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Even though this story kind of makes me look like an asshole, I’m going to share it. I doubt any of you expect me to be perfect and if I can encourage folks to not let jealousy destroy their friendships like I did, I’ll gladly take the opportunity.
The short version of the story is this: Five years ago, I lost three close friends because I was single and super jealous that they were not.
In my defense, I had just ended a four-year relationship with an abusive man. As a result, I barely knew myself, let alone my best self. Abusers have a way of stripping their targets of their self-esteem, confidence, and identity. During that season of my life, I really struggled to be the best version of myself.
Additionally, none of my friends knew the details of my abuse, making it nearly impossible for them to support me. After leaving my ex, I ignored the shame I felt by doing all I could to appear like I was healing properly. I went to yoga classes and traveled the country and changed my hairstyle — all things people do when they want to show the world they’re getting over an ex.
In actuality, however, I was far from over my ex and wouldn’t be for many years later. I pretended that the memories of his abuse weren’t crushing me, even though they totally were.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with traveling and practicing yoga, by the way. It can be good to get busy after a breakup; staying busy definitely helped when I felt tempted to contact my ex. My main problem was that I wasn’t addressing the root of my issues. I was pretending to be okay when I really wasn’t. That’s why it’s not surprising that I completely fell apart weeks after a close friend, the first of three, informed me of her engagement.
This friend got engaged a few weeks after I left my ex — just in time for Christmas. As she sent me giddy text messages detailing the proposal, the pit in my stomach grew bigger and bigger. I had worked so hard to make my relationship work and somehow it still failed. (It hadn’t yet occurred to me that maybe my relationship was supposed to fail because it sucked.) When she got engaged, I felt like such a loser. It sounds awful, but I remember being genuinely angry about it.
I can’t remember when my next close friend got engaged, but I do remember the disastrous week I spent visiting her in Boston afterward. Her desire for me to get to know her fiancé was not compatible with my ridiculous hatred for other people’s happiness. My bad attitude made that very clear, and our time together far from enjoyable.
My best self would have welcomed her future husband with open arms, but my abused self was still a large part of my identity. My abused self was a victim, demanding that my comfort come before anyone else’s. This friend wasn’t having it, and rightfully so. We grew apart soon after I left Boston.
The third friendship I screwed up was the one I shared with my best friend of 13 years. This friend became a fiancée about 24 hours after she became a mother for the first time. My insecurity could not handle her new blessings, and eventually I destroyed our bond by telling her I couldn’t be the maid of honor at her wedding. We stopped talking, and unsurprisingly, I never received a wedding invite.
These days, I take full responsibility for how each of these friendships awkwardly ended. My three friends had no idea how to be a good friend to me during my time of need, but that wasn’t their fault. Not only was I a difficult person to hang out with five years ago, but they weren’t aware of my history with abuse. What I really needed was some therapy — and to step away from the wedding magazines.
In contrast, my newly engaged friends needed people who could happily flip through wedding magazines with them — and they deserved that, too. Unfortunately, I could barely fake even a smile for them, and basically forced them to walk on eggshells around me until they just couldn’t take it anymore.
Sure, it’s normal to feel jealous of your happily married friends when you’re newly single, but I took my bitterness way too far. It was as if I wanted everyone to feel as miserable as I was. Hence, the title of this piece.
Somehow my story has a happy ending, though. Eventually I got some counseling and started attending a support group for survivors of domestic violence. Once I began healing properly, it became easier for me to be my best self. I invested in new relationships with single women who could better understand my history and current struggles. Not only was it easier to support my newly married friends from a distance, but it was the right thing to do at the time — for my sake and theirs.
Years later, Friend No. 1 is now one of my best friends. It’s nothing short of a miracle, actually. After not talking for about a year, we made up. She helped me plan my wedding last year, and I just bought her first, unborn child a cute onesie. Our friendship means the world to me, and I’ll never again take it for granted. We’ve been through too much for me to let that happen.
I haven’t really spoken with Friend No. 2 since my trip to Boston. While I miss the friendship we shared many years ago, I don’t blame either of us for not trying harder. As I write this, however, it’s difficult to not feel nostalgic. I’m not certain how she will respond, but I think a quick email might be in order. Facebook tells me she just had a baby girl, and I’d love to hear more about her, if Friend No. 2 is willing to share.
Lastly, Friend No. 3 is once again a friend. She’s not a best friend, or even a close friend, but she’s a friend. I’m very grateful for that. I never thought we could be friends again, but somehow we are. I love her just as deeply as I used to and probably always will.
Five years ago I screwed up three friendships, but more than that, I screwed up my life. Ironically, however, screwing up my life gave me exactly what I really needed.
I needed my relationship with my ex to fall apart. I needed my friends to put me in my place and not put up with my crap. And I needed the loneliness that resulted from losing those friendships because it prompted me to finally get some help.
It’s good that, even when we screw up, life can still find a way to work itself out. Somehow regrets turn into lessons learned — when we want them to.
So if any of you out there are feeling green with envy because someone else has something you don’t: I urge you to check yourself before you wreck yourself. Seriously, you will wreck yourself if you let your jealousy get the best of you.
Get off Facebook, deal with your insecurities, and remind yourself that the world is an abundant place. There are enough blessings to go around and the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Keep watering your grass, girl.
Jealousy is a normal part of life. There will always be other people who have things I really want. But my friends simply do not deserve to deal with my bitterness. Neither do strangers. And come to think of it, stewing in my own bitterness doesn’t seem very healthy for me, either.
So don’t do that. Choose to be your best self instead. And if that’s too hard to do right now, get some help until you can.
Learn from my mistakes.