Last night a girlfriend saved my life. Rewind to the summer of 2018 and that’s truly how it felt. My marriage had imploded after 15 years and my husband hadn’t come home for three days. I was blindsided. If you’d asked me then how to mend a broken heart, I’d have told you it was fixable.
I was a pacing, tormented, desperate woman. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. Jen drove two hours in the darkness to be with me. She made me toast, she cooked my kids’ dinner and got them to bed. And that night she slept beside me, her presence taking the edge off the pain.
Jen’s friendship was a drop of comfort in an ocean of anxiety. It was enough to get me through another day. That day, female friendship was godsend. How to mend a broken heart? Phone a friend for a sleepover. Immediately.
School Friendships Ain’t Always Easy
In school, between the ages of, say, eight and 15, my female friends were a major cause of anxiety. Who is your best friend? Are you invited to Trina’s ice skating party? Or Stella’s sleepover? Can I sit next to you on the school trip? What do you mean I’m needy/ a copycat/ so uncool?
My daughter is navigating all that right now. Are you in or are you out? There’s always that mean girl right? And for whatever reason, be it insecurity or unhappiness, she jostles for power, staying on top by keeping others down.
Once we got to 16, my friends and I realised the viper within and made a vow never to fall victim to that kind of behaviour ever again. I swore never to have another toxic female relationship. And I never have. From that moment on, girlfriends have enriched my life. A lot. And, I hope, I theirs’.
How many friend tribes in your life?
There are school friends, sixth form college friends, university friends, work friends, mum friends. Friends to go out with, friends to holiday with, friends to have deep and meaningful discussions with. Friends to run with.
The joy I feel on a night out with girlfriends is unparalleled. (And sadly lacking in Covid times). And though I loved my husband, if you’d have asked, truly, where my favourite times happen, they would be round a pool gossiping with Nadine (she is the best at this) or impromptu rosé drinking with the girls I lived with when I first moved to London. Or on a run with my mates JJ and Gem.
The stages of female friendship
Friendships wax and wane of course, diverge and come back together, like DNA strands. You, or they, might get absorbed by a career, or a new boyfriend. There’s the bridezilla phase where you risk pissing them all off by making them wear peach taffeta.
Children test relationships, too. You have so much less time. And you are knackered. So knackered. My friend H deserves some kind of award. Not only did I need to go to bed by 10pm for a five year period, it took UN levels of planning to get me on a night out. H understood that motherhood had made me a bit nuts and was patient when I asked her not to flush the loo/ring the doorbell in case it woke sleeping babies.
Friends in a time of crisis
Then my marriage broke up. It’s not melodramatic to say my girlfriends got me through. How to mend a broken heart requires loving care and attention, and patience, and my friends had that. And then some.
T always picked up, spending hundreds on calls from the Middle East. Self help books came through the door (Sus), work was found (Nicola), meals left in the porch (Jo, Gemma, Mairead, Olivia, Lindsey). I still have a guilt inducing stash of Le Creuset that has never been claimed.
They provided practical support (taking the kids when I had nothing left in the tank), they listened and they gave me clarity when I had lost my own sense of right and wrong.
And I found a new friend Sue, whose story was similar to mine. Knowing she understands the mind-fuckery that occurs when someone you have trusted implicitly suddenly behaves in a way you could never have imagined, is invaluable.
We’re all in it together
Shared experience makes for powerful bonding. Which is something I’ve found from the community of women that has grown from my Instagram @lifesrosie. They all champion each other’s strength and offer hope to broken women who have none.
So, though my break up has been the most devastating experience of my life, it’s also shown me the strength of love I have for my girlfriends and the love they have for me.
Why midlife friendships are the best
Midlife and its challenges have only bonded us more. It’s made all those differences (career woman v stay at home mom, urbanite v country dweller) that seemed so seismic 10 years ago, seem less so. Now we face ageing parents, teenage children, health issues, the menopause and career challenges. Tough, yes. But together we will survive. And thrive.
Romantic love is held us as the most important type of love in our society. But the caring, compassionate nature of female friendship is surely as, if not more, important. Glass of wine anyone?
How To Heal a Broken Heart by Rosie Green, is out now.