HOW TO BREAK UP WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The topic of “toxic friendships” has recently appeared in television shows (think “frenemy”), blog posts, popular magazines, and on morning talk shows. However, I find most of the commentary and suggestions on the topic to be of little use to those of us who are trying to find a way out of a toxic friendship. There are a lot of fears associated with dumping a friend that are not addressed. No one discusses potential social ramifications or interference with your reputation or career. There is no advice about what to do if you have to see this person regularly after the break. It is rarely mentioned how anxiety provoking it is to set limits with difficult people, how crazy certain people can make you feel, and how angry at times. Breaking up with a friend can be a very lonely, painful, scary, embarrassing, maddening, and sad process. It also doesn’t end right away. The fallout and recovery from breaking up with a friend can have residual effects for years. Intense at first, but eventually you’ll rarely think of it.
I’m a married mom of two and I work as a clinical psychologist. I have had the opportunity to support and guide people through the muck of disengaging from toxic friendships. While my work and training informs my thoughts on the subject of difficult friendships, I am also coming from a personal perspective on this issue.
Eight years ago I broke up with my best friend. It was horrible and awful and it was the healthiest thing I have ever done. The friendship spanned from when I was 14 to about 30. The break was a long time coming and I was close to doing it many times before, though I repeatedly lost my footing due to my poor self-esteem, naiveté, and my unrelenting almost pathological need to be “nice.” While I still enjoy being nice and consider myself a nice person, I am much less nice than I used to be.
The break was ugly. If I could go back and do it differently I would; however I would not change my decision to remove myself completely and forever from that relationship. Since then I have encountered at least two potentially toxic friendships. In both cases I was able to distance myself before getting in too deep. I get a little better at it each time. I am also better at identifying the giant red flags whipping in the wind that suggest someone could become problematic. I now know when to keep my distance and set limits early so that difficult people leave me alone and start trolling for a better victim.
This blog is about getting out of unhealthy friendships and avoiding toxic relationships in the future. My intention is not to give advice but to share my ideas. When in doubt regarding your own situations I encourage you to consult with a qualified and recommended mental health professional in your area:).
Please feel free to share your own stories regarding toxic friendships. However, take pains to change the name and identifying information of your friend as this blog is not meant to be used as a platform for throwing stones at the not so innocent.