I don't know if you remember me, specially with the new name, but maybe my email will remind you.
You helped me become a whole person, to get out of an abusive relationship that scarred me for life, and to begin to love myself.
I took a huge step in recovery last week by finally closing the book on that ex you saved me from years ago. It was scary, a bit upsetting to see him living so happily after destroying me, but I felt a million times lighter and content.
Unfortunately the same day I lost someone very close to me in a very ugly way. I was standing up for my other friends when he was acting out of line, and the things he said ... all I could see was the words flying out of the shitty people in my lives mouths.
He was a totally different person, he didn't care about any of us, he accused me of so many things and took my most personal and fragile parts I trusted in him and used them as knives against me.
I already lost a major portion of my friend group last year due to us growing apart so I'm down to less than 10 friends.
I'm scared, papa bear. I've seen what he's done to people in the past. We were never close but we were growing closer until he just ... snapped. I changed all my passwords but I'm so, so terrified he's going to find the one place I didn't or he's going to spread stuff about me just like his old friends and exes from years past.
I JUST healed from my ex doing that to me.... I can't bear to go through it again with someone I knew and trusted and loved for over 10 years.
And now I might have to move and leave what few friends I have left behind. We're not close enough to keep in touch and I'd have to move back into the house where my exs abuse happened.
I don't know if I can....
I don't know what to do. I'm so afraid I'll loose my irl friends and my online ones will follow. I'm so afraid my future friends will have my ex friend fill their heads with bullshit. I'm so afraid to have to live in that house again but it's beginning to be my only option.
I just.... Do you have any advice on how to strengthen friendships, make new friends, and live without fear of being sabotaged?
If I can strengthen the friendships I have and make new ones I won't have to be so afraid, but I can't comprehend relationships and how to meet people.
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Forgive me if I'm repeating myself. I thought I had responded to this letter but now I'm not sure if I did. So, I'm writing again (or for the first time!) Forgive a senile old bear....
Since you don't provide any background, I cannot guess why this other "friend" would snap and suddenly attack you. But this makes two toxic people who have come into your life, which makes me wonder if perhaps you are having difficulty determining what sorts of people are good friend material and what sorts of people are toxic. The other side of this is that you seem to also have trouble realizing who isn't toxic (i.e., true friends).
Hon, true friends will always stick by you and will not listen to the venomous lies spouting from the mouths of toxic people. If you lose any friends because of some lying jerk, then they weren't good friends to begin with and you are better off without them. In fact, this might be a litmus test to determine for you who are your friends and who are not, so that might turn out to be a good thing. Don't worry about it.
One thing Papabear has learned in his 50+ years is to not worry a damn about what other people think. If you know in your heart you are a good person who tries to do the right thing, then that is all that matters. Again, the people who are wise and not shallow will perceive this goodness in you and want to be your friend. Treat your friends well (that's how you strengthen friendships) and shun your enemies. And if you are concerned about your passwords or anything, just make it a routine to change your passwords once a month. If you get attacked online, inform that website's administrators. Keep records of any harassment you get from toxic people.
Making new friends? Big topic, but, in brief, look for people who share your interests and take an interest in their lives. You should expect the same from them. The danger is always one-way "friendships," which aren't so much friendships as people using you. With practice and experience, you will develop a kind of sixth sense about other people. I quickly get a feeling about others as to whether or not they are worth my time. The ones who aren't exude a kind of "creepy" vibe that makes me back off right away. You'll get better at this as time goes on.
Strengthening friendships you currently have mostly involves doing your best to make time to work on the friendship. The more time you spend with someone, the stronger the relationship will become.
As for the fear of being sabotaged: hey, it happens. Even when you get good at judging other people, occasionally a troll or, let's face it, psychopath will weedle themselves into your life. All you can do is cut them off as soon as you recognize them for what they are beneath the mask. Control your fear by realizing that shit happens and you can't prevent it from happening, but you CAN control how you react to said shit and this will make you a stronger person.
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.