Sara has been one of my best friends for over 30 years. Since we both commuted to work, we spoke every evening during our drives home. It was a constant in our lives. We shared each other’s ups and downs—and there were plenty of both. I knew that whatever was going on in my life, I could review it with Sara and get her take on it. It was something I valued, and I depended on it.
Things started to shift a little when COVID began. We both stopped commuting to work, so our schedules changed and we no longer had the predictability of our calls. We instead called each other at random times, which didn’t always work. So already I felt a shift in our relationship. Still, when we did talk it was always special and reassuring.
Then we each had a situation arise at about the same time. Her crisis was definitely more serious than mine, but at the time, I felt torn in two directions and wasn’t sure whether to focus on myself or her. Maybe I should have thought it through more carefully and shown up for her, but I acted instinctively, took care of myself, and so I let her down. And that was it!
Sara stopped talking to me. I called her many times to apologize profusely and explain what was happening in my life, but she didn’t want to hear it. Sara was done with me. I felt like she tossed me out like an old newspaper. After several attempts at clearing the air and trying to get back to normal, I realized that I had to move on and that Sara and I would never be friends again.
The problem is that I can’t stop thinking about this loss of mine. I think about Sara every day, about our conversations, how much I always looked forward to speaking with her, how she made me laugh and cry, and though I do have other friends who mean a great deal to me, I feel like there is such an enormous void in my life; I can’t seem to move on.
Yes, I made a mistake, but don’t many of us make a regrettable mistake, apologize for it, and learn from it, allowing for forgiveness? I’ve stopped talking to my husband about my feelings because he thinks there is something wrong with me if I’m unable to get over it. Honestly, I’m pretty shocked at myself that I can’t seem to accept that sometimes friends come and go and life goes on. Believe me, there are plenty of other things going on in my life that I can focus on, and I do, but I’m also focusing on Sara. I don’t understand myself and really need some kind of help so that I can let it go, even though I do regret the action that caused our split.
Your choice of the word “rejected” says a great deal about how you are feeling. It’s a very personal word that brings up many emotions that are difficult to handle. It triggers within each of us primal fears of loss, of being unlovable, unworthy, and powerless, if, in fact, we are unable to stabilize the relationship now in jeopardy of being destroyed.
It confirms how little control we often have within a relationship that once felt as solid as a rock. How easily it can shatter and slip through our fingers, with few or no options available to us to salvage it. When we realize how little control we actually have over ourselves and others, our egos can easily go into a tailspin.
Added to that is the fact that you triggered this freefall. You made a choice that did not sit well with Sara, and 30 years of togetherness went up in smoke. Your love was suddenly rejected, leaving you feeling helpless and vulnerable.
Let’s analyze a little further, since I suspect you’ve been beating yourself up over the choice you made and apologized for. I’m going to offer the idea that your friendship wasn’t as fabulous and strong as you believed it was in the first place. Take a moment to look at it more closely and search for fault lines. I suspect there were some, because wonderful friendships should be able to survive the rare bump in the road. As you said, none of us are perfect; we sometimes make bad choices, and our closest of friends should to be able to love us despite the imperfection of our human behavior. So I’m curious as to why Sara couldn’t just lick her wounds for a bit, acknowledge her disappointment in your actions, and move on with forgiveness and love.
Could there be other things going on in Sara’s life that might be the true cause of her pulling away? Perhaps that infamous “crisis” in her life was only the tip of the iceberg and she is still overwhelmed with coping with her problem and this has much less to do with you than you imagine. If so, your love being rejected may not be the issue here at all, despite it feeling that way.
Though you are feeling very hurt right now, it’s important that you acknowledge all of the emotions that these hurt feelings are triggering in you—face them, recognize whether or not they actually have any merit, and move past them. The story is bigger than you know, and it’s time to restore your belief in yourself that you are still valuable, lovable, and necessary.
Esther Mann, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in Hewlett. Esther works with individuals, couples, and families. Esther is presently offering phone, Zoom, and FaceTime sessions. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 516-314-2295. Read more of Esther Mann’s articles at 5TJT.com.