Words by Deidre Olsen
Earlier this month, Jesy Nelson confirmed that her relationship with her former Little Mix bandmates had reached a new low, and that they were no longer speaking at all - despite once claiming to be all as close as "sisters."
"I loved my time with them, and we’ve got the most incredible memories together..." she told Graham Norton. "[But] we're not talking anymore."
Sometimes, when friendships have differences so irreconcilable, the best thing for all parties to go separate ways. I should know, as it happened to me.
We had tonnes in common: we were the same age and went to the same university, we shared a mutual love of music festivals, social justice and feminism. After just one meeting, we became instantaneous BFFs and immediately made plans to hang out again.
Our shared interests meant it was easy for us to spend all of our time together, and we soon became inseparable.
We’d spend our days listening to music, we’d head to beaches, take hula hooping lessons and study together. We created beautiful memories together, but over the years, elements of our friendship slowly began to sour - and like Jesy Nelson and Little Mix, we eventually stopped speaking altogether.
In hindsight, our connection was probably ill-fated from the beginning.
At the time, I didn’t question the accelerated closeness of our friendship, convinced it was some kind of a cosmic bond. I mistook our rapid emotional attachment for chemistry and compatibility, not realising my long-held, deep desire for affection and belonging made me a sitting duck for emotional abuse.
At first, Anna love-bombed me, repeatedly telling me how amazing I was and how she’d always wanted a friend like me. We’d have sleepovers and stay up late listening to music and talking about life and the universe. I’d share thoughts and feelings and she would mirror me, creating a mirage of understanding. Having been bullied as a kid, excluded and socially ostracised, I felt ecstatic whenever it seemed like someone genuinely cared for me and wanted to be my friend.
As time progressed, another side of Anna began to emerge. Where she used to agree with me, she began to fiercely oppose and criticise every word that came out of my mouth. She became hypersensitive, defensive and easily offended, going from 0 to 100 and erupting over nothing.
In times like these, I found myself desperate to pacify conflict, constantly taking the blame and apologising, even when I was not at fault. Our relationship became impetuous. Her words would turn from kind and gentle, to sharp and venomous. I was caught in a cycle of devaluation and positive reinforcement, unable to call it quits. I wllfully overlooked the blaring signs of dysfunction and toxicity. I didn’t understand why this person caused me so much pain and how, simultaneously, I was desperate for her affection and validation.
Little did I know, she was conjuring up subtle ways to try and slowly sabotage my romance. Anna would make up things my partner had said or done and whisper them in my ear, causing me to doubt my own perceptions. I became paranoid and suspicious. I started looking for and finding problems in my relationship that didn’t exist.
Even though I was in love and happy, I was having second thoughts. My girlfriend, now part of my friend group, was being fed information by Anna too, unbeknownst to me. I found out when one of my friends overheard a shushed conversation and relayed the information back to me. While my partner never outright believed Anna, the insidious impact led both of us to feel insecure and question if we were right for one another.
I told her that I couldn’t reciprocate her feelings and she burst into a cruel outburst, accusing me of leading her on and breaking her heart. After that, I decided it was time to end our friendship. I couldn’t take it anymore. It was parasitic and draining. I started to gradually untangle my life from hers.
I unfollowed Anna’s posts on Facebook and made up excuses as to why I couldn’t hang out. She tried to win me back by saying she was sorry and she was wrong but I was no longer in denial about her intentions.
A couple years later, I finally got the guts to block Anna’s phone number and all of her social media accounts. She hasn’t reached out and neither have I.
Like with Jesy, Little Mix and their time together as a four-piece, there are memories I undoubtedly enjoy reminiscing over about Anna, and we once had such an intense bond.
But ultimately, I know I am better off. I don’t regret my decision to break up my friendship with her. In fact, I wish I had done it sooner. I would have saved myself a lot of emotional turmoil.
Looking back, I know it was the right choice. I believe Anna, in some ways, genuinely liked me but didn’t understand how to cultivate healthy relationships. I think her own issues and deep-seated insecurities turned her into an emotional vampire, one on the constant lookout for new lifebloods to drain from.
If it wasn’t me, it would be someone else.
*Names have been changed