I don’t like the word toxic for people, and even hesitate to use it to describe a friendship… I can however identify that over the years I have had several friendships where the person and I had some pretty negative patterns.
Ironically, some of these friendships were the most enjoyable ones for a time. Neither of us were terrible people, but a shared dark sense of humour, mixed in with a false sense of superiority (which probably masked an inferiority complex or something) meant that we didn’t always, or even usually bring out the best in one another.
The best thing about these types of friendships is that they are not socially acceptable. You are completely free with this type of person to speak all the terribly unfiltered thoughts and feelings that you have, about yourselves, about others and about situations which are probably totally reasonable, however didn’t work out in your favour. This in itself isn't bad, we all need friends like this, however.....
This type of friend isn’t usually one to help you see things more clearly or calm you down. She will validate you at all costs and you will return the favour. You turn a blind eye to each others faults and add fuel to indignant fires wherever possible! You spend hours talking each other up, or maybe talking others down. Usually both.
It’s not all bad, you are a team and together you are invincible! She’s the first person you want to talk to when you are in crisis, have a bad day or someone merely ticks you off. You feel instantly happier once you have vented to her and been reassured that you are right and the world is wrong.
You may or may not speak in secret codes, but you certainly do speak in looks. One look and you both know exactly which person you are laughing at, judging, checking out or admiring. You laugh with this person a lot, and find it a relief that you can be your true self with her. There is an exclusivity to your friendship that seems almost sacred. You can’t imagine how you would ever cope without her in your life!
None of this is terrible. We all need someone in our corner to back us up, even when we are wrong. We all need someone to tell us that life is unfair and it sux before we are ready to suck it up and move forward. We all need someone who doesn’t judge us even at our weakest darkest moments. The problem with this particular friendship is that there isn’t much room for growth.
It can be the kind of friendship that allows, encourages and even enables us to stay stuck in negative patterns. While it IS the kind of friendship that loves you at your worst, it isn’t always the same kind that encourages you to be your best. It can be the kind that protects you from personal responsibility, change or positivity.
It’s been true in my experiences of these friendships that they don’t last the distance, because people do grow and change, and when that happens the friendship can’t survive it. They feel like they will be never ending when you are in them, but as soon as the cracks start to show, almost always because suddenly and unexpectedly, you don't agree on a core issue; you instinctively know that the sh*t is about to hit the proverbial fan and you better run for cover!
The best thing about this friendship was that you never judged each other… right? There was no time for that, you were busy judging everyone else! Unfortunately that also means you have an intrinsic knowledge of exactly how the other person thinks and the harsh judgments they are suddenly going to cast over you. Almost as a defense mechanism, you also view them in the harshest light possible and it becomes a slugging match.
Revealing the worst of yourself makes you particularly exposed and vulnerable. You have exposed your weakest spots, your weakest self to this person, and now they know exactly where to hit you. And hit you they will. It will hurt like hell, and you will give as good as you get.
That’s probably the worst part of it all. When it is all said and done, you feel terrible. About the person you were with her, about your true self, and about the vulgar way you just destroyed the person you loved more than anyone in the world. At first you’ll be angry. It’ll last a fair while. How dare she judge you when she is equally as awful as you are? Moreso even!!! You blame her for bringing out the worst in you and being a bad influence, to protect the fragile image of yourself. Slowly over time the hurt and anger fades. Eventually you forgive her, but forgiving yourself isn’t as easy. She’ll probably never forgive you. That’s what hurts the most.
Remember we all have a weak side to our personality. We all have dark thoughts, judge people however unfairly and occasionally laugh at things that aren’t really funny. Don’t let it define you, or your friend. You were good people essentially, you just forgot to encourage each other to be better.
If you have a friendship a bit like this, treasure it, but try to add some balance and perspective to it before it's too late. Accept each other at your worst, but always encourage each other to be your best. It really is as simple as that. If you can encourage each other to be the best people you can be, while accepting the worst parts of yourselves, you probably have yourself a winning combination. You don't have to agree all the time, validate feelings, establish facts. Be gentle and kind and remind one another that while you love her at her worst, you want to see her at her best.
To all my friends who didn’t bring out the best in me…. I forgive you. I know we are both better than what became of us. I hope you can forgive me one day too. I really feel I learned something from this and we were halfway there. That counts for something!
Your Best Friend ForNever