Sarah Weir
March 04, 2015 10:13 am

Dear Sarah,

I’m going through a break-up with my best friend of four years. We had more in common than any person I have ever met. I’m pretty introverted and don’t make friends very easily—and when I do, I’m really loyal to them. So, to put it lightly, I became quite invested in this friendship and we were inseparable. When she got into a relationship and stopped coming around as much, I didn’t understand and it hurt, because I believe you should always make time for your friends.

Our friendship ended when lots of things built up: the two major issues being that I realized she never acted really happy for me and the way she tossed me aside because she had a new boyfriend. We didn’t talk to each other for about a year and then, suddenly, she reached out again. She had just broken up, and she apologized to me, explaining that she has chronic depression and can’t handle being alone. I’m a psych major and I believe that depression is a real and serious thing. But, in the back of my mind, I wondered if she was truly depressed or just heart-broken and in need of someone to help get her through it. I had recently ended a relationship too, and we became friends again. About a month later, she stopped calling, and I found out she and her boyfriend were back together. It kind of pushed me over the edge. I couldn’t understand how she could be sorry, but then throw me out like trash again.
She and and her boyfriend recently moved nearby, so we accidentally and awkwardly run into each other all the time. I’m so hurt and full of anger but I’d like to be able to move past this. I try to keep reminding myself that someone who is okay with being friends one second then not being friends the next isn’t someone worth having around. I wonder if maybe I made our friendship out to be more than it was, if I saw it completely differently than she did, or if I was just a bookmark to hold a place until it could be filled with a boyfriend. It’s been a year and it still feels painful. I’m tired of carrying this weight around with me. One of your pep talks would help.
—Feeling Used in California

Dear Feeling Used,
Deep friendships can be as enthralling and close as romances, but people rarely speak of them that way—or about how much it hurts to be treated poorly or fully dumped. Maybe we don’t usually acknowledge this because there’s a sexist or homophobic hangover from another era that asserted the only “real” relationship is between boys and girls, or perhaps it’s because many girls are taught to be nice and non-confrontational so we just let things slide and suffer the anguish quietly. Whatever the underlying cause, I’m sure your letter and your pain will resonate with many readers. Who hasn’t had a bestie suddenly go MIA when they got hooked on a guy?
One thing I believe about any type of relationship where there has been some true connection and many good times, is that when it ends, you don’t have to paint all your memories over with black. Eventually, despite the way your ex-friend abandoned you, I hope you can remember that the intensity and joy and fun you experienced together was real. This isn’t to let her off the hook—not at all—it’s to help you realize that you were (and are) a wonderful person to be with—not a placeholder. Often, underneath the anger and sense of rejection we feel when someone leaves us, lurks the fear it was because we weren’t lovable enough to make them stay. I can’t determine why she behaved the way she did, but it was a result of her issues, not yours.
Meanwhile, you have to deal with seeing her, and that’s hard. How can you diffuse the discomfort? If you follow her on any sort of social media, shut all that down now—you don’t need to know what her cat looks like or where she went on vacation with her boyfriend or any other hurtful visual reminders of her life without you. What you could do is write her a letter (not an email because it’s both less private and way easier to launch a prickly back-and-forth) and tell her that, since you are inevitably going to run into each other, you would like to clear the air. Keep it simple, let her know that the way she handled ending your friendship was confusing and painful but that you want to move on. Say whatever you need to say, and do so in a way that helps get things off your chest and also makes you feel honorable and strong. Trust me, life looks more beautiful from the high road. When you do bump into her, mentally repeat after me, “Her loss.”
Finally, a word on friendship. Part of what’s really tough here is that you are a self-described introvert and maybe a little shy, so you probably invested most of your chips in this one relationship. I’m not a social butterfly either, and I tend to focus all my love on a few really close friends. But I’ve also come to realize that nurturing a handful of more casual acquaintances is not some kind of self-betrayal, but something that rounds out my life. Try to be open to lighter friendships—the person you enjoy going to the gym with, or who loves the same ’90s sitcoms, or who you just chat about your classes with. You’re a soulful type and you will have other soul sisters as well.
You’ve been honest with yourself and now it’s time to get over this and move on—and you can.
Love, Sarah

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