I’m coming to learn, especially in my adult years, that no matter how hard you wish to hold on, that some things still slip away. Life is always changing: careers, love, beliefs, and even friendships. There comes a point in every person’s life when he or she needs to part ways with someone or something. Losing any of these things is a long emotional process that each of us will need to go through. It will feel shocking and unfair, but in the end it usually is the best thing for you.
Having friendships is vital to our happiness. Because what would each of us be without the companionship and love of our friends? We build friendships because they are good and because they help us. They are your people, your tribe, your family. They help you through the dark and celebrate with you in the light. Friends come in all shapes and sizes, each is special and unique to us in their own way. But no matter what qualities they possess or what reasons we have for being close, there is one basic rule:
Our friends must be a positive influence in our lives.
Sometimes the cons in the friendship start to outweigh the pros, and there comes a time when you need to put your well-being first. Sometimes, as we grow, friendships that once seemed anchoring and powerful will become very much the opposite. We often focus a great deal of our energy and attention on examining and avoiding toxic romantic relationships, but for some reason give little thought to protecting ourselves from toxic friendships. It is crucial that we learn to recognize the signs of toxic friendships, which cause stress, drain our happiness, and lower our self-esteem.
Healthy friendships should ultimately help you grow as an individual and bring you happiness. Good friends are reliable, supportive, and honest, will push you and challenge you to grow, teach you from their experiences, and also just have fun with you. When you invest your time and energy into people who do not reciprocate, or who seem only to contribute in toxic, unhealthy ways, you need to put up boundaries to protect yourself from emotional and mental harm. Sometimes people will disappoint you. When that disappointing behavior becomes habitual, it is time to reevaluate the relationship.
Pay close attention to your body and how it reacts to spending time in any particular relationship. Do you feel better or worse after each encounter? Remember to listen to yourself. When things aren’t feeling right, they probably aren’t. If you are compromising yourself in ways that feel badly to you, it’s time to change something. I have found through personal experience that there some serious signs that a friendship may be unhealthy, and it’s probably time for you to move on and let things go. Some “friends” just aren’t worth it and you must respect and value yourself enough to know when to say goodbye.
A frienemy is someone who pretends to be a friend, but is actually a rival. These dreaded people disguise themselves in your life only to compete with you, criticize you, and continually go out of their way to one-up you. They want to see you doing good, just as long as it’s not better than them. Frenemies love the put down, usually given in front of others. When confronted, they generally claim it was intended to be lighthearted or a “joke”, opening the door for the delivery of a second insult. A frenemy will talk behind your back and always remind you and others about your failures and mistakes that should long since been left in the past. They are masters of left handed compliments “Thats a nice picture of you, especially with the heavy filter you used.” Make no mistake, THIS is not a compliment. So if you have a “friend” who makes cruel or mean comments about you, whether it’s to your face or behind your back, they probably aren’t your friend. If you find someone is always putting you down, judging you, not paying attention to you, not caring about you, belittling you, or making you question yourself, something is definitely wrong. I am convinced that frenemies are often unaware of their true motive, which may be fueled by feelings of jealousy, inferiority, or resentment. Even so, it is best to identify these destructive relationships and deal with them quickly. Remove the negativity from your life as soon as possible. Respect yourself enough to walk away.
The Energy Vampire
These friends bring you down, dampen your mood, and always seem to be a negative drain on your positive energy. Showing support and compassion when a friend is in need is a necessity of good friendships. But it is also important to balance the lows with uplifting experiences, too. If your sole purpose in a friendship has become to listen to another’s rants of negativity and failures, where will that leave you? I’ve had friendships where after an hour or two of conversation, I feel exhausted, like I want to curl up right where I am and fall asleep for a few minutes. Being continually bombarded with chronic negativity is draining and often contagious. These types of behaviors not only damage your mood, but open gates to more depression and anxiety in your own life. If you find that your relationship isn’t providing you with support, reflect on what the person is providing. If your friend is constantly unhappy and always expects your support through their drama without providing much positivity to your life in return, it’s time to consider letting go of the friendship. You deserve someone who will be there to encourage you throughout your journey and believe in you maybe even more than you believe in yourself. If someone is truly becoming a negative influence in your life, it is okay to consider your well-being above all else.
The Balancing Act
We’ve all had one sided friendships. You know, the ones where you send five text messages before you get one back. When you are always checking up to see how they are doing, but they never seem to ask about you. Maybe you go out of your way to visit them, but they’ve never done anything for you. Or maybe you sense them actively avoiding you, as if you caring about them is inconveniencing them in some way. Whatever it is, you get what I’m saying. The friendships are one sided, and you’re the only one who is the friend.
Ideally friends should give and take fairly equally in order to have a balanced friendship. This means that they both want the friendship, they both value the other person, and they both give equal parts of their time and themselves. If you feel like you’re the only one putting forth love, effort and time, you must reflect on whether or not the friendship is worth it. A true friend who cares about you and loves you will not take you for granted or allow you to invest unequal effort. When one person is more vested emotionally in the relationship, it can be difficult on many levels. While these types of relationships may satisfy a temporary desire, ultimately they will break us down.
If your relationship makes you feel as though you’re the only one putting in effort reflect on whether or not it’s worth it. If someone truly cares for you, the person will never allow you to invest disproportionate effort. Don’t ever allow someone to make you feel needy for wanting someone who will love, care and support you. Instead find people who make you feel worthwhile and acknowledge how important you are to them. Life is too short to waste our energy on anything less. Being taken for granted by friends hurts, and nobody in the world deserves to hold that kind of power over you.
Be strong and self-loving enough to know when it’s time to walk away.
I am not advocating ending a friendship immediately because you see a couple of negative characteristics; but if the friendship makes you feel worse about yourself rather than better, then chances are it is unhealthy for your development as a person. Sometimes establishing boundaries with bad friends means communicating your feelings and the problem, asking them to stop, and not letting them continue their negative behavior. But sometimes, this is not enough. Clearing your life of relationships that bring you down will eventually reduce the stress and pain they cause you. Sometimes taking care of yourself and being strong and mature means evaluating your relationships and making a break.
“Toxic relationships are dangerous to your health; they will literally kill you. Stress shortens your lifespan. Even a broken heart can kill you. There is an undeniable mind-body connection. Your arguments and hateful talk can land you in the emergency room or in the morgue. You were not meant to live in a fever of anxiety; screaming yourself hoarse in a frenzy of dreadful, panicked fight-or-flight that leaves you exhausted and numb with grief. You were not meant to live like animals tearing one another to shreds. Don’t turn your hair gray. Don’t carve a roadmap of pain into the sweet wrinkles on your face. Don’t lay in the quiet with your heart pounding like a trapped, frightened creature. For your own precious and beautiful life, and for those around you — seek help or get out before it is too late. This is your wake-up call!”
― Bryant McGill