Sometimes loving yourself means ending a relationship.
I recently broke up with my best friend of 12 years.
While I’d like to say she was a mean-spirited person who slept with my boyfriend and spread vicious rumours about me, she wasn’t. She was quite the opposite, in fact.
Said friend, who I’ll call Jan, was one of the most loyal people I’d ever met. If I was feeling down in the dumps, she’d be the first to lend an ear. If I was short on cash, she’d wouldn’t hesitate to shout me a coffee. On paper, she was the best friend a person could ever ask for. However, exterior motives can be deceiving.
The problem was, Jan’s seemingly selfless acts of kindness almost always turned out to be for manipulative purposes. Sure, she’d lend me a few bucks and console me when I was upset, but she’d also never let me forget it, often holding it over my head when she saw it convenient.
“I’ve done this for you and I’ve done that for you,” was the phrase she’d pull out every time I wasn’t available when she needed to unload on me.
Up and down more times than a rollercoaster, her unloading took place nearly every day. It was exhausting. So much so that I’d often guiltily let the phone ring out when she’d call. I didn’t have the emotional capacity to be a sounding board 24/7, but it was something she could never quite comprehend. Jan’s constant need for comfort and support began to surpass my own needs.
Psychologist Suzanne Anne Smith calls this persistent neediness a relationship equality imbalance.
“If over time you notice that the balance between giving and receiving leans heavily toward you giving, and your friendship rarely focuses on your needs, it’s time to have a talk,” Smith told Psychology Today.
“If after making it clear that you want a more equal relationship it is obvious that you have become a permanent caretaker to your ‘friend,’ you can either charge professional fees or gracefully move on.”
For me, the final straw came when we decided to rent an apartment together. I had a gut feeling Jan would be difficult to live with due to her emotional instability, however she sold the idea to me like a salesman selling candy to a kid. It’d save us both money. We could carpool. It’d be like an endless BFF slumber party… So sign the lease I did.
The Mamamia Out Loud team discuss the best friend debate. Post continues after audio…
While sharing a home, it became apparent just how needy and insecure Jan was. More often than not, I stood accused of being inconsiderate and insensitive for things such as not extending a brunch invite, failing to be talkative enough when we were watching TV together, or closing my bedroom door (I kid you not). She also started to take aim at my confidence, often telling me I needed to work on myself or that I was losing my personality. It was as if she took pleasure in making my life as miserable as I could only assume hers was.