double friend breakup

I love summer. I love the sticky sweet feeling of my skin. I love the way the clouds paint the sky at sunset. But best of all, I love to entertain the people I love. I love to gather lemon verbena from the garden for champagne cocktails. I love to make feasts. I love to lean into an endless summer night and peek into the early morning. The laughter. The sky. The feeling.

But amidst a breakup, summer feels – well – different.

We’ve been lucky to spend the last several years frolicking with a certain couple that we adore. I get along with him, she gets along with me, and vice versa with the husband. We enjoy similar activities. We think the same things are funny. We’ve traveled together. We’ve laughed together. We’ve cried together. We’ve opened our hearts to one another in small acts of trust and vulnerability. And now we’re breaking up.

The reasons matter less than the reality. She did something terrible. I said something even worse. He became angry. I apologized. She said something mean. I felt hurt. Back and forth until we all became fragile. A breakup is miserable. A friend breakup: even worse. A double friend breakup: ridiculous.

We tried to be adults. Mature. Compassionate. Kind. Understanding. We said all the right things. We showed each other how big our hearts were. But in the end we came to realize that they simply want different things than we. We learned of certain priorities, habits, lifestyle choices, values, circumstances, etc. etc. that are simply incompatible with what we hope for ourselves. So we are separating.

As a college-level composition instructor, I encourage my students to try to get into the mind of the other person. I encourage them to give others (and themselves) second chances. I try to foster true Rogerian, David Foster Wallace type thinking. And so I baffled even myself today trying to rationalize why it makes sense to put them in a box. Yep. A categorical box.

They are like that. She does this. She’s this type of person. So we can’t be friends. All of the generalized ways of thinking I’ve trained myself to avoid are assembled, like armor, at my door. And instead of pushing them out, I’m inviting them in.

Because maybe, in certain cases, with certain people, it’s for the best. Of I want to call them – to invite them over for fondue, to stay up until 3 am playing bananagrams and then have brunch in the morning. The muscles and tissue deep inside urge me to patch things up – to see it all from their perspective – to be a peacemaker.

But these are irreconcilable differences we’re talking about. Incompatibilities that, though they don’t bear specification here, strike real fear and anxiety into my core. I know what went wrong. But there is still that part of me, that delicate 16-year old ego, that wants to be loved. Or at least liked. I want them to call me. To ask us out to dinner. I want to be best friends again. But every time I let myself go there, the breakup pain engulfs me. And I feel 2 millimeters tall.

And so. I am eschewing the Rogerian method of thinking. At least for now. For now I must mitigate further emotional damage by allowing myself – no – encouraging myself – to make those assumptions. To place them in categories. To protect myself with classifications. To departmentalize. To compartmentalize. And to ascribe.

No. I’m not happy with the strategy.

But for me, for now, remembering what a dynamic, funny, silly, smart, compassionate couple they once were

takes me somewhere

I don’t want to go.

  1. olivethepeople

    Wow, what a powerful piece. So so well written, so true and forgiving on either end. I’m so proud of you for writing this, and I hope that by writing it down, you’ve been able to reach some new level of peace.


    1. bstarbee

      Thank you, olive! I am glad to have it off of my chest. And I do feel better! How lucky we are to have had such a rich and meaningful friendship with these folks for so many years. And how lucky we are to still have so many couple and non-couple friends we love to spend time with…


  2. tinkerbelle86

    Its so hard when you go different ways in a friendship, this happened with me and the girl i thought would be my best friend for life. But ultimately what we thought of life was different in the end. It must be super hard when its doubled 😦


    1. bstarbee

      Thank you, Tinkerbelle. Perhaps it’s one of those tough rites of passage that we must all face at some point (and here’s hoping that you and I are done with that tough part of life!).


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