Monday Notes: 3 Lessons from a BFF Breakup

We were friends for a decade and a half. Fifteen years is a long time. We’d friended our way through childbirth, divorce and international relocations. If you’ve been friends with someone for this long, then you know the laughs, tears, secrets, and experiences that can accumulate. There are too many to count.

That’s why breaking up was difficult. I felt its dissipation at least three years ago, but I thought it would pass. I figured if I gently expressed my new journey to her then, she would understand and join me. That’s not reality. Everyone cannot walk beside you on your path. Everyone is not supposed to.

And you know what? I’ve learned that it’s okay if they don’t. Equally important, I’ve become a little more conscious about who I am in friendships and what I want in those relationships:

I want to be the person’s friend, not her therapist. Friends listen to one another during their times of need. I get it. However, if all our phone calls include me listening to you and your problems, then that’s not a friendship. That’s a therapy session. Asking me to be your part-time counselor is not fair to me or you. Also, I’ve discovered that my tolerance level is low when it comes to this. Some people find this cold and unfeeling, but it’s quite the opposite. I empathize deeply. I take whatever you’ve revealed to me and literally feel your emotion. When it’s traumatic, it weighs heavy. Until I learn to let go of others’ issues, I need my friends to seek therapy, instead.

I want my friends to grow. Is this fair to say? You all know I’m always seeking growth, physically, spiritually, academically, whatever. If you’ve known me for any length of time, then I’m probably not the same person you first met. I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m saying I want a friend who is a mirror image of me. I don’t. But if we’re friends, then I want to know that you care about your own well-being and that maybe, you and I will help one another get there. Here’s the tricky part. Growth begins with self-reflection. And self-reflection requires looking in the mirror and being honest with oneself. I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t make someone self-reflect.

I want my friends to be non-judgmental. For real. I’ve been singing the non-judgment song for about four years. Now, I’m not perfect. Sometimes I still screenshot the occasional text to a mutual friend and wonder “what in the world is wrong with her?” But not always good people. Other people’s business is not often the topic of my own conversations. That’s because I’m too busy doing #2 ^^^ self-reflecting and growing. If the purpose of you reaching out to me is to discuss when someone else is going to get her life together, then you and I probably don’t need to connect that often.

Over the years, I’ve gained and lost quite a few girlfriends. The main reason is because I’d never thought twice about who the person was when we met. It was more like, you like eating out and partying? Me too. Let’s get together and do that, and then we became friends. The end of those friendships forced me to process how or why we became close. I’ve determined the answer is usually rooted in the energy surrounding me at the time. But I’ll save that discussion for another day.

For now, I’m wondering, have you ever broken up with a friend? Did it bother you? Have you thought about what you want in a friendship? Do you have long-lasting friendships? If so, how’d that happen?

 

 

219 thoughts on “Monday Notes: 3 Lessons from a BFF Breakup

  1. dunno how it is that this came up at the top of my reader list even tho it’s from some years old… interesting, tho, because I just talked to a friend from many years ago that I’d backed away from, but not nearly as boldly as you did from yours. there’s no good way to do it that I know if. in the case of my friend, she’s still the same person & yet not, & same goes for me — so for that reason I like to keep the door ajar. on another subject, was thinking of you & your marvelously bold posts – have you read Americannah? the protag is a blogger… am about halfway thru & now am laughing. don’t want to reveal spoiler if you haven’t read cuz you absolutely should run not walk to it – but there’s a part about blogging success…lol

    Liked by 1 person

    1. da-AL, I thought I’d replied to this, but I hadn’t. It came up again because I’d re-blogged it. I tend to re-publish this one every so often because it seems to be a bit popular. Seems people are always losing and gaining friends ❤

      As far as the book, I have not, but I've heard of it. It's written by the same author as We Should All be Feminists, right? I'll be adding it to my TBR. Right now, I'm attempting to finish White Teeth.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. dunno if you have the same thing, but since childhood, prob due to the complex ugliness at home, I’ve always had a sort of overactive antenna & susceptibility to the deep-seated moods of others… I have trouble being around certain.. I dunno — depression? but a lack of hope so fundamental that it goes clear down to bones? anyway, totally apart from race & culture, that’s what I got from Smith when I read “Swing Time,” down to the very romance. Americanah is the only thing I’ve read by Adichie & yes, she wrote “We Should…” — I sense in her a sober realist, but not a ‘why bother living’ sort, if you know what I mean… Anyway, besides it being phenom in every way, I thought of you in terms of blogging, which I won’t describer further so as not to ruin it for you ❤

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  2. For sure, being a therapist instead of friend, it’s a relationship that can’t grow in richness and fun.

    The older I get, it seems more complicated to make new friends. I like talking with friends about topics with some depth. Unlike some folks, I would get bored meeting a friend weekly and talking superficially. I’d rather be alone then, bicycling away.

    Not even with my sisters, I don’t even talk every wk. with them….it becomes boring for both parties and not helpful in a fun way. So each person’s definition of a long standing good friend who grows themselves and wishes well for each other in growth, means….some space also.

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    1. Exactly Jean. And that’s what I’ve learned. I want my relationships to be fun and free flowing. I mean I know it can’t always be party time, but if the scale is beginning to tip more on the somber, woe-is-me side, then I tend to back away a bit.

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  3. I’ve had some significant breakups with friends, some over and some that I had to just let fade away. One of the things I learned about myself is that relationships and friendships have a lot in common, and that we often pick the same kind of friends over and over, often with similar traits of family members. For me having a narcissistic mother meant I’ve had a lot of friends who expected a lot of me but gave very little in return. When I was diagnosed with infertility, I lost nearly every close friend, and learned a lot about those people in how they behaved in the darkest of times. My closest friend compared our adoption plans to recycling and wouldn’t make time for me during my treatments when I needed her the most, even though I’d literally opened my home to her when she was in the middle of divorce, loaned her money in her time of need, and sat with her children and her when they were in the hospital. When people ghost you during the hardest time of your life, you definitely start re-evaluating the people in your life and what you want new friends to be like.

    As a side note though, I got to say as a 46 year old childless woman, it is incredibly hard to make new friends! Most folks with kids do not want anything to do with childless couples, we’ve seen that time and again especially in this small town we now live in. And let me tell you, the pandemic isn’t helping!

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    1. I agree about choosing the same people/types of relationships that you were raised with. Dr. Dinardo pointed out the codependent traits of the relationship I described in this post and it was pretty eye-opening. I’d never thought about those similarities.

      “Recycling”??? I have no words.

      Making friends as a full-grown adult can be challenging. It’s similar to trying to find love when you’re set in your ways lol

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  4. people have drifted in and out, I had one long term friendship over 30 years, but he is very absorbed in his 7the day Adventist lifestyle compared to my non religious (yet spiritual) one.
    I have another very close friend unfortunately currently spending time in prison.

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    1. Thanks for adding this. I have similar experiences with people, in general. I’ve adopted a train stop analogy. Kind of like we’re all riding on a train and some people are riding all the way to your destination; others are getting off at the next stop; and some are getting on a couple stops later lol

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  5. Let’s say I’d be worried if a friend breaks up with myself, THEN the mind goes into overdrive asking questions of ‘what did I do that was so wrong?’ ‘Am I really that bad a person to be cut adrift?’ Hmm interesting when the shoe’s on the other foot.

    (Lol… farrrr toooo many metaphors tonight but it is late 😀 .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LOL I think she did go through these thoughts. It wasn’t as cut and dry as I’ve portrayed it here. We had quite a few back and forth inbox messages, until it was truly over.

      Have a good night’s sleep!

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  6. 168 plus comments!

    You know that you’ve landed on a hot topic when it starts a firestorm of conversation. OMG Dr. G! This ^ is another topic for an entire book.

    Everything you have written is a set of chapters. Part 1 “I want to be the person’s friend, not her therapist.” “I want my friends to grow.”…. Combine this with your codependence post (and what’s happening online with young people and boundaries / oversharing / privacy issues) and you have book number ____.

    Thank you for opening up the conversation on another incredible topic.

    The rules of life are being re-written daily. And your blog is our compass.

    Grateful for you! Today and always

    Dr. D 💞

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! I’ve re-blogged a few times, but you’re right. Each time it resonates with someone new ❤

      I have to think about what you've said, actually. I mean yes…this was a clear example of a codependent relationship. In fact, Beatty mentions something about dumping on people and never following up as an example of how this can show up.

      Thanks always for your kind words Dr. D!

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      1. This was such a thought provoking blogpost. I think the reason the loss of the BFF was bigger is because we did so much together and the boyfriend breakup was my idea. Complicated, but one boyfriend breakup caused the other one. Just as you mentioned, she was a friend who used me as a therapist, but when I needed to be the one listened to, she didn’t know how.

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  7. Another great topic Kathi! I broke up with a friend years ago because I noticed that she was very self-involved. She’s a very sociable person. Most people love her. I did too, for that matter. But after supporting several parties and such that she hosted and she always had an excuse for not supporting me, I distanced myself. We’ve reconnected recently but I think that closeness we once had can never be. I have considered sharing with her why I left the friendship. Not being open about it is something I’ve regretted over the years.. As I’ve grown, I’ve learned to allow people to be who they are. I enjoyed our friendship and, perhaps, could have remained her friend and just adjusted my behavior and expectations of her.

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    1. Thank you LaCharmine! I think there are some relationships we can hold on to and just accept the person for who they are and maybe interact with them less…that’s what I’ve decided instead of completely cutting off the friendship. Now, I just have tighter boundaries. So, for your fun friend…maybe you party with her and know that’s it. She ain’t coming to your event lol (I laugh, but really). And, what I’ve learned is you gotta either really be okay with her not reciprocating or really be okay with releasing.

      I hope this makes sense and isn’t a ramble 😉

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      1. LOL @she ain’t coming to your event. What’s funny is that she initiated our friendship when she’d hit a bad patch in a long-term relationship. I surmised that she was tired of talking to her core friends about it and wanted a new ear. We did have reading and aspiring authorship in common at the time. I even started a book club back then that she and the other friends (we all worked together) participated in. It was one of the most fun times of my life. Since we reconnected, she’s still into hosting parties at her house. I’ve been a couple of times. But we haven’t any genuine friend conversation. So you’re right, she may just be my party buddy.

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  8. Thank you for sharing!!… 🙂

    “Portrait of a Friend”

    I can’t give solutions to all of life’s problems, doubts,
    or fears. But I can listen to you, and together we will
    search for answers.

    I can’t change your past with all it’s heartache and pain,
    nor the future with its untold stories.
    But I can be there now when you need me to care.

    I can’t keep your feet from stumbling.
    I can only offer my hand that you may grasp it and not fall.
    Your joys, triumphs, successes, and happiness are not mine;
    Yet I can share in your laughter.

    Your decisions in life are not mine to make, nor to judge;
    I can only support you, encourage you,
    and help you when you ask.

    I can’t prevent you from falling away from friendship,
    from your values, from me.
    I can only think of you, talk to you and wait for you.

    I can’t give you boundaries which I have determined for you,
    But I can give you the room to change, room to grow,
    room to be yourself.

    I can’t keep your heart from breaking and hurting,
    But I can cry with you and help you pick up the pieces
    and put them back in place.

    I can’t tell you who you are or who you will be
    I can only love you and be your friend
    (Adam Clarke)

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  9. I’ll walk away from a friendship without hesitation if it doesn’t feel right. I’ve become better at trusting my instinct on that and also raising the bar on what ‘right’ is for me. I have been burnt by friends in thd past to the point where I couldn’t imagine trusting another person enough to call them a friend. I also learnt what my role was in attracting those people in the first place. A lot of the friends I have now are those I’d only met in the past 16 years of my life, but mostly in the past 6 years. I’ve come to appreciate that it’s not the length of a friendship that defines its value. I love the friends I have now, including one I’ve never met in person, who lives in Florida 😊. We’re all learning, growing and supporting one anothers journeys and what I love is, some of my friends are getting to know each other and also becoming friends.

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    1. In my talk about journaling the other day, I explained that journals are different than diaries because they’re intended to be reflected on. I say this because I reflected on what I wrote, what you wrote, what I think today, and now what you’ve said today and it’s heartwarming because there’s growth there, seemingly.

      Thanks for calling me a friend ❤

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      1. I’d never considered the difference, aside from ‘journal’ being a practice whereas ‘diary’ feels more like the physical repository for the thoughts. Interesting, because I have been getting many signs that I need to return to journaling. It really is great to revisit old thoughts. I definitely picked out my changes between them and now by reading. Thanks for being my friend 😘

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  10. Thats a hard one. I’ve had friends that I just haven’t kept up with over the years. I know that if I were to run into them again it would be a good experience. I’ve had friendships with people that seemed to drain me. A lot of those relationships fizzled out. In the end you have to do whats best for you. It may be difficult, but necessary to do for yourself.

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    1. What you’ve said it what I’ve learned, actually. Draining relationships aren’t for me. I don’t wanna be the “listening ear” all the time. That’s what therapists are for. I prefer my friendships light and free. I mean there may be the occasional issue, but overall, light and free is what I seek.

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  11. I have had to say goodbye to a friend. It took me a few years to understand how toxic she was for me but once I let go it truly was life changing. It feels like the cliche breath of fresh air. It was sad but I pushed through it and surrounded myself with my friends and family who support me.

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    1. I’m glad this resonated Deanna. Since I wrote this, I’ve also learned that “breath of fresh air” is a sign. If you feel much lighter when it’s over, then it’s definitely the best path. Glad you also had friends and family to support.

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      1. Yes, ma’am. I’m thankful for the friends I have now. We’re solid. And we don’t hold things in. They’re a great bunch of people. It’s a beautiful thing when one can say that. *big hugs*

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  12. Wow! This is such a true piece. I always entered friendships the same way. It easy to connect with people who have common surface level interests that are in close proximity and default into “friend” status and that is the reason these friendships tend to end. I’ve realized that this was the case for all of my friendships basically, while I did have some friendships that lasted years..they still ended and say to say I didn’t even fight for them or lose sleep. Smh
    …and I people who treat me as a therapist and those who only call to gossip. I hear you though, I received this message…and it’s time to put it all to an end! Going forward I will enter every and all relationships with intention.

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    1. Thank you so much! Those surface-level friendships always find their way out, somehow.

      Living with intention is one of the best things I’ve ever discovered. It ultimately leads to you making wiser decisions aligned with who you are, and then taking responsibility for the direction of your life, including with whom you choose to associate 😉

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  13. This is one of the most powerful posts I’ve read. I had to break up with a friend of nearly 20 years. We were together through all the milestones of life- she watched my children grow up, graduate high school etc. I was hit hard one day with the reality of just how toxic she was for me and I knew in my bones when we parted that I would never see her again. It’s been almost 3 years. I’ve never been divorced, yet it felt like one. It’s still painful, but it was the right thing to do. So grateful my husband and adult children supported me during the time and opened my eyes to the reality of the situation. I’ve grown so much through this and learned many lessons. Thank you so much for your heartfelt post. 💕

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  14. Well, that sure requires one to sit and reflect.
    I met a girl when i changed school when i was 10. We became best friends. when i was 13, i moved to another country and we lost contact, save for the occasional letters. Then when i was 23, i went back. We bonded as if there had neverbeen a 10 year gap in our friendship. And now, at 35, we’re still good friends, even though there’s an ocean between us again.

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    1. I think some friendships are just like that. I have a few friends I’ve known since 1st grade and 7th grade, and we rarely talk, but when we get together, it’s like we’re 6 and 13 again. Relationships are really interesting.

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  15. I am lucky one as I’ve got a few amazing friends. However, I had to cut off through the years some of my friends from my life. Sometimes it is a necessity. Very good post! 🙂

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  16. Kathy, your insight into yourself and the meaning of real friendships have helped you make a tough decision. It’s as if I can hear your relief at your final decision … and you’re right, it isn’t easy but neither was it working for you before. There has to be honesty on both sides – something I’ve only learnt recently. Quite a few times I have been very hurt by friends; nowadays I am more ‘selective’, careful. Someone wrote about a ‘Friend – Ship’ boat, where friends step in and out of our lives – that seems to be exactly how many of us experience friends in our life. A very apt description. As our lives change the circumstances that brought many of us together changes accordingly and at such pivotal moments the depth and reality of the friendship is revealed. A thought-provoking post on a topic that touches us all.

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    1. Annika, I thought I’d responded to this, so apologies for the delay! I can relate completely to a friendship boat! Oftentimes, I’ve thought about it like a train. Some people get on and hang out, and then they implicitly see that you’re gonna keep going, but they’re ready to get off the train at the next stop…and then more people get on and keep you company during that part of the journey. Some people got on at the beginning and will continue until the end. Yes. Friendship/relationship boat or train…that’s what we’re doing here.

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  17. I do not accept abusive verbal judgement, even if someone thinks it’s for “my own good”. One lady just had to tell me what she thought of how I chose to get help for my chronic depression. She told me what she thought, and what I OUGHT to be doing and HOW I should be spending my money. It wasn’t the first time and I decided it would be the last time. I do not want my positivity interrupted.

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  18. This is so good. Yes, I have lost friendships and I’m often reminded that people are in our lives for a reason, season or lifetime. The first time it happened totally caught me off guard because we’d been friends about 13 years. But, I expected that things will end with people. Not every one is expected to go to the end of the road with me. It hurt like hell but I can’t make people stay and I can’t make people grow.

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  19. I think most of us have broken up with friends at one time or another. People change and so what was once a good friendship fit becomes too difficult, or as you say, one person becomes to demanding and staying in that friendship is just draining. What I have discovered, though, is that sometimes when a friendship stops working, it helps to just distance myself a little bit rather than breaking off the relationship altogether. Because sometimes that friend and I “cycle back” into a close relationship.
    For instance, I had a good friend from childhood I stayed close to, but then we each had a child of our own. And my friend was VERY competitive about our kids, which struck me as very unhealthy for all of us, so after struggling with this issue for a while, I just backed off. Now our kids are grown and hers doesn’t live in the same town, and I find that this friend and I are able to be close again.

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  20. This is sooooooo good Dr. G! Thank you for being so open. Your lessons help heal an issue that we all have to deal with. And you, my friend and mentor, dealt with it with respect and empowerment. Thank you again. Your lessons lead the way for all of us. Dr. D 🙂

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  21. I’m in a process of breaking up with my 6-year-long bbf. It’s just frustrating. Because I feel guilty or manipulated into feeling guilty about it – like abandoning her in need, bringing her unnecessary suffering, proving the point that life/people sucks. I don’t even really want to have “a break up” – we could just drift apart and/or find a new framework for our relationship, because there are still some positive things between us. Overdramatic burning bridges that let her see herself as a victim was yet another trait that pissed me off in her and I so don’t want to repeat this scenario .

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    1. I hear you. These things can be energy draining. I prefer to drift apart too, but sometimes people don’t get the hint that space or time away is needed. Seeing oneself as a victim is a HUGE pet peeve of mine.

      Also, I think we’re raised to believe that we have to be a part of someone’s trauma/drama or lifetime sadness; otherwise, we’re some type of bad person, and this is just not true.

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  22. Wow, your post has struck a nerve with so many people. Friendship break ups get so little attention compared to romantic splits, yet can be as painful. I was once ‘dumped ‘ at a time I recognize I was too persistently needy – years ago, and I learnt something, but still hard to admit.

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    1. I know right? lol I thought I was the only person going through this. You’re right. We never talk about the totality of relationships and how to handle them. Years ago, I stopped seeing a difference between romantic relationships and platonic ones. In my mind, they’re all RELATIONSHIPS and many times need to be formed, resolved, or dissolved in similar manners.

      It’s good you can see that was the case now. There are so many people who never look in the mirror and wonder how they could’ve been part of the issue.

      Like

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