Monday, October 06, 2014

Recovering From the Loss of a Friendship

When Jessica Smock initially wrote to me about her upcoming book My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Losing and Leaving FriendsI was apprehensive. In my 52 years I’ve come to terms with most things that have happened in my life; an abusive upbringing, the breakup of a long-term relationship with my boyfriend, joblessness, money problems, loss of family members and never having children of my own. The one thing I’ve never quite gotten my arms around was being dumped by my best friend from second grade and her subsequent bullying.

We had been inseparable. Shortly after she moved to our area we began sharing a seat on our school bus. We decided together to grow our hair long and to wear maxi-dresses. We had sleepovers, danced to the top 40, went for long bike rides and learned to swim in her pond. She was the one who informed me of the birds and the bees on one of our sleepovers while handing me my first cigarette (which I didn't smoke). Then one day during junior high everything changed. She had recently become a cheerleader and for some odd reason decided she no longer wanted to be my friend. She stopped sitting with me on the bus and no longer talked to me at school. By the end of the week she had convinced our other two friends not to talk to me either. She then started bullying me; making faces at me, calling me names, criticizing my appearance, my family and my every move. Others on the bus joined in her taunting. I retreated to my books and studies. It was during this period I vowed to leave our area and to someday make something of myself.

I would go on to make other friends. My college years were filled with friendships. So were my early twenties where my job at the brokerage firm introduced me to several females who would become my friends. Back when I was 12 and recently dumped I had thought if I ever made another friend (life can seem so limited when you are 12) I would be the world’s best friend. Unfortunately, that was not always the case. My poor communication skills and aversion to conflict caused me to hurt and lose a couple of friends in college. Then life, relocations, marriages, divorces, children, job changes and my return to college in my 30’s all got in the way. I am now sad to say I am no longer in contact with most of my friends from those earlier years. I would like to think if Facebook had been around when I was younger that wouldn’t be the case, but I am not so sure.

The book My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends edited by Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger is a compilation of 35 personal stories of friendships gone astray. Reading these breakup stories has been therapeutic. I still may not understand why my friend turned into a bully, but I no longer feel so alone or that this experience has to be a big dark secret. As I read the stories, I was also reminded of other friends I haven’t thought of in years and can now see in hindsight why they were destined to fail – I had a tendency to make friends with the cool girl. Eventually I would witness a cruel side to this person and immediately move on without letting them know why. Reading this book helped me realize I was most likely reliving my bully friendship over and over then running before I got hurt again. This is also why I am so obsessed with the manager who personally attacked me.  

Today my friends are mostly really good acquaintances. The walls I’ve built up are pretty thick and with my busy work schedule making time for friends is usually not high on my priority list. I squeeze them in between hair appointments, workouts, commission deadlines and the end of the month. My current best friend, also an accountant and CPA, was the daughter of Texas shrimpers. Both her parents died of lung cancer at an early age. Neither of us talk much about our past and both of us give each other plenty of breathing room, we seem to understand where each other is coming from without having to discuss it.

As to my best friend from second grade, I looked her up on Facebook a few years back. She stayed in my hometown, married the year we graduated, had three children and now has grandkids. I clicked on her oldest daughter’s Facebook profile. Under favorite books she had written, “None I hate reading.” I wasn't quite sure what to do with that little tidbit except realize if I had remained friends with her mother my life would probably be very different than it is today. 

I recommend My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends to anyone who has experienced a friendship breakup.

Do you have a friendship breakup story?

This post was inspired by My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends. I received a free copy of the book for review purposes.

Please Note, I am an Amazon Affiliate


  1. Ahhh Saavy. I love this post. It's actually really crazy that you posted this because I JUST saw this book while scanning through my Pinterest feed - they have another submission opportunity right now for a book about post-partum depression. I love collections like these that make it easier for us to accept ourselves by relating to others...but without ever having to leave the house haha!

    I have made and lost many, many friends. I was an unsettled young adult (at best) and could never stay in one place every long. I ran from people, problems, and myself for years. I remember each face, each moment when I realized "nope - bye!" They make me sick to my stomach when I recall them. Women can be so hateful to each other.

    I am a lucky woman in regards to friendship, though - I've maintained a solid relationship with my best friend since we were in the 6th grade. I've had kids and gotten married, she's completely against having kids and has been engaged to the same man for close to five years. I am very emotional, she is very logical. She loves to be busy every hour of the weekend, I prefer to be in my house, doing house-things, with nothing on my social agenda. She shares more in common with some of our other friends...but when push comes to shove, we are like lovers, minus the physical stuff. I would do anything for her. I sometimes feel like she and I understand each other more than we do our men. We've stood the test of time, and for that I am so, so blessed.

    But it hasn't been in the least bit easy. I struggle with jealousy at her "free time" and she struggles with frustration at my "not going out tonight again.." attitude. It's honestly like being in a long-term relationship - something I know the book touches on, too.

    Friendships, like marriages, are hard, hard work. It's not all mimosas and game nights, right? I am so glad you've found someone who will meet you at your level. Those people are priceless and rare.

  2. "if I had remained friends with her mother my life would probably be very different than it is today." This is a strong sentiment that parents use to tell their kids who they can and can't hang out with. I think it's a disservice to their own child's individuality & self-worth. It's basically telling your child (or yourself) that you would follow in anyone's shoes, forever.

  3. Jennifer,
    I saw the submission for post-partum depression too. That is another one of those topics people don't want to admit to, so a book on the subject should be really helpful.

    Reading #MyOtherEx has caused me to reflect on almost all of my friendships. I think because each story reminds me of something else. Sometimes I fled and the couple of times I did I didn't handle it well - just I'm leaving good luck kind of thing - if I even said that. I was also hurt a few times in my adult life too. There were jealousies and misunderstandings that were never worked out.

    Now that I'm older I don't have time or take time for pettiness. I think that is why it works so well with my current bestie. She recently told me she made over 100k in her job. Of course that is quite a bit less than what I make...but I quickly told myself do not get jealous and I didn't. Plus she totally hates her job. And she hates all things social media. So blogging is pretty much an off limit topic, but I don't quite understand why she had to get an open carry license, but I love her anyway.

  4. Leslie,
    Actually I thought someone would call me out on looking down at the daughter's dislike of reading as a reflection of the mother. You can't control what your kid likes.

    I see the friendship rejection and subsequent bullying as probably one of the most life changing experiences I've had. I remember the day sitting on the bus when I made the decision to study and get as far away from that town as possible. I've spent the majority of my life trying to prove she was wrong - I am not a loser. Who knows what would have happened if we had remained friends? Perhaps some other event would have given me a wake up call. i was a pretty lackadaisical student up to that point. I will never know.

    My real issue and what I was looking for on FB is why she did it. I know I will never know. I spent time in her home and I never witnessed abuse, but then you never really know what goes on. Her younger sister also was a bully.

    One thing I have learned though is it is time to stop trying to prove I'm not a loser and just enjoy life a bit. That is going to be my goal for 2015.

  5. Fantastic post!! I'm so sorry that you were bullied. I can relate to friendship loss. I found you on SITS Sharefest & I'm now following you on google+.

  6. I experienced a very painful friendship breakup in high school so I'm very familiar with the walls you speak of. I don't let very many people get too close to me anymore.

    The person I was friends with contacted me a few years ago and apologized for her actions and said that she was just jealous of me. So silly because there's nothing I have that I wouldn't give to someone I care about.

    She wanted to rekindle the friendship, but alas I was too burned by how things went the first time to give it another try.

    I do believe the experience taught me what I do and do not want in a friend, though.

  7. Found you via SITS sharefest ... sorry for your adolescent angst and heartbreak. I relate. Weird on how still painful all these years later, huh? Experienced same, except as an adult and angry I keep asking what did I do wrong, when I know intellectually, probably nothing worth mentioning. Mean girls grow up and stay mean.

  8. I have close friendships that fell apart of the years, one in particular that it took me a long time to come to terms with since we had been best friends for over a decade. And I have one friend who I ultimately "broke up" with. Her friendship was very stressful, and I told her that her behavior was upsetting to me and I needed a break, but we never ended up being friends again.

    I think the loss of a friendship is ultimately much harder than a breakup with a significant other. I am completely over relationships with guys that I dated, but I have a couple friendships that I never completely got over.

  9. What a great post. Something we can all relate to. Right when I retired, I read a similar book, The Friend That Got Away. I was picturing my best friend since fourth grade. I just loved her. We drifted apart in high school, no specific drama or bad behavior. But it still left a dull ache in my heart all these years later. I found her on Facebook and our new friendship warms my heart, even though it is only a high-level, electronic friendship.

    But another woman who I was best friends with and lost over the years (in a more painful, slow death) has re-kindled our friendship. I've learned a lot from this, most notably that you really have no idea what the other person was thinking. And chances are the loss of the friendship had more to do with what was going on with them than anything you did.

  10. I actually have a few friendship break-up stories. They are so much harder to get over than a relationship break-up. I had one friend who sabotaged every relationship I was in because she wanted me to be single whenever she was. If she was dating someone, she left it alone. I finally had to break off from her. I've had several friends split because they said they couldn't handle hanging out with someone with a chronic pain disorder anymore. I was sick too much. Good friends, true friends, are hard to find.

  11. I have grown apart from friends, but we still keep in touch via social media. One in particular, we were best friends in college, and even though I was in a long term relationship, he was still my close friend. However, once he got married, his wife basically said we cannot be friends because she had all these insecurities (well truth be told I blame him for letting her take her imagination and running with it) but she always felt like I was going to steal him away from her. It hurt that we were no longer allowed to be friends. I do miss talking to him. Great post. I found this blog on linkupfriday!

  12. Friendships don't always work out, sometimes they just run their course and people have to move on to other things. But that doesn't make it hurt any less.

  13. Lots of emotions and parallels in this one for me. Had a similar thing happen with my fourth grade friend. Young girls can be wretched to each other. Hope the anti bullying movement has helped that, but I have my doubts. Will try to start a cultural change by instilling good behaviors with my own children. Hopefully they never end up on the receiving end. Because it's heart wrenching and sticks with you a long time.

  14. Losing a friend is hard. In some ways its harder than a break up with a lover because your friends are your support system. I've been there though. Great review and post!

  15. Angelique,
    I imagine almost everyone at some point can relate to losing a friend. Thanks for stopping in.

  16. Nicole,
    So sorry to hear you had a similar experience. I think you made the right decision not to rekindle the friendship. I did that once with a friend from college. We connected 10 years after graduation. I even stood up in her wedding, then she broke up with me again. She is the real reason I am now someone friend averse now. I just don't have time for all that.

  17. Kate,
    Yes they do. Thanks for sharing your experience. Someone who read this post told me what my friend did wasn't about me it was about her. Best advice I've ever received about this.

  18. Retired Syd:
    "I've learned a lot from this, most notably that you really have no idea what the other person was thinking. And chances are the loss of the friendship had more to do with what was going on with them than anything you did."

    Thanks for this. It is the best advice/explanation I've ever received about this. Also applies to my workplace manipulator.

    Thank you.

  19. Becca,
    "I've had several friends split because they said they couldn't handle hanging out with someone with a chronic pain disorder anymore. I was sick too much."

    How sad. I think sometimes people need more in a friendship than they are willing to give. Like the friend who sent me a nasty note because I didn't attend her Halloween party. It was the weekend before I took the CPA exam and she lived over an hour away. She didn't understand how much pressure I was under and how important passing that exam was to me at the time. She had a Halloween party every year and liked to dress up as a cocktail bunny or whatever they are called.
    Our freindship never recovered.

  20. Meik,
    Oh friends with guys is another whole story. I think many women feel threatened when the husband's best friend is a woman - they think it should be them. I actually have a good relationship with some of the men I work with and sometimes enjoy talking to them more than the men - especially about work.

  21. This is such a relatable post! I still miss a former best friend from my 20s. I wonder sometimes if we'd been older and more mature if things would have turned out differently. I'm grateful to have had the friendship and the learning experience of the 'breakup', but yeah, it still lingers and still bothers me sometimes.

    The walls you mentioned putting up. It's so hard not to do that. I know I did it for a couple of years because I felt my heart just couldn't take anymore hurt. But, then I realized I risked condemning myself to loneliness.

    I hope that you are able to let down some of your walls and find people trustworthy enough to let in! Thanks for sharing your story so honestly. :)

  22. Julie S.,
    No it doesn't.

  23. Femme,
    I don't know with social media I think it is probably worse. I am so glad FB wasn't around when I was young. I don't think I could have handled that.

    Gook luck with your children. I've talked to a co-worker who has a child who was being bullied. Talking to the teacher didn't help, so she called the parent. That didn't help either. The parent was not cooperative. This year she demanded her daughter not be in the same class room with the bully. They were split up and haven't heard of anymore complaints.

  24. Chaton,
    Thanks for the comment. Yes, it is harder. Especially when you are so young.