We met in our children’s playgroup, both of us too immersed in the early years of parenting to think about making friends on our own. She was Ralph Lauren and country clubs. I was more Steve Madden and rock concerts. Motherhood and suburban life, it seemed, were the great equalizers. Our differences were easy to ignore because we had raising children in common.
We became friends quickly, both of us desperate for adult company after having left full-time jobs to stay home with our kids. We spoke on the phone multiple times a day, and the conversations lasted hours. Soon we ditched the playgroup and started meeting for happy hour playdates, which turned into family dinners once our husbands became acquainted. They worked in the same field, which gave them something in common. She and I were friends, our husbands got along, and our children played well together: The rarity of all those factors existing simultaneously was lost on neither of us.
Looking back, I don’t know how I would have made it through that time in my life without her. She was my best friend, my confidante, the emergency contact I listed at my children’s school. She was the person I called first with good news or bad, the person who supported me either way. When she lost her mother and my father died soon afterward, our shared grief cemented our connection. She understood the devastatingly painful void I felt, which my husband, who had never experienced the loss of anyone close, could not fathom.
What I did not realize then, as I shared my secrets and allowed our lives to further intertwine, is that some friendships are not strong enough to last forever. Some friendships are built on and exist in the vacuum of shared circumstances. They support us through uncertain or difficult periods, but when the context of our lives changes, they collapse or fade away.
For us, I think, things changed when I began to pull myself out of the grief. I threw myself into my job. I started running more. I made new friends. She and I talked less on the phone because I was busy with work and other things, but also because I was changing and she wasn’t. I was trying to move past my loss; she was not ready to let hers go.
The larger reasons, however, behind our break-up were the differences we had ignored in the beginning. When my husband and I finally caved and joined the local country club where she and her family were members, we started to see another side of her. She had grown up in that world and was someone else there, or at least she was different from the candid, down-to-earth person I knew from our playdates and dinner parties. I hated what I viewed as the pretentiousness and superficiality of the country club scene, while she was perfectly comfortable there. The differences between us began to matter, or at least they did to me.
Over the next year, my husband and I found ourselves pulling back from the relationship gradually and naturally. Our kids had made new friends at school and wanted less to do with my friend’s children and the country club. We decided to quit the club and began spending more time with other friends with similar interests. We went camping and on road trips. We ventured into the city to check out bands and restaurants. We started to get back to being the people we were before we moved to the suburbs with our children.
The less time we spent with my friend and her family, the more tense our relationship with them grew. I started to hear from other friends that she was gossiping about us. Apparently, she decided she wanted custody of our mutual friends and was working hard to manipulate the details of our waning relationship in her favor. Through it all, I never spoke ill of her. In my mind, I was taking the moral high road. But all I really did was make things worse. It was easier for people to believe the rumors than to look for the truth, especially since I was doing nothing to defend myself.
After a few feeble attempts on both sides to reconcile, we finally laid our relationship to rest. I learned through mutual acquaintances that my friend went through a difficult time, and she and her family eventually left town. I never heard from her again. Although I know a lot of her secrets, the ones she told me and others a mutual friend and I pieced together after she left, I don’t discuss them publicly. She was a loyal friend at a time when I needed her and for as long as she could be.
That’s the thing about relationships that exist in vacuums. You only see the part of the person he or she allows you to see. I loved the friend I made in that playgroup so long ago, the person she wanted me to see. She is the person I choose to remember. She is the friend I will always love.
Friendship breakups are so hard. It took me a really long time to write about mine, but once I did I realized how utterly common they are. It doesn’t make them hurt less, but it is comforting to know that everyone goes through them.
Have you considered submitting this story to the new anthology edited by the women who edited The HerStories Project anthology on female friendship? Their new project is all about friendship break-ups and losses and I think this piece would be perfect. Check it out here: http://www.herstoriesproject.com/2014/01/12/call-submissions/
Thanks for the tip, Sam! I’ll look into it.
I agree. It is comforting to know others have experienced it. It took me a really long time to write about mine too. It happened about five years ago.
I second this suggestion.
Thanks, Cyn! I will definitely check it out.
I’ve really enjoyed your last two posts. I felt a real connection. I definitely experienced this situation. The friendship blossomed because we were at similar crossroads in our lives, but we are definitely different in many ways and that came out as we matured as moms and women. Different ideals, different motivation, different lifestyles. It will never be what it was, but it was a really fun and important relationship at the time.
I also wanted to comment on your post about skiing. Good for you for getting out there and enjoying it on your own terms. It does get scary to try physical things as we age, but please keep doing it and sharing with those experiences with your family. I’ve had cancer 2x. I am great right now, but because of surgeries, I really can’t take the risk of doing something like skiing. I’ve always said, “I’ll try that one day. Or, I’ll do that another time.” Well now I really can’t do some of those things and it bums me out that I can’t even go sledding with my kids anymore. However, I did try both of those things – with my kids – and thoroughly enjoyed it. And, when I do try to put myself out there to take risks, it’s important to me that my kids see me trying new things on my own terms even if it’s scary. I don’t want them to miss out on anything either. Thanks for sharing!
Dolly, I am so glad you left this comment. You are absolutely right about the importance of taking chances, trying new things while we can and setting a good example for our children. I really appreciate the reminder, especially in light of your experiences. I will be thinking about you the next time I’m afraid and want to give up. Thank you so much for reading and for sharing a little bit of your own story. It really means a lot to me.
I know for a fact that some friendships are meant for times in our life- and with everything, they have a life cycle. I met someone when I moved back from MT- lost, sad, depressed, and she and I became absolutely inseparable. She brought me out of my funk and showed me how to make the most of my mid 20s. I had the biggest friend-girl crush on her you can imagine, and couldn’t imagine life without her.
Sadly, it fell apart when I met my husband. She also had a boyfriend- but he lived in Boston and Andy was HERE. I tried to keep them together- invited them both to a birthday dinner in Berkley- but it was clear that she didn’t want to share me with him.
The night we were engaged, I called her, excited to share my news. She said ‘It’s late. I’m in bed. Can I call you tomorrow?’ after I told her my news.
I was crushed. I invited her to the wedding anyhow, she- who would have been my maid of honor- but no surprise she declined. I never saw her again. We were FB friends for a while, but it was clear she had me deleted after a while and that was that. I’m sorry that her life and my life couldn’t mesh, but our friendship had served its purpose and it died. I mourned it, but as a wise woman says, Life is for the living.
Should she ever want to reconnect I will be there, gladly- I tried to email her once and ask to be friends to no reply. Oh well. I’d say I’ve moved on though. Glad you have too.
Yes, it’s strange to remember how much we thought we couldn’t live without someone, only to realize we can and do. In my situation, I can’t imagine this person returning to my life — not without a huge apology and a lengthy explanation. I doubt she will ever accept her share of the blame for our failed relationship, though. Oh, well. I didn’t much like the person I was when I was friends with her. She brought out my judgmental and petty side.
Poor Melanie – this is how you tell her?? hahaha just kidding xoxo to you all
Ha! No, not MK. She’s not going anywhere. At least I hope not.
Damn this is fantastic! Although I’ve finally learned that lesson that all friendships aren’t meant to last it’s hard not to mourn the loss. I think you should take Sam’s suggestions & submit it.
Thanks so much for the encouragement, Robbie! I submitted it yesterday. 🙂