How to deal with a toxic friend:
Friends are important for mental health and the relationship should be a two-way street. But, if you’re finding yourself feeling resentful, pressured or anxious due to your friend’s behavior or noticing they seem to be manipulative, drawing the drama or self-pity card more than they should or simply demanding to much from you, it might be time to reconsider the friendship.
This can be a painful process to even begin to accept. One moment, you’re laughing and sitting around gas log fireplaces laughing and sharing your inner most thoughts and the next, you’re dodging calls and feeling a whole range of emotions from sorrow to anxiety when considering interacting with them. It might be that your friend is treating you badly or is exhibiting behaviors or beliefs that don’t align with yours or simply that you’ve outgrown each other. Perhaps you have settled down into family life and your bestie is still partying hard and having casual relationships and expecting you to continue to do so too. It may be that you feel your friend is using you. If it’s you whom pays for all events, meals, outings or lends money and nothing is repaid or given, it can leave one feeling drained and disvalued. There might have been a catalyst event, where your long existing companion crossed the line in a major way and you can no longer continue on.
In some cases, it might be massive life changing event that has caused your mate some undue stress and trauma, altering their behavior. Or you simply might be starting to see the relationship differently. This journey can take quite some time. We often instinctively seek out safe and valuable friendships to help us feel secure and valued. It’s just as important to realize we are our own person outside of the friendship.
Our personal boundaries are what we decide is tolerable and what isn’t. Keep your boundaries strong. What you accept and don’t accept as appropriate shouldn’t change with our most intimate circle. We have boundaries for ourselves, not for others. How you permit others to treat you becomes their normal, what you condone becomes acceptable to them because you permit it.
If it makes you feel uncomfortable, speak up. Be firm, but honest with your discussions and insight. If your bosom buddy is a true mate, they’ll be able to have a truthful chat with you, and if they’re a decent person, they’ll have some accountability. If not, then it might be time to re-evaluate who you’re spending time with. If chatting about boundaries and attempting to maintain them continually starts fights with your buddy, then they have no respect for you. Some people might permit a few compromises and allowances here and there, but if it is an ongoing matter, and you begin to feel compromised and you feel aggrieved more than comfortable, it might be time to have an awkward conversation to determine if the friendship as become toxic.
Widen your social circle, spend time with other people and do more things away from the friendship that bring you joy. Don’t let the fading friendship, be the focal point of your existence. Start a new hobby, begin a fitness program, commence study, do something for you that does not involve them. These events can also be traumatic, if you need a professional to offload onto, don’t be afraid to reach out. Close friendships are often an integral and personal part of our lives, and just as with divorce or separation from a partner, the severing of a friendship can be devastating.
Disengaging from a toxic friendship can be scary. It might be that you have become fearful or resentful of the other person, or that you are feeling emotionally and spiritually exhausted from liaising with this person. Initially it might be easier to slowly distance yourself. Avoid answering calls or texts straight away, be busy when they attempt to catch up or when they commence long phone calls discussing drama or self-pitying tendencies. Avoid places you know they are likely to be to decrease the possibility of running into them. In other situations, it can be quicker and seemingly less of a lengthy process to just stop talking to them, cutting them of completely. This may mean deleting or blocking them on social media accounts as well as with phone calls and messaging platforms. If you’ve been close for some time, you might elect to sit them down and explain that you are cutting the friendship of and why. If you do this, it might be beneficial to bring a support person with you for the meeting as a means of assistance with matters become emotional or upsetting, as well as helping for a quick exit. Have an exit strategy, one where you are not sitting around awkwardly, just as you would with any breakup.
Remember to be kind. No matter what has transpired, you were once close enough of this person to trust them with secrets, to share your life, love and family and close ones. If you can leave on a respectful note, then do.
After the friendship, be respectful, even if they’re not. Don’t try and discourage mutual friends from maintaining contact with them. Avoid getting into slanging matches, or spreading rumors, making nasty or snarky posts on social media and above all don’t stalk them on social media to ascertain if they are talking about you or because you feel drawn to have one last argument.
Sometimes we outgrow people, sometimes, they outgrow us. People come into our lives for a reason. At times, it might just be a short season or a long running phase that they stay. Perhaps you both needed each other for a purpose that was valid and essential at the time and now the situation has changed and one or both of you have learnt what you needed to. As much as it hurts, be grateful for the experience and happy and uplifting times together.
Author: Therese Vickers