It's rare for me to lose a friend.
I have some people I consider dear friends that I haven't seen for years and years. Some that I haven't necessarily spoken to or emailed in forever, other than a Christmas or birthday card during the year. But friendships, for me, are something tidal; in flux, rather than something that ends. Sometimes certain people slip away for a while, but I always know they're there. So it was shocking to me when a friendship I thought was a lifer imploded spectacularly a few years ago.
I'd invited my closest friends to get together for my birthday. Always an awkward thing for me, to celebrate myself, and I was uncomfortable, not wanting anyone to feel left out by hearing about the dinner second hand. So I sent out emails, including a couple of couples that were close to these friends of mine just so no one would feel I'd been rude or unkind.
Almost everyone was able to come (except for my very pregnant friend and another who couldn't find someone to babysit) and I'd guessed that this particular friend and his wife would probably not both be able to make it as they had a new baby, so I was pleased when his wife showed up, it meant she was getting a good evening away from being a Mommy even though it would have been great to see both of them.
We had a yummy dinner and a nice night and some great stories were told and it was a very memorable birthday celebration for me all told. I was pleased I'd taken the risk to ask people to come, it was kind of a big deal for me.
It was a shock to me therefore to get a text later that evening from the wife telling me that her husband was disappointed that there were couples and husbands there. He'd assumed it was a "girl's only" evening.
I apologized as profusely as one can via text at 12:30 am, but I felt horrible and guilty (as is my way) so I sent him an email apologizing for the misunderstanding. I felt awful, and it put a huge damper on my birthday evening.
I got an odd, angry, terse email from him the next day and when I responded, he told me if I wanted to clear up the "misunderstanding" (he put it in quotes...my first indication that we were on very different pages) I had to talk to him in person.
So I did. I drove over, mightily confused and wanting to assure him that I hadn't *not* invited him as he was assuming, but that I had wanted both of them to be there.
But he wasn't listening. He went off as they say, and I stood at his door, mouth agape. He tore a strip off of me for being "embarrassed" to have him as a friend and how I'd "purposely" only sent the invitation to his wife whereas I'd "obviously" sent it out to other men and husbands.
I was stunned. Dumbfounded. Shocked.
I held myself together and calmly told him that I understood that he was upset but that he was wrong and that this was all a big misunderstanding.
He wasn't listening and he didn't believe a word I was saying.
I don't remember most of what he said, but one phrase has stuck in my mind.
"If you'd only just stop caring what people thought of you, you would have invited me and not cared what anyone else would have thought of me." He yelled.
And that's when it hit me.
He was right. I needed to stop caring what he thought of me.
He was treating me horribly, not listening to my side of the very simple story and had said very hurtful things. This wasn't how a friend treats a friend and I needed to stop caring.
I told him once again that I was sorry. That I heard where he was coming from and could see why he was hurt. But that he'd misunderstood.
I felt the friendship end in that moment, certainly from my side.
Sometimes the damage done is irreparable.
"Aren't you coming in?" he said, obviously calmer now he'd had his say and told me what was what.
"No." And I left.
And although I tried to continue a friendship with his wife, it wasn't sustainable and the three of us aren't in a friendship anymore. Which, sometimes makes me sad and sometimes makes me angry. I'm not yet at a point where I see it in a positive light. It was all so extraordinarily hurtful and wrong and ugly. Even just writing about it again has gotten me riled up and hurting all over again.
I can probably make a list of the times I've felt a relationship break. And it's never pretty. And only sometimes is it worth slapping a band aid on and working to fix the break. When the hurtful thing said to me is too large? I can't. But sometimes I do, sometimes it's only a flesh wound.
This wasn't one of those times and at the time, it was one of the hardest things I'd ever gone through. But as they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and the whole thing certainly did. I'd rather it had never happened, to be honest, but it did, and I made it through.
What I wonder, though, sometimes, is about the moments in a romantic relationship where I feel that same break? But keep on going, pushing through, hoping for the best. It hasn't served me well in those cases. Would I have kept on trying to make things work with this friend if we'd been romantic partners? I like to think not. But I wonder. And why would sleeping with someone make me think it's ok for them to treat me poorly?