Thursday, June 23, 2016

Friendship Break-Ups - Painful But Sometimes Necessary

This is a tough subject to write about but I am pretty sure everyone reading this has had a friendship break-up at some point.

Making friends isn’t easy or for quite a few people, it doesn't come naturally. Making friends that are worth keeping - I don’t think that one is easy for anyone, and it takes a lot of courage to make sure your friendship relationships are healthy and positive.   Sometimes, we wind up making friends with people who aren't right for us, rather than go without. Sometimes, circumstances change for one or both people in a friendship, and the relationship simply doesn't survive.

When it comes to this subject I can only speak about my own, personal experience with it but I am sure everyone has some similar stories to tell.

Due to my husband being in the military, I’ve made many, many “friends” in a fairly short time, but a lot of them never made it on to my keeper list. A lot of them were toxic, “fake”, dishonest, drama-addicted or had a negative influence on myself, my family and my environment.

I think this happens a lot when many people - some barely into adulthood - are put together in stressful environment far away from their own family and friend network. (Remember that first day in a new school? It's like that, magnified!)

So, while military family life can make for some really important and special friendships, it also leads to several not so great connections that need to be dealt with.

So what exactly is a friendship?

I think each one of us defines friendships and true friendships a little differently or has some sort of modifications to the general definition, but let’s just stick with the basics for now:

YourDictionary defines it as:

“The definition of friendship is a relationship between people who like each other and enjoy each others company. An example of friendship is when you have a buddy with whom you like to do things.”

This seems to hit the nail on the head as a good start. It’s definitely someone whose company you enjoy, have things in common with, share in some of the same activities and, in many cases, someone you trust with very personal details, struggles and problems.

That last one is where things can get complicated. Often you don’t want those things to become public at all.
It's where friendship goes from being about 'buddies' and moves into the realm of confidante. That vulnerability not only brings people closer, it can also make things much more painful if they don't work out.

Because even the best friendships tend to have some issues at some point, the important question to ask as you move into a more intimate relationship with a friend and find yourself experiencing difficulties is:

- are these problems worth investing the energy needed to resolve them or is it better to just move on?

I think everyone needs to answer that question for themselves.

Just as you would assess a romantic involvement, you want  to make sure you're not ending it at first sign of conflict without trying to find a solution, but on the other hand, you don't want to hang in there past the point where it is clear that something you cannot accept is a part of the relationship that isn't going to change.

A big part of that has to do with how much time and effort you've already put in, and the nature of the conflict itself.

So what are some of those things that cause friendship problems?

There are many things that can cause conflict in a friendship, but here are some of the ones that seem very common:

These happen to the best of us and are often easy to clear up by just simply talking to each other openly.

Talking bad or gossiping behind the other persons back:
Ugh, am I the only one who is soooo tired of this kindergarten drama?

This one seems to happen a lot. It’s so painful when you hear that the person you trust is talking badly about you but doesn’t even have the balls to tell you in person what it is that bothers them so much about you.

So, you can't even consider fixing it, and meanwhile they are poisoning your trust and damaging your reputation.   If you have a friend who often brings you gossip about other people you know, think hard about this - it's almost a sure thing that they're doing the same thing  to you.

Yes, you heard that advice in Middle High School. It still applies as an adult.

Toxic personalities:
This is a tough one to explain but I am sure we all have encountered a toxic person at some point in our life.

Toxic people tend to have a trail of drama following them around. At the beginning they make themselves sound like they are amazing people, but end up being extremely needy, only caring about themselves and their own needs/wants, and often manipulate, control or use others to get what they want.

They also like to criticize but don’t offer any kind of solution.  They also like to present their problems to you for 'advice' but  then criticize and knock down everything you offer - and before you know it, another couple hours have been spent talking about their life, and you're too exhausted to notice that they didn't care to hear a thing about yours that didn't lead straight back to being about themselves.

I like to describe them as the wolf that hides under the sheep skin. All in all, not the person anyone should have or want in their lives.

Honesty isn’t always easy, yet lying has never really gotten anyone very far in life (okay, this may be debatable but we are talking about everyday people here and not politicians ;) ). I think for cases like that, it always depends what they are dishonest with and how long the trail of lies is and how extensive.

Some lies - aka “white” lies are forgivable and someone can apologize for them and move on, but some dishonest behaviors are unforgivable. Everyone has to draw that line for themselves.
At this point I would like to share a personal story/experience:
(!!child loss trigger warning!!)

I had a friend that I met, and we became very fast very close. And I don’t mean “sharing a lot” – close, I mean “I’ll trust you to watch my kids” – close. Trusting someone with my kids is a very big deal to me.

Long story short: Among  the many confidences we shared, this person talked about how she was pregnant many, many times, each and every single one resulting in some sort of dramatic miscarriage – one even ended as late term stillbirth a few months after her family moved away from where we were stationed.

Obviously, I felt deeply for her situation and grew to be very protective of her.

Well, here’s the thing:

.... a few weeks after she'd talked about the stillbirth, her father in law made a public post on Facebook accusing her (and his son) of scamming and lying about her having been pregnant at all.

As her friend I, of course, jumped on that post and was defending her ferociously, until I saw the proof that he was able to provide about the situation.

This was a big shocker. Like, earthquake level shock.

There was actual real life proof out there about her lying about those horrible & tragic events (which had elicited tons of support, sympathy, and yes, actual gifts to help the family get through it), and all of a sudden I realized that everything she'd ever told me about her miscarriages and the stillbirth (after which she even got the planned child's name tattooed on her body!!) did not add up at all.

As someone who had miscarriages before, I was devastated over this. I never knew people would be so cruel to lie about things like that.

But those people are out there.

I gave her a chance to explain herself, which resulted in another completely made up story that didn’t match up at all.

So I broke up with her.

The good old drama addict:
I was one of these earlier in life myself (shame on me for that one, but hey, people can actually grow out of that!).

These are the ones that always have to start some kind of drama. Often very, very childish and completely unjustified drama.

Some do it to be the center of attention, some do it to “fit in” with another group or clique, some are bored out of their minds and have nothing better to do.

There are also the ones who just like to victimize themselves to get empathy (see my story above!) and others just do it because they can’t live without it.

I personally can’t stand it anymore and have a no tolerance policy when it comes to that. You start unnecessary drama and you instantly lose the privilege to my friendship.

I guess sometimes it can be forgiven but you need to decide that for yourself. I have come to realize that this isn’t healthy for me and that a lot of those drama-mamas are toxic people, gossips, and liars.

Negative influences
Sometimes you meet very nice people – or so you think – but it turns out they have a negative influence on yourself, your partner/family and your direct environment.

Those are the ones that bring the nasty in us out, whose comments about our partners make us question our relationships and their intentions, the ones that have to influence everything and everyone in a negative way.  Often, they'll work to remove you from your other friendships as well.

I like to say those are also the “dare” friends and the ones who like to tell you if you don’t do something you aren’t “cool” or make fun of you if you decide you don’t want to do something (for example: drink more at a party than you want to, etc).

People with a negative influence often affect your entire environment and your relationship before you even realized it's happened.

We all have them, but the key is how you deal with them. Can the two of you find a compromise? Can one of you change their opinion about the matter - or at least can you agree to disagree without harm?

Often this one can be resolved unless it involves fundamental violations.  And even where it can't be resolved, it doesn't mean one person or the other is to blame - it may simply be a barrier that precludes continuing to be involved closely.

There are many more things that can cause trouble and there are always individual situations that don't fall into any specific category.

So, how to cut someone loose?

Sometimes we are rash in our decision to end a friendship, and regret it later, so I always like to take a little to think about if there’s a chance to make up or to establish boundaries that allow the friendship to continue in a more healthy way.

My dealbreaker involves core principles: If you have strong core principles regarding what is acceptable within a principle and they get violated in a deep way, or repeatedly, a come-back is often just another disappointment waiting to happen, but again, your life – your decisions.  You know what you can accept and you need to respect that.

You're also not doing your friend any favors leading them to believe you can put up with something you know in your heart you can't.

As to how to go about ending a friendship. I personally tend to go the direct way and tell people why I don’t want to hang out anymore or why they aren’t welcome around my family or me anymore. (and we are talking about friendships, not acquaintances - for loose social relationships, the easiest and kindest way to proceed is to simply stop being overly available. There should be no reason you can't engage in social niceties when you are in the same place, without allowing it to go any deeper than that.)

To me friendship is a privilege and not everyone deserves this privilege or gets to keep it.  That said, if you speak your truth, expect to be willing and able to hear theirs as well - like any serious relationship, most friendships that are problematic have issues on both sides.

But some like the whole “making excuses” route that avoids the possibility of confrontation. It’s really what you’re comfortable with and often it depends in the situation.  Sometimes, you are so done that there is no need or desire to rehash anything.  At other times, you may find yourself deciding that not making the situation hostile will give you more confidence that  the other person will resist breaking confidences you've shared out of revenge. (But if you're breaking up because that's what they do, there's little point in worrying about it.)

How does it feel to break up with a friend?
It hurts. Depending on how close you were it hurts a whole bunch.

If it was more like an acquaintance, then it usually passes fast but if it was one of those “close”, “true” or “important to me” kind of friends then it’s more like ending a relationship with someone you’ve grown to love.  Because, really, that's what it is.

I honestly think that the one that gets broken up with doesn’t hurt as much as the one who has to take the step to cross someone out of their life – at least that’s my experience.

If the friend was a closer one, then you will also miss them, no matter how bad the bad part was. Sometimes you randomly think about them or a situation reminds you and then it feels like ripping off a band aid.

But sometimes it is necessary!

There’s not much worse than bad friends who use you and hold you back; who don’t help you grow.

Why keep them around and grant them the privilege of your company and friendship?
Why invest your time & energy in someone who wouldn’t do the same for you?

Seriously! Ask yourself those questions!

Relationships are a taking and giving that should be balanced – this applies to friendships just as much as it does to healthy family and romantic attachments.

Breaking up isn’t easy and no one ever said it would be.

It doesn’t always have to be a permanent break-up, but think twice before you jump right back into a friendship that has been toxic and disappointing to you.

I’ve broken up with quite a few people in the past few years, but all it did was help me grow and meet the right people.

That's the thing I've discovered - bad friendships suck up all the energy and well being you need to find and maintain good friendships.

And good friendships are a crucial part of a thriving, happy life!


  1. Patricia, thank you so much for this great article. I just found your website today and I'm glad that I did. Last year I had a close friendship end very badly. There was even violence towards me that night. I was so shocked by her and her daughters lies, betrayal, and violence. I was so hurt and I will never be able to forgive my friend. After some healing, I took a good look at some other relationships. I also learned what kind of a friend I was and wanted to be. Life is much better these days and I am thankful for all the things I learned about myself. I'm sorry that you were hurt by your friend and her outrageous lies. You seem to be a fiercely loyal friend and you are a awesome writer. I wish you all the best life has to offer.

  2. Uggh! Breaking up with friends is very very difficult and trying, no matter the reason. Sometimes, unfortunately, it's almost "easier" when something terrible has come to light. Other times, losing that friendship requires the same amount of grief as a couple-type relationship. Fortunately, I've never really officially ended any friendships, often we all just fade out of one another's lives. Some may think that's easier, but not really. It's still tough. Because, sometimes the fading allows me to see that we wouldn't really mesh any longer, but I remember when we did. Nice post! :)

  3. Great post. Seriously, this happens a lot and no one writes about it. I am dealing with my very own toxic person. I am trying hard to be positive and be a good friend--I hope it works out in the end. I really hope to see you back at the #HomeMattersParty

  4. Patricia, friendships are almost as complicated as a marriage. It has to be the right fit. I have had thousands of friends, but few really close friends. I'm a person who needs space and so it's difficult for others to understand that. When I find a friend that does, they are a keeper. And I treasure them. It's not easy, but the good ones are out there!