X is for X-BFF

X BFFsI’ve been in and out of love with men many times over the decades, but breaking up with my best friend, Sharon, was worse than any failed romantic relationship. It knocked the wind out of me for years, consuming me as I tried to figure out what went wrong. How could someone who was so much a part of me be gone from my life? I felt like a crazy person, unable to move on from my guilty, shameful obsession.

I’m not the only one. Almost every adult woman I’ve talked with has a similar story. The details and personalities differ, but the women I’ve spoken with all feel equally crazy and obsessed by a deep hurt that at best leaves a lot of scar tissue, but often never heals. (I was lucky—Sharon and I eventually reconciled.)

I wonder if the hyper-idealization of friendship between girls and women is part of the problem. Our friends are supposed to be everything to us—super supportive, always there for us, able to finish our sentences, someone who gets us inside and out. In fact, sometimes we seem like the same person, inside and out! That urge to merge is so delicious—and so deadly.

We know how to be close, but difference often feels like an unbearable distance. That’s often when trouble starts. Worse, women seldom know how to deal in a healthy way with all those “not nice” feelings: conflict, aggression, envy, and competition. So we sweep problems under the rug, hoping they’ll go away. Or act out big time. Or exhaust ourselves with endless processing. (No wonder the movie Bridesmaids  always strikes a nerve for me—I’ve seen it four times!)

What makes female friendship so susceptible to ruptures? Can we enjoy tight bonds without cutting off the circulation?


What do you think? What are your experiences with X-BFFs? Were you ever able to drop the “X” even if regaining “BFF” proved elusive?

Picture Worth a Thousand Words


My-Other-ExI know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover. But one look at the cover photo of My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Leaving and Losing Friends tells me that editors Jessica Smock and Stephanie Sprenger of The HerStories Project are on the right track.

Literally. The photo is of two women walking side by side on railroad tracks. Arms outstretched, their fingers touch—but barely. They have come to a switch, a tricky junction where two parallel tracks diverge. The necessary curvature allowing for an additional direction means the women must move a little farther apart. Each walks precariously on the narrow track edges; one looks as if she is about to lose her balance. Will they be able to negotiate this change in the tracks safely?

Or will they get zapped by the third rail of female friendships—envy, competition, aggression, differentiation, betrayal, conflict, conflict-avoidance, to name just a few? All the not-so-nice realities that beset girls and women. When we inevitably encounter such things with no language to talk about them, our closest friendships often crash and burn in fiery ruptures. Or end not with a bang, but with a whimper that leaves us wondering what happened.

Either way, it’s like a punch in the gut. My friendship break-ups have knocked the wind out of me for years. I obsess, I brood, I go over and over what went wrong. I hate her, I miss her. I can’t move on. And almost every woman I know has experienced her own particular version of such heartbreak.

We bear our grief in shameful silence, though. The hyper-celebration of gal pals just makes you feel worse when your friendship turns pallid or your friend turns on you.

At long last, My Other Ex breaks through the silence and sheds some light on why ruptures are so common.  I can’t wait to delve beyond the picture into the many thousands of words these women write about friendships derailed.


Have you ever experienced rupture with a female friend? What was it like? Lessons learned?