Girl Talk: Losing A Friend but Not Really

I don’t even know what to title this piece for us “girls.” I know, though, that this thing, whatever it is, is widespread among us.

I am talking about the situation where two women are friends, and then one of the pair gets a boyfriend (or girlfriend) and the other person in the friendrelationship feels abandoned.

The woman who has the new relationship begins a whole new life with the love of her life …and leaves her friend behind, all the while insisting that nothing has changed.

But the one left behind knows all too well that much has changed. Maybe her friend, now in a relationship, feels the same love for her that she did, but the thing that matters most – the time spent together – has been altogether changed, and the friend left behind …feels left behind.

I had an amazing friend. We did everything together; we talked on the phone several times a day, about nothing. We had always been friends, but then her husband died and our friendship deepened. When her husband died, I was with her as much as I could be, both as friend and pastor. She and her husband had had an amazing relationship, and her pain was beyond belief.

The fun we had! Even while her husband was alive, we really “hung out.” She was there for me when I was divorced. I went into a shell and hid myself in my house. I wouldn’t talk, wouldn’t answer my door, but there she was, outside my house, in her car, patiently waiting. She later told me that she would have sat there all evening until I opened the door.  When I saw that she was not going to leave, I opened the door for her, pissed. She said not a word and was not at all bothered by my  “pissness.” She came in, fixed me some tea, got herself some, and sat down. We said nothing, but she was there …and silently, I was so glad. When my divorce was made final, she was there. We went out to “celebrate” after the pronouncement was made.

She coached me in how to look more “like a pastor.” She had (and has) a great sense of style and gently reminded me that blue jeans and tee shirts probably wouldn’t cut it in the work I was doing. She took care of me and I took care of her. She met my family and became part of my family, as I did hers. She would cook ribs for me (she is an amazing cook) just because she knew I loved them.  As a member of the church, she would not let anyone say anything negative about me, not in her presence. She put up with me, which took a lot.

I am not sure of what I did for her, except “be there” for her when her husband died. I would call her every morning just to see how she was, long after her husband died. When she had a cold, I “tended” to her, making her take meds I deemed necessary for her. We would take road trips together, and I would drive; she was worthless on the road as a driver, but was great company as I drove. We would laugh at her music selections on those road trips. Mellow jazz, I would tell her wryly, is probably NOT the best music to listen to when you’ve been driving 8 hours … She took my jabs with grace.

She traveled with me when I took my daughter to college,settling her into her dorms and getting her out for the summer. She and I laughed together and cried together. She was a protector of me in church; I was the pastor, but she was the guard. I always knew she had my back.

And then she got a boyfriend who took her all over the world, took her to the nicest restaurants, treated her like she deserved to be treated, and I felt left behind and left out.  If I called her, I was not able to get her. From talking every day we went to talking “whenever.”  She was going all over the place: to the Superbowl, to opening nights of plays in New York. She said once that, while in New York, when she and her boyfriend were in some fancy hotel, that she thought of me, knowing I would have LOVED the hotel and the play.

I had to get it into my craw that things had changed. I never doubted she loved or cared for me, but I had to accept that her life was different, and that we would no longer be the “hanging buddies” that we had been. It was immensely painful, but it was the new reality.

We have stayed in touch. We occasionally talk, albeit very briefly. She sends me emails from time to time; I have to admit, I don’t send her many, but I do respond to the emails she sends. She is still very precious to me, and always will be.

We will make our way back to each other, or, rather, I will make my way back to her, with the new reality of her new life smack in front of me. This whole situation is hard because I love her so much and want her to be happy, which she is. I just didn’t like feeling like I had been pushed to the curb. I’m not even sure I WAS pushed to the curb, but I felt like it.

I think a lot of women know this scenario well.

Though I have given myself time to heal, I have not pushed her all the way out of my life. She was and is a real friend. Even now, were I to be in trouble, I know she’d be there, no questions asked. Friends are precious; even as our relationship changed, I would tell her that. And because she will always be a friend, I will never completely let go of her or the friendship.

I don’t have any advice to anyone on this. I just wanted to share. As I get older, I realize even more how precious are friends. There is nothing quite so precious as a friendship.

A candid observation …

Girl Talk: After Divorce

It hit me that we girls don’t talk a lot about something that happens when we go through divorce: people we used to be friends with stop talking to us.

I have been divorced for many years, but I can still remember when, after the divorce was final, how the friends I thought I had stopped inviting me to their houses, to their parties and picnics. Friends with whom both my husband and I had shared really precious times sort of, it seemed, erased me from their lives.

It wasn’t only friends, either. It was people like the guy who had been keeping our furnace and air conditioner in shape for years. All of a sudden, when I’d call him, he wasn’t available. No matter how many times I called, he never called back.

Needless to say, some of the people in the church regarded me as a sinful woman. I was a pastor, after all. How in the world could I be trusted to preach to my people, and even more be trusted to give marital and pre-marital counseling, when obviously, I was lacking in character and in knowing how to keep a man?

I couldn’t figure it out. Some friends who were divorced stop speaking, but more, it was friends, my lady friends, who were NOT divorced whose silence and distance puzzled me. Was it because I was now viewed as a threat? Were they afraid that my failure as a wife was somehow contagious, and that they would get “the illness” if they remained close? I only ask because years after the divorce, some of those friends, all of whom are now divorced themselves, have been gingerly moving back toward me, making contact.

Seriously?

As I have listened to women over the years go through divorce, I realize that it isn’t just me; too many women have the same story, but it would be great if we women wouldn’t back away from each other at such an awful time. It’s precisely at times like that, when your life is falling apart and the ground on which you’ve always stood falls from under your feet – no, more accurately, crumbles as you stand there, that you need your sister friends most.

I ached as I read the story of how the late Elizabeth Edwards, betrayed by her husband, was so crushed by his affair that she yelled at him in public and bared her chest, which showed the scars of breast cancer. How horrible for her to feel that depth of pain! I found myself wondering if her pain was exacerbated by friends who simply disappeared as she and her husband went through their pain, oh so publicly.

I don’t know what it is about us that makes us shy away from each other in critical moments, any more than I understand why we so often stab each other in the heart and/or back when it comes to getting a mate, but I can say that, during divorce, the friend who is real is the friend who sticks with  you through it all.

A candid observation …