Mom Breakups: Why Don’t Women Talk When It’s Over?

Posted on June 8, 2011 by

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best friends

Bridesmaids: they talked, they fought, they got back together again.

Lisa and I became friendly when our sons bonded over Star Wars. She seemed cheerful enough like a new-age Patty Simcox, her chubby frame squeezed into a tie-die shirt, her hair a little fraught and frizzy as mine was. Soon she spat out nasty comments about my weight, the friends I had or didn’t have, and worse, her chatter about her apparent dislike of my family got back to me through the grapevine. For a while, I was wounded, even considered talking to her about it, but once I weighed the importance of our friendship, my anger turned into disengagement. In other words, as we say in Jersey, I was done. 

Lisa still pursued me with her rollercoaster approach–but I backed off, and sometimes at the school playground I literally ran off when I saw her coming. It’s been a year since my friendship with her went down the tubes, but I still feel some misgivings that I didn’t speak with her about the issues. Maybe it’s that I was waiting for her to approach me. “Everything okay?” I kind of hoped she would have said. Not sure if I would have taken the psychological bait, though. The wound went deep, and in the end, she really wasn’t the kind of friend I wanted to have.

Maybe it has something to do with a natural human response: stress. Studies have shown that women who delve into multiple problems have a spike in the stress hormone cortisol, Live Science reports. It’s possible that my avoidance of her at school—and my lack of interest in having her kid over my house for a playdate—has something to do with my own survival instinct. I’ll admit, when Jake has recently asked me if he could have her son over to play, I guided him to choose a few other friends. Point blank: I don’t want to deal with the mother.

But enough about what it feels like to be the designated friendship-breaker (my own take on heartbreaker, if you have a better term, email me), let’s get to what happens to the recipient. In a essay for Salon called “When Moms Break Up,” Beverly Willet revealed her troubled relationship with a former best friend who simply stopped returning her calls. There seem to be a few reasons. Willet confessed she was the more needy in the friendship, which, according to Willet, her friend was more than happy to be the shoulder to cry on. This was until the two women’s daughters got into a spat and, poof, they women never spoke again.

It’s possible the friend didn’t want to confront Willet about the parenting issue, and then maybe just decided to wrap the relationship up right there. Hard to believe, especially after how close Willet describes the relationship. Why wouldn’t the woman just express how she felt? Clearly, the relationship, while important to Willet, wasn’t important enough to her friend. But does it lack such respect to merit ending a friendship entirely? My friendship with Lisa was peanuts compared to what Willet suggests about her former BFF—yet, still the other woman felt it time to cut Willet off without any sort of explanation.

In a similar situation, a mother of two, who I’ll call Jennifer, told me her across-the-street neighbor simply stopped talking to her after a few minor disagreements. “I said ‘Hi’ to her from across the street,” Jennifer explained, “loud enough so she could hear me, even called her name, and she just walked away.” What made it more awkward was that their sons, who considered each other best friends, continued to have playdates. “I tried to talk to her, but she refused,” Jennifer said.

How is it that women, the master of all communicators, the Venus of the pop psychology world, don’t talk when it comes to our friends? Is this question reserved for mom’s who befriend each other at the playground? Were the friendships based out of convenience because of interest between the children and therefore not real? I’ve asked myself the same question–why didn’t I just talk to Lisa? If she ranked higher on my friendship scale, would I have made the effort? Possibly not. Because I wasn’t just a friendship-breaker. I’ve been dumped as well.

A few years ago, a mom friend broke up with me. She was a distant family member also, and within that aspect of it—i.e., holidays, birthdays,–it was inherently more complicated. When we stopped talking—and that was really just what happened, neither of us picked up the phone to talk ever again—the awkwardness lingered further into more sentimental areas and past the playground. I never approached her as to why we “broke up,” thought recently I’ve be more enticed. When I think about it now, I could see her interest waning. Invites to her beach house stopped coming. Not as many invites. Less contact. Sometimes, you just get the hint. Part of me knows why. There were issues with other family members. Our lives were very different. I was going through my terrible divorce, and maybe she was just drained. For years I’ve wondered. Isn’t that funny? When I could just pick up the phone and ask–Hey, what the hell happened?

So we allowed each other to drift, until soon enough, I was gone from her life. I no longer spent time with her kids or just walked through the back door, unannounced. (Yes, she was that kind of friend.) I did reconnect with one of her daughters last year. When I took her out to lunch, she asked me about my parting from her mother’s life. “Was it something I did?” she cried. Ouch. How could I say that it had to do with me and your mother? Even though… I don’t know… what happened to me and your mother. So I hugged her. “Nothing to do with you sweetheart. Relationships just change.”

And maybe here lies the answer to my question—though there’s still that unanswered marvel. Why didn’t we talk?

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Posted in: Friendships