December 31
Psychologist, Marriage and /Family Therapist passionate about writing.

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MAY 24, 2011 8:56AM

Sister Friends No More: When Adult Female Relationships Fail

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Woman grieving

Imogene put the phone down. Her worried face on. Her husband was out of town on business, she’d have to take the kids. She scooped up her 3 surprised children and drove to Sarah’s home. Sarah and Peter were rushing out of the door. They had Max in tow. He was screaming, blood streaks down his face and neck, a towel wrapped around his head. No words were spoken. They passed each other in the driveway.

Imogene found Madison and Jack watching television. Thirty minutes later they were bathed, in their clean pajamas and sitting at the kitchen table. She knew where the clothes, the towels and the food were. She knew Madison would not eat macaroni and cheese and that Jack would eat nothing else. She fed them, and her own children. Play time, a story, she tucked them into bed. Madison needed a night light, Jack needed his closet and the bathroom door open and the bathroom light on. She made sure they had what they needed.

When Max, his wound sewn closed and his head sporting a bandage, asleep on his father’s shoulder and Sarah returned home the coffee was waiting. Their favorite sandwiches made. A quiet medical update chat and reassurances followed. Imogene left with her three. She called her husband on the way home to share the evening’s adventure.

Had Imogene’s children been injured Sarah would acted similarly. They were sister friends. Friends since the age of 9. They complained about their braces together, played soccer, hated ballet and begged for horse riding lessons together. Inseparable. Growing up they shared sleepovers. When one’s parents were unreasonable the other’s parents stepped in. No hard feelings. A village of two families raising their giggling, moody, creative girls together.

Boys came and went but their friendship remained. They had rules. Never articulated, never explicit, implicitly understood. If girls have plans and a boy asks one to attend a function the girl plans are dropped. No hard feelings. It was understood, boys came first. They giggled about boy kissing first, and then sex later. They were intoxicated when they realized what “hard on’s” were and that their kissing created them. They fought off other girls who wanted to intrude into their friendship, they vowed unending friendship, attended camp, then college.

They graduated, found their professions, married. They shared hopes and dreams, secrets and disappointments. They were present for each other’s birthing experiences. They cried with pain, and commiserated and cried with joy over their parenting adventures and challenges. When Imogene’s husband had an affair Sarah felt equally betrayed. When the marriage reconciled Sarah felt mollified.

They knew each other as well as they knew anybody else. Sometimes life pulled them apart and it would be months before they could see each other but they finished the sentence they ended with at the last meeting. These time interludes meant nothing.

They parented each other’s children. When Sarah’s first born gave away his virginity Imogene knew it before Sarah did. Their children loved each other like siblings. Their husbands were like brothers. They shared the same faith. They prayed, and attended faith retreats together. They knew the Lord had brought them together.

They shared celebrations, weddings and grandbaby dedications. It would always be this way. Their friendship was founded in mutual respect. It brought a certainty, a quiet contentment to their busy lives. It was reasssuring to be loved and respected by another woman of value, to be supported in marriage, in parenting, in fact all of life endeavors.

Imogene’s husband’s company was bought out by an international conglomerate. He had a choice. Move to Hong Kong with the company of find other work. He was 56 and realistic enough to know few would hire him at that age. He and Imogene moved. There was little time for “goodbye’s”. Their married children and grandchildren remained behind as did the Sarah and Peter.

Without discussing it Imogene knew they would facebook and skype. The job came with a generous allowance, they would travel back to see their friends and family. Often.

When Sarah did not answer her cyber invitations to connect Imogene was confused. Then came the terse email

“Immie you did not give us chance to think about it. You have left us and your family. You deserted us. I am very angry at you. Do not contact me. If I can work through this, and there is no guarantee I will, I will contact you.”

It was surreal. Imogene immediately sent her an email explaining the situation again, pleading for connection. She felt isolated. Not only was she in a different country and culture she felt as if she was on a different planet.” The response was:

“I told you I would contact you if I wanted to connect with you. You proved money is more important than those who love you. You are dead to me.” That message clunked in her soul. Sarah had defriended her on facebook. Imogene tried contacting Sarah’s children on facebook. They would not respond. Sarah posted photographs on Imogene’s daughter’s facebook. Where Imogene once stood as her bridesmaid, Sarah now stood alone with the tip of Imogene’s bouquet touching her gown. Imogene’s only comfort was “she can cut me out of her pictures but not out of the experiences”. It was mean comfort.

Crying did not relieve the intensity of the grief she felt. Every time she discussed it she cried. When she thought about it she cried. When she did not think about it she cried. Alone. Without her own dear children, bereft of Sarah and Sarah’s children she had never felt so isolated.

When did the rule, “do what I expect or I will axe the friendship” materialize?

A year later and she still cried about it. Neither Sarah nor her children had contacted her nor responded to her attempts to contact them. ‘Bereavement’ did not even touch the depth of what she felt. Saran and Peter were out of town any time Imogene and her husband flew back to spend time with their family.

How do you find another best friend at 55 years of age? How do you replace that history? How do you function without your friend and her family?

It took time, and time was not the only thing it took. Imogene had to work at trusting again, at wanting to have friends, at letting go of the hope Sarah and the children would call her, or want to be her facebook friend again. Imogene and Marie have a coffee meeting planned. Equally adrift in Hong Kong, Marie and she share many interests and experiences. Maybe they will become friends, maybe not.

Sarah gathers her children and grandchildren close, she spends time with Imogene's children, her world is basically intact. She still talks about Immie deserting her even though those around her are less willing to hear it than they once were.

Comfort did not eclipse Imogene's grief but it did help to know what they had was real. Imogene cherished the time and sharing they had together. The healing and reconciliation to loss continues.



Note to reader: As a psychologist I hear about many failed female friendships. The cost of such failure is high, usually to both parties. Sometimes it is precipitated by the untimate betrayal - an affair, a life change, dare I say menopause? Ancient jealousies surface, I personified these in my e-book.

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