Chicks over dicks. Hoes over bros. Best friends are supposed to be forever, right? So, what happens when there’s trouble in BFF paradise. How do you survive a breakup with your best friend?
Whether you’ve been together since childhood, she’s been your wingwoman since college or you bonded over the choice between the skinny latte or going for full fat indulgence, the two of you have been inseparable for quite some time now. You talk about every bad date, every good guy who got away; you discuss work, family, life and even finances. You know the depths of each other’s souls and have probably shared things with the other that none, or only a few select people, know about you. The friendship, the relationship if you will, between the two of you is female intimacy at it’s finest.
But it’s not all Lisa Frank stickers, matching Best Friends Forever necklaces and Dear Diary moments. The two of you have also had your share of fights, of hurt feelings and of unresolved issues.
How Do you Know When The End is…The End?
All relationships, be they friendships or romantic relationships, have their ups and downs. We’re all human! So what do you do when you start seeing signs that the relationship you have with your BFF is actually doing more harm to you than good?
According to research, women have a propensity for hanging on to toxic friends. A recent survey says 84 percent of women remember having had one at some point in their lives, while 83 percent of survey takers confess that they have “stayed in friendships with a ‘frenemy,’ simply because it felt too tough to end it.” Another oft-cited study suggests that women tend to put more thought into relationships and “subvert their needs toward a group’s needs or towards others,” while, in comparison, males are “socialized earlier on to be more assertive and expressive about their needs.”
What are the signs of a toxic friendship? Well according to Jen Berman, PhD :
It’s someone who, after spending time with them, makes you feel bad about yourself instead of good; someone who tends to be critical of you – sometimes in a subtle way and sometimes not so subtle; a friend who drains you emotionally, financially, or mentally. – WebMD
If you still need a list of “toxic friend” characteristics, here are some red flags to watch for:
- Toxic friends are negative to the point of being insulting. They are always complaining. There’s never a bright side.
- Toxic friends are unsupportive; while you may always be there for them, they aren’t always there for you. They downplay your achievements or poke fun.
- Toxic people are envious/jealous/possessive. They can never truly be happy for anyone else because they want what someone has and, if they can’t have it (be it an object or a person) then no one can.
- Toxic friends are manipulative. They are nice when they need something from you and know how to emotionally blackmail you, even if it’s in a passive aggressive way.
- Toxic people are selfish and/or self-centered. If it’s not for them or about them, they want little to no part of it.
- Toxic friends are inconsiderate. They don’t care that their demands on the friendship are an inconvenience, and in the event that you do make the sacrifice, they are hardly ever grateful.
The Night I Dumped My BFF
Lizzy and I had been friends since childhood. We first met through a mutual friend when we were 12 years old. We lived a few houses away from each other and we were inseparable from the start!
Through boyfriends and breakups, proms, birthdays and graduations, family issues and deaths, marriages and divorces— we have pretty much been through it all together and then some. But, like any relationship, we were not without our problems.
During what I call “The Married Years,” we lost touch, mostly because I was consumed with taking care of my husband and family and she was busy still living the single life with her live-in boyfriend turned husband. She and I had very similar marriages in so many ways, but very different in so many others. Those differences caused us to grow apart, checking in with each other every 3-6 months or so just to catch up.
At that point in my life, while I missed my dearest friend who was more like a sister to me than my own sister, I also saw the glaring differences in us as grown women.
Lizzy had always been sharp tongued and critical, but I always looked past it because I knew she loved me and it was how she was raised (her mother was very critical and mean-spirited). Still, even when she knew she hurt someone’s feelings, she didn’t care and never apologized. Not to me anyway.
Looking back I wonder why it took me so long to finally put my foot down and be the grown-up in our friendship. Why did I put up with her criticism, her selfishness, her self-centered behaviors for so many years? Was it because I thought of her as family? Was it because I couldn’t stick up for myself to her? Was it because I cherished our friendship more than she did?
No matter the reason, or the excuse, 2 years ago it became blatantly clear that my nearly lifelong friendship with Lizzy was over.
She started acting more like a jealous wife than a best friend. Even though she and I share the similar quality of not sugar coating shit for each other, she became less and less supportive and more blatantly rude and condescending. She didn’t approve of who I was dating, how I was dating, or how often I was dating. She promised to fly to D.C with me for my birthday (my first time flying EVER) and then at the last minute canceled on me because it really just didn’t fit her schedule (even though the month prior I rearranged my schedule to take a trip out of state with her for her birthday). I would invite her out and try to include her as much as possible and she would refuse.
And then it happened…
One night, out of the blue, she sent me ranting texts telling me what a horrible friend I was, how I am never there for her and how selfish I am. As with most text arguments, this one snowballed out of control and we both said some pretty petty shit— shit I know I’ve had building inside me for years! It probably wasn’t the most mature thing to do— two grown women who are practically family arguing over text about their friendship—but hey, we’re all entitled to a little immaturity every now and then, right?
As we both sat there feverishly text yelling our lists of everything-I’ve-done-for-you-you-selfish-bitch to each other, it dawned on me that I was fighting with a person who had absolutely no respect for me. When that light broke over my marble head, I stopped texting. My last words to her were, “You know that none of what you are saying about me is true, so if you ever want to discuss this like adults, you know where to find me. I’m done.”
How to Survive a Breakup With Your Best Friend
Maybe everyone has these epiphanies from time to time and realizes, when they are in a toxic relationship, “Hey, I’m done.” Maybe not. For me, the decision seemed inevitable, but the aftermath was pretty shitty. Part of me felt like my left arm had just been cut off and yet, part of me felt this tremendous relief.
So, how did I survive a breakup with my BFF? Simple. I grieved the loss and then I moved on with my life.
At first, I couldn’t stop talking about her, about the fight, about things we had done together, things we planned to do together. Then I would get sad and cry and think “OMG What am I going to do without her.” That feeling of loss then usually carried me on the wave to anger, which sounded a lot like “You bitch! How could you be so fucking selfish!” and then I would go back to a sense of calm relief that the drama was finally gone from my life.
You need to let yourself go through the stages of grief. Breaking up with a friend is no different than breaking up with a romantic partner. You shared your life with this person, or aspects of it. You shared an intimate relationship with this person. You bonded. It’s not easy to break that bond so, take the time to grieve and then move on.
Discover new friends, or old ones that you didn’t have time for because the toxic friendship ate up so much of your time. Discover new hobbies, movies, books, restaurants and things that you’ve always wanted to check out, but maybe this toxic friend didn’t approve or kept you from it somehow.
Don’t trash talk the other person, or send that hateful email telling her what a spiteful cunt she is. These things may make you feel better initially, but in the end you’ll just feel like a douche bag, and really, is that a mature way to handle any breakup?
Just like ending a bad relationship or marriage, while we like to believe that our loved ones, or in this case friends, will be there for life, sometimes you just have to let go.
That bumpy ride through the stages of grief lasted for quite some time, and even now a little over two years later, I still have moments where I think, “Hey, I wish Lizzy were here for this”, but hind sight is 20-20 and I’m actually at peace with my decision. I miss her, very much, but I don’t miss the toxic friendship that once was. Not one bit.