Lessons from a Failed Friendship


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We were like sisters, made sweeter by the fact that neither of us had grown up with one.  It’s been four years since an argument ended our friendship, and I still think about her every day.  I am reminded by the little things:  using her guacamole recipe, hearing the name of the school her kids attend, noting that her email address is still in my Contacts list; as well as by the big things:  praying daily for her daughter—my goddaughter, returning to places where our families had vacationed together, and the awkward, guarded greetings we exchange as we unavoidably cross paths at our parish. 

She tried a few times to reach out:  a poinsettia on our porch at Christmas, a gift for our new baby, and hand-me-downs for our son.  I reached out a few times too:  two new baby gifts and one trip to her house just to deliver diapers.  But no lasting connection has been reestablished.

Perhaps the most tragic aspect of our falling out is that our husbands, who tried to keep their close friendship together for almost an additional year, eventually succumbed to the same fate – their friendship unable to carry the weight of the mutual hurt suffered by their wives.  Our then eight-year-old daughters each lost her best friend, and it saddened me greatly to realize that my then five-year-old daughter had never known life without this proxy-mom in it. 

As I’ve tried to work through forgiving her on the one hand and acknowledging my own guilt on the other, lesson one is that competition, which had crept into the very heart of our relationship, can be the most deadly form of pride.  Competition has started many a war:  competition over resources, competition over land, competition over whose God is most powerful.  In fact, competition and pride were at the root of Satan’s uprising.

Since the end of our friendship, I’ve seen other pairs of close women friends become estranged over time— women of great faith, women who seem to have so much in common, women who know that the Body of Christ should be unified.  As I’ve looked at these other broken friendships objectively since I usually know both women, lesson two is that breaking our friendships apart can only come from the evil one.  The enemy is fracturing what would otherwise be powerhouse friendships, relationships that were blossoming on both sides as we experienced God’s love through each other on the path to holiness.

I was hardened for a long time, but I now regret what happened between us.  I’d love to hear from other women who’ve experienced the upending of a close friendship.  Were you able to repair it and move forward together?  How have you personally healed if not?  Did competition play a role?  If so, over what?

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  1. I’m so sorry for your experience, and I’m grateful that you have brought this important topic to light. I admire your honesty and humility. I have lost friendships, but in different ways than you, so I don’t know how helpful my experiences will be. But I will briefly share them for whatever it’s worth. I had a childhood friend who moved into my neighborhood when we were both 11 years old. We always had a somewhat competitive friendship, but never imagined that our friendship would end. She got engaged after graduating from college, and our other neighborhood friend and I were going to be her maids of honor. Our friendship cooled a little, and before we knew it she had postponed her wedding date (by several years!) but never told us directly, and cut off almost all contact with us. When she finally did get married, we (the other neighborhood friend and I) were not in the wedding party, as our friendship by that point was really more along the lines of “acquaintance”. I suspect that there was some embarrassment about the change in plans about the wedding date, among other contributing factors. Through the years we have reached out to each other sporadically as you and your friend have, but it has never resulted in resuming the friendship. I tend to think that there is potentially more hope in your situation, however, since you are both faithful Catholics. The fact that you have both reached out on occasion suggests that you both probably regret what happened and would be open to resuming the friendship. Maybe a heartfelt discussion would help.

    The other experience I have is the fizzling out of mommy friendships, not due to conflict, but just due to circumstances (living just far enough apart that getting together becomes less convenient once the kids start school, for example). Again, a very different experience from yours, but still results in some sadness when I think back on how integral the friendships were to my early years as a mother, when I go to certain playgrounds and think of the moms I used to spend time with there, etc.

  2. This is beautifully written and beautifully honest. I admire you – it takes a lot of courage to write about something so personal and painful, and to admit one’s mistakes. Your experience rings true for me. I also have lost friendships that I wish I could have back.

  3. I lost a friend because her early elementary age daughter and my similarly aged daughter were having friendship difficulties. I tried to discuss the issue openly with my friend (against the advice of several women, who suggested it would be better to make up excuses and delays so our families would drift apart). Unfortunately, I should have listened. I naively believed honesty and friendship would prevail. My friend, whom I still miss dearly, insisted her daughter was incapable of anything but perfection, and any problems our daughters had were entirely my daughter’s fault. I was stunned. My friend and I had been so close. I suggested both daughters, including mine, needed to work on getting along better. I apologized for hurting feelings, even as I watched my friend’s daughter sneak and lie to her mother. My friend said she accepted my apology, that there were no hard feelings, then never spoke to me again after that. I felt badly because my sons lost their friend ( the brother) and my husband lost a friend (the father) too. I regretted my attempt to clear the air with my friend only to realize that to have been dishonest would have taught my children that it is okay to be in a hurtful relationship. (My friend’s daughter was actually being cruel to my daughter. ) in the end, I felt sad, but knew I had done the correct thing, protecting my child, even if it meant losing a terrific friend. Friendships can be hard.

  4. I, too, lost a dear friend four years ago after a terrible tragedy. Even though the child survived, spirits of deceit, anger, and pride crept in to our friendship and our once tight knit church community. Many people were hurt and some were cast out of our school/church community. I could not stand by silently and be a part of it. When I let my feelings known, I felt as if I had to choose sides. We ended up leaving the parish. I miss my friend dearly but I don’t think I could ever trust her again. I pray for her and her family every night and wish her only the best.

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