SHITTY FRIENDS: A SUBTLE AND NOT SO SUBTLE LOOK AT RED FLAGS IN FRIENDSHIPS WITH NARCISISTS
(Credit: Stas Knop via Shutterstock)
My heart is shattered.
One of my best friends has "broken up" with me. Slowly, quietly, and with seemingly trite justification; just like a pubescent youngster. I'm having nightmares about it.
I'll indulge myself with a short backstory: As I mentioned in a previous post, I was the girl who was so desperate for camaraderie that I would do homework for several of the "cool" girls in my class, and even re-copy it in my interpretation of their handwriting (I was pretty good, albeit completely delusional). That pretty much sums me up as a friend: Cloyingly loving and too available, as well as ferociously loyal (to my own demise). Oh, and if I love you? I'll take a bullet for you. Probably Two.
But despite the bullying and social awkwardness, I was very fortunate with my upbringing. My parents moved us from Chicago to a small meditation community in Iowa; where I grew up meditating and doing yoga in school. That has a separate list of consequences for another day, but all in all, we grew up in a pretty peaceful environment; doing yoga and meditating in our little Iowa farm town of 10,000. Compared to my newfound Brooklyn friends, us kids from Fairfield, Iowa had it made in the shade (I'm convinced my boyfriend and some of his friends came out of the womb yelling about the Mets with a bourbon in one hand and a cigarette in the other). While I've changed a lot since leaving my hometown, unfortunately, my tendency to chase people is still there. Probably more than I realize.
I won't get in to the she-said, she-said as I've already coddled myself enough in this post. But I will say, that while I am infuriatingly sensitive, demanding of time and often depressingly negative, I'm a good friend. I didn't deserve to be treated like this, and should've seen it coming years ago. We can talk about motives, and subconscious issues and boundaries until you miss your subway stop, but when you get down to it, it's pretty damn simple: If people want you in their life, it will be obvious. Here are some things I should've paid more attention to, big and small:
Does your friend mostly talk about themselves; rarely listening to you and taking an interest in your life? Red Flag.
Have you held their hand through a traumatic life experience, but found them to be unavailable to you were in the same position? Flagged.
Has your friend repeatedly completed selfish acts (like fucking around with your boyfriend) at your expense, apologized and then gone on do it again? Fly that flag, my people.
Is it incredibly hard for you to get a text back? (I won't even go into phone calls, because a phone call can go long and be a lot more daunting to some when we're stressed and busy. But that said, letting your friend know you can't talk right then isn't difficult). I started thinking about this a lot this year, when strangers on the internet were responding to me more than my oldest friends. Lots of people I know will not agree with me, but I feel very strongly about this: IT IS UNACCEPTABLE NOT TO RETURN A TEXT WITHIN 24 HOURS. UNLESS YOU ARE AN ER DOCTOR ON A DOUBLE SHIFT (WHICH YOU AIN'T), OR ON VACATION ON A DESERT ISLAND AND TAKING " A BREAK FROM SOCIAL MEDIA" (WE BOTH KNOW YOU'VE GOT YOUR PHONE ON YOUR LAP), YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE NOT TO SEND A ONE SENTENCE RESPONSE. TEXTING IS SO FAST AND EASY THAT NO MATTER HOW STRESSED, BUSY, AND IN PAIN YOU ARE, YOU CAN SEND A COMMUNICATION TO AT LEAST LET YOUR FRIEND KNOW THAT YOU WILL CONTACT WHEN YOU CAN. NO GOOD PERSON WILL PRESS FURTHER IF THEY RECEIVE THAT INFORMATION, AND IF THEY DO, THAT IS ANOTHER RED. FUCKING. FLAG.
Does your friend regularly cancel plans with you? At least once a month? Or more? Has this gone on for years? If this goes on for let's say... a year (maybe they've been going something really intense, we can never truly know how much a friend is hurting sometimes so I always air on the side of more compassion), that's when you should start to question the relationship. Everyone is busy, everyone is stressed, everyone has other pressures from work and family and other friends. If it goes on for a while, no matter what the excuse is, that means that they don't care about maintaining your friendship at that time (sometimes there really aren't enough hours in the day. As long as that's made clear, that doesn't mean you can't pick back up where you left off, down the line). And that's fair, but in many situations, you don't need to waste energy on a friend who isn't reciprocating your effort. Bonus points if they get angry with you the one time you cancelled in 3 years. Flagged.
Does your friend listen to your feelings? Or do they just tell you you're being dramatic? (You very well might be, but it's the listening that counts). Flag.
Does your friend interrupt you when you talk? Mock you to other friends to the point of being disrespectful? Ignore what you just said and then continue on with their own point? This can be done very subtly, but make no mistake, if this goes on for a while, it is meant to demean you, whether they are aware of it or not. Flagged.
Does your friend keep your secrets? Or are they someone who just "can't remember, it's just a part of their personality." If they've talked behind your back even once; it's not a personality trait, it's because your friendship means less to them than gossiping in the moment did. Definite fucking flag.
During an argument, does your friend listen to your side? Do you feel heard? Or are you a human punching bag, expected to take it and get the fuck over it? Red flag.
And lastly (I'm sure I'll think of more later), does your friendship feel one sided to you? Do you that if you didn't bend over backwards for the relationship, it would be non-existent? Do you feel as though you're the only one putting in work, making an effort, and demonstrating with actions and words that your friendship matters?
This one is tricky because every friendship has two sides. Your friend might feel this way too! I would always suggest trying to talk things through and find a compromise before making any drastic decisions. I know that I can take things very personally when they weren't intended that way, and that my sensitive nature can make everything seem a lot worse than it is. Talk it through and work on it, and don't assume that your opinion is the only opinion.
That said, if they won't meet you halfway. Truly halfway. Taking responsibility for your own shit halfway (because we are just as fucked up as they are), then it's time to consider a farewell. And that shit, is rough. Good luck out there.