When a friendship causes more sorrow than it does joy, what do you do?
As tough as it sounds, sometimes you have to ‘break up’ with a friend to protect yourself.
This happened to me. I’d been pals with this person for a long time and we had a laugh through shared experiences. I thought we had a good friendship.
But increasingly, the signs were that it wasn’t so great. Conversations were one-sided and I felt like I was in a game of one-upmanship (but never the winner).
I’d see Facebook photos and feel the sinking sensation of exclusion. She’d talk about socials with other friends – although an invite wasn’t forthcoming.
I was angry, confused and hurt. It drained my energy and left me filled with negative self-talk.
It took me back to childhood when I tried hard to win approval from my peers and feel accepted; a valued part of the group.
But we are not at school now. So I deployed all those grown-up weapons beginning with R: rationalising, reminding and reasoning.
One day I thought: enough. Life is too short.
I needed to think less about defending her behaviour and more about myself. Did I like being around her? Was I uplifted? Valued? Supported? Listened to? Was I treated as an equal?
Or was I sapped of energy? Annoyed? Left feeling bad about myself? Could I tolerate it or not?
Self-reflection helped me recognise I needed to reevaluate my boundaries.
I considered talking it out with her. In the end I decided against it. Thinking it through provided the clarity on what I would accept/tolerate and what I would not.
So I let the friendship fade out. No drama, no fireworks, no big shakedown or ‘defriending’. Only a gentle diminishing of contact.
In ‘The Chimp Paradox‘, Prof Steve Peters points out we can remain personable and approachable to others even if we aren’t personal with them.
It’s a great attitude. I’ve got fond memories of the good times despite our disconnect. If I see her, I’ll say hi and have a chat – but I won’t be rushing to book lunch dates any time soon.
That’s not to say it has been easy process. There have been times when it’s been emotionally testing. Letting go, no matter how gently, is still hard.
Sometimes I experience a flash of doubt but deep down I know I have made the correct decision. Amid the pain is empowerment. I’m making choices about what’s best for me. Real adulting, right here.
Ultimately, I want relationships with people who make me feel good, and and inspire me to make them feel good too.
Take a moment to think about your friendships and your needs. Be open-minded and examine those that rise you up or bring you down.
Ask yourself: do you need to redraw some boundaries?