Learning How to End Toxic + Harmful Relationships

June 04, 2010

This post is alternately known to me as: How To Fire A Bad Friend, but either will do.

A little less than a year ago, I was answered a question about how to keep a negative friend from ruining your positive outlook, however I have recently been thinking about it again, as I think this topic may require a more tough-love response.

This is something that can be a problem, especially if you are a people pleaser. [I am.] Or particularly bad at delivering news that you know won’t be well received, even if you know it is in your best interest. [I’m not.] And you all know this type of friend – they are grandfathered into your life, like someone that you’ve know absolutely forever, but drives you insane. It could be a friend from childhood, or a friend who is kind of on the periphery of your friend circle who you don’t really care for but have gotten used to having in your life.  Or an ex? You still wants to be friends. Or, if you were me, it could be a residual friendship from your early days of low self esteem, where you became friends with Rock Stars – you know, the type of friend that is amazing and beautiful and loud and abbbbsssssoooolutely everyone just LOVES.

There was a time in my life where I was so timid and socially anxious that I befriended women like this frequently. I needed someone to be my better half, to get us invited to all the parties, to be a heart throb, and the kind of girl everyone wants to be around. Inevitably, this is the type of person also requires a lot of, lets call it assistance. You have to be available to their every whim, following them around, helping them get dressed, and listening to them tell you in detail about all of the fabulous things that they are up to. And in exchange, you get to be a part of their really awesome life, making your life really awesome by osmosis.

Now it doesn’t help if you are the kind of person that is easily taken advantage of [guilty], because you just cannot say no and you are genuinely good at taking care of people. But the reality is this: You have to put yourself first. You probably have scores of awesome friends, great co-workers, perhaps an awesome girlfriend/boyfriend/occasional “friend”, family of some sorts, and by piecing all of those together you can create a pretty phenomenal support network. However, when you have someone in your life who is a constant drain of energy, who is more interested in who they think you are than who you want to be, and who you find yourself spending more time on than you have to spend on yourself – You need change.

Signs That A Relationship That May Have Run Its Course:

  • Have you evolved? Are your interests different, and the things that excited you changing? Is there someone in your life who refuses to accept it, or makes fun of you for your new behavior?
  • Do you feel like you are exerting far more effort into your relationship than someone else is? Is this causing you undue stress?
  • Do you hang out with someone just because you feel badly for them, even though you aren’t really friends? Does your guilt make you feel like you have to go out of your way for this person, even though you don’t like them?
  • Are you friends with someone just because you are somehow benefitted by their friendship? Ie. they have things that you want, or get you tickets to all the best shows, or invites to the coolest parties, but you don’t really like them for who they are?
  • Does your friend make you feel badly about yourself?

How to Nicely But Firmly Walk Away From A Relationship That No Longer Serves You:

  • Make sure that this is really what you want. Are you in a slump? Does everything look bad right now – not just your friendships? Have you talked to this friend, brought their behavior to light, or told them that you’re unhappy? Yes? It hasn’t worked? Proceed to the next point.
  • Be honest. You are awesome and strong and worth loving, right? Right. You need to act that way, and stand up for yourself if a relationship is no longer working for you. Now: being honest can be the absolute hardest thing possible, but this is a difficult subject and making excuses will not help you in the long run.
  • Be nice. Presumably you loved this person at one point in your life – for whatever reason. Even if they are torturing you within an inch of your life now, likely they don’t even know that you’re doing it, so be NICE when you are honestly breaking up with them.
  • Be real – with yourself. Make sure that it is your friend that is toxic and that they are not just mirroring your toxicity back to you. If its not them, and it is in fact you – you’re reading the wrong post. Learn how to love yourself and become  the most amazing person in the room.
  • Consider taking a break, and not going for the whole enchilada break up. Maybe you just need some space to breathe and reassess your relationship.

Now, I am all about finding awesome friends and building amazing relationships. This advice is purely for people whom you’ve outgrown and are making your life sad/negative/hard/painful.

Because you are worth the very best. xox.

Is this a problem in your life? How do you deal with it? Do you have any tips for walking away from these types of friendships?