One Is Silver and the Other's Mold
Advice for women who want to break up with old friends.
Dear Friend or Foe,
In my teens and early 20s, I made friends with six women. At the time I thought they were wonderful. The problem is that I formed and maintained these friendships before I sought treatment for my relationship with my parents, both of whom have narcissistic personality disorder. I know now that I chose friends who did not support me properly.
Not one of them stood by me a few years ago, when my fiance and I ended our engagement and he kidnapped my daughter and told awful lies about me to a family court judge. They were all "too busy" or concerned that involvement in my case might bring to light some of their own indiscretions—and, in several cases, cost them their professional licenses. One was even afraid that the mutual friends she shared with my ex wouldn't be her friends anymore if she supported me—and this was my alleged "best friend!"
I've only recently begun to work through my issues with knowing what I do and don't deserve from other people. While I've maintained friendships with these women, I've begun to wonder why I kept them after the kidnapping. I'm at the point where I resent them when good things happen in their lives (promotions, landing husbands, etc.).
Now that I mentally understand that I deserve better than this, is it OK to just dump them? And before dumping, should I tell them what lousy friends they are? Also, how do I prepare myself to make all new friends when I've always believed it was our history that bound us? I have one really good friend who I know loves and supports me, but she lives three hours away.
Bad Choices in Friends
Having no degrees in any field that begin with "psych," I don't know the fine points of NPD. But, when applied to parents, I'm going to assume that the words "neglectful and generally sucky" can readily be substituted. In which case, I'm sorry about your sucky childhood and also about the horrific-sounding custody battle that took place between you and your ex. Generally speaking, it seems to me that women get too caught up with the whole idea (and mythology) of "old friends."
So what if you shared a sandbox—or a limo to the prom? As you found out these past six years, "old" doesn't necessarily mean "good." Friends are people you have fun with, who make you feel good about yourself, and who are there to cry on when you need to cry. Some date back to nursery school. Others you may have met at your kid's soccer game last weekend.
The only reason to confront your old "friends" before dumping is if it will make you feel better. That's for you to decide. The fact that you have a great friend a few hours away means you know what to look for the next time around. And there will be a next time, since the pursuit of love—like the pursuit of friendship—is a lifelong project.
Friend or Foe
Dear Friend or Foe,
"Melanie" and I have been best friends ever since we attended preschool together 20 years ago. I was there for her when she lost her father, when her family faltered because of a heinous crime committed by her brother, and, most recently, when she broke up with a long-term boyfriend who had been stealing from her. Though she can have a good heart (always offering to help people move, baby-sitting and supporting her nieces, doing nice things for her mother) she can also be cruel, cheap, and worst of all, jealous.
She almost never makes a compliment that isn't backhanded. She makes comments about my weight (she is obese, I am not) and disdains my love of reading (she's never read an entire book). She tells me I'm dorky; exaggerates stories to cast me in a negative light; makes a point of telling me when others don't like me; insults my ex-boyfriend's looks; and gets angry if I don't follow her orders.
I'm tired of picking up the tab, holding my tongue, and being dissed. At the very least, I want a break from her. Right now I'm trying to negotiate a tough break-up that I initiated and that I ideally want to work out. And I don't want her negatively influencing my decision. The problem now is that I'm intimidated by her. She knows a lot about me. And I wouldn't put it past her to resort to evil social networking tactics if I were to totally disconnect from her. She's been vengeful with others who have dumped her. What should I do?
Sick of Being Bullied
Lucinda Rosenfeld is the author of four novels, including I'm So Happy for You and The Pretty One, which will be published in early 2013.
Illustration by Jason Raish.