This morning, I’m listening to a great video by narcissistic behavior guru Dr. Ramani. She is one of several experts on narcissism that I follow on YouTube. She’s wise, insightful, and helpful, although I probably watch videos by fellow expert Dr. Les Carter more often.
Today, the video I stumbled across is on the topic of regret. I’m writing about it now, because I happened to be talking about this very same topic with Bill before I found Dr. Ramani’s video. Bill and I have both had our fill of interactions with narcissists. And we have both experienced regret in the wake of them.
In this video, Dr. Ramani says “Narcissistic relationships waste time.” And they do. In my case, one of the most damaging relationships of my lifetime lasted about 33 years. I have countless memories of my time with this person. I grew up with her. The friendship probably died before we graduated high school. If it didn’t die in high school, it was definitely in its death throes when we were in college. But I still hung on to it for years, even though I knew that it was a ghost of the “friendship” we’d once had.
I repeatedly resisted the healthy side of me telling me to break off my ties with her for good. Why? Because we’d known each other for so long. I’d invested a lot in the relationship. I didn’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I hoped that one day, we could be friends again, more like we were when we were kids.
Then one day, it became painfully clear that she wasn’t my friend and hadn’t been for many years. It became obvious that she saw me as a source of supply and a possession… just one more soul on her Facebook friends list count. She wasn’t interested in being friends with me. She just wanted me for the “likes”. How did I discover this? Well, as it so often happens in my life, it was completely by surprise.
In the fall of 2013, I was sitting in my house in Texas when I got an email from a woman who used to sit next to me in the church I grew up attending. Like my former friend, she had known me since I was eight years old. Her husband was in the choir. My dad was in the choir. Her husband and my dad were both graduates of Virginia Military Institute, so they were like “brothers”. My mom was a church organist at another church, and my three sisters were pretty much grown and out of the house. So there I was, eight years old, with no one to sit with in the forced church services every week. And there she was, a middle aged woman whose children were either grown or in boarding school (she and her husband are wealthy). I spent years sitting through church services with her while her husband and my dad sang in the choir. She was my “special friend”, who even took me for summer outings every year.
Anyway in 2013, this lady, then about 80 years old, had known that my ex friend and I had been “besties” as kids. My ex friend was also the maid of honor at my wedding, which church buddy had also attended. So she probably figured I’d known that ex friend had a baby, and had been attending my former church. She’d had her baby baptized there, and apparently forgot that I was raised in that church and still knew people there.
Church friend wrote to me about the blessed event, probably expecting me to already know about it; but it really was news to me. The revelation that my former friend had kept the news of her pregnancy from me put me in a delicate position, since it didn’t seem appropriate to explain to this elderly lady that apparently my “bestie” and I not only weren’t “best friends” anymore, we weren’t even mere acquaintances. And it was she who had made it abundantly clear that we were no longer “friends” with this bombshell news about my ex friend’s baby’s baptism at the church I had attended as a child.
I think what I ended up doing was telling church friend that I hadn’t known about the baby, since ex friend and I were no longer friends. I didn’t elaborate as to why. I later heard that the church lady asked my mom what happened and my mom couldn’t tell her. When she sent more news to me about ex friend, I reiterated to her that the friendship was over, and I think she finally got the message. It was very awkward, though.
After I got that first email about my ex friend’s shady business, I went looking on her Facebook profile. We were still “friends”, but I had noticed some time earlier that I couldn’t tag her in a photo a mutual friend had shared. I didn’t think much of it at the time, because frankly, we hadn’t been chatting much anyway and I had unfollowed her so her posts didn’t show up in my feed. But after I got the news about the baby, I realized that all of her Facebook posts were public and none were about her baby. It was then that I realized she’d put me on her restricted list, which allowed her to see my page, but restricted what I could see on hers to her infrequent public posts.
She did this, even though we’d known each other since we were eight years old and I have actually met members of her family who are long dead– people like her father, her grandparents, and her great grandmother– most of whom have been gone for decades. I doubt anyone else she knows has ever met these people personally unless they are family members. I would have had a lot more respect for her if she’d just unfriended me, or even blocked me. But no… I was “restricted”, so she could keep tabs on what I was doing and still count me as a “friend”.
Naturally, I was hurt, because there was a time when I genuinely thought we were “best friends”. In fact, she was the one who had first declared us “best friends”, way back in the early 1980s. Honestly, even though we were not as close as we once were years ago, if I had known she was expecting a baby, I would have wished her well. But I have feeling that she didn’t want me to know about her baby because she was afraid I’d somehow steal her thunder. I got married before she did and remember that she’d made a lot of mean-spirited, passive aggressive digs toward Bill and me. I think it upset her that I beat her to the altar. I think she was afraid that if I knew she was pregnant, I’d go out and get pregnant too, or something. She is a competitive person who tends to get jealous and insecure about some things.
I went and talked to Bill and it, and he said, “Well… you know, at our wedding rehearsal, she did and said some inappropriate things.”
Then he proceeded to tell me about how she’d basically hit on him while standing in for me at the rehearsal. She looked at him seductively as she reassured him and told him to relax and pretend she was me. After the rehearsal of the vows was finished, she batted her eyes at him and whispered, “Don’t forget your vows, Bill.”
Bill, being a good guy and knowing that she was my long term “best friend”, figured he’d misinterpreted her behavior. He never mentioned it to me. If he had, I think I would have asked her to leave. Because that behavior on the day before my wedding was extremely disrespectful. I know that if I had done that at her wedding, she would have been furious and there would have been ballistic outrage.
After hearing about her shitty behavior at our rehearsal ten years after our wedding and then discovering that she had me “restricted” on Facebook, so she could see my posts, but I couldn’t see hers, I realized that she was most definitely NOT a friend. I was just something to be used… for narcissistic supply, moral support, adoration, or whatever. It was all on her terms. So, although I really wanted to tell her off, I decided the best thing to do was block her on social media and say nothing. And that’s what I did.
About a year later, I got an unexpected message from her ex boyfriend from our high school years, a guy I hadn’t talked to in well over twenty years. He had a book that I had lent my ex friend, back when we were teenagers (also when they dated, although I think they both carry a torch for each other). He wanted to know how to return it to me. It had been well over twenty years and I had already replaced the book, so I told him to keep it.
I’m sure she put him up to messaging me. There’s no reason he would have otherwise. We weren’t close when we used to know each other. I think she wondered if I’d dish to him. I kept it polite and non-committal because I expected he’d return and report to her. This is what’s known as “Hoovering”. Just like the vacuum cleaner, it’s an attempt to suck someone back into a relationship. Narcissistic people never really let anyone go completely. One way to tell that someone you had dealings with is narcissistic is that they “Hoover”. I suspect that her ex boyfriend was unwittingly serving as a “flying monkey”… doing dirty work on her behalf.
Several more years passed. Then, in February of this year, I got an unexpected private message from my former friend’s brother. Again– while we were Facebook friends at one time, I hadn’t spoken to him in years and he wasn’t active on Facebook, so I unfriended him. Out of the blue, I got this message, supposedly from him, with an update on ex friend’s life, including news about the daughter she never told me about. I was tempted to respond to that effect– that I hadn’t even known she’d been pregnant, so I figure we aren’t friends anymore. But I’ve learned that the best thing to do is not respond. No contact is essential.
Moreover, I had a feeling that it might have actually been her sending the message. Maybe she got access to his account and sent me the message because I didn’t have him blocked (I did have her blocked at that time). Either way, I was certain that even if it was a message from her brother– not a bad guy, by the way– she put him up to it. And it had NOTHING to do with her wanting to be friends with me. I was just a possession to her. She was just looking for supply. It didn’t need to come from me. It could have come from anyone. She hasn’t changed. Narcissists never do.
I wrote the below passage in a blog post I wrote back in 2013. I sure called it, didn’t I?
“Something tells me she will eventually pop up on Facebook again or send me an email to tell me about her baby or whatever other news she feels compelled to share. Or she’ll want to take advantage of my super long memory or knowledge and she’ll contact me for that reason. I’ve watched her do it to other people over and over again.”
But… I would be lying if I said I didn’t regret the loss of the “friendship”, or at least the illusion of the friendship. The truth is, we had many good times together. We spent many days and nights together playing. We went on trips together– shared books, movies, music, and many Saturday mornings playing with our Barbies together. And, at least until we got to high school, we genuinely liked each other, and it felt like a real friendship, even if people close to me didn’t like her and repeatedly warned me about her self-centered behavior.
But then it started to become clear that she just wanted me around to make herself feel better. There was no reciprocity in our relationship. I was doing most of the work to keep the relationship going, and many times, after talking to her or messaging with her, I was left feeling really angry and upset. She has a way of making cutting remarks that are intended to make the other person feel small. She never misses the opportunity. I also noticed that she wasn’t interested in my successes or triumphs. She only liked to see my failures, vulnerabilities, and heartbreaks. And not because she wanted to offer support.
In fact, I noticed that a lot of her friends were people I wouldn’t necessarily put as her “equals”. Most of them were people who had significant problems of some sort– obvious ones. I suspect it made her feel better to have people around who were worse off than she perceived herself. I came to that conclusion because I noticed that she became distant whenever I had successes. She didn’t want to hear about my triumphs, like a real friend would. She only wanted to hear about the bad stuff or, if she was in the mood, to have someone to gossip with and/or badmouth others to. I noticed she generally had shitty things to say about people we grew up with… she accused one woman who was in a happy marriage of being a “Stepford Wife”. She accused another woman who looked youthful for our age as having had cosmetic surgery. She was gleeful as she told me about another “friend” who had gained a lot of weight and seemed to be gaining more. It was just toxic and mean, especially since she claimed to be friends with some of them. I realized that she was probably saying the same nasty shit to people about me, too.
Personally, I like it when my friends succeed. I especially like it when Bill succeeds. I don’t feel jealous or slighted when he does well at work, nor am I jealous of my friends who are doing well. I like to be around people who are successful. I try to learn from them.
Yes, I have regrets. I’m sorry I wasted so many years with someone who didn’t value me or my friendship. I’m sorry that I wasted time with someone who kept me from making friends with people who were real friends. I’m sorry that I willingly subjected myself to years of her toxic crap. I’m sorry that she was my maid of honor and that she’s in my wedding pictures. I’m sorry that I put Bill in the position of having to wonder how to handle her inappropriate behavior at our wedding rehearsal. I regret that so many childhood memories involve my times with her, instead of times with other people who might be real friends with me today. I regret that her treatment made me a worse friend to other people. I really regret ever comparing myself to her and thinking that I wasn’t as “good” as she was, simply because of the things she said and did to try to make me feel that way. And I’m sorry that my experiences with her make it hard for me to trust people and make new friends.
But I don’t regret learning the truth about her before it was too late. I have the rest of my life to make real friends, and I’d rather be alone than be “friends” with fake people, anyway. Life is short, and it’s often not a lot of fun. However, it’s always better when it’s not spent wasting time with people who just want to bring you down and watch the world burn. I may regret decisions from the past, but I still have a great future to look forward to… if I survive this pandemic, anyway.