Recently, I wrote about coming to the realization that someone I had been in a very close friendship with for 7 years is a narcissist or has narcissistic tendencies. This realization was liberating, not because it made the friendship better, but because it finally confirmed for me what I had been fearing all along: things were never going to get better with this particular friendship. Try as I might—and I did try, mightily, for years—to give this person what they wanted, my efforts were never going to be enough. My former friend denied that this was the case and told me that he never wanted to change me and then would proceed to tell me all the ways I was not being a good friend to him and should try harder.

I did a tarot reading with the Wooden Tarot to help process this final ending of things. I asked myself four questions:

What have I learned from this friendship?
How can I keep it from happening again?
How do I forgive myself?
What am I missing?

I also pulled a significator card for myself from the Inquire Within deck.

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These are the cards I got:

The lesson I’ve learned from the friendship is Temperance. What it truly means for people to be friends, to be equals, to be coming together on a level playing field. The playing field of this friendship was not level from a gender, age, or economic perspective. Maybe that was an issue, maybe it wasn’t. But things definitely were not equal from an emotional perspective. Looking back on it, the amount of emotional labor I did for this person is astounding. And it’s not as if he didn’t care about me, because he certainly did. But somehow it always ended up that I was taking care of him. I did not require a lot of emotional labor from him because…I just didn’t need it. I didn’t need affirmation and reassurance. I didn’t need compliments. I didn’t need to have someone patiently listen to me describe the same problems and neuroses over and over again. His perspective was that all the things he wanted from me were just things that friends should always automatically offer each other. But looking back on things, I never asked for any of that because I never needed it from him, and so our contributions to the friendship were completely skewed. Having spent so long in a friendship that was so imbalanced, I now see Temperance.

How can I keep it from happening again? The Ten of Blooms (Cups) is showing me that I only need to seek out close friendship that are truly nourishing to me. I already have a life and partners and friends that are wonderful. There is no void that I’m trying to fill. I don’t need, therefore, to seek people out just to make myself feel better OR to put up with someone’s crap because I am afraid of love leaving my life. When I come from a place of wholeness, I can meet others on that level. I have done so, so much healing since I first met my former friend at the end of 2010. In many ways, my life is completely different. I accepted his overbearingness in the first few years of our friendship because I didn’t know better back then. I thought, “Well, this person seems to really like me, so I better like him back.” Now I understand that, if I met him today, I would never become close to him. He would have remained a professional contact or an acquaintance. I can see the red flags that I couldn’t before.

How can I forgive myself? I felt so much when I turned over the Hermit. In fact, pulling this card was in itself a final and full act of self-forgiveness. I felt affirmed in my introversion (as opposed to my former friend’s often overbearing and sometimes violating extroversion) as well as my self-knowledge. The bear has cataracts, which means not only that they have gained wisdom with age, but that their sight has been turned inward. I was right in my self-knowledge. I was right all along to put up boundaries when I felt that they had been crossed. I was right in knowing myself instead of my former friend’s ideas about who I was. I forgive myself by understanding that I was right to trust my own wisdom, including my feeling that unfortunately the friendship would never recover, which was confirmed for me when I finally saw the narcissistic and trauma-bonding patterns.

What am I missing? For the time being, nothing. I have a lot left to learn on this path’s journey, but Page of Plumes (Swords) reversed is showing me that I have emerged whole and more wise from this experience. As difficult as it was, I am glad it happened because of all I have learned. But it’s truly time to turn the page (so to speak) and move on to the next chapter. My friend is not a demon—just a complex and hurting person, like we all are. But I can’t save him and I can’t change him. He doesn’t believe that he can change, either, which also means that he doesn’t believe that I can change, despite the huge amount of change that I have undergone right in front of his eyes.

And now it’s time to Make Space For It, as the card says. Time to create some spaciousness around this issue, which has been so difficult and draining for the past couple of years. Time to stop trying to solve things, time to stop trying to make things better. I had hesitated about finally cutting off all contact, even thought that’s what I knew was for the best. But now that I truly understood that things will never get better, I am making space in my life moving forward and never looking back. I make space for myself, my partners, my family, my friends, my work. I mourn the friendship I lost, but I am moving on to better things.

Published by Emily

I'm an environmentalist looking to make it my full time job. And I've got a Ph.D. in British literature from the University of Michigan. I'm also a birdwatcher, book lover, cat lover, David Bowie lover, poetry lover, vegan food lover...OK. I love a lot of things.

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