During his presidential campaign, President Obama said that he would seek to restore civility in Washington, D.C. If the last few weeks are any indication, his efforts may have been in vain. It’s not just the politicians in the capital; we need more civility in all of our relationships. Most importantly, when that relationship is coming to an end.
Two of my sister-friends are experiencing break-ups; one with a relationship and the other with a friendship. Ironically, the long-term relationship is ending civilly. My other sister-friend’s friendship, however, is not, and it’s all because of the way in which the people have chosen to act in each situation.
My first sister-friend has been in a relationship for about eight years. She met her boyfriend when she was 24 and he was 36. They had a remarkable relationship during which both of them grew professionally and in prominence. To most people, they were an ideal couple and many people looked up to them.
One of the things that was most remarkable about their relationship was the way in which they treated each other. You would never catch them in a public disagreement or bad-mouthing each other, or anything of the sort. They always regarded each other with respect and allowed the other their dignity. Quite simply, they always acted civilly towards each other, and from what my sister-friend says, that’s how they were in private as well.
I know… if they were so perfect, why are they breaking up? As I stated, my sister-friend was in her early 20s when they met and her boyfriend was twelve years older. As we all know, 24 is quite different than 34. At 24, you are just beginning to shape who you are as an adult and a discovery begins that lasts well into your 30s/40s. Anyone who is or claims to be the same at 34 as they were at 24 is either lying or emotionally stunted. The experience of living forces you to grow no matter what.
Basically, she’d changed and so did her needs. Whereas her boyfriend fulfilled her when she was younger, she was no longer in the same space. They tried for the last two years to make it work, but it just didn’t. Finally, she decided to move out and he agreed that was the best thing.
He wished her well and tearfully helped her move into her new place. Both of them have nothing but good things to say about each other, and deeply cherish their years together. Sure, there were bad times, arguments, some infidelity, but they’ve chosen to focus on the good in the relationship and in each other. By doing so, they’ve been able to have a civil and amicable breakup and will undoubtedly remain friendly.
Now, on the other hand, my other sister-friend is experiencing something completely different. A girlfriend of hers recently just stopped talking to her without warning or reason. Although my sister-friend wouldn’t have considered her one of her “best friends,” they did hang out a lot; almost inseparably. She was definitely her road dog.
At first, my sister-friend didn’t understand what was going on between them. They’d almost instantaneously gone from speaking ten times a day to not communicating at all. My sister-friend would call and have her call returned via e-mail or text, if at all. She reached out to her friend to see if they could get together and talk. No response. It was clear she was being completely shut out and she had no idea why.
Then, she started hearing things from their mutual friends, and basically her friend was going around spreading the rumor that my sister-friend was a social climber that had been using [the friend] for years. Of course, my sister-friend was devastated and started “setting the record straight” and retaliating against the words of her friend through their mutual friends.
Naturally, it all devolved into a big he say/she say mess with daggers being thrown from both sides. It became an all-out war between my sister-friend and her friend. She was distraught over the situation because any war will tax the warrior’s emotions. She asked me what she should do.
As I saw it, the core problem (as is usually the case) was a lack of communication between she and her friend. They’d allowed themselves to be involved in a game of mean girl telephone that had gotten out of hand. Had her friend addressed her issues directly to my sister-friend, it probably would’ve been avoided. But, because she did not act civilly, it turned into chaos.
I told my sister-friend that she had the power to end it by extending an olive branch. She should apologize for her bad acts, own them and forgive herself as well as her friend. Even if they were going to end their relationship, they could do it with dignity and civility. At first this was hard for my sister-friend to digest after all that had been said; she was hurt. But she fortunately took my advice and reached out.
Unfortunately, her friend never responded, but that’s on her. By acting civilly and doing the right thing it took the burden off of my friend and she was freed from the drama. The lesson she learned is one I learned a while back… that no matter what someone else does, if you conduct yourself in a civil manner there’s no way for it to turn into a mess. She felt good and has been able to move on.
People enter your life for a reason, season or a lifetime. If it’s for a season and that season is coming to an end, you both have a choice on how you will handle the breakup. I truly believe how someone leaves your life will determine whether or not they re-enter it. No matter what has previously transpired, you should choose civility.