Woman more devastated by friend breakup than divorcing husband of 28 years


**This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a former client who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

Romantic relationships are often given more validity than friendship and other platonic relationships. But for many people, platonic relationships are often just as, if not more, meaningful.

“Joan” and her best friend “Debbie” were as thick as thieves. They met on the playground when they were both in third grade. “It was my first day at a new school, and Debbie was the only person who talked to me,” Joan recounts.

From that day on, the pair became inseparable. They experienced all the joys of youth together — going to the movies, having sleepovers, and sharing secrets.

When they graduated high school, and Debbie went away to college, Joan felt lost. “I thought we would drift apart, but the distance made us closer,” she said.

The two stayed in touch, and Joan was Debbie’s rock when she faced tough times. When Debbie struggled with depression, Joan was there to listen and help her through it.

“We went through a lot together,” Joan said with a weary look in her eye. “She was there when I got married and for the birth of my children. I never imagined that we would ever part — not like this.”

After more than three decades of friendship, Joan and Debbie broke up over a misunderstanding. Joan was devastated. “It felt like my world had ended,” she said. “She just stopped taking my calls.”

Years later, when Joan’s husband asked for a divorce, she thought it would devastate her. But instead, Joan said that the breakup with Debbie was much worse.

“I was married for 28 years, so you think that would be more difficult. But the pain of losing my best friend was unbearable,” Joan said. “It’s a reminder that sometimes the people we love most are not the ones we’re related to.”

The vital role of platonic relationships.

“Your platonic friends are those within your inner circle. They are the people you trust the most, and the ones you know care about you for who you are.” — Hope Gillette, PsychCentral

It’s not uncommon for deep intimacy to exist between two people who are not romantically involved. A platonic relationship can provide much-needed love, support, validation, and camaraderie.

Although Joan loved her husband, the depth of intimacy in her friendship with Debbie was unparalleled. This is often the case for many platonic relationships — sharing thoughts and feelings without the complications of romance can be liberating.

“Debbie was my person — she was the one who truly knew me,” Joan said. “And to think it all ended over a snarky, seemingly harmless remark. It’s still hard to accept.”

Why friendship breakups hurt.

When Joan divorced, her friends and family rallied around her. “Everyone was there to support me and help me grieve the end of my marriage,” she recalled. "But when I lost Debbie, it felt like everyone thought I should just get over it."

Friendship is often perceived as “less valuable” than romantic relationships, so the pain of a breakup is often minimized or dismissed. Psychologist Alejandro Schulman says, “friendship is as necessary, essential, and valuable as having a partner.”

When marriages or romantic partnerships end, people are often expected to go through a grieving process. But when friendships end, there’s less emphasis on the healing that needs to take place.

Yes, it’s natural for people to drift apart as they grow older and face different challenges in life. Losing a significant relationship is always challenging, and friendship is no exception. 

Love does not require romance to be substantial and meaningful. That’s why losing a friend is often as painful as losing a lover, spouse, or partner.

Sometimes, all it takes is an honest conversation to rebuild a broken bond — but not always. As Joan said, “When things fall apart, you don’t always get to pick up the pieces.”

“We had a great friendship, and I’m thankful for all the memories we created.” She said with a bittersweet smile. “That’s something no one can ever take away from me.”

Have you ever had a close friendship end abruptly? How did you cope with the loss? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Intimacy + Relationship-ing Coach | Writer. Helping singles & couples create healthy loving relationships.

Los Angeles County, CA

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