BFF Breakups: The Receiving End

Whenever I write about friendship breakups, I hear from a number of readers who’ve been on the receiving end. My posts, unintentionally, have largely been about the breakers rather than the breakees. I’ve discussed the ensuing guilt, the need to explain yourself, and even how to handle the post-relationship run-in. But what about the unwitting participants on the other end? The friends who thought everything was fine until their supposed BFF pulled the rug out from under them?

Usually, these women are heartbroken. Confused. Angry. All those feelings you struggled with the last time your boyfriend dumped you? Insert them here.

But even worse than the feeling of betrayal is the effect the breakup has on other potential friendships. Women often admit to being so hurt after a friend breakup that they have trouble trusting any other potential BFFs. Or maybe it’s simply that they’re hesitant to let a new friendship escalate to true BFF status, scared said friends could have an unexpected change of heart. These ladies have experienced just how rough women can be on each other and they want to protect themselves. Understandable.

But I’d say to them the same thing I say to a friend who’s been dumped by a boyfriend and never wants to date again: They won’t all be like that. You need to find a way to get back out there, and be willing to trust people.

One mean girl does not represent the whole lot.

And yet I hear stories of women avoiding close friendships more often than I do women avoiding another shot at romance. It’s as if we are more scarred by friendships gone wrong than romances. My theory is that women go into romantic relationships with the knowledge that it could end–it could even end badly–so they’re ready for it. They come armed with the knowledge that if this one doesn’t work out, they’ll keep truckin’. We don’t embark upon friendships with that same understanding. We assume friendships will be in tact for the long haul, so when we’re wrong we’re not only surprised but we’re pretty beat up. The bruises take longer to heal, and we’re more hesitant to try again.

At least, that’s my theory. So to those of you readers who are holding out on your best friend search because you’re wary of getting too close, hear this: Go forth and prosper. For every bitchy girl who made you feel like an insecure seventh grader, there are dozens of women like you, ready for a new pal.

This I know. I’ve been there.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a friend breakup? Did it scare you away from trusting friends for a while? How’d you get back in the game?

6 Comments

Filed under The Search

6 responses to “BFF Breakups: The Receiving End

  1. Melinda

    An incredibly bad friend break up is what brought me to your blog. It’s almost 2 years since it happened and it was really ugly. I never knew a 40 year old woman would try to destroy another adult the way my ex BFF did. For a long time, I avoided new friends like the plague. I met my ex BFF through my oldest child so now I distance myself from other mothers at school. I’m polite but I don’t put myself out there. I don’t talk to anyone at the gym anymore and I hardly ever go out of my comfort zone.
    Then last winter I started talking to a woman I sort of knew at an outdoor event and it turns out, we get along really well. I remembered what it was like to have someone to talk to, to laugh with. I had forgotten what it was like to have a friend who enjoyed hanging out with me as much as I liked hanging out with her. It was nice to have a friend who called and said “I miss you! When are we getting together again? Next week? No, that’s not soon enough?”. The fact that we live in different states makes it difficult but she gave me reason to believe that it’s all going to be ok and she helped me remember that just because one friend did me wrong, doesn’t mean the whole friendship world is out to get me. I’m still a little gunshy but at least I’m trying to get myself out there again.
    It does really sound like a romantic relationship, doesn’t it?

  2. I think that when you go into a romantic relationship, you’re expecting to find “the one,” so if it doesn’t work out, then obviously he’s not the one for you. But people have more than one friend, so if you’re not searching for that perfect “one,” why wouldn’t it work out?

    My worst friend break-up was with a girl I work with, so ever since that happened, I’ve definitely shied away from friendships in my office. But outside of work, I’m more than happy to keep friending.

  3. L

    I had a really awful friend breakup (though I’m not sure that’s the right word for it as we’re now friends again) during my first year of college. Out of the blue, my high school bff stopped answering/returning my calls, emails, facebook, etc. At thanksgiving, there was a party at her house and though we hadn’t spoken, there had been no event to precipitate her ignoring me so I went, hesitantly, with some friends. When I arrived at the house that had once been like my second home, she shut herself away in a bathroom and wouldn’t come out. After that I tried calling once more only to be told that she couldn’t come to the phone. Several months later, she reached out to me and we began to mend things. It’s been 6 years now and while I have made many other wonderful friends, sometimes when calls/emails go unreturned for several days, my heart sinks a little and I wonder if maybe this is the end. As I said, the friend who dumped me is back in my life but since the dumped period, I hold back with her. I guess on some level I don’t know if I can fully trust that I won’t be dumped again. I think you’re absolutely right that we go into romantic relationships with the knowledge that it might end, badly, but with friendships we expect more. Our girlfriends are our confidants and the people we trust most, they should always have your back, never stab it.

  4. San

    I think the worst part is when you thought you had made a really great friend and they let you down (and turn their back on you) in a situation, where you actually really needed them.
    This happened to me about a year ago and every since then, I’ve been afraid of making new friends because I don’t want to be disappointed like that again.

    Now, I mostly rely on my old, long-time friends, who unfortunately all live very far away, but who I KNOW I can trust, who have proven themselves over time and where I am pretty sure they won’t let me down.

    My personal situation is pretty tough as it is right now and making new friends (which takes a lot of time and effort) seems like an insurmountable challenge when all I need is someone to lean on.

  5. Mel

    What a great post. I think that totally resonates — there is no friend breakup manual in our society, so the “rules” are a bit confusing, and sometimes after a falling out it can get confusing in terms of what is supposed to happen next. Inspiring words, R!

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