The boat not taken

Personal attacks

Dealing wih toxicity

Managing out of situation

I have discovered that some childhood friends become very sad and negative over time. So much that they become aggressive to the level of demeaning my life, my choices and my preferences for almost anything. Beyond a point, I have to push them away but I realized that probably I was often too late and it gets too painful to do that even though for my mental peace it’s paramount to stay away from such toxic relationships. This blog will be about my experiences with a childhood friend whose outlook towards life became very negative not just for his own life, but also towards mine. Even today, I am not sure of our relationship status, or friendship status.

This is about a friend whom I met in class 6th maybe when we were roughly 10 years old. Let us call him - AC. AC lived nearby my home and our friendship started with a huge celeb like wow factor surrounding him because of his prosperity. AC was rich because of a working mom, had computer games, internet, a personal room for himself, and I always did a lot of things together at his home. We also did some creepy things like giving missed calls on the phone number of a hot girl in our class or making creep/lewd jokes about how ladies are meant to be used, just to name a few. Days with AC used to feel very normal like how other groups of my friends would behave.

As a kid, I was a bit studious and had little freedom at home to roam around with others which limited my exposure only to AC where I would meet him after school or maybe once monthly at his home. AC was more into online chatting and asking nudes from girls all across my city or maybe even the whole country. I have personally seen chats validating that AC was successful multiple times to have his girlfriends strip for him. This was me discovering masculinity in the age of the internet. These events had two big simultaneous impacts. On one level, I was getting amazed at how AC can almost do Vashi-Karan (control the other girls) to his desires, ignorant of whether this is right or wrong. On another level, I wanted to experience this euphoria as well in the limited time I had. AC used to bully me saying I can’t do fishing for girls and this is only meant for macho-boys. AC was my only friend in school whom I used to travel with. I developed a deeper friendly relationship where I started to reinforce ACs superiority over mine. AC was now my best friend who is THE GUY.

AC had no push from home to study and clearly had more freedom. But over time, AC drifted away from studies and physical games. He was more into chatting to plan outdoor activities when indoors, and going out on blind dates when outdoors. He failed miserably in school, college and he had no pressure of earning money. We both grew older and had to earn for ourselves. On the back of good luck, I got into university and later into a decent paying job. AC was now struggling, with no future job prospects and no mom to feed him. AC had started to use his family savings and surprisingly turned very soft towards me. He would always praise the hard work that I would have done to get into university and boast publicly about the qualities of why I deserved my current life. But to maintain an edge, he would scold me about not buying a car or fancy electronics or having any girlfriend to spend on.

I had an image of AC that he is smart and is only suffering due to bad luck. But as the lack of money and the urge to buy more gadgets gripped AC, he started to get accusing against me. At times, just to begin the same old light-hearted chats, I had to explain that I have not eaten up his job via government quota. He would never agree and would admonish me against speaking a word against him but he would speak abuses on my ancestors. I would ignore his irrationality and focus on passing a good time since he was still a celeb in my head. It was weird how easy it was for him to have everything that I desire in life now. But we both had fundamentally a very different outlook on life. He was unhappy with his life but won’t take any action to fix it. And I was sad but I was more hopeful than ever before to forge new relationships. The only sadness in my life which made me feel like a loser was that I had no girlfriend. I have never been happy and satisfied with what I got through. The only sadness in my friend’s life was that he has no income stream, else he used to claim he can even get Bollywood actresses to bend down for him. AC instead was very happy that I do not have a girlfriend, in his view no good-cultured girl could keep an affection towards me. I can only be taken advantage of, I am soo submissive.

After a few more years, as our mid-life hit, I thought I met the girl of my life. :heart: I was apprehensive to reveal about her since I wanted no cacophony around us. I was protective and I would reinforce my brain that I am in love. I used to contemplate whether it’s only lust or attraction or actual love. I had no other sources to validate my feelings and I kept simmering this confusion in my head.

Now when I met AC, I had to do a lot of effort to get him talking nicely. He would start as usual with abusive comments about my community and “my type of people” among only two of us or in a very closed group of friends. So, I didn’t mind his abuses. Foolishly, I would laugh along with him when he used to shout at me. Those times, AC would brag about the new entrants in his life, his new fish catches. And my face would reveal a lack of interest. It doesn’t take long for male friends to sense that their friend is seeing someone. So, it spread like wildfire news of interest and all of my close friends started digging me every now and then for more updates and how it happened.

At first, AC was amazed at how I had a girl much younger than me, then he made fun saying only babies and kids can be fooled by me, then he undermined saying the girl is false and I am being used. I used to blush or mostly ignore such comments. But then, it took a nastier shape. From taking quips on our age gap, it turned to be prophecies on how my life would go south just because of this one girl whom AC hasn’t even met. From prophecies, it later turned into bits of advice and matured into warnings. Towards the end, when all of it actually hit me, AC had reduced him to threatening on what all he would do if I didn’t take THE RIGHT DECISION. Then AC said something so bad that it left me completely aghast and dumbstruck!

Notably, this was well beyond the point when all of my friends including AC knew I have made up my mind on my love. This was not at all acceptable. I did not deserve any of it at all. I felt partly complicit in shaping a monster who could say or do such things. But I was done with AC and I could not take it anymore. I concluded that he had gone to a path of no return and I need to save myself and my life from getting infected by his toxicity.

And so taking learning from the above, I built a few cues for myself. These are my rules on how to deal with toxic relationships.

Detect

All the above happened only because I allowed toxicity to build up over some time. Since it was slow, it was not very evident in front of me. My first rule is to have the toxicity detector on while dealing with people. If there are people who speak ill of others or are never positive, then don’t deserve my time or focus.

  • I have to build a habit to reflect on how people are treating me. What do I not like about how I am treated?
  • Do I like being friends with a certain person?
  • Would I like a certain behaviour to stop, or would I like an apology, too?
  • Is my relationship with person A impacting another relationship with person B. Is it going to complicate things for me?

Deal

In the above case, since there’s no financial or social bonds pulling us together and I was able to pull apart from AC. But it may be good to check on the best approach on how to deal with this. There’s no good or bad time to kick off a conversation, it is probably better to think of possible consequences of intervention.

  • Do I think my friend will change if I tell them how I’m feeling?
  • How much damage is already done? Can I reverse it by talking it out?
  • Am I the only person affected? Should I involve or tell others who are affected?
  • Should I just stop or reduce discussions?

Decertify

This is certainly an uncomfortable situation to be in and even worse to face. It is best to make sure that this never repeats. It’s always good to think of the following questions while dealing.

  • Should I amplify the messaging around what’s allowed and what’s not?
  • How to constantly set boundaries around me?
  • Will reducing contact help to ensure the other person has a sense of loss?

I did handle the situation using all the above. But I am still unable to comprehend what went inside AC’s head when he said that. I wish him all the good luck in life and I sincerely hope that he realizes and if possible recovers from his state of mind. I wish I could help.

Note: This outpour was very tough for me to write since AC has been my best friend (in my head atleast) for the longest part of my life. Hopefully, it does an important and timely course correction for me.

PERSONAL
life relationships happiness

Dialogue & Discussion