A few weeks ago, I read this article at MSNBC.com about how and why we keep toxic friendships. It really got me thinking. I have had two toxic friendships finally kick the proverbial bucket in the last couple of years. And while it was painful at the time, ultimately my life is better for NOT having the emotional drain on my heart anymore.
BOTH relationships were infinitely more toxic to my heart and mind than I even realized at the time. Both were people who loved to hash and rehash past drama between them and other people. Lucia Pattrito (a woman describing a toxic co-worker in the article) hits it spot on when she says, "We're a positive bunch at work, but she was like this emotional wet blanket. She wasn't just a pill; she was a suppository. You could practically hear the Debbie Downer music." That could easily describe BOTH of my toxic friends. They were suppositories. UGH!
There were loads of red flags that I just refused to give much weight to. They both said ugly stuff to me that I'd never say to a friend. They both talk all kinds of miserable judgemental stuff about other people. Can I just say.. while sarcasm can be pretty funny in small doses, in unregulated amounts it sucks the life out of my soul! Seriously, nothing puts a damper on a happy day like a truck load of sarcasm. One of my toxic friends actually says that sarcasm is her "love language". UGH! Really!? That's not ironically funny. That's actually SAD. If you can't even find a way to say something nice in a NICE WAY... that's just lame. You're emotionally stunted. Listening to someone cutting people with words gets old... really quickly. My heart is definitely NOT missing the perpetual harsh take on everything going on in the world at all!
Leila (from Don't Speak Whinese) has a humorous take on toxic friendships. If you're easily offended with talk about poop or profanity, the link might not be your cup of tea. The idea that we shouldn't have to force friendships... that sometimes people just don't mesh... and we should just let that crap go... isn't new. But her version sure makes me laugh! Ditching a toxic friendship and then inviting your "Febreze friends" over to celebrate life and help you forget the crappiness?? Count me in!
I was amazed at the results in the survey on TODAY. 84% of women responders (18,000 total) said they'd had a toxic female friend. That's a LOT. Apparently, I'm not the only one who's ever encountered the emotional black hole of a toxic chick friend. Having healthy boundaries with people is a good thing. I know that I say that a lot. But it IS! I'm the kind of person who really hates confrontation. If you bug me, I'll tend to just cut you slack and not bring it up. But, here lately... maybe I'm crabbier... maybe I'm just older and wiser... I'm just not willing to invest time into relationships that don't have a healthy vibe to 'em.
I realize that everyone goes through rough seasons in life... sometimes people get obnoxious because they're dealing with tough stuff and it just all comes out rough. I think that's where accountability comes in. I would hope that, if I started being a jerk, you would (as a FRIEND) tell me that you know that I might be dealing with some major crap, but that being a jerk to you isn't the way to handle it. I would hope that, since I knew you care about me and are vested in our relationship, you wouldn't say something like that just to make me squirm but, because you really care about me and our friendship. I would hope that I would take it the right way. Since I hate for people to think I'm a total jerk (Can you say "recovering people pleaser?"), I'd like to think that I'd straighten up and get back to being kind. I hope that's how something like that would go.
Here's what I hated about the toxic break-ups:
The Mud Flinging
Seriously?! When I'm in a friendship... especially one of the "BFF" variety... I expect a certain amount of grown-up-edness to come along with that. As BFFs, we vent and tell each other stuff that we don't share with just anyone. There's a certain amount of Vegas involved (meaning: "What is said within our friendship... stays within our friendship") and that shouldn't change because our relationship gets downgraded.
Using anything I've shared privately, as ammunition in conversations with other people... is wrong. Period. The reverse is also true... I won't use your private stuff. That's not fair. It's not respectful. Even if we can't agree or get over whatever the heck is splitting our friendship up... we ought to at least respect each other as fellow human beings. Don't be mean.
The Flounce (coined by Kate my uber-fabulous friend and coiner of "Family of Choice")
The 'tude of : "I'm right. You're wrong. You've always been wrong. Good-bye! Hmmph!" This is the way immature people deal with conflict. Everyone I know has dealt with someone like this. "I'm not going to tell you why I'm upset. I'm going to text another person close to you about our conflict, and then unfriend you on facebook without a word." Seriously? Who does this? I don't care about the unfriending part so much (that seems to be a bigger deal in the junior high/high school world) but, bringing another person into the conflict... is just stupid. It doesn't leave me with a heartbreak as much as it leaves me with an eye roll.
What if we just learned to deal with relational BS like adults? I like what the apostle Paul wrote to Titus.
"Stay away from those who have foolish arguments and talk about useless family histories and argue and quarrel about the law. Those things are worth nothing and will not help anyone. After a first and second warning, avoid someone who causes arguments." Titus 3:9-10 (NCV)
There's something wonderfully simple about making those kinds of choices. I'd be willing to bet that they'd lead to fewer toxic friendships. We wouldn't suddenly find ourselves in a relationship that was rotting from the inside out.
Toxic relationships have robbed me of too much time (personally and emotionally) and I'm over it. Non-toxic friends (Febrezey friends!) are the ones I want to invest in for the rest of my life. Who's with me?
Have you ever had to untangle yourself from a toxic friendship?