Letting go.

Dear Robin:

I am perplexed over the ending of a long-term gal pal friendship.  I guess coming to the realization that I really didn’t know this person like I thought is what seems to be my sticking point.  From the beginning I was completely enchanted with her free spirited nature. There was always the sense that I was there as a wingman to support her in her escapades… which I gladly did, because she had a vivacity and energy that was over the top fun.

What I didn’t catch was the darker side, which revealed itself slowly, weaving a nasty web of deception that encompassed many friends besides me.  I’m pissed, I’m stuck, and I know I need to let it go but I am having trouble doing so because I still care about her well-being.

Things really went south when she chose a complete inadequate over many family and friends.  Because I care about her so much, I was very honest with her about my feelings towards this guy.  Now she doesn’t talk to me anymore.  She dismissed all concerns with regards to him, and closed the door on everyone BUT him. He has successfully isolated her, which is a huge issue for me because I hate to think he’s won.

Any suggestions?

Thanks in advance (I think),

WMD

Dear WMD:

First off, love the name.

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I think all of us have been at one end or the other of this situation – and many of us (myself included) have been at both.  At two points in my life, I recall losing a very good friend because I had suddenly decided to be a completely different person than the one they knew and loved.  In both cases, the women who ended the friendships were very direct about why, and at the time I dismissed their concerns and stewed obsessively about being dumped. 

It was only years later, with the passage of time and having pulled myself out of what was looking to be a spectacular downward spiral, that I could see why these women could no longer associate with me.  While one moved to NYC, the other was still in Portland, and I am happy to report we have since reconnected and restarted a friendship.  She’s cool with me now that I am no longer careening out of control and tanking my life on purpose.

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On the other hand, I can relate to your current situation as well.  There have been times in my life when there was no alternative but to end a relationship with someone who was morphing into a completely different person right before my eyes.  In your case, it appears she ended the friendship because she didn’t like your honesty about her mate, which I am very familiar with as well.

You asked if I had any suggestions, but your question is somewhat vague so I will try to draw some inferences from your letter: 

  1. I think you are struggling with the lack of closure on a long-term friendship.  Again, I have to make some guesses from the contents of your letter, but my take is that she just shut you out suddenly after you voiced concerns about the new guy.  If that is the case, you had a long-term friendship end with no discussion and no resolution: it just sort of vanished into thin air, like a ghost or Mark Hamill’s acting career. Image
  2. I also think that you are wondering how to move past what you are feeling now.  My personal experience with situations like this is that I find myself perseverating (look it up) about the issue; thinking and rethinking what was done, what was said, what could have been done differently and mulling over the dispute repeatedly.  It really sucks when something negative rents real estate in your head. Image
  3. Finding out that someone is not the person you thought they were, especially when you were very close and they have abandoned you, may be bringing up feelings for you that are related to a critical relationship in your life that went awry.  Have you been betrayed in the past by a parent or a spouse?  If so, your inability to move past the end of this friendship could very well be wrapped up in hurts from long ago that have yet to be resolved.  At the very least, this type of thing can make you question your own ability to select good people in your life, and I wouldn’t be surprised if you are wondering whether you can trust the friends you still have. Image
  4. Finally, you are still clearly concerned about your friend, even though she seems to have left you behind without a second thought.  Isolation is a tactic used by abusive men and women.  The goal is to slowly erode the partner’s support system to the point where they have nobody in their life to depend upon except the abuser.  I’m not saying this guy is physically abusing her, but it sounds like he is shrinking her world so that he is the only person in it.  That’s scary, so I get why you are worried about your former friend. 

You asked me if I have any suggestions for you.  Know that there will come a point at which you aren’t thinking about your loss anymore.  Time heals all wounds, so they say, and time will heal this one.  However, time won’t heal a wound if the scab keeps getting picked off, or it may heal some day, but it will take a lot longer and leave a hell of a scar. Stop picking!!!

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You need to accept the death of this relationship, mourn it, and move on.  Easier said than done, right? 

When we lose people via death, there is usually a ceremony of some sort held to commemorate their life.  These memorials are not for the dead, of course, because dead people can’t go to parties except in the movie Weekend at Bernie’s.  Funerals are for the living: part of a process by which we accept our loved ones are gone and figure out a way to be OK with that.

Where am I going with this?  Maybe you should hold a little ceremony of your own to mark the passing of the friendship that once meant so much to you.  Write her a letter, and grab a couple photos of the two of you together.  Pour yourself a glass of wine or other spirits, and if you have a wood-burning fireplace take your letter and your photos and set them ablaze.  If you don’t have a wood-burning fireplace, do this outside, but make sure you are safe and have a fire extinguisher handy.  I’d hate to see your neighborhood, as well as your friendship with this woman, go up in smoke. 

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(This is a good point at which to remind the reader that I hereby disclaim any and all liability for your misuse of my brilliant and witty advice.)

Another approach you can take is the classic one of distraction.  You miss this woman and it sounds like you spent a lot of time together – time that may now be idle.  I’d sit down and ma
ke a list of some new hobbies you’d like
to try (please don’t start an advice blog, ‘cause that’s my gig) and then go out and try them.  Reach out to the other friends you have and make plans.  Stay busy and have fun.

It’s eviction time.  The relationship is over and you need to accept that.  Perhaps at some point she will come back to you, and you will have a choice to make regarding whether to let her back into your life.  But for now, she has made her decision about your friendship and while it is perfectly healthy to have sad and angry feelings about what happened, you need to kick her out of your brain and get over it.  I’m a firm believer in not thinking about people who don’t think about me (except George Clooney).

Let me know how it goes.  Think about exploring your personal history and how this relationship fail may have triggered something within you that is deep, dark and hurtful.  Sometimes knowing WHY we hurt will lead us to a path of not hurting anymore.  And remember:

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Readers: usually I end with a joke letter, but I just couldn’t come up with one today.  I’d rather leave it out than force something lame.