      After divorcing a male carbon copy of my narcissistic mother, I must admit that several ‘friends’ were just like her too. I was shy and went along with their agendas. Then I grew up and tried to becomes equals. Ha!

  21. joannawnyc says:

    Yes. It was devastating at the time. She just stopped speaking to me. We were so close and had so much fun together (I thought). Then I ran into her a few years later in Soho at an opening and we went for coffee and she told me that I had made the wrong choice of husband and that he was “bringing me down.” I told her that I couldn’t forgive her for that statement and it was probably better if we didn’t speak again. However, that turned out to be impossible, because we have a lot of friends in common and were basically joined at the hip in our 20s. We also both attended a school that has frequent reunions and really pushes alumnae together often. So we have resumed a much more distant but still pleasant relationship. I have somewhat forgiven her for what she did, because in retrospect I can see how our relationship was difficult for her, even though at the time I thought we were soul mates.

    • Ali says:

      Try telling a woman that her husband is having sex with yours. Nuclear explosion. Shoot the messenger x100. I’m fine and glad that I at least tried to get her the truth. “The wife is always the last to know” is true, but BS!

      The fastest-growing demographic of new HIV diagnoses is women with closeted male sexual partners.

  22. vishy says:

    I too lost a very intense friendship as a young adult. So much judgement was coming at me for my life choices, I had to make the exit. And it wasn’t over anything really real, but a perception of who they believed I was at the time (an evangelical Christian), and who I was intending to marry (NOT an evangelical Christian). Such first world problems. Don’t people have more important things to worry about? It was a simple thing back in the days of no internet or cell phones. I just disappeared.

  23. femme50 says:

    A few high school and grad school friend break ups in which I was inexplicably ghosted, a few I ghosted myself. Never knew why I was ghosted. A few friendships we tried to sort out, but seemed that once the friendship had to be talked about, it was already too late to save. Two friendships with people in my profession–one that blew up on me nastily as a result of her projection onto me of her own insecurities; another I ghosted after an inappropriate response to my father’s death–oddly resumed, 15-20 years later, via Facebook. Just lots of mutual friends, a slow, careful process of acknowledging each other via others’ posts, then “friending” on FB and refriending IRL w/o ever acknowledging the break up. Like, whatever, that was then, we’re grown ups now and still like each other and share values and opinions and sense of humor! It’s been interesting and quite lovely and whatever else you can say about FB, I’ve enjoyed this process of reuniting with people from my past, some just having lost touch with, some acting as though we’d just lost touch.

  24. Lindee says:

    I lost my best friend of 50 years. We’ve been together since we were 5 and our relationship was more like sisters. We were raised by single moms that helped each other out through high school. Even after she moved 3 hours away, we still saw each other every 6 weeks or so and always talked weekly. I knew she had some issues in her marriage but when she started exhibiting some strange behavior and I called her out on it–she went crazy and refused to speak to me or see me. That was 9 years ago. She still visits my town and sees our common friends and my cousin that she is very close with. She will send me a birthday card and occasionally send a brief message on Facebook–but that is it. She is now divorced and I know very lonely and sad but still will not see me. I have apologized and reached out to her several times but I have been told that my apology isn’t “good” enough. So even though this has been very painful for me, our mutual friends, and my cousin–I’m done with this friendship and have moved on. I realize she is a major narcissist and always has to have things her way. It cost her her best friend and her husband.

  25. Erika says:

    I am nearly 50 and never had a friendship break up until this last year. It was a super close friend of over 25 years and it broke my heart but ultimately I could see that I was becoming irrational and flying off the handle around her. Clearly I needed to step away from the friendship because my frustration with her behavior (extremely self-indulgent, coming off her mother’s death she showed a spontaneous meanness to her family and ultimately to my husband and my me, coupled with a loss of any motivation besides shopping and introspection) was making me into an ugly person. I took 9 months off from talking to her and it wast the best thing I ever did. We patched things up the summer and now I know to give the relationship more space between visits and calls. I should add that I have an ongoing frustration with her that she seems to take over friendships of mine and become intently focused on bringing those people into her own life, which is an odd behavior that I can’t explain. Ultimately I’m trying to lead my life with integrity and trying very hard to let her live the life she must, without getting so close that it drives me crazy again. Thank you for letting me know that I’m not alone in sometimes needing a friendship break and that it hurts when it happens!!!!

  26. Molly says:

    I’ve always said the worst breakup of my life with with a friend: 15 years ago I fired my maid of honor and we never spoke again. The before and during were horrible; the after was immense relief and I have never missed her, which is how I know that friendship needed to end. (The marriage to which she was going to serve as maid of honor also ended. Unlike the friend break-up, my ex husband and I are still in touch and friendly.) It was so painful and messy and complicated breaking up with the friend, because there is no protocol for it — I used to joke (sort of) about pitching a break up manual for female friendships. There is plenty of advice around how to ditch a romantic partner! It’s the toxic friendships that can be so hard to escape.

  27. Gables girl says:

    I’ve a friend of 30+ years and I can tell she has been mad angry with me for while. I’ve tried several ways to ask what I have done and she claims “nothing.” She has not progressed in life as far as I’ve had and I sense resentment on her part. For now I am letting the relationship “rest.”

  28. Sarah says:

    I lost a dear friend this summer. Over vodka. We were drinking buddies. She was my Maid of Honor, her husband a groomsman. I stopped drinking 5 years ago (am in AA) and when I see her behavior which is so familiar to me, it’s really hard. I tried to talk to her (as have other mutual friends) when she was sober about a bad blackout. She asked me to stop, and I did… but she cut me off completely. I’m sad. Mostly because I love her friendship… and I’d like to help, but I can’t until she’s ready… if she’s ever ready. I know I can wish someone sober, but I can’t will them.

  29. y.k. says:

    i’ve had a few friend break ups, varying levels of loss & hurt. rhe one i’m going through right now weighs heavily on my mind. this friend i’ve known since about age 7 or 8. we were never very close but have seen eachother consistently year after year.

    for the past 10 years i’ve starting to realize that she’s not the kind of person i would be friends with if we met now. we have different values, lifestyles & i find her temperament too negative, too dark. it doesn’t help that she’s in an unhappy marriage & career. i don’t have a perfect marriage or career situation but i’m happy and she knows it. i don’t think i’m imagining it, she’s resentful.
    but our families have known eachother forever and she’s been in the background of my life forever.

    does that matter? i feel like i’m being dishonest continuing to meet her once in a while. i don’t wish her ill, but i have no interest in her problems & more important, i don’t support her approach to her problems. i have a bad tendency to doggedly avoid confrontation but i want to stay true to my resolution to live more honestly in middle age.

    she can sense my emotional coldness towards her & she’s been trying hard to get to some common ground w/ me, and just stay in touch. & what would i say? issue a declaration that it’s over?

    anyway, it’s hard to purge someone who is in your childhood photos.

  30. Hick from Styx says:

    Okay, I have to share this one. One of my friends of about 20 years suddenly stood me up. We were meeting at a rendezvous point to go somewhere. I called, he said he’d left a message to cancel, which I hadn’t received. Why ruin a good day? I went on the outing myself. That was the last time I saw him. I do have an idea why. He had joined a church that doesn’t allow gay members. He was gay. I had asked him about being a hypocrite, lying to himself and others. He may have been afraid I’d out him. It would be easy to do, but that was never my plan. I thought he wasn’t being true to himself. He was joining the religion to stop himself from being gay, he said. So he’s been living the lie for two decades now. Maybe it worked. I don’t know. I can’t believe he didn’t trust me with this secret. I guess he misjudged my character as much as I misjudged his.

    • Ali says:

      I really hope that someday this sad story will be obsolete. Sorry for your loss.

      There are so many gay/bi men and women who repress their entire lives, only to suddenly acknowledge the truth late in life, utterly shattering the heart of the spouse they used as a veil. Nothing can “work” to change orientation, it’s born into the brain, like eye color.
      When I went through this, with hundreds of other wives (international) online, the same truths came up over and over.

  31. Rachel says:

    These are poignant to read. I am in a friendship breakup–or really I was in one. I’ve known her my whole life; our fathers were friends in high school. Literally I didn’t known life without her. She was a touchstone throughout my childhood even though we lived in different states. We were roommates during summers between college, then after college. We supported each other unconditionally. In hindsight, even though our relationship was physically platonic, I learned how to be in an intimate relatiionship with her. From my mid-20s on we lived on separate coasts but for at least fifteen years after I moved whenever we talked on the phone we picked up the conversation as if we’d spoken the day before. I never imagined my life without her friendship.

    I didn’t realize the fissure happened until about seven years ago as I realized how long it had been since we’d spoken live. She hadn’t returned my messages or birthday calls. Once she left a birthday message on my Facebook page but really she was gone.

    I’ve spent too much time thinking about why (translation: I spent too much time wondering what I’d done). Did I offend her unkowingly? We’d discussed using my extra airline miles for her to visit but we’d never made it happen; did she think I reneged on that and was angry? Did she feel she outgrew me? Was there a chance she thought I’d left her?! Even as I write this I can feel the swirlingly uncertainty as I try out all of the different possibilities but the answer remains the same. I have no idea.

    I don’t know if I miss her because I don’t know how the person I knew would make these choices. (Does she think this of me?) I know I miss our history and the shared language we had. (When we were kids we even created a slang language to write to each other so intercepted letters wouldn’t be understood by parents or siblings.)

    Sometimes I think about writing her and asking what happened. Just a few months ago, after reading some old journals from our roommate years I considered writing her just to say thank you and to wish her well. (I didn’t.) But mostly life is full (family, work, living) and I don’t think about her. Except when someone from the past asks me how she’s doing or when someone asks whether I’ve ever had a breakup with a friend..

    • KAM says:

      This spoke to exactly what I have been going through the last two years with a lifelong friend who has drifted away. We too have lived on different coasts from the past 15 years, but we have been in near constant contact all our lives. And then two years ago, about two months after I had last seen her, she disappeared without explanation. I tried for awhile to reach out, to make contact, and still have off and on every few months, but it finally sank in that I am just not going to hear from her again. I have been in mourning for the loss of someone I thought I would never lose. I have questioned and examined our last visit together a thousand times looking for clues of why that was the last time I would see her, but can find no explanation. I finally came to the realization that the person I miss and shared so many memories with doesn’t exist anymore, something changed and I don’t know what that is, but I have stopped looking for answers.

      I did write the letter saying thank you and wishing her well two weeks ago. I had wanted to for months but every time I tried to put words to paper my heart would race fearing that I would truly never hear from her again, that it would in some way anger or offend her. But then randomly, I found a blank card in my desk and just told her that I am grateful for the years we had together, that I miss her, and that I hope she is doing well. I didn’t ask her to reach out or ask for answers or let her know how much this has devastated me. I just felt like I got to say thank you and goodbye on my terms. It gave me such relief. As I write this now, I realize that she has likely received it. I haven’t given it thought until just now reading this thread. Mailing the card put it to rest for me.

      • Rachel says:

        KAM — I’m grateful to *you* for responding to my post; it brought tears to my eyes and a quiver to my chin and a little more resolve to write my own note and see what it feels like on the other side of it. It matters to me that you, too, know a similar bewilderment and found your way through it. I send you my thanks and best wishes.

        • KAM says:

          I am glad that my words meant something to you. Yours did for me as well. I hope you find the same peace with your situation. I truly wish you the best.

  32. Mockingbird says:

    Friend breakups hurt more than romantic ones IMHO, and the combo of having had bad ones in the past and the ways being the child of a narcissist can mess up you ability to have relationships makes me such a mess trying to make friends, or even maintain them. The best friend from childhood who I can realize now we never had much in common, but we were good friends and when I finally left a long note in her locker (oh high school) laying out how much she was leaving me out and how much it hurt, she just didn’t get it. The girl in college I clicked with so well I thought we’d be friends forever- until she lashed out at me in ways that 25 years later still don’t make sense but with subsequent behavior showed she must have been threatened by me for god knows why. The friend I tried to just let slide away but ended up having to awkwardly tell how I just didn’t feel we had much in common anymore. The after college friendship I torpedoed because I took the advice of the truly, dangerously bad therapist I was seeing. The one that still hurts the most is the friend who helped get me through the mess of getting out of an abusive relationship, who’d been kind to me in ways I’d never experienced, and then lied to my face when I asked if she’d been hooking up with a guy she knew I had been in love with but wasn’t involved with anymore. I believed her when she said she hadn’t, and sobbed out at dinner with another friend who told me the truth. I was hurt she’d hooked up with him, but it was the lying that shredded me and why I actually slapped her when I confronted her and she kept lying.

    All this is why one friend has now become basically family. She was my roommate for too short a time, and we’ve stayed in touch since for over 17 years now. We’ve had fights and I’ve stepped away, and she’s the only friend I’ve ever had who sought me out again, she says she values her friends too much to let us go easily. I know I can argue with her, be annoyed by her, annoy her, and I won’t lose her, and I’m amazed and grateful for it every day.

  33. K says:

    I find this thread so cathartic because friendship breakups are so painful and at times confusing. I’m still friends with someone, although our friendship will never be the same, who treated me selfishly throughout a number of years. For example, repeatedly standing me up or canceling plans, a lot of venting about her life when she’s basically never really had to work and had family money for her house, wanting me to take care of her but being really annoying about it (like I’d cook for her and she’d complain), being cheap, and worst of all, being passive aggressive where I had to withstand a lot of anger with no explanation. She was also never at fault for anything and although I would sometimes apologize, it never made things better because I just couldn’t guess what she was upset about and stopped trying.

    She was one of my best friends from college where we had so much fun and none of this drama and we were even housemates afterwards but to this day, I feel so sad about our friend breakup. We went through a period of not talking and now, although we see each other and act like everything is fine every few months, I just don’t feel close to her. Like I can talk to her about everything but I’m really protective of myself for fear of getting hurt again.

  34. Stefanie says:

    When I met J, she told me “I do not do female relationships well” and I thought I would change that.Having had the same group of female friends my entire adult (and teen) life, and lucky to add a group of diverse women to my life along the way, I can fix her!
    Close friends for only 2 years, I was going through Chemo at the age of 44 and naturally it was a very tenuous time for my home. She was starting a new business and was dealing with the stress that can bring. Rather than sharing her struggles, she bottled her feelings until one day, on vacation with our families, she exploded shrieking at me “Its not all about your chemo!” Having kept my health on the downlow for the sake of my children (and my job!) and my sanity, her stunning words were wrong on so many levels and I did not need the added stress of catering to her. Of course there is much more to the story (yawn) but that was the breaking point. We have children that are still friendly, and have seen / spoken to each other casually at times, but it is OVER.
    My health is on track now and time passed has been healing, but there is a tinge of sadness when I hear her name. But she taught me something I did not know that I did not know, she taught me where my boundaries lie. Maya Angelou said (paraphrasing here) “When someone shows you who they are, believe them” I should have believed her. She does not do the type of intimacy that close female friendship require, and she warned me, but as I do, I threw myself into the relationship and she pushed back hard. I have learned to pay better attention to the signs (some more clear than others) and not feel that every friend I have a CLICK moment with needs to be more than that moment, sometimes the moment is enough. I am lucky to say there is nothing for me to “forgive and forget”, it’s cool, but I will never forget the lessons of that friendship.

    • DeDe says:

      Oh my god, that’s so horrible! I’m so sorry you had to go through that (and in front of your family too, WTF!). Because the thing is, when someone is having chemo? YES, IT IS ALL ABOUT THE CHEMO. It just is.

      Incidentally, I had thyroid cancer as a teenager/young adult, and after my second radiation treatment, my high school bff got pissed off at me when I mentioned in passing that I’d (temporarily) lost my sense of taste and started lecturing me about how her college roommate couldn’t use a straw after her wisdom teeth were extracted. As if those things were even remotely equivalent. Needless to say, that was the beginning of the end of that friendship.

    • Charlie says:

      Oh, gosh, I’m so sorry that happened to you. Based on my personal experience — and I am just one human being, obviously, not speaking for everybody! — I have found that when a woman says she has a hard time being friends with other women … it turns out there’s a good reason for that. And it’s not what she thinks it is (i.e., “women are so competitive”) — it’s because she’s an asshole.

      • jenny says:

        Charlie, thats not always the reason (that women who has a hard time being friends with other women are…assholes.) I like to think I”m not an asshole. I had/have a very narcissistic mom and have an extremely hard time trusting other women. I’m fragile and don’t trust easily, so it’s hard for the friendships to deepen. And sadly, I take lapses very hard, because they reinforce my mistrust.

        • Charlie says:

          Aw, Jenny, that makes total sense — I’m just bloviating about my experiences, and it’s not fair at all. I had a pretty secure relationship with my mother. but my dad was an absolute disaster, and I have such a hard time with men, I won’t even bore you with it. So I should be more compassionate.

          I’ll be your friend!

  35. moi says:

    I’m a longtime lurker (love your site), but had to chime in on this topic because my experience losing and regaining a cherished friendship has been so bittersweet. Seventeen years ago, my very best friend and I (our friendship went back to Junior High) just stopped talking. We had a small spat over the phone, and neither of us ever picked it up again. We were going in different directions in life, and I think there was resentment on both our parts about that and we were too young to know how to address/fix it.

    I missed her terribly during that time—would dream about her at least once a month. Two years ago, she sent me a friend request on Facebook and we have since reconnected. But the gulf is huge: she had a child in the interim who is now a teenager, we’ve formed friendships with other people, built businesses, changed jobs, suffered the deaths of both our parents, and it saddens me so much that we missed being there for each other through all those good times and bad. It’s been weird to reconnect because of that.

    But also wonderful, because we got to be young and crazy together and we have those memories to remind us of who we were—and hopefully can now, in middle age, create new ones going forward.

  36. SC says:

    Friend break ups are brutal. I had one friend from jr. high – she was my maid of honor – we moved to 3 cities together – and then she just ghosted. At the time my career was just taking off while hers didn’t, her mother got very sick, she couldn’t find romance (maybe gay? unwilling to face it) – all very sad. But her real beef with me was that she said I was overbearing and too opinionated (she referenced a conversation he had iyears before n high school where I inisisted Nirvana would stand the test of time and Pearl Jam would fade – ha. I think I was right ; )

    It was all just a stack of really petty resentments that I found so confusing at the time. But honestly, I think my success was painful for her. It was painful to lose her, but it helped me learn early that I can’t apologize or feel guilty for working my ass off and succeeding. I learned how to spot the jealousy early and avoid it. People who dont’ feel good about their choices and their lives can project a lot –

    And in the meantime have surrounded myself with incredibly supportive badass women and we all cheer each other on – through good and bad. And it’s great.

  37. ELA says:

    Long time, first time. Thank you for posting this and for all the thoughtful responses. I love this community.

  38. Mamavalveeta03 says:

    I know my role in this: I’m the leaver. My husband and I have moved a lot for his career(s) and even though I have had friendships that were very solid and close, once we’ve moved, it’s mostly over for me. I know I’ve deeply hurt several people by this behavior, and I’m not sure that there is any way for me to make it right. But I DO regret letting go of special people.

    I’ve pondered this a lot, and one thing I’ve realized is that it’s not only hard to move and start over again, but that my M.O. is to be very open with people and share a lot of myself…meaning that it takes a lot of emotional energy for me to make friends…and I want them to be CLOSE friendships, so when we leave, it’s probably self-protection to disengage from my friends.

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve also come to recognize that some friendships are more situational and when the situation ends, so does the friendship. You outgrow each other, are too different in values or politically, or just don’t have anything in common anymore.

    Maybe I’ll decide to change this one day. I don’t enjoy hurting wonderful people.

  39. Mary says:

    I have moved about a fair bit and with that lost and gained friends in various ways but the hardest was a friend I made while in college. After graduation I moved abroad and she started dating a guy who had been in jail for attempted murder on his ex girlfriend. She was very inexperienced in matters of the heart and a virgin at 23 and I told her that I thought she should be careful going forward in the relationship. She got very angry with me but did not show it but instead when I moved back she would make comments to people like “can you believe Mary was so skinny in college I could borrow her clothes” and “will you even be able to find a bridesmaids dress that fits you” and all while I was at most a size 10. I realized that it was not worth it to be around someone who would treat me that way just because we were so close in school. I faded from her life with our moves and now we will comment on each others Instagram pictures or send a Happy Birthday message but I could not ever imagine sitting down to a meal with her.