Relationships and friendships are a vital part of a rewarding life for most people. Many find that spending time with their friends is fun, energizing, and they feel supported in these relationships. But what do you do when you find that your friendships actually aren’t very emotionally rewarding anymore and you dread seeing or talking to your so-called friends?
Let’s start with the basics of identifying what a toxic friendship looks like. There are tons of articles out there that have a lot of helpful information about how to tell if you have a toxic friendship on your hands, so I’ll keep this part brief. Here are some characteristics of toxic friendships:
People go through difficult issues in life all the time and part of being a friend is being supportive for the other person during these times. Some people take this to the extreme, however, and seem to always be in crisis and in need of your time and support. This unhealthy dependence and neediness can be draining on you emotionally and make you feel like your own needs in the relationship are not being respected or considered.
If you notice yourself having stomach cramps and headaches before or after seeing your “friend” or find yourself looking for excuses to get out of spending time together, this might be a toxic relationship.
Find that with every success or positive thing you experience, your friend has a negative response or even finds a way to devalue your triumphs completely? Constant negativity and an inability to allow others to experience success is a sign of unhappiness. It’s always sad to let go of a relationship with someone you want to help but remember, if they don’t want it, you can’t force it.
Lack of Trust
Feel like whatever you tell your friend in confidence always seems to be thrown back at you or worried it will be talked about with others behind your back? Trust is the basis of any healthy relationship. Once it’s gone, it’s very difficult for the relationship to continue functioning well.
Consistent Patterns of Behavior
Every person and every relationship goes through rough patches in life. That’s normal. It’s a sign of a problem, though, when your relationship is in constant flux or the betrayal of trust, neediness, and feelings of dread are consistent and don’t seem to be changing.
Practically Perfect in Every Way
It’s never easy to hear criticism even when it’s well-meaning and constructive, but a friend should be able to hear you out if you’re noticing an issue in the relationship that you want to work on and open to working on it with you. If your friend is completely closed off to the possibility of being part of the problem or worse, gets defensive, angry, and throws it back on you, this relationship might be doing more harm than good.
If you’re still reading you might have decided that yes, you have toxic friendship but have no clue how to go about extricating yourself gracefully. Just because this friendship is no longer healthy for you, doesn’t mean that you stop caring for the other person or their feelings. Here are some tips on how to go about putting this relationship to rest.
Before you can take action, you need to come to terms with the lack of control you have over another person’s behavior no matter how deeply you care. You can only change your own behavior. If you’ve identified this as an unhealthy relationship on which your friend is unwilling to work, it’s time to stop making excuses and allowances for their poor behavior.
Ending a friendship, especially if it is an older friendship, can take several attempts. Rarely in life are we gifted with clean, painless breaks. Prepare yourself that this make take a few tries to stick but if you want to remove unhealthy relationships from your life, it’s worth persevering.
Many people procrastinate ending relationships they know are unhealthy because they are afraid of hurting the other person’s feelings or are afraid the other person will be unable to bear the pain of it all. It is vital to respect another person’s ability to cope. You are not doing anyone a favor or kindness by “sparing feelings”. You are being dishonest to yourself and your friend. You both deserve honesty and respect regardless of what has happened between you. Honesty, even about unpleasant things, can still be delivered in a caring, sensitive manner.
Although it might seem silly when you’re doing it, practicing what you want to say when you confront your friend to end the relationship can be a wonderful way to ensure you are honest while also communicating that you care and respect the other person. Use a mirror to make sure your facial expressions are congruent with your message.
When confronting your friend be direct and use “I” statements to avoid pointing fingers or assigning blame (a surefire way for defenses to come up and listening to stop). This keeps the focus on you, your needs, and your feelings, as well as communicates that you have made this decision and it is not up for debate or criticism.
Forgiveness is necessary and without it will make it difficult or even impossible for you to move on after ending the friendship. Remember that forgiveness is not forgetting, it’s not considering another person’s behaviors to be acceptable, and it is not making excuses for their behavior. Forgiving your friend face-to-face or just within yourself will allow you to avoid dwelling on the situation later in life.
Any ending, especially involving relationships, requires a grieving process. The length and intensity of the grieving process will differ for every relationship but be kind to yourself give yourself room to grieve the relationship. It may have been unhealthy and toxic but it is okay to even find yourself missing your old friend from time to time. It doesn’t meant that you made a mistake, it just means you’re human.