It’s Been Six Weeks Since I Ended A 20-Year Friendship
So, how do I feel, after making the devastating decision to end a 22 year-long friendship, six weeks ago?
Like a “f**king idiot, that’s how. Why? Because I didn’t stick to THE PLAN.
A little backgrounder…
About six weeks ago, I was a hot, sobbing mess. My heart ached. My gut hurt. A “friend” had betrayed my trust. Then I learned they were talking about something I shared with them to other people. It wasn’t a secret exactly — I did not say, “Keep this between you and me” — because I had assumed, wrongly, that this friend would automatically just know that it was something that I rather have remained private, was not something I wanted to be shared, and to zip-their-lips. Then top of that, they had done something that no loyal person would ever do to someone they consider a “friend.”
I had only ever helped this friend. Trust me, over the last few years, I had become acutely aware that our friendship had become so one-sided, it was almost laughable, if it wasn’t so sad that I had let this carry on for so long.
Of course, I saw the red flags. Whenever this friend reached out to me, it was to ask for something. Whether it was shooting them stories with advice about starting their new retail business, connecting them with contacts and other people I knew could, and would, happily help them, or responding to a constant barrage of emails, asking for my thoughts and opinions.
In fact, whenever this friend reached out to me — sometimes at 10 p.m. and often on weekends, I would drop everything I was doing at that moment — time with my boyfriend, time with my children — to help them. Because that’s the kind of loyalty I give to my close friends.
I hated that every single time I would respond with suggestions or advice, that they asked for, from me, that I never got a “Thank You.” In fact, sometimes I got no response at all…until a few days later when this friend would ask me for something else. Again, and again, I jumped for this friend.
When it came the minimal number of times I asked for their thoughts, or help, or just reached out to make a date and plan a catch phone call, I was often met with no response from this “friend.” If we did make plans, this friend would most likely bail or reschedule, to the point I stopped asking to meet up.
But, as most women know, even as draining as a “friendship” can be, no matter how toxic or one-sided a friendship has become, no matter how badly that friend makes you feel, it truly is incredibly difficult to end a friendship, especially with a friend you’ve known for longer than you’ve not known them. I was beyond sad to end this friendship. It was almost as traumatizing, if not more so, than my two failed relationships with my children’s fathers.
As pathetic as it sounds, I actually read for hours over weeks — maybe “researched” is a more apt word — dozens and dozens of stories about ending friendships and how to know when you should end one, spending hours, basically wondering, especially, if what this friend did was so bad that I wouldn’t ever want that friendship back.
I didn’t know for certain! My brain said, “No way are they a friend. How could you ever trust them again? Why would you want to remain friends?” But my heart, as well as the optimistic and empathetic part of me, thought, “Well, maybe they will apologize?” Which, frankly, led me into another emotional tizzy. I wasn’t sure that I could ever trust this person, and more disturbing, to me, if I could forgive this friend. It’s a terrible spot to be in, hoping for some sort of apology, clinging on to this friendship like a paper clip, while also knowing that I didn’t know how I could forgive this person, even if I wanted to.
When I googled “When should I end a friendship?” 47 million stories popped up. I probably read 26 million of them, while also getting sucked into doing silly quizzes, like “Am I in A Toxic Friendship?” and “10 Questions to Ask Yourself Before You End A Friendship?” and, “It’s Time To Find Out If Your Friends Are Toxic Or Not. Take This Quiz!” All these quizzes, pretty much, were geared towards tweens, or teens, not women in their 40s. But, clearly, I became somewhat obsessed over making this decision, to end a friendship with this person, so much so that it was also making me physically ill.
Research has shown that a stressful relationship with friends can cause health problems, like high blood pressure and increased depression, according to this article. “Even if a friendship was once good, a big argument, betrayal, or just a gradual shift in expectations can lead to an unhealthy relationship filled with jealousy, criticism or disappointment.”
While I wasn’t jealous of my friend, nor did I criticize them, I most definitely felt continually disappointed by them. I hate when people say, “They’re just jealous of you,” but this time? I actually felt that maybe that was the case.
This friend is not on social media, like at all! I only have a couple of friends in common with this person. I reached out to one of our mutual friends, to tell them how I was feeling and to also ask if I was overreacting to the consistent one-sided friendship, the betrayal, and how this friend would only pop up when they needed something from me, with never hearing a “Thank You,” in return. Our mutual friend, who is not as close as I am to this person, responded, “That’s just the way they are.” So, I thought about this response for beat or two.
This. Is. Just. The. Way. They. Are. THIS IS JUST THE WAY THEY ARE?
No. No. No. I just couldn’t take, “That’s just the way they are,” as an excuse for my so-called friend’s bad behaviour, and their lack of common curtesy that would be afforded to a perfect stranger, let alone someone who I had been friends with for half my life. Sure, I do believe that some friendships are worth fighting for, but it seemed like I was the only one fighting for it.
I finally couldn’t take it anymore —I either had a breaking point or an epiphany — basically telling this friend in a text, “Why would you hurt someone who has only ever helped you with the best of intentions. You are not a friend. You just make me feel bad,” ending with, “Please do not reach out to me anymore.” Immediately after sending them the text, my emotions were all over the place. I not only felt a deep and palpable sadness, like I’ve never felt before, but I also did feel a huge sense of relief, like literally as if the weight of the world had lifted off my shoulders. And I had a plan!
I’ve read multiple stories about breakups and the 30-day “No Contact Rule.” While usually always applied to romantic breakups, I thought, “Meh, a relationship is a relationship is a relationship,” be it a romantic one or with a platonic friend. I promised myself that for the next 30 days, that I would stop all communication with them too.
I knew I was strong enough to do this and not reach out. I have done this, after dumping men I’ve dated. The point, I think, of the “30-Day No Contact Rule,” is basically that at the end of the 30 days, you’ll know whether you want that person back in your life and want to work on your relationship, because you truly miss them, or that you’ll realize that you’re actually happy and you are doing just fine without them, and that you know now, for a fact, they didn’t add value to your life.
Candidly, I didn’t think this friend would reach out— After all, I had made my feelings clear that I did not want to hear from them. The first week of no contact went well, even if I was still heartbroken. This friend did not reach out to me, and I did not reach out to them. It was, on my end, pretty easy. I had no urges to reach out and was slowly starting to see that I could get used to not having this person in my life, and inbox, anymore. Each day, each hour, I slowly felt lighter. That is…until Day 10.
Ten days after breaking up with this friend, they reached out with a text that read, “Miss ya!” The text arrived at the worst time possible. It was 11 o’clock at night, my kids were in bed, and I was alone with no adult supervision — which I could have really used — because I also had a nice buzz on.
It turns out I was not as strong as I thought I am. I do somewhat blame to cannabis buzz on, but I did exactly what I was not supposed to do, which was….respond immediately. After I hit sent, in response to their text, I knew I had made an awful mistake. My gut, head and heart told me so. My friend and I were now back in contact. I started sending them funny memes again. I started sending them stories I read that I thought they would find interesting, or help them with their new venture.
I don’t think it will come as any surprise to anyone to learn that we fell back into an unhealthy pattern where again, they would ask for help, I would offer it, they wouldn’t say, “Thank You,” or even respond for days. I don’t think it will come to any surprise that, not only was I mad at myself, but again, I felt continually disappointed, not just by their actions or lack of actions, this time, but because I allowed it to happen…again.
There is not point, I think, of “ending” this so-called friendship again. I don’t want to be “The Girl Who Cries Wolf,” by sending another text telling them they are a sucky friend. But, now when I see a text or email from them, asking me for my thoughts, I don’t drop everything. I do not respond immediately. Sometimes I don’t respond at all. I do not reach out to them for anything.
I can honestly say, now, I am putting no energy into this person. And, slowly, slowly, this “friend” is fading from mind, fading out of my life, fading out of my inbox. I don’t feel sad, or angry over the demise of this friendship anymore, or that I let them back into my life. Sure, this now ex-friend sometimes pops into my mind, but they don’t stay on my mind.
What I feel is indifference. I’m okay with that. Whatever this “friendship” was or wasn’t, it is now meaningless to me. My “friend” simply does not matter to me anymore. If you are going through something like this, trust me, you too will eventually feel them fading away from your life, and it won’t matter one bit.