Pardon the momentary departure from cute and funny shit. I want to talk about something serious for a moment. About a year ago, I walked away from a friendship that was very precious to me. I regret the way I ended things, but I have learned SO MUCH from it and I want to share some things that would have helped me so much a couple of years ago.
Some background: I’m a pretty easygoing chick and it takes A LOT to get me to go, “Wait a minute, this isn’t really okay with me.” I’ve been that way all my life. I find it difficult to stand up for myself and I get major anxiety over the very notion of confrontation, so I end up going along with things more often than planning things out myself, correcting the course when things go sideways, and speaking up when someone hurts my feelings. These are flaws I recognize in myself, and as I reflect on past friendships and relationships, I can recall so many times where things could have gone completely differently had I just been a little more confident in myself and defended my position when someone questioned me or ridiculed me. It’s something I’m still working on, and something I’m REALLY trying to push with my own daughters!
A year or so into this friendship, I felt weird about it. Things didn’t feel right, and I didn’t know why. This was the point in time I needed a post like this to help me make sense of things and trust my gut. I was in this exciting, fun new friendship. Totally had my rose colored glasses on, which made it pretty damn hard to spot red flags. I had several friends and family members gently reach out to me to make sure I was okay, but nobody specifically said, “Dude. You don’t seem like yourself. This may not apply to you, but please read it anyway with an open mind,” and sent me a post like this one. So I’m writing it now, and if you have a friend who needs to hear it, please pass it along.
Someone on a site I belong to about healing from narcissistic relationships asked for a list of red flags to look out for when entering friendships. The resulting list was contributed by lots of people who have gotten out of marriages and friendships where they were being abused and manipulated. As I read through it, I was startled – literally my jaw dropped – to see how perfectly most of this described my friendship. Here it is. I bolded all the ones that apply.
How to know if you’re in a relationship with a narcissist:
- The person floods you w/ compliments from the start, seemingly out of nowhere.
- They try to latch onto you really fast, as in they try to spend all their waking hours texting / trying to be with you
- they try to put a label on it way too fast / they try to make you commit to just them within an unreasonable amount of time.
- they get passive-aggressive when you don’t talk to them, or hang out with other people.
- They try to guilt you into doing things you don’t want to do.
- They say that you hurt them incredibly over some small things, but they say they forgive you.
- They try to gaslight you.
- You feel as though you’re not getting anything out of the relationship
- They tell you intimate details about themselves only knowing you a very short time to get you close
- they tell you things to get your pity
- they think that they’re a really superior person, either more smart than most or kinder than most or better Christians than most, or better parents than most, they know politics better than the politicians, etc.
- they get offended easily
- they feel entitled to say things that they wouldn’t like being said to them
- they brag, often and/or they complain, often
- they make you feel bad about yourself for making small mistakes or they make mountains out of molehills to make you feel bad
- they criticize their exes or family and blame everyone else for their problems and pain
- a friendship/relationship with them starts out strong, but turns into a roller coaster
- their pain and hurt is worse than anyone else’s
- they have a short temper
- they always talk about themselves and their own problems, but rarely ask about your feelings or thoughts unless they’re asking what you think about their situation and they don’t accept your opposing point of view
- they don’t respect and accept your opinions and ideas
- they can act really childish when upset
- they tell half truths a lot or leave information out in order to make you feel more comfortable making decisions in their favor
- they insult you and pass it off as a joke or you being too sensitive
- they like to tell you what sacrifices they made for people and how ungrateful everyone is
- they have been engaged or married several times for short periods of time or moved from relationship to relationship in whirlwind courtships
- they give you a lot of advice even when you’re reluctant to follow it
- they’re envious often
- they get uncomfortable when someone else is getting a lot of attention and try to make themselves involved in wherever the drama is
- they’re nosy about your love life
- they don’t like any of your other friends or your spouse
- They”don’t know” what went wrong in their previous relationships, they did everything right, etc.
- They try to play down their role in the break-up, i.e. admitting that they did or said something that was off but it “wasn’t that bad”, ex was overreacting, and so on.
Notice I bolded almost every single point? I stopped short of including a specific example for each, based on things that actually happened. I can’t change the past and I can’t say for certain things would have gone differently, but I’d like to believe if I’d had it all spelled out like this for me early on, I might have had an easier time ending things gradually and casually. What ended up happening instead: after a couple of years of dealing with basically the entire bulleted list above, I reached the end of my rope and my coping skills ran the fuck out. I exploded and ended things with a metaphorical dumpster fire. Not my finest moment, but…so it goes. That’s what happens when you don’t stand up for yourself, kids.
Today, it is still helpful for me to read through lists like this, because it reminds me that I made the right choice. Even now, I occasionally second-guess things. We did have lots of good times. It’s hard to walk away from a relationship, even an unhealthy one. My frustration is compounded when mutual friends have decided to either keep me at arm’s length or ditch me completely, because they completely buy into my former friend’s story that she is the one who has been victimized. See the last point in the list. I’ve had to accept that nobody really believes your story until they go through it themselves. It doesn’t matter how many red flags you thrust in somebody’s face, they are going to believe what they want and you cannot change that. It’s okay. We’re all on our own little path here, so let them do their thing and you do yours. The only opinion that matters is the one you have of yourself, so don’t waste precious years of your life with someone who isn’t for you.
To wrap this up, here is my suggestion to all people of all ages who find themselves in a situation that doesn’t seem right: LISTEN TO YOUR GUT. Gut instincts are guardian angels. We are so conditioned to be kind and accepting that we often ignore our instincts. Don’t make that mistake. And if you’re spending all your time with someone who makes you feel shitty, ask yourself why. Friendship isn’t supposed to be WORK. This dude says it all so much more concisely than I did!