Breaking Up is Hard to Do

I’ve had a number of relationships end. Some because we fought too much, some because the spark wasn’t there and some because someone seemingly better came along. Regardless of the reason for the split, the break up process has been much the same: mourn, miss the individual, relive the memories, wish it wasn’t over, think the break up is for the best, then move on. I’m wondering what this process will be when a friendship ends.

I was recently dumped by an individual I have known and loved for more than seven years. The reason behind the break up is irrelevant. The process has been much the same. We’ve had to go through the painfully awkward ritual of exchanging the stuff. It was nothing like the exchanges I’ve experienced in the past. It was cold and completely detached. It felt procedural. I’m not sure why this is. I have more history with her than I did in any other failed relationship I’ve ever had.

I thought maybe it was because this has been coming for some time and I’ve been emotionally prepared for it. But I’ve been in other situations where I’ve known for some time that a break up was imminent, but I still fell apart after it was final. I’ve been the dumper who has carefully weighed the pros and cons of a particular relationship before making the strategic move of ending it. Even then, with all these logical factors backing up my decision, I’ve crumbled when it was officially done.

This time I’ve handled it in a very calm, collected manner. I realize it is a friendship ending and not a love that has vanished. Still, I’ve spent seven years with this girl, making this relationship three times longer than any of my actual relationships. We saw each other at least once a week. Talked online and text messaged hourly. There should be a gaping hole where she used to be, but there’s not.

I am sad and I miss her. I see pictures and think of her when I drive by our restaurant. I see something funny that I know she will appreciate and I have to stop myself from texting her. Still there isn’t that devastating soul-crushing emptiness that typically occurs when a well-forged connection is completely severed. The whole thing lacks a sense of finality.

Maybe it’s because I don’t really believe it’s final I have no reason to believe it isn’t. This friend has cut ties with another girl more than two years ago and they still haven’t reconciled. So this girl does tend to make a friend dumping stick, but I still haven’t fully comprehended what this actually means for my friendship.

Maybe it’s because moving on from a broken friendship doesn’t mean the same thing as moving on from a broken relationship. Once you move on from relationships and you find someone else, your former relationship can never be restored to the capacity it once was. Well, not without becoming a Mormon it can’t. But you can have multitudes of friends and you can return to an old friend even if you have found another in the interim. In theory.

The reality is even if the relationship is renewed on some level, it will likely never become exactly what it was before it ended. The two individuals will have changed in the interim and have found new life paths that don’t necessarily fit neatly into the life path the other is on.

I have only actively ended a friendship once in my adult life. A few years after I had ended it, I forgave her for the indiscretions of the past, and we became friends again. A lot had occurred in her life and mine during those years we spent apart. Our lives didn’t mesh as nicely as they used to. That’s not to say, that she isn’t a wonderful friend. She would do anything for me, we just lost some of the strength in our bond. Strength that comes with facing major life events together. Now, our lives are on separate paths. When we actively bring those paths together, we connect and have a fantastic time, but it isn’t what it could be had we not taken the detour.

I’m afraid this most recent break up will be more permanent than the friendship I ended and then renewed. Even if it isn’t, I’m afraid it won’t be what it was. And that is heartbreaking no matter how unhealthy or dysfunctional the relationship was in the first place.