Breaking up with a friend… sucks. And it happens. As I’ve grown and changed over the years I’ve had to move away from and let go of relationships, and I’ve been moved away from and let go of.
I feel compelled to write about my personal experience with friendship breakups as it feels so present for me today. I’ve been reflecting on this for a while and wanted to lay out a few specifics for my own review and contemplation. Join me in my overactive brain….
As a Bay Area community dancer, I have consciously avoided dating anyone in the local dance community because I didn’t want to lose my sacred space, my healing space, my community, if we were to break up. I’ve witnessed so many people that have had to stop going to dance because they needed space from the old partner, or they have to check in with each other to choose who can dance on which dates. I’ve been grateful to not have that concern around dance. Until now.
Several months ago I broke up with a friend in the dance community and have noticed my discomfort in the space when we’re both there. We’ve talked, and I’m at peace with the decision to not be friends. I’ve grown in a different direction that feels absolutely true and right for me, and staying in that friendship was out of integrity for me. I realized I was staying in a relationship, a friendship, with someone that I hoped would someday change. Instead of hoping they might change, I chose to pull my energy out of that relationship and be more focused about whom I share my time and energy. I am more consciously choosing to share my time with people who support my growth and share some basic values, rather than the shadow of someone that I hope might change.
Over the months I’ve noticed how I feel when we’re both in the same space. My desire to avoid conflict becoming nearly intolerable to the point where I almost cave and reignite the friendship just so it doesn’t feel so uncomfortable to hold this boundary. The best analogy I can come to is something like when an addict decides to cut back or quit and has to start saying no to certain friends, and the peer pressure hits. That’s a strong example, but there are similarities. I feel the desire to just break the boundary so that I can be less uncomfortable in this social community dance setting, but I know this boundary is important for me to hold.
It’s ok to not be friends with everyone. Can we peacefully coexist? Yes, we can peacefully coexist. It’s just dance. And I feel the “peer pressure” which makes it challenging for me to fully relax into my body, and get out of my head. My attendance in the Marin dance community may start tapering off for a while so that I can land in a sacred space, a healing space where I can dance my dance, get out of my head and into my body fully. I am telling myself, “Sometimes you really just need to go someplace else, this is a MOVEMENT practice, it’s ok to MOVE somewhere else.”
All afternoon I’ve been reflecting on other friendship breakups over the years, and a few stand out. I feel like I want to get them off my chest somehow and into my writing, so here goes. Deep breathes……One of the earliest and most painful friendship breakups happened with someone I thought I’d be friends with forever. I had to make a hard decision to try to help a friend who I believed was in life or death situation, and while I believe my decision saved their life, they never forgave me. This friendship breakup had a ripple effect as we were part of a circle of friends who took sides. Over the years I have tried to make amends, and this person has refused my every attempt.
There are three others that stand out in my memory where I notice a pattern having to do with their significant others. Two who were enmeshed in relationships with non-polyamorous, committed, married people, and one who was in a relationship with someone who was racist. Here’s where I get clear about values. I tried to be a supportive friend, and at some point, I felt like my support was a lie. The lying thing, especially when it’s a man lying to a woman, or pitting a woman against another woman, has just become unbearable for me. I just can’t do it. The friend that married the racist person almost pushed me over an edge. I remember being at the wedding and feeling numb. I couldn’t celebrate this union. I know no one’s perfect, but these were values I couldn’t support. I know in all three of these cases these friends felt like I was being judgemental and acting superior. I can’t deny the judgemental part. I tried to quiet my mind, but I couldn’t. The jury’s out on being superior. I’m still single, so perhaps there is a lot I don’t understand about compromise in a relationship. I admit to that.
One other friendship breakup that has been very difficult for me was a friend who was convicted of a crime (a lot of editing happened here), went to jail, did their time, and as far as I know, is living freely. I supported this person through the trial, wrote a letter of support to the bench, visited them in jail, and for a while continued to support them after they were released. I wanted to believe this person, and believe that I was able to love someone unconditionally. That was their request of me before telling me what the crime was. I tried. I did. For a long time. And then I realized that a voice inside me didn’t feel safe in the friendship, felt manipulated, tricked. In my solidarity with this person I was making a statement of energetic agreement with this person and their values. This one was very difficult for me. This was a very dear and close friend. I didn’t want to see the truth that was staring at me. I wanted my old friend back, the one that on some level had been hiding and lying to me. I stayed in this very uncomfortable place for a long time. I made excuses when they wanted to get together. I delayed returning calls. Finally, I wrote a long letter explaining my feelings and closing the door, for now. The letter was received and understood.
These doors all remain closed, for now. At some point, they may open back up, and a new friendship might be negotiated. But for now, I’m holding these boundaries as I honor my growth and freedom of choice.
Originally published at https://jencoffeycoaching.com on May 18, 2019.