When a Friend Fails
- 2003 10 Feb
When the phone rang in the middle of the night I (Les) never expected it to be Danny. "I’m calling from France," he said. "I know this is crazy but I needed to talk to you." As I was still rubbing the sleep from my eyes he told me that he had been thinking about our friendship -make that out ex-friendship. "I don’t know exactly what happened between us," he confessed, "but I do know I acted like a jerk and I wanted to apologize." He was sincere and his heart-felt apology caught me off guard. I didn’t expect to ever hear from Danny again, let alone hear him apologize.
It had been three years since we were in school together - three years since our last strained, polite conversation where we both knew the gulf between us had grown too wide to cross.
On the phone that night, however, Danny was attempting to build a bridge, if only temporary, to reconnect and make things right. He told me about a soul searching experience he was going through and how he didn’t want to carry any resentment or bitterness over our failed friendship.
We both apologized for past insensitivities and laughed at how comical it all seemed in retrospect. It was a cleansing; a wrong had been righted, a lost friend found. We still aren’t that close, geographically or emotionally, but we have a connection. And in a sense we’re quite lucky: Most friendships that fade are gone forever. Very few are strong enough to make us wish for a second chance.
There are times when all of us look closely at a friendship and realize that it just isn’t working. It may be a fairly new friendship that still has a few wrinkles in it, or it may be a longtime friendship that was once rock solid but now appears to be fracturing. Either way, when a friendship falters we are rarely equipped for the aftershock.
Close friends, after all, often become like siblings - some "closer than a brother." But losing a close friend is not at all like losing a family member. We tend not to grieve the loss of a friend; there is no memorial service for a shattered friendship. Most people don’t have screaming blowouts or this-is-the-end discussions or final, definite breaks. They don’t seek shoulders to cry on to grieve the loss of friends like they do the loss of a family member or a romantic relationship. They don’t go to counselors either to heal the relationship or to cope with the loss. Indeed, despite the apparent premium so many people put on making friends, there is a surprising lack of focus in popular culture on the processes and feelings at work when friendships end. There are no best-sellers or self-help guides, and except for the rather vague and undescriptive term "a falling out," there’s not even much of a vocabulary to describe what happens, let alone why.
So if you have a friendship that has faltered, consider making a reconnection to say whatever words might need to be said -- not necessarily to rekindle the friendship but to right a wrong and cleans your spirit.