The Friend-Breakup Aftermath

Last night, while at my cooking club, I suggested that one of my fellow chefs try a delicious restaurant in my neighborhood.

“I can’t go there,” she said. “I might see her.”

The “her” in question is my friend’s ex-BFF. Once upon a time, in another city and another decade, they were the closest of friends. After a long story that is not mine to tell, that friendship is over. It didn’t end due to any one thing so much as an accumulation of issues that deteriorated the friendship.

The tough part though—well, one of the many tough parts—is that while they grew up together on the East Coast, they both now live in Chicago. And while there have been attempts to mend the friendship,  it doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

Now my friend is hesitant to venture to a night out in my neighborhood, for fear of a dreaded run-in.

When I asked her if I could blog about this today, my pal was quick to point something out: “I could go there, I’d just need reinforcements.”

“Totally understand,” I said. “And if we did see her, I’d for sure shoot some angry glares in her direction.”

And then I realized I’d had this conversation before. Plenty of times. About ex-boyfriends.

I talk so much about how making friends is like dating, but I’ve never considered the reality that if friending is like dating, then the aftermath must be similar too. Bad breakups might mean avoiding a favorite lunch spot or yoga class or an entire neighborhood just to steer clear of any unplanned meetings.

It means keeping up with their whearabouts through friends or facebook, but not calling or reaching out. It’s over, after all.

As we know, friend breakups often inspire more guilt in women than romantic breakups do. But what about after the breakup? Is there protocol for shedding that toxic relationship from your life?

From what I can tell, post romantic-breakup behavior (after the initial crying/confusion/anger) involves some combination of facebook defriending/burning photos (or at least taking down the frames)/avoiding him/dressing up in your hottest outfit when you might see him to show him what he’s missing. Accurate? Or too romantic comedy?

So what I want to know is, is your post-BFF breakup behavior the same as the romantic kind? I’ve never broken up with a BFF that I might run into, but if I did I’m willing to admit I’d probably go through all of those phases—the picture removal, the avoidance, the extra attempt to look cute in case avoidance wasn’t an option one day.

But what about you? If your ex-best friend lives in the vicinity, how does that affect you? Do you avoid each other? Or maybe just shoot death stares at each other in response to any surprise encounter? Do you try to act civil, or just pretend you never knew each other?


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20 responses to “The Friend-Breakup Aftermath

  1. Lindsey

    While I don’t live in large city like Chicago, it’s certainly not a tiny town either. My ex-BFF still lives here (to my knowledge) and in the 3 years since the fallout, we’ve only run into each other once at a coffee shop, and it was a something of a surprise. I’ll admit that the break-up was my fault and I do still feel guilty about it, but the friendship is dead. She was with another gal pal I’d never met, but we were civil and exchanged “hellos” and “how are you’s” and that was the end. I know I had this look of pain and anguish all over my face, but she seemed fine. I could just imagine all the nasty things that she had to say about me when I walked away. That brief interaction haunted me for days (even weeks) afterward. I still visit that coffee shop – that one-time experience couldn’t keep me from their heavenly tiramisu – but not without wondering who I might run into.

  2. Melonie

    My friend break-up is so fresh in my mind. It’s been quiet for about a year now but the 6 months right after the break up were awful. I could write a whole novel on what happened but basically, we both were at fault for the breakup but what followed was all her. She spread vicious(and very untrue) rumors about me looking for a reaction. When she didn’t get one, she moved on to my husband and when that didn’t work, she went after my kids. Our kids go to school together so I was concerned about what other’s might think but it turns out they all knew she was crazy anyway. It also turns out that alot of people didn’t like me because of her so for me, it worked out in the long run.
    Either way, about a year ago, her teenage son reached out to me for advice. I, of course, turned him away. I felt bad about it but I knew it would be better for both of us if he and I just didn’t talk. I don’t know how but she found out and called the police on me saying that I was contacting her son after being told not to. First of all, I was never told not to contact him and second, HE contacted me. When the cop found out he was 18, they told him that he would have to make the complaint. I can only imagine the wrath of hell that he would have gotten had he said no. 10 minutes after the cop called me, my husband got an email from ex BFF telling him to “control your wife – if you can”. And I lost it. I called the cop and told her what happened. Lucky for me the cop knew that this was really about her and I and she and I actually got a chuckle out of it. The end result was that the cop called ex BFF and told her that I requested that no one from her house contact anyone from my house. Ex BFF denied writing the email but I forwarded it to the cop for the file, along with the FB friend request from the teenage son that was sent about an hour before this all started.
    We do live in the same town. I can honestly say she avoids me. She does not go to any school functions, I never see her anywhere else and yet I used to bump into her all the time before the breakup. A mutual friend told me that she actually kept her son out of a school performance because I was going to be there and she didn’t want “any issues” Our kids have a few activities in common and she sends her husband or her teenage son – Yes, the same teenage son that I’m not supposed to contact and as she told the police – that I make him uncomfortable. (If I make him so uncomfortable, why would you send him somewhere you know I’ll be?)
    It was ugly but thankfully, it’s over and I would be polite to her if I saw her, but I also have a much greater appreciation for my friends now.

  3. I work for the same company as my ex-BFF. I could avoid her for a couple of years after our break-up, but she got a new position on my team last year, so she sits like 10 feet away from me. We’ve tried to mend things, but clearly neither of us really wants to be friends again. We’re civil with each other, but I definitely experience some of the post-break up behavior. When we have social events at work that I know she’ll be at, I don’t show up alone – even at a team lunch or something equally insignificant, I want to have a friend with me. To make her jealous? To make it clear that I’ve moved on and am better off without her? So that I don’t look like I’m alone and friendless? Who knows. But yeah, it definitely feels a lot like a romantic break-up.

  4. Leslie

    One aspect that’s different is how your OTHER friends react. When lovers part, friends tend to “choose” one, but it seems friends try to stay out of a friend’s spat more. Additionally, you generally have boyfriends or girlfriends in “serial”– once you’ve moved on to the next one, your worries about that ex tend to diminish. With friends, there is never a clear “end point” or “replacement” that nudges you to move on.

  5. Layla

    I’ve noticed you have a few entries on friend breakups. So far I haven’t seen one about how you can communicate with the break-up-ee so she knows what was wrong, and can move on and have healthy relationships with other people without repeating the same problem. Just something to think about 🙂

    Once when I was in grade 7, I had a friend that I always followed around all the time. One day she told me this plainly, and I was able to realize what I was doing wrong and fix it. We stayed friends, and I think highly of her because of it.

    In grade 9, I had a friend who broke up with me and wouldn’t tell me why. I think of her as “the b**** who didn’t even bother to tell me what I did wrong.” Even now, that’s her defining feature, but without any anger (in the same way I’d think, about another friend, “A is the one who played clarinet in band.” Except in my ex’s case, it’s “B is the b**** who didn’t think I was worth an explanation.”)

    Sorry for the long comment.

    • Layla

      Let me amend what I said:

      That b-word was much to strong a word. Now I think of her as “B is that girl who obviously wasn’t perfect, or as excellent at communicating as my grade 7 friend – but I can’t really blame her too much, because she probably wasn’t really sure what to do.”

      I have no idea how badly I would have handled the situation, if our roles were reversed.

      Sorry if I came across as super negative in the last comment. I didn’t mean it 🙂

      • Anonymous

        Thank you for posting (both of) your comments, Layla!! I’m going through this right now with people I used to work with – they left to work at another office in the same building – and it’s frustrating that no one will (or can) tell me why we can’t hang out together anymore, or what I did (or am doing) wrong so that I can move on and have healthy relationships with other people without repeating the same problem. It may have nothing to do with me, but if that were the case, I would appreciate at least knowing why I can’t talk to any of my former friends anymore….. (I know I probably sound like a five-year-old, but that’s still how it feels).

      • Nothing to be sorry about at all! This is a great point, and actually brings back memories of my own middle school days being told “you know what you did” when I was like, “uh, NO, I don’t.”

  6. HipWaldorf

    It feels a little “too intense” to be someone’s teacher or parent and tell them how to “correct” their friendship behavior. Friendship behavior is very subjective, as is romantic behavior – and both depend on chemistry. The key message is to always be “authentic to yourself” and open minded and conscientious of how your behavior impacts others.

  7. Kelly

    This is a great follow on from yesterday’s post about first impressions. I sometimes wish for feedback on why I have not made a good first impression – why did she not call me back!

  8. Megan

    It’s not quite the same thing, but me and my house of a lot of girls are dealing with evicting one of us. It’s almost worse than a BFF break-up, I think, because she’s still here until her move-out date, and things are quite nasty. I don’t think any of us are going to be friends with her afterwards (she’s already made that quite clear), but I’m not sure what exactly to do both in the meantime and what to tell my other housemates who may run into her in class or on campus in the future. Cringe.

    • I feel you, Megan!

      Housing situations stirs-up a lot of emotions in people. I’m a believer that your home should be a sanctuary; a safe place to rest and restore yourself from the outside world. So when the dynamic is otherwise, a house can feel more like a prison.

      This former-friend (and soon ex-roommate) is most likely unhappy. And who can function properly, let alone be civil when you’re in a bad state of mind? Give her the time she needs to work through her feelings, and know that you can choose to engage, or disengage, during her process.

      You can’t change her, but you can chose how you handle yourself in the situation. If her very presence is draining your energy, spend minimal time at the house. And if at all possible, crash at someone’s couch a couple nights here and there until she moves out. This might come off as avoiding, but I prefer to think of it as separating yourself from the environment.

      You’re likely to get called out on your absence. Studying is your best alibi right now. A response along the lines of, “Finals are approaching, I’ve been studying with so-and-so to be prepare,” is one that college students will respect.

      No need to worry, as far as future encounters go. If you’re in the same class next semester, direct your attention to the other classmates and keep your eyes on your own paper.

      Good luck!

      “Thank God that life is so long, and the city’s so big.” – “What is your Secret” Nada Surf

  9. Ashley

    When me and my ex-BFF ended our friendship I actually ended it. And you are definately right that it’s like a break-up. She just wasn’t a good friend any more and I felt like I was the only one trying to make it work (it was also a long distance friendship because of college). The final straw came when she visited and began acting like she was better then me and made several negative comments towards me. After she left I felt so bad about myself and knew that this just wasn’t working anymore. That was the last time I spoke to her. It may seem a little childish but I avoided all contact from her, phone calls, deleted her from FB etc. When I’m done I’m done. I tried talking to her in the past and got no where so it was over.
    What I find funny is that if you replace her with him in the above paragraph it would be most break-ups a lot of us have experienced. Lol

  10. Kate

    “Friend breakups often inspire more guilt in women than romantic breakups do.” Oh so true.

    I’m re-watching My So-Called Life on Netflix and I just watched the episode in which Sharon (Angela’s ex-BFF) has to stay with the Chase’s because her father is in the hospital. She confronts Angela about her lack of support and A explains that she figured “she was the last person she [Sharon] wanted to deal with.” To which Sharon says, “you’re the ONLY person I wanted to deal with.” It literally brought me to tears.

  11. My BFF – – wait, excuse me, my ex-BFF, told me that “our biorhythms were not in sync and we could no longer hang out together; that my being near her caused her body anxiety” – this is what her (drug-dealer?!) chiropractor was telling her. So we began little to none communication – I was devastated. I lost my best friend and didn’t know what I could do to fix! But what was the most sad – and this is 8 years later, is that I am extremely uncomfortable with our other shared friends who have never made any comment about it at all. I didn’t know what to do or say and then after moving clear across country, I am still at extreme heartache how to deal with any of them. I want to desperately ask WTF but just can’t. I mean, how can my other friends treat it like nothing has happened? They are friendly but not close at all – just so superficial and I am at a loss. I feel like I am on some kind of ‘dead to them’ list.
    Alas, I just don’t ‘get’ it and now I’ve probably let too much time pass. Just very odd.
    I never had a sweetheart break-up; I married and am still in love with my ‘first ever love’. My BFF is now a lesbian, so I’ve been told… (not that there is anything wrong with that? – I miss her and wish I knew why our friendship was so horribly severed and why I can’t discuss it or acknowledge it with anyone who knows us both.)

    • HipWaldorf

      Curious C it definitely sounds like she was struggling with her sexuality and wanted a romantic relationship with you and couldn’t OR wasn’t able to tell you. Very sad, but this happens often when people struggle through this realization. The severed relationship likely had nothing to do with you. The “biorhythms and body anxiety” is the key words here.

  12. Pingback: BFF Breakups: How Much Explanation is Necessary | MWF Seeking BFF

  13. For me, the anticipation of a ex-friend run-in is more nerve-racking than the actual visit to formal mutual territory. To release the fear, I send my ex on vacation (in my head, that is). This allows me to focus on what I want to do, while my ex-friend is soaking-up sun rays and is on her third Margaretta as far as I know. Win-win.

    I refuse to avoid all public places because of a fall-out with a few people. Don’t get me wrong, it took me a long time to get to this place. I realized that investing in all the negative aspects of certain people was draining my energy. It wasn’t working for me anymore, so I had to change how I perceive others. I can’t change what happened, but I can control what I do now.

    And yes, this is a similar process to ex-friends as ex-romantic partners.

  14. Laurie Lee

    I have experience this with a close ex-friend. We had a minor disagreement and then she told a mutual friend that I was a “Seasonal Friend” and she was done with me. I unfortunately knew her whole schedule (yoga class, day she shopped at Target, Weight Watchers meeting (where we originally met), etc. I definitely went out of my way to avoid these places when she might be there. Now 1.5 yrs later I still feel some of this. I was going to sign up for yoga and much to my dismay I saw what used to be 2 classes, beginner (me) and advanced (her) have been combined into one class, so even though this location is 2 mins from my house I’m looking for another place to attend class:(

  15. Pingback: BFF Breakups: The Receiving End | MWF Seeking BFF

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