It’s been nearly four months since I talked to the girl I had called “best friend” for many years of my life.
The circumstances were weird: I was on the verge of getting out of the Navy. She was struggling with having feelings for a man who was not her husband. Both of us were facing major, major changes in our lives and the way in which we’d been living them. I had assumed we would help each other through those transitions.
My mum has always told me that one person can’t be everything you need in life. It’s probably the best relationship advice I’ve ever gotten. It applies to every sort or relationship: romantic, platonic, familial…it even applies in the workplace. You simply cannot get everything you need in a relationship from one person in your life. They are going to disappoint you, and you are going to disappoint them. They’re going to have other obligations, just as you are. Their lives are as complex and complicated as yours.
I had come to lean very heavily on my friendship with Michele. Especially before I entered my current relationship. We called, texted, emailed…we were co-writing a story together, planning shopping trips, all sorts of things. We spent a lot of time together, even if it wasn’t physically. But Michele has a husband and a toddler. She was ( is? ) struggling in her marriage and her baby girl has recently been diagnosed with high-functioning autism. Here I was, demanding her attention, insisting she take time out for me when her situation was already quite stressful and complex. And these days, it really is easy to bug the hell out of someone, isn’t it? Emails and Facebook and text messaging, all accessible on phones we take with us everywhere.
To top it off, you just plain outgrow people in time. After being friends for nearly ten years, Michele and I were finally approaching a place in our lives where there were more differences between us than similarities. I, for instance, do not have any children. I have never been married. And the little things were changing too: Michele’s new friends were into hardcore music, so she became increasingly involved in that scene. She went from loving comic books and geekery to only being interested in hardcore music. As her tastes changed and developed, it was harder and harder for us to find any common ground. Which was a little scary for me, because although I had other friends, particularly friends that worked with me in the Navy, she was my only long-term friend.
I’m not saying that it isn’t possible to have long-term, even lifelong, friendships. I know people who have been friends, literally, from birth. I know it’s possible to maintain healthy relationships over a span of many years, and even across many, many miles. But for us, it wasn’t possible. She was my best friend. And I had come to rely on her just a little too much. I expected her to fill too many needs. And her other relationships were heading in a very destructive path.
In the end, we had one of those horribly personal fights. The kind of fight that you can only have with people who have known you better and longer than anyone else. I don’t know if we will ever talk again. I feel angry with her, I believe she has acted in a very selfish manner toward me and many others in her life. Then again, I’m sure she feels the same way about me. But I miss her, too, even if we drained rather than inspired each other at the end.
The moral of the story for me is to cut the people in my life a little slack, especially my boyfriend. I know that it’s healthier ( and more fun, in the end ) to enjoy each person in my life for what they bring to it, and not to cling too hard to them. And I know that I can’t rely on Mike to be the only strong relationship in my life. He is a friend as well as my boyfriend, but he can’t be my only friend…that’s too much to ask of him. I wouldn’t want him to put that kind of pressure on me, either.
It’s been a painful lesson to learn, and some of the laughter has definitely gone out of my life now that Michele is not in it. But in the end, I think I’ll be a better friend and girlfriend because of it.
- They Come and Go (shanmarie29.wordpress.com) – A really good argument about maintaining old relationships, which I agree with ( as long as they’re healthy ).
- You got to have friends (go Donkey!) (caituna.wordpress.com) – Just a great dialogue about friendships in general.