IN OTHER WORDS | She Was My Friend, Then We Broke Up

How many books are written about break-ups? What about songs or movies? The end of a love affair is big business and is universal. But what about the end of a friendship? How do we break-up with a friend? Sometimes, the evolution of a friendship is organic and easy. We take the hint, phone calls go unanswered and we realize we’re not close anymore and it doesn’t hurt. We let it be. We move on. Lives change, things are fluid. You used to work together and now you don’t. Your kids aren’t in the same class anymore. It’s not a huge issue, it just is. This happens a lot. These changes, they are often not break-ups at all. You might cross paths with this friend again, be it years or even decades later, and pick up right where you left off. Circumstances have brought you together again and it’s pleasant, or even wonderful.

Other times, there is an awkward shift. Whether gradual or sudden, expectations no longer match, values change, someone does something or, quite simply, one person wants more out of the friendship than the other. Feelings get hurt. I’ve been on both ends of this. As I write this, I am thinking about a woman, a friend who I can no longer call a friend. We broke up, really she broke up with me simply by being unresponsive. I used to tell myself it was her nature (and, it is, she’s scattered and can be unreliable, even when we were equally invested friends). But I know definitively, that we are no longer constants in each other’s lives because she does not want it. Being connected to me isn’t important anymore and that makes me sad. And, it makes me question just how close we were. What did I mean to her? I think we were close. And, finally, is this line of questioning akin to self-inflicted paper cuts followed by a shaker of salt?

Most likely, and I am proud to be able to be both objective and adult enough to write these words, we have drifted apart. We no longer live in the same state. We met at work many years ago and clicked easily. We trained together for my first triathlon—she pursued me as friend and training partner; the thought of doing a triathlon had never entered my mind. I was terrified and she quickly became a close friend. To say our training runs were like therapy sessions does not do them justice. Those soul baring early morning runs were the highlight of my day. My workout partner had always been music. Instead, I had a new friend and we soaked each other in with reciprocal love and respect. It sounds romantic; it was nothing of the sort. I don’t think we give friendships enough credit for just how intimate and deep they can be. I was real with this friend and she with me.

So, perhaps that is why I still, over a decade later, feel a twinge as I write this and see her name come up on my “Chat” drop down box on Facebook. There she is, right now, just a keystroke away. But in fact she’s much farther still. And, through the fishbowl that is social networking, I see she is still in touch with other people from that time in our lives. And I am not, at least not in the same way. But in the writing of this post, I have realized, I don’t want to be. I can let her go.

I made attempts at re-connection. She did eventually respond years ago, but her response felt defensive, like an excuse and not a true reaching out. It was, again, another explanation of why so much time had passed between us. “Doc, it hurts when I bang my head against the wall.” I think I get it now. It may be me and it may not but it’s time to back away from the wall. I have set her free. I am going to remember with fondness and love the years of friendship we shared, and let go of the disappointment I felt because of what is not now.

Remember Helen Seinfeld’s refrain on “Seinfeld?” Jerry tells his mother, “Not everyone likes me.” “Oh, that’s ridiculous,” she says “how could anyone not like you?” It is possible for someone to not like me, or to have liked or loved me once but to have moved on. And for it to not be about me. There’s no bad blood, no need for closure or emotional rehashing. It just is. Things change, people change. And I will always have the memory of early morning runs, ours a beautiful wooded path that wove past a creek, horses, a serene duck pond, light on our feet and in our hearts, talking and laughing with my dear and special friend.


  1. This is exactly how I felt about an old friend, she reconnected with me wanting to resume our friendship, yet engaging in a lot of the same behavior that had caused the estrangement (at least on my side) in the first place: calling to make plans and then cancelling or not showing when something else came up, ignoring special days (harder now, when 30 mutual friends are all wishing you well on facebook. Ignoring the existence of my family (she was single, no kids) and so on. We were still engaged in the reconcilliation dance when she died unexpectedly, and I am still trying to decide what my feelings are towards her.


    • Oh Meg, I’m so sorry to hear about the loss. It’s a loss no matter where you were in your friendship. I found that with this friend I wrote about, what helped me was to focus on what had been nurturing to me about the relationship and let the rest go. That she didn’t change, I did, my needs changed. This break up was a long time ago and my friendships are so different now, the women with whom I share my deepest self so different, so much more committed to connectedness. So, give yourself permission to grieve but also to move on and time. Give yourself time.


  2. Elayna Fernandez ~ The Positive MOM says:

    It is sad when friends break up. This has happened to me -more than once or twice – and, you are right, there is always a feeling of “what could have been” but it is always healthier to let go and move on. Great post!


  3. Samantha Maraspini says:

    This was so beautifully written. I experienced something like this in my life and had the hardest time explaining the deep pain that I felt. Honestly, after a 10 years to have that friend pick up and move on like it was nothing killed me, I likened it to a divorce. This friend and I met every morning for coffee before work where we were in the same department. We had lunch nearly every day together and were fully immersed in each others lives outside of work as well. It took me years to recover but I learned a lot about myself in the process. I am proud to say that I now have wonderful friendships that are lovely and I cherish them.


  4. Jenny, thank you for your post it’s powerful. I recently reconnected with a friend of 25 years after a few years of silence-it’s beautiful. I mourn those friends that have stepped away though and try to keep those memories and the great things they brought to my ife as close as possible.


  5. Loved this. I too met my best friend at work many years ago. Our friendship has lasted longer than our marriages and engagements, through the birth and growth of her daughter–now a young woman, and both our moves from NY.
    We decided years ago we’re old shoes, comfortable together though maybe mismatched at times and if we fight well that happens.
    I have had friendship breakups from both sides and they aways hurt. But if this friendship ended I would feel the world had ended.




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