As I shared here and here, I mutually ended a nine-year dysfunctional friendship in August and have been grieving it to varying degrees ever since. This was the first friendship where I really allowed myself to be vulnerable. She saw the “real me” before anyone else did. She was my rock during my therapy years, patiently listening and supporting me as a worked through the painful healing process.
She is also the same person who encouraged the more damaged part of myself. She tried to convince me that the binge eating was a “normal snack.” She encouraged feeling resentment toward my husband and child. Our commonality was our pain, but I healed much of mine while she is still mired in her muck. My life view is that I can transform and step back into a life not defined by my past. Her life view is that she needs to control her surroundings so that nobody can hurt her again. What once worked beautifully now stifled me and stymied her… and now, it’s over.
On her end, the friendship could only continue on her terms. That meant that she was not only “in charge” but “in control.” I no longer wanted someone else “in control” of me, especially when that control continued to drive me back to the dark places. I have not worked this hard to stay “dark.”
I really liked Ruby’s comment on this blog entry:
I am kind by nature, but can be a doormat by training. My one question that help me decide whether to reach out or stay quiet is “Am I acting out of love or fear.” If I’m afraid of their response…I stay quiet and let it happen. ~ Ruby
Yes, that was our dynamic. So much of what I said or didn’t say was out of fear of p#$$ing her off, not love. There wasn’t room to be me because I was constantly gauging her reaction. That was unhealthy for me and had to end.
Just because a decision is good and “right” for me doesn’t make it easy, though. I was angry at her betrayal for a long time, and that helped propel me through the grief. I have let go of the anger, and that leaves behind the sadness. Don’t get me wrong – I have wonderful friends and have more social opportunities than I have time to accept. It’s not that.
I grieve the loss of all of the good things she brought – her intimate knowledge of my history (and mine of hers), her unwavering support of me no matter what (as long as my view aligned with hers), TV shows she introduced me to, our intellectual conversations, her sense of humor, etc. She loves the holidays and would do lots of holiday-related things with me. I don’t like the holiday, and she is the one who brought the “holiday spirit” that my son loves so much. I think the approach of Halloween (we used to take our children trick-or-treating together) is triggering some of this grief.
I don’t want the friendship back because I know it is unhealthy for me. However, I still miss the good parts.
Photo credit: Lynda Bernhardt