If you break-up with your lover there are a million songs, poems, books and movies to look to for solace. If you fight with your family, you get through it because you’re stuck with each other for life. But when you fall out with your best friend, the very person you need the most isn’t even speaking to you. Here are some thoughts on how to make it to the other side of BFF break-up.
1. Don’t send that email. By all means write it, get it all out, but keep save it as a draft. If you think you sound rational and even-handed, you’re wrong. Emails can be forwarded. Worse, they can be printed, and there’s something about words on paper that gives them permanence. Wait until you’ve both cooled off and talk in person. And make sure you apologize like you mean it.
2. Don’t trash talk. At least not to mutual friends. I know you’re hurt. I know you need to work through this, but minimize the drama and discuss it with someone who doesn’t know her or who lives in another state.
3. Listen. No, really listen. Maybe she has a valid point that hurts to hear but will help you grow. After a big fight, a friend told me I had a habit of keeping score. It’s a painful thing to do to a fellow human, and I’d gotten pretty good at it without realizing it.
4. Keep things in perspective. Assuming that she didn’t sleep with your true love, steal from your family, or put you in harm’s way, don’t tell her that she can Never Be Trusted Again or that she Ruined Your Bat Mitzvah. Does she really deserve to be thrown in friend jail and slapped with a life sentence? Wouldn’t “it’s going to take some time for me to trust you again” or “you were acting like a real dirt bag when I really needed you” suffice?
5. Look around. As time is working its magic, see who else is out there. Reach out to that new girl at work with the awesome glasses or reconnect with your camp friends. You may discover that there’s a nice life for a pea outside its pod.
6. Show up for the big stuff. If you’re still invited, don’t skip weddings or even annoying wedding showers thrown by her new friends where everyone will overuse the word “lovely.” Go and eat a crumpet even though it hurts.
7. Forgive. Do it as soon as you are able. It takes a lot more effort to hold on to anger and judgment than it does to release it. Consider that she was doing the best she could with what she had at the time. Weren’t you?
8. Trust that you two will get through this. If you’re former BFF is the great person you once believed, your break-up may ultimately make you closer. My oldest friend and I have broken up a few times. There was the moment she said she’d hate to see me in a magazine because it would mean I’d become successful, and the time I told her she was marrying her fiancé for “the wrong reasons” and that he was “probably gay.” But it was she who gave a toast at my wedding that brought me to tears. “You’re a part of me,” she said. “A part of my childhood and a part of my puberty.” This drew laughter and also some confusion. “You’ll always be a part of me. And if my husband does turn out to be gay,” she concluded, “you’re going to be the first one I call.”
9. Accept her flaws. I have one friend-on-the-mend who is super cheap. This used to drive me nuts, but then I weighed it against her loyalty and honesty and just accepted my role as the provider. We meet for coffee or Chinese food and I always pick up the tab. I figure it’s a small price to pay for having someone on my team who will look me in the eye and tell me the truth.
10. Let her go. Sometimes friends we thought would be our roommates in the nursing home just aren’t good for us. They bring out a side of us that doesn’t serve us or they just don’t have our best interests at heart. Or maybe she’s the one who’s calling it quits. Or maybe you’ve just outgrown each other. In this case, step away, wish her well, but always be courteous. Remember that time she rescued you from the match.com date in her 2004 Ford Focus with Beyoncé at the ready and “like” those new baby pictures on Facebook. Well, maybe not the one of her placenta, but definitely the one where she’s staring into her infant daughter’s eyes, looking as lovely as you’ve ever seen her.