Should I Break Up With My Best Friend?

Dear Sarah,

My so-called BFF is making me insane. She’s so unreliable, our relationship is hanging on by a single, fraying thread. Plans are always changing, or being delayed, or even cancelled at the last-minute. And she is ALWAYS late, which feels like a total abuse of my time. A couple of weekends ago, we finally (after weeks of texting and emails) were able to make a plan to meet at a museum, have a ladies’ lunch, and see a new exhibit. Nice afternoon, right? But she was TWO HOURS late. Of course there had been a flurry of texts laying out the latest emergency, but by the time she arrived, apologetic and disheveled, I had already walked around the entire museum, and was hangry and over it. Because her excuses were fairly legit, I gritted my teeth, ate a granola bar, and went through the exhibit (again), but underneath I was seriously PO’d.

We were roommates in college, and now that I think about it, things weren’t so different then. There was always chaos—but since we lived together, we still got to hang out a lot. When we’re together, we’re the type of friends who love the same stupid campy movies, gag over the same guys, finish each other’s sentences, and laugh our asses off. And, yeah, I think she’s a great person and I love her. However, now that we both have jobs and are busy (she’s bartending and trying to do stand-up and I’m working at a non-profit), it’s much harder for me to handle how undependable she is. Her family lives in the same city and there is always some drama with them too which she has to deal with—her sister is single with two little kids and her mom has some health issues. And then there are boy problems. . .and jobs falling through. So, do I put up with the messiness or give up?

Thanks for letting me vent,

—Fed Up in Chicago

Dear Fed Up,

Reading your letter, I feel my chest tightening, because like you, I’m generally a punctual, reliable, organized, plan-making type of gal. And if the world were full of people like us, it might get pretty boring. I do think it’s inconsiderate and rude for people to be late and change plans at the last-minute, but it’s also incredibly hard to find a soul sister. Something to ask yourself when she flakes: Is she encountering a genuine obstacle or is she just blowing me off? Some people’s lives are genuinely more complicated, and frankly, tougher, than others. I believe that if we love those people and they aren’t actually being malicious or taking advantage of us, we can try to give them some slack.

That said, lower your expectations—big time. You aren’t going to recapture the closeness and spontaneous chill sessions you had in college—maybe underneath it all, this is what is really upsetting you? Don’t make plans with her that are super dependent on timeliness and assume there is always a possibility that they will fall through. Don’t even leave to go meet her until she’s texted that she’s actually on her way. Basically, be realistic. Yes, you could try to have a heart-to-heart about it, but in my experience, people with big, swirling, crazy lives can’t change very easily; there are just too many moving parts and entrenched patterns.

Does this sound like a compromise? It is. And if your friend’s behavior were related to drug or alcohol abuse, or a seriously unhealthy relationship, I’d have a very different take on the situation. Maybe you just can’t cope, but how about this: next time you see her, try to be present and grateful that you have the opportunity to spend time with her. You might find you relax and remember that she’s worth it.

Love, Sarah

Have an issue that could use a mom’s-eye-view? Our advice column features a real live mother of three who is ready to discuss any of your burning questions judgment—and baggage—free. Email [email protected] with the subject line “Dear Mom.” Please include your first name or nickname and where you are from. Questions may be edited for clarity and length.

Filed Under