When Friendship Hurts

IMG_20131202_102917Breaking up is hard to do, but even harder when it’s a close girlfriend …

 

He’s left you. Your girlfriends rally round. They tolerate the midnight weeping phone calls and your sudden mania for cheesy break-up music. Over endless glasses of wine they assure you he didn’t deserve you anyway; they never really liked him. They persuade you out on the town and when you’re finally ready to date again, launch you back into the world. What would we do without our closest gal pals?

Yet our society doesn’t celebrate friendship. We recognise romantic love, not the deep, enduring and unshakeable bonds women form: complex and emotional and, unlike romantic relationships, for keeps. Life is tough but throughout it all we have the cushion of our friends, holding that invisible safety net under us.

Sex and the City was such a hit because at its heart was the enduring friendship between the four characters. Men were bit players who drifted in and out but Carrie and her crew remained strong. Likewise, Thelma and Louise. How much did we want to take off with our BFFs on a girly road trip? And let’s not forget the nineties headiness of Girl Power. Along with our posse, we rocked!

And the best thing is our friends will be there forever. Or will they? Female friendship break-ups are painful and confusing. Break up with a man and the coping mechanisms, the advice and help are there. Get ditched by a close girlfriend and, oh my, it hurts. Like hell. A huge gaping hole is left in your life. Ironically, the very person to whom you turn when a man has broken your heart has gone. There are few songs, articles or books written on such an emotive and surprisingly commonplace subject. In the playground it happens all the time. Friendship to kids is natural: you break up and make up with childlike ease.

It’s hard to get women to talk about friendship break-ups, and almost taboo to admit our best friend no longer wants us. But scratch the surface and feelings of bewilderment and hurt bubble up. There doesn’t have to be a row or an awkward ‘it’s over’ conversation: one day you’re friends, the next, you’re history.

Take my story. Miss P* and I met at university and spent three glorious years drinking, laughing and talking all night. After graduation, the drinking, laughing and talking continued, restricted only by the need to get up at 7am and go to work. We holidayed together and dated ridiculously unsuitable men. (I even married one where she did me proud as bridesmaid). Our carefree 20s segued into the more grown-up 30s and we drank wine instead of shots and agonised over careers and babies – but could also spend hours discussing the merits of blusher.

Just as she’d stood beside me at my wedding, she was a rock when my marriage fell apart. I helped her pack up the lovely little flat where we’d spent so many hours putting the world to rights as she moved out of London. Our friendship was an unshakeable force in a transient world – or so I thought.

Then suddenly she stopped taking my calls. Texts and emails went unanswered, save for a curt ‘I need space’. I recognised the signs from my dating experience: I’d been dumped. Hurt and confused, I floundered. What had I done or said? I racked my brains but kept drawing a blank.  The empty void Miss P left in my life was gradually filled by other friends, yet I missed her so much more than a boyfriend. She just ‘got’ me in a way no man ever had, or ever will.

I remarried three years ago. It was a wonderful day, but somehow felt wrong without her. I invited her, one last try, but had a stilted, formal note of regret back wishing me well. I gathered myself and moved on. As with any break-up, slowly the hurt began to heal. So if you’re reading this, Miss P, I miss you, but in the best tradition of naff break-up music: I Will Survive.

*name has been changed.

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