Friday, January 27, 2012

Breaking Up With Your BFF

When a relationship with a lover comes to an end there is a handful of reasons said in a 1,000 ways that can explain something we all universally understand- we fell out of love, I fell in love with someone else, I learned to love myself. I dare to say these are many of the same reasons we break up with friends, but when you break up with a best friend, these reasons aren't always as clear to understand, to pinpoint or to grasp. I mean why do you even have to break up with a friend? Can't you just stop hanging out and eventually the friendships fades? I think with men that might work. (Gentlemen, correct me if I'm wrong) But not with women. We women are a tricky species and our female friendships are complex and beautiful, potentially painful and yet undeniably rewarding, full of mistakes and apologies, compassion and laughter, jealousy and a fierce protective guard. We are territorial by nature perhaps stemmed from a motherly instinct or perhaps an antiquated instinct of survival, that basic question at the root of any woman, hell anyone who has ever been burned or let down, Who can I trust?

In the course of a year, I have met several women who for one reason or another have expressed to me the painful experience of losing a best girlfriend, some by break up and some by a misunderstanding that just can't get cleared up, maybe because it is not supposed to get cleared up. I remember my dad once saying to me, "We all make mistakes, you just never know which ones are going to count." I have always tried to keep this in mind when coming to that rocky cliff of a friendship. Is this just a mistake, or is this one that counts? Which leads to a bigger question: Am I being too sensitive? Which leads to another question: Well how the fuck can I control that?! Feelings are feelings, and it is no secret that women are more emotional. (Hard core feminists, correct me if I'm wrong) But no matter how it happened or why it happened, I think losing a best friend is more painful than losing a lover.

When I was eighteen, I cut off three of my best friends like a damn guillotine. One of the friendships had no choice. My best friend throughout high school, the first really inseparable female friendship I had was forced to an immediate end after something happened that was larger than both of us. Nothing can save a friendship when you're forced to put your best friend's brother in jail.  The other friendships were more confusing to end. They were on the periphery of the demise of that first friendship, but after a year of trying to understand, forgive, move forward from things that in hindsight none of us could fully understand at the time, I cut those two friendships out, unable to see things from any other angle other than my own pain. Amazingly, one of those friendships did reignite 10 years later, and the other friendship had a nice catching up session in New York last summer. But the inseparable friendship will never rekindle, not even on facebook, not even if we passed each other on the street and it has always been important for me to accept this truth. But what happens when there isn't one big traumatic event? What happens when it's a series of tiny avalanches that eventually brings down the mountain?

While I have perfected the art of cutting someone off in a heartbeat if they do me wrong (which is a vengeful behavior I'm trying to unlearn), perhaps my most difficult obstacle in life is setting boundaries with those I love but for one reason or another they affect me in a painful way. And usually it isn't even something they can control. It is something that just happens to trigger one of my many hot spots and within seconds, a simple greeting can send me soaring into "rageville." It is even more difficult to set those boundaries when you can have a damn good time together most of the time but the rest of the time you feel like you got your teeth knocked in. Just like asking, is this a mistake that counts, it is harder to ask is this friendship good for me?  It is hard to ask the question, have I outgrown this friendship? And even harder to ask what the hell you want to do about it. What am I giving to and what am I getting from this friend and is it a two way street? Is this a person I can count on when the shit hits the fan? Will this person see I need help or love or a laugh before I even see it myself? Will I understand when they need me? Am I growing from this friendship? 

It is hard when life moments come up and these fuzzy friendships do not have clear boundaries or perhaps they are there and it is hard for both to accept. It is never fun to accept friend rejection especially when the reason might be, I just don't like you anymore.  It is hard to watch our best friends, often reflections of ourselves, pass us or to allow ourselves to pass them by in the spectrum of life and even harder to let them go. I read somewhere that we are each allowed the dignity of making our own mistakes. Is it more loving to raise the red flag and to ask a friend, What the fuck are you doing with your life? Or to allow them the dignity and grace of finding that question on their own, as we most likely would prefer ourselves? And on the flip side, you have to ask yourself Who the fuck am I and what the hell do I know? When is passing judgment ever loving? And we all know advice means shit. We all do just as we damn well please.

I had a friend say to me recently, "So many people hang on just for old times sake." There was something even sadder in that idea than the idea of just letting someone go. I thought about old boyfriends and how I have never been one to "stay friends" or keep in touch with exes mainly because, at least for myself, I don't think it allows you to fully move on and give yourself completely to the next one. However, I do think after enough time, these friendships can form but not if they are forced and never if it happens in a low point in your life or a low point in a current relationship. (That's just asking for trouble.) But here I am catching myself in a lie, because I did loosely stay in touch with my now fiance after breaking up when I was 19 allowing for a new relationship to bud when I was 25. But there isn't a quote for lost friendships like there is for lost lovers. (Example: "If you love something set it free; if it returns its yours forever, if not it was never meant to be." -Anonymous) But in writing this blog post I did find something that may apply: "If you love someone, you must be strong enough to allow them to be." (by Anonymous) But where does that leave us in terms of the cliff? How can we be strong enough to get out of the way of a crumbling mountain and yet not throw anyone including ourselves over the cliff? And more importantly how do we fight the urge not to save the things that perhaps need to fall down?

3 comments:

Mike said...

I think it is a little different with guys. At least in the general sense. Shit still happens, gets in the way, or can erupt from something small. I guess people are people and shit happens. The real test is what you do once it does.

SteveB said...

This is a great post.

I've had a friend since high school (which for me was a loooooonnng time ago), who I have almost always referred to as "my best friend". Recently, I've been feeling distant towards him and realize that we don't do anything together other than an occasional phone call, which seem more like "updates" and on the few times I see him, we don't really do anything except relive old times. I will always be fond of him, but if I had a clean slate to write down friends I'd want to spend a lot of time with, I don't think he'd be on it.

I think friendships require attention and shared experiences. If one (or both people) let those things slide, the friendship is going to wane.

Lindsey said...

Thanks for your comments. Nice to hear the guys perspective.