I’ve been sitting on this post for the last week because I struggled with how I would present what happened in a way that is both respectful of my former friend and helpful to those who might have recently suffered a similar fate.
Having someone you care about deciding to discard your relationship is never easy, whether it’s a platonic friend or a lover. However, when these sorts of things happen, as they inevitably will at least once in a lifetime, I think it’s important to see clearly what happened so as to learn from the experience.
When I was in my 20s, I suffered a series of friendship breakups, which, at that time, left me in a period of mourning for almost 2 years. I thought to myself: if these women will not have me, something is severely wrong with me, and I will ultimately find myself friendless for rest of my days. I was dramatic AF, but it was really how I felt. These breakups were a huge blow to my self-esteem, and it eventually led me to a therapist’s couch.
It was in therapy that I learned that these friendships failed because I had chosen to befriend people who were incapable of meeting my needs, resulting in relationships that were fraught with discord. In short, I had to work through some of my childhood trauma to be able to adequately select the right kinds of friends for me. Today, my needs from friends aren’t so great, so it’s very likely we could be casual friends now, but back then? Forget it. I needed more, emotionally, than any friend should be tasked to give. These women also lacked both the emotional intelligence and the ability to sort of get me, which always resulted in strife. It was too much for all of us, and things really did need to come to an end.
I survived, and making it through that period in my life, I know, adequately prepared me for what happened just last week.
So here’s what happened:
About 5 years ago I reconnected with a close college friend. We’re both married now, mothers, and live in different states, but we’ve continued to be involved in each other’s lives to some degree. We text, we talk, and when she was in my city last year, she stopped by for lunch.
Recently, however, she seemed to sort of fall off the face of the earth. We last spoke sometime in January, so it’s been about 3 months since we were up to date on each other’s lives. I sent a couple of messages on facebook that went unanswered, as well a text or two, but those went unanswered as well. I didn’t really press things any further, because, at this age, we’re busy living our own lives. If you’re not responding to my attempts to communicate with you, I assume you may be going through something and you want to do your own thing. I respect that and expect that when you’re ready to talk you’ll reach out.
Last week, I sent a simple text stating, “I hope all is well.” Her response (which I’ve since deleted so as to not spend too much time reliving this experience), was sort of cold and vague. Something like. “I’m well. Thank you.”
To which I replied something like, “Well damn, that it?!”
The rest of the conversation went something like this:
Lisa, I’ve loved you since biology class in college. I have been a good friend to you, calling you, checking in on you, but I don’t get the same treatment. You don’t call me back when I call, and you don’t check in. Seems like you only call when you want to talk about what’s going on in your life. At this point in my life, I’m meeting people where they are. You even have a post on your blog called, “Why I don’t Eff with People Like that anymore,” So when you send a text, “ I hope all is well. ” I’m well thank you is all I have.”
I was completely taken aback by this response, let me tell you. I was expecting, perhaps, a call explaining what’s been going on in her life in the last few months, but I had no idea that she had been deliberately ignoring my attempts at reaching out, and that she had made a conscious decision to treat me as though I had done something to intentionally harm her.
I am not above reproach. And perhaps, I had been a neglectful and selfish friend.
There were some back and forth exchanges that I can’t exactly recall, but they were, I believe, more examples of my ain’t shit ways, and I soon felt under attack. I was surprised that someone who has known me for 15 years had been keeping track of my failings as a friend, instead of just letting me know how she felt. In the last 5 years of our relationship, every single interaction I’ve had with her has been positive. In fact, the last time we spoke we talked about doing a girl’s weekend getaway in February. It’s interesting now to learn that while I was happily engaging and trusting in our bond, she, on the other hand, was operating from a space of distrust, and looking for the cracks in our relationship.
I responded with something along the lines of:
“Well, I wish you had communicated your needs me before deciding to “meet me where I am.” However, if you feel this isn’t something we can work through, and that you’d rather give up on me, it’ll make me sad, but such is life!”
To which she responded,
“Such is life!”
And that was it. My friend of 15 years decided that it’s better to be rid of me than to continue to be disappointed by my inability to meet her needs.
My initial reaction was one of shock and sadness. Who wants to be labeled the shitty friend? Who wants to feel as though they have disappointed someone they care about? But as I examined this further I realized what actually happened, and surprisingly, I am more than okay with this relationship ending. In fact, I feel relieved to know that this person, who is incapable of trusting and knowing true friendship, is no longer darkening my doorstep with negative feelings about me.
Friendship is easy. It has to be easy. If it’s not easy, it’s not friendship. These are the relationships we choose. This experience led me to examine some truths I know of friendships, and because I hold these truths sacred, it makes it easy for me to release people when it becomes necessary.
These truths go as follows:
- I don’t want anyone who doesn’t want me.
- Communication is everything. The very first or second time I seemed to not provide her with something she needed, she should have, after 15 years, trusted me with her feelings, and simply said, “Girl, I’ve been going through it, and I really needed you. It hurt me that you weren’t there.”
- Friends don’t keep track of their friends’ failings.
- Friends give you the benefit of the doubt. When you know someone and you trust they operate from a good space, you do not discard them when they disappoint you.
- Friends allow you to be human. The last 4 months have been hell. Between looking for work, losing my baby, and simply coming to terms with not being where I want to be in life, I don’t have a whole lot to give. And if you need something, you better speak up. Don’t expect me to hunt you down and pull it out of you.
- Friends don’t expect you to behave the way they do. She cited examples of the ways in which she has supported me and been a good friend to me, but that’s who she is and she behaved the way that is natural to who she is. To have the expectation that I would behave the way she does was a recipe for disappointment. I am a highly emotional and expressive person. I have no secrets. Everybody and their mama knows when I’m going through shit in life because I scream and cry about it from every mountaintop in the land. Literally. I also have a strong local support system. Between my family and the many friends I’ve made in digital media, I don’t expect or want daily, weekly, or even monthly check-ins. If someone isn’t checking-in, and I know and trust this person, I’m going to reach out and ask for what I need.
- True friends are forever. You may fall out of each other’s lives because you may find yourselves growing apart, but doors should never be closed unless this friend displays deviant and antisocial behavior: talking about you like a dog, sleeping with your spouse, lying, stealing from you, that sort of thing. But a few missed calls should never mean the death of a relationship.
So my friend of 15 years doesn’t want to be my friend anymore. And while, “Oh well,” may feel like a heartless response, in this instance, I think it’s the best response. No doubt, she believes her decision was an act of self-care, but folks often use that rationale to carry-on making destructive decisions rooted in their unwillingness to face what’s really going on.