I am the Toxic Friend — How to Move On When You’re the Bad Guy
Scrolling through my pictures on facebook a few months ago, I started to notice a pattern. A huge blast of photos with an ex-friend of mine, and then a lull, and then another blast of photos. This pattern carried on throughout my entire history of photos until all that was left at the top were scattered photos of myself alone or with my family. My downfalls as a friend were illustrated clear as day in front of me in the form of a facebook timeline.
By the time I graduated high school, I had already lost three best friends. When I left my freshman year of college, I lost another, and by the time I graduated from college, I lost the closest best friend I might have ever had. But here’s the thing — I didn’t lose any of them. I systematically sabotaged each relationship and pushed them out of my life, and I am in no position to contact even a single one of them for reconciliation.
I don’t seek out sympathy, or even advice — my own choices in life have led me into a position where I have almost no close friends. But why did I end up in this place of isolation? And what am I supposed to do to move on from this?
The truth is, I don’t have any special answers. I’m not filled with advice for others going through things like this. The answers that I have tried to come up with to “get over” losing a friend have all come up fruitless, and it is because I was looking in the wrong place.
I placed blame anywhere it would fit — but like a misshapen puzzle piece, I forced and pulled each cardboard reason-they-were-wrong into the grand scheme of my life and none seemed to fit. It wasn’t until last fall that I began to come onto something that might actually help me move on.
While working my first job out of college, I picked up a second job as a part-time barista to make some extra money. One of my co-workers at the time was going through AA, and he was in one of the stages that required him to write out every conflict he had ever had and rationalize why that conflict fell on him entirely for blame. At first, I didn’t grasp what the rational was here — conflicts in my life varied for so many rhymes and reasons — but after sitting on it for a few hours, I started to realize that the reason I’ve lost all of my closest friends is because I wasn’t ready to acknowledge myself as the problem.
My senior year of college started out with a blast. I was rooming with a close friend, and my boyfriend was setting off for his first underway. Some time into my fall semester, my roommate and I had a falling out that ultimately droned on and climaxed when she moved out in the middle of the night and left nothing behind of hers except for a mug that I had given her as a gift. I triumphantly celebrated by livestreaming me smashing it in the parking lot — I had won the war.
But very quickly, the reality of the situation started to set in. I was cold and cruel enough to someone willing to compromise with me and support me through some of the toughest times of my college career, and here I was celebrating her being distraught enough to sneak out in the dark so she wouldn’t get caught by the monster, a monster who happened to be me.
What did I do, you ask? Everything from overreacting about dishes to turning the thermostat all the way up on heat right before leaving for my classes all day. But the petty things didn’t matter — what mattered most was how unwilling I was to surrender my stubborn perception of our fights. She wronged me once, and with that one time, I justified wronging her a thousand times over.
She wronged me once, and with that one time, I justified wronging her a thousand times over.
She wasn’t the only one. Another roommate of mine moved out on me — and made it very clear I was the “toxic friendship” she was shedding for the New Year. Up until last week, I would still claim myself the victim — but of what? I am conscious enough to know when I’ve hurt someone, but not conscious enough to apologize for it.
Unfortunately for myself, I can’t fix any of the things I’ve done to wrong or overreact to my friends. I can’t skip back into the past and slap myself, remind myself every morning for years to not let my bitterness permit cruelty towards those that care about me and expect them to be accepting when I stroll back around with a happier face on. But I can admit my wrongs. I can move forward in life knowing that I’ve messed up and hurt people more than I’ve helped them — and try to be public about my downfalls.
I’ve learned to acknowledge my own faults. I’ve started journaling my thoughts, and become a more thoughtful person in a position where I could be impulsive and cruel. The truth is, I have known toxic friendships too, and the best thing you can do is just be honest with yourself about what you need to do to become the best version of yourself. If it is to shed those toxic friendships, well hopefully they will acknowledge their loss one day.
I am someone who is tempermental. I am not always right, but I always want to be. My RBF is meaner than it has to be, and for many years I have lived on the saying that I am just a cold person on my exterior and I take time to open up. But this outlook on life relys on another persons willingness to wade through the roughest waters of your personality — and that kind of burden is not fair to place on a stranger.
I am incredibly understanding of being closed off after being through some things, but it’s easier to be honest and kind than it is to be cryptic and cruel. I am lucky enough to have some friends who have stuck through all of my ups and downs, and to those that have not, I do not blame you — I applaud you. It is easy to let someone going through a hard time take advantage of you, but it takes a very strong person to respect yourself enough to leave when you are being mistreated.