How do you move on from a friend breakup?
August 2, 2017 1:23 PM   Subscribe

I had a bad friend breakup several years ago and am still not over it and miss that friend. How do I move on?

From my previous questions you can see I didn't have an easy childhood. I don't mention this to excuse my behavior but maybe it helps explain why I had some bad relationships when I was younger.

My friend "Carrie" and I were best friends from high school. She helped me through many hard times and was above and beyond supportive. Admittedly, I didn't have many friends when I was young and maybe relied on Carrie too much. But I also gave a lot back to her, I think, and we were very happy friends together. We are both female and heterosexual but really loved each other a lot. The problem came when we fell for the same guy. Carrie and him dated first, and they were pretty serious, but then broke up. We were all friends and he and I became close and developed feelings for each other, a couple of years after they had broken up. We had what might now be called an emotional affair for a year or so and never had sex (we did have some heavy making out but decided not go farther because of Carrie and wanting to maintain all of our friendships.) But we hid our relationship and feelings from her. She had moved away from our town and was living far away (this was the days before email and texting.) I would talk often to the guy and tell him I wanted to let Carrie know but he said it would hurt her if we told her the truth. We ended up splitting our friendship because of this tension and it being an unhealthy relationship in general. He finally told her about our secret relationship (after he and I stopped seeing each other) and she was devastated. We were all in our early 20s then.

I apologized to her profusely and felt awful but she was understandably hurt. We sort of reestablished a very cool and distant communication for a while but it felt very fake so we agreed to stop communicating for good. It's now been many years and I still think of Carrie and the bond we had and miss her. I realize now that I'm older that such good friends are really for once in a lifetime and feel so stupid for letting a guy get in between us and ruin our relationship.

I have since then made new friends and drifted from others, and that seems to be a more normal ebb and flow of relationships. I am also glad to say I think I now have much better relationship patterns. But besides my spouse, I have never had another friend who clicked as well as Carrie. I think that maybe I hold the relationship on a pedestal with 20/20 hindsight and I know it's possible that we would have drifted apart anyway but I still have so much regret about it.

I would like to know how you come to terms with a friend breakup and how you cope with feelings of regret and shame in situations like this. And if you have had any experience like this. I find it mortifying and shameful. Thank you.
posted by shamefulsock to Human Relations (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe your best course is to forgive yourself for not telling her and acknowledge how much you've grown that you know you wouldn't do it that way again? My first reaction was that your friendship may have been on the downswing anyway if she couldn't get past you not telling her.

Maybe also your feelings of regret and shame are out of proportion to what you actually did? I mean, he did not cheat on her with you -- they'd been out of a relationship for multiple years. This stuff happens in friend groups in your early 20s (and beyond!) Brene Brown's TED talk on shame could help. This outsized feeling you are experiencing can be tamed.
posted by *s at 1:40 PM on August 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think the friendships we havein our early 20s are far more intense than later in life. Maybe we are more guarded, more distracted, less all-in. So the fact that you've never clicked with a friend like you did with her might also be an age thing, and if you were friends again today it wouldn't be the same.
posted by Omnomnom at 2:07 PM on August 2, 2017 [8 favorites]

I have had close and intense friendships end for various reasons, some messy and painful like what you described here, and others that simply faded away. I still cherish those friendships in retrospect and wish people the very best while not wanting to stay in contact; I'm sure there are others who feel the same about me. Please be gentler with yourself here! And perhaps consider seeing a counselor or therapist to discuss this in greater detail. We all have actions and events that we look back upon with heavy hearts; however, when something lingers so painfully for so long, it can be a sign of a deeper yearning or sadness. Once uncovered, that pain can provide insight and foster self-knowledge that will lead you to greater happiness in the here and now and give you peace with your past actions. I wish that you for because you certainly deserve it. I really believe Carrie would want that for you, too, but that such acknowledgement and acceptance will first come within.
posted by smorgasbord at 2:51 PM on August 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

You're probably also mourning some aspects of late teenager-hood/early 20ness, which is a different phase of life from the one you're in now. Try to disentangle those feelings from your regret over Carrie.

But, my goodness, if people were irredeemably terrible for screwing up friendships at that age, most of us would have to be awful people!
posted by praemunire at 4:05 PM on August 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

Maybe the problem is that you still really miss her, and if that's the case it seems to me that the time might be ripe to attempt a reconciliation. People often do move on from these things when they've had time and space to do so, and it's been several years. Send Carrie a birthday or Christmas card (with, of course, your current address on the envelope) telling her that you're thinking of her and hope she's well. If she's been missing you too and is ready to be friends again, she'll contact you.
posted by orange swan at 5:14 PM on August 2, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'd contact her. You probably won't ever have that kind of relationship with her again, just because they rarely occur outside of that age. But you could still contact her on facebook or whatever.
posted by Neekee at 5:40 PM on August 2, 2017

Agree with the above posters that there's nothing wrong with contacting her, just keep your expectations minimal and make your contact low-pressure.

Some of us find it hard to move on from both platonic and romantic relationships, and it just takes a little more time. If she's not open to your contact attempt, keep being patient with yourself and know you'll get there eventually.

If you do resume a friendship, just remember that a lot has probably changed for both of you. It's almost like a brand-new friendship, but with history.
posted by bunderful at 8:51 PM on August 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've been the Carrie before in a broken friendship. A good friend of mine started dating my ex-boyfriend a few months after we broke up, when we were all in our very early twenties. It didn't work out between them, and I think he ended up telling me about it. Or maybe I heard from a few people, I can no longer remember. At the time, I thought that she had crossed a line, that she wasn't my friend if she could do this. It was a real deal breaker for me. I wasn't so self-aware back then, so I don't remember feeling angry or upset, I just felt like I couldn't be bothered to talk to her. (Now I know myself a bit better, I realize that this is one of the ways I feel when I am really angry and upset.) She reached out to apologize to me, and say it should never have happened but I couldn't bring myself to continue being friends. I don't think there was any dramatic confrontation or anything I just dropped her. At the time, I thought that my friendship for her had died. It couldn't feel the same about her and that was that.

Now ... Now I couldn't care less that she dated my ex-boyfriend and didn't tell me. Neither of them were bad people, they were learning. This stuff happens, especially in your twenties. She had always been a really good friend to me on every other level. My understanding of others and myself is totally different now than it was when I was 20/21. She had a fling with a guy I was never going to end up with anyway - so what?? Now what I regret more is losing the friendship. Good friends are of more value to me than any past relationship. If I look back now, I should have given myself a cooling off period (maybe even a year or two), and then got back in touch. We had been friends for a decade, we would have survived it. I still think about her now sometimes, and I see her on facebook. She's married, she has a baby, she looks like a really nice person with a really nice life. I feel happy that she is doing so well.

I don't know how your friend feels. She may still think it was a betrayal. She may no longer care about it, but also not be interested in being friends again. She might just wish you good things from afar.

I think it would help to determine what you want. Would you like to just forgive yourself and move on? I certainly more than forgive my friend, and I understand why it happened. I went on to make similar mistakes, and I have hurt other people. No-one's perfect. In the grand scheme of betrayals and mistakes experienced or perpetrated over a lifetime, this was a small one. You can forgive yourself. Do you miss her, and want to get in touch? I'm not your friend, so can't speak for her, but I would be over the moon to get a message from my old friend. I agree with the other posters - if you miss her a low-key, no-expectations message is probably OK.
posted by Nilehorse at 2:16 AM on August 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

Appreciate these answers very much, thank you for kind replies. We agreed not to speak again so marked the other approaches as best.
posted by shamefulsock at 10:45 AM on August 3, 2017

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