I grew up hearing the phrase, “If you have to work too hard, it’s not meant to be.” My mom used this saying often about life choices indicating I was going down the wrong path. One day she told me that my father told her, “It shouldn’t be this much work to love each other!” No truer words have been spoken. I think of his words often when I’m struggling in a relationship that I’m not really happy in. The longest struggle I had to stay in a relationship was with a woman I called my best friend for nearly 20 years.
I loved this woman as my friend for a very long time. I nursed many a broken hearts from failed relationships and other friendships. I was always her fall back. She always knew I’d be there… no matter what.
Being her friend came with unwavering rules which I didn’t have a say in. She demanded that none of her friends could be friends with any of her other friends. She was terrified of being left if something went wrong. She demanded that her friends never tell her she’s wrong or point out how she may have impacted another with her behavior. She also lacked the insight into her mental illness and how difficult it was to spend time with her at times.
I was not the friend who would always side with her and say it’s alright. I was the friend who loved her… and I would tell her she’s wrong sometimes. I was also the friend who knew I cared more than she did. Let’s be honest…. we ALL have those relationships. We know which ones they are, too.
I am, by far, the healthier of us. I’ve worked ceaselessly to be able to function in the world with success. I learned coping skills early on to keep my bipolar symptoms under control… and how to do damage control when things get rough. The healthier I got, the less we had in common. We went very different paths for a very long time. I missed my friend. We saw each other… once a week for a cup of coffee which was a one hour catch up with nothing else shared. We hit this stage a couple times and it ultimately killed our friendship.
Part of what I gave up to stay in a relationship with her was being respected. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I sat there while she was judging me. How I dress, how I act, my mental health, my sex life, and yes, my relationships. Depending on how she was doing, I either got my kind friend who loved me no matter what… or I got the bitchy, judgmental friend who hurt me time and again with no insight into her behavior.
It’s imperative here that I say that I actively CHOSE to remain in this friendship. As I said at the start, “You shouldn’t have to try so hard to love someone.” I think I had some sick kind of loyalty to this friendship. I think, too, that I needed a healthy dose of self-esteem!!! I’m worth being treated better than that!!
A number of years ago my life spiraled out of control and it’s taken me what seems like FOREVER to get back to the me I know and recognize every day. Untreated PTSD came up which I was forced to deal with. I was crippled with symptoms. I got married after almost 20 years of being single. My mother died. I lost my career due to my mental health. I got pregnant and went off medications which sent me spiraling even more than I already would have. My ex-husband was seriously abusive. I lost nearly everyone in my life when I fell apart. The hardest re-do I’ve ever had!!!
This friend constantly treated me like I was the identified patient. Despite leaps and bounds of growth and getting closer to the strong self I was before this collapse, she always viewed me and treated me like I was less than and broken. Often times, she viewed me through the lens of her brokenness.
The end hit one Monday in September after our crammed in coffee between her other friends that filled all of her time. She sat on her phone texting the entire time we were there. I don’t think she looked up more than two or three times. I shared some hurt with her about a few men in AA sexually harrassing me. Their behavior was truly inappropriate and I was rightfully upset. She didn’t look up or even really hear what I said, she came back with something about me being a flirt and dressing provocatively. I was so stunned I wasn’t able to come back with an actual appropriate response.
Conversation moved along. I shared with her that Daddy would be moving out here in a couple of weeks and we planned to get married pretty quickly. She looked up at me and asked, “What if he’s like your ex?” Then she went on to elaborate on how long she knew her wife before getting married and blah, blah, blah. I blanked out, I saw white I was so angry.
We left civilly. I got a text a couple hours later about how much fun she had. I was honest and told her I didn’t. She immediately jumped to calling me a bitch and saying how mean I am.
That was the defining moment. For the first time in YEARS I told her so she could truly hear how I felt being a friend to her. I’d always been second fiddle to her other friends who were making horrible life choices and were eternally unstable and cruel. I told her I’m tired of being judged on her standard that any woman who has sex is a slut. I went on to tell her that she had blamed the victim for being harassed. I went for the gut shot, the one in which I commented on how many times she’s hurt her wife and how she wanted a divorce less than 6 months after their marriage and bought another house to live in without giving her wife a choice. I told her I was done!!!! There was nothing left at that point. I wanted nothing to do with her.
She continued to text and call despite being told I wanted no contact with her. I told her bluntly that if she couldn’t respect my boundary I’d block her. I had to do just that.
A few hours later, Daddy and I talked. This wasn’t the first time I’d had a fight with her in the time we’d been together. Daddy was livid!!! He gave me a direct order that I wasn’t to be her friend after this one. He helped me walk away once and for all.
I don’t think of her often anymore. I certainly don’t miss anything about our friendship. She comes up in my conversations at times because we were friends for so long and many things shared.
I’ve had lingering anger…. and hurt. This is the first time I’ve written/talked about how this friendship ended without getting back into all the old feelings. I felt a betrayal that I’d never experienced before.
I’m far from perfect!!! I can be judgmental, too. Funny, most people tell me I’m not in my actual relationships… they say I’m safe. I try to be kind. I made a million mistakes, too. I’m sure I hurt her a few times. In the end, the person I need to forgive most is MYSELF!!!! I knew having her in my life hurt me time and again… yet I chose to stay.
People talk all the time about how hard it is to find the perfect girl/guy. Hell, why aren’t we talking about how hard it is to find a good friend and what it means to be a friend?