Am I the asshole?
mindread and know
Relationships are how I relate to others and the world around me, it’s a process to recover, and I slowly realize how happy and peaceful life can be.
Relationships improved when I:
paid attention to what was working in my life
stopped lying to myself
created space from relationships I had outgrown
grieved the loss of the life I had imagined
set a reasonable bedtime
made my bed every day
let go of FOMO
got curious and found new interests
let go of alcohol and food addictions
had really, really hard conversations
stopped accepting inconsistency
Once I had a friend who left her partner a few summers back. She left him and became a victim of her life. He had pushed her buttons, and she was triggered and scared. I didn't know what happened in their home, but the stories she shared seemed sudden and very serious. When she told me about his disruptive actions, she became a wounded child that must have a saviour and dear friend to care for her.
Immediately, my instinct to save her became the primary focus of my life. My loyalty to a person needing the perfect friend was to give her everything she required. Desperate and in pain, she drank bottles of whiskey and devoured packs of smokes. It was hard to see her struggle. She called me day and night. Depending on the day, she was elated to be free or on the verge of killing herself.
Her extreme rollercoaster emotions were the exact recipe I had baked into the cake of my brain. All the moves to protect her with undying loyalty were indeed about protecting myself from her. This role of saving herself was impossible, an unattainable goal. So, as a well-raised child of a borderline mother, I perfected being perfect and rescue-ready with many solutions for every one of her problems.
That year I enrolled in a costly positive psychology program. Being a good student was essential, but I was running into a problematic state with many of her crises to manage.
No one had any idea about my addiction to chaotic solutions when I decided to call it a social experiment and host a potluck pool party every Sunday.
My goal was to keep her happy, give her something to look forward to, make sure she didn't die and be the best friend anyone could ever want. I even evicted a tenant and invited her to move her work into my commercial building so I could keep a closer eye on her. She often interrupted my work day to ask for support and a hug to help her through her challenges. For my final paper, I diligently wrote about the importance of positive connection and community.
I was exhausted and became strained because even my own teenage children required less of me.
One day she entered the office in a terrible mood. I was supposed to know what had set her off, but something about this time was unpredictable. It was winter, with an overnight ice storm and no snow tires; she couldn't park her car in the tenant's parking because, according to her, I was a negligent landlord who hadn't considered all these things. I was responsible for ruining her day and reimbursing the $5 she had to pay for public parking.
I lost my shit, yelled, called her an asshole and became the abusive monster she had always suspected I had been.
It was clear to me the relationship couldn't grow. After apologizing for inappropriately raising my voice, stepping away was the only option at that time. Going no contact was a gut-wrenching decision to make. As it happened, that person was not capable of knowing the gifts in our friendship and chose to ruin the remembrance for all of it. But I couldn't deny the drastic difference between my REAL feelings and the rich connection to the joyous life I wanted. It took a few years to uncover the repeated absurdity in friendships and my family of origin. It is so freeing - I feel viscerally different. I have a fabulous family of choice and friends I trust. I am in relationships that are safe and steeped in reciprocity.
What relationship insights have you learned that has been a catalyst for you?
I'd love to hear in the comments section below.
love your guts,
Check-in if someone you know is suicidal. Emotional pain can feel severe, especially for people with fewer resources and support. If someone you care about is going through a hard time, especially if they've had suicidal thoughts in the past, ask them directly if they are thinking about hurting or killing themselves. You may feel uneasy bringing it up, but research shows that talking about suicide is unlikely to harm people and may benefit them. It's helpful to discuss a safety plan. Share mental health resources, like the Crisis Text Line or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
Stepping back from the friendship. Maybe addressing issues with your friend won't improve things, especially if either of you feels unsafe bringing up the problems. Or perhaps you need the relationship to take up less space to have more energy for healing unhealthy patterns and simple things like self-care and family. Ending a friendship is complex, both at the moment and moving forward.
We are constantly influenced by others. Social psychologist Dr. Vanessa K. Bohns writes in a 2016 research review examining people’s influence over others, “Many people agree to things — even things they would prefer not to do — simply to avoid the considerable discomfort of saying ‘no.’”
Another reason yes pours out? Our past. From childhood, we don't want to disappoint a friend or hurt someone's feelings, so we bend and mould ourselves to make others comfortable.