I treasure connections with my girlfriends. Friendships go through phases during our lives. When my closest 15-year friendships with four women who were involved in every part of my life shifted then ended, it stung creating a new emotional scar. I wasn’t even sure why these friendships ended, until recently. Maybe.
Eleven years ago, I ended an 18-year marriage. With 5, 9 and 15 year olds I stepped into unfamiliar territory as working-single-mom-college-student after 15 years as a housewife. My girlfriends rallied around me even husbands comforted me too; I would continue to be part of their lives. Moved and grateful, I pocketed the confidence that I would have my friends nearby anytime I needed them. Then dove into creating my family’s new life.
After a few years, my friendships shifted. I was ‘invited guest’ not ‘friend for outings’. Two women stayed close to me a while longer. This eventually changed because I couldn’t devote time and attention to nurture these friendships.
That’s what I assume they’ve been thinking. My two remaining friends experienced their own life events. A parent’s death, child’s crisis, spouse’s serious illness. My participation in their lives was limited, I justified. My job became job of mom, dad, employee and referee. A bigger impact I always assumed; money was extremely tight. They stopped asking me to be part of their lives but I also assumed they’d understand I was rebuilding my life, trying to keep my home while building a career out of thin air; trying to help my own children stay upright, in school and on track. I assumed they’d be there when I came up for air and needed their shoulders. I plugged away doing all the life things parents do as couples – pay the bills, go to the kid’s activities, work, fix the house, fix the car. As a single parent.
It’s been over a year since I’ve spoken to my friends. Life events continue. My son graduated from college and married. The closer of my friends didn’t attend. My second friend and her husband came late, left early. My daughter went off to college and my youngest is at the top of his class.
I have no idea what my friends or their children are doing. I mourn this. When I contract where one friend’s husband works, he avoids me, confusing me more. I’m assuming I have hurt my ex friends in a way I don’t realize. I assume they don’t know I’ve been hurt. None of us reaches out. Worlds apart? Not worth the effort?
In reality the lessons from my ex friendships will last a lifetime. I am better because of the richness they brought to me. Checking my expectations, becoming more careful, and trying to be more flexible in relationships with friends that step into my new life, being open and vulnerable to the shifts of friendship will no doubt help to grow that richness again. With new friends. This I believe.
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