Toxic Ex-Friend called me... HELP

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-07-2002
Toxic Ex-Friend called me... HELP
13
Mon, 12-17-2012 - 5:24am

If I get into too much detail, this will be way too long, and it’s going to be long enough as it is, but here goes…

A few years ago, I made friends with my husband’s friend’s wife.  For a while we had a lot of fun and adventure, the four of us, but things got toxic between her and me.  She is a very intense narcissist, and by the time we stopped speaking to each other, she messed me up quite a bit emotionally.  I spent two years moving on, finding myself, trying to become the person I was before, only better.  Everyone I know has told me how different I am now (in a good way), and it feels great. 

For a while I felt like I could finally move on with my life.

Then in October, she sent me a long message, not actually apologizing for anything but trying to make it sound like she was.  I didn’t respond to her, but I read and re-read the message, wondering if I should write back to tell her I was done and didn’t want to speak with her again, if I should try to make nice with her, etc.  I decided it was better if I just ignored it.

Last night, she called me.  Thankfully, I was in the shower and it went to voicemail.  She left a message saying she was wondering how my husband and I are doing, and to call her back if I want. 

I could handle the written message.  I know her well enough to know that she hasn’t changed, no matter how adamantly she insists she has been doing some soul-searching.  I’m not proud to admit this, but I’ve quietly kept tabs on her since we stopped speaking, and she’s exactly the same as she used to be.  If it had been left to that, I could have spent the rest of my life looking back with some fond memories and some horrible nightmare memories and been just fine.  That voicemail, though, is making it hard on me.  She sounded almost pathetic and insecure, which is NOT like her. 

I know I can’t handle being close friends with her again.  I know I can’t be “at-a-distance” friends with her, because I know it would grow back into that toxic close friendship.  I just can’t shake the feeling that if I just ignore her altogether, it makes me some sort of bad guy.  I worry more that if I respond in any way, we will somehow become friends again and I’ll have to go through the constant criticism and the unwanted competition and all the stuff that messed with my head the first time around.

As I said earlier, if I went into detail, this would be novel-length.

I think he reason it’s SO hard is because I feel sad for my husband and her husband as they no longer speak to each other either.  They were friends before she and I ever met, and they were good for each other.  I hate that it’s because of their feuding wives they no longer have that friendship.  I keep thinking that if I wrote to her (no way I could call and talk), and explained that while I don’t want to see her again, maybe our husbands could be friends on neutral ground, keeping us wives out of it?  I shudder to think of how she could respond to that, but I love my husband and hate that he does not have a good friend anymore because of me. 

I could really use some advice on this.  What should I do?  Should I write to her?

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iVillage Member
Registered: 10-14-2003
Mon, 12-17-2012 - 11:19am

You claim that your ex-friend is a narcissist and I know that the term and diagnosis is flung around a lot when it is a bonafide psychiatric diagnosis, but there are some traits that are quite outstanding when dealing with a narcissist.  One of them is the constant boundary violations and treating/viewing people as incomplete beings.  Or, rather, more like extensions of themselves.  Like bit part characters in a stage play - or a biopic of their life/as THEIR world turns/life according and ALL about them/etc.  You, as in the complete and intricate human being and soul that you are, is quite an abstract notion to them.  You are as one dimensional as they perceive you.  As they perceive themselves.....

I've done some reading up on this because NPD has affected my childhood as I grew up with an NPD and Histrionic parent and now sibling.  Basically, one of my parents should have been a Hollywood actor.  A pitiful and pathetic antagonist, to be precise. 

Anyhow, one of the signs of a narcissist is the complete breakdown of self when their self-worth supply; that being people in their lives that they leach their self-worth from by belittling and abusing them, leave them.  They lose their vampiric supply.  Narcissists do feel pain, unlike psychopaths (who really only have anger).  They are far more sensitive because where we have our own self worth and produce it internally, they do not.  The "personality disorder" is permanent, unlike mood disorders.  So it is a constant and, no, not even with age, will it go away.  It may mellow out, but it won't go away.  In my family member's cases, it is (and was) tamed by age and loss of beauty.  Even still, the mind games persisted (and persist) so you have to create a barrier or space between you and the narcissist as it will do the same thing again and again if permitted.  Also, constantly re-establishing healthy boundaries is exhausting. 

So, based on my personal experiences, no, I do not believe you should return the call.  If you absolutely must respond, then I would leave a VM or an email and say something like "Dear XXX, I wanted to take the time to respond to you to acknowledge your call and email.  Your correspondence/call was very much appreciated and I wanted to thank you for going out of your way to give me that message.  Thank you.  I hope you are well, and I wish you the best now and in the future.  Best Regards, XYZ".

I would not allow her back in my life.  If the husbands are not talking, I think that's actually healthy for all of you.  I would NOT jeopardize my wellbeing for the sake of anothers' friendship, nor do I think you should.  I also don't believe that their friendship should be contingent upon you two making up.  That's not how it works.  They are independent human beings and are quite capable of managing their own social scene.  It sounds like you were quite traumatized by your experiences with this woman.  I think it is not healthy and it's unfair to think you should give it a second chance.  Once someone shows you who they are - believe them.  Second chances are not automatic.  Your obligation is to protect yourself, and I would not rule out meddling in your relationship on her part, so look out.  For instance,  my narcissistic sibling tried to create havoc in my relationship with another sibling when we had a falling out.  It was actually pathetic to witness - and SO blatant.  So be careful.  And keep her (anf her DH, to be honest, at arms' length to your relationship).

Having dealt with NPDs, I would not deal with them if they were not family.  Even then, the boundary is pretty extensive and the space in between literally hundreds of kilometers wide.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-16-2002
Mon, 12-17-2012 - 2:18pm

You have invested a lot of time getting yourself back on track after this friendship, at this point, I don't see the advantage of getting back in touch with her.  She may have changed, but only until you get close enough and start to care about her will you really know if she has.  As for your husband and his friend, they are two individuals who should decide whether or not to continue their relationship, there is nothing stopping them from getting together without their wives (is there)?  Let this sleeping dog lie, unless you want it to sink its teeth into you again.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

.  -Albert Einstein

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-29-2002
Mon, 12-17-2012 - 4:57pm

You need to delete and continue deleting any contact she makes with you. 

It is important to keep in mind the toxicity that came along with the friendship.  It may not make her happy, or you comfortable when you are confronted with her efforts.  But you need to remember the greater cause, and that is not continue the toxic patterns.

It is a shame your DH lost a friend because of what happened.  But unfortunately, that is what happens sometimes in these sort of situations.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 02-14-2004
Tue, 12-18-2012 - 10:21am

Stop feeling guilty.  You met a toxic person, had some fun times, but then her toxicity took over and SHE ruined things.  You said a couple things that made me stop and think...first you said your husband didn't have a friend any more because of feuding wives.  If she is the kind of person you say she is, it wasn't "feuding wives".  It was a wife with serious problems and another wife who said "no thanks, I've had enough" and moved on.  That's not feuding...that's healthy. 

You also said you feel sad your husband doesn't have his friend any more and blamed it on yourself.  Again, it's not what YOU did...it's who SHE is.  Does your husband badmouth you for ending your relationship with the other wife?  If so, then he's wrong.  It isn't your fault he doesn't have a relationship with his friend any more...he's had "a few years" to get back with his friend if that's what he wanted.  It's not like 2 guys have to include their wives in their friendship.  The two of them can have "boys nights out" now and then if they really wanted them.  So, how much is this about you feeling guilty and wanting something for him that he really isn't all that interested in pursuing for himself?  He's a big boy, let him deal with his own friendships and stop feeling responsible for his social life.

NO!  No!  NO!  Don't have ANY contact with this woman.  Just receiving a phone message has your stomach all tied up in knots and that should be a wake-up call that nothing good will ever come from your having any contact with her.  And, even a note saying "I don't want to be your friend" is an opening for her to squeak back into your life.  Give up the guilt and move on.  You sound like you made a very good decision moving on in the past, so stop second-guessing yourself.  Enjoy your other friends and DON'T let this can of worms be opened again!  I repeat NOTHING good will come from having ANY contact with her.  So she sounds "pathetic"?  She sounds that way because of behavior choices she's made in her life.  Maybe having to live with your not allowing her back in her life will open her eyes a little to HER being responsible for feeling pathetic!  And, no, I'm not saying to let her back into your life if she changes in the future...that ship has sailed and sunk!  IGNORE HER message and move on!  You sound like a decent person and you don't deserve to be dragged back into her mess!

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-14-2003
Tue, 12-18-2012 - 10:42am

Excellent comment, Sadie.  I agree that any contact is not a good idea.  But if she has to (I don't think she does "have to" personally) then it needs to be open (i.e. thank you) and shut (i.e. good luck with your life, we won't be speaking again).  The problem with NPDs is that even a supposed polite rejection can be met with intense RAGE at the rejection.  It can actually get dangeous if the NPD is violent and/or vindictive.  IMO it's better to say nothing than to say something.  They're both rejections, but the cold and polite rejection is intentional and going out of one's way.  That, IMO, has the potential to be taken much worse than no contact.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-30-2009
Tue, 12-18-2012 - 6:09pm

I agree with both sillysadie and paradigmshifter – good posts from both.

There is nothing “bad” about looking after your own well-being and wanting nothing to do with this toxic woman.  I agree you should NOT respond to her.  Even a brief email would be taken as encouragement  - “victory” - and she needs to accept that it’s over.  My experience with these types is they can be very manipulative and they are skilled at pulling you back in, so to speak.

It’s a shame that the husbands no longer speak, but often a spouse/partner just goes along with his wife/gf’s wishes to keep the peace under his own roof.

Anyway, you sound like a kind person, but don’t let her take advantage of that.  I hope you will be strong and eventually stop keeping track of her/giving her space in your brain.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-07-2002
Wed, 12-19-2012 - 1:26am

Thanks everyone for your replies! It's nice getting unbiased responses to my situation.

After a few days to think it over and hear/read some objective opinions, I will definitely NOT be writing to or calling her AT ALL.  I agree that if I even write a polite "thanks for thinking of us, leave me alone" note, it would only serve as an invitation for more contact, and most likely negative contact.  She had her chance to be a good friend, and it's over now.  

When I talked to my husband about it, he agreed that if he REALLY wanted to spend time with his friend again, he'd write him and they'd chat/go for beers/whatever guys do.  He also agreed that it would be a waste of time to reciprocate the contact my ex-friend has made. 

I hate being "mean", and ignoring her felt at first like being mean, but now I see that I need to protect myself emotionally and move forward.  I don't owe her a reply.  I'm just going to get on with my life and hope she doesn't keep trying, like someday ringing our doorbell or something to that effect.  I don't think she'd go that far, but she's used to getting her way and I don't think any of her previous ex-friends (and there are a few) has ever ignored her attempts to reconnect.  Either way, she is on permanent "ignore" in my life!

Thanks again for the support and feedback!

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-30-2009
Wed, 12-19-2012 - 2:17pm

Thestacey, I just wanted to add something I thought about after I posted.  A couple of weeks ago I was halfway listening to a talk show (Dr. Phil) and something caught my attention.  He was talking about Baiters – back-stabbers, con artists, manipulators, liars, - various toxic types.

Most people want to be nice because it’s what we were taught to do, it’s the right thing to do, the Christian thing to do, the polite thing to do.  We were taught to give people the benefit of the doubt.  But the rules have changed.  It’s okay and actually very smart not to allow toxic people into (or back into) your life.  What you think of as “being mean” is actually self-preservation and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

 

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iVillage Member
Registered: 09-17-2005
Thu, 12-20-2012 - 5:03pm

You are not obligated to be friends with or respond to anyone, for any reason. So what if she sounded pathetic and insecure? That is not your concern. It's not like you are going to restore her self esteem single-handedly just by responding or giving her another chance. That's neither realistic or your responsibility. 

If your husbands want to be friends again, they can be friends. They can hang out with each other without either of their wives around. And if that's what they want, they can initiate it. There is really NO need for their wives to arrange it for them and therefore no need for you to respond to this woman for your husband's sake.

I suggest you ignore this, let it go, and try to genuinely move on. You may have purged an unhealthy friendship from your life and become a better person for it but "keeping tabs" on her is unnecessary and honestly, a little obsessive. If you had genuinely moved on from this, you would have no interest in this woman and you wouldn't be conflicted about whether to respond to her or not.

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-12-2011
Fri, 12-21-2012 - 12:07am

I have actually had two toxic friends and I had cut them both out of my life. One of them I had not spoken to in about three years when out of the blue she called me and left a message on my answering machine saying she really needed a friend and that she had just gotten out of the mental hospital. I did call her and as it turned out she had had a mental breakdown. She has been on meds everysince and we have actually been friends since as it turned out she was bi polar. But had she not gotten mental help there was no way I could have ever been friends with her again. The other friend I sent her an email telling her why I did not want to associate with her again and that was that. I told her what my problems were with her and why I was cutting her out of my life. Because some people really don't know what they did wrong and why you no longer want to associate with them and they keep reaching out because they really would like to know what they did to  offend. In my case my friend was puzzled as to why I stopped returning her calls or answering her emails and she kept reaching out to me and it did not stop until I got it all out in the open and she knew exactly what my problem was with her. My friend was being exactly as she had always been; the difference was I was done putting up with her behavior and I failed to let her know I was done. Until I let her know there was not really any real closure and it really bothered her that she had lost her friend and didn't know why. After I got it all out in the open we both were able to move on with our lives and I felt better having gotten years of crap off my chest.

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