I remember thinking how lucky I was to have found a friend like Ali. Most of my friends had moved away or become caught up in their own lives and I was sure no one could match the connection we had had when- boom!- along came Ali, real to the bone. Smart, insightful, caring and deep. We became the kind of friends women live to have. We spent hours contemplating life and love; I was in a relationship that wasn’t going so well and she was new to the area and looking to build a new life here. We matched each other well.
We had several deep conversations in the ensuing months; she had a few guys who weren’t relationship material that we endlessly discussed, analyzing their motives, conversations and texts. I eventually separated from said boyfriend and for days afterward we fantasized about the different ways in which we could cause him bodily harm for being such an asshole to me. We shared everything that happened in our lives. From the grandest to the smallest, we were emotionally in sync.
Just about a year and a half after we met, I texted her on a normal Saturday afternoon to see if she wanted to join me for brunch, and for some reason I didn’t hear back from her. Normally we spoke daily via text or Facebook messenger, so this was definitely odd for her. I spent several days trying to get ahold of her, only to hear back from her Wednesday of the following week. “Oh my god, are you ok?” I asked, sure there had been some huge reason for her not to return my calls or texts.
“Everything’s fine,” she replied, unusually hesitant. “I’m just soooo busy.”
Deep down inside, where bullshit can’t survive and the truth makes itself known despite your protestations, it was impossible to mistake one woman blowing off another for anything more than what it was. After that conversation with Ali, I knew somewhere inside me that our friendship was over. She had recently gotten a boyfriend and had become enmeshed in his life the way women typically do when they begin seeing someone new, but this was more than just new relationship fuzzies. I could feel that she truly wanted nothing more to do with me.
It happens without warning and hits you like a tornado, blowing you off your course and upending your entire life. Your closest girlfriend stops calling or seeing you. She has decided for whatever reason to move on with her life and you’re left to clean up the broken pieces of the friendship that was. This experience can be just as painful and confusing as an unexpected breakup with a significant other. Women everywhere have experienced failed friendships, yet we rarely discuss the endings of these relationships. The one person who we used to confide in has left us, and there’s no one to turn to. Despite the best intentions of our significant others, they don’t come close to understanding the devastation that presents itself at the ending of a friendship. “You shouldn’t care so much about people who don’t care about you,” my boyfriend said when I told him about Ali.
I hung on as long as I could to the tiny silver lining I managed to see despite the clear signs that Ali was done with the friendship. Even though at this point she only texted or called me when she wanted advice about something, I still responded because I desperately wanted there to be even a fraction of the closeness we once shared. In fact, I convinced myself even after months had passed to ask her to hang out one more time. Maybe I was just paranoid and we would laugh together at the thought of this friendship being over. We did hang out and the moment I saw her, I wished I hadn’t…I wanted to leave but instead we spent an hour together, swapping brief pleasantries and small talk, all superficial compared to how our conversations used to be.
Even through all of this, I managed to find the courage to ask if she was angry with me about something. I think it was my pathetic attempt to let her know I was on to her- I knew what she was doing. She stuck adamantly to the “busy” excuse. Just as soon as I was done talking to her, I felt sadness, shame and anger. I think I was angry with myself for holding on to a dead end relationship and for not saying anything more direct…the things I should have said were, ‘I know what you’re doing, you coward. At least admit it. Say something to acknowledge that you’re dropping our friendship.’ But I couldn’t say the words, even though I clearly had nothing left to lose.
My sense of personal failure at the ending of Ali and I’s relationship was overwhelming. I always thought I was a great friend, the kind of person who would be there for my friends no matter what, always lending a helping hand or an ear to listen when they needed it. This experience had totally blindsided me. Months went by and Ali has become no more than an unsettled memory, although looking back and writing this as well as seeing our pictures again has brought a bit of painful nostalgia back. I deepened friendships with other friends, started running and working out, met more friends and life went on.
What I’d really like to know though is how this happens- because thinking back, this isn’t the first time in my adult life that a female friendship has ended through avoidance. And not just any type of avoidance- this was masterful, calculated and methodical. Maybe the idea is that if we don’t acknowledge something, it can’t be criticized or judged and we hope it will just disappear entirely.
While I do have other friends, friends whom I have grown quite close to, there’s still a void left by Ali’s loss. There’s really no one to share the types of things I shared with her; I still feel occasional waves of sadness and I wonder if I really miss her or the idea of her. It all ended so abruptly for me; maybe some kind of closure would have made it easier. Female friendship and the subsequent ending of friendships are really the only relationships that go completely unacknowledged. In relationships with significant others, we date someone, talk it over and then decide to break up with said person. Our friends and family all lament the ending of said relationship and give us tea and sympathy, while the endings of our female friendships just get thrown under the rug as if they never were.
I know the famous saying, “Friends come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime,” and that “all good things must come to an end.” I know that ending friendships can be an opportunity for growth. Yet I feel that, as significant and important as friendships are in a woman’s life, they deserve acknowledgment, even at the end. Supporting and honoring our friendships from start to finish will make us better able to support each other through life’s many challenges.
Have you ever had a friendship that abruptly ended? How did it make you feel? Or have you avoided someone who was once your friend? What went through your mind as it happened?
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