I have seen several articles about getting toxic people out of your life, saying goodbye and letting go. When you progress through your twenties, you start to realize who is down for you and who is going to bring you down.
The thing is, even with all of those articles, most people do not ever say what happens after you get rid of the toxic person. Well, I found out.
Over the past several years, I started to recognize that so many girls have at least one guy in their lives who caused them emotional heartache. One guy with whom they were confused about where they stood.
This one guy who made them question their self worth and who, unknowingly and probably not purposefully, ruined all of their other relationships.
I also had one such guy in my life, but after hearing from my friends, I knew I didn’t want to be stuck anymore. I realized how my explanation of him and our relationship sounded.
It made me feel pathetic because I was doing it to myself. I stayed in the catastrophic and emotionally-draining cycle of being on and off for years with a guy I only identified as my best friend.
Our friendship started in high school. He asked for my number one day after class, and from there, it progressed. We texted and talked on the phone at all hours.
We would sit next to each other in class, exchange holiday presents, hold hands, fall asleep on each other and share lunch. He gave me daily morning wake-up calls and sang "Happy Birthday" to me on the PA system at school.
We were way closer than any two platonic friends should be.
But that is all we ever remained -- no hookups, no confessions of love, no smoldering stares, nothing but a singular kiss on the cheek.
It was easy for me to be confused because I was young and attracted to him.
The one time I brought up the idea of something more, we were out to dinner. At this point, we had graduated from high school and were sophomores in college.
I brought up how, in high school, our friends would come up to me telling me he was cheating on me and how funny I thought their reactions were when I told them those girls were his girlfriends.
He feigned ignorance, denying that anyone had ever said anything to him and continued to eat his food.
See, he almost always had a girlfriend throughout our entire friendship. But our friendship had turned into a toxic cycle.
I started to recognize that our friendship was at its best when he either wasn't really into the girl, or if they were fighting or broken up.
Our lines had been blurred. I was his emotional caretaker, but definitely not his best friend. And he definitely wasn't ever mine, since he only ever emotionally crippled me.
For years, so many of our mutual friends told me we were going to end up together; that there was sexual tension; that we were going to get married. Teachers and family members who knew us told us we fought like an old married couple.
And, honestly, that sh*t f*cked with my head.
I was confused by what we were and he never helped to make it clear. One time, we went to a football game together and he started hitting on another girl while he had a girlfriend.
I became the third wheel so I moved down a couple of rows to actually watch the game, and when he noticed, he told me to move back up next to him. When I ignored him, he turned, tapped the guy next to me on the shoulder and tried to embarrass me by telling the guy I had a crush on him.
This kid I didn't even know, who I hadn't even looked at.
I was 17 years old and being emotionally f*cked with. Of course, I was confused.
The cycle continued -- our on again, off again friendship.
Sometimes we would go days, weeks or months without speaking. The worst was in high school, when we had many mutual spectators to witness the train wreck that was our friendship.
He was so deliberate and catty that he used social media. When you go from number one to number eight on Myspace, nothing makes it more publicly clear that some kind of drama is going on.
Fast forward about four years of on again, off again, and now we are going to breakfast. After breakfast, we go shopping.
We pick out some outfits for him; we pick out a vacuum and a shoe rack. It's all for the apartment he shares with his girlfriend, who doesn't know we're spending the day together because (lo and behold) she doesn’t like me.
A few days later, we take their dog to the dog park after getting coffee.
We didn’t just hang out. I listened to him complain about her.
He would talk about how she got mad at him in the middle of the night for scratching his head; how she was upset he wasn't vocal enough in bed; how she was distant or b*tchy.
I felt important in his life because he made me feel that way, calling me at the end of a stressful day because he didn’t want to go inside with her.
I didn’t notice that, once again, I was becoming the backup, the emotional caretaker. And selfishly, I didn’t think about how his girlfriend would feel.
These calls were the worst, and yet, I took them and listened. I mistook my role in his life and he made it very easy for me to do so.
As time went on, I knew I loved him, but it took me right up to the point where I decided to rid him from my life to realize I wasn't ever in love with him. It took me growing up and maturing to really recognize our cycle for just how truly messed up it was.
We had been on again, off again friends since the beginning. Almost always, I had initiated the "off" cycles.
It was like a break I needed just to be able to handle our friendship. No singular person had ever made me cry as much as he did.
Going all out and clearing all traces of each other off social media, until, one day, months later, when one of us would break down and apologize. It was often him, in some cheesy, yet straight-to-my-heart way.
He would reel me back in by doing things like sending me a picture of my senior picture still in his wallet years after graduating. It made me feel special and important, but I didn’t recognize the implications this was having in my life.
After seven years, I just couldn't take it anymore. I had let this go on far too long.
At this point, I had moved to a different state. I had some distance and was becoming really self-reflective. I had engaged in this toxicity just as much as he had and was equally to blame.
I was honestly confused about who he was to me, but I realized we both deserved better than how either of us had treated each other.
There was a reason I was constantly trying to push him out of my life: He didn’t actually have a place in it.
He was taking up a piece of my heart that wasn’t meant for him.
A little over a year ago, he called me super early and we ended up talking for almost the entire four-hour drive between California and Las Vegas. This phone call was about his ex-girlfriend, who now, just when he had decided to get over her, was pregnant.
But did she call and tell him? No, her mom did. This being the same girl who complained about a head scratch in the middle of the night.
We discussed it, talking about all of his options, with me fulfilling my role as the dutiful caretaker and offering ideas to help: seeking couple's therapy to work through all of their sh*t, finding out if she was actually pregnant, getting a paternity test, all of the responsible things.
I thought we had a good phone call. I didn't think there was any way he would so easily go from knowing this girl wasn't who he wanted to end up with, to sticking with her just for the sake of a child he did not even know existed yet.
But in the end, he did. He got back together with her. And that meant I was back on the back burner. Calls and texts ignored.
He villainized this girl who I had never even met.
It was at that time I realized nothing would ever change. I wasn't who he would choose; I realized I didn't want to be chosen as much as I thought I had.
I put myself in the position to be used as needed. I never tried to make anything else happen. I didn’t go out of my comfort zone with him because, in a way, he was like an emotional filler for me too.
I may have loved this guy, but I sure as sh*t wasn't in love with him. When it came down to it, I hated who he was. I hated the attention he needed, the lies he told, the choices he made and how weak he could be. And I always had.
As cliche as it might sound, making the decision to remove him from my life permanently made me finally feel free.
In the beginning, I went through a lot of grief. He had held a place in my heart for so long. I was sad. I knew it was my decision, but we had such a long history that in the beginning nostalgia would overcome me and I would miss him.
It would have been so easy to just break down and text him and re-enter the same tiring cycle as before, but I didn’t do it. As time went on, I started to realize I wasn’t stuck. I didn’t have to question or wonder anything.
I think women can sometimes fail themselves by being too loyal. And for what? Not to get their needs met.
I now get to live my life without feeling emotionally drained and damaged. I get to be happy to not be stuck or have to explain to my friends or other relationships about the "complicated guy in my life," because I no longer have that burden.
I’m going to save my loyalty and love for someone who deserves it. I have been able to form healthier relationships with others and recognize when something doesn’t need to be prolonged or held on to.
Sometimes it is hard to let go, but it can be so much more emotionally damaging to stay.