Breaking up with your best friend is nothing new. Thought Catalog alone has a handful of articles highlighting the pain and heartache of severing ties with someone you once called your BFF.
“A Breakup Letter to My Best Friend.”
“Read This If You’re Going Through a Friend Breakup.”
“When You Lose The Friend You Thought Would Be In Your Life Forever.”
Many of these articles share a common outlook: a bright, forgiving note in which the authors wish their estranged pals the best in life as they close the chapter on their friendship. As a reader going through something similar, there’s a deep understanding there, a familiarity with a unique kind of grieving process.
I, too, wish my former best friend a happy life, one that doesn’t include me, one that doesn’t need to include me. But I’m at the stage of this post-friendship where I can’t help but reflect on our time together and wonder if we were ever really the best of friends.
Our friendship didn’t dissolve overnight. Annie* was someone I had known since we were in seventh grade, our common tastes and interests immediately budding into a 17-year relationship that saw the highs and lows of life: We were there for each other’s college graduations. We’ve helped each other move furniture. She was the first person I turned to when my parents divorced. She was the maid of honor at my wedding.
But in many ways, it feels as though our friendship was never really built. We never had sleepovers as teens, and I never even step foot in her childhood bedroom. We weren’t the type of friends to spend hours on the phone together, gabbing away about the latest gossip and trends – there were other friends for that. We never got intimate in the way best friends are supposed to. I had zero knowledge about her sex life, if she had one at all, and she showed no interest in ever wanting to discuss mine.
How could I call someone my best friend when I could never trust her with my deepest, darkest secrets? How could I call her my best friend when I could never be honest with her? And what kind of best friend was I if she couldn’t feel like herself around me?
Perhaps the dissolution of our friendship was always inevitable. We were friends out of loyalty to our high school selves, and friends of proximity and convenience, always living within driving distance of one another. We were coffee shop compadres, always preferring to catch up at the local Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf to complain about work, family, relationships, but never the real stuff. We never dug deep. We never really fought. We both chose to cultivate a friendship with so few layers that now that it’s been peeled back, I don’t care for what I see.
There’s a scene in (500) Days of Summer in which Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Tom is so miserably pining after her ex-girlfriend that his pre-teen sister, played by a charming Chloë Moretz, has to slap some sense into him: “I think you’re just remembering the good stuff. Next time you look back, I really think you should look again.” This is the kind of advice I’d given myself during those last few months leading to the inevitable end of our friendship, when Annie stopped returning my texts, ignored my messages, and completely shut me out. She even ignored me on my birthday, where a simple “HBD!” would have meant that we were OK, and unfriended me on social media.
While not an ex-girlfriend, Annie is definitely an ex of sorts, and upon reflection, I’ve found more bad than good. Silent treatments and withheld birthday wishes aside, she wasn’t the best kind of friend. She hurt my feelings more often than not, always mocking my voice and my stories. She was an interrupter, never letting me get a word in, and catchups in recent years focused solely on her work, her boy problems, her everything.
I’ve come to realize Annie is someone I never would befriend today. The layers of friendship I peeled reveal a person so uniquely different from me that it’s a shock we were pals for so long. When she cut the cord of our friendship, I felt nothing but relief and gratitude. What does that say about the kind of relationship we had? It was a best friendship that never really was.
*Name has been changed out of respect for this person’s privacy.