I’ve always gravitated towards women who are similar to me when choosing friends—bookish and somewhat reserved but who come out of their shell when you really get to know them. Then one day, I became best friends with my total opposite. I thought she would push me out of my comfort zone and help me explore different sides of myself. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case at all.
- She was literally nothing like me. We’re told that opposites are supposed to attract, but it’s important to put that in context. In my case, I originally thought my friend was assertive, demonstrably passionate, and vivacious. I missed that her assertiveness could easily shift to rudeness, her passion to obsession, and her vivacity to mood swings. Paying attention to the extremes in someone’s personality is key to seeing if they are a good fit in your life.
- She made me feel special. When someone singles you out and makes you feel like there’s something different about you, it’s incredibly flattering. That feeling should raise a red flag, though. Are you being singled out because you are indeed special and different, or is the person just being charming to get you to like them? It’s easy to let other people’s interest in you cloud your judgment and make you ignore major red flags.
- She trusted me with her secrets really fast. I was so flattered that she would trust me with such personal information so early into our relationship, but looking back, that was a really odd thing to do. She barely knew me and acted like there was “just something about me” that convinced her I was trustworthy. Her trust in me made our friendship move far quicker than it normally would have, which meant I had less time to really get to know her before we were all the way in.
- She gaslighted me. I started to notice that my friend would turn on me quickly, critiquing my behavior when I knew she had done the same risque thing recently. It made me feel like I was crazy, like I must have been misinterpreting my own actions. I started to think hard about everything I said and did in front of her, policing my own actions much more strictly than normal to avoid making her angry for something “inappropriate” that I had supposedly done. It wasn’t until later that I realized this was just another way she was trying to control me.
- She made me walk on eggshells. It’s exhausting to have to be hyper-vigilant around someone you care about. You should be spending that energy on building your relationship with them and enjoying each other, not monitoring every word you say. No one should have to carry that much emotional weight attached to small, everyday interactions.
- She made everything about her. Some people can suck up all the emotional space in a relationship. If you realize that you’ve been a shoulder to cry on and a friendly ear without ever really receiving that in return, it may be time to look at your friendship with fresh eyes. A true friendship will be a give and take, and even when someone is going through a rough time, there should still be space for you to express your own feelings.
- She blamed me for her unhappiness. When I began to pull away, my friend would reel me back in by blaming me for her mood swings. If only I had been more patient, more empathetic, more caring, then she wouldn’t be so miserable. This isn’t just a red flag, it’s an air horn. Even if you care about someone deeply, some people are just very unhappy. When they start blaming that on you, it’s time to find a way out of that relationship.
- She didn’t understand why I ended things. It can often be harder to end a friendship than to end a relationship. We have less practice at that. You may fight with your good friends throughout your life, but we rarely have a formal breakup procedure the way we do with dating. When I finally had the strength to end my emotionally abusive friendship, my friend didn’t understand what she had done wrong. She framed herself as a “difficult” person but always believed that the people who truly loved her would just get over that. My walking away simply proved to her that I never really cared about her in the first place. That kind of twisted logic is not something you can argue with. You just have to get up and walk away.
- She walked away without a scratch. My emotionally abusive friendship seriously scarred me and for her, it seemed to have almost no effect. When things finally ended and she was out of my life, I realized that it was only because I was trying to make it work so hard that she was able to manipulate me for as long as she did. It’s made me scared to befriend new people, but I know I can’t let that stop me. The right best friends are out there I just need to learn what to look for and what to avoid.