In June I let go of my oldest friend. Not because I didn’t love her deeply, but because I loved myself more, and at this stage in my life I need and demand more from my relationships with people…
Before the end of a relationship there always is that pivotal moment, the breaking point, in which you decide you simply can’t go on. For some it could be something so small, especially after enduring what seems like so much worse throughout the years, but everyone’s breaking point is different, and you truly don’t know what it is most times until it happens. For me, in this particular friendship, my breaking point was when my friend casually mentioned that she was moving over 6,000 miles away. Don’t get me wrong, long distance friendships are something I’m quite comfortable and familiar with, so the distance wasn’t what triggered me. It was how casually she mentioned it, and not only that, but she also expressed that she had been planning this for over a year, and this was my first time even hearing about it. It made me think… Clearly this person doesn’t value my friendship as much as I thought she did if I was simply an after-thought in the decision, someone not even worthy of discussing it with. I wouldn’t ever make such a big decision without at least having a conversation with her about it, especially if it’s something I had been planning for over a year, because she is someone I value, and because that decision would impact our friendship. At the very least I’d want to have dialogue about it. At that moment I realized that our friendship was missing the thing that I value most in all of my relationships… Reciprocity.
I always worried that my friend wasn’t confident in the role that she played in my life. Within the past five or so years I’ve been fortunate enough to foster some meaningful relationships with people… Which for me was unusual, because I always tended to have a pretty small and intimate circle. However, in spite of the lack of familiarity with this new dynamic I embraced it because these people truly added value to my life. These people in no way were meant to drive a wedge between the relationship that I had with my friend, but they did. Quite often she’d make comments like “you have so many friends….” and, “all your other friendsssss” and I didn’t get it. I recognized that she had a very small circle, as I once did, but since my circle was expanding, it created an emotional distance between us. Perhaps I didn’t do a good job reassuring her how valuable and important she was to me, and for that I am deeply sorry. But I ALWAYS made a point to make showing up for her a priority, in spite of the other relationships that I had developed with others.
I in no way, form, or fashion compared my oldest friend to my other friends, but I think in many ways she did, and that left her feeling inadequate, because of the ways that my other friends were able to show up for me, that she couldn’t. You see this friend has always been the type of friend that put her man before any and everything, and though I’m not like that I respected that decision, but because of this her man would take up so much emotional space in our relationship, that there would be little room for me or anything else. I believe ultimately that decision to constantly put him first was what made us drift further and further apart emotionally.
I believe the shift happened after I got engaged and started planning my wedding. One of the most memorable parts of my proposal was that Jason made sure to include her. He knows how important this friend is to me, and he knew that including her would mean the world to me, he knew not to ask anyone else, but her, and to me that was so special. It made me so happy that two people that I cared about so much were able to be a part of one of the most important days of my life. My proposal truly was perfect.
It wasn’t long after I got engaged that my friend announced that she was pregnant. This was no surprise to me because her and her husband had been trying, and I knew this is something that she wanted so badly. I was happy for her, because she was going to get what she had always dreamed of, the chance to be a Mom, but I was also so deathly worried for my friend because her husband was emotionally absent, and I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to pick up his slack and be there for her in the ways that I wanted to be because I’d be so consumed with planning my wedding. I felt enormous guilt about this, and the stress consumed me, to the point that I couldn’t even be excited about getting married to the man of my dreams.
As soon as my friend announced that she was pregnant I made a point to be abundantly clear that she wasn’t coming to the wedding. I did that as a means to relieve her of feeling guilty for not being there, I also didn’t want her to feel any pressure, or try to over extend herself. To my surprise it did the opposite, and she felt dismissed and undervalued, and for that I couldn’t be more sorry. I just knew with her situation that she couldn’t possibly be there for me in the ways that I would need throughout this process, and I didn’t want her to jeopardize her health, or her child’s health trying to do so, to me that was the priority. I recognize now that I could have handled that differently.
What made me sad throughout the wedding process was that she seemed to be upset that there were people that were able to be there for me in ways that she was unable to, to the point that she was resentful. There’s no one I’d want more than her to be there with me throughout this process, but I had to push forward and not drown in my own sadness and self-pity, and I also wanted to make sure that I didn’t treat her any differently because she wasn’t able to be there for me in the ways that I needed. It was hard to balance it all.
It wasn’t until months later that she told me that dismissing her as soon as she got pregnant hurt her feelings. And that it came off like I didn’t care that she wasn’t there, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. I was beyond sad that my oldest friend couldn’t be present for the most important day of my life to date, and I am sad that I didn’t do a better job of expressing that. But I felt as though doing so wouldn’t be fair to her, I knew that she wanted to be there and me continuing to bring attention to the fact that she wasn’t going to be able to come to the wedding I felt would really hurt her feelings.
In hindsight what sticks out the most to me during the whole wedding fiasco was that she didn’t bother to take two minutes out of her day for me. Before my wedding Jason reached out to my closest friends and asked them to send me a video message for him to play for me on my wedding day. Every single one of my closest friends sent him a video, except her. When I was playing the video on the big day I could feel her absence. Every single one of those people on the video at the time were going through some tough stuff, but in spite of it all they took two minutes out of their day to send me a few kind words. I understood that she couldn’t be there for the big day, but the fact that she was unwilling to even do that, really broke my heart.
Fast forward to almost two years later and nothing had really changed. The whirlwind of a relationship with her husband had taken up most of our conversations, and our group chat banter was conversational and surface level at best. I was sad that our friendship hadn’t progressed throughout these years and began to think that we had simply just outgrown each other. I mean there were people that I had met two to three years ago that knew more about what was going on in my life than she did. And it wasn’t because they cared more, it was because they had the capacity and were willing to invest the time needed to foster our relationship. With everything that she was dealing with being a single Mom, her husband, and her family, she simply just didn’t have the bandwidth to be there for me in the ways that I needed.
I had been talking to my therapist about the state of the relationship with my friend in attempt to gain some clarity, but ultimately I knew that it had run its course. We lived minutes away from each other, worked in the same building, and yet were still so distant emotionally. I knew it was time to let go. There was some back and forth in the group chat about the state of our friendship, and some private messages as well. It wasn’t until she sent a message in which she accepted no accountability that let me know that it was time to exit stage left. She was content in playing the victim and we couldn’t grow if she wasn’t willing to accept the fact that the choices she made played a part in the current state of our friendship. I was just someone that was around to validate her, a glorified hype man, and though for a while that was enough for me, at this point in my life I am okay with saying relationships like that no longer serve me. Ultimately I left a message in our group chat telling her that I don’t think that our friendship is one that I want to invest in any longer. Not because she isn’t worth it, but because at this time I don’t believe that she can be the friend that I need, and I don’t believe that I can be the friend that she needs, and I don’t like the idea of doing things halfway. Because of this I said that we should go our separate ways. It wasn’t because the friends that I had developed recently were better than her, I never once said that. It was because they were willing to invest in our relationship, something that she had not done over the past two years, and that was something that I was no longer willing to ignore. I knew that this was something that she was capable of, as I had seen her bend and break over and over again in her romantic relationships, I just don’t believe she cared enough about our friendship to get uncomfortable enough to be there for me in the ways that I needed her to be, and I didn’t want to hold her to an impossible standard, or grow resentful because of her inability to be present. She had made her choice, and I had to accept it. That was hard. So hard. But so necessary.
I also was taken aback by my other friends reactions when I told them that I had cut ties with my oldest friend. Most of them were not shocked, in fact the common response was relief. They went on to list the things that I had done over the years and it brought me to tears. I have never been one to keep score, but to see them notice how I’ve extended myself and to not even get 1/4th of that effort back was a hard pill to swallow. The common theme from the close friends that I told (My brother, Richie, Ky, Brandon, and Yon) was that my friend without a doubt appreciated me, but she wasn’t willing or capable of showing me that or reciprocating. Some things that stood out to me that they said were…
“You let her and her newborn stay in your MARITAL HOME as a newlywed for weeks. This was early in your marriage, a time when you and your husband should be basking in the newness of your union. Instead you were willing to share your space and make that sacrifice to be there for a friend in need. You let her bring her disruptive energy and her dark cloud into your space.”
”You asked the group chat to write a review for your business to support you, that is free and takes no time and would have been a tremendous help. The only person I see that has done that is Joanne from NY, neither your friend or her sister could take the time to do something for a friend that is so small, that would have been so meaningful.”
“You took off work for a week to care for her child.”
“She made sure to get you something for your birthday, but anyone that knows you knows that you don’t value things, you value time, and her taking the time out to sit and talk with you would’ve meant more than any present ever could.”
“You rearranged your entire weekend two days before you were heading to Italy to make sure that her child was taken care of.”
“You spent practically the whole weekend in the hospital with her after she gave birth (and missed your favorite festival in the world Lollapalooza) because you didn’t want to leave her alone and her husband was nowhere to be found.”
These are things I didn’t even remember. A friend said “I know you don't keep a log of what you do for your friends because it's pure but sometimes ya got to be reminded,” and that really stuck with me. I hadn’t even realized how much I had inconvenienced myself, my husband, my family, and my other friends trying to be present for her. It hurt to look up and see that effort wasn’t matched.
A little over a month later and I am at peace with the decision. What I am most sad about is that I don’t truly feel the loss. I felt the absence on my wedding day, but today, I do not. I feel that we had been going through the motions for so long, and that she had been so absent during so many important aspects of my life these past few years that I don’t truly notice that we haven’t talked in weeks. Even when we did talk every day we were never really talking, more like filling time and space with words, there was no real connection. For me, that was the validation that assured me that I made the right choice. I hope she finds the validation she seeks, I am no longer on duty.