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May 25, 2022

“It’s Not Me. It’s You.”—the Surprising Emotion I felt after Breaking Up with a Once Close Friend. 

 

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It happened—the thing I didn’t want to happen.

I broke up with a good friend of mine and someone who’d been in my life for quite a while.

After years and years of thinking I needed this friend, and that I had to constantly make nice with her just so she could be in my life, I finally made a realization recently: I was no longer that into this person.

We’d gradually stopped communicating over the past six months and then last week I decided I was just done. Done. 

I also thought that this would be one of the toughest stories I’d ever write. That when I said my final goodbye and cut the umbilical cord with this friend forever, that I’d feel pain, or even rage. That I’d feel disillusioned and broken. I thought it would take me weeks and months to get over the loss of this friendship.

And I’d prepared myself for all of it.

When I confided in a few other friends about breaking up with this friend, they all asked the same question: “Is she toxic?” And honestly, she wasn’t. She wasn’t the kind of person we think of when we talk about toxic personalities. She was sweet, funny, independent, and friendly. We shared so many laughs. We went drinking and to the movies and hung out all the time.

She wasn’t passive aggressive, either. She was always pretty upfront about things—no beating around the bush. You knew where you stood with her, and I appreciated that.

So, you’re probably wondering: what the f*ck was my problem with this friend?

I could meander and ramble and give many politically correct excuses and pretend to make sense of it all. But the fact is, the reason we split apart was because she’s married. And I’m not.

And in case you’re thinking that’s no reason to break up with a friend, well it isn’t. I actually have more married friends, men and women, than single friends. Given my age, that’s just the natural order of life. So, while this friend wasn’t some unique creature in my life, her being married with kids proved to be the final straw that broke this camel called Roopa’s back.

Let me explain.

Like I said, we were good friends. We hung out when we could and had conversations about everything from European movies to Hemingway to James Cameron to politics and New York Fashion Week and “Project Runway” and “Top Chef” and more. And for the most part, we agreed on almost everything.

A few years into our friendship, she got married and had kids soon after. We still hung out when both of us were in the same country, and it was all good…until it wasn’t.

It started with generic comments about life as a married woman with kids and the difficulties that came with it.

She talked about how busy she always was and how she barely had a moment to breathe.

I agreed.

She claimed that being married with kids meant she could barely spend time on herself, much less have time for friends, like me.

I agreed.

She said it was incredibly expensive to have kids in today’s world—with school and swimming classes and ballet rehearsals and piano lessons—and how every bit of their spare cash went toward taking care of them.

I agreed.

She claimed that her life as a housewife and a mother made her feel less “seen” and less “appreciated.”

I sympathized.

So far, so good.

Then, things changed. I’m not sure if it was deliberate or not but these comments began to feel like little digs directed at me. As I said, she never did beat around the bush.

She said that as a wife and mother every second of her life was spoken for. And then added, “Unlike you, Roopa. You’re so lucky not to have relatives who’re constantly on you, reminding you how tough life can be for married women.”

Say what now?

Sure, I’m not married and don’t have kids, which is my decision and one I’m very happy with. But I do have experience with more than my share of difficult people in my life, including relatives, who comment on my lifestyle.

She said how busy her life was and how she barely had a moment to breathe. And then, “Unlike you, Roopa. You’re so lucky you don’t have a husband and kids who rely on you constantly, 24/7. It must be so much fun to have all that free time!”

Uh, f*ck no.

Sure, I don’t have a family at home, but I work seven days a week with my two full-time jobs where I deal with all kinds of people who rely on me constantly to do my job. I also spend every free second I have writing. In between, I shop, cook, clean, take care of my home, my rental house, and more. I don’t have a husband and children but I have little-to-no free time in my life.

During another conversation, she said, “Roopa, you’re so lucky you don’t have kids. Once your basic expenses are paid for, it must be so nice to have all that extra money to spare.”

Extra what?

To be fair to my former friend, I’ve heard this same comment from other married people before. The idea that being single means having no extra expenses is not just wrong but also outrageously unfair. Most times, at least in today’s world, if you’re married, both partners work and that means you have two household incomes, unlike a single person who has to take care of all the expenses themselves. Sure, having kids is expensive, but a lot of single folks are also expected to pick up the bulk of the heavy lifting when it comes to caring for aging parents. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, just that it all evens out in the end.

A few months back, this friend told me that her job as a wife and mother made her feel less seen and less appreciated. Then she added, “Roopa, it must be nice for you. You don’t have to worry about stuff like this. You’re footloose and fancy-free and don’t have to think about these domestic politics.”

I said nothing to that—it’s the last time we spoke. And over the past few months, I’ve thought about her on and off. But recently, it became clear to me that I just wasn’t into the friendship anymore. I didn’t have to go too far back in our conversations to realize that I never felt less “seen” or “appreciated” than when I was with her. That when she used her assumptions about my single life to make a point about her married life, she wasn’t just not seeing me but she was also actively disrespecting me and my choices.

That’s when I realized: it’s not me; it’s her. And it was time to move on, so I did.

In case you’re thinking I should’ve been honest with her about my feelings and told her how disrespected I felt before ending things, please know that I had brought up these issues many times. But while she may have listened with one ear, it all seemed to go out of the other with zero real impact. She’d nod, apologize, and then make a similar comment the next time we met or spoke.

After so many years of putting up and shutting up with everything she’d said, I finally said enough. I was done.

Our breakup did not happen overnight though. Like I said, we mutually started pulling away from each other a few months back. But I mentally called an end to the friendship just last week, so there was no big breakup scene. There were no fights or traumatic goodbyes. We don’t live close to each other, so our ending was relaxed and happened gradually. It started with both of us making fewer calls to one another. Then writing fewer and fewer emails to each other. And then our communication stopped completely.

Like I said before, I was ready to feel the pain. I was ready to feel traumatized. I was ready to rage and rant.

What I wasn’t prepared for was what I ended up feeling. And that was relief.

Letting go felt like a weight off my shoulders; I immediately felt lighter and happier. Someone I had considered an important part of my life is no longer in it and all I feel is relieved.

I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, given the length of our friendship, but sometimes it’s good to be on your own side.

And it’s the absolute best to be honest and just say: “I’m sorry. It’s not me—it’s you.”

~

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