My girlfriend of many years brought her son and daughter to the only birthday party my son specifically asked to be all boys. In the middle of the bowling alley, while I was organizing the rowdy group of boys who had made their way onto the floor, doing their best John Travolta impersonation to the Saturday Night Fever that was playing in the background, she asked me if her daughter could stay. When I made up some lame excuse about not having enough goodie bags she grabbed her daughter’s hand and stormed out, leaving her husband and her son there in her wake.
That was the day I lost my friend.
I watched as she left in her huff and I panicked, realizing that I had offended her. I ran to her husband and begged him to plead my case with her over the phone. She wasn’t answering. I wouldn’t have a good chance to explain until much later, when too much time had passed and our egos were too large for deflating.
My girlfriend and I were part of a bigger friend group that had been bonding for years. The five of us and our husbands and families did life together, first the weddings, then the babies. All our kids were regulars at everyone else’s kid’s parties, and I did understand her confusion. If she had RSVP’d to my formal mailed invitation she would have seen the details. Boys. Bowling.
Instead I had to call her the day before to ask if her son was coming. My bad, I didn’t mention it was just for boys on the phone that day. I didn’t think I needed to. I had just chalked it up to her being mildly rude by not RSVP’ing, and she was a good enough friend that I would give her that by.
My friend was so mad, so offended by my response at the party that she never got over it, even when I apologized. Even when I tried again several months later with a heartfelt letter, and again the following Christmas when I emailed a “Hello, how are you?”
I felt such a deep shame after this event. At first I wondered what I had done, and decided that I should have just said okay and let her daughter stay. What harm would it have been except to disappoint the birthday boy? I second guessed myself and took on the blame for our falling out. Not only would our relationship suffer, but our whole five-some would eventually “split up.” Oh the guilt.
When I made the effort to apologize and connect several times without an equal response I had to let go. I had to come to the realization that even if the mistake had been mine, I did all I could to do repair the friendship and that it was in her court at that point. Letting go was really hard. I had trouble tolerating the feelings inside, the idea that I had been a bad friend.
The emotions I felt after losing my girlfriend felt worse than some love relationships I have had. I was really stuck in a lack of self worth, and shame. It didn’t seem right. It took me a really long time to be okay with that break up, and come to a place of peace with it.
Nowadays I hear rumors about my friend’s life and successes and I feel happy for her with a small pang of regret. I think about the communication break down that was ultimately the cause of our split and I feel grateful for the lesson it taught me. I have worked hard over the years since to know my worth, find my voice and speak from my heart. I know that the current friends I have benefit from that, and I can be thankful for the painful experience it took to wake me up.
Today I make it a practice to listen to my intuition, speak from my heart, and get clarification when I need it in my relationships. I don’t have time for petty arguments, judgement, and superficiality. What makes great friends is awareness, listening, and authenticity. My friend taught me one of the best lessons I could ever learn.
Laura Probert, MPT has practiced the art of physical therapy and awareness for over 20 years. Connect with her here: www.bodyworksptonline.com