Letting go of toxic friendships

There was a time in my life when all three of my closest friends were talkers… incessant, self-absorbed, non-stop talkers.

When we got together, it was all about them – all the time. If I started talking about me, their eyes would glaze over, they’d stare at their watch, yawn, and inevitably interrupt to redirect the conversation back to their extremely troublesome lives.

It was like they were on cocaine. In retrospect, I think one of them actually was.

Whatever the cause, it was exhausting. One by one, I stopped hanging out with them.

Of course, by not being more assertive, I was actually encouraging their behaviour.

Why did I have all these narcissists in my life? The only explanation I could come up with was because, like someone who opens a door to a vampire, I didn’t recognize them for what they were and let them in.

Once I learned how to stand up for myself and set some boundaries, one by one they faded from my radar If you want fertile soil for new relationships to grow in, sometimes you have to pull a few weeds.  

Here are few more types of “friends” most of us could do without.

  1. People who complain or whine about their life or the state of the world more often than not

While empathy and the occasional bitch fest can be one of the great joys of friendship, if your entire relationship is based on someone dumping their problems on you, it’s time they purchased a journal or hired a good therapist instead.

  1. People who cancel plans at the last minute more times than not

Yes, we are all busy people and yes, we all occasionally feel under the weather or hungover or absorbed in something else. But, chronically cancelling on someone isn’t just rude, it sends the message that they don’t matter and nobody wants to feel like that. You and your time are too important to be treated like this. 

  1. People who refuse to accept that you have changed

People grow in different directions. If your old university roommate is angry with you for not going all-night clubbing with her when you just joined AA, it might be time you either found a new basis for your relationship or found a new friend.

  1. People who don’t take an interest in your life 

It’s often the case that one person in a friendship is naturally more talkative than the other – that’s normal. What’s not normal is if they never ask how you are or what you’ve been doing. If they don’t care about you, they are merely using you and aren’t a true friend.   

  1. People who only feel better by better by putting others down or see life as a power struggle where only one person can win

You know the type – they give back-handed compliments, make you feel great and then subtly put you down. If you bring their behaviour up with them, they make you feel like you’re the one with the problem. The world is crazy enough as it is. Let the crazy-makers go.      

  1. People who have some sort of addiction or disorder they aren’t dealing with or who put you at risk with their behaviour

If a friend consistently embarrasses themselves or puts themselves in danger when they drink, do drugs, have sex with strangers or whatever it might be time for a Dr. Phil type talk suggesting they get some help. If they complain that “you’re no fun.” Be clear that it’s not you with the problem. Don’t enable. And never put yourself at risk legally or physically if you don’t have to. 

  1. People who have absolutely nothing in common with you any more

Interests change. Lifestyles change. People grow apart. Sometimes the bond that originally held you together is no longer there. If there is no reason to still be friends with a person, why are you? 

  1. People who never reach out to say hi or make plans with you

Yes, in some friendships one person might naturally be more of the cruise director than the other. But again, if you never hear from someone – like ever – it might be a sign that they just aren’t that into you. And if they aren’t, ask yourself if perhaps you fit into one of the categories above in their eyes.

Let’s be honest, we all have “friends” we don’t really like but keep around for one reason or another (they get you in free to the show or make good arm candy or are the only person you know with an equal passion for Swedish death metal or medieval embroidery or the mating habits of freshwater fish or whatever).  Sometimes you are that friend.

Here’s the deal:

Good friends give you energy. While they might not always tell you what you want to hear, you almost always feel better for having them in your life.

To attract these types of people you need to become more like them. And, to make room for them, you often have to let those who are draining you and otherwise monopolizing your time go.  

If someone in your life doesn’t make it better, ask yourself, why are you letting them be there?  

And if you aren’t attracting the types of friends you want, take a look in the mirror and ask yourself why not? 

What other types of friends have you had to let go of? How did you do it? Share your experiences in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Letting go of toxic friendships

  • October 28, 2014 at 3:03 am

    I found this article in the Huffington Post written by Diane Scarboro that speaks specifically to your first point of letting relationships go when they are not enriching our lives. While at the same time examining why we have a need for this brand of character. It always comes down to our own need….

    Have you ever felt like you always attract a certain type of person? I know I have! The same kinds of people seem to present themselves to me all the time. They may have different faces and different names, but in the end the same themes are always there. Not too long ago, I kept finding myself with an emotionally unavailable boyfriend; misunderstood people gravitated to me; needy people always wanted to be my friend; and if there was ever an underdog, we inevitably somehow teamed up. I found myself thinking, “What am I putting out there to attract these people to me?”

    For a while, I arrogantly thought I drew these people to me because I had so much strength. Maybe I was supposed to help fix them? Like a moths to a flame, they were drawn to me because my light was shining for everyone who needed my help. Well, my believed strength did not make the boyfriends emotionally available; I was not able to build the self-esteem of the needy people; the misunderstood never gained any new insights; and the underdogs were still underdogs no matter what wisdom and examples I thought I shared. I was usually left disappointed, hurt, or annoyed. So why was I attracting these people?

    This was particularly frustrating in the romantic department. After all of the books I had read, why was I still attracting these unavailable guys? I had consciously made an effort to send out the right kind of vibes, I visualized what kind of man I wanted in my life, I even created a vision board at one point; so what was I doing wrong? Because I was becoming so emotionally drained, I decided to turn off the light (which in retrospect I think might have actually been a bug zapper?) and be by myself for a while. It was time to get off of the merry-go-round and focus on making myself happy. I did not have a plan; there was no agenda; just me spending some quality time with myself doing things I enjoyed. I stopped trying to figure everything out, and things in my life seemed to calm down. I was feeling good, and I was happy! I was experiencing positive outcomes in my career, I was spending carefree time at home with my kids, and I resumed some of the pastimes I had inadvertently given up for a while. I made new friends at work, and the needy, misunderstood people did not seem to be around anymore.

    When I felt at peace and wasn’t trying so hard to make things go the way I pictured, my life felt right on track. Wow, what was I doing differently, I wondered? That’s when it hit me: We attract what we are feeling, not necessarily what we think about.

    Once I removed myself from the constant analysis of the relationships in my life and started letting things flow, positive results started to show up all around me. When I was feeling good, good things were happening! In order to extend this happiness on to my relationships, I needed to reconnect with myself and find the parts of me that brought me happiness. It was up to me to change the relationship I had with MYSELF before I could change the relationships I had with anyone else. I began to realize the strength I thought I had in relationships was actually a mask I used to hide behind when I was feeling needy and misunderstood. Because I was feeling disconnected from myself, I was the one who was emotionally unavailable, which made me the underdog in my own life. No wonder I was attracting these relationships! We can think about a strong, loving, emotionally giving partner all day, but if we don’t feel that we are strong, loving, and emotionally giving ourselves, we will attract what we are sending out there.

    Now I understood what needed to happen. I didn’t need to fix other people; I needed to fix myself! Creating a loving and accepting relationship with myself allowed me to look deeper into what I believed about myself. I was able to identify the parts that I needed to heal, and through acceptance and a little forgiveness, I was able to heal the misperceptions I had fallen victim to and stop projecting them onto other people. The trick to attracting healthy relationships is to feel the love you are searching for from within yourself, to feel truly confident, and to know that you are complete. Take some time to reflect on the relationships in your life, and see what areas you might need to tend to within yourself. Relationships in our lives act as mirrors; when we have a loving relationship with ourselves, the reflection will always be the strong, healthy, loving relationship we deserve.

    Denise Scarboro,

  • October 28, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    Good advice! I recently recognized that the last three guys in my life didn’t make me a priority in their lives. I’m realizing now that it’s because I didn’t make me a priority – something I’m working on doing now 🙂 Thanks for sharing.


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