Monday, May 7, 2018
With Friends Like These...
My hiking partner had been uncharacteristically quiet for a few hikes. She kept the conversation light. We talked birds and deer, engagement party plans for her niece, the weather.
And then she said she told me something that she had been avoiding talking about because she was so angry with herself. It involved a woman she thought was her friend. This "friend" had hired my friend's husband to renovate their bathroom. (This isn't going where you think it is but bear with me.) And then the problems began. This "friend" wasn't happy with the budget, she complained about fixtures, she insisted that the workers had damaged some belongings. The complaints mounted. A supplier told my friend's husband that he thought this woman was scamming him.
By the time the job was finished, my friend's husband hadn't made a dime and had suffered many stress headaches.
And my friend felt completely betrayed by this "friend". Who does that? she asked me. I sighed. Well...
I used to be like my friend. A "friend" would pull something shitty – she'd gossip about me, or exclude me from something, or accuse me of something I didn't do.
And I'd wonder what I'd done wrong to be so misunderstood.
A decade ago, when my world was collapsing around me thanks to infidelity, a "friend" turned on me around the same time. We were organizing a fundraiser together, divvying up duties according to our strengths and available time. And then the weirdness began. I would open my computer in the morning to long protracted e-mails about how I was "sabotaging" the event, how I wasn't a "team player". I felt blindsided. I was doing this volunteer gig – which had been my idea – while finishing up a big paid assignment. I didn't yet know my marriage was imploding but the storm clouds were gathering. I hadn't the time, energy or inclination to deal with asinine accusations.
So I didn't. I put my head down and did my work. And then, when it was over, I told her I needed a break from our friendship.
It was long overdue.
And that's the thing with toxic "friends". There's usually evidence that they're trouble, evidence that we often overlook or excuse. And there are inevitably other people in these "friends'" lives with whom they also have trouble. Toxic people can often fool those around them for a period of time. Sometimes years. But, eventually, people wise up.
When my hiking partner looked more closely at her "friend", she found a past littered with people who'd been similarly screwed over.
When I look at the "friends" who've turned out not to be, they've always ALWAYS had problems with other people.
In other words, it's not me. It's her.
That doesn't mean it doesn't hurt, of course. Being rejected, lied to, betrayed by, or accused of is painful, especially when it's by someone we let into our life. Someone we thought was our friend.
But resist the urge to take the blame. See if there's a pattern in this "friend's" life that makes you not so much an exception but another in a line of suckers.
Your future should hold only people who've made the cut. And make sure the bar is high.
Want to join your BWC friends for a "showing up" on the North Carolina shores (no "retreat" for us!)? Check out My Heartbreak, My Rules, My Healing, a weekend of sharing our stories, making space for our healing and showing up in our lives. Space is limited.