• Fri, Feb 24 2012

The Ultimatum: Him Or Them? I Chose Wrong

Swede had been back in my life for all of five days when we decided, in a blur of too much wine, to take a cab to Atlantic City at three in the morning. At the time, without a proper place to go dancing in Manhattan, it seemed like the next logic choice. Paying $400 for a cab to drop us off at the only open bar in Atlantic City also seemed whimsical and something only he and I would do. It was Halloween weekend 2010.

Knowing my phone would be dead before the weekend was over, I thought it a courtesy to call my closest friends K and S to tell them where I was. We had a standing brunch date every Saturday at the same place and since I was in hotel room that overlooked the ocean, I was quite certain I would not be back in time to meet them. Also, part of me wanted to gush: “See? He’s not so bad after all! Look at what we did! Look at fun we are!”

Both K and S were not impressed with the choice I had made to hop a cab to Atlantic City with the same person who had driven me to not only leave the city on several occasions just to outrun him, but who had also taken advantage of me, broke my heart and all that other sticky shit that comes with a tumultuous relationship that should have dissolved before it even started. There were a few lectures from them, and as if they were my parents, they told me to have fun and “we’ll discuss this when you get back.”

But we barely discussed anything when I returned to the city late Sunday night. K and S had already decided how this “situation” was going to be handled. I was given an ultimatum. I could dismiss the weekend in Atlantic City as something fun that I needed to get out of my system so as to end on a high note with Swede and move on with my life, or I could go back to the chaos that was my existence with Swede but I’d lose them in the process. I had never been given such a choice before in my life. It also felt childish and unnecessary. I mean, he had changed after all. Couldn’t they see? We got drunk and went to Atlantic City! That must mean something, right?

I didn’t spend much time thinking about it. I told them that now that Swede was back in my life, I couldn’t just give him up again. I told them I’d meet them halfway and that they’d never have to see him and should I end up being a crying mess on the floor over him someday, they’d never have to know. But that wasn’t good enough. It was all or nothing. K and S had watched the nonsense of the last couple years in shock that a woman who is, or at least appears to be, smart, independent and capable of making the right choices when Swede wasn’t around, could collapse into a fragile, broken child who thought the sun rose and set on this one particular person.

Could I not see the effect he had on me? Could I not see how self-destructive it all was? Could I not see that he is absolute shit and in no time at all I’ll have another setback because of him? Why was it that I couldn’t understand how well I flourished when he was gone? Of course, I could see all those things if I tried really hard, but the fact was I didn’t want to see them. And that’s when my friendship with K and S ended. It was the first week in November of 2010.

Although my other friends stuck by if only to do the “I Told You So” dance months later, and then again a few more months after that, it wasn’t quite the same without K and S. I had tried on a few occasions to reach out to them, but always got nothing back. Even Swede, the man whom at one time I probably would have sold a nephew if he wanted me to, tried to reach out to them with promises that would eventually end up empty, but still they never replied.

To this day, I have friends and family who balk at the fact that two of my closest friends in the world could have not only forced me to make a choice, but then gave up on me entirely because I made the wrong choice. And for a long time I agreed that they were wrong to do so, but I don’t feel that way anymore.

As a friend, you can only witness someone you love suffer for so long. You can only listen to them cry, watch them fall apart at the seams and behave in irrational ways as a means of self-preservation just so many times. It was not K and S’s responsibility to pick me up every time I fell, but that’s what they had been doing. So when it came down to the obvious fact that Swede was back and it was just a matter of months before they’d have to do it again, they washed their hands of it. I was angry at them for a long time, but not so much anymore.

Losing K and S was one of the most difficult lessons I had to learn, but it was necessary. I had to lose them to realize just how much I meant to them and how much I should mean to myself. In the end, losing them was far more detrimental than losing Swede. Granted each situation was a lesson in itself, but watching your friends give you up because they can see what you’re too blind to see is something that you don’t find everyday.

I was given an ultimatum and I made the wrong choice. But at least now I know the next time a friend so lovingly points out to me that someone in my life is shit, I’ll make an attempt to see it more clearly. I’ll try harder to see around the fog that comes with loving someone more than he deserved or was ever capable of loving back. And I fucking swear to myself and my current friends, I will never ever doubt them again. I’ll also be sure to steer clear of anyone that I may have to reference as “Swede” in an article.

I do believe many lessons have been learned here.

Share This Post:
  • Maggie

    Amanda, I just want to say that I admire you so much for the way you write; you’re blunt and honest and I think you’re incredibly brave to share your stories with everyone. Keep writing, because you’re awesome.

    P.S. I think I speak for all of The Gloss readers when I say I’m glad that “Swede” douchebag is out of your life. He sounds like someone who needs a good punch in the face.

    • Amanda Chatel

      Thank you, Maggie! That comment made my day, as I usually expect comments to be harsh and sometimes quite mean.

  • Megan

    Everything Maggie said. Seconded. Substitute “nuts” for “face.”

  • MR

    So as an individual you made a decision. Your friends forced you to chose. Sounded like a no win situation to me. What if you had been right about the guy, but did what they asked? Hindsight 20/20 never works.

    • MR

      Amanda, I just re-read this one, and hope it didn’t come across too blunt. I meant you torture yourself whenever you question your decision after the fact.

    • Amanda Chatel

      No no… you weren’t too blunt. I’m just… oh, I don’t know… sometimes you run out of things to say on certain matters that still hurt like hell.

    • MR

      The way I see it is it’s not your fault, you did nothing wrong.

  • Kj

    Hey Amanda, great story!

    I had a similar experience, but on the “friend” side of the fence. In 2009 (wow, that seems so long ago now) my best friend at the time met some guy online, ostensibly for a casual relationship. Unfortunately she fell hard for him, while he acted like a massive two-faced ambivalent jerk who spouted poetry one minute (literally) and then ignored her phone calls the next. Every time the sh*t hit the fan, I had to pick up the pieces, with no small sacrifice to my own well being.

    When things got better again, I was less and less able to pretend that I was happy for her. Ie, “yeah, it’s great that you spent $350 on a wine tasting cruise to go on with him, when he won’t even answer the door when you knock.”

    Three months in it got to the point where she was randomly cancelling plans with me for the chance to hang out with him. It was very hurtful after 4 years of best friendship that she was acting this way. As best friend, I tried to tell her how toxic this situation was, but she didn’t want to hear it, and I’m sure that contributed to her increasingly distancing herself from me.

    So while I didn’t make an ultimatum, I just stopped calling. I cared about her and I still do, but it was hurtful and insulting to be tossed aside for a guy she knew a fraction of the time she knew me, and ultimately, she lost a good friend because of it.

    Anyways I’m not implying that that was the case in your situation, just that it’s just as ugly on the other side.

    Glad to hear that you are strong enough to reflect on the situation with clarity! Also I love reading your posts, and agree with the other commenters that they are very raw.

  • Whe

    I dated a string of guys who were no good for me but we were all young and my friends were dating their own no-good guys so there wasn’t much clarity coming in from my confidants either. We all wised up and moved on and made a pact to be brutally honest if we thought any of us ended up in an unhealthy situation in the future. I had very little to no trust in myself to not do it again.

    And then I met a wonderful man, who was emotionally mature and treated me perfectly as a human being without putting me on a pedestal and was a great friend. We started having some serious feelings for each other and one of my closest friends didn’t like him and wanted me to know so. I have never felt so crazy in my life, because everything was telling me that this man was the opposite in every way from those shitty abusers, but I couldn’t trust myself in the past and had decided to put trust in my girlfriends, but I felt in my gut they were wrong. I wanted to puke whenever we were all in a room together for months. I couldn’t believe anyone else when they said they liked him because I feared she was correct.

    Years later I realize she was jealous of him having my love and attention and was (subconsciously) acting out. It is extremely ironic that one of the most dramatic examples of “crazymaking” I have ever experienced was from someone who had vowed to help me get past dating men who treated me that way. We are still together and he is still amazing and mature and gentle and kind, and the friend likes him now and has apologized, but I still feel very hurt and confused when I think about that time.

  • Rosie

    I don’t know if those friends were true friends because if they were I don’t think they would have made you choose.

  • erin

    This is such a tough call from a friend’s perspective. On the one hand, I think K and S were right to take care of themselves, since it sounds like your relationship with Swede took a huge emotional toll on them. On the other hand, you’re more likely to continue making dangerous choices if you feel like your friends have already abandoned you. I’m glad it sounds like you ended up okay in the end. I hope K and S get a chance to read this.

  • Sam

    On the one hand, I absolutely see where your friends were coming from. When you love somebody and truly care about them, it breaks your heart to see their heart break, especially when it’s not the first time. Plus, the idea of an ultimatum makes the chances of that friend making the decision you think is best for them far more likely than if you stand semi-idly by.

    On the other hand, I think that it’s very sad that they didn’t reach back out to you later. I can understand being absent from a best friend’s life while she makes mistakes/figures out herself but I can’t understand not returning later. I’m guessing they were very hurt that you didn’t choose them, but I think forgiveness should’ve happened, y’know? It’s not for me to judge, though.

    I had a friend (the one I described to you recently) who has had years of very destructive relationships–though that person is generally the one who destroys them–and I hated watching the amount of conflict and pain that she would go through (I was naive and didn’t admit to myself yet that she just liked conflict). At the time, I was her best friend and I just wanted so desperately for her to be happy and was so frustrated that she couldn’t be happy with or without these relationships…it stressed me out incredibly often. Maybe an ultimatum would’ve changed her mind, but I doubt it.

    I think a lot of people think in terms of “this person could/is my soul mate…if I lose him/her, will I be alone forever? Will I never find true love again?” and that fear is insanely powerful despite, in retrospect, knowing that you will of course meet someone wonderful and better for you and of course you thrive without the asshole. Even when I’ve been in destructive relationships, I stay in them for extended periods of time because I am so SO afraid that I’ll be making a mistake–even though I totally identify that I’m miserable and that those people had made so many fucked up errors. So, pretty much, I see where you’re coming from, and this story was really interesting.

  • Anna

    I just got out of a toxic relationship myself and I am really grateful that my friends never made me choose between them and The Jerk. I know they must have suffered watching me stupidly get hurt again and again while trying to persuade them that he actually is a decent human being (nope, he’s not) and that he makes me so happy (well if ‘deluded and masochistic’ means happy then maybe). In the end I made them swear that the moment I reply to another of his texts or agree to see him ever again they would break my arms and never ever speak to me again in this or any other lifetime. They happily agreed. Well…maybe too happily.

    But the best thing is that no matter how much dignity I lost along the way I am now finally and completely jerk-free and it feels good. I am sorry to hear about your friends. I personally don’t understand why they never reached out to you again. But at least you are well rid of one loser.

    And thanks for well written article!

  • yiraf

    I dunno I’m sorry for saying especially when you are being so kind on your retrospective but your friends sound like a**holes. Leaving somebody because you “cannot bear to see them in pain” seems like a selfish option to me. It’s like leaving your child on the street because you cannot see him starve. I don’t know I know people have different reasons for doing things but to me it is far more noble to stick by your friends ESPECIALLY if they are clearly insane (like we’ve all been)/going thru a rough time. I’ve been there when my friend was with the shittiest guy I’ve ever met and she was stupid and crying and driving me crazy for 3 years and she was by my side when i was in love with a guy who broke my heart 3 times over the span of 4 years. My friends did not abandon me even when I abandoned them to be with him, they could see past my blindness, that is the point, and that is what good friends are for.

    • yiraf

      Also sorry didn’t mean to be an asshole with my reply, I think it’s good you’ve been able to make peace with your friends’ decision but I think regret is perhaps the wrong word… you didn’t do anything wrong, you didn’t make a “bad decision” you shouldn’t have been forced to make that decision in the first place. If you’re regretting Swede then that’s another story but do it because he sucks not because you lost your friends because of him, your friends lost themselves.

    • Amanda Chatel

      This was all very beautifully put – thank you!

      (and you totally weren’t an asshole in your reply… fyi!)

  • Paulina Conejos

    I can’t put to words how much I admire you. I’m amazed at how funny, smart, wise and relatable (Fun Fact: I also spent on night in jail!) you can be. I enjoy everything you write and I’m sure you get this kind of comments all the time but I just wanted you to know how much of an inspiration you are to me.

    • Amanda Chatel

      Thank you so much, Paulina! That is unbelievably sweet. I do get a decent amount of great comments like this one, but when I get the means ones… ouch. They’re really fucking cruel…
      So every comment like yours totally makes my day – THANK YOU!