How to cope after breaking up with a BFF of 10 yrs?
January 18, 2009 12:39 AM   Subscribe

I feel like I made the right decision in breaking up with my (jealous) BFF of 10 yrs - but I still feel guilty over it? Also, what to do about mutual friends and any advice on coping?

I broke up with my BFF of 10 yrs last summer, after what seemed like a deterioration of our friendship. We are both 30 yrs old.. were friends through college and post-college years - and shared a lot of great memories and activities together. I was also close with my BFF's boyfriend (now husband), who I also respected. They were always supportive and good friends during some difficult times, as I was with them. We all lived close together in the same city until they moved to another city 6 hrs. away 2 yrs ago, we're going to get married and settle down. So we only saw each other sporadically after, but that's when the troubles began.

In fall 2007, I decided to pursue Grad school to get a MBA b/c I got stuck in my career and needed a major change - as well as was facing a lot of pressure from my traditional parents. All my friends were supportive of that idea - except for this BFF and her BF. We all had college degrees, but when I told her of the news, she got all critical, saying, "There's nothing wrong with your education," "That's awfully hard - are you sure you can do it?," or "How are you ever going to afford that?" I was shocked, hurt and didn't know where that came from. Someone said it sounded like she was jealous of me and didn't want me to get a MBA. But why would she care? She was getting married, we lived far away, it wouldn't impact her? I tried to talk to her about it, but she denied everything and said that she was just "looking out for me."

The weird thing is, my BFF got into a huge bad argument with her BF and wanted to even end their relationship a few months earlier - when *I* had to be there to console her.

In the next year, she started contacting me less and I felt like I was the one who had to keep the friendship going. On her b-day, her BF invited me to a surprise party, but I couldn't make it as I was prepping for the GMAT a few wks later. I sent a nice gift, but she didn't even have the courtesy to tell me thank you. So then when her wedding started coming around, all she could talk about was her wedding - and didn't even really include me in the plans, let alone had much interest in my life anymore.

Eventually, I got so fed up with this one-sided friendship after 1 yr of that I was done, no more. I felt like I was walking on eggshells for her terms of happiness and she did not support me when I needed her.

So here comes the really bizarre and inmature (asinine) part:

Her *Mom* begins writing to me on MySpace/Facebook to try to invite me to the wedding after a few months of non-communication. She and the Dad tells me that my friend is going through some "changes," "is growing up" and wants me to be understanding and there for her. I was like, "WTF? Are you kidding me?" You want me to be there for HER when she won't be there for me? I ignored all of the msgs. After a few wks, this so-called BFF tried emailing me and asks me what's wrong. And in the process, both she and the Mom are trying to msg. MY friends and be all chummy with them all of a sudden? I felt like this was high school crap! Well, I tried to keep our mutual friends out of it, luckily all of my friends kept their distance.

It's been 6 months since my ex-BFF's wedding and I sent a "why we broke up letter" to her last week. I felt like I made the right decision in breaking up our friendship - but I still feel guilty that I had to cut it cold turkey from time to time. I understand usually friendshifts happen around big events like graduation, marriage and babies. But I tried and didn't want this to happen. Is this normal? I just feel angry that she and her Mom - still don't understand or will stop their immature behavior.

I think both my friend and I were in a similar depressed, negative state for a good portion of our time together. I have since gotten therapy, all of my relationships have grown and I feel like a positive, better person now. Does that have an impact - that they may not recognize their absurd behavior?

Thanks for any feedback, I feel like jealously or whatever this is is such an unspoken topic and really would like some feedback. I appreciate you guys reading my long post.
posted by urbanchic to Human Relations (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I sincerely apologize if this seems snappish, but -- are you sure this is the way people who are thirty years old handle their relationships? Are you sure this is the way that people who are thirty years old SHOULD handle their relationships? This question sounds more like it came out of a sitcom than a real life experience. Or, as I kept repeating in my head while reading the question, "seriously?!"

If you can't handle people moving on and becoming more distant emotionally as the physical distance increases, then you're seriously emotionally under-equipped to handle adulthood and you certainly are not capable of aging with any grace.

People come and go. Life goes on. Move on. Being quietly sad for friendships lost along the way is acceptable, but being shrill and dare-I-say almost squawking like a bird in a panic over this lost friendship is just ... ... ... weird in a very uniquely selfish manner. It's quite possible that the reason that she became more distant from you and excluded you from her life and her wedding is because you were clinging to this image of the three of you in college, and hadn't updated your mental image to reflect reality as you all grew and changed.

To me, it sounds like your former friend has grown up and moved on. You didn't need to break up with her. It's time that you do the same. All little girls must grow up someday, and now it's your turn.
posted by SpecialK at 2:12 AM on January 18, 2009 [10 favorites]

specialk any reason you are being so nasty to this person? that was pretty lame. People of all ages feel stress about relationships. I think your response was pretty crappy and unhelpful.

I've broken up with friends, only a couple of times over the years but it has always sucked and been really confusing. Recently it happened, not my BFF but one of the few friends I have in the area (moved here a year ago and socially it has not been a success). And there were a number of things that I'd done in the past that made the friendship not work out, so it was not totally the other person's fault, but the friendship was not doing anything for me, I was feeling pretty neglected, but it was still sort of just persisting and finally I ended it. It makes me sad to think about it now, but in truth I don't think either of us was getting much out of it (oh yeah and we'd talked it through a couple of times, in great drama, to no real change).

So anyway, I think you need to think if you want this person to be your friend or not, minus all the emotions.

I have a lot of friendships that have had their ups and downs too, and for whatever reasons, they've lasted. I wouldn't even say that I might not, at some other time, have a chance to rebuild the friendship with the person above. But I don't think there is anything specifically wrong with what you are doing. I understand it, anyway. But yeah, it sucks.
posted by sully75 at 3:17 AM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

Maybe she was jealous, maybe she wasn't. If I were going back to (grad) school, and a close friend asked me those same questions, I would totally understand. Grad school can be a big undertaking. Maybe give her a bit of a break, and no offense, you're sounding a bit immature.
posted by heavenstobetsy at 4:18 AM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

So you know where I'm coming from, what I get out of your post is that....

1) There's this woman you've expected would be your best friend, forever. You lived nearby each other and were emotionally close for 10 years, since you were both in your late teens.

2) She developed a committed romantic relationship, made some decisions about her life that involved moving away, and acted on them.

3) She had a big fight with her SO that threatened her plans, and you were supportive of her when she was in a dark emotional place.

3) Months later you made a difficult decision to pursue an advanced degree, partly because you felt parental pressure to do so, and you expected her unqualified support for this decision. You didn't get it, and felt betrayed. You challenged her motives for not supporting you, suggesting she didn't have your best interests at heart.

4) A persistent residue of hurt feelings on both sides made you more distance. You were invited to her party, didn't go, sent a gift and got no thank-you note.

5) She didn't ask you to participate in her wedding, and this hurt you. You decided the friendship was over.

6) First your friend's mother, and then your friend herself, contacted you and tried to patch things up. You repeatedly rebuffed them. They kept trying, which made you uncomfortable. You comforted yourself by thinking of their efforts as immature and absurd. You wrote her a breakup letter complete with detailed grievances to which you didn't want any response.

7) You're worried that maybe you haven't handled this so well.

I've never had anyone I called "BFF," and the whole idea seems rather juvenile to me. IMO, "BFF" shouldn't be pronounced or written without a wink, a wry smile or shit-eating grin by anyone older than 15. Friendships change because people's lives change, and this involves some growing pains because choices we make have side-effects we might not like and maybe don't anticipate, which can be terribly unsettling. We suffer little (and big) emotional earthquakes which make us aware that our sense of what is solid and safe is not reliable. We hunger for a sense of certainty that is not readily available.

Your particular story sounds fairly normal through most of its course. Your friend committed herself to someone other than you, moved away, you felt dethroned, and communication and understanding between you frayed. This is normal stuff.

There are close parallels in my life. My high-school best friend went away to college in a city several hours away, got involved in an intense and painful romance, aligned with people I didn't know or feel comfortable around. I wrote long, thoughtful letters, got no responses, and was hurt. His explanation that he'd actually written letters to me that he'd somehow never found a stamp for didn't make me resent him any less. At some point, I stopped trying so hard to make the friendship look the way I wanted it to. I invested myself in other things.

What I don't get is, why did you feel the need to "break up" with her? Why not simply let things cool between you as you each find your ways in your evolving lives, but leave the door open? For me, my friendship reconstituted years after I'd given up on it. My friend moved back within day-trip range. We visited. Long after that first intense romantic relationship of his had breathed its last, my friend asked me to participate in his wedding, and, later, to be godfather to his firstborn. "Breaking up," to me, sounds as if you're telling your supposed BFF that the future of your friendship is not acceptable because it's clearly not going to look like the past. I do think that might've been a bad move. None of the offenses you detailed sound like she's done anything other than grow up and struggle in unfamiliar circumstances. None of it sounds so terrible. You may not like it, and you may need support that she's not able to give, but it doesn't sound like she's treated you so terribly. If you need what she can't provide then it's fine to seek it elsewhere and you shouldn't feel guilty about it. But I don't think you need to throw away something because it's not everything. If I'm right that that's what you've done, maybe you should try and undo the damage.
posted by jon1270 at 5:25 AM on January 18, 2009 [17 favorites]

It's been 6 months since my ex-BFF's wedding and I sent a "why we broke up letter" to her last week.

Don't do that. This kind of drama is for teenagers, and now it will be more difficult (if not impossible) to check up / rekindle your friendship in the future.
posted by Meatbomb at 5:59 AM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

When you start having friendships for more than 10 years you realize that friends ebb and flow. And you begin to be willing to be more forgiving. A friend is crabby and tiresome for a year or two? Get over it! Have a 20 year or 30 year timeframe and the kind of problems you describe are nothing. I suggest you get over your petty greivances (and behavior), call her and apologize.
posted by zia at 7:10 AM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Special K - your "apology" and snappish is anything but and extremely rude. FYI - I've been working for the last 5-6 years in the corporate world so I'm way past college - and unlike my friend, have had many SOLID, POSITIVE friendships that have lasted for years. A number of my other friends had gotten married, did the babies thing and those friendships lasted.

None of my other friendships were as dramatic or as immature as this one.

I agree with you that things that were not handled well. But how can you say that she has the right to oversee my own goals and not be supportive when I was supportive of her?

I was very happy that my 2 best friends were to get married, and I was fine that they moved. (not quite sure why are others thinking that I was upset over this? Not really. We both were friends since college, but went to different schools. I never really thought she abandoned me, if anything, she wanted to move farther away from her family). We went through a lot together - but to smile, then be treated like shit is excusable?

Sounds like you have no capability of compassion.
posted by urbanchic at 7:18 AM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Jon - thanks. Best feedback so far.

Btw - I hate the term BFF, but I only did that b/c I didn't want to write out best female friend 10x's... guess I should've just worded it as close friends.
posted by urbanchic at 7:23 AM on January 18, 2009

Response by poster: Sully - I agree. There were a few times where I tried to talk to her about it... w/o deliberately trying to pin her or make her feel guilty (like, why was I the one working on the friendship) but I guess my veiled attempts weren't so effective. When I did bring up once why she was being so critical.. she got all of a sudden pretty defensive so I dropped it.

You're right, I think when both of us aren't getting our needs met - then it's prob. time to move on. Thanks.
posted by urbanchic at 7:28 AM on January 18, 2009

BFF usually stands for "Best Friend Forever" - it's a term that my 11-year-old nieces might use to identify their friends on the web. I think Urbanchic's post might have seemed a lot less juvenile if she had said she had had a "falling out" with her best friend, rather than "breaking up" with her "best friend forever" which is what I thought she was saying.

I've had "fallings out" with close friends for reasons I don't entirely understand. For whatever reason we stop communicating, stop sending Christmas cards or connecting on Facebook on Linked-in, in a way that is more than just "I Forgot..." But adults do not generally explicitly "break-up" with a friend the way they might "break-up" with a boyfriend or girlfriend, or divorce their spouse.
posted by thomas144 at 8:05 AM on January 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

her BF invited me to a surprise party, but I couldn't make it as I was prepping for the GMAT a few wks later.

This really jumped out at me as significant. You couldn't take two days (assuming they live 6 hours away) to go to a surprise party for your best friend, because you were studying for a test that was weeks away? You couldn't have taken two days off? You couldn't have taken the study materials with you? I have studied for Big Important Tests in my life, there was never a time that I couldn't have taken two days off for something/someone important. This (to me) says a lot about how important this friend really was to you. I don't think it's absurd that this offended her. REAL lifetime-subscription friends are honest with each other, what you have described is you wanting her to sugar-coat her opinions about you returning to school, and thinking her behaviour is "absurd" when she didn't do what you wanted her to do - if you don't want to hear a long-term friend's real opinion, tell them, but don't get mad when what they say is not what you want to hear. You are better off without each other.
posted by biscotti at 8:07 AM on January 18, 2009 [4 favorites]

I felt like this was high school crap!

Me too. In fact, the whole thing reads like "high school crap." I'm with SpecialK on this one - not only is the scenario you describe indicative of high school behavior and a high school relationship, the way you're describing and writing about these problems also seems surprising given your age. The fact that your friend's parents have to act as emissaries for the two of you is ridiculous. You're adults now, and can talk (or not talk) to each like adults. I don't care how long you've worked in the corporate world - succeeding in business or a career is not the same as having mature emotions and communicating well with friends.

There are a ton of questions like this on AskMe, so let's be honest with what's going on here - you're feeling gossipy and want to unload on this woman you don't like anymore, but at the same time you feel slightly conflicted over what you did, and so you want the validation of internet people to make you feel like you made the right decision. And, in your responses, you're clearly interjecting and trying to shame the people who are telling you to grow up and applauding the people who are reinforcing what you want to hear. So I doubt my words will cut through the delusion here, but if you want a sincere answer to your question, "How to cope after breaking up with a BFF of 10 years," it is this: learn to communicate with people before things devolve into an irreparable dynamic dominated by suspicion and doubt and jealousy. Also, a little empathy goes a long way, and you seem to expect your friend to understand everything you're going through without fully describing your emotions or putting your feelings in context (saving it for the big letter, I guess). Finally, you consistently call your friend immature, you refer to her as your "BFF," and you felt the need to write her a "break up letter" instead of letting the friendship take its natural course. Most friendships simply ebb and tide, and frankly I've never heard of a 30 year old nuking a friendship in such a dramatic and, dare I say it - immature - fashion.

Ultimately, SpecialK put it better than me: "If you can't handle people moving on and becoming more distant emotionally as the physical distance increases, then you're seriously emotionally under-equipped to handle adulthood and you certainly are not capable of aging with any grace."
posted by billysumday at 8:09 AM on January 18, 2009 [12 favorites]

Response by poster: "Learn to communicate with people before things devolve into an irreparable dynamic dominated by suspicion and doubt and jealousy. Also, a little empathy goes a long way, and you seem to expect your friend to understand everything you're going through without fully describing your emotions or putting your feelings in context"

Billysumday - I agree with most of what you said.

But I don't understand - if there are "tons of questions like this on Askme" - then doesn't this explain people act out absurdly in dire times? I will admit, I could have handled things better. Yet what's wrong with being a bit more compassionate versus belittling? I asked on Metafilter b/c I wanted thorough answers (vs. Yahoo) but the posters on here are often so negative. That's not conductive. Throwing out phrases like "you are under equipped to handle adulthood" and "not capable of aging with any grace" - is that *really* productive to the solution?

As I mentioned earlier, I have other close friends who have lasted longer, who are mature, married, have kids, etc. and I also have friends across in Europe so I understand I have to work harder on the distance, ebbs and flow thing.

And please understand, it wasn't my notion to get the parents involved (like I didn't mention about this to my own folks since I know this was a ridiculous story). But regardless, yes, I suppose at some point - unconsciously now looking back after these posts... perhaps I - or both - wanted the friendship to end since we weren't meeting each other's needs anymore.
posted by urbanchic at 8:35 AM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Because of events in life, sometimes strong friendships move into acquaintance category. This is not a failure on either part. Maybe her marriage became a priority and she had to put a lot of energy into it at the expense of time with others? It happens. Maybe she forgot to write a thank you card? It happens. I think this is where compassion would help wonderfully.

It sounds like you 'broke up' because of feelings of anger and resentment, which was never communicated, and then festered and fueled the break up. It sounds like somewhere down the line there was not a working out of feelings as there should have been.

Also, just a side note, I actually respect my friends who challenge me and question me on my decisions. They are being honest with me and, even if I don't like their opinion, I respect that they care that much about me, and it really helps strengthen my decisions.

Lastly, you mention you were both depressed. Sometimes it is hard to revisit a time in your life when you were depressed. Maybe that is part of what is going on with her.

Again, compassion and communication.
posted by Vaike at 9:03 AM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

Wait, what exactly is the question here? Honestly, I can't tell what you're asking. There's a lot of venting about the situation and how it came about that the two of you are no longer friends... but I'm having trouble defining the question...

I'm going to go with the post title as the question and say that you cope with friend breakups the same way you cope with relationship breakups. They suck. Talk to your other friends, but not in a gossipy way - just in a totally barebones "This is how I feel and I need to vent." If you need to really do some kind of "relationship autopsy" that's best done with a totally impartial third party (such as a therapist, if you're into that sort of thing, or a friend who does not know your former BFF in any way).

Acknowledge that you feel bad. Invest your energy in other, healthier friendships. Comfort yourself in whatever way you find appropriate - watch movies, get out of the house, eat mac & cheese, whatever makes you feel happy.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:17 AM on January 18, 2009

I'm sorry, but in your writing you DO come off as very defensive and, I'm afraid, as immature as you claim your friend to be.

It sounds like you are trying to square her away in your mind as the Bad Guy in the situation. What was the point of writing a letter six months after the wedding? On some level you had to have realized that it was too late and you were just stirring up shit. Or that is she refused to write you back, then in your mind you really COULD write her off.

It reads like you felt she was pulling you rushed to "end" things before she could. Preemptive. That way YOU weren't the one abandoned by the friend; she was the one left behind. It hurts less to be the leaver than the leavee (well, not always, but I believe most people emotionally feel that it is so).
posted by Windigo at 10:28 AM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

You need to let go of your issues with her messaging your friends. It's likely that she's feeling sad that you've broken up with her and keeping in touch with them is a way to still feel close with you, someone she misses. But you can't control her behavior there, nor do you have a right to.

If her family contacts you again, tell them, calmly, that it's between the two of you and you'd prefer not to discuss it with others. Ignoring the messages and then getting all spazzy-spazzy when they keep coming is pretty silly. And you don't even know for sure if she instigated these messages being sent--they could be doing it of their own volition, and she might have nothing to do with it.

It really sounds like you're not willing to be held accountable for your actions. Cutting off contact is fine, and happens, but I'd expect some questioning there. In high school, did you ever have a dude you were dating just quit talking to you without a formal break up? Do you remember how much that hurt? Imagine if you'd been involved with the person for a decade. Sending a letter of explanation six months down the line seems doubly hurtful, spiteful, and at this point, likely totally unnecessary.

Anyway, on to the question. You get over this like you do anything else, with time and distraction. Part of you will probably never stop missing her to some degree--that's normal. But if you really believe that not being friends with her ever again is for the best (and I hope you do, since you've burned all bridges), just remind yourself of your reasons for doing that and remain firm in your choices.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:40 AM on January 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think there is a good question buried in the gossip and that the highly-critical response to urbanchic's question has not quite hit the mark.

That is: How do you know when someone is jealous of you? I am sort of fascinated by jealousy. It is such a slippery vice, and you are never sure if someone is jealous of you or if something else completely is going on. When someone tells me a person's response is because they're jealous of me, I question what seems like an easy, self-serving explanation of what's going on. But at the same time it really happens.

I humbly suggest urbanchic is trying to understand whether her own jealousy sensors are out of whack or are truly picking up on bitchy resentment.
posted by Kirklander at 11:11 AM on January 18, 2009

When you are truely confident in yourself you will not worry about negative people - making these sorts of steps are hard but worthwhile. You have made a positive move for yourself and as a result will be able to develop more supportive relationships in the future. Best wishes.
posted by lilyflower at 11:13 AM on January 18, 2009

There's quite an amount of cultural misunderstanding going on here as well. Many people are thrown by BFF when the poster meant her best female friend. I have lots of really good freind but there is no question that I have one very close female friend who knows me better than anyone but my husband.

Going by the way things developed reminds me of situations I have encountered with female friends in the North West Frontier province in Pakistan, a very traditional area where I could envision all of this taking place. Poster I have no idea where you are from but I can totally see my friend Shagufta missing my surprise party if anything of an academic nature was in the offing, particularly an important exam. Indeed, her family would not have allowed her to travel in the weeks leading up to such an event as education is so highly prized and she would have been practically timetabled, you eat at X time (these special brain foods I cook for you with my own hands so you can make us proud, guilt trip central if you fail the exam!). You study at these times, see Aunt-ji at these times etc., etc., etc., This was when she was doing post-Doc work so it will surprise some of the people who have commented already. She was a sucessful doctor and would totally allow them to regulate her time like that.

Also if there had been a falling out between us and she was upset about it to the extent where her parents noticed, they would have contacted me to try to intervene and make things easier for her (I'm surprised the BF didn't intervene more).

The only thing I found you might have done better is to explain at an earlier stage what you were feeling rather than disappear from her life (when the comms started to get further and further apart, she won't have realised your increasing silence meant what it meant to you).
I see that their attempts to contact you via Facebook made you uncomfortable, were they posted somewhere others could see? Perhaps you were already feeling a little guilty that you had not confronted the issue and rather allowed the friendship of 10 years to die by default and therefore you reacted to these messages in the way you did?

I think some of the comments on here were singularly unhelpful
posted by Wilder at 6:27 AM on January 19, 2009

Picking through the commentary, I don't see a lot of address about differential expectations of friendship that seem to be involved in the breakup of this friendship. You may feel that friends are supportive no matter what, as you did when your ex-friend got into it with her boyfriend, and as she was not when you talked about going to grad school; she may feel as another commenter upthread did that she was being a good friend by challenging your plans to be sure you'd thought them through.

You may also be the sort of person who feels it keenly when the balance of a friendship goes awry or is tilted strongly one way or the other. I'm that way; I don't like being extremely indebted to my friends and I don't like feeling taken advantage of either. This is neither a virtue nor a terrible flaw, but if you're not aware of it and don't manage your friendships to make sure they're sort of even, you'll end up unhappy and have more dramatics in your future, whether or not you mean to have any.

How do you get past where you are? To the extent that terminating the friendship is like breaking up with a romantic partner, it will take some time to get over and you should accept that. Block the ex-friend and her mom on Facebook/Myspace/whatever; don't respond to emails; if the friends bring it up, tell them you appreciate their concern but it's a closed subject and talk about something else. If you find yourself dwelling on it, do something else. Deepen your friendships with other people who are closer to where you are. However you feel like you handled this friendship breakup badly, figure out how not to do that again, and make those changes in your life. Good luck and best wishes as you go through this process.
posted by immlass at 11:49 AM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

What was you motivation to send the letter?

I don't understand. She moved and married; you went to graduate school. Surely you knew that your friendship would change due to these events. You've should both have made some new friends. She may have transfered the role of primary friend to her spouse.

What you assumed was jealousy was much more likely to be a normal transition as we mature and change. I don't see any malice or jealousy in her behavior. After all, her partner invited you to her surprise party (you skipped it) and she invited you to her wedding (did you attend?).

Which brings me back to this - what was you motivation to send the letter? I can't see anything productive that could happen from mailing that letter.
posted by 26.2 at 12:07 PM on January 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

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