I’m sure that all of us at one time or another have lost a friendship during a particularly trying time in our lives. People that we thought we were once so close to and had so much in common with can disappear from your life, sometimes leaving a deeply negative impact. Losing a friend is difficult, but realizing you never really had a true friend to begin with can be a tough realization to come to. The longer the friendship, the harder it can be to wade through the emotional baggage and begin to unpack what truly happened throughout the course of your time together.
I’ve been going through this scenario recently. Someone that I thought I had a very close and personal friendship with turned out to not be the person I thought they were. In fact, the more I mentally unpack what happened and how things ended, the more I realize that I never actually had a friend. Instead, I had a con artist posing as a friend who was using me until I was no longer had anything to give. I was then dumped, but not before this particular individual changed their reality to put themselves in the place of the victim and myself as the aggressor. This is common for such a con artist, and typical of a narcissist of which this person most assuredly is. Sadly, I did not see this pattern of behavior sooner and our so called friendship ended up fizzling out in a cloud of fury, instead of quietly parting ways.
When you are close to someone and willing to open yourself up to a new person, it can be surprisingly easy to get sucked into being the victim of a con. Whether or not this person physically takes something from you doesn’t detract from the fact that you become an unknowing victim of their game. Depending on the goal or vision of this deceit, a con can be a short or long term process. Unfortunately I was in the cross hairs of a long term con, and looking back I wonder how on earth I could have missed all the warning signs.
Frequently in an attempt to be a solid friend to someone we think we know, it can be easy to overlook some warning signs and rationalize actions or emotions to dismiss red flags. Often times in situations like this, the person running the con will draw yourself and one or two other people close to you in, so that the appearance of everything being satisfactory is maintained. Only those not directly involved with the situation will be able to spot something wrong. Often, those individuals bite their tongues out of politeness and will attempt to look beyond the issues and support their friends. This ends up creating two circles – the “inner circle” which is being controlled by the con, and the “outer circle” who sees something is “off” but is not directly impacted by the results.
In my situation, I was very close to someone for a number of years. I thought this person was a solid friend, someone I could depend on and who would return the loyalty that I devote to my friends. During our time as friends we both experienced some difficult seasons of life and leaned on one another for support, solidly reaffirming our friendship or so I thought. Throughout the years, warning signs and small issues crept up. I dismissed them, mistakenly thinking that it would all work itself out. Unfortunately, things simply worsened.
We traveled together, this friend and I. We experienced many firsts together, and instead of that being a very exciting and bonding experience, it drew us apart. Little did I know that our travel adventure was the slow death knell of our friendship, and the extent to which I could be used. Once our collective overseas experience ended – something that I was so invigorated to share with such a close friend – the con decided that I was no longer able to be of service to them. They explosively, aggressively ended our friendship attempting to take down anyone within our collective friend circle with them.
It was a long slow burn that ended in amazing fireworks. You find your real friends in times of trouble and I am so thankful for everyone else in my life that solidly stood by me as I experienced this incredible turmoil. I keep a very small circle of individuals that I call my friends in life, so any upheaval can carry significant impact and this situation in particular was extremely tumultuous. As I slowly sifted through the aftermath of the explosion and started to look back upon my experience, I came to the sad realization that this individual had never been a friend. They were simply a con, looking to gain everything and offer nothing in return. They use, abuse, and when the host they attach themselves to has been taken for everything they can offer, the person simply discards them and moves on.
Before attempting to discard their former host they attempt to turn the tables on the individual they were conning, so that they in turn can play victim and alter reality to fit with the faulty narrative in their own minds. Rationalizing despicable behavior in order to fit with their warped sense of reality, this often causes extreme harm to those they were conning. Even if this false reality has no bearing on real life, the con will attempt to distort in every way possible to put themselves in the place of a victim so that they can claim no responsibility for what has occurred.
This experience has been a long, slow burn punctuated by the explosion and loss of a so called friendship. While I am extremely grateful to no longer have that individual in my life, how it ended still comes with some emotional turmoil. The fact that the end of the friendship happened in part due to our travel and adventure together, it can be extremely difficult to look back on that shared experience and sort out the happiness from the heartache. I experienced some truly amazing life altering things and for that I am ever grateful. As I recall these memories, I am consistently reminded of who I was with. This person who so skillfully conned me is in almost every instance of my trip, and that is a very sorrowful burden to overcome.
Mentally I am still working on separating my experiences from the con, and being grateful for having such opportunities in the first place. It is a difficult thing to wrestle with though, as my first time in Europe has been overshadowed by the person whom I shared it with and the events that came quickly after. I have many wonderful memories of my travels, but right now they still serve as trigger for the falling out that happened. Our travel together was the catalyst for the fallout and that muddies my remembrance of all the time we shared overseas because the pain of being taken advantage of so thoroughly is still very real. As time moves on the rawness of my emotions subside and I’m more easily able to look back on the adventure we shared with less anger and more acceptance.
Sitting down to recount my experience during my travels has been a good practice in moving past what happened and embracing the happiness I found while in Europe. So much good happened, although it is easy to be overcome by the negatives that also existed in the same space. I am continually reminding myself to remember the good, and move past the bad. While no experience is ever the same, I am reminded that I can always return and make new memories at another point in time.
If my story rings true with any of you dear readers, I encourage you to stop and think. If you feel like you are in a one sided friendship, stop and examine things.
- Does your friend take without giving?
- Does your friend consistently play victim?
- Does your friend regularly talk about others behind their backs?
- Does your friend engage in activities that make you uncomfortable?
- Does it feel like sometimes there is an “end game” for your friend?
- Do others in your social circle keep a certain distance from your friend?
- Does your friend constantly voice wonder that they’ve never been able to maintain friendships with others and are not sure why?
- Does your friend always harp on the negativity and bad traits of other people in their life, without ever attempting to rectify their own issues?
- Does your friend do things that go against your personal moral standards?
It’s good to get outside of your comfort zone. It’s fantastic to give people the benefit of the doubt, and meet and interact new individuals that you may have never devoted time to before. Just remember to always go with your gut. Don’t be afraid to stop and analyze your relationship – even with an acquaintance – and check to see if it is a healthy one.
Most important: if you have been on the receiving end of a con – don’t beat yourself up. Con artists can be extremely convincing individuals and becoming a victim to their game can be an easy trap to fall into. Do as I am attempting to do and learn from your mistakes. Only until you have lived through it will you be easily able to identify such behavior and avoid it from others in the future.