My Best Friend Of 30 Years Compromised Us For A Woman He Knew For Six Months

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Looking back, I honestly should’ve seen it coming. I mean, they do say that the first impression lasts the longest and I will never forget the first time I met Deroc. 

It was freshman orientation week at our college. I actually met his roommate first. He and I got along pretty much instantly, so we walked together to one of the cafeterias for dinner.

As I approached a table full of his male friends, everyone was warm and receptive — except for Deroc.

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After I made a joke, “Who is this b----?” is the first thing to come out of his mouth. I’m dead serious.

Some of you are probably like, “And you were friends for three decades?!”

But here’s the thing — although he initially caught me off guard, his energy wasn’t antagonizing. It was just, well, arrogant. And as I watched him interact with others — not just that night but our entire college career — what I learned was that Deroc was cocky, direct, and not the most sensitive person on the planet.

At the same time, he was also loyal, and very forthcoming and he would give you the shirt off of his back if he considered you to be his people.

About a year into hanging out in his dorm room with his roommate, giving each other dating advice, and going through a first pregnancy scare test, indeed, I had become one of his people.

So much, in fact, that our families came to know each other. On my end, through the years, I attended his family reunions, his brother’s wedding and when his mom got sick, I stood in for him by going to the hospital as he was serving our country overseas.

Moreover, when he believed that he met "the one", I helped to arrange his marriage proposal, and, when they got divorced and his wife reached out because she wanted her husband back (“You’re the only person I know that he will listen to”), I did their marriage counseling, which led them to get married again.

In between all of that, there were several military missions, countless women (and sex war stories), confidential conversations, surgeries, and the birth of two kids (his).

There was even the request that I be the co-executor of his will and that I would someday speak at his funeral. That is how close we were.

In fact, he has said to me, many times over the years, “I hope that I die before you do because I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like without you in it.” That sentiment might sound a little dark but for his type of personality, it was actually very sweet.

Yet, just a couple of months ago, I found myself saying, “Dude. I can’t do this anymore."

Words can’t express how hard it is to break down 30 years into one narrative, but I’ll try and give you the CliffsNotes as best as I can.

The Beginning of the End

Deroc’s now second-time ex-wife is amazing. I won’t even get into what led to their first divorce but let’s just say that when she declared that she wanted to divorce again — the week that he was retiring from the military, mind you — it was super on-brand. She had always been pretty selfish — then add tax. And so here was another trial in my friendship with her husband that I was emotionally prepping to walk with him through.

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After he retired, he moved to a different state and started picking the pieces of his life again. His military career was about as old as our friendship.

He was now divorced from the same woman a second time. We’re both the product of divorced parents and I recall him saying, often in school, that he couldn’t wait to be a father and he definitely didn’t want his kids growing up in a broken home."

And now, Christmas and the summers are the only time he gets to see his kids, and the military career that he had always known, no longer was. His new normal at 48 years old was not what he had signed up for. 

In response, I was intentional about calling him. We established a ritual where we would chat on the phone every Friday evening as he was on the way to get a pizza. Whatever was on either of our minds, we would discuss. And I do mean anything. 30 years can cause two people to become super-familiar.

And although he was doing some mild dating (which basically consisted of swiping right) and I was super-encouraging of it, no one had really caught his long-term attention.

Until he met her.

From the jump, she didn’t give me good gut instinct vibes, and the more red flags that he shared, the less interested I became.

So, I called her Build-A-Bear because that’s what I thought he was doing — trying to build her up to be something more than what she was. The nickname caught on and he called her that too.

Now before some of you ask if I was low-key jealous of what was newly transpiring, the answer is no. Let’s go further: heck no.

Deroc was never my type — physically or otherwise. Even when he would randomly flirt in school. Even when he proposed possibly proposing when we were in our late 20s.

At the same time, there was indescribable love there. The kind that wants him to be happy. The kind that knew he only had been in a healthy situation with one woman from his past — a former fiancé who he was still friends with. The kind that would stomp a chick into the ground if she tried to use or hurt him.

But "user" was the exact energy I got from Build-A-Bear.

She questioned our friendship from day one and wanted to know about the history he and I shared. She started requiring that he get off of the phone whenever he was on the phone with me. She told him that once he gave her the “girlfriend” title, I should no longer be a priority and she should be fast-tracked into learning everything about him that I did.

And what’s crazy is this nonsense started only a few weeks into his meeting her.

When my house burned down, just three days before Christmas, he didn't return my calls because she didn’t want him to and, according to him, he was trying to figure out how to balance our friendship with his newfound relationship.

I told him I didn't trust her, like her, and that I thought she was setting him up. (The last time he and I talked, she had already put an ultimatum out that he needed to propose by this fall). And while he didn’t disagree with my assessment, he still entertained her whines and rants about our friendship and the "requirements" she made about us if he wanted her to remain his girlfriend.

Fascinatingly enough, while his world was less-than-impressed with this new “boo thang," and he kept telling me that he knew some things were a little “off." he kept letting her run his life and it caused an increasing separation between us.

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The Final Straw

Sometimes, you don’t know that something is the end until it actually happens. A friend of mine had heard the gist of what was going on with Deroc and me and wanted to talk to him about it. So, we called him on three-way.

What’s crazy is that just two days before, he and his girlfriend had gotten into yet another argument about me to the point where he declared that he was getting sick of her. And yet, when we called him, he was rushing home because she was at his house.

After my friend spoke to him for about 30 minutes about how “Lifetime Network” his relationship seemed to be and that he shouldn’t allow anyone to demand that he compromise his friendships, let alone his life, he got off of the phone.

He then called us back a few minutes later to say his girlfriend asked him what he had been doing and when he said he was talking to me, she yelled, cussed, stormed out, and said she was done and wanted to end her own life.

Barely six months in and this was the chaos, confusion, and mayhem that he signed up for. SMDH. Then add tax.

Around 1 am in the morning, he called me to tell me all that had transpired.

Bottom line, I told him that I just couldn’t do it anymore. I knew she was manipulating him and that their toxic relationship was spilling over into our friendship. It was time to leave.

“Deroc, what all of this has taught me is I’m your friend but you’re not really mine," I told him.

And then I took a jog down memory lane and thought about how, while he was definitely one of my favorite chat buddies, when it came to the ways that I showed up for him vs. how he has showed up for me, it’s definitely like a 70/30 split in my favor. He didn’t deny it.

He shed a few tears over the phone when I said that I didn’t trust him — couldn’t trust him — if he was willing to let someone that he barely knew basically ruin a friendship that had been a part of his entire adult life

And that was it. The end of a 30-year friendship.

The following morning, my friend who was on the three-way call said, “He’s definitely unstable right now but I would hate for you to not be friends anymore. Can you at least crack the door open?”

Against my better judgment, I shot Deroc an email to say that he would need to restore the trust if we were going to salvage anything about us. He wrote back a couple of hours later to say that he heard me loud and clear and that he would figure out a way.

After two weeks of absolute silence, I sent my final email. We needed to be done. There was nothing else to say. An unexpected funeral had arrived. Only, it was for our friendship — not for one of us.

What Has the Friendship Break-Up Taught Me?

Breaking up with Deroc was more empowering than anything. For many years, I had a pattern of seeing that I deserved better, but talking myself into tolerating less and other people benefitting from that kind of toxicity.

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So, for me to nip something like this in the bud instead of gaslighting myself is real self-esteem-related progress.

That doesn’t mean that I haven’t had moments when I’ve gone through the five stages of grieving. A lot of you probably know what they are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I certainly didn’t start off this year thinking that my longest-running friendship was going to come to a screeching halt.

I can only save myself. And that’s just what I did.

Someone recently asked me if all of this has made me scared to trust people. After all, 30 years is a long time.

Nah. What it has done is reminded me that there are certain indicators of a genuine friendship that should always be expected between two people. Top on the list: someone who would never allow someone else to put a true friendship in harm’s way, for any reason. If they do, they have an internal problem that no external dynamic can fix. 

You have to value yourself to value what life brings to you, to discern what really does have your best interest at heart vs. who just has an …agenda.

In all candor, Build-A-Bear, I’m still absolutely not a fan of you. But oddly enough, though, I thank you for the reminder. If I have the strength to walk away from 30 years, it means my self-love meter is high. I'm not sure I would’ve realized that had you not slithered your way in.

Y’all know that quote, “Never make someone a priority who considers you to be an option?” 

It applies to friendships, too. Never forget that. I know I won’t.

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Shellie R. Warren’s work has been featured in The Good Men Project, Laila Ali’s lifestyle blog, wedding sites (including Wedding Chat), and the spirituality blog BeliefNet. She also writes for Tawkify, a professional matchmaking website.