Should I reach out to my friend who has been toxic and manipulative in the past? I want to give them a second chance.
Dear An Over-thinker,
No. Absolutely not. Do not go back to them.
Normally, I am vague enough in my answers that there is a little bit of wiggle room or room for interpretation. I can’t do that here. Not in good conscience anyway.
Now, before you stop reading and saying I don’t understand, I’ve never been there, etc, etc. I have. I understand what you are going through. While our situations are no doubt different, I know I have had the exact train of thought in my head before.
I want you to think about the reason why you cut them out of your life in the first place. They were toxic and manipulative. You may miss their good side but it is not worth all of the pain they brought you.
Going back is almost like undoing all the good work that you have just done to get away from them. And yes, I understand the pain you are feeling without them. Every time you see a picture of them having fun and moving on, you probably feel a pang of guilt. It physically hurts and you want to do anything to make that pain stop. But you have to let go. Going back is only temporary relief. Letting go will be healthier in the long run. Trust me. I’ve been there.
I’m going to introduce to you something called The Cycle of Abuse. Abusive may seem like a loaded word but, judging by your question it sounds like your ex-friend was exactly that. The cycle of abuse comes in four stages (or three in some cases. I will be using the 4 stage version as I find it easier to explain.
The first stage is the building of tension, in this stage, the person who is being abused is on high alert and trying to do everything they can do to keep the cycle from moving to the next stage. The unfortunate reality is that the victim of abuse cannot stop the cycle unless they leave, in almost all cases.
Stage 2 is an incident of abuse. Abuse can come in many, many forms. It’s not just physical and verbal. Abuse can come in the form of threats, physical abuse, damaging property (or threatening to do so), attempts to control the victim’s behaviour, manipulation and more. The abuser is also likely to blame the victim for this even though it is not remotely true.
The third stage is the stage that I believe has brought you to this question. Reconciliation. After stage 2, the abuser will try to move past it with gifts and kindness. They make the victim feel like everything is normal and it’s never going to happen again.
The final stage, (although it is not actually final, cycles go around again and again and again) is the calm. This is another part of the cycle that may be what is trying to pull you back, but there are huge red flags here too. The abuser is likely going to blame others or the victim for the toxic things they have done. They will think up any excuse under the sun to justify unjustifiable behavior. They are also likely to minimize what they have done. Apologies and false promises that it will never happen again are also prevalent in this stage. An important thing to remember is that this is a cycle and will repeat until it is broken. The best way to break this cycle is to find a way to leave.
I’m also gonna add another piece of advice here to help you. They are not your friend. Friends are not toxic. Friends are not manipulative. Friends love and support you, they want you to be happy and won’t make you do anything you truly do not want to do.
Also, please remember that you are not alone in this difficult time. There are people out there who will love you and support you through your ups and your downs in life. I am not sure what part of the world you are from, so I will link a few helplines from different parts of the world. Sometimes, speaking to someone who is a professional and who doesn’t know you can be very helpful.
I wish you all the best,