Platonic break-ups: as bad?

Breaking up is hard to do. This is a fact of life.

Traditionally, romantic break-ups have received the bulk of attention in novels, movies and often in the discussions of our day-to-day lives. Why is that?

The relationships that women develop with each other are incredibly significant and fundamental to the development of healthy self-esteem and a sense of self. So what happens when women “break up”?

The Cord interviewed two very different women with two very different experiences to find out why breaking up with your girlfriends can be just as detrimental as losing a romantic partner.

Andrea Rossi and Julia Fomina: Betrayal and isolation

A serious violation of trust is enough to end any relationship, but when the betrayal comes from a best friend, the effects can be traumatic and long-lasting.

Andrea Rossi and Julia Fomina, two Torontonians, had been friends for over five years when Fomina committed one of the worst forms of betrayal by sleeping with Rossi’s partner and father of her two children.

“I woke up one night and heard [my partner and Julia] fighting in my living room. Julia was crying and I immediately suspected I had been betrayed.

However, they refused to explain what was happening. The next day Julia came to me and confessed.”

The women’s friendship ended shortly thereafter when Rossi sat down with the woman she had once been close with to express her intense feelings of anger, hurt and confusion.

“Losing Julia was incredibly hard because I had few friends at that point in my life,” Rossi explained.

Rossi admits that she has been very jaded by this experience. “I learned not to place my trust in just anyone,” she said, and admitted that though she does not think of Fomina on a regular basis, when she does it is only in a very negative light.

“Holding on to really negative emotions in the long term can certainly have terrible repercussions, even physiological effects,” Jennifer Coleman, a counselor at Laurier’s counseling services, said on the subject.

“Feeling very negative about someone can have certain kinds of health effects essentially.”

According to Coleman, Rossi’s feelings were not productive, but they were actually quite normal.

“Anger is a part of the pain process. Being angry and holding a grudge is a common response to being hurt,” said Coleman.

Unable to find herself again, Rossi sought help through counseling, though she now feels that the biggest aid in her self-esteem and happiness came from building healthy relationships with good people.

According to Coleman, women’s social networks are immense sources of support and play an important role in promoting a healthy self-image.

Rossi experienced an extremely detrimental break-up that was made all the more terrible by her lack of other close friends and the betrayal of her partner.

Losing a close girlfriend was enough to shake Rossi to her core; it reminded her how important it is to have healthy, trusting relationships. Today, she is working on becoming more trusting of others, though she still finds it very hard to let people get close to her.

Dominique Colucci and Samantha Bourdon: Priority shift

Dominique Colucci and Samantha Bourdon, two former Laurier students, had been friends for four years and roommates for three. “We were inseparable,” Colucci explained.

According to Lorraine Vander Hoef, a professor of women’s studies at Laurier, sisterhood of this nature can been understood much in the way pop culture and media has constructed sisterhood on film.

“It can been seen as spiritual; there is a real bond there. When you are in the presence of these women, you feel stronger to go out into the world,” she explained.

However, the spiritual bond that held Colucci and Bourdon together for the course of their university career was not strong enough to withstand the pressures of distance.

When these two best friends moved into separate homes after graduation, it became apparent to Colucci that Bourdon was no longer interested in maintaining their close bond.

“Slowly but surely Samantha started cancelling on our plans,” Colucci shared.

“Then one night when she didn’t show up for a very important dinner I decided that was it.”

Losing a friend of four years is not something one adjusts to quickly, and often one has to cope with more than simply the loss of their friend.

“It can be very painful to lose a relationship that you still value,” said Coleman. “Anxiety and fear of finding and building new relationships is common and it can be hard to feel safe in new relationships.”

Colucci certainly noticed the void the break-up with Bourdon left in her life, as well as the lasting emotional damage.

“It is very heartbreaking when you expect to have that person in your life forever and then to have them ignore you and not put any effort into the relationship, that is very painful,” she expressed.

Her break-up with Bourdon also caused significant damage to her self-confidence. “You start to question yourself and you question how you are with your other friends.

I started evaluating all of my other relationships; for some reason I thought it was my fault.”
Colucci also admitted that she was concerned about how others might evaluate the situation. “It can be hard to explain to your family that your best friend won’t be coming around anymore.”

It was surprisingly embarrassing. I felt like my family might be thinking, ‘What did she do, how did she screw this up?’”

Today, Colucci is trying to come to terms with the shocking loss of her friend. After having dealt with confusion, sadness and a lowered sense of self-confidence, she has found support in her other close friends.

She also doesn’t exclude the possibility of one day mending the break in her and Bourdon’s relationship.

Why we need each other

The lasting effects of the losses experienced by both Rossi and Colucci remind us of how traumatic it can be to lose those who are closest to us.

All too often, women place their romantic relationships ahead of their friendships, undervaluing the female friends who give them confidence and security.

As Coleman explained, female friendships are important in the development of healthy social networks and healthy self-perceptions.

Similarly, Vander Hoef emphasized the role that sisterhood plays in the empowerment of women in a society that is so often dominated by men.

It is important to appreciate platonic friends because more often than not, they are the ones we lean on most.