I’ve ended an engagement, lost jobs, dealt with the death of a parent, and endured other losses that are simply part of being a human being. I grieved these things when they happened, and to some extent still grieve today. In spite of this lingering grief, I can say that the holes left by these events have been mostly filled in by time, happy life events, and good memories.

There is one loss though, that still eats at me, and probably left me more devastated than all of the others. This is the loss of my best friend. No, she didn’t die. She didn’t move far away, nor did she cut off our friendship. I did that. Most losses happen because people leave or are taken away. Sometimes that’s not what happens at all. Instead, we lose people because they are revealed to us, and the revelation is a punch in the gut. This is what happened when I realized my best friend was never really a friend at all. Looking back, here are some insights that I have.

Theresa (not her real name) and I met at a party. I was doing what introverts do at these events, playing with the hosts dogs in the kitchen, and nursing a beer. She walked through and immediately noticed my t-shirt. It was a concert tee that I had bought while following my favorite band, Widespread Panic, all over the United States. We got into a great conversation about jam bands. She told me her parents were Deadheads before she was born. I told her all about myself, and how following Widespread Panic made me feel like part of a community. Opening up to a complete stranger was completely foreign to me, especially at a party. She took my number and said we should hang out at an upcoming music festival. “This is it I thought.”, she won’t actually want to hang around.

She Was a Great Listener And a Friend to all

But she did! We went to the festival and had a great time. I learned more about her life story, and we just seemed to have so much in common. Here’s what I now realize looking back. Theresa always had something in common with everybody. There wasn’t a social language she couldn’t speak, or a person that she couldn’t identify with. When I started to realize who she was, something struck me. This wasn’t a natural ability to relate to other people. This was a carefully honed skill that resulted in her ability to gain emotional access to anybody. Being a people person is one thing, but forming instant bonds is a red flag.

She Always Had a Crisis

We’ve all come to friends with problems and received a response along the lines of, “Hey, I have a problem too.” That’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes it gives you some needed perspective. It can also be nice to have someone to commiserate with. Then, there are also times when a friend’s problems really are more pressing than your own. That was the case with Theresa. At least that’s what I thought. The red flag that I missed was that when people do this all of the time, it can be a sign of narcissism. With my former friend, it was definitely all of the time. As a result, I felt unsupported and emotionally drained the more time I spent with her. When I tried to ask for more support, she would become weepy and berate herself. Then, I would focus on reassuring her. This was, of course, the reaction she wanted. It made her the focus once again. Looking back, I remember that she lost two jobs over the course of our friendship. Both times it was because of her inability to grasp the concept of teamwork and work well with others.  I think she just didn’t have the ability to consider others within her.

She Could Never be Happy For me

I wish I could say that things were better when I had cause to celebrate, but the truth is they weren’t. Every bit of good news I had was met with some subtle, undermining comment. Even when I got engaged, rather than expressing happiness for me and my fiance, she took my hand and said: “I know you’re in love, but you have to understand that long distance relationships are always doomed.”

Walking Away

There was no major betrayal that led to the end of our friendship. In fact, there wasn’t even a confrontation where I called our relationship off. I simply stopped responding to her calls and texts. I considered inviting her out for a final lunch to tell her why I was cutting her off, but I never did. I also composed, then deleted many emails pouring out my feelings. Ultimately, I decided that whatever I had to say or how I felt truly didn’t matter to her.

Written by Diana Beyer