My most harmful relationship was with my best friend
Manipulation, anxiety, and stress. Some of the things I experienced with my best friend in the university.
You aren’t a rehab. It isn’t your job to fix everyone.” — Our mindful life.
Toxic relationships are a prevalent theme when discussing couples and family, but not when discussing friendships. I assure you, it is more common than you think. This is my story.
When I was about to turn 18, I started the university, a little fearful because I had never been in an environment as large as that, although I adapted very quickly. I was a bit shy but very friendly. I sat in the middle of the classroom on the first day, and next to me was a young woman who became my best friend for almost three years. I will call her “Scarlet.”
Scarlet came up to me right away, and we had good chemistry; she was a shy young woman, 19 years old (supposedly). We started sitting together, went to the cafeteria together, and studied together in the library.
Besides Scarlet, there were four other students who, along with her, were my group of friends.
Things are starting to get weird
Scarlet was hypersensitive; she would feel offended by any detail. Even I began to be careful with what I said so that she did not feel bad.
The worst part is that I had no idea what I did to make her feel this way most of the time.
For example, we were on a break, and suddenly she would start crying silently; I asked her what was wrong with her, and she kept quiet. Then she would stop crying, but she would not speak to me again; however, she continued to accompany me to the bus stop (in total silence).
I kept thinking about what I could have said or done to make her offended or feel bad. Sometimes I spent the night wondering what she had done and imagining a thousand different things. I felt very guilty without knowing why.
Most of the time, one day or two later, she would apologize and tell me what had upset her (these were usually things that no one should be offended about).
Scarlet’s possessive behavior
- A classmate asked me to accompany him to the library, and I did not tell Scarlet to accompany us.
- Someone asked me for help with a project; however, I didn’t help Scarlet with that project (because obviously, she hadn’t asked me to).
Due to that kind of thing, she would stop talking to me without any explanation. Then, as a show of apology, she brought me a gift; it could be something simple like a bar of chocolate or even something more expensive.
I wanted to be more aware of my behavior so that Scarlet would not have a “best friend jealousy attack.”
The problem was that no matter how hard I tried, the story constantly repeated itself: She always cried, always stopped talking to me, but always she would accompany me to the bus stop, and then always make excuses accompanied by a gift.
That kind of behavior wasn’t 100% just with me; Let’s say that 15% behaved that way with our close friends and the remaining 85% with me.
Other strange attitudes
She started dressing like me; in fact, she bought clothes identical to what I had, or as similar as possible. At the time, that didn’t bother me, but I found it a bit weird.
She began to like boys who took a noticeable interest in me. Of course, as friends, I would never have a romantic relationship with someone that my best friend confessed to me she liked. In effect, she had little romances with some of them.
I want to clarify that she looked good, and other boys were interested in her.
Everything was getting worse
I tried to advise her. I told her that she should be more open and express what she felt, tell me when something made her feel bad, and not keep quiet, but all that was in vain. I asked her to stop giving me gifts to apologize; I told her that she didn’t have to provide me with objects to ask excuses, that she just had to manage her introverted attitude.
I promised her that I would try not to make her feel bad, but the truth, I was already very emotionally tired.
I did not feel free in college. I should control everything I did because otherwise, Scarlet might feel offended. I stopped doing things, like, for example, sharing with my friends, in case she could not do it, all because she did not experience another crisis of guilt.
I explained to my mother that I did not know how to handle the situation with her. My mother only asked me: “Be patient with her, you know that she has some kind of problems and she is like that with you because you understand her.”
Fine, fine. But I was going crazy.
The friendship began to deteriorate.
Remember I told you that she was a year older than me? When I turned 19, she confessed that she was 25 years old (six years older than me). Neither my friends nor I ever doubted her age because, although we now knew that she was 25 years old, her attitude was that of a teenager of 13 or less. My friends and I are not bothered by the age issue but that she lied for more than a year.
There came a time when Scarlet fell behind with her assignments, and we no longer took classes together. Anyway, we shared on campus either at recess or at the end of the day. She was a bit more open, stopped giving me the famous apology gifts, but continued with her controlling demeanor.
She started calling me at home and stayed silent (I don’t know for what purpose). For some reason, I was sure it was her. I claimed it from her once, and she didn’t say anything; she just lowered her head.
For this moment, her behavior, Instead of bewilderment, scared me.
One day I arrived just in time to take a class, she was waiting for me outside the classroom, she complained to me that I had been late, claiming that the teacher was not the only person waiting for me.
I, already tired of talking, of trying to communicate healthily, told her that I could not continue with the friendship. It happened the same; she started crying, stopped talking, and then made excuses. But this time, I did not fall again.
They were almost three years in constant uncertainty, wanting to understand my friend. I know she wasn’t a bad person, but she definitely needed help that I couldn’t give her.
How did that situation affect me?
My last year of college was without Scarlet. After everything that happened, I hardly ever saw her. The rest of my friends told me that they had seen her somewhere or another. It seemed like she was hiding from me.
- I made new friends but was very suspicious. Before reaching a friendship with someone, I took as much time as possible to evaluate his behavior. I was still a friendly person but very unsociable.
- It seemed that I was always on the defensive. When someone tried to approach me with the intention of friendship, I immediately gave a “speech” that I did not like being controlled, pressured, etc.
- I became very jealous of my space and very independent. I preferred to do things alone or go places alone.
Many years later, I am still a bit suspicious of people.
My analysis of what happened 15 years ago.
As a fully adult woman, I can see what happened with that toxic relationship more clearly. I have never discussed her behavior or her personality with a professional, but I think I can highlight some patterns.
Lack of identity and self-esteem. I can’t be sure Scarlet had a disorder, but I can say that she had very low self-esteem. She did not value herself and did everything possible to be accepted in our environment, to the point of lying and changing her true personality.
Obsession. Accompanying me to the bus stop without speaking to me, dressing like me, or imitating me in certain things shows an obsessive attitude. Something that I could notice at 19 and 20 years old but did not know how to handle.
Control. “I am your best friend.” “I must always be first.” “You cannot do something if I am not included.” That was what she made me feel every day.
Manipulation. Stop talking to me for days, getting angry without any explanation, it made me feel like a bad person, like someone who did not understand her friend; and after, when I understood that I was not the problem, I felt guilty for not knowing how to help her.
How would I do things now?
At that time, I did not know how to handle the situation in time. I understood that I had to help on her way, but I didn’t know how to do it. If a presented similar situation were to me now, I would act differently. Of course, time, experience, and maturity should do the trick.
If I could go back…
Over the years, I understood that even if we wanted to, we can’t help people if they don’t allow them. Instead, you end up falling into a pit you shouldn’t be in.
- The first thing to do is set limits. Do not let anyone manipulate or control me.
- Talk seriously with my friend to find out what is wrong with her, what she wants, why she acts that way, and then analyze if I can help her or not.
- I would possibly talk to one of her relatives. Perhaps they already knew something that I did not know. Otherwise, I would put them on alert by explaining that their sister, daughter, or some relative has a particular behavior that is not healthy for her or those around them.
- I would try to support my friend if she decides to go to a Psychologist, but I would not allow her emotional problems to absorb my life. Unfortunately, to live in a balanced way, one must be a bit selfish.
I have known very little about Scarlet in the last 15 years. She has sent me two or three messages through my social networks in which she greets me and apologizes; I answer it, but she never comes back.
Moral of my story:
If you have to change to make someone else feel good, that person is the one who should change, not you.