Once upon a time I had what I considered to be a ‘best’ friend. I begin this entry with that introduction because, like many stories, that friendship came to an end long ago. The reason for that end being that over many years I endured endless amounts of passive aggression from said friend until deciding that if that was the nature of friendship–I wanted nothing more to do with it.
I won’t go into too much detail about above-stated relationship but I will say that I was often beside myself with the level of manipulation I was subjected to and the prospective relationships that were ruined before even being realized as a result of those manipulations. Though I sensed competition from this individual, I didn’t realize until after I’d severed ties and spoken to people outside of our friendship just how heavy that competition was. Men who were interested in me were often driven away or snatched into her grasp, as were prospective platonic friends.
I finally called an end to our friendship when this individual chose to bring another life into the world as a tool for manipulation, making sure to inform me of this four tequila shots and two beers into her Thursday night. There’s a level of ignorance we can all maintain until something this glaringly amoral smacks us in the face. This was it. This person held neither the same values nor morals as I, her contributions to the party of life were endless amounts of angst and acid, this was not someone I wanted to be involved with any longer.
There’s a word for people like this: toxic.
The funny thing about friendships, especially those that last years and are characterized by so much face time, is that they have a lasting effect that mirrors that of romantic relationships. I still think about her most days. I still dread having to run into her–especially now that she’s moved back to my hometown. I still sometimes relive the turmoil of icky feelings when I’m low.
It took me years after ending this friendship to finally find two very good friends and a true ‘best friend’. This best friend is lovely and warm and, though her life experiences are starkly different than mine, we fit together so seamlessly. We compliment one another in mood–she is patient and positive when my moods are dark, I am logical and tenderly honest when she is feeling negative and needy. She’s taught me to be more patient and forgiving, I’ve taught her to communicate her inner dialogue and identify the trivialities of life.
The thing about manipulative people is they follow patterns, they leave little red flags here and there that you may choose to overlook due to the possibility of over-suspicion. But, then, one day you get smacked in the face with a 5lb. bag of reality flour and think, “Oh…you again.” [I’m not talking about my best friend here. She is still wonderful and lovely.]
One such 5lb bag of flour smacked me in the face about three weeks back. I attended a music show at which I ran into and flirted with a guy I’ve known for years, only to come home and excitedly tell one of my good friends all about it. We discussed how I’d had a crush on him for years and the fact that he was newly single and just how all-around dreamy he was. Cut to: the next day I’m at work and receive a text message from said friend stating that she went ahead and ‘liked’ every single one of the dude’s pictures on instagram, then he messaged her on facebook and they talked and now he’s invited her to spend a day with him where he lives.
Oh, heeeeey Reality Check! How have you been?! Long time no see, apparently!
What kind of a friend does something like that? Not a friend. This is where you pack up all that baggage you’ve shared along the way, lock it away and assume the stone face of a defensive city–gates remain closed with but a trickle of information flowing out.
What did I do? I expressed my surprise in her interest in him, noting that she’d never told me of it before and then supported the whole thing by encouraging her to go ahead and visit the dude. Why? Because if that’s what she wants, let her have it. As for the dude, I don’t know that any dude is worth fighting over. (In hindsight I’m better off anyway, I’ve got an angel by my side).
So, the friendship continues (more like a cordial acquaintance in my book) but with me on the defense and it’s only proving to be for the better more and more as time passes. Since the realization I’ve reflected on the red flags I’ve come across and also have been faced with some new ones. All in all, she is very similar to the ‘ex best friend’ described above. The difference is, I’m experienced and smart enough, this time, to distance myself before any real damage can be done.
Red flags of a manipulative person:
- expresses jealousy of other relationships: may not be blatant but rather expressed via ‘surprise’ or ‘confusion’ as to why you would have a relationship with a certain person. Examples:
- “I can’t believe you two are even friends, you are SO different.”
- “WHAT?! How is (angel dude) hanging out with YOU? How does that even happen?”
- somehow turns every conversation toward themselves
- never accepts blame in any situation–often takes on the ‘victim’ role in everything. Example:
- “They didn’t accept me into their program, how could they do this to me?”
- “Because of (insert name) I can’t go to these social events.”
- You may often find yourself feeling as if you have to defend the requested advice you provide
- often tells you that you are insensitive or don’t listen
In my experience, once identified, cutting a toxic person out of your life as you would a tumor is usually the best course of action. I don’t feel like making any enemies, though. So my strategy is this: keep those walls up while surreptitiously securing a rubber band around that lamb’s tail of a connection, allow to slowly die and eventually fall off, peacefully go separate ways, live happily ever after.
Down to: one best friend, one very good friend, one pen-pal likely to be very good friend, one amazing partner = blissful life. When it comes to interpersonal connection quality over quantity prevails.
Have you had any similar experiences with friends and/or partners in the past? Are you experiencing a similar situation now?