Coping with loss of a significant relationship - how to move on?
December 3, 2017 3:46 PM   Subscribe

My former best friend walk out of my life about six months ago - how do you let go of a relationship when you still care about them?

I met my former best friend (let’s call him Bee) about 9 years ago at university and we were really close. I loved him as a sibling and was happy and grateful to have him in my life. He met his partner about 5 years ago, and I became good friends with her.

About a year ago, Bee's partner starting having issues with me and she cut off contact with me in March (complicated reasons that I don’t really understand lots of feels. Not my choice). She promised our issues wouldn’t get in the way of keeping my friendship with Bee. As it turns out, that was not the case and she was angry at him seeing me and was causing significant issues between them.

Bee approached me about 6 months ago and asked for space and time to figure things out with his partner and indicated that he would get in touch when he was ready. I agreed because I wanted to respect his wishes even if that meant we needed a break. I haven’t heard from him since.

It’s been absolutely devastating to lose a friend like that, and I’m struggling to move on and disentangle my emotions around the loss. I have no idea if Bee will ever get in touch, or if I even want him in my life I’m trying not to care about what’s going on with them (we still have mutual friends), but it’s really difficult.

I recently found out that Bee’s partner is in the hospital and he is going through a difficult time. I have been fighting urges to reach out. I logically know that it’s likely our friendship is finished (never got confirmation of him about this, things were framed as a break before contact ceased), but my feels are different. I wish I could stop caring about him, but we were friends for a long time and I still have caring feels even though I’m devastated and angry that he walked out like that. I wish I could be there for him like I used to be, and am not even sure if it would be helpful for anyone at this point.

I’ve been fighting for closure (writing letters that aren’t sent, going to therapy, etc). I never got a chance to say goodbye. I have been no contact with Bee or his partner since June, including removing them from social media. I wish I could turn off the part of me that still cares about him. That would make life so much easier and less painful.

I have had people close to me to take the no contact as evidence that he doesn’t want to be my friend but I guess part of me still hopes that we can work things go? I don’t know what to do anymore.

How do I disentangle my feelings and move on? Lots of suggestions from well meaning friends have been to "let go", but I don't know how to do that. Should I reach out for closure?? The friendship might not be salvageable but closure would be and then at least I would know for sure. Any good resources or suggestions on the practical aspect of letting go of a significant relationship in your life?
posted by snowysoul to Human Relations (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Don't reach out for closure. For one thing, this would be a violation of your agreement to take a break and wait for him to get in touch when he's ready. For another, closure is a myth. Seeing or talking to someone I missed has pretty much never made me feel better about missing them.

It sounds like your feelings for Bee are very strong and possibly romantic. This may be part of why his girlfriend is uncomfortable with your friendship - even if you think of it as purely platonic she may sense signals that to her indicate a threat to the relationship. And, people can be threatened by platonic friendships as well.

I suspect you're better off going no-contact and asking any mutual friends to not keep you updated on his life. It will suck for a while, particularly if you have feelings for him beyond friendship, but it will pass in time. Keep in mind that love is like heroin and detoxing really sucks.

I'm sorry you're going through this - I hope you find some answers. But sometimes there's no "ah ha" moment and no answer that makes you feel better. Things just suck hard until they suck a little bit less, and then a little bit less. And then one day the suckage is a memory. Be patient with yourself and do a lot of self-care.
posted by bunderful at 4:00 PM on December 3, 2017 [7 favorites]

This will be harsh, but I'm going to reframe this in a way that might ultimately help you see this situation more clearly. Are you ready?

His wife, who hates you and blames you for interfering in their relationship, is in the hospital and you are struggling to keep yourself from interfering.

You're making this about you. Your unhealthy thought process is trying to see if you can use their tragedy to somehow get back into their lives.

I know that's harsh, but that's how your actions will be judged if you reach out. Please allow yourself to grieve this relationship, that's how you let go of it.
posted by jbenben at 4:07 PM on December 3, 2017 [38 favorites]

Being the best friend you can right now means respecting his wishes not to be in touch. Right now reaching out would be for your benefit, not his. I know your impulse is to offer support, but all the evidence seems to suggest that doing so would be the opposite of helpful.

Maybe you can reframe this to yourself as putting Bee's needs (for distance, to prioritize his relationship, and to avoid additional big emotional scenes when his partner is having a health crisis) before your own? Can you conceptualize maintaining distance when you don't really want to as a way to honor your friendship and Bee's requests?
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 4:08 PM on December 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

As you work on letting go and disentangling your feelings, remember this: Bee is NOT a very good friend to you.

He may have been at one point, but the behavior you describe is *not* that of a good friend. It's the behavior of someone who is letting his wife dictate who his friends are, and on top of that is too chickenshit to admit it to himself or anyone else.

True friends do not leave you hanging like that, they either play an active, engaged, caring role in your life, or they say "We cannot hang anymore, it threatens my relationship with my wife and I prioritize her over you" and they offer an opportunity for a moment of closure and finality that marks the end of a relationship, even if it's a platonic one.

What he is doing is cowardly inaction that allows him to avoid discomfort, and it disrecpects you and the friendship that you and he have had all these years.

I'm so sorry!! This completely sucks for you, and you don't deserve it at all. I can tell from your letter that you are fabulous and you are worth way better behavior than that! :)

But no, this guy is absolutely no longer your friend, so try to think about that whenever you feel the urge to call to check on him or his (bitchy, jealous) wife. Don't give one iota of your emotional energy to people who don't deserve it, haven't earned it, and wouldn't respect it anyway.
posted by mccxxiii at 4:36 PM on December 3, 2017 [18 favorites]

I’d reach out. Briefly, no feelings, just “I’m thinking about you & [partner]. Let me know if you need anything.”

Former best friend with a hospitalized family member = you set aside anything besides literal hatred and offer help.

My 2c, may be culturally specific, but I am utterly aghast at the idea that you would ignore him in this scenario. It’s true that you can’t revive the old friendship, but you have to say something.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 5:02 PM on December 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

And it’s very selfish to reach out for closure—I agree with that—but you should be able to put your feelings aside and reach out for his benefit.
posted by Rock 'em Sock 'em at 5:04 PM on December 3, 2017

You are being an excellent friend to Bee by respecting his wishes as well as his desire to prioritize his wife's feelings over everything else. Remind yourself of that when you feel crappy. You are already doing a great thing for him.

I also agree with mccxiii above on their about the quality of his friendship with you. While there is an argument--feeble, IMHO, but that's just me--for his letting his jealous wife force him into abandoning an old friend, there's no excuse for him doing the weasel by telling you he wanted a break and then leaving you hanging. This is not a person who values your feelings or your well-being as much as his own comfort.

Be kind to yourself, grieve, and use the space in your life for friends who share your values.
posted by rpfields at 6:05 PM on December 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think we are missing a bunch of information here. Specifically the motivation of the wife to cut off contact.

Is it because she is mentally ill and making the world smaller (and it’s now so bad she’s hospitalized)?
Is it because she’s jealous of an inappropriate relationship (in her mind)?
Is it because she’s jealous of an appropriate relationship?

Either way. Be a decent person. Leave lots of spacr but drop a restaurant gift card at Bee’s house with a simple card with no commentary other than your signature. Let it be an olive branch. If he’s ready he’ll be back, and you were as supportive as you could be during a bad time.
posted by littlewater at 6:50 PM on December 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

It does sound like your relationship with your best friend is over, especially considering he hasn't reached out to you at all during these past 6 months, nor has he reached out to you while his partner is in the hospital at a time when he probably needs friends. It seems he has chosen to let the break turn into a dissolution of the friendship.

As to how to move on, I think you could consider his actions as the message/closure and mourn the loss of the friendship you once had.

There's nothing for you to reach out and ask for closure on. His message to you is very clear.

I'm sorry you're going through this. Listen to your well-meaning friends. Lean on them at this time.
posted by vivzan at 7:13 PM on December 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Seconding (Nthing?) a low key overture about THEM, not you. Something like 'I heard x was in hospital, hope it all works out well'. Have no expectations, not even hope, that anything between you and them will change, this is just you respecting the situation of someone you once knew.
posted by GeeEmm at 7:14 PM on December 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

He chose you over her when she had a problem with you. That's usually how relationships work, but he's out of your life. No matter what goes on with them, stay out of it because she doesn't want you there.

As for your pain...closure is something you make for yourself. You have to remind yourself "NO" every time you think of them. Sometimes shit like this happens and there's nothing you can do about it except learn to live with it. You may always care about him, but... there's nowhere for that to go.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:32 PM on December 3, 2017 [4 favorites]

+1 to jbenben's take. I'm sorry, and it's painful, but there really isn't any way you can contact Bee right now without hurting his wife, who is already going through an incredibly difficult/traumatic time. Sending them a card giving your well wishes to her, like other folks are suggesting, might be doable-- but the thing is, you really have to believe and feel that way to engage with them. You have to be able to have her and her well-being (including her emotional well-being, aka "feels") as your priority when she is in a crisis. Right now, it sounds like you are still thinking of her, and Bee's marriage to her, as secondary to the deep friendship you and Bee once shared, as if your and Bee's was the primary partnership and she was a sort of date or fling or temporary girlfriend. I don't know if that was the dynamic when you two were still friends, but I can understand her having difficulties with the friendship if it had a similar dynamic to this question. If you have mutual friends, maybe tell them that you're sending all your good thoughts etc to HER, but don't try to get involved with Bee again when he and his wife are going through a medical crisis. Grieving a relationship is really, really hard, but it also means you have a lot of overwhelming emotions about the breakup of that friendship that are going to make it impossible to give kind of appropriately prioritized comfort and support that they need right now.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 9:28 PM on December 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

Maybe she'll die and you can be friends again. In the meantime, I'd just accept that it's over. Pretend you and Bee got divorced and move on.
posted by karmachameleon at 10:05 PM on December 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

Another thing to think about: You don't owe the wife anything. Not. a. damn. thing. Too bad that she's in the hospital, whatever her issue is, but her desires and comfort/discomfort are not your concern. Your concern is your own emotional well-being.

Don't think of your lack of contact as a way to protect either Bee or his wife from further discomfort, because they obviously haven't given you the same courtesy. This is a radical self-care situation ... you are not going to contact them because doing so would be bad for YOU. The fact that it's what they appear to want is incidental.

This is about you recognizing your need to let go of a situation that makes you sad, put it in your past and move on to happier relationships with people who are good, healthy friends. You deserve that!
posted by mccxxiii at 4:57 AM on December 4, 2017 [6 favorites]

Another thing to think about: You don't owe the wife anything. Not. a. damn. thing. Too bad that she's in the hospital, whatever her issue is, but her desires and comfort/discomfort are not your concern. Your concern is your own emotional well-being.

Well, and from a practical standpoint, contacting him while she is in the hospital is not likely to get your friendship back on track. It's going to make him feel uncomfortably on the spot. The wife said "don't see snowysoul" and he has apparently agreed to this. Now here you are presenting him with the uncomfortable situation of either blowing off an old friend who is making a nice (if self-serving) gesture, or going against his wife's wishes by being in contact with you, or lying to her.

For her part, if she finds out you contacted him at a time when she is vulnerable, she will likely view it as a "play" to get him back into your clutches. The ensuing drama will not endear you to either one of them.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:31 AM on December 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

You will find a ton of helpful threads at Captain Awkward but I think the best stuff in this type of category is under the tag Breaking Up. But basically, I would look at it like this: silence is communication. If Bee wanted to contact you, he would have. Therefore, he doesn't. Grieve the end of a friendship and move on. (And I say this as someone who has had to grieve two such endings of close friendships in the past two years. I feel your pain.)
posted by twilightlost at 11:31 AM on December 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

Hi, I was you in a very, very similar scenario. The wife gave my friend an ultimatum to either drop all contact with me or she would leave him. My friend took his commitment to his marriage very seriously, prioritized her* and I didn't hear from him for more than six years. It broke me. I spent so much time agonizing, trying to work out a way to tell him I missed him, to let him know I was still here (this was before social media) and there was never a way I could justify the risk of causing more damage. So I grieved the loss, and tried to forget it all.
Fast-forward five years, and he contacts my mom, asking for my current info and if it wouldn't cause me undue pain to get in touch with me. My mom learns that his wife has filed for divorce, and tells him that she'll loop me in when, and ONLY when their divorce is truly and irrevocably final. Another 18 months go by, and I finally get looped in to all of this where I learn:
- his wife had serious jealousy and anger issues, and was physically violent with him
- she had made him break off contact with all females that were not immediate family
- being reminded of my existence would send her into a wall-punching, dish-throwing rage

So, no. Don't contact him. Don't anony-contact him with unsigned anything. You don't know what's going on over there, and it isn't really about you anyway.

(*not unjustifiably, mind you.)
posted by ApathyGirl at 2:39 PM on December 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

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