I’ve always had a hard time making friends. Being a somewhat shy and totally awkward introvert doesn’t make the whole friendship thing easy. I’ve never had the “gift of gab” and with interests and beliefs that generally fall outside of societal norms, I’ve always had a hard time figuring out where I fit in.
Making friends became especially difficult once I became a stay-at-home mom. I felt more isolated than I had expected. So when an acquaintance befriended me, I was thrilled. After a few playdates and some good conversation, I thought I had finally found “the one”. A mom friend I could rely on during the long days of motherhood.
At the time, she was going through a period of rejection and confided in me that a group of her friends had begun to push her out of their social circle. Apparently, I had walked into her life at just the right time and she expressed her enthusiasm for our new and growing relationship.
Meanwhile, I was going through my own difficult period of life as I grieved two precious lives. She made it comfortable for me to talk about the ugly feelings of grief without feeling judged. And I welcomed a friendship in which my pain felt understood.
But as time went on, our conversations became less about our friendship and more about her tangled friendships with those who had pushed her away. Our relationship became more about the few of them than the two of us.
Each phone call from her involved tears resulting from her other friends’ insults or misunderstandings. She vented about their backstabbing and their requests for another chance. She sought my advice and I supported her the best that I could. I listened. I encouraged. I complimented.
But after this scenario played out dozens of times, I began questioning our friendship. I continued to hold out hope that our compatibility had not just been an illusion. But my attempts to connect and spend time with her were only denied. She claimed she was just too busy and for a while I accepted her excuses as truth.
Until finally, after many months of not seeing each other, we came face-to-face at a community event. She immediately launched into a conversation about the latest drama with the friends who at one time had rejected her. The tears, the offenses, the hope that their friendships could be repaired. I heard both her heartache and desperation in wanting to be accepted by this volatile group of friends.
But you know what I didn’t hear? One ounce of concern for my life. Even after months of distance, she wasn’t the least bit concerned with my life.
My voice was silenced by hers as she filled me in on her lunch dates, playdates, and weekends retreats. All with the fickle friends who had cast her out and were now trying to reel her back in.
And that’s when I finally realized that I was her rebound friend.
It became clear she had needed me to avoid the pain caused by unhealthy friends. She wanted me to help her navigate the rough waters of her flailing friendships, but she didn’t actually want me.
The reality was not that she was too busy for me, but that I was not her priority.
And I knew it was time to stop trying to be. Our friendship had become one-sided; I put all my effort into her, while she put all hers elsewhere. I gave, she took, and poured it all into others.
So I took a cue from her and stopped giving and she didn’t seem to notice.
I had been hurt by her behavior. And I felt slightly rejected as it was obvious that her other friends took precedence over me. Yet, I was somewhat disappointed in myself for giving up on one of the few friendships I had. But the truth about being the rebound friend was that I did not have the energy to pour everything into a relationship without ever getting to take a drink. I was thirsty for companionship, but that aspect of our friendship had dried up.
The reality of our relationship stung at first. I felt stupid for believing I had found my soulmate friend when she so obviously did not feel the same way. And for a while I thought the time and energy I had put into our friendship was a waste.
But over time I’ve realized that our friendship did indeed serve a purpose, albeit for just a short time. God placed us in each other’s lives so we could carry one another through an intense season of loneliness. If we hadn’t had each other, we wouldn’t have had anyone, and that makes our short-lived friendship rather valuable.
The reality of being the rebound friend is painful. But the reality is also that beauty can be found in pain. And the beauty of a friendship that ended on a painful note, was that it produced less suffering when we were hurting the most.
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