While I’ve written posts about leaving toxic friends or friend groups in the past, I wanted to revisit this topic because the lines are blurry and this type of dilemma is complicated. Leaving a toxic friend makes you feel like you’re the one in the wrong even when you’re not… it can also feel extremely difficult when you can’t make up your mind about that person but ending the friendship feels too abrupt and harsh. The deal is that people (especially teenage girls) aren’t black and white in the way they act… like they’ll be a great friend and you’ll love them one second but then they do a full 180 and you start to question everything. Toxic can feel like a big nasty word… maybe your friend isn’t straight up toxic but rather disappointing, infuriating, or flat out disrespectful. Your friend might be overstepping boundaries like personal space or violating privacy, they might be manipulating you into doing things you’re not comfortable with, overreacting about little things, canceling plans at the last minute, hiding the truth or consistently lying to you, complaining about themselves 24/7, breaching your trust, or acting in ways that indicate they don’t have your best interests at heart. Again, even if your friend isn’t being directly toxic, her immaturity or selfishness is extremely frustrating and you’re questioning how much more you should take.
When I’ve found myself in these situations, I’ve been forced to make a choice and in doing so, I thought through some of these questions.
Do I truly, deep down, feel like I need this friend or is it a forced/have to be friends with her type of deal?
If you think it may be the latter, this just isn’t a good enough reason to devote yourself to being a great friend to someone who doesn’t deserve your friendship. You don’t HAVE to be friends with anyone! Even if there’s no one else you really know that well at school or you feel really bad about distancing yourself, friendship is a choice that you are in control of making and the people you surround yourself should feel lucky to have you as a friend.
Is there a chance your friend will change their ways? If not, should I just accept them?
In one case I realized my friend was never going to change and I had reached my final straw. She texted me for help or plans when it was convenient for her, never handled conflicts with maturity, and made me feel like her problems were my fault. I knew I needed some space from this friendship and that was a really hard decision.
On the other hand, there’s a different friend I have who continues to reveal that she may not be the most loyal or genuine friend. However in this case, I know she will probably never change and I’m ok with that. I can look past some of her less favorable traits because I have come to terms with the fact that she is who she is, she’s not going to change, I may not tell her all my secrets or rely on her like I do my other friends, but she’s still important to me and her more favorable qualities outweigh the rest. I view her friendship as a kind of a treat… She's someone who’s nice to have around but could never be one of my top tier friends and I’m content with that.
BUT what if you think your friend can change! That’s great… here’s how you should address this friend.
In person or over facetime: Hey girl. I’ve been wanting to get something off my chest because it’s been weighing on me. I was kind of disappointed when / I felt really hurt when… it was a sucky feeling and I know that if the tables were turned I wouldn’t have done the same to you. Our friendship means a lot to me but this just didn’t sit right with me. I’m glad I can be open and honest with you and I know we can fix this but for now, I’m just feeling kind of betrayed and upset. Then take it from there.
In short, your plan of action is to take some time to personally reflect on the friendship and how much you value it. Someone recently told me that the best way to decide how you feel about something is to light a candle or go on a walk and just word vomit all of your thoughts in a journal. I tried it last night with something that was weighing on me and it made me feel a lot better. Then you can either have that long, constructive talk or take some space? Maybe you do both. Maybe you neither. No friendship has a rule book or one right answer.
At the end of the day, don’t prioritize your friend’s feelings over your own. Don’t feel bad about walking away from a sucky friend. They did that to themselves. At the same time, treat your friend how you would want to be treated… even in the end. No blocking or posting or gossiping. Just do what you need to do and be the bigger person.
We got this,