Monday, April 14, 2014

When You Break Up With Your Best Friend

I suppose my life is pretty undramatic if I can honestly say that one of the most painful experiences I have ever been through was breaking up with my best friend. Lord knows this happened many times in my school years, since girls go through friends like they do shoe fads. Once you become an adult, though, you would think that the drama of friendship would end and we could all just act like the adults that we think we are.

It doesn't. We don't.

It was the type of friendship where you feel like someone can see inside your soul and loves you anyways. The kind where you talk every single day and still never run out of things to talk about. The type of friendship where you know that your darkest thoughts and deepest joys can be safely shared. Unfortunately, it also became the kind of friendship that needs the other person- one that feeds off of drama, takes over your life, and becomes unhealthy. It became a friendship that relied too heavily on another mortal person to carry burdens- and became a burden itself.

In September of 2012, it ended. Spectacularly. Bitterly. Angrily. Just like that, it was over. The person I talked to everyday- gone. The one person I was closest to in the world besides my husband- gone. The one person I knew for sure prayed for me every day- gone. A huge sea of anger and regret was all that was left behind in the wake of an angry storm of bad communication and hurt feelings.

After that last text was sent, and in the days afterwards, there was that feeling of self-righteous indignation. I'm right, you're wrong, and I'm going to wait for you to realize it. There was a huge hole where my friend had been- our conversations, our texts, our inside jokes and coffee dates. The days turned into weeks and months- and I realized that the hole was not going to fill back up. The loss of such an important relationship sank me into a very deep depression for a long time. I have no best friend. When you share everything with someone, there is an impossibly huge hole to fill when they are gone. I can't even count the number of times I reached for my phone to call her about something... only to remember that we didn't speak anymore. We had done so much together and made so many memories that there were many painful reminders everywhere I went. We aren't friends anymore. 

I couldn't figure out WHY I couldn't get over the pain of the break-up. I mean, it's not like we were MARRIED. It's not like we were in a romantic relationship. We were just best friends. Why was I taking it so hard? Why couldn't I just move on?

After 15 months- months where I missed the birth of her first baby, months where she missed my 30th birthday, months where we both suffered tremendously but thought that the other person despised us, months of missed communications and mistaken intentions, we finally made up. It was a balm to my heart to have that friendship restored, but there is a lot of bitterness in looking back and seeing that all of that pain could've been prevented, or at least lessened.

Here are some things that I learned through the whole process. If you are fighting with your best friend or are suffering through a bad break-up with her, I pray that the lessons I learned the hard way will minister to you.

Before the Break-Up:
1. Words are damaging- but they are much more damaging when they are written. It is easy to be brave when you can't hear the other person's voice. It is also easy to mistake tone, intention, and feeling. What seems like an explanation to you may feel like an attack to them. Remember: You love this person too much to intentionally hurt them. If you are too angry to talk to them face-to-face, tell them that- but then give it a bit of space. Don't text them. Don't email. Just say, "I need to calm down before I can rationally talk about this." Once my friend and I made up and really talked about what happened, it became obvious that had we never engaged in a text war or relied on written words to make our point, our break-up would've never happened.

2. Don't hide things. Sometimes it is easier to just repress feelings of anger in a friendship because you think it makes things better or keeps them civil. It doesn't. All that happens is that those feelings build up and turn into resentment- and they eventually come out, usually in an angry and unloving way. You are both adult women. Talk about what is bothering you, pray together, and figure out if one of you is misunderstanding the other. If you feel like you can't be honest with your friend, consider what kind of friendship it is you have. Real friendship means that you can share your heart with them and the world doesn't have to end. If being truthful in love rocks the boat so much that it capsizes, it wasn't a very sturdy boat to begin with.

3. Evaluate your friendship. Is this a healthy friendship? Is it safe? Is it based in mutual appreciation or mom-petition? Do you want what is best for your friend, or are you envious of her? Do you rely on each other too much? Is the relationship taking away from your family or your relationship with your husband? Are you depending on each other more than you are depending on God? Honestly evaluate the type of relationship you have, and decide if the friction between you is because you need to redraw some boundary lines and make it a healthier friendship.

After the Break-Up:
1. The best piece of advice I read said that a close female friendship is just as important as a romantic relationship- and the end of that female friendship may actually be harder than the end of a romantic relationship. Because of the nature of relationships between women- the amount of sharing we do, the amount of time and service invested, the pieces of our heart that we give our best friends that we may not even share with our husbands (simply because they are men and wouldn't really understand)- the loss can be significant. That person may not have died, but if they are completely absent from your life, it can feel like they have. Understand and accept that your heart truly is broken. I remember thinking many times, "It's not like we were TOGETHER. We were just friends. Why can't I get over it?" Once I read this advice, I realized I really was dealing with a broken heart. Realizing that was the closest I got to beginning to heal. When you love someone- whether it is romantic love or just a close friendship- the absence of that person leaves a very deep hole. Allow yourself to grieve it, however that may look.

2. Nobody will understand. People will tell you that you need to get over it. They might say unkind things about your ex-bestie in an effort to make you feel better, they might listen to you cry or talk about it for a while, but eventually they will tell you that you need to just move on with your life. Even if they don't say it, you will get that vibe from them. Understand that everyone grieves differently, and accept that you can grieve for as long as you need to. You don't ever have to make excuses for how you grieve. I was blessed to have one friend who always listened to me talk through my pain, even a year after the break-up, and never made me feel worse. No one else in my life understood. It can be very hard to step into someone else's pain- so they can't really be expected to understand why you are hurting so much. It doesn't mean anything is wrong with you or with them.

3. Write it down. Every time I realized that I was starting to dwell too much on it, I would write down everything I was feeling. I was as nakedly honest as I could be- about what I was feeling, about my anger and resentment, and even about how I was at fault. Every time I wrote those things down, it got them out of my head and onto paper where I could examine them and understand them better. It was cathartic and healing. Write them down for YOU, though- not to share, not to send. Just for you. Some people write things down and burn them. Some throw the paper away. I kept mine as an ongoing Word document so that I could see how my feelings were changing and how that anger turned into sadness and then began to heal.

4. Realize that, sometimes, the end of a friendship is for the best. Once we were able to restore our friendship and talk about what happened, we both realized that we NEEDED to stop being friends for a while. Our friendship had become extremely unhealthy- but nothing short of a painful and complete break-up could cause us to step back and really work on ourselves. God did a lot of work on both of our hearts during the 15 months we didn't speak, and it really caused us to re-examine the way we "do" friendship. Sometimes God removes people from your life for a reason, and you need to trust that. That is easier said than done, but if you take an honest look back and examine your friendship for what it was, you will understand it better.Not every friendship is meant to last forever.

5. Don't assume. You may know this person well, but you never truly know what another person is thinking. I've written before about how I think Satan loves to interfere in female friendships, and still I allowed him to do so. We can laugh now about all of the misunderstandings, assumptions, and missed communications we had... but truthfully, it is not without a lot of sadness. We missed so much because we assumed so much. Had we simply talked about things like adults, the whole painful situation might never had never happened. You owe it to yourself and your friend to really clear the air before deciding that the friendship is over.

6. It is never too late to say you are sorry. 15 months of anger and resentment were soothed immediately with those simple words. A friendship was restored, where it had once felt irreconcilably broken. You can always say you are sorry. It may not fix everything that was broken, but it will soothe a troubled heart (or two).

7. Be your own best friend. Don't rely on someone else to make you happy, fill your needs, or make you feel worthy. If you are your own best friend, you never have to go through a painful break-up. Close female friendships are exceptionally important for emotional and mental health, but being your own best friend ensures that you are taking care of your heart first.

8. Cultivate other relationships and practice healthy boundaries in those relationships. As much as I missed my best friend, I did make new friends- but I was better able to recognize what a healthy friendship looked like. Sometimes we don't realize how much time and energy an unhealthy relationship takes away from us. Now I have a larger circle of girlfriends to support me and pray for me, and I am better able to be a friend to them. I guess it is like that old adage says, "Don't put all of your eggs in one basket." You can bless others and yourself by sharing a few eggs with more people than by giving one person all of your eggs and having nothing left over to share. Holding all of someone's eggs is too great a responsibility, and they are likely to get broken.

9. Allow God to shine light on the dark places. Ask Him to show you where you are wrong, where the relationship was unhealthy, and the ways you made your friendship an idol. Ask Him to fill those holes and needs. Ask Him to heal you, teach you, and show you how to draw healthy boundaries- and for restoration of your relationship. He can.

Have you ever had a close friendship end or experienced restoration of a close friendship? I'd love to hear your story!

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Like this post? You might be interested in these:
A Cord of Three Strands: Thoughts on Female Friendships
From The Heart of a Child: Learning to Love Your "Enemies"

Linking with Sharing His Beauty, Making Your Home Sing Monday, Salt and Light, Monday's Musings, Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop, Titus 2 Tuesday, Wednesday's Prayer Girls, Welcome Home Wednesday, A Little R&R Wednesday, Homemaking Wednesdays, Word Filled Wednesdays,


Anonymous said...

Wow, your story so resonated with me, and I thank you so deeply for sharing. I am so sorry that you suffered for 15 months without your best friend, but so so glad that you made up. I had a similar situation. My best friend was in a bad place, going through a divorce - and suddenly this very independent person desperately needed me. And the thing is, I desperately wanted to be needed. However, as her situation changes and she got back on her feet, she still wanted my friendship, but didn't need me as much - she wanted the friendship to be more on equal footing. Problem was, I still wanted somebody to need me. I guess it filled a void. Fortunately we didn't text - because I agree with you - the written word, without the context of emotion - can be misunderstood. My friend and I had an angry confrontation, and shared some unpleasant words. I should have waited until I calmed down to talk to her, but I didn't. After the angry confrontation, we didn't speak for a few days. Then we tried to "get back together". Since then we have had heart to heart talks and we are both in a better place with the friendship.

Dominique Goh said...

A break up is never easy. Glad to know that you have patched things up with the girl friend. I guess that everyone goes through rough patches in relationships and if it can survive the test it is something that is worth keeping.

Ang Johnson said...

Amazing, I just pinned that very same quote at the top of your post just the other day! It's amazing how we, as grown women, go through the same things our teen selves went through not too long ago (!), and yet the feelings are just as real and strong as they were then. Maybe it's so we can stay relatable to our kids as they grow up? Anyway, I'm glad to hear you were able to make up--some are not as fortunate!

rhonda said...

Heartbreaking!!! They say divorce is a lot like grief, and breaking up with a friend is a lot like divorce, I think. It makes me so sad to see friendships end, especially over an argument or something that from the outside looking in could be solved by truly understanding one another and taking the blame for things said/done.

What a blessing it was restored, or are in a better place. Really unique topic. Great article.

Kathleen said...

So glad that you and your friend are back together.
That is a hard thing to go through. I had a breakup with a great friend before and it made me so sad. We are back together again now and I'm so happy about it.

Lisa Lewis Koster said...

Thanks for sharing wise advise as someone who's been there. Lost friendships can be terribly difficult to get over. And I agree that satan is the one orchestrating all the misunderstanding.

Jenilee said...

great advice on friendship... this can be such a hard thing for adult women to walk through! visiting from W2W!

Renee said...

Great post! Friendships are vital & your words of wisdom may save some friends needless heartache. Thanks for sharing!

Mandie said...

Awww! I love you friend! This blessed my heart!

Heidi Brachle said...

Thank you for sharing your story and for how you worked through it. I have had several, though less dramatic, essential break-ups with female friends. I never had a best girl friend until I was an adult. When my best friend and I found each other I think we were both starved for a really close connection with another female. That relationship isn't the same anymore and it wasn't a true break up, but it hurt when I moved that she needed a best friend who was physically close in proximity. In the last seven years I think my definition of what a best friend is has changed. Years ago I considered a best friend someone who I talked to or texted every day and hung out with on a regular basis. I would love to have that, but that isn't a prerequisite. The women in my life that I consider my closest friends are some of whom I rarely get to spend time with anymore because of life busy-ness, living proximity etc. But they are women that I know I can pick right back up with when we are together. They are women that I know I can call to share the depths of my heart and text a prayer request to. They are women who I know will always point me back to the Gospel when I am weary and struggling. One of these women is a cousin who lives several states away from me and we are lucky if we get to see each other once a year, but oh that time is sweet and cherished like no other!

My most recent break-up with a female "best" friend was a little over a year ago. We were really close for about 2 years, but in the end I realized that the inkling in the back of my heart that she wasn't trust worthy was right. I was sad, but the hardest part is answering questions from mutual friends without sullying their opinion of this former friend. I may not have any one "best" female friend right now, but I am so very thankful for the women in my life who extend the grace and care of Jesus to me.

I'm so glad you and your friend found reconciliation! =)

Marissa D said...

What a wonderful sharing of your heart and experience. I'm so glad this was shared on Salt & Light.


Jill R. said...

I am so sorry you had to endure 15 long months without your bestie.

I had a break up with the person I have always felt like was my best friend. We shared everything, we were inseparable. We broke up over the phone due to a misunderstanding. I said I really didn't want to do something because I promised to go with another friend. I wanted to go with my best friend instead.

She took it the wrong way, like I wanted to go with someone else and not her. She hung up on me, 4 times before I got the hint. She wouldn't speak to me for weeks. She gave away my clothes and cds that were at her house. She spread vicious rumors about me.

Finally she wanted to be friends again. I had missed her so much despite all of that drama that I ran back to her like a puppy. I found out soon enough, she only wanted me around so I would help paint her new house.

I helped paint one room and left. I realized it was really over. I grieved for a long time. Honestly, 10 years later I still feel the sting.

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