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Voices as Power

Friends for Reasons and Seasons - Female Friendships Review

Female friendship breakup

Originally I had wanted to focus on the beauty and wonder of female friendships this month but instead, this particular story is about letting go of a friendship.

At 29, moving back to the US proved harder than my arrival in Chile six years earlier, where I knew no one. I was older and people were more established in their lives. I felt like an outsider looking in and making friends was difficult. I knew 2 women when I moved here and that was helpful, but I wanted to create a community of my own. My very first DC friend was a woman named Adelaide*. We were co-workers. She was quirky and fun and I celebrated making a friend organically.

Upon landing in DC, my best friend had been kind enough to let me stay with her until I found a place. Can we just be real for a second and acknowledge that finding a place in DC is HARD (not to mention ridiculously expensive)? Added on top of that was the fact I was trying to find a home for myself AND my sweet kitty Toby, whom I had brought back with me from Chile. For a time my life felt like a bad movie montage as I went through the revolving doors of open house after open house. To keep a lighthearted air about almost constant rejection, I used to joke that open houses were similar to the Hunger Games. I wouldn’t have been surprised if at any moment, a stockpile of weapons appeared in the middle of the room and we’d all have to fight to the death. The victor would get the room. All joking aside it was incredibly daunting. After a 5 month search I finally ‘killed all the competition’ and got myself and Toby accepted into a group house. I was ECSTATIC! It was the in the neighborhood I wanted; half-way between my day job and the bar where I worked. I’d had hit the housing jackpot!

After a couple months of living in roommate bliss, 2 of my roommates decided to move out. ‘Oh can I move in?!’ Adelaide jumped at the opportunity to live together. In the back of my head I thought, ‘Oh hell no, this is a bad idea. Working together at two jobs AND living together?’ My heart jumped in and was like, ‘but she’s been a good friend to you and she’s unhappy where she lives now. All you gotta do is make sure to communicate clearly and set boundaries.’ I decided to let my roommates decide. Even though I feared it would be too much, my roommates were all for it and it saved us another ‘Hunger Games’ open house so she moved in. This is one of the times I wish I had listened to my intuition.

Without going into details, living together became a strain on our relationship. I started to realize she constantly needed to be the center of attention - hitting on all of our roommates, and our male friends. She plagiarized artwork and gave them as gifts, claiming them as her own.

Along with starting to question her decisions, I started getting the creeping suspicion that she wanted to be me. We were together almost non-stop between living and working together and I started to feel a little suffocated. I also felt bad for her. It was clear she wasn’t happy. But I didn’t know how to convey to her that she was good all on her own and didn’t need me or any man to give her value.

One day a mutual friend texted me. He told me that Chad*, a guy Adelaide and I knew from our bar gig, was interested in asking me on a date and he wanted to know if he could pass my number on. Someone wanted to get to know me better and it actually happened through real-life interaction! How rare! I immediately texted Adelaide; I wanted to share my excitement with someone. She had seemed happy for me until I got home that night and she told me that Chad had found her on OkCupid that very same day and had asked her on a date. They were going out the following night. As suspicious as I found this to be, (based on a number of other incidents that had made me wonder if she was always telling the truth) I gave her the benefit of the doubt but still let her know that I thought that was pretty strange and unfortunate. Was Chad an idiot? He had met us together and knew we were friends. I felt like she had put ‘bros before hoes’. Also, I promise to never use that term again but found it apropos of my initial reaction. Was there anything more to it than her need to be validated by men? She couldn’t possibly be trying to be malicious, could she? The next night I found out that yes, she could be, whether it was intentional or not because she brought Chad back to our house after their date. I could not for the life of me understand why anyone would completely disregard the feelings of a friend that way. I wasn’t about to hang out and pretend like everything was ok. She followed me up to my room.

‘What’s wrong?’

‘Really? That’s what you’re going to lead with?’

‘What did I do?’

‘Uh, you knew I liked the guy and still you decided to bring him over here after you’ve gone on a date with him. Could you imagine how you might feel if the roles were reversed?’

She apologized with a kind of vacant look in her eye.

This anecdote has nothing to do with Chad. I know there’s no ‘calling dibs’ on a human but her actions for me highlighted a disregard for my thoughts and feelings not to mention the doubt that crept in when I started to wonder what might be the motivation behind her decision-making.

Things were never the same after that. I felt like I needed to keep my distance and couldn’t be open with her. I felt like anything I said could be used against me. I felt betrayed.

A couple months later I started dating Hank, who is now my sweet sweet husband. He got along great with my roommates until one day he asked if I would try to not leave him alone with Adelaide anymore.

‘She makes me uncomfortable.’

‘Oh no! What happened?’

‘She grabbed my arm and, while squeezing it, said that I felt very strong while looking into my eyes. It was weird.’

I decided pretty soon after that that as much as I loved my other roommates it was best to distance myself from Adelaide. I had already changed jobs so I didn’t see her at work anymore. As I got ready to move out, Adelaide confided in me that she had been raped in our house by a guy she was dating. I listened to her and I thought, ‘no matter what suspicions you might have, she’s hurting and you’ve got to be there for her.’ So I listened and I researched places where she could go speak to someone and I urged her to go. She didn’t have to be alone with this. I admit that I thought she might be lying. I’m still not sure. It's something I struggle with a lot because believing women is at the core of my values. I never saw her again after I moved out of that group house, almost 3 years ago.

Shame is the feeling that comes to mind when I think about Adelaide. Shame that I couldn’t fix it. Shame that I put up walls to protect myself instead of truly trying to help her. The reason I chose to tell this story is because I think it has a valuable moral. Sometimes for reasons outside of your control friendships don’t work out. Maybe 2 people are at different stages in their lives and expect different things out of the friendship. Sometimes people are not able to be the friend you need because of their own personal shit. Sometimes, it simply has nothing to do with you. The lesson I learned here, painful as it might be, is that sometimes the only thing to do is be true to yourself. Recognize when someone isn’t capable of having your best interests in mind (often because they can’t even keep their own best interests in mind) and stop friendships when they become destructive. Adelaide, wherever you are I wish you well.

*not their real name

Read our Female Friendships event recap and recommended reading here.

Casey Stewart Upton

ELU Founder

Casey is the founder of the ELU and is unapologetically navigating creative entrepreneurship. While she admits she doesn't always know what she's doing, she's fully embraced the 'fake it til you make it/everyone is faking it mentality.' She enjoys naps, whiskey and all things cat-related.