I honestly believe that there is nothing better in life than girlfriends. That is not to say that I do not love spending time with my husband nor cherish the time I have with my children, but there is something special having girlfriend time! The time I spend on a girl’s weekend, for example, is a time where we can laugh, drink wine, be carefree and a tad wild. We, quite simply, can let our hair down and relax. It is a time where we share our hopes and fears, our happiness and losses, knowing that we will be nurtured, pampered and listened to.

So, when I came to the not-so-easy decision to end a friendship after almost 20 years I was surprised to see how toxic that friendship was. Not so different from being a victim of emotional abuse in a marriage I was completely numbed by the abuse and I never saw the signs until I was out of it! 

She was a very generous person who enjoyed giving gifts to people. She was always there when a tragedy happened like the death of both my parents. Plus, she could have a really great sense of humor! But, at the same time I was:

  1. Discounted and criticized - No matter what I did or suggested I was always out voted. I am naturally a ‘go-with-the-flow’ type of person and just went with it and felt it was never a big deal.
  2. Dominated, controlled and shamed - When we would go out she always suggested I wear her clothes and jewelry. She would always redo my hair. I took this as she had more style and better clothes than me. I became very self-conscious about my hair and, at the time, I was happy she helped me.  
  3. Accused and blamed and she never saw her weaknesses - Unbelievably I  took her accusations, name calling and yelling. My husband would be livid and want to intervene and I always defended her. 
  4. Co-dependent - She always declared she wanted the best for me and, deep down, I know she did but I became dependent on her approval. I started to have serious doubts of my abilities as a person and as a professional.

When I finally said enough was enough I started to ‘feel’ the effects of the relationship. I could not sleep, would wake up with nightmares fearing her hatred. How did I get this way? And for so long?

Read this next: Do You Remember Those Days When You Had Only One Best Friend?

Ending a friendship, a best friend no less, is like a divorce. It took an act on her part that I could not forgive her for that finally made me make this very hard decision. I had to say goodbye to her husband, which I also considered to be a dear friend, and to all of her friends that I was quite fond of. I contacted each of them and understood that they had to take sides. Some found it so unbelievable that they felt we would ‘kiss and make up’ at some point. Other’s truly mourned for us.

As hard as it was, it taught me some valuable lessons:

  1. If you do not like yourself in any relationship then you need to leave.
  2. No matter how old you are and how confident you feel, it can happen to you.
  3. One of her first statements to me was, “I can be a real bitch.” I learned to listen how girlfriend’s describe themselves. After all they know themselves the best!
  4. See how your friends treat and talk about their other friends. Chances are they are doing the same to you.
  5. Life is too short to not enjoy every moment. Fill it with people who bring you up, not down.

Girlfriends are very important to have but not at the sacrifice of yourself. The relationship needs to be balanced with mutual respect and equal power. Remember what having a girlfriend is all about. They will like you for who you are, will never judge you, will always listen and support you, be there for you when you need them and, most importantly, they will make you laugh.  

I think I will go now and give one of my friends a call!

 

Audrey van Petegem is an independent blogger that has been published on a variety of online magazine and blogs such as, Huffington Post, BlogHer, Elephant Journal and Midlife Boulevard. She describes herself as a book reviewer, midlifer and ponderer. As a baby boomer, she will be the first to tell you the good, the bad and the ugly about this stage of life. Follow her on Twitter @Audreyvp.