June 17, 2013

The Hardest Breakup. ~ Amber Howe

photo credit: Amber Howe

“Whatever begins, also ends.” ~ Seneca

I should have seen it coming.

After years of spending time together multiple times per week, it had become more difficult to get together recently. Odd, considering how close we’d become, all we’d been through over the years.

There had been a couple of uncomfortable stretches of time where communication difficulties created tension. We’d had a few deep conversations over the last year—healthy, healing times together that made me optimistic for our future. Neither one of us was perfect, but we meant something to each other.

Yet as time went by, the distance between us grew.

My calls would go straight to voicemail and for a while, we’d play phone tag. I’d leave long messages full of updates, offering dates and times we could get together. Return calls became less and less frequent, and eventually there weren’t voicemails waiting for me—just the “missed call” notification. I was starting to feel rejected and desperate.

What had I done wrong?

The signs were all there, but when the breakup finally came, I was blindsided.

We’ve all been there. Breakups hurt.

But I’m not talking about a boyfriend; I’m talking about one of my best friends. With the exception of my divorce, the end to our friendship was far more painful than any breakup I had been through.

Friendships between females are tricky. I always joke about how easy it is for guys to become friends: they meet, realize they both like to, say, mountain bike, and become lifelong buddies.

Women, on the other hand, are somehow wary of other women. It might take us a while to get close to each other, but those bonds go deep. We celebrate each other’s victories and band together in support during painful times. We share things and we cry together. This is what makes the female friendship so meaningful…and so difficult when it falls apart.

All relationships ebb and flow and each person’s life changes at its own speed. Ask any married couple. In a friendship that spans multiple years, it’s likely that each person will hit milestones at different times such as promotions, marriage, and babies.

Real friends, however, ride that tide together, sustained by their history together and love for each other during times of disconnect until they land back on the same shore.

I’m learning that sometimes friends can drift too far apart.

I’m still confused about what broke apart my relationship. It would be unfair to place all the blame on the other party. We all know that it takes two to tango. Looking back, I can see that we’d always been two very different people; a fact that my friend cited in our demise. I though, celebrate the uniqueness in each of my friends.

It’s not my job to judge their choices, tell them how to live, or smugly look down on them because I would have done things differently.

My purpose as a friend is to love the other person – to laugh with them, cry with them, offer advice when they ask for it, and support when they don’t. I can experience the joy of a dear friend’s first baby, despite the fact that I don’t have children. I can clink a glass of champagne to celebrate a well-deserved promotion with a friend, though I choose not to have a full time job at this point in my life.

I believe that differences make life interesting, and shouldn’t affect a meaningful friendship on a deep level.

As with a romantic relationship, a lack of communication is lethal between friends. I regret that we didn’t bring to light the growing issues between us sooner. It’s both frustrating and heartbreaking that my friend chose not to take advantage of the opportunity to repair what she thought was irrevocably broken, to talk like old friends through our feelings and salvage a decade of memories and milestones.

My therapist has coached me to let it go and to say goodbye to a relationship that had become a negative in my life. To remember that sometimes, these situations have nothing to do with us and that the  behavior of other people can be due to their own issues. She likens the breakup to a death: I’ve lost someone meaningful to me, not by choice, and have to allow myself to experience the grief associated with the loss.

I was certainly in a state of denial at first. There’s no way my friend could be feeling this way, could want to cut off our relationship. I got angry. How dare she not allow me to have a say in this? I made an emotional plea for her to reconsider. I became anxious and depressed and unable to sleep. Now, I work toward the final, most challenging stage in this grieving process: acceptance.

I’ve left the door open for a reconciliation.

I have a glimmer of hope tucked away somewhere, fingers crossed that this strange and painful time is just a phase in our lifelong friendship. Yet I realize now, months later, that I’d been desperately clinging to a friendship that once was, not the one that was reality. I’d rather feel a bit lonely now and then than feel bad because of a negative presence in my life.

No breakup is easy, particularly for the person on the receiving end of the rejection. Sometimes, the healthier choice for one’s future is to acknowledge the situation, focus on the joyful moments of the past, and bid adieu to the relationship.

Acceptance is liberating.

Let it go.

Amber Howe lives and writes in Park City, Utah with a mountain man husband and a crooked-eared dog named Cholula. She chronicles their adventures in Utah and beyond on her blog where her mantra is: “TODAY is the happiest day.”





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Assistant Ed: Dana Gornall/Ed: Bryonie Wise

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Viv Jun 17, 2013 5:51pm

Well said and well written. I too am in the throws of a friendship breakup. I have no clue what happened. The person
refuses to communicate. I believe not talking is worse punishment then the actual breakup it's self. I will always wonder why
people can't say goodbye with class.

Thanks for writing this article. It came exactly when it was suppose too.

Micah Jun 17, 2013 1:27pm

I was just talking to another friend about this EXACT THING that I am going through with one of my best friends. I think I was definitely meant to find this article!

Frodis Jun 17, 2013 12:10pm

I see friendship somewhat differently than most, I guess. I can't think of a single person (outside of family) with whom I've had a "lifelong" or even multi-decadal, friendship. My friends have come and gone throughout my life, depending on my changing circumstances. I've had school friends, work friends, yoga friends, etc. They all share one aspect of life with me, but usually not more. I think its very naive to think that, as we go along in life, our friendships can span and adapt with our changing interests/situations. I have no ill feelings towards old high school or old work friends, but we lost the common bond that brought us together initially. And that's ok, because life is change! Many are still casual friends with whom I interact on Facebook and such. I've never had what I'd consider a "friendship breakup." Friendships, in my experience, may disintegrate quietly, but they don't generally explode in hurt feelings and tears. I'm not saying that I've mastered "non-attachment" in the realm of friendship/relationship, but it strikes me that many people (women especially) get overly attached to their friends, expecting these relationships to survive impossible circumstances. I guess the same could be said of romantic relationships. I do admit to excessive attachment in that arena.

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