Thursday, September 8, 2011

Toxic Friendships

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.



Equally stupid?

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?

22 comments:

  1. Yes, and it's a messy time, the untangling. Especially when you hold hope that the person will change, but you know they won't. And then you're defending yourself against all the lies that person has told, and you can't call them out as lies because if people knew the truth about that person, it would cause them pain as well!

    It's a crappy situation, all the way around.

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  2. It's a SuckFest for sure! If only we could just be on our best behavior... even when we're mad...

    We need grown-up friendship Detangler spray!!!!

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  3. I had 2 friends last year, that I finally told, that they were just too draining for me.
    One would come over and begin to tell me what a bad housekeeper I was.

    The other one would ask me why I married an unattractive man. Over and over she'd say, "I just don't know what you see in him."

    Done--SO DONE.Done. And should've been done LONG AGO.

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  4. Hello, there! Found you through @mommyofamonster and just had to read your post. I wrote something similar last year that might also give you clues about toxic friendships. http://bit.ly/oc3QEX -- and, it's not just friends, it's relatives, too. We all live in fear of hurting someone else's feeling, even though the toxic 'friend' couldn't care less. My biggest question has always been why don't other people stop them from hurting a friend. I'm going to stop, because this is s'posed to be just a comment. Just wanted to say hello.

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  5. @The Empress... Gosh that sucks. I feel your pain. One of my "friends" decided that she preferred the husband of another friend over her own. (NOT OK)
    The other friend is a person who perpetually questions our families choices about parenting, money, faith, and music. What?! How is that even close to "friendly" conversation?

    I hope that your done-ness leaves you lighter and more free!

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  6. I cannot even tell you how much I relate to this post right now. I have a friend that I had to drop because of her poor me stories and a cousin who isn't talking to me because I held her accountable. I figured since we are related we could talk it through and be better for it but was told instead that she didn't care that I don't trust her and she needs way less drama in her life which isn't going to happen because she's the cause of it.
    It's too bad people can't see outside of their own little boxes but I'm not gonna let it get me down..I know I'm better off!

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  7. @SharleneT... you hit the nail on the head when you said that we make choices and try not to hurt other people's feelings while toxic friends don't give a rip! They really don't care at all. We're all worried that if we confront them that they won't like us anymore (why should we care?), they'll saw ugly things about us (they probably will... they talk bad about everyone!), and that somehow that really matters (ultimately, it doesn't!) I think it's painful for a minute but, long-term it causes us less hurt. Sorta like ripping off a BandAid!

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  8. @CoffeeLovin'Mom... I totally feel your pain. We recently had a conflict with family over boundaries that we thought we could talk through as well. We were treated to a Flounce... and a "I'm taking my ball and going home." I know that having hurt feelings is a normal response to someone holding you accountable or enforcing their own boundaries... but at some point, we have to be grown ups. I tend to think that anyone who is unwilling to work things out when there is conflict, isn't really worth investing much time with when things are going smoothly.
    You definitely ARE better off. It's normal to have a little hurt when people act stupid like that. But find some Febrezey people to help mask that odor! ;)

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  9. I've had more than my share of toxic friendships and they were so draining to my soul. It's hard to let those go because somehow they make us feel responsible for their emotional state and we don't want to hurt them. (total BS). Through the years I've noticed that when I see someone behaving badly towards other people that they will always eventually behave that way towards me. For some reason we assume that our friendship gives us a "pass" and we are the only ones they won't do this to. We are wrong--every time. Better to get out before they have more ammunition to use in their toxic smear campaign.

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  10. @Ellen... my Dad used to say, "Anyone who will do something once, will do it again." He's right much of the time when it comes to applying that statement to ill-behaved friends. We're only deluding ourselves when we think that they won't be ugly to us. It really is only a matter of time before they do. People who steamroll other's boundaries will DEFINITELY steamroll mine.
    It's definitely best to learn to recognize those relationships early and ditch them before we're too enmeshed and our hearts hurt a LOT when the relationship goes kaput!

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  11. I'm glad I'm an adult, I have my Hubby as my friend and it might seem cliche' but it's easy to not have to use all of my energy on mean girl non sense. There are people who call you and just make you tired just seeing their number come up, from that you can clearly see your future if you pick up that phone.

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  12. I am sooo glad you wrote this...I JUST got out of one of these. Okay it has been 3 months. My marriage was falling apart and this "friend" was more worried about who else I was hanging out with and why I wasn't talking to her as much...ummm..way to be a friend. The mud flinging...this woman and her family watch my blog, her own mother attacked my blogs fb page and tried to ruin a happy moment for me. Thank you for writing this. I am betting many women have or had a relationship like this and may feel like they themselves have done something wrong. :::Standing Ovation:::

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  13. i started getting rid of toxic friends a little after i had my last child, there were too many vague comments and too many fingers being pointed at me for not keeping the friendship afloat. i felt like a prisoner and now i feel free.

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  14. @Mango Chutney... I can totally relate to seeing certain people pop up on caller ID and just wanting to go into a coma. The drama is exhausting. What's worth that kind of drain? I say, NOTHING!

    @Motherhood Truth... I hate it when the "friend" becomes a frenemy and makes you out ot be a bad guy. That's just awful. It can be tough to shuck off feelings of guilt... those people are so great at flinging crap and making us feeling like WE were the ones who were out of line... but in the long run, it's the healthiest choice.

    @textdrivebys Freedom... is UNDERrated! It sucks to be held hostage in ANY kind of unhealthy relationship. We should be quick to sever ties with people who just want to start arguments and stir up trouble. Why deal with the constant negativity?

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  15. Thank you for writing this post! My husband and I are in the process of severing ties with two 'malignant narcissist' personalities in our family. Despite all the pain and suffering it's been a hard decision to come to, I guess because they're family. Right now we're preparing for the storm that will come. We're not sure we will have ANY family left talking to us on that side of the family. We've only asked for space right now, but will be making it permanent shortly. The last few months have been the most peaceful we've had in years. We know it will be worth it in the long run. Thank you and those who commented for the encouragement and hope for the future! Best of luck to you all.

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  16. Toxic friendships are such a waste of time and we know when we're in one but I think sometimes people feel like ending it will bring on so much additional drama that it's better to suck it up. I'm so happy that you were able to say no more; that takes a lot of strength! I see so many toxic relationships among my female students and some days I just want to shake them and say "it's not worth it, she's not worth it, just let it go!" Hopefully they'll come to the realization you did sooner rather than later!

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  17. @MommySaidThis... I can totally relate to your situation. The peace that we've had after opting to just sever a couple unhealthy familial relationships (ones that were absolutely NOT going to change) is remarkable. Peace to you and your husband while you go through this tough season of change. It WILL be worth it.

    @Ms. Megan... It really is stupid when the Junior High dramatic flairs show up in adulthood isn't it?! UGH! I'm glad that your students have someone practical (like you!) to encourage them to ditch the drama and toxic relationships EARLY in life. It sure would've been easier to learn this stuff SOONER!

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  18. Yes,

    Just recently in fact. She jumped all over me over something that was completely out of my control. So I just cut the ties. It's been needing to happen for awhile. Maybe it's the fact that I'm a mom, or that I'm just getting older. But I simply don't have time for that crap.

    The only sticky thing is that we have mutual friends. But we are all adults, and my hope is that we all act like it and can work around it.

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  19. YES, I have. Just recently in fact. It was a cutting the ties sort of situation. She went all WACKO on me over something that was completely out of my control. Maybe it's the fact that I'm a mom, or maybe it's just that I'm older. But I don't have time for this kind of crap. Cut, cut, cut the ties.

    The only sticky thing is that we have mutual friends. But we are all adults and can work around it.

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  20. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't count my blessings for NOT having a "toxic" friend situation like what you & others here have commented about. It's been more then 10 years since I've been in a true scenario like that~ thank goodness! So draining & soul-sucking...

    Bravo to all of you ditching the drama!!! :o)

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  21. Ugh. I remember finally letting go of a toxic friend after she screwed me for the last time. The thing that totally sucks about Facebook is that now she's my FB "friend". I even unfriended her because it's obvious she hasn't changed, but then she sent me a message: I think Facebook accidentally unfriended us! Gah!
    And you'd think I would have the guts to just tell her to pound sand. Oh well.

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  22. Can I be one of your febreeze friends ;) lol?

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Talk to me neighbor... whatcha think?