A True Story: Friendship Break-Up, Lessons Learnt and Moving Forward

So today, I thought I would talk about something I don’t think I have spoken about before. For a long time it hurt, and I didn’t feel like I could talk about it without being petty or bitchy, and writing about it at that point in my life wasn’t going to be very healing. I feel that we see amazing friendships in books, some that are enough to give you serious FOMO. But I don’t think we really see that many books where there is a breakdown of a friendship. To be honest, I find that this doesn’t really bother me that much because friendship breakups are a fucking massive bummer. But at the same time, it makes me wonder if it makes us a bit more ill-equipped when this type of thing happens in real life.

I had my own friendship breakup, and it was #shit. I will tell you my story and how I (kind of) dealt with it, and where I am at today. Here it goes….

The Beginning

It started off as three of us. My husband, his best mate who I am going to name “Tom”, and myself. We had some super awesome times together, and I felt that Tom was my friend as much he was my husbands. We did everything together, from watching movies, going out for dinner, playing games, to going away for weekends mountain biking, and just chilling around the house.

The friendship definitely wasn’t perfect, and there was definitely a co-dependence type of thing going on between my husband and Tom. So when Tom met a girl, who I shall name “Sally”, obviously the dynamics were going to change. It’s just a part of nature for things to evolve and change over time, and while change is hard it is necessary. Things eventually settled though, and I became good friends with Sally. As a quartet I felt we got along extremely well. We all liked the same movies, we all liked going out for burgers and having barbecues. I loved how Sally and I would quote from Mean Girls, and when we were together we would literally just talk and talk and talk. We had our issues, but I genuinely loved her.

We decided one year to have Christmas together, and came up with the bright idea of going to America to have Christmas with Sally’s family the next year. We had met her fam before and we really liked them, so going over to her family and having somewhere to stay and people who could show us around would be awesome. We were like “hey, we all get along super awesome-ly, we could totally go to America for 4 weeks and come back as friends” and we laughed and joked about it, but ultimately we thought it was a great idea and we had to do it. So, we started to make plans, and aimed for the following Christmas in America.

The Lead Up

The year leading up to America went well. We watched the Super Bowl together, and we all followed the same NFL team so we would watch football on Monday nights together. We went to see movies, ate burgers, saw each other more than we saw each other’s families, and pretty much carried on as usual.

Over this year however, my husband found it harder and harder to pin Tom down to do things. Tom had never been terribly reliable, but that was more just because he wasn’t a planner. I, myself, didn’t mind because I always thought Tom and I were very similar. My husband is someone on the other hand, who likes to have plans. And when he has a friendship or relationship, he 100% commits himself. He is very much an all or nothing kinda guy, and while he doesn’t show it, he is a big softy with a fucking massive heart. So over this year, Tom’s elusiveness hurt my husband, and he was getting pretty sick of it. My husband is by no means an easy person. I often have to explain another person’s perspective to him, which I found I was doing about Tom more and more, even though even I was beginning to get pretty pissed off with how he was treating my husband.

In the month of September, only a few months before going to America, Tom and Sally’s house got broken into. Tom was away at the time, so obviously it was pretty scary for Sally seeing as she was home by herself. We had Sally and her cats come and live with us because we didn’t want her staying there on her own. When Tom came back, we told both of them that they could come and live with us while they sorted out what they wanted to do with their house, as they were pretty sure they were going to move. They ended up living with us for a month rent free. We asked nothing of them, because they were our friends and we would do anything for them.

The Beginning of the End

Prior to leaving for America I was extremely anxious. And while I do generally get anxiety, this was more an uneasiness. I have travelled alot, so the travelling aspect isn’t what concerned me. It was the state of our friendship with Tom and Sally, who, after moving out of our house in October, hadn’t been in contact much. I had a dream that we got into a fight and stopped being friends, and I thought this was a pretty bad omen. I was worried as fuck, but still we went, because we’d already committed.

When we got to America Sally’s family treated us liked we were part of the family. They threw us all a party, introduced us to their friends, showed us around and taught us things. We went snow-mobiling, skiing, tailgating, pub crawling, ice fishing. They made sure we had the most amazing time, and we thought we had made lifelong friends with Sally’s family. They were absolutely beautiful people, and despite everything that has happened, I will always feel that bit richer for getting to meet such wonderful people.

Things went wrong however, when we got to New York. The four of us went there for a few days as planned, and we were all crazy excited about it. When we arrived in New York Tom and my husband got snappy at each other about something super random, I honestly can’t remember what it was. Tom stormed out and said he wasn’t sharing a room with us, which we were really stumped over because it was just, what we thought, a little argument. He then got Sally to tell us that he didn’t want to hang around with us in New York. They were going to do their own thing, and he said that he didn’t want to be friends with my husband anymore. This is obviously super awkward because we still had 2 weeks to go with them after New York, and this really just seemed to come out of nowhere.

So we told them that we would do our own thing, but things had to be sorted out before going back to Sally’s family. The whole time in New York my husband and I were anxious about what had happened. We had no idea what had happened or why, and New York ended up being a rather miserable experience. Tom went off at my husband through messages, saying that he was sick of him and he had made the trip unenjoyable for him. Which once again seemed pretty weird. We wanted to go out and do things, and had to rely on them to go places, so because of that it meant that we had been unreasonable and controlling. Because, you know….how dare we want to do things….on our holiday???

Tom and my husband kind of made up before we headed back to Sally’s family, but it was tense. My husband didn’t know how to be around Tom, he was nervous that anything he said would cause offense, so admittedly, when we weren’t hanging out with the family as a whole, my husband and I would hang out in our room so we weren’t imposing. I was incredibly home sick, my anxiety was terrible and my husband was anxious about his and Tom’s friendship. The silver lining at the time, was that we had become wonderful friends with Sally’s sister and mum and dad, so we spent alot of time with them. They were so much fun to be around, and we felt that they liked us.

When it came time to head back to Australia, I was incredibly sad to leave the family. I genuinely thought, and still do feel, that they were wonderful people. The fact that they took my husband and I in, made us food, bought us Christmas presents and showed us around, meant so much to us. We told them that they would always have us as friends, and that if they ever came to Australia our door was always open.

The Crash and Burn

When we got to the airport we got a family member to pick us all up and drop us home. Funnily enough, Tom had Sally phone us shortly after dropping them off and asked if we could help start his car. When we to to their house, Sally came out and we got the car going, but Tom stayed inside. We thought it a bit strange, but it had been a long flight and honestly we all just needed some space.

My husband saw Tom at work a few days later, who upon seeing him, gave him the cold shoulder. Once again, pretty weird considering we had seen each other a couple of days ago and thought everything was sorted out. So when he got home that night, my husband messaged Tom, saying that they should go for a beer in a week or two once they had settled down. Tom responded, saying that he didn’t want to be friends with him anymore. He didn’t give explanations, didn’t answer my husband’s calls when he tried to call him. Tom had more or less ghosted my husband, which in all honesty, left him heartbroken, because they were like brothers and had been like that for 5 or so years. To throw it all away in a single text message was rough.

Thus followed, the 5 stages of grief. Unfortunately anger isn’t always rational, and it led my husband to say some things via text message to Tom that he shouldn’t have said. The anger went on for a long time. He couldn’t watch NFL, or talk about our trip. We avoided going places where Tom and Sally could possibly be, and he generally just avoided talking about anything to do with them.

I ended up breaking up with Sally, because I was angry at how Tom had treated my husband. Like I said earlier, my husband isn’t always an easy person but he is loyal and will do anything for his friends. Seeing how he was treated when we were in America and prior to that, made me feel disgusted, considering the things we had done for them without ever expecting anything other than their friendship in return.

The Aftermath

Sally’s family, who we had become friends with, were told they couldn’t talk to us. In choosing between family and people they just met, they understandably chose family. They cut us off, saying “no hard feelings”. We haven’t spoken to them again, even though it fucking breaks our heart.

We also found out later on that Sally’s mother, passed away. We were absolutely devastated, because she was such a wonderful woman who was so full of life. She went out of her way to be kind to two people she didn’t know, and I feel so much sadness that I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to her. I feel like I never truly mourned her death, because I didn’t feel like I had the right to. I didn’t know what her thoughts or feelings were towards us, because from what I understand Tom and Sally had told their family things about us that were untrue. Out of everything, I think this hurts the most.

The icing on the cake was rumours getting back to my husband, on things that Tom said about us. He told people that my husband and I weren’t compatible (we’ve been together for 16 years so ???), he told people that my husband was horrible to me (he really, really, really isn’t….like, this one was a serious wtf), and he told people that we spent money like crazy (well this one is true, but who the fuck is anyone to judge?!?).

It turns out that Tom had been gradually building up resentment towards my husband. He never said anything, always acted friendly, and was happy to use us when he needed us. But judging by the rumours he was spreading, it seems he outright ended up hating us, and by not ever saying anything, even prior to going to America, he ended up subjecting us to cruelties I don’t know I can ever forgive him for.

Moving On

It is like something that happens over night. One day, you wake up and realise that you haven’t thought of them for a long time, and it doesn’t hurt as much. We both felt alot of anger and regret, and it has affected us to the point where we won’t even be friends with other couples anymore. We don’t want to be open to hurt again, or the judgement.

It feels such a strange thing to say, but I still love Sally. When I hear a song, or of a new horror movie, or watch Mean Girls, I think of her and feel a pang that I can’t speak to her about it. I could have been lifelong friends with her I think, but it obviously just wasn’t meant to be. I will always wonder what part she played in the demise of Tom and my husband’s friendship, and whether she had anything to do with it or not. I honestly think I would rather not know.

I am someone who has pretty vivid dreams, and I believe that dreams can be quite powerful. After months and months of hurt and anger, I had a dream where I ran into Sally and was talking to her, bitterly, about our breakup. She responded to me with a hand on my shoulder “but it wasn’t all bad, right?” and she smiled at me. When I woke up from that dream I felt lighter than I had in months. I felt I could reflect on our friendship with a new perspective, and while the hurt was still there, I was able to feel less bitter about it.

Moving on from a friendship breakup is hard. There are songs, movies and books dedicated to relationship breakups, but not so much when it comes to friendships. It is unnerving and confusing and heart-wrenching. And when talking about friendship breakups with others, it’s not seen to be as serious as if you had broken up with a partner. When the ties cut suddenly, it leaves you floating adrift and it can be a long long time until you feel like you are back on solid ground.

To a degree we have a choice. Not in how much hurt you feel or how much your heart is broken, but in how you feel towards the other party. I choose to wish them love and happiness. I choose to not let their betrayal affect my life any longer. I choose to look back on our friendship and the people I met because of them, as a gift. I choose to move forward, to make more friends and appreciate the people who have remained constants in my life for better or worse.

If you have gone through something like this, I send all of my love to you. It’s not easy, and I’m not going to lie, it is a hard road. But bit by bit, things will get easier and the hurts will hurt less. You deserve love and friendship, and people in your life who accept you and your faults. Do not let the loss of a friend define your worth. You deserve better.

Steff xx

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