You guys know how I love Brene Brown and gangsta rap, right? The gangsta rap isn’t important here, I just wanted to make sure you know. I’ve had this Brene Brown idea kicking around in my head for several months now, and it goes like this. Let’s say you get into a disagreement with someone. It’s based on a misunderstanding, most disagreements are based in a misunderstanding or faulty expectations. So let’s say you’re disagreeing with your partner and you start spinning out of control, like thinking of all these crazy scenarios and reasons why this person could be upset or angry with you. It happens right? Brene calls it, “The story I’m telling myself,” and it isn’t necessarily steeped in the truth of the situation, but rather our projections, our previous altercations with others, our own histories. You see? Why am I thinking about this lately, well, because I’ve decided to give up, once and for all, on a friendship that just wasn’t meant to be, because I’ve realized, finally, after nearly three years that there is no way I can help this friend. She has too many emotional and mental problems, and though I want to help people like that, I want to fix broken relationships, I just can’t give her anymore of my energy or thoughts. So instead I’m getting my truth out here today, and ridding myself of her negativity and the pain she caused me. Here’s the short version.
This friend, let’s call her “Julie,” and I were buds. Like a fast friends kinda deal. So fast, in fact, that I neglected the warning signs. Her parenting style was way different than mine, for instance. She did things like leave her kids at home alone and go to the local bar with her husband at night, which seems nuts to me. She’d complain ad nauseam about things like too much sugar at classroom parties, but she’d never actually make it to help in the classroom. She’d complain about women who had side hustles, like selling items they liked or making art. She’d make fun of women who had plastic surgery, or who kept a “clean” house. It was all very bizarre, and now that I’ve had time to think on it, it was mainly projections of her own insecurities, but there I was, believing the best in a person who I thought I really wanted to be friends with. Even though her small annoyances were actually really big judgments about people she knew nothing about. Red flags, you see?
Part of my desire to be her friend came from my child, who absolutely adored her daughter. She was also an eager person to network, and I was a shy, kinder mom who wanted friends, so again, I overlooked things. Most notably the horrible ways she would talk about our mutual friends and others we knew, especially when she drank. And she drank every single day. I don’t think there was one time I wasn’t invited to her house and asked, nay, pressured to drink. She once told a group of us that the only way their household could save money was to cut their liquor budget, and that obviously wasn’t going to happen. To say a few of us were shocked was an understatement. But this is all tertiary. The real red flags were much harder to ignore.
She once tried to convince all of us in “our crew” which was about six families at this point, that one of the other friend’s husbands was in love with her, this was after her theory that he was gay hadn’t panned out as she’d hoped. She slapped another friend’s husband across the face after she told him he didn’t know how to be a good husband, and he had in turn suggested her marriage maybe wasn’t as ideal as she thought it might be. We all laughed about it when it happened, but honestly, who does that? She often spoke badly of people based solely on their appearance, even women she said she really liked. Her husband’s friends’ wives, women we met around the community, etc. For the first two years I let this all slide, because I had a friends, and honestly, I didn’t want to rock the boat.
Then there was the whole summer where she pinned all the bad behaviors on one of the kids in the group, going as far as taking the girl aside and discussing things with her that she just shouldn’t have. In fact, that was the first time I confronted her about her behavior, explaining that maybe she should talk to the girl’s mom (one of our best friends) and not take matters into her own hands. Julie just scoffed at me in a condescending way, another habit of hers I ignored, and said as a “boy mom” I didn’t understand girl drama. And I guess she was right, because Julie was all drama, and no, I did not understand her.
The more that summer went on, the more horrible things she said about our close friends (including one that had just had a baby), the more I started to stick up for them. Started to decline offers to go sit on her porch and listen to her make fun of her neighbors, who were also her friends, while she told me very secret secrets about their family, most likely told to Julie in confidence. Am I painting a picture here now? This is not a normal, nice, woman. And she doesn’t even come across as one, it’s honestly more of a go with your gut thing, and I just totally blew my gut off to have friends. (Side note: I was in a bad place when I met her. In the middle of fighting infertility, having moved across the country, my baby starting kindergarten, I just wasn’t myself and the idea of a close knit circle of friends who I could trust was comforting. Still is. I just didn’t realize I already have them and that not all of these women were who they said they were.)
Anyway. our relationship came to a breaking point later that same summer. A mutual friend had an empty beach house for a week and suggested we take it. I half-heartedly asked Julie if her family would like to come along, assuming she’d say no as the strain in our relationship was apparent by then, but she said sure. She begged her husband to take time off work and come, since mine was, and when he couldn’t, or rather wouldn’t, she was upset. But we all went to the beach anyway.
This is where things get complicated. And I’ve spent a lot of time, too much really, replaying it all in my mind and this is all I can come up with. You know when you’re truly unhappy, say in your marriage, and you spend a lot of time with a married couple who are truly happy, and it makes you sad and a little jealous? There was some of that. One night, as Jerimiah and I were debating taking the kids to do something fun, apparently we had discussed it enough, and she promptly slammed a pot down and said, “Jesus, do you two have to make ALL your decisions together?” That was followed a few minutes later by a, “You seem to want to be around him a lot. Can you not do things on your own?” I took this as an insult at first, it wasn’t until afterward that I realized that it must have been difficult to see a good, equal, partnership at work. In fact, later when I told her that yes, we do talk about everything because we are a partnership, she rolled her eyes and said, “Well good for you!” This made me mad, but I should have listened more to the undertone. She was a woman hurting, I knew this because most of our girls-only outings ended in Julie crying about her marriage, about her untrustworthy husband, about how the only real satisfaction she got out of life was her job. That is some sad stuff, and honestly I should have seen it sooner, but I didn’t. And later, even after I let her berate me like usual, I still apologized. Then I felt even more dumb. Why am I apologizing for having an awesome husband and an awesome marriage? Psh. Get it together, Missy. You can’t fix others’ problems.
So the long of it is that we got into a good, old-fashioned argument (after several drinks) one night. She told me, in front of my husband, what a shitty dad and husband she thought he was (projection) and she even made a comment about my nephew who was living with us at the time. She said she couldn’t believe I was okay with him smoking weed (not at our house, but just in general) and she said because of that her husband (the one who secretly smokes weed in his shed—no shit, I had to hide his pipe from him at my house for a year and she’d routinely call to check and make sure I hadn’t given it to him. Talk about trust issues…) didn’t like my nephew. I was quite taken aback, as you can imagine, so I said (out of anger, mind you), “Well I’m sure if they’d just smoke a bowl together your husband would like him a lot more.” As you might imagine that sent her off the deep end.
When we finally called it a night, I assumed we’d wake up the next morning, and hash it all our sober, so I profoundly apologized about that one mean thing I said about her husband (the rest of the argument was really just her yelling at me about how I let people take advantage of me… uhh, hello, that’s what I’d let her do for years by then). And just before she walked into her room she turned to Jerimiah and me and said, “I’m sorry too, that I called Jerimiah all those horrible things and said he was a bad husband and father.” I smiled. I understood. Then she added, “I mean, I think it, and I believe it, but you know I shouldn’t have said it out loud.” Then she went to bed, woke her kids up before the crack of dawn the next day, and left like a coward, refusing to ever talk to me in person again.
Over the course of the next few months I sent lengthy texts to her. I wrote her letters and shoved them in her mailbox. I FB messaged her, I emailed her, I did all I could to try to sit with her, to replay the night, to figure out where I went wrong. And in the two years since I’ve sent at least three forms of communication telling her hello, and hoping she is happy and healthy and that her family is doing well. And I received no response, save one text where she said I was mentally unstable and she asked me to never call her again. So I blocked her number from my phone, unfriended her on social media, and tried to move on.
The hardest part was that we had these mutual friends. The ones she had bashed for years when they weren’t around. But I didn’t want to tell them that. And if I’m being honest I assumed they knew. Because if she said such horrible things about them to me, I can only imagine what she’d said about me to them. They had to know what kind of person she is, and if they didn’t they simply didn’t want to know, and either way I had one foot out the door so I wasn’t worrying about it. It did hurt quite a bit that only one of them ever asked my side of the story. Only one of them sat with me as I cried on my car outside our kids school and searched for answers on what I had done wrong. We both agreed that Julie is the kind of person who makes her own reality when things get tough. She tells herself a story so she can not feel bad about the hurtful ways she acted, the mean things she said, the trust she broke. And I get that. I know other people like that. And all I can do is hope they get the help they need, sooner rather than later.
I guess this is my way of clearing the air. It’s better for her to make it in my blog than my book. Bahahaha. You never really wanna piss off a writer, right?! Especially one like me. The truth sets me free, y’all. It gives me power because I know that if you live in truth, in light, in open and honest communication, then you never have anything to worry about. So I’m sending my truth out into the universe today. I won’t be reaching out anymore. I won’t be awkwardly asking our mutual friends (I only have a couple left) how she’s doing. I won’t be filling my brain with that nonsense anymore. And if I’m being truly honest, Julie taught me way more than I bargained for, but still she taught me. I trust my gut more now. I wait a bit more to fully invest in a new friendships, because I know now that if you give them time, people always, always show you who they really are. You just have to be accepting to the facts. So that’s that. The friendship that is no more, that never really was. And I feel so much better!
As always, take care of yourself and each other.
Update: Wow, this post has had a lot of “views,” like uhh way more than a normal one. I have a few ideas why, but I also had a lot of adult women reach out to me to share their stories of being in toxic friendships. Which means my writing is helping, and you know that’s all I truly want.
I’m so sorry ladies, if you’ve had a friend, or a spouse, or a family member like this in your life. And believe me, I understand staying for longer than you feel comfortable. You feel like you have to. You want to belong. You want to be liked. I get it, I really do. But I’m here to tell you that the relief you will feel letting this person go, forgiving them like I did this “friend,” is more important for your peace of mind, your mental health, your physical health, than any friendship could ever be. Besides, you’ll have friends that will always love you. Always stand beside you. My example above I called a “friendship,” but it wasn’t. Because real friendships don’t treat you like that, and they don’t end like that. So take stock, ladies! And live your truth. ❤
This might be helpful for some of you dealing with the same sort of people: