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I'm Breaking Up With You, My Friend

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I know you shouldn’t break up with someone by email, but if you would return my calls, texts and/or emails – well, maybe I wouldn’t be breaking up with you in the first place.

You know who you are. I don’t have to mention your names (and yes, there are several). I know you love me, at least you tell me you do on the rare occasion that I get to see or talk to you. But as they say “love is not enough”. So, it’s over.

Here’s why. When I haven’t heard back from these “friends” after several attempts, I worry and hope they are OK. My recent text to one of these friends went something like this “Are you alive? I’ve been leaving messages but have not heard back from you. If you are, indeed, dead, please disregard this message. If you are still alive, please just respond to this text so the Jewish Mother panic in me can subside.” I did get a text back from her apologizing and telling me she would call me very soon. Have you heard from her? OK, now my Jewish Mother guilt is rearing its ugly head.

I think I’m a pretty good friend. I know all my friends birthdays and make sure I call them on their special day. I try to be there when they need me for anything. I revel in their successes and joys and comfort them in their sorrow. I feel their pain and call or email them just to let them know I’m here and love them.

The friends I’m keeping, well you know who you are. You love me unconditionally. I’ve tested this so I know it’s true. You return my calls, texts and emails. You call me just to say hello and see how I’m doing. You’re there for me when I need you and we get together as often as possible. It’s a two way street and we make it work.

Maybe I’m too needy. Who knows? My girlfriends have always been extremely important to me. I didn’t grow up in one of those homes where people liked each other very much. So my girlfriends were and are my chosen family. My best friend lived across the street from me and was born two weeks after me. Fifty eight years later we are still sisters and I’m godmother to her daughter. Sure, we’ve had our problems along the way and some of them have been pretty severe, but we do what girlfriends who love each other do. After we fight and stop talking to each other for a few days or weeks, one of us calls the other and either apologizes or tells her how hurt we were at her actions. We talk it out, kiss and make up. True friendship works that way. It is worth fighting for.

True friends also takes a lot of care and feeding to grow and maintain. You have to make a conscious effort for a friendship to last, that is, if you really want it to last. Think about that famous quote “people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime (author unknown)”. Sometimes that is all the time they were meant to be in your life.

If you are looking for a lifetime friend, here is my list of how to be a true friend.

1. Return calls, emails and texts. It seem so simple. Life happens and you get busy but make time to do that. Even if you don’t have time to talk, just let us know. When I don’t have time I answer the phone when I see it’s my girlfriend calling (or call her back if she’s left a message). The first thing I say is “hi, is everything ok?” When she says yes I tell her I’m in the middle of something so I can’t talk right now and ask to call her back. I ask this questions because if it is truly an emergency, then I’ll drop everything to help her.

2. If your friend is in a crisis, be there for her. Don’t just help her through it when you talk to her or see her. Make sure to follow up with her. Call, text or email every couple of days to let her know you are thinking about her.

3. Remember important dates. If a friend tells me something significant is coming up; a job interview, a date, a vacation, a scary doctor’s appointment, I make a note on my calendar to follow up with her to find out what happened. I’m a busy person too and if I don’t write thing in my calendar I won’t remember them.

4. Honor your friend on her birthday. Not everyone likes to make a big deal about their birthday but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like getting a call, text, email or card on their special day. Recently one of my best girlfriends decided to make a party for my birthday. She sent out Evites to my friends. Some responded they couldn’t make it. When many others didn’t respond, she called them. I don’t know about you but when I’m invited to something, I respond promptly and if I can’t make it, I contact the person and wish them happy birthday. It’s been almost six months and I still have not heard a word from three of these so-called friends.

5. Call your friends just to say hi and catch up. That’s part of the care and feeding.

6. Stay connected to those far away friends and schedule a time to talk or Skype, even if it’s once a month. That way you know the time is blocked out for you to “get together” and you stay in each other’s lives.

7. Don’t get mad and walk away. At least not permanently. You must tell your friend what they did to upset you so she can correct it. I’m sure it was not intentional but you are hurt none the less. If she doesn’t call you, ask her what’s wrong.

I had what I considered my closest girlfriend for over 10 years. We talked on a daily basis and saw each other a lot. We helped each other through our divorces, the deaths of our fathers and other significant life events. I had celebrated New Year's Eve at her house and we spent the morning together talking about our plans for the new year. We kissed and hugged as I left (we lived a few hours away from each other at the time) and I knew I would see her the following weekend to celebrate my 55th birthday that she was helping to plan.

I never heard from her again. After several days of leaving messages, emails and texts I got so worried I reached out to a mutual friend. I was sure something bad had happened to her. She let me know that my girlfriend was fine. Several weeks later I got an email from her indicating that she was no longer allowing me in her life and gave me several reasons and examples. I was shocked because in all the years that we had been so close, she never once said anything to me about what I did that bothered her. I’m far from perfect and my intensions are always good but I do screw up sometimes.

It felt like a piece of me had been removed and it took me a long time to get over, but I had to realize that those were her issues not mine. If she would have taken the time to talk to me when I did something wrong, I could have had the opportunity to apologize and not do it again. Please give your friend the opportunity to explain and apologize. Don’t let things brew until you want to walk away.

8. Don’t dump your girlfriends when you get a significant other. We’re not in high school anymore. I know this new person you met is wonderful and you’re falling in love and want to spend all your time together. That happens initially but I want to share in your happiness and joy too. We were so close when you were single and them boom! I’ve lost you.

So back to the girlfriends I’m breaking up with. I still love you but I require more. True friendship is a two way street and I’ve been driving that one way path for too long. Always know that if you ever decide that I am as important to you as you are to me, I’ll be here waiting.

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