Breaking up with girls

I’ve been broken up with a lot. Not by boys, though. Only one guy has ever broken up with me, and it took me about a week to get over him. But girls are a whole other story.

When I was sixteen, one of my closest friends in the world started dating my ex-boyfriend. They kept it a secret from me for months, and as a result she stopped talking to me. I had no idea what was happening when they decided to break the news to me in person. He was older and could drive, and so they picked me up and took me out to lunch. I remember being in the backseat, watching the woods flashing by on the roadside as they talked about getting drunk.

Something had changed. Neither one of them ever drank before. There had been a basic shift, and I felt its effects rippling outward. My stomach tightened. Something was wrong. The drinking meant being grown up, I thought. Grown up without me.

“You’re a little girl,” he growled, later, leaning over me in the hall. She had said she needed to get a tampon and gone away. He was about a foot taller than me. “You don’t know anything about the world. You just live in this little bubble. I feel sorry for you.” He was closer now, and louder. He was laughing, cruelly.

He was angry, still, because I’d broken up with him. He was excited by the opportunity to flourish her in front of me, returning triumphant as though from battle.

But I didn’t care if he had her. I didn’t care if she wanted him. I just cared about her.

That was the last time I saw her for four years. I thought about her all the time. I imagined her having adventures without me, in her pickup truck and work boots. She could be anywhere now. She could be doing anything.

I have a bad track record with close friends. It’s a little embarrassing.

When I was fourteen, a whole group of girls broke up with me. They started another group without me and started hanging out without telling me when. Honestly, I’m still not sure what I did. A college friend gave me a formal break up speech. She needed more of my time. I admitted that I couldn’t really give it at that point. At least we talked about it. We tried to be honest. It seemed like things just couldn’t be worked out. About a year ago, a friend I’d become very close with very quickly uninvited me as her bridesmaid. Again, I wasn’t exactly sure why. Am I just oblivious? Have I never learned the secret girl code? I was still allowed to come to the wedding if I wanted. I didn’t.

And then, most recently, I stopped talking to my longest standing friend. The girl I’ve been attached to since I was literally two years old. It was the first time I’d ever been the one to initiate a separation. In the past, I’d always been caught off guard. But this time, it was me. She had made decisions and changed in ways I couldn’t understand and wasn’t sure I was willing to support. I didn’t know what to say to her. I didn’t know how to talk about it. So I stopped talking.

For over a month, we didn’t speak. She let me have my time.

And honestly, I felt like it was breaking my heart. I thought about her constantly, and dreamed about her nearly every night, as though she was haunting me.

The thing is, if I try to pry her from my life, I’ll be left scraping and chipping away at the memories forever. There are too many. They are interwoven with my memories of everything else. I can’t remember playing outside as a child without remembering her. Or dressing up. Or homeschool prom. Or dating boys. Or anything, really.

What do you do at that point?

Yesterday, I called her. “The thing is,” I said, “I can’t be me without you.”

And she said, “We are connected at the soul.”

And that was that. I refuse to break up.

And so I’m trying something I’ve never tried before. Her life, her decisions, her direction– they’re different than mine. But she is still the person I know. So I’m willing to listen instead of running away. I want to hear what she has to say.

*  *  *

Un-roast: Today I love the shape of my legs.



Kate on April 26th 2011 in relationships

40 Responses to “Breaking up with girls”

  1. Rita responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 10:41 am #

    Wow. This speaks to me in ways I can’t even express. Thank you for writing it. “I can’t be me without you.”. Wow.

  2. tamar responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 11:00 am #

    I’ve been broken up with too- and I have also broken up at least one relationship, where I felt my friend was so very pessimistic and depressing I felt bad everytime I talked to her- nothing bad had happened to her, that was just her outlook on life that sucked all the energy out of me.
    I read somewhere to check how you feel after every interaction with someone- and if it drains you, get away. I did, but I still feel guilty about it.

  3. Anne responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 11:01 am #

    Wow, glad to know I’m not the only one. I’ve always felt for my guy friends who are mystified by girls’ actions in romantic relationships.. because I frequently am just as mystified by girls’ actions in friendly relationships.

    My husband is my best friend. I’ve had girls over the years who filled that role, which is awesome, but it ain’t easy. You think your friendly relationship is going along swimmingly, and then communication lines are cut.. was it something I said/did/failed to do…? Girls are complicated — not to say that I’m not — but yeah.

  4. Jess responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 11:09 am #

    That’s beautiful. I have friends like that. Like family, and we’ll never really be able to separate.

  5. JJGal responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 11:11 am #

    The timing on this is unbelievable. Last night, after an argument with my om, I left in a huff and went shopping (I was on a mission to find shoes for my wedding). I’m in a sad, hurt, angry mood and who do I see in the store? My former best friend. I froze. I didn’t want her to see me. I couldn’t deal with it. When I saw her pitching a bit of a hissy-fit I remembered why we went our separate ways and I used her display of bratty-ness as my justification for not saying hello. See? That’s why we don’t talk anymore. BUt there was never a real breakup. There was a horrible ranting argument. Then nothing for almost two years. She got married. I got married. I had a baby. Our mutual friend (from a group of pals that neither of us had seen in a short while) died. I called her to let her know. We went to the funeral together. We went out for lunches. We went shopping. We chatted on the phone. We hung out from time to time. We started over. We tried to anyway. I got divirced. I moved back home with my fam. She helped me move. We chatted and visited some more. But we didn’t know each other anymore. We knew the former us’s were in there somwhere, but it didn’t seem to be enough to carry the friendship through. I always thought what we had was an unconditional type of thing. But we couldn’t relate to each other anymore. I can’t explain how I felt when I saw her yesterday but I was a coward. I could have been polite and said hello. I don’t have any outlandish expectations of us becoming best pals again. So if it didn’t get past a little small talk and a “take care” I would have been okay. But I didn’t even say a word. Not sure why.

  6. JJGal responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 11:11 am #

    *mom, not om. UGH!

  7. Angie responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 11:48 am #

    I am totally with you. I relate.
    I’m not gonna spill my girly break-up stories, but they are pretty awful aren’t they? I’d say they’re worse than boy break-ups.

    Fantastic post, Miss Cake.

  8. Mary responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 11:53 am #

    I love this post so much. I thought I was the only one! My best friend since the 7th grade dumped me in college. I was in the midst of an abusive relationship but I didn’t really understand that I was being abused. She decided I had been out of touch too much and that I didn’t seem to care enough about her. She called me up to say this, and I didn’t know how to respond. We made up later after I got out of that relationship, but things have never been the same. I was shocked when she came to my wedding. I actually cried when I saw her. It felt like that part of my life had come back to say it was ok and that I could be myself again. But I still wish I had that friendship back.

  9. Valerie responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 12:15 pm #

    I’ve broken up with or been dumped by many girls. I suck at keeping friends and I like to think it’s because I don’t really have the time to be attached at the hip as many people would like. Not to mention, that if I can’t support, stand, or condone something that I feel the need to speak up about it. I don’t think there’s any harm in that. It’s about staying true to myself.

    However, I can’t help but feel like I’m abnormal because I haven’t had a “bestie” for numerous years and because I am incapable of dropping everything in order to make time for things I can’t seem to care about (like shopping, girl’s night out, so on). I just can’t force myself to bond with most people. It’s lonely sometimes and I feel like an utter freak, but I suppose it’s better than lying to myself and pretending for these people in order to fit into some social pyramid scheme. I’ve tried to try, but I just can’t do it.

  10. Tina responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 12:23 pm #


  11. Liz Nord responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 12:30 pm #

    OMG, Kate! We are on the same wavelength. My post tomorrow is about the challenges of meeting “real” friends as an adult. This is one of my favorite posts ever on Eat The Damn Cake.

    When you wrote, “Have I never learned the secret girl code?” I thought—that is me. One of my college guy friends once said to me, “You don’t know the girl rules.” I asked, “What rules?” He went on trying to explain the rules and I thought—this is too much. Are you kidding? I don’t want to be part of a that.

    Thank you for your honesty! You rock!

  12. B1 responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 12:35 pm #

    Oh the break-ups. I moved a lot as a child, so distance kept friendships from being longer than a few years. This seemed normal to me. So, when faced with a friendship that would last longer, I was faced with them getting to know the real me and this freaked me out. I pushed them away, but these friends stayed true to me. I learned a lot from them.

    I also found that while some of the time away frome each other was good, it also allowed me to grow too and unfortunately, I grew away with maturity. There is nothing wrong with that and we still have a solid friendship.

    I kind of view it this way. Each day we have a choice to love, to care, to invest our minds and our hearts to people. It is a choice that we have to consciencely make each day on who we feel is best suited to our lives at that moment. And each day, those friends that I want to hold dear are the ones that my mind thinks about, that my emails will go out to, that I will call on the phone, and that I will go out of my way to spend time with them.

  13. janetha @ meals & moves responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    This post hit close to home. Ever since I was in the third grade, I have been breaking up with girls. I vividly remember when my 4 closest girl friends came up to me on the play ground and said “We are dumping you.” Yes, those are the words they used. There was a new girl in class and they wanted her in their circle of friends and, for some absurd reason, could only have 5 in the group. So I was out. Fast forward to Jr. High.. I had 10 close girl friends. They tormented me and put gum in my hair and wrote “we hate you die” on my window in shaving cream. We broke up. Fast forward to today. The girls I had in my wedding are now barely acquaintances. My wedding was not even a year ago. I see them and I feel cold shoulders all around me. It is uncomfortable and it is sad. But I think I have to break up with them. It’s just not working. It’s sad and it sucks.. but it’s life.

    Thanks for this post, Kate! And thanks for letting me spew my thoughts.

  14. Kate responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    Looking forward to reading your post!

  15. Kate responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    Wow. I can’t believe they used those actual words. What a story.

    Also, you’re really, really nice. What is the deal with girls sometimes?

  16. JJgal responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    Good post, B1. To have a good friend, one has to be one (hence the name, B1 perhaps??). I kind of wish I would have said hello last night, but i chickened out. Life is short though. Maybe I should have.

  17. Kate responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 12:49 pm #

    and P.S. One of the girls in my wedding party hasn’t talked to me since then. I don’t know why!

  18. Kate responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 12:50 pm #

    those situations feel so incredibly complicated. I tend not to hold grudges, but sometimes I think it makes me come off as insensitive, like the other person has been thinking about this issue for ages, and I’m clueless. So when I approach them, they act like I’m ridiculous. It makes me nervous about taking the first step.

    At the same time, you only live once!

  19. B1 responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    JJGal, Actually the name B1 is short for B1empath. Years ago I was trying to figure out a good email/chat room name to use and this is what I came up with because I’m pretty much empathic, my first name is Barbara (hence the B) and B1empath seemed fun at the time. But it is true, you have to make a choice to be a good friend, a good wife/girlfriend, a good sibling, a good employee, a good Christian, a good what ever. And each day we get up, the choice is ours as to how we choose to be.

    It’s easy to wonder about why so and so hasn’t called, but you know, the phone works both ways. :-)

  20. Gillian responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    Perfect, perfect timing. One of my closest friends and are on the road back to closeness and it’s amazing. We were in the car together recently and she just looked at me and said: “I miss you.” She’s moving away for the summer and I think we both realized at that moment what we had missed when we had drifted apart. It’s funny how three words can really communicate so much.

    I can’t be me without her either.

  21. Lilli responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 2:55 pm #

    Thanks for this post Kate, really spoke to me
    I recently broke up with someone i’ve been staunch friends with for my whole childhood, on the basis that she entered into a relationship with a guy who i’d been on/off dating (first love is my only excuse), she didn’t tell me, just left me to find out from other people. I slapped her. I’m not a violent person, but i was so overcome by the betrayal, not so much of him (he’s a ‘bad boy’ i wouldn’t have expected any more) but from her, soneone who had shared my life for so long and had then, while is was as low as could be, kicked me in the teeth, *after* i had spent hours on the phone to her crying. Yeah, it hurt. And i see her every day, and we’ve come to the point where it’s politeness on a level that could freeze hell over, which hurts too.
    I’m lucky though, we weren’t that close any more, i guess we still spent time together for old time’s sake, but i have a large group of girls who i love with all my heart, and i sincerely hope that they never break up with me, even though i do manage to attract drama at an insane rate :)
    I think the bond that is between female friends can be so tenuous, because we form friendships based on the conecpt of sisterhood, however unlike sisterhood there is no genetic link, if you lose contact with a sister, they will always be your sister, that can never fade, but friendship can, and i think when you lose a friend you experience what it would be like to lose a sister, whereas relationships in which men are involved are less complex as they aren’t based on this sisterhood, men often don’t form the deep bonds. Take my ex bf, the one who left me for my friend, he apologised and somehow we’re able to still be friends, despite the fact that he hurt me, because friendship for me, means something different to friendship for women…
    Just a theory :)

  22. Emmi responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 3:07 pm #

    YES. I am actually still dealing with my most recent ladyfriend breakup. She was the maid of honor in my wedding two years ago. A couple months before my wedding, she and I started having issues. I played nice (for the most part) because I was trying to keep the wedding process smooth, and I had just been diagnosed with my Crohn’s disease a couple months before and needed to stay calm. We’d been growing apart for some time, but were still constantly being forced into each other’s company because of my wedding. It was a lousy situation. We even got in a screaming fight in the parking lot of the hotel the night before my wedding, but knowing I just needed to get through the next 24 hours, I stopped it and we “made up”, though I knew it was just to get us through the next day.

    I have always been the friend that unflinchingly tells the truth. A lot of people can’t deal with this, and I get that. However this lady and I had always been on the same truth-telling page with each other, until she began making choices we both knew weren’t so great. She didn’t want me holding up the mirror, and I was unwilling to put it down. So that was that. I still miss her, and I’m sad that she’s not in my life anymore. But I try to remind myself that the friend I miss doesn’t exist anymore, as if she died. I know this is a normal process, but I still have white nights where I fly into a rage about her. I’ll get over it.

    I prefer my relationships with friends to be deep and meaningful, I don’t do shallow friendships/acquaintances well. So I’ve a small circle of trusted friends. But it means it hurts more when people leave the circle. I suppose that’s the price of intimacy.

  23. Deanna responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 3:37 pm #

    I recently broke up with a friend. The friendship was becoming toxic and I just could not deal with it. Her idea of being a friend was that I had to be there at her bec and call. If she called me 10 times a day, I had to be available. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had to finally tell her to stop the frequent calls because I was busy and she just started to scream at me and I hung up. I could never have a discussion about this because she was always so defensive with me.

    Sometimes friendships are just not meant to be.

  24. Sarah responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 7:54 pm #

    nice piece. Amazing how we are all so different, yet the same. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Orual responded on 26 Apr 2011 at 10:54 pm #

    My best friend walked away from me with no warning four years ago. I still miss her every day. A part of me is gone. I’ve since met K. and, as you say, we are joined at the soul. I found this poem the other day and read it to her as it says it perfectly.

    Ellen Dore Watson

    First and last, mirrors
    whose secrets we keep in a home-made petrie dish
    (sometimes they give us ideas)
    I mean the ones who say the unwelcome when it matters
    whose kids watch us for clues
    whose kids we watch for clues

    Not the ones who decided there was too much too true
    of them in our eyes, and ran,
    but the ones who’ll be around to see us bald or one-breasted
    and we them
    who’ll know to say what can’t be said (with their skin)
    whose bodies, spreading or starved, we love
    whose husbands (or lack of) it’s okay to disapprove, or almost covet
    whose girlfriends are ours by proxy
    who share these assumptions and would their last
    Godiva, valium, amulet

    The lifers
    who, even seven states away, are the porches
    where we land

  26. Taryn responded on 27 Apr 2011 at 12:53 am #

    I read the boyfriend break-up post and loved it, but the girlfriend post spoke to me. I’ve been there too and there is something different about losing a friend as it cuts deeper in the long run and is harder to just get over. Well written.

    I will also share an unroast. Today, I loved the way my hair bounced with volume and smelled like my coconut shampoo.

    Looking forward to reading more from you.
    Taryn –

  27. Lux responded on 27 Apr 2011 at 2:00 am #

    You really hit on something with this. The girl code can be scary as hell for those of us who don’t know all the rules. Sometimes I have to wonder how I missed these rules and when most people learn them.

  28. Bronwyn Coyne responded on 27 Apr 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    I was broken up with by my friends in our last year of high school. It wasn’t a clean break; it was the we-hang-out-but-don’t-tell-you, and we-indulge-you-with-our-presence-at-school sort of break up. They never said anything to me, but I could tell, and I think it’s because our paths were starting to split but no one could say anything.

    Recently one of my longest standing friends, and best friends for the past three or four years is someone I can barely stand to be around. I wouldn’t call it a break up, but if she was a boy and we were dating, it would be the end of the relationship, and shift onto a different sort of level.

    The thing about friendships, I’ve found, is that people don’t allow for change in the other, we want them to remain steadfast and the same. All relationships are based on a give-and-take; we get something from them, we give something to them. But when that “thing” we give/get goes out of balance, how do we handle the friendship? I think it’s hard, but sometimes friendships just have to be allowed to lull or to go through silent periods, or end.
    But that’s personally for me. I’ve been lucky about never having dealt with problems issued from “the girl code”; I’ve been lucky to pick out other girl friends who don’t get it either.

  29. Emily responded on 27 Apr 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    This also hits home. My best friend in high school was my “bosom” friend. Her family is in the military so she moved around a lot growing up and is terrible at keeping in touch and forming strong bonds. She moved to the other side of the country right before our senior year of high school (we’d been together since the first semester of freshman year).

    We were okay for awhile. We wrote long emails each week senior year and then her parents flew me there for a month-long visit after we graduated. Then I saw her once more when they moved to DC. Each time we were apart and then saw each other again, it was like we had just gone around the corner and kept back around. Nothing had changed. Everything still fit. My last night on the west coast with her, we painted each other’s toe nails and I refused to remove the chipped polish. I wore it till disappeared some six months later.

    Then she stopped replying to emails. She would not return phone calls. She suddenly detagged herself in all of our Facebook photos. I’ve gone through some major events and when I really needed her, she wouldn’t even respond.

    So, I don’t know where we are now. I remember the amazingness of our friendship, how we slipped into each other’s lives so well like we were sisters that had been together life after life. It’s hard to know what to do, so I keep transferring her number from phone to phone and check in on her Facebook to see what she’s up to. While she’s being a crappy friend, I think I want to still keep my hand held out waiting for when she needs her best friend to stabilize her world.

  30. Amy responded on 27 Apr 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    I’ve had this happen, too! When I was in high school I was interested in a guy. I decided not to pursue him because a good friend was also interested in him. I put my energies in to getting the two of them together, and once they were, they both stopped speaking to me! I’ve always been confused about this.

  31. Melissa (@melrut01) responded on 28 Apr 2011 at 12:14 am #

    I love this post. I had to “break up” with a couple of bad girlfriends before, and it was harder that breaking up with a guy. People expect you to dump guys, but history always wins out with girlfriends so we stay friends with girls who do not build us up. Good for you for stepping back and honestly evaluating whether she was good for you or not.

    Good for you for sticking to your guns. He loves you because you’re his amazing father, and you don’t have to “win” him like Chappy does. Our nephews pull these same tricks because they have fewer rules at their house, but at our house, it’s a little different. Kids get smart FAST!

    Also, I love your blog so much, I gave you the Versatile Blogger Award on my blog. Thanks for sharing with us!

  32. zoe (and the beatles) responded on 28 Apr 2011 at 2:45 am #

    i will never understand girls. it depresses me to see how many people share this in common (myself included). people change and characters shift and, unfortunately, sometimes we outgrow friendships. but it feels like every woman has some story involving a bad break with a friend. it’s awkward, sure, but simply not talking to someone without providing the reason is just plain mean…

    i really applaud you for being able to value your friendship enough to not completely give up on it the moment it changed. not easy to do. good luck with working it out!

  33. Lynn responded on 28 Apr 2011 at 11:49 am #

    Thank you so much for this. You inspired me to write my own take on the matter, especially since I’ve been struggling with female friendships since I was, oh, about five years old.

  34. Girlfriends past responded on 28 Apr 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    [...] did this post speak to me or [...]

  35. Ellie Di responded on 30 Apr 2011 at 10:02 am #

    I did something VERY stupid to the girl who had been my best friend since 1st grade, the girl who had been forcefully removed from my life then added back in after eight years apart. And it still kills me, nearly five years later. I want to go back and fix it. I want to not be broken up anymore. I miss her so much, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

  36. Monday Motivation | responded on 09 May 2011 at 2:30 pm #

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  37. Sunday Hustle « The Curious Cabinet responded on 15 May 2011 at 2:54 am #

    [...] man. Beat me to it! It totally wanted to write a post on breaking up with friends (something I recently had to do [...]

  38. On the Net: Breaking Up is Hard to Do. « The Early Bird Catches the Worm responded on 24 May 2011 at 10:02 pm #

    [...] came across this article from Eat the Damn Cake about the author Kate’s multiple breakups with girl [...]

  39. mar responded on 02 Jan 2012 at 8:39 am #

    have you watched ‘me without you’?

  40. Frankie responded on 04 Jan 2012 at 1:20 pm #

    Loved this post! I’ve had issues remaining friends with girls since sophomore year of highschool when all of my friends since I was 6, dumped me. They’re still best friends to this day (We’re 25), and I feel so left out when I think about them.