When Friendship Ends: A Dirty Secret
When Friendship Ends: A Dirty Secret
By Liz Pryor
Maggie was my closest number one girlfriend in life. We’d shared everything that mattered, every day, for what felt like forever. And then, like a bad dream in slow motion, she quietly began her exit from my life, without ever uttering a single word about it to me. It retrospect, it was the perfect recipe of avoidance, unreturned phone calls, weekly plans suddenly cancelled, e-mails silently ignored. And when I got her on the phone with a new strange distance she would say “I’m sooooo busy”. My Lucy, my Thelma, my best friend for life, was suddenly “busy” all the time. I kept thinking, “This can’t be happening.” I kept hoping that any second the phone call would come, the one where she’d laugh and explain all the misunderstanding behind the new and crazy behavior.
And then, one ordinary day, after weeks of hopeful denial, it hit me … our friendship was over. Without ever uttering a word to me, she had methodically avoided her way right out of my life.
Losing A Friend
The feeling is dauntingly specific when it comes on; deep inside the female heart where bullshit can’t survive … it’s impossible to mistake one woman blowing off another for anything other than what it is.
It was impossible for me to make sense of the whole thing, especially while living it. I convinced myself after several months, that I was the only woman on the planet who’d ever experienced this. Somehow everyone else in the world knew how to get to an ending with a friend, and work through it, come out the other side with some closure, or at least acknowledgement. I was defected or broken, because if the feelings I had were even kind of common, I would have heard something about them. People would have discussed them, I would have read about it, seen sad, angry and confused women on TV talk shows. I’d have read quick fix’s somewhere … but there was nothing. What did I do wrong? How did I offend her to the point of a mutiny so awful?
Maybe everyone has a cathartic something, that forces an honest look inside themselves and their lives, this was mine. Racked with what felt like such failure, I tried to piece it together … Eventually I shoved all the questioning and obsessing as far down as possible, buried it inside where I hoped it wouldn’t surface. Some might call that denial, I saw it as survival.
I did come to realize, that women are programmed, armed and ready to expect their hearts might be broken one day by a man they love. The attention and warnings are everywhere, it permeates society almost like a law. When women go through a break up or divorce, their entire surrounding world stops to notice. They send flowers, support, suggestions … they sit for hours to listen to our hearts on love … but when we fall out, get dumped, or are completely blind sided by a BFF no one says a word!
I ultimately came to question the idea that other women didn’t feel this, how could that possibly be? So quite impulsively one afternoon at a baby shower, I decided to belly up and ask. After a fairly inappropriate segue, I blurted out the question, had any one else experienced any difficulty with the ending of a friendship. After a long silence … a burst of response followed. There wasn’t a single women in that room that day who hadn’t experienced what I’d described, from one side or the other. Stories, tears, hearts, and emotions were rampant. Like flood gates opening. Once this began I couldn’t stop. I followed the water for the next couple of years. I heard and documented thousands of stories, and emotions surrounding this topic and realized this was like some sort of a silent epidemic in the underworld of female friendship. A phenomenon really, in that everyone experiences it, and no one talks about it.
The fact, that if asked, how long do we think we’ll be friends with our nearest and dearest girlfriend right now, today, at this very moment … most of us would respond in the area of “forever,” shows we don’t think about the endings, we’re just not prepared for them. It’s beautiful, really, in its hope and faith, yet look what happens if one does ensue?
There are no guidelines to follow here. No protocol, no etiquette, not even our mothers covered this with us. We can fall off the face of the earth on a friend, and no one will say a word about it. We can quietly pick at our confidence and self-worth wondering what we might have done wrong when a friend disappears, and then never discuss it with a living soul. From both sides it’s sad and difficult.
Scientist recently learned and documented (in a UCLA study) that one of the main reasons women live longer than men is directly related to the bonds they make and sustain with their female friends throughout the course of their lives. And so there we have it, scientific evidence that all our phone conversations, bickering, laughing, and living, it all holds more than just moments in time, we prolong each others lives, how much more significant can it get?
Women have the capacity to sustain anything they set their minds to. We are boundless when committed to something, that is proven every day by all of us. As much as our world has changed, our roles have shifted and responsibilities increased … the one thing that remains as it was ten, fifty, and a hundred years ago, is the value and impact our friends have on our everyday lives.
A simple reminder of what we’re all really made of, makes me think, no matter how often we look around and can find the three, five, or seven quickest easiest steps to everything from a flat stomach to a good marriage … at the end of the day, the truest source for information for any of us, is our good old fashioned woman’s intuition. It’s the most reliable resource we have for knowing what to do in life, and it lives right there inside us. It’s in the place where the stuff we learned as kids lives. It’s where most of us go to remember who we want and don’t want to be in this world, and so often we seem to forget to call on it.
When we feel the inexplicable greatness and bounty of true friendship the right thing to do, is challenge ourselves to work from the better part of who we are. Whether at the beginning, the middle or at an ultimate ending in friendship, choosing to honor, and at the least acknowledge what is happening, could be a beginning for all of us!
“What has once been so interwoven cannot be raveled nor the gift ungiven” May Sarton
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About the Author
Author, on-line host, and single mother of 3, Liz Pryor, founder of www.LizPryor.com, has shaped a current, growing voice on-line and in the media, with her layman, candid take on every day life. Her book, What Did I Do Wrong? ( Simon & Schuster 2007) nominated for the Books For a Better Life Award, and named People Magazines Buzz book 2008, began a platform for her following.