People are pack animals by nature. Throughout our lives, we strive to find groups of people -- friends, family, church groups, clubs, associations -- who share similar interests and experiences, similar perspectives and similar goals. Through these "packs," we are able to feel a sense of belonging and obtain feedback and support during the many hardships that life has to offer.
Like most marrieds, I had created a network of friends in similar situations -- friends in long-term relationships, friends who were married, some with kids, some without -- and very few single friends. So when my marriage ended and I found myself back in the singles scene, it was a very tough transition. I had to create new friendships with other people who were single, or even better, divorced. Unlike my attached friends, my new single friends didn't need days or weeks notice to make plans. We could head to a patio with an hour's notice; we could stay up late and then meet the next afternoon for a hair-of-the-dog cocktail and a greasy brunch. They were exactly what I needed in that post-divorce transition period in my life.
One friend in particular, became my post-divorce rock, and I hers. We bonded over the failures of our marriages and our inability to feel happiness in our lives. We were both Type A perfectionists who enjoyed drinking, expensive dinners and drinking. From late morning patio drinks to late-night club hopping, we spent more than a year partying, eating and drinking around town, in a dysfunctional whirlwind of breakup messiness.
Over time, as I continued to work through my breakup baggage, our friendship changed. As I became happier and more focused on eliminating negativity, she seemed intent on self-destructing and taking me down with her. Our Blackberry Messenger conversations, once a bit catty but always entertaining, now left me feeling depressed and unhappy. I dreaded the bing of my phone that notified me of a new BBM message because I knew it would be her wanting to be "talked down". Our relationship no longer felt like a two-sided friendship; instead, it took on a therapist/patient dynamic.
The moments of happiness that I experienced in my post-divorce life were often tarnished by her non-stop messaging filled with negativity and unhappiness, and I began to see the unhealthiness of the co-dependent relationship we had created. I had moved on from my breakup state of mind but she was still mired in her sadness and lack of fulfillment. However, both of us held on, trying to salvage a relationship that had once felt so positive.
It wasn't until I met someone new, a man who helped me let go of my commitment issues and enter into the first real relationship that I've had since my marriage ended, that our friendship changed. As my relationship with my boyfriend grew -- and my happiness along with it, my relationship with my friend deteriorated, until finally, it died.
The turning point came when I tried to bring up my concerns over the one-sidedness of our relationship so that we could try to repair what had been broken and save our friendship. Understandably, she was defensive, but the conversation went considerably better than I expected -- until she brought up my relationship. When she told me that she didn't want me to talk to her about my relationship because it made her too depressed, I was hurt. After I'd been there for her at 1am when she was having a meltdown (over and over and over) and listened to every detail of her life, offering advice and suggestions for hours on end, she would no longer give me the opportunity to discuss the things that I was thinking and feeling with her. I finally saw how one-sided the relationship had become, or perhaps had always been. Perhaps we had both latched on because of our common experiences and never really created a two-way, healthy friendship. We had bonded over our pain, but as my pain subsided, so did our bond.
I hadn't planned on ending our friendship. Hurt feelings made me decide to wait for an apology. Unfortunately, days turned into weeks, and then months, and she never called or messaged me again. Friendship death.
Like with any loss, I grieved for our friendship, although it did feel as if a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I was able to feel happier because I was no longer overburdened with her unhappiness. I no longer had to try to manage her life as well as my own.
The experience taught me a lot about relationships: the importance of timing, commonalities, and especially the importance of mutual caring and understanding. They are lessons that I've internalized and that will help me find healthier friendships down the road.
While our friendship didn't last long past the signing of my divorce papers, I appreciate everything that my former friend brought to my life. I hope that she can find happiness, that she can find love again and that she'll be better off because of our friendship. I know that I am.
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