• Keeping Friends

Midwest Book Review praises BFF

Published: August 17, 2009 | Last Updated: January 20, 2024 By | Reply Continue Reading

Alma’s Bookshelf
Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend, Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., Overlook Press, Peter Mayer Publishers. 141 Wooster St., New York, NY 10012

Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup With Your Best Friend is an uplifting and honest book for abandoned friends who are seeking advice to alleviate their pain. Dr. Irene Levine draws from the personal testimonies of thousands of women to provide anecdotes and groundbreaking solutions to this distressing experience. Offering tools for personal assessment, case stories, and actionable advice for saving, ending, or re-evaluating a relationship, Levine shows that breakups are sometimes inevitable – but not unbearable.

Best Friends Forever teaches women to stop blaming themselves, and that the sad experience of a broken relationship can make them stronger people who are better able to handle relationships with wisdom.

Best Friends Forever is a very insightful book with an original point of view on the termination of relationships between friends. For example, Levine says that the endings are never as sudden as they feel and that on looking back one can pick out events that forecast the eventual breakup. The book gave this reviewer insight into a long ago split she had always thought was caused by a remark she had made that offended her friend. On looking back at the situation with a new focus, she was able to realize that she had gotten tired of her friend’s idiosyncracies long before, and that the “offensive remark” probably was designed by her unconscious need to end the relationship.

Levine tells us that whereas we are brought up to believe that best friendships go on forever, in reality they rarely do. Friendships are based on two differing personalities, which evolve over the course of time. There is no guarantee that two friends will grow in the same direction. According to Levine, the odds are overwhelmingly high that relationships will fracture for one reason or another, and break one or both hearts. Unfortunately, she says, most friendships are fragile rather than permanent.

There are strong similarities between a close friendship and romantic relationships, and being rejected by a best friend hurts just as much as being tossed aside by a lover, husband, or boyfriend. The dumped one besieges herself with questions such as “Wasn’t I good enough for her? How could she do that? Who does she think she is? Does she ever think about me? Is there something I could have done to prevent this?” (p.15).

In a way, a broken friendship is the more painful of the two disasters, as friends and family sympathize with a jilted lover, but the person abandoned by a friend often is ashamed to tell others about the rift. And unlike a romantic relationship, there is no standard code of ethics that obliges the dumper to be kind or even civil to the dumpee, to offer polite parting words, an apology, or an explanation. As a result, it can be very difficult for the rejected friend to experience closure about the relationship. An abrupt ending often leaves the abandoned person in a depression for months. Some never get over it.

The author makes a moot point when she says, “The quality of a relationship rather than its duration is a more realistic measure of the meaningfulness of a friendship” (p. 21).

Levine, in interesting sidebars, discusses the myths of friendship, one of which is that you always should be able to say whatever you want to a true friend. Maybe so, Levine warns, but be aware that some remarks are so hurtful they never will be forgiven, and can lead to the end of the friendship.

Relationships can fall apart for many reasons. The decision to part may be mutual because of a blow-up, a disappointment, or simply because the friends have grown apart. A one-sided ending, of course, is particularly painful to the person being left. According to the author most female friendships have ambiguous endings, with the women drifting apart without ever really understanding what brought about the termination.

A Chapter 3 sidebar, Tenets of Friendship at Times of Loss, should prove particularly helpful to those close to someone mourning a lost friend (p. 58). The tenets include being there for the person, as your words are less important than just being present and listening, not saying you know what your friend is going through, as each experience of loss and grief is different, focusing on what you can do, not what you can’t do, refraining from prying your friend with questions, giving a warm hug and/or an expression of thoughtfulness, communicating the message, “I care and I’m here if you need me,” and if you are the person grieving, realizing that people often feel awkward about your situation, and allowing them some slack.

Best Friends Forever is an astute, ground breaking, easily read book, which holds one’s interest from beginning to end. It is highly recommended for psychotherapists whose practices are filled with people mourning the loss of their best friends, the mourners themselves, which includes just about everybody at some time or another in their lives, and the families and friends who love them and feel helpless in confronting their pain.

Dr. Irene S. Levine is a psychologist, journalist, member of the American Society for Journalists and Authors, and professor at New York University Medical School. She writes frequently for such publications as The New York Times, Health, Ladies’ Home Journal, Reader’s Digest, Self, The Huffington Post, and Better Homes and Gardens. She lives in New York.


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