Have you ever gone through a major life change and found yourself minus a few friends in the process? (waves hands frantically in the air!) I have. Lots actually. Lately I’ve been spending some time reflecting on these relationships and wondering if I could have done anything differently to salvage them. Or if like all chapters in our lives, some friendships just end and we glide into the next chapter. Hopefully a little wiser and no worse for wear.
Is every friendship meant to last a lifetime? These are just a few of the big moments in my past friendships I’ve been analyzing to hopefully gain some clarity.
I specifically remember a divide as wide as the Nile River that was created between me and my best friend after my wedding. We were different in so many ways, but drawn together with common passions and goals. She was my rock. My fellow drama queen. My Maid of Honor. And I wanted her by my side on my wedding day. But when I got engaged, several mutual friends kept telling me during the whole process that she was saying really hurtful things behind my back. She hated my choice of bridesmaid outfits, things were too expensive, she didn’t think I should marry Chris…you know, the typical bridesmaid complaints. None of which she expressed to me, her best friend. I’m not sure how I would have reacted though if she had brought these things to my attention. I just know I’ll never get the chance to respond. Call it lack of maturity, or just the singular focus of a bride, but I never confronted her about it while it was going on. Instead I let it fester and swell into anger and resentment that built up to the big day, and beyond. When I got back from my honeymoon, we had a big fight and an eventual unfriending (pre-Facebook era). We didn’t speak for several years. Eventually, the guilt and lack of closure ate at me so much that I reached out to her. I wanted her to know I was sorry for any part I had played in the situation, or if I had hurt her in any way. Somehow over time, I built the whole thing up as my fault in my mind, even though that wasn’t the case. We reconnected briefly, but the damage was already done and the trust broken. My best friend since I was 16 was no longer part of my life. I vowed not to lose any more friends because of a lack of communication on my part. I also vowed to not let a friend hurt me again. Little did I know how hard that would actually be.
There is one thing you should know about me, I love my friends deeply and would cross the River Styx to help them if they need it. (Sorry about all the river references. I don’t know why I keep doing that!) So when a friend doesn’t feel the same way about me, it hurts. I assume everyone has the same level of understanding about friendships. But I’ve learned, that’s not the case.
Cut to many, many, years later and I’m having a baby. Best time ever! If you’ve had a baby, or know someone who has, you know it can be the most terrifying yet joyful time in someone’s life. So many mixed emotions all balled up inside. It was all I wanted to talk about. It was all I wanted to read about. I was so nervous that if I did anything wrong it could hurt this precious little life that was growing inside me. At the time I had only one close friend (see below) who had a kid. My bestie back in Oklahoma (Hey Amy!) had a daughter, but it’s not the same as having someone in your town to talk to and share the experience with. So I thought my childless best friend would step up and fill that need. I was wrong. This chic and I used to hang out at least once a week, text almost every day and make fun of people like nobody’s business. So when she disappeared after my pregnancy announcement, I thought maybe she was just busy. You know, for like 6 months. Then I started thinking…. I knew kids weren’t really her thing, but there was a lot of stuff she was involved in that weren’t my thing. She was my friend so I supported, showed up, and cheered her on in her dreams. It’s just what you do for people you love. Months went by and she never came around. And yet, I said nothing. I didn’t call her out like I should have. I didn’t text her to say what the hell ho-face? I let it fester. I grew angry, and resentful. When she finally did text me by the time I was almost 7 months pregnant, I was pissed. I don’t know if it was the hormones or what but I was angry and I let her know it. Her only explanation was that she didn’t think me being pregnant was a “big deal” and that she was sorry she didn’t meet “my expectations of a friend.” Whoa. I was not expecting that. What happened to supporting your friends? I get it, you don’t like babies. But it’s not like SHE was having the baby! And if that was really what was bothering her, then why not speak up? Is that expecting too much out of a friendship? I didn’t expect her to throw me a party (which she didn’t btw) or buy me a crib or call me everyday and tell me I wasn’t looking fat. Just a call or text every now and then would have been nice. Don’t freaking stop being my friend! Was I out of line? Of course I don’t think I was out of line because this is my blog and nothing I do or say on here is wrong. But in hindsight I absolutely should have said something to her sooner. Although after hearing her response to my concerns when I did speak up I’m not sure it would have made a difference. Another one bites the dust.
The biggie, the one I’m still try to figure out my mind, was my closest friend in LA who actually had a kid. We had been close friends for years. We took couple trips out-of-town. I had a small part in her wedding. I babysat her kid when I was 4 months pregnant, and he threw up all over me (which at the time, was hard not to return the favor). I held her while she cried during some of her most heartbreaking and eye-opening moments. Yeah. One of those types of friendships. Or so I thought.
When Chan was born I knew right away something was off. She didn’t come to visit me in the hospital as she had done with other friends. She didn’t seem interested in meeting my daughter, as she had with others. She stopped texting. Stopped making plans with me. And by the time Channing was 6 months old, she was almost entirely out of my life. She had only met my daughter twice. What happened? I couldn’t understand why this person who I had spent so much time with, held her while she broke down in tears on more than one occasion, supported and cheered her on, had suddenly decided to disappear when I needed her most. I was a new mom, exhausted, overwhelmed, and unsure about everything. It would have been nice to have this friend step in and offer guidance since she had trekked this path before. But she vanished. And I got angry. I let it fester. I didn’t reach out and at the time, I didn’t want to. Why would a mom do that to another mom? Something was clearly bothering her but she said nothing. So there we both were, upset, but saying nothing. Then after a year went by and my mom confidence grew I decided I wanted to know why this person and her family had disappeared from my life, our lives. I extended an olive branch, emailing her, asking where we went wrong and if we could meet to talk it out. The gist of her response was, we live different lives and thanks but no thanks. The end. Eight years of friendship down the shitter with not even a whimper of hope to reconcile. We live different lives? GTFO! If anything we were living IDENTICAL lives! Her response was so superior, so condescending that it was laughable. And I got angry again. I felt used. Betrayed. Was my friendship not worth fighting for? How does someone just throw away a friend? It’s not something I can do, but seems to come so easily to others. Then I realized, she was never truly my friend. At least not in the way I was a friend to her. She did not value me and what I had to offer our friendship in the same way I valued her. Whew. That realization was a punch in the gut.
I guess in all my introspectiveness (is that a word? is now!) I’m learning more about myself. I’m also learning that I need to get better about speaking up when someone isn’t being a good friend. I see a pattern here. I let the people I love take advantage of me. Then I get mad because they either don’t care or don’t know they’re doing it because I’ve said nothing. The fear is always that a friend will get angry, and cut me out of their lives. In the age of quick unfriending and unfollows, it’s very easy to do. I supposed I could do the same, but I probably wouldn’t. But I can confidently say I’m at the point in my life where if this happens again, they have done me a favor.
My gut tells me don’t let anyone else in. Keep your guard up so another person doesn’t let you down when you need them most. My heart thinks that’s a terrible way to live life. These few examples of bad friends are not representative of my friendships as a whole. When I get an encouraging text from Will and Adam, I’m reminded that people love me. When I have breakfast with Mary or Retta I’m reminded I know some incredibly strong married women who would do battle for me if necessary. Kelly and Natalie remind me that I’m a good mom and am doing my best. Amy knows my heart, Heather knows my passion, Greg knows my humor… I could go on and on about the incredible people I’m surrounded by. Even writing this now I realize how many great friends I do have in my life. My wonderful husband Chris reminds me daily, that if someone isn’t supporting me and adding joy to my life, then close that chapter and move on. And since he is my ultimate best friend, I’m inclined to believe he’s right.
Moving forward I’m sure there will be people who will let me down. And people I will let down. No one is perfect. I just hope that I’ve learned enough from these failed friendships to quickly pick up the pieces, and start writing a new chapter in my life. Because, no. I do not believe all friendships were meant to last a lifetime. But I will still treat each one as if they were.