Eight years ago this week I broke up with my best friend of twenty-five years.
It had to be done. She had been verbally abusive and controlling when we were younger, and as we got older it became worse. This was true even though we lived on opposite sides of the country from one another.
She would always apologize after an abusive incident. There was always some very reasonable excuse why she had blown her top, and never was it anything having to do with me. She was under a lot of stress, you see. There was something going on at work, or with her family, or in her marriage. She never should have treated me like that. Nobody should ever treat another person like that.
I would forgive her. I would understand she didn’t mean it. The friendship would continue, with me slightly more hesitant every time. I gradually became a little quieter, a little more afraid of what might happen if I displeased her.
Then the day came when I realized how not okay her treatment of me was. On some level, I always felt I deserved her wrath, that I had done something warranting her anger.
I was 32 when it happened. We had been friends since we were 8. But, finally, a day came when she exploded at me and I knew I had done nothing wrong.
She had become involved in one of those MLM schemes where she had an online storefront and was selling products of dubious origin and quality. She decided that something she sold, a bottle of pills, would help with my sinus issues. She started pressuring me to buy them.
There was very little information available about what was in these pills and what they would do to the body, but I was supposed to trust her that they would help me.
Reader: I did not trust this friend and I did not buy these pills. I was unwilling to ingest an unknown substance in the name of friendship.
It’s not that I wasn’t interested, though. I requested more information. She provided marketing materials. I asked for anything about the substance and any studies that had been done to show the impacts on the body. No information was available to send me.
This went on for a while. I never said no to buying the pills; I said I wasn’t willing to buy and take something when I didn’t know what it was or what it might do to me.
Finally, one day, she had enough and she berated me, loudly and for a long time, for being a disloyal friend. I don’t remember what else she said. I remember it was over the phone and I was sitting on the couch in my living room, absolutely stunned that I was being insulted and called a disloyal friend because I was unwilling to buy pills from her.
I sobbed that night, and for several days afterward.
My boyfriend at the time held me and made me feel emotionally safe, and I am grateful. I sobbed then for all she had said to me in that phone call and all she had said and done to me for the two decades prior.
As per usual, she apologized a few days later. She was under a lot of stress, you see. There was something going on at work, or with her family, or in her marriage. She never should have treated me like that. Nobody should ever treat another person like that.
For the first time in the history of our friendship, I didn’t forgive. I set a boundary.
“Listen, friend, I know things were different between us as teenagers. I was different when we were teenagers. But we aren’t teenagers anymore. I’ll tell you this now, and I’ll only say it once: I DON’T ALLOW PEOPLE TO TREAT ME THIS WAY. I will accept your excuses this time, but this is the last time. The next time you lose your shit on me like this will be the last time we speak. Are we clear?”
We were clear, she said. She shouldn’t have done what she did. She was sorry. It would never happen again.
A year later, it happened again.
As promised, I cut her off.
That next time was the worst incident ever. She called me a fake and a phony. She told me I should be nicer to her because she defended me when people called me a slut in high school. She said she wished I had never met her children.
That’s the one that hurt the most. I loved her children.
I told her not to contact me again.
I know I was right to be done. It was the right thing to do. I’ve never doubted that.
It’s been eight years and I am still so angry with her. And yet, crazy at it may seem, I still miss the hell out of her.