• Handling Breakups

Seeing my friend for the first time after a one-sided breakup

Published: September 20, 2014 | By | 15 Replies Continue Reading
The closer you were, the more difficult it is to see an ex-friend for the first time after a breakup.

QUESTION

Hi Irene,

Thank you for your blog. It’s been very helpful to me this past year as my best friend of 20 years decided for us, and our very close husbands and children that our seemingly great friendship was to end.

To make matters worse, she has never explained why. To say I was, and am intermittently now a year later, devastated, would be an understatement. I have bravely and painfully accepted that there was a seismic shift in our relationship that I cannot change nor understand.

I have scoured my soul searching for explanations and answers as to what happened. I have tried contacting my friend but she wants no contact. I am respecting her wishes as hard as it is for me.

My question to you is, how should I act when I see her and her family next week, at a mutual friend’s wedding for the first time since our friendship ended?

I’m trying to brace myself for the pain of seeing her and no longer being close. The awkwardness of knowing each other intimately but acting like friendly acquaintances will hurt terribly, to not be able to connect with her the way we would have in the past. Of course I will be nice and cordial, all the while dying for real connection with her.

We were such close friends: Had our babies together; husbands were business partners together; she and I were business partners, all successfully and without complications.

I miss her terribly. There was no great event that caused this and I need bolstering advice to navigate through next weekend seeing her and her family, who were like my own.

Of course I want more than anything to have her see me and realize what a mistake it was to end our friendship but in my heart I know this will not happen. I am not holding out false hope. When will the pain of this loss and feelings of rejection end?

Sometimes I’m fine and rightfully angry and disgusted by her selfish insensitive action (or inaction!) and shocked at her uncharacteristic behavior but other times something like seeing a photograph of her- or of the kids together, or something such as seeing her next weekend completely fells me and makes my heart ache inside.

She was an irreplaceably great friend. I miss her. Your wise advice on your blog and book has buoyed me through one of the toughest years of my life. Thank you. If you have any more sage advice to get me over this emotionally scary event, I would be so appreciative.
Losing a best friend is up there in my book of terrible losses and I have faced some very tough situations in my life to compare it to. Thank you very much.

Vera

ANSWER

Hi Vera,

The loss of a friend without explanation is extraordinarily painful, especially when there were so many ties between you and all those years of memories. It’s only natural that it would be difficult to move forward and forget the hurt.

I wish there were words I could offer that would make it easier for you to get through the wedding, which involves seeing your friend and her family for the first time since the breakup. I know it will be difficult given how close you once were. I admire you for attending the wedding in spite of this.

A few thoughts:

1) Remember that the breakup has more to do with her than it does with you. There may be “secrets” about her life that she hasn’t shared with you.

2) Even though she did not respond to your overtures, you should feel proud that you handled things as well as you could and did whatever you could do to find out what was wrong.

3) You are mature and wise to realize that the wedding isn’t the time or place to deal with this issue. Yes, hold your head high. Be cordial to her and her family should you pass each other by or be near each other.

4) Be reassured that your husband will be there to support you.

Seeing your once-friend again at the wedding may not be the last time you’ll feel pained but getting through it will be overcoming another hurdle in your recovery. If another event takes place, it will be easier than this one. All you really need is tincture of time to get over this.

Warm regards, Irene

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Category: HANDLING BREAKUPS, How to get over a breakup

Comments (15)

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  1. Amalfi says:

    Those steps are applicable in SOME situations and RIDICULOUS in others. Generalizations like these don’t see the individuality of each friendship dynamic realistically.

    • Laura says:

      This is an internet blog designed to help from afar, not face to face therapy.The steps listed are an excellent guideline and very helpful. Rather than being a Negative Nelly, why not make some constructive suggestions if your think the steps are “ridiculous?”

    • LaTrice says:

      First off, Amalfi, I disagree with what you’re saying about this blog. It seems that you don’t understand on how people need help with their issues, so they can come up with a way to solve them. You just don’t get it.

      Instead of being such a negative person, do yourself a HUGE favor, and ignore the comments-if it bothers you that much!! I don’t know how your friends and family tolerate that attitude of yours, and it SUCKS!!

      Again, your attitude is “RIDICULOUS!!”

  2. mouse says:

    Hi Vera,

    Please do let us know how things went for you meeting your friend. What was your experience inside? We can all learn from each other in these difficult opportunities. Please share whatever feels right to share.

  3. Mrs. Chen says:

    Vera,
    Not only should you hold your head high, you should be outraged. Whatever your offense was, rest assured that she has outdone you. To so cruelly and completely cut off a 20-year friendship of this depth without an explanation is an offense that, imo, rivals that of having an affair with a best friend’s husband. You have clearly misjudged your ex-friend’s character. Someone who is capable of inflicting this kind of pain on a closest friend of 20-years is not deserving of your (or anyone’s) friendship. You have to cut your losses and move on right away. Don’t waste another minute of your life thinking about her.

    If someone at the wedding asks you about what happened between you two, I think you should be honest. Tell them that she suddenly cut you off and won’t tell you why. Tell them that what hurt you the most is that she doesn’t think that you deserve an explanation, even after all that you’ve been to each other. Your goal is not so much to turn others against her but to show everyone that you have nothing to hide.

    • Robin allen says:

      Thank you.
      This is great advice and I did do just that when I saw her. She too had been hurting all this time.
      I don’t have any expectations of where things will end up but I acted with dignity and grace and this made me feel good- empowered.
      Thanks for your positive words.
      Vera

    • Robin allen says:

      Outrage and anger serves no positive purpose.
      It will only hurt the chances of any reconciliation and make me feel worse for my bad behavior and how she might perceive it.
      I told myself I would act with dignity and I did.
      I am feeling better for it.
      Thanks for your response even though we have different viewpoints.
      Best,
      Vera

  4. Amy F says:

    When faced with awkward situations, where I have to see people I’d rather avoid or former friends, I’m proactive and take the high road. I seek out the person and greet her, sincerely, with no expectation. No matter how she reacts or doesn’t react, I’m prepared. After she’s (hopefully) greeted me back, I don’t linger unless she begins s conversation. I find someone who likes m to focus on. I feel better because I’ve taken control of the situation and then moved on. I can’t control how she responds.

    I was dealing with a bout of depression and a friend who I’d known since school, 25 years, said my depression was depressing her. She said I had an aura of sadness around me (whatever that is) and she no longer wanted to be friends. I appreciated her directness, even though I was hurt. I was always happy to be around her do I didn’t think she noticed I was also suffering from depression. A few years later I bumped into her at a reunion where I hadn’t expected to see her. I walked right over and said hello. She looked a bit uncomfortable, but seemed glad to see me. Then I went to get a soda and sit down (I can only stand for very short periods of time). A few minutes later she asked if she could sit down. We talked about what we’d been doing, I asked about her kids etc. Our conversation felt like two friendly acquaintances. I knew we weren’t going to be friends again and I wasn’t even sure I’d have wanted that. She sent me a note thanking me for helping her feel feel less nervous at the reunion. We’re still FB friends, but not really friends. We say happy birthday, but that’s about it. And that’s ok,

    I don’t think we can ever go wrong being gracious, and if we keep our expectations very realistic, the exchange can be pleasant and empowering.

  5. mouse says:

    Oh Vera,

    I have had my own version of this. I know that heartsick feeling of hope and anger and loss all mixed together.

    Know that she is also rehearsing scenarios of meeting you. If you hope for this relationship to come back together one day then this is my invitation to you:

    consider starting now, filling your heart with love and gratitude for her, for your relationship, for the deep connection that has been so nourishing for you. Enliven your trust in her (even if it has been sorely tested) and in you and in your connection. If you can or want to you may invite her to a soul meeting with you where you assure her that you have room for all of her. Including room for her to take this space, room for her to be unable to explain, room for all of it. And assure her soul that she will be welcomed when she is ready to return.

    Here is what I have learned. When my heart is full of love and gratitude, there is less room for fear. also I think I am more approachable and for sure I am happier.

    Love and gratitude and trust are the road to coming back together and can also be the road to moving forward separately with each of you being blessed. Love and gratitude is always the healing.

    • Jen says:

      This is really beautiful. Takes some stretching sometimes, and real leaps of faith, but a good goal to have. Total acceptance is rare and we are not encouraged to do that enough. Reminds me of the Good Samaratin parable. Not always possible to do (sometimes all I can do is focus on my other relationships when the hurts are so big), but a good ideal to reach for. I had a friend named Mouse once in high school. We fell out of touch and I hope she is doing well. While I’ve been hurt many times in life, I am grateful for all the positive, loving moments in my life and at least grateful for the learning that pain and suffering has brought me. I understand the desire to be outraged when we go through very hurtful situations, that is normal. Then, when we get through the stages of grief, we can turn toward the healing and the love. God bless all the posters here.

  6. Jen says:

    This happened to me too, with a friend of about 8 years. The only reason I knew why was because my son mentioned to me that he and their son were not getting along at swim practice. According to my son this boy “B” started bragging that he was a better swimmer than my son “M” so my son bragged back that HE was better. I coached my son to stop doing that, and focus on swimming his own personal best and to just say kind things to “B” which he really, really worked at. Also, the kids swim very close together doubling up in lanes, and at one point my very tall son grazed “B” on his head with his foot. He apologized right away to him AND even to his mom. That was the last straw for “B” and he wouldn’t speak to my son anymore. The problems increased for awhile, and I tried to coach my so. My son was SO sad to be losing his friend who didn’t talk to him that whole year! After awhile, I could see it was for the best, who needs a friend like that? We as parents never had a confrontation or argument about it with “B’s” parents, but it led to a rift between the parents and their family suddenly faded away. We are still on friendly terms with them if we happen to run into them(they live a few blocks away), but they don’t invite us over anymore, no more shopping trips together, hanging out, etc. A year later I questioned my friend about it, in the hopes of reconciling, and she did open up a little about what happened form her son’s point of view, but did not respond to my request to try to get together, help the boys get along, etc. They have totally ignored us, and indulged their son’s immature behavior. So like I said, it really turned out to be the best. My son is not perfect, but he’s a nice boy, NOT mean spirited, and not normally proud or competitive, tho he did get caught up and fed up with the repeated taunting and insulting from this boy. Like I said, I coached my son “M” to think about what was happening, remain humble and kind, and focus on doing his own personal best, not on the rude behavior of teammates. He has been doing that very well, and I am so proud of him. Anyway, because my son initially mentioned his struggle with “B,” we were at least able to understand the source of the separation. Friendships are fragile and in general, I believe, often unstable, precisely because they are voluntary and at the whim of people’s personal choice. So if something negative happens, sometimes friends don’t stick around to deal with it. That happened here. And we moved on as well. These things are hard, but you can mourn this friendship as needed, while remember the gift and joy that it was for 20 years of your life, make new friends, be your own best friend, and focus more on your family and extended family for awhile. Chin up and God bless!

    • Robin Allen says:

      Thank you very much for your reply.
      It is painful to lose a cherished friend.
      For anyone.
      I’m sorry to hear you went through a similar
      situation.
      Knowing and learning that others go through this as well is helpful for me to get beyond it a little- This is such a taboo conversation to have with most people that you really don’t know about others’ adult break ups.
      I would be interested to learn why this IS such a taboo topic?
      Irene:)?
      Thank you, Vera

      • Jen says:

        Robin, that is such an interesting question about why it is taboo to talk about adult friendship problems. There is a real difference between problem solving and gossiping. People seem overly afraid of gossip to me, sometimes, to the point where they cripple their ability to clear up conflicts. Perhaps because things can get complicated so fast, because we’ve shared confidences and don’t want those to be revealed to strangers, etc. that people suddenly become hermit crabs when there’s a danger of personal business being hung out with the laundry? When I have had deep personal hurts occur, if I really need advice or support I go to someone who does not know those people, and even then I don’t use real names, in case they meet them in the future. I am very, very cautious about revealing who and what so people can keep their business theirs, and I can get some sorely needed help! Just some thoughts…Best wishes to you!

  7. lottie says:

    Hi Vera,
    It might not be as bad as what you imagine depending on how many guests are at the wedding.You might not even come face to face with them. Of course if you do spot them mingling and your eyes meet I would smile and give a little wave and go and say hello. Just imagine she might be feeling the same about you and your husbands have to drag you apart to stop you talking. Go and enjoy a happy day and let us know what happened. Best wishes Lottie

  8. Sandra says:

    Vera,
    I can feel your grief in the words you’ve written to Irene. From what you’ve written, it sounds to me, too, that you’ve taken the high road and handled this as best you can. I think we’ve all had friendships that have faded away naturally, due to time and distance, but to have a longtime best friend who pulls back so suddenly, and won’t explain why, would be incredibly painful. You’ll come to terms with this someday, but for now — ouch!

    As Irene says, hold your head high at the wedding. I’m hoping, too, that there will be a few other friendly faces or old friends there who will keep you company, and that you’ll manage to have a good time. It won’t be easy at first, but I bet you’ll look back and be proud of the way you handled yourself. Good luck to you!

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