Do you feel some of your friendships cause you more stress than joy?
You are not alone. Many women report feeling alone, unsupported, or unfulfilled by friendships. Unfortunately, unlike romantic relationships, there is no playbook on ending things with a friend.
Furthermore, women are conditioned to be pleasers, so asserting ourselves and our needs does not come naturally. Lastly, we have been inundated by portrayals of highly unhealthy friendships on TV and social media. Think reality shows, “Friends”, and the latest IG drama.
When to question a friendship.
- You are not supported. Good friends show interest in your interests whether it relates to them or not. This certialy does not mean your sedentary bestie joins a volleyball league with you. However, she should be happy to hear about your games.
- She is always “correcting” you. Maybe all your clothes come from Costco and she’s a “Rent the Runway” kind of gal. That’s fine. She should not be constantly telling you how to improve your look (unless that is what you want). Good friends accept your quirks and all.
- She lacks empathy. Are all of her problems significant but she minimizes yours? Does she validate your hurts? This is different from always agreeing with you. For example, a friend came to me upset over something her SIL did. I listened intently, affirmed why she would feel hurt and also offered her SIL’s point of view. I reminded her that she was assuming her SIL had a selfish intention when maybe that was not the case. Obviously, this depends highly on the situation. The end result, in this case, was my friend felt supported and she dropped the grudge against her well meaning but slightly obtuse SIL.
- She gossips constantly. Ok, everyone gossips a little. However, you may want to be cautious if this is a regular thing for her. First, it can only cause hurt. Second, if she is always gossiping about others to you, then it’s safe to assume she is gossiping about you to others.
- She belittles you. This can be subtle or overt. Perhaps it is passive aggressive comments about how easy your job is or your messy house. It can also be bigger. I once had a friend explain in detail how nurse practitioners (which I am and she is not) were no more than a doctor’s helper.
- You have outgrown each other. Does it feel forced to be with her? Do you view calls and texts as obligatory? Here is the test: Are you generally happy and excited to see her? If not, perhaps the relationship has grown its course.
How to handle an unhealthy friendship.
That’s the million dollar question, right? Proceed mindfully, thoughtfully, and kindly. Sometimes, the issue may be more with our perception. If you are in a rough spot in your life, then maybe evaluating how you are feeling towards EVERYONE. Like, if everyone is annoying you then clearly the issue is you, not them. However, chances are, if you are experiencing the issues above, it is not you. (That was the mindful part)
Express your concerns.
Seriously, tell the person what you are experiencing. This is where being thoughtful and kind come in. Focus on your motivation. You are trying to preserve the friendship and that benefits both of you. Silently stewing and then ghosting your friend helps no one and just leaves sore feelings and awkward chance encounters.
Use “I” language.
Everyone has their own experience. Explain to her how you are feeling. Here are some examples: “I feel like you don’t take my job seriously when you say XYZ.”
“I’m really happy with how I dress. I know you mean well, but I don’t want your fashion tips.”
“I was hurt that you did not invite me to dinner with your other friends.”
The point of I language is it opens up the dialogue. It does not mean the other person automatically apologizes for their actions. It simply means they hear how you felt in response to their actions. You need to decide what is acceptable or not for you. You are both in the relationship and it is not your job to change her.
The issue can’t be resolved.
If you have done all the above, and your friend continues to act the same way, it may be time to cut the cord. Here is a script:
“Listen, I know I brought up several times how I feel in this friendship and it seems like we are just not on the same page. I’m really happy with how my life is and I choose to spend my time with people who can respect that. I’m sorry, I think it is best we don’t hang out anymore. I’ll certainly be friendly and amiable to you if we run into each other as I truly do wish you the best in your life.”
Friendships are hard. I know all of this can feel “icky”, however, nothing exists without issues. There is no love without loss. Just like most of us don’t marry the first person we date, we don’t need to keep the same friends forever.
If you are having trouble navigating relationships, shoot us at Nurtured Well, LLC an email. Our therapists are great at helping you understand yourself and your needs better to get the type of life you want. We also offer medication when needed.