Still processing

I realized that why I still miss my former friend is that things were good a lot of the time. It’s just that the times that weren’t good were actually really bad. Everything was always black or white: either she loved me or hated me. Whereas I saw her in a shade of gray: sometimes she was too intense for me but I still loved her anyway.

I still think our final fight was bizarre. We’d agreed the night before that it was probably best if we took a break from each other. We both said we still loved each other.

That night, I wrote a blog entry based on where I was at that time. In it, I said I was sad that it felt like we grew apart and that so much of our relationship was based on mutual complaining. But both I and the blog post were sad and contemplative. I hoped we could take a break, but I also knew from past experience that our friendship was much more all-or-nothing than that.

The next morning, I woke up to so many hateful words that I couldn’t even read them all. That’s when she pulled out all the name calling that was so hurtful to me.

I know enough to understand that she was probably lashing out because she was hurt that I said we grew apart. But I probably would have been open to becoming friends again at some future date, if we could have just taken a break like we’d agreed to do.

It was the lashing out at me in anger that made me wonder if she ever really cared about me at all. I still wonder that and probably always will.

I know she has a lot of friendships that start out intense and usually end at some point, sometimes very quickly. I was the one person who always kept going back for more, trying to forgive her angry outbursts even though I was deeply hurt. I always wanted to give her more chances because I missed having her in my life.

In retrospect, I can see that being the first to apologize meant that I never really felt like she changed, like she truly “got” why lashing out at me was so wrong. I seemed to be right because she did it again, every time. I should have had more self-respect than to always be the one to reach out, when she was the one who damaged our friendship with the anger.

The worst thing she did to me by far was lashing out at me when I moved down here by myself without my husband and kids. It was the scariest time of my life up until that point. She called me all kinds of names, said she hoped I’d fail, said my husband and kids would suffer because of my selfishness, said I didn’t belong in Texas because Texas doesn’t like moochers, compared raising money to move out of an economically dead place to trying to get people to pay for a vacation, etc.

I needed someone to encourage me and to help me be strong and brave. She could have had what she wanted most–me living in the same area as her again and being her friend–if she would have been supportive. But instead she was incredibly jealous that people were helping me financially and her jealousy kept her from behaving like a real friend.

When I finally reached out to her again a couple years later and I tried to address that, she apologized but also said it was “just a childish temper fit.” I still felt like she didn’t really get how wounded I was that she abandoned me during the scariest time of my life (well, before my husband got cancer) and when I most needed to be brave.

I needed her to understand that her “childish temper fits” were threatening our friendship. Every time our friendship would break up, it was the result of one of her temper fits. Those childish rages were extremely hard to tolerate, and I’m certain they’re the reason several of her other friendships have ended as well. I needed her to acknowledge that the temper tantrums weren’t normal and to really work on getting her anger under control. I needed her to grow up.

I’m saying none of this to be mean. I’m still sad and contemplative about the whole thing. I still look at myself honestly and what role I played in it. But sometimes being on the receiving end of someone’s inability to control themselves isn’t your fault, and that’s the part I keep struggling with. I have a misguided understanding of loyalty.

I still miss her and I miss the times that were good. I wish she was self-reflective enough to give me a genuine apology and I wish I was forgiving enough to accept it without reservations. But that’s a pointless wish, because she never once reached out to me to apologize after one of our fights. That left me feeling like she didn’t care or miss me or regret her actions.

If I give her the utmost benefit of the doubt, maybe she did recognize the depth of how much she hurt me and felt too ashamed to reach out. But it doesn’t matter because I know I won’t ever get that apology. She’s just gone.

I’m at a stage in my life where I’m legitimately trying to get better. I’m examining my roles in everything, including the things I do that aren’t so good. I’m not afraid to look objectively at myself and try to change. I have the humility to admit when I’m wrong. But I need other people in my life who are also doing the same work on themselves. It’s not always easy to find that.

One of the things she said to me was that I’d always be lonely because I didn’t know how to be a friend, because I didn’t want to discuss our problems all the time. And you know, she was right: I am lonely. I do have other friends and those friendships are calm and stable and we talk about our problems less often, but I don’t get as much time to talk to them.

So yes, I’m lonely. I dare say the same is probably true of her as well.

4 Comments

  1. You didn’t deserve the verbal and emotional abuse. Whatever her excuses are. It’s better to be lonely than to be abused, though I understand missing her despite that. It was very similar for me with that abusive former friend. She always “apologised” after her long hate filled screeds calling me names and saying I’ll always be lonely and have no friends…she would blame alcohol, blame her depression, blame her anxiety. But all that is an excuse.

    Her “apologies” never took responsibility for her actions, only justification after justification over why she treated me so badly. Really sounds like your former friend too. She probably still thinks she’s the wronged one because I “abandoned” her after countless of her rage outbursts. A true apology involves changed behaviour and both your former friend and mine were incapable of it.

    Abusers, whether they are conscious or not about the abuse they are dishing out, use anything to justify their bad treatment of you. It also doesn’t mean there isn’t good times with them. The good times coupled with the abuse creates intermittent reinforcement which is very hard for us to break away from. You literally get more bonded to them.

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    1. I think that you’re right on all counts. And it does sound like what you went through with your former friend was very similar—even down to her thinking she was the wronged one. I’m so sorry you went through that too. It really messes up your head.

      You are so right about the good times mixed with the abuse creating a bond. I’ve read a lot about “trauma bonding” and I’m sure you have too.

      It’s weird because she said I was so high and mighty about my marriage. I never said my marriage was better than hers or anyone else’s. I think it was just inconceivable to her that some people really could have calm, healthy relationships. In fact, my relationship with her was the only one in my life that wasn’t calm. Even people I don’t get along with (like my sister), we don’t really fight, we just avoid each other.

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      1. Damn, sounds like she was jealous of your marriage. For me, I found out later she was telling lies about me to my now-fiance and lies about him to me. She wanted to break us up but didn’t count on us having open communion, including about envy, other people etc

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