I loved my best friend. I still do. I hope that she is happy and thriving in her life. I’m not just saying that to sound evolved, or advanced in some way. I really mean it. I remember fondly the days where we would have long and deep conversations over dinner. I lived for those days. We would talk about everything from the mundane to the profound. We would share books and ideas. Our conversations were never boring and I always looked forward to them.
You have a lot of really special memories when you have a bestie. Parties, poker games, nights out, BBQ’s, road trips, there is a lot to look back on that makes me smile. We would often see two old ladies, out and about, in our travels and we would joke that that would be us some day.
You always think you could lose your husband, or your boyfriend, but never your best friend. Your best friend is supposed to be there with you through it all. They are the ones you talk to, who know you best – better than any spouse ever could. Losing mine was tough, but I knew it was something I had to do and I knew it was time.
I talk a lot in this blog about the importance of being able to relatively predict your partner’s behavior and what I mean by that is, that there should never be a time, where your partner’s behavior leaves you completely surprised and where it is so outrageous and inappropriate, that you are left seriously shocked and disturbed by it. I’m not talking about when your partner gets mad once in a while, I’m talking, ‘you don’t know what’s coming next, jaw is on the floor, wondering if you’re safe and they’re crazy,’ kind of behavior.
This was what I had come to expect from my best friend. She had a penchant for going into rages and creating drama and problems where none existed. The last straw was waking up one morning to awful messages she had written about me on social media, as well as in a private email and comments on my blog. She then started texting me relentlessly, calling me names and using profanity. I tried to get her to calm down. I told her that her behavior was inappropriate, yet that only seemed to fuel her more. I told her several times to stop and she just kept going. I was at work and she was upsetting me. She was in a rage and out of control – over nothing. Her behavior had driven me to the point where I told her I was done and I stopped responding.
A few days later, she couriered a book to me that I had loaned her with a nice note that said she would always be there for me and always love me. I took this as a sign that she had realized that she had behaved badly and this was her apology, or at least an olive branch.
These freak-out incidents didn’t happen often, but when they did they were awful. They were irrational and they always had the same outcome: Her being offended by something trivial, me thinking I’d rather have her as my friend than be right, which would then have me rushing to her side to ask for her forgiveness, followed by her atop her thrown, scolding me and her always getting to be right and never, ever having to apologize.
As I started to get emotionally healthy I had to get real about her behavior and I couldn’t ignore what was going on any longer. I knew her back story, so it was easy for me to minimize and rationalize what was going on, but the signs were obvious.
When you discover that there is a Narcissist in your life, don’t be surprised if you discover more than one hiding in plain sight. The most telling sign for me was that I felt drained after spending time with her. I always had to lift her up. She was always tired, busy, sick, or put upon…. There was always something going on in her life that was more important, or more pressing than anything in my life. I felt that our relationship wasn’t ever about me. It was always about her. Sure she would say the words at times, but I never felt any real support from her.
I also knew that she would never acknowledge her issues. She was always going to be right, even when presented with indisputable evidence to the contrary. I realized that I couldn’t continue on my path of growth and healing, while still having, what I viewed as a very dysfunctional relationship, with someone who held a front row seat in my life.
I’ve got a pretty simple rule now for dealing with people, whose behavior isn’t to my liking – I either, accept them as they are, or I leave. I don’t cajole, whine, beg, or nag anyone to change – it’s a colossal waste of time. I couldn’t accept my best friend’s behavior anymore. I was done walking on egg shells, hoping not to set her off again, so I left the friendship.
We haven’t communicated in two and a half years and in that time I’ve developed a zero tolerance policy for over-emotional, unpredictable and unstable behavior. As soon as I witness it, I’m out the door, leaving a trail of smoke in my wake. That kind of behavior doesn’t get a second chance, because if you’re capable of it once, you’re capable of it 1000 times. I’m just not interested in anyone who could act that way. To me, this type of behavior triggers my warning beacons and tells me that this person is seriously dysfunctional. No one deserves to be on the receiving end of someone else’s histrionics. There is never an appropriate excuse, or reason for someone to behave like that. Never. When you see it, it’s a warning sign that something is very wrong with this person and it shouldn’t be ignored.
As I started to make new friends I experienced just how easy it was to be with them. It didn’t feel like work and it didn’t leave me feeling drained. I didn’t have to over compliment them to make them feel better, they didn’t regale me with stories about how awful their lives were, or how much (psychosomatic) pain they were in. They were just themselves and I was just allowed to be me. I realized that if I had to put in so much effort and try so hard, to be someone’s friend, then it just wasn’t worth it.
My days of always being responsible for the moods of others were over. My need to fix the broken was over. My need to maintain the peace at my own expense was over and my days of lifting people up and feeding them my energy were over.
After I got the book back from my best friend, I sent her an email. I acknowledged her olive branch and I wasn’t quite ready to completely write her off. I told her I needed time to think and I listed my concerns about her behavior and our friendship. Less than 24 hours later I got not one, but two emails from her – long and scathing. I read the first paragraph and stopped. I didn’t need to read anymore. I knew that both emails would contain mocking and contemptuous insults and that everything was going to be all my fault. As I hit delete, I thought about how her comments parroted what many abusers say after their outrageous behavior, “Look at what you made me do.” It seemed fitting.
I was never going to win this war with her and that was okay. Friendship isn’t supposed to be a battle. I don’t need to have the last word. That day was the day I made the decision to stop trying. I wanted stillness, serenity and calm. I vowed that day, that I would never again allow another’s behavior to disturb my inner peace. Its importance is beyond measure to me. It’s what keeps me balanced and centered in life. My decisions and my actions affect that peace, so learning to control myself and my environment is what is most important in my life. Leaving someone, who is unstable and makes you feel off-balance, isn’t selfish. It’s an act of self-love. It sends a message to that person, yourself and the universe that says, “I choose to be happy. I choose joy and inner peace.”
I still think about her from time to time. I try to only think about the good times. She taught me some really valuable lessons and for that I’ll always be grateful. I know, in typical Narcissistic fashion, in her retelling of this story, I would be the villain and 100% responsible and that’s okay. Her behavior doesn’t affect my inner peace anymore.
Letting go of someone you love is never easy, but sometimes it’s necessary for our overall mental health and growth. Because of her behavior I can’t give her a front row seat in my life anymore. I still love her, but I just have to do it from afar now and I’m okay with that.
Signs Your Friendship Might Be Toxic
- You feel drained after being with them
- They on occasion act out in an extremely inappropriate and over the top manner
- Everything is always all about them
- They have substance abuse issues
- They seem superficial and disingenuous
- You often wonder if something is psychologically wrong with them
- They don’t make you feel good or empower you
- Being with them sometimes feels like work
- They bad mouth you behind your back
- They are needy
- They always need to be right
- There is no reciprocity
- You feel like you are being manipulated by them
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Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius at freedigitalphotos.net