My niece Emmi is going through one of those painful rites of passage that make growing up so hard – breaking up with a close friend. I tell her this might just be a temporary break, but she feels like it’s bigger than a time out. More like an over and out.
The first time that happened to me, I felt the same bittersweet sorrow. My friend, Alice was like a sister till she got a boyfriend. Then she’d go MIA till the relationship imploded in some dramatic fashion. She’d swear she’d never to lose herself so completely in a relationship again until, of course, she did and history would repeat itself. I got tired of being her safety net and soft place to land after she couldn’t be bothered to help me through a breakup of my own. She had a new boyfriend, see, and he really didn’t like her being out after dark without him.
We never spoke again, even when that relationship fell apart as dramatically as the others.
Sometimes you lose a friendship without really knowing how it happened. Other times you find yourself on the other side of the fence, needing to remove a toxic friend from your list. Even if you initiate the breakup, it can be painful, but necessary.
So how do you know if it’s time to dump the dead weight?
They undermine your confidence.
You know the type. The kind whose compliments sting, whose helpful critiques hit a little too close to home. Their game is subtle and when you call them on it, you’re being too sensitive or they’re only being “honest.” Trust me, if they’re killing you softly, it’s time to kick them to the curb.
Breakup strategy: Talk Therapy. Point out the little jabs when they happen. Still not breaking through? Adopt a mantra like “Bitch, I’m fabulous” then use it relentlessly to show you’re not rising to the bait.
They’re joy suckers.
You’re floating on air, but your friend’s negativity brings you crashing back to earth every time. The world is unfair to them and their rants make your head spin. They’ll never let you live down the time you didn’t recycle your glass bottle at Whole Foods. Or the time you bobbed your head to some stupid song that you should know is anti-feminist. It’s great to feel passionately about things, but constant outrage does nothing but introduce more negative energy into the world. Who needs that?
Breakup strategy: The Intervention. Show them how their constant negativity is bringing you down. If they still can’t adopt a sunnier disposition, adopt a safe word to let them know they’re at it again. But not “Popsicle”, thus revealing you stuck it out till the third 50 Shades book.
They cling like a pore strip.
Ever get the feeling your friend is in suspended animation waiting for you to call? That they have no life outside of yours. They want to go to the bathroom with you at the party and feel betrayed when you talk to someone else. They complain when you don’t answer their texts within five minutes. You get into a relationship and they go into a spiral of depression. It’s good to be a friend to someone who might have less honed social skills. But when they’d happily wear your skin like a sheath dress, they gotta go.
Breakup strategy: The Soft Landing. This is someone you should definitely let down gently. Rather than a full-fledged breakup, setting some ground rules might be your best bet. Help them find a wider social circle rather than constantly orbiting your sun.
They’re sketchier than the cover of your three-ring binder.
They’re always at the center of some drama, usually with the boy you like. They’ve cheated on their boyfriend and want you to help them cover their tracks. They lie about little things and think you’re too dumb to notice. They have an explanation for everything but your instinct says run for cover. Spoiler alert: trust your instinct.
Breakup strategy: Shock and Awe. Call them on their bs. This person always thinks they’re the smartest person in the room and will be stunned to discover they’re not fooling anyone. Forget the big blowup. A calm, slightly amused confrontation will be a powerful antidote to their drama.
It’s all about them.
Ever have a friend you start telling a story to, but before you even finish they’ve interrupted with their own story. It’s like anything you’ve done, they’ve done faster better, more and in higher heels. If you break up with a boyfriend, so do they. Only worse. You never seem to register on their radar because they’re only focused on themselves.
Breakup strategy: The Clean Break. Tell them the words they’re longing to hear. It’s not me, it’s YOU. Then ease on down the road.
Are there second chances to be had here? I think you should always give someone another chance if they’re working hard to earn it. But go slow and don’t get sucked back into the old drama. You’ve detoxed for a reason, so enjoy the clean, breathe-easy feeling only a good long break can bring. Slowly add them back into your life till you notice them slipping back into bad habits.
And just to make sure your karma’s clean, see if any of the above behaviors describe you.
From Auntie Venom’s Eighties Audio Files:
Have you had to have a friend detox? Why? What method did you use?