SURVIVE: How to Handle Breakups with Friends

By Susan "Honey" Good

“People, people who need people, are the luckiest people in the world.” 

Dear readers, Barbra had it right. But I’m going to take it one step further: as women, we need other women in our lives, especially when we are over 50. That’s a time when most of us have entered a new chapter of life. We may be empty nesters, retirees, divorced, widowed or never marked. Regardless, we are often living alone at this time of life. And because of this, our friendships with women are more important than ever. 

And that’s why friendships at this age can be a double-edged sword. Friends can be a delicious experience based on trust, laughter, sharing and caring—or as in many of our experiences, a great big awful “OUCH.” 

I am certain that you, like me, are interested and involved with many different types of women. From the casual relationships with our trusted hairdressers or trainers to the lovely and interesting women from all walks of life that we call close friends, most of us would not be who we are without them. And we are all grateful for their friendship and the marks they have made on us. 

And to the women who have hurt us—I say the same thing! Kind of, that is, for the truth of the matter is that we would not be who we are today without them and the “ouch” they bestowed on us.

Why? Because each of those painful “ouches” has led us to ask some hard, pointed questions. Was there something we could or should have done differently? Are we choosing the right women to share time and experiences with in our lives? 

More significantly, what did we learn from our “ouch?” How did we react to it? What does it tell us about us, and women in this chapter of life? More simply put, our “ouches” leave us with messages that force us to grow and change.

Up until my sixties, I was one lucky woman. I experienced no “ouches.” And then the rains came pouring down. I didn't know how to react to the rain except to feel betrayed and lose my trust in women. I used to assume that when you have a blowup with a friend, you could sit down and work things out. Boy, was I wrong.

I wondered “why now. We should be past these petty indignities to each other.”  

After much introspection, I have come to see that until a certain age, so many of us are truly busy and young families and demanding jobs. And we don’t have time to be bitches. But that changes when we have time on our hands, our hormones change, the aging factor kicks in and we start worrying about who has this and who has that because we look back and take stock of things. It’s a recipe for JEALOUSY. And some women revert to intimidation and downright meanness. 

I know I was naïve because I was untouched by any negative emotions from friends until then. Unfortunately, things have changed since that time and left me shell shocked. 

One of my very dearest friends shocked me into reality when she said, “If you don't expect anything from anyone, you will never be disappointed.” I don’t come from that school of thought, but her comment did help me. I no longer expect anything. And I feel better. Why? Because I get it that women have so much on their plates with their private situations. So, be careful when you’re feeling hurt and don’t overreact. 

But what about my “ouches?” 

Am I bitter?  Maybe a little. 

Was it painful? Yes. 

Did I retaliate? No. 

Did I talk to other women about what happened? No! 

Am I leery of women now? Yes. 

Am I saddened that I have to feel leery? Yes! 

Will the feeling of being leery ever go away? I don’t think so.  

Do I miss the three women that hurt me? Only one. And I am happy to say, we do occasionally communicate.

So what’s the deal when you face a blowup?  First you have to decide if you want it to be a break-up or just a blowup. Do you want to try and take your time to pursue the relationship and keep the conversation open in order to resolve the problem? Or do you want to delete the woman (or women) who hurt you, from your life? 

In my three negative exchanges, I decided I did not want two of these women in my life and I deleted them. I weighed my options. I held the reins.  And this is what I’ve learned.

Do Damage Control

  1. Ask yourself “what was my role in the blowup? What was her role? Do some serious soul-searching. Put your thinking cap on. Do you want to recoup?
  2. Ask yourself “do I really care if the other person derails our friendship? Did I say something to my friend that was justified to cause her wrath?” If the answer is no, I suggest you move on. If the answer is yes, try and make amends in a face- to- face conversation. Not by text. Not by email. Not by a note in the mail. Not over the telephone. Only in person. Validate her feelings. Don’t be defensive. As my father taught me: take the high road, be the bigger person.
  3. Ask yourself: Can I let go of my hurt and my anger? I have a best friend. We became friends when we were six years old. We have had words. Not many, but words that cut communication off for a time. One of us always calls the other. We have the ability to place our relationship over our hurt and anger. If you respect and love your girlfriend—make the first move. Don’t stand on ceremony.
  4. Remember this: you are not alone in getting an “ouch” from a so-called friend. Don’t believe in all the myths of women and friendship because it creates an unrealistic and overly romanticized idea of what it means to have a friend and be a friend. Move on. Learn from your experience. Be more critical of who ‘you choose’ to have in your life after 50. And choose to be friends with women that have real inner beauty, dear readers.
  5. And last but not least, reach out to your children and their children, your treasured grands. They will value your advice. Remember—they are facing your problems at their early age, and will benefit from your hindsight, wisdom and even-tempered approach to this problem.