Posted by fxckfeelings on March 4, 2013Share This Post
I don’t know who wrote the book of love, but it appears to lack a solid ending; it may lead you through the rules of finding and loving someone, but it’s useless when it comes to telling you how to break up a bad relationship, or even friendship, with someone you simply can’t stop thinking about. While it has been written that you can’t control love, there should at least be an appendix directing you to respect how much toughness love takes, and how much pain you’ll have to bear, in order to move on. Then you would know how to take what you’ve learned from the failed relationship to find someone and make something better, and return to chapter one.
I have recently let go of a friendship with a narcissist. She meets the standard criteria for being a narcissist and has a Bi-Polar 2 disorder confirmed by a therapist, but it seems I was the last to realize as I was so incredibly caught up in her cycle of “needing” me only to be treated appallingly in between. I am finally in a happy place in my life after a lot of work and therapy and haven’t been able to “help” her as much as I used to as I now have a fulfilling job and support network. She has lashed out at me and I had let go of the friendship, but now I am having types of flashbacks where I can finally see how badly I was treated over the years and I am so disappointed in myself that I put up with it. She has been trying to contact me but I have ignored her, as I read No Contact is best with a narcissist but part of me wants to tell her to get serious help but I know I won’t be heard. I am confused, hurt and feel like I have been living a friendship lie for over twenty years. Please help me to move on.
Though they say that madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, people who compulsively give of themselves to help others, no matter how hopeless the cause or ungrateful the recipient, tend to dodge that age-old observation and be seen less as insane and more as saints.
While you now recognize your former friend’s talent for taking without giving, you need to acknowledge your own help-aholic tendencies and how they got you into this mess in the first place. Otherwise, you might end up in a similar friendship, or worse, driven to try to get this person “serious help” one last time, and either way, it’s nuts.
After all, you still have a desperate urge to help your ex-friend in spite of knowing she won’t respond positively to any such suggestion. Remember, the desire to help is an addictive pleasure, so when you are tempted to get your ex-friend serious help, the person you’re fighting is you.
If you want to move on from a bad friendship then, don’t dwell on how angry you are at having taken so much abuse over the years; think instead of how much you intend to find better things in the future, and how much you developed your new standards from having experienced and survived abuse. That’s the way many of us learn to resist abuse and seek something better—from surviving bad experiences and gathering wisdom along with our scars.
Another thing to learn from this is that you tend to blame yourself, which requires you to give more. Instead of criticizing yourself for putting up with a taker, you should be proud of being a nurturing person who is learning how to put limits on what you give. Self-blame is what helped an exploitative narcissist take advantage of you—because you believe you’re in the wrong to begin with. If you truly want to move on, you have to move away from this kind of thinking.
Finally, realize that you tend to tell yourself you’re helpless and confused when you’re not, which undermines your confidence. You’ve straightened out your head and followed what you believe to be the truth after over-compromising for 20 years. Instead of complimenting yourself on growth and insight, you assume your sad, helpless feelings mean that there’s something wrong with you. The only thing that seems wrong is your inability to respect yourself for the positive decisions you’ve made in deciding to end the friendship.
Learning to trust your own standards for friendship and dropping friends that don’t measure up is a great accomplishment, and just because it hurts to let go of her and hard to bear your usual guilt, doubt and self-criticism doesn’t mean you’re not doing a great job. There’s probably no way to escape those feelings, but you certainly know better than to let them control your actions or judgment.
Review your moral reasons for doing what you’ve done, acknowledge both your own shortcomings and achievements, and tell the part of you that craves a helping high that you’re sticking to the less thrilling pursuit of helping yourself.
“I can’t think of my ex-friend without feeling waves of doubt and self-criticism, but that’s just the way my personality works. I’m proud those feelings no longer control my actions.”
I’ve pretty well gotten over my old girlfriend but I still have trouble handling her when she calls. I used to be crazy about her and we dated for a year, which was the longest she’d dated anyone because she has a problem with commitment. Now it’s two years later, and I no longer feel ripped apart when she calls, which she does as a matter of routine whenever she’s broken up with someone else. I keep my cool, we have a nice talk, and if she suggests we get together I make up an excuse about why I’m not available, which is easy to do because I’m pretty busy. What bothers me is that those talks really get me down, so my goal is to not feel so bad at this stage of the game, after I’ve done a good job of getting over her in general.
Getting over someone is less a matter of ceasing to care about them and more a matter of doing the right thing about them, given what you know about the consequences of having a conversation and spending time. Sometimes, as in the case of the first writer, it feels wrong not to help someone who carries a psychiatric diagnosis, even if that diagnosis implies that that person is an Asshole. In your case, it feels wrong not to have a polite conversation with someone you care about, even if that conversation opens old wounds.
Before answering the phone again, remember that your responsibility for protecting your heart from being crushed or mangled is more important than heeding a request or not disappointing someone who matters to you. You wouldn’t subject a friend to unnecessary pain, so there’s no point in doing it to yourself. And the fact that this ex keeps calling, repeatedly salting the wound she created, shows she’s not such a great friend, either.
If you feel it’s your job to get over your vulnerable feelings, you’re probably expecting too much; some old flames never die, particularly if they’re fanned by regular, though infrequent, phone calls, so don’t tell yourself you’re supposed to get over her completely. Let your heart feel what it must while doing your best to protect it from more injury.
Instead of telling your feelings to change, follow your standard policy for heart-breakers, and break contact. You’ve made great progress in protecting yourself and fighting the temptation to see your old flame, so take it up another notch and let your phone answer itself.
It’s not that you’re trying to punish her; it’s more that you’re trying to make your time and energy available for finding someone better who, at minimum, can commit. If any punishment’s involved, it’s stopping her ability to punish you. You might think you’ve done a good job of getting over her, but you need to work less on convincing yourself of that and more on actually gritting your teeth, cutting contact, and moving on.
“I can’t stop feeling a deep interest in what happens to my old girlfriend and she’ll never stop feeling like family, but I know what talking to her does to me and I can’t change the way I feel. My job now is to learn from our relationship and find something better next time.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname