Hi Nomi, I am writing to you for some desperately needed female advice on friendship & forgiveness!
I feel as though I have always been a very loyal friend. For me it’s always girl code, sisters before misters, ride or die type of friendships. I do anything and everything for my friends, especially my best friends. With that being said I feel like it’s always been sorta a one way street. I’ve cycled through a handful of ‘best’ girlfriends for many years even, but they all seem to end in a cat fight with bridges burned and me feeling unappreciated.
Long story short, I had one of my best friends who was like a sister to me burn me for the last time & we haven’t talked in almost two years now. I still have a deep loyal place in my heart for her but the last time I swore I wouldn’t forgive her. So after two years of not talking I heard she recently just moved back to our hometown due to an ending of a three year relationship. She seems heartbroken & devastated & I really want to check on her. She was like family to me for so long but I’ve been fighting forgiveness & holding onto bitterness for my own self worth.
I don’t know if I should try to reconnect because I am scared of getting burned again. I care for her deeply but I care about myself more at this point. How do I show her compassion without falling back into the same friendship? – Anonymous
Why does it seem like sometimes the ones closest to us are the ones who can hurt us the most? Maybe because we place so much trust in them, or because we know they know the things that make us tick. So when they dig the knife in it cuts twice; once for the initial pain, and a second time for the sting of seeing such a familiar face drive in the blade.
The types of friendships you’re describing are not foreign to me. I hate to admit it but young women can be extremely hard on each other. And I think that’s mainly because as young women we’re first and foremost extremely hard on ourselves.
We’re under so much stress and pressure to be the beginnings of perfect. To be cool, and detached, and smart with shiny grades or great jobs, in our adorable outfits that don’t look like we tried too hard to put together. We have to cram so much success in before our biological clock starts to tick, tick, tick down to crunch time, when we scramble through shitty dating scenes to find a dude who, beyond anything else, has a bit of compassion for us.
Being a young woman is challenging and sometimes when we feel the pressure pressing down on our shoulders, we take it out on the ones we know are also vulnerable, and scared, and caring way more than they’re letting on: our friends.
But understanding this certainly doesn’t make it okay. At a certain point in life, as a human being, you learn to not take your shit out on other people. Let’s call this… adulthood. You gain a certain amount of emotional intelligence to start to deal with your own problems without flinging them haphazardly on the people around you. At least you hope.
Unfortunately for humanity not everyone grows up. Not everyone matures. But the amazing thing about adulthood is that you get choose who comes into your life and also when people have overstayed their welcome. My threesome of best friends used to have a fourth member who had to get left by the side of the road when it became evident that she was still in the phase of life where your friends are people you step on to make yourself feel better.
Saying goodbye wasn’t easy. Putting up that boundary hurt. She had been one of my best friends for the better part of fifteen years. As with your friend, she was like a sister to me. There wasn’t a major life event between kindergarten and sophomore year of college we weren’t there for each other for. But it came to a point where I felt like, deep down, this person didn’t have my best interest at heart, and I had to say goodbye.
There is something to be said for forgiveness, and I understand that part of you is grappling with that, but if you let them people will always show you who they really are.
If this friend has given you proof that they don’t truly care for you, that if given the chance, or if forced to, they will hurt you, then this is not someone you need to make room for in your life again.
It’s compassionate of you to be thinking of your friend while she’s going through something challenging, but it’s been two years and she surely has other best friends now, ones who hopefully are able to be there for her during this ultra-shitty time. You reaching out may not actually make her feel any better. You guys had a falling out, you cut off your friendship, you are likely not the person she really wants to hear from right now.
And this need to reach out may indeed a bit of a selfish act on your part, something you feel you should do as a entry point to mending this relationship. Because it’s safe to reach out to someone when you know they’re at a low point. Would you similarly reach out if you heard she was, say, getting engaged or married?
We should stay here on this point for a bit because I also fear you may have a notion of friendship that is somewhat unrealistic. Friendship is not something that operates according to a formula. You don’t input “being a great friend” and get out “great best friends” on the other end. While, yes, it’s totally reasonable to cut shitty friends out of your life it gives me pause the frequency with which this seems to happen to you.
Either your picking shitty friends or you’re not letting your friends be the imperfect human beings that they are. Not everyone is going to be as great as a friend as you if you have unrealistic standards of what friendship even is. You look at yourself as being the model of friendship and it sounds like you get frequently disappointed, and that disappointment hurts you.
The best of friends are the ones who accept you for who you are, who let you be your full and faulty self, who don’t hold you to crazy standards.
Friendships are places where you should feel safe, not judged and, ultimately, deemed unworthy. “Catfights” take two. And another magical part of adulthood is having the self awareness to understand the role you play in the conflicts in your life.
A friend 🙂